The American Conservative Forum Mulls US Foreign Policy in the Trump Era

“U.S. Foreign Policy in the Trump Era: Can Realism and Restraint Prevail?” was held Friday morning at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Watch full video here.

WASHINGTON – What is the fate of realism and restraint in the Trump era?

The consensus among the foreign policy luminaries brought together by the American Conservative on Friday: Don’t expect much from the White House, even though global realities, i.e., the ascendency of China, may leave the old U.S. order in the dust.

If there was any hope that Trump would inaugurate a new era of restraint, or even realist thinking, it’s been pretty much overtaken by events. Or, perhaps TAC editor Robert Merry put it best:

“Realism and restraint’ in the Trump era is roughly equivalent to the gigantic ice wall in Game of Thrones after the dragon that came under the spell of the night walkers got through with it,” he said.

That certainly got a laugh from the crowd at George Washington University, but the rest of his remarks about the discrepancies between Trump’s memorable foreign policy speech during the campaign in April 2016, and what he has done so far as president, were anything but funny.

“So many Americans rallied to the Trump campaign because of his hard attacks on the status quo but it turns out he was not the leader to take on the status quo, he just nibbles at the edges of it,” Merry noted, pointing out Trump’s earlier vision about scaling back wars and blasting nation building, only to propose sending more troops to Afghanistan, which has yet to produce a victory – no strong government nor capable Afghan military – in 16 years of U.S. intervention. He also pointed out Trump’s lack of resolve regarding easing tensions with Russia, or putting more pressure on NATO (Merry specifically fingered the expansion to tiny Montenegro, which faces both a backlash here and by the Russian government).

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Watch: Special American Conservative Webcast on 9/11 Anniversary

From The American Conservative:

Watch the video of the webcast originally aired live on Monday, “Who Watches The Watchmen?: The Post 9/11 Security State From Then to Now,” on the 16th anniversary of the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Click here to watch and comment.

TAC Managing Editor Kelley Vlahos talked to three people who have unique experiences in the post-9/11 period and who can speak to how the promulgation of law enforcement, surveillance, pre-emptive war, and the expanding U.S. footprint abroad has completely changed who we are as a country.

John Kirakou is a former CIA agent in the so-called Global War on Terror who was charged and convicted with leaking classified information after speaking out against waterboarding, and sent to prison in 2013 for two years. Kiriakou is now a staunch advocate for other whistleblowers, and a vocal critic of U.S. war and intelligence policies.

Scott Horton is the managing director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio, and the foreign policy interview podcast, The Scott Horton Show. Horton has been interviewing journalists, politicians, pundits, lawyers and experts on foreign policy and war-time law since 2003, and last month released his new book: “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan”

Gareth Porter, an investigative journalist whose work dates back to covering the Vietnam War, has been focusing on how 9/11 created a National Security Inc., in which self-interested bureaucracies within the government have worked hand-in-glove with Big Business to promote war agendas at home and abroad. He is the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (2014).

Autopsy: WH ‘gate crasher’ shot by cops in the back of head

Miriam Carey is dead and will never be able to tell us what happened on that fateful Oct. 3 day when she led police on a high speed chase through the busy downtown streets of Capitol Hill and was killed shortly after, before she could even exit her car, her 1-year-old daughter in the back seat, a silent witness to it all.

But an autopsy ordered by her grieving family may lend some detail to the sad story.

According to reports on Tuesday morning, the results of the autopsy have revealed that Carey was shot five times “from behind,” including one shot to the back of her head.

As we have covered here before, Carey, 34, may have been under some mental duress, and no one quite knows why she drove all the way down to Washington, D.C. from Connecticut with her young daughter that day. The entire incident is still under police investigation so officials did not return calls for comment by local reporters. The autopsy also revealed that she was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the incident happened.

Miriam Carey
Miriam Carey

Of course the chorus on one side is that police were just doing their jobs, trying to prevent a potential “terror” attack at the Nation’s Capital, which since 9/11 has been functioning in varying degrees of emergency security lock-down. Others say that very post-9/11 mindset has made police hostile and trigger happy and remote as ever from the people to whom they owe their livelihoods and salaries. Instead, everyone is a potential terrorist, until proven otherwise. The reaction from the members of congress and their staffs, many who hailed the police as heroes, in essence, for killing Miriam Carey that day, is a clear indication of how that mindset has set in here Inside the Beltway

Carey may have taken wrong turn and panicked, or, her intent may have been more diabolical. But to her family, this was a senseless loss of life and a stain on law enforcement, and they are suing the Capitol Police, which had the lead in this incident, for $75 million. Stay tuned.

Why the GOP will lose ’16 (hint: it’s spelled S-H-E-L-D-O-N)

Gross.

That’s really the only word that comes to mind after reading Dana Milbank’s account today of the recent GOP pilgrimage to Sin City to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson, the 9th richest man in the world, and quite possibly the most  ideologically driven of them all. That’s not to say he can pick winners. Remember, Sheldon bombed as kingmaker in the 2014 elections (in fact, most people believe he actually blew the Republicans’ chances in the race entirely). He chose to plow $16 million of his personal coin into Republican has-been Newt Gingrich, who, let’s be serious, only runs for president these days to bolster his own marketing and fundraising schemes. The only effect was to injure Mitt Romney  in the primary. Romney never  fully recovered, and lost terribly to President Obama in November, despite of an infusion of Adelson cash later on. As they say, ‘heck of a job.

Sheldon Adelson, GOP kingmaker?
Sheldon Adelson, GOP kingmaker?

But that hasn’t stopped the first crop of 2016 nominee wannabes from jumping to Adelson’s whistle:  Republican Party players John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker spent the weekend kowtowing like sops in a display Hollywood couldn’t have sketched out better. Mindful of their party’s family values, no doubt, they guilelessly delivered themselves up to the mogul of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation empire, square in the epicenter of blackjack and booze, prostitutes and pleasure. Milbank :

Adelson was hosting the Republican Jewish Coalition at his Venetian hotel and gambling complex, and the would-be candidates paraded themselves before the group, hoping to catch the 80-year-old casino mogul’s eye. Everybody knows that, behind closed doors, politicians often sell themselves to the highest bidder; this time, they were doing it in public, as if vending their wares at a live auction.

Adelson has bestowed great generosity on Republicans — $150 million in post-Citizens United cash to their candidates and causes during the last presidential election cycle — but clearly only those that adhere to his own fervently hawkish views on the Middle East. Adelson is unabashed defender of Israel who, according to The New York Times, “opposes any territorial compromise to make way for a Palestinian state.” He is openly Islamophobic, saying at one point that “not all Islamists are terrorists, but all the terrorists are Islamists,”  and defending Gingrich with vigor when the former Speaker of the House famously declared Palestinians “an invented people.”

Adelson has been known to underwrite congressional boondoggles to Israel, helping to shape their views on foreign policy. His attempt at influencing outcomes doesn’t end at the border. In 2007, according to The New York Times, Adelson started a free daily newspaper widely viewed as supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “a close friend who shares his hawkish outlook.” The NYT also noted that at one point, Adelson was rumored to be calling for the ouster of Condoleezza Rice from the Bush Administration because she  — and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — were “betraying Israel.”

Anything close to an Adelson foreign policy in the White House would be a nightmare, and most likely everyone knows it but that hasn’t kept power-desperate Republicans from taking his money. Aside from the millions he wasted on Gingrich, he’s sprinkled millions on other hawks, like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, and Eric Cantor, too.

And he’s known as a street fighter — aside from making his fortune in one of the most predatory and exploitive industries there is, in 2013 Adelson admitted he “might” have violated federal bribery laws during an ongoing investigation of his dealings with the Chinese. Adelson owns five of Macau’s 35 casinos (including the biggest, the Venetian Macau) and reportedly wants a much bigger imprint on the Chinese mainland. Investigators want to know more amid a number lawsuits alleging that Adelson bribed officials to exploit Macau, and to pursue his commercial interests in Beijing. According to Wikipedia, Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands brought in $4.2 billion in Macau-generated revenue in 2011 alone.

Many have sued Adelson, but not all win. According to The New York Times, his own sons sued him, alleged he cheated them, but they lost. Meanwhile Adelson is always suing others, and sometimes he wins.  He filed a libel suit against a Las Vegas newspaper columnist, John L. Smith, who eventually had to declare bankruptcy. He won a libel suit against the Daily Mail of London in 2008. The newspaper had accused him of pursuing “despicable business practices” and having “habitually and corruptly bought political favour.” Adelson said it was “a grave slur” on his “personal integrity and business reputation”, and he won a judgment of approximately £4 million as a result.

He filed a similar suit against a Wall Street Journal writer in 2012 who called him “a scrappy, foul-mouthed billionaire from working-class Dorchester, Mass.”

Adelson may have a team of lawyers to defend his name in the courtroom, and he may be able to call in the chits when he wants to massage or push legislation his way on the Hill, but delivering the next president is a fantasy he will likely never see realized. His zealousness appears to cloud his vision when it comes to picking favorites, and his favorites risk looking tawdry and bought when they take his money. And my, they look really foolish when they beg for it. According to Milbank:

Walker, the Wisconsin governor, pandered unabashedly by giving the Hebrew meaning of his son Matthew’s name and by mentioning that he displays a menorah at home along with the Christmas tree. And Christie, the New Jersey governor, gushed about his trip to Israel and the “occupied territories.”

That was a gaffe. Pro-Israel hawks consider the term pejorative and, at any rate, the more relevant occupied territory at the moment is the Republican Party — wholly occupied by billionaires.

But will they occupy the White House? If this kind of behavior is any indication, the answer is no.

 

 

DC Shooting: Shame on You New York Daily News

capitol-05
Miriam Carey, killed by police yesterday in Washington, DC. Credit: Facebook

UPDATE: More grist: “law enforcement sources” now telling NBC News that Carey, “may have thought that President Barack Obama was stalking her.” Old boss tells NBC affiliate that she was fired from old job for being “too rough” with dental patients.

UPDATE 10/6: Little more is known about Carey or what happened on Thursday. Stories emerge that suggest she was taken in for a “mental health evaluation” last December. More troubling are reports that she was shot inside her car. Remember, initial news flashes said Carey had emerged from her vehicle after crashing it on the Capitol Grounds, suggesting she might have acted aggressively toward awaiting police. Thankfully, some Beltway writers are showing more skepticism toward the cops’ version of events today.

The New York Daily News should be ashamed, as well as any other news outfit that has jumped to conclusions in favor of the mentally-ill-woman-police-were-just-doing-their-jobs-and-by-the-way-they’re-heroes-we-live-in-a-scary-world storyline. But the New York City paper, known for dwarfing word space and actual copy with hyperbolic Citizen Kane headlines and even bigger paparazzi photography, takes the prize for reporting on yesterday’s shooting of an unarmed mother on Capitol Hill.

There was horror on the Hill when a crazed Connecticut woman who tried to ram her way into the White House was shot and killed Thursday after leading police on a high-speed chase through the heart of Washington.

Now we know someone is trying to earn their hard-boiled, wiseguy writing chops here, but step off Lee Tracy, this account is so far from reality that it goes beyond Big Apple embellishment. It’s just plain wrong. There is no evidence, yet, that 34-year-old Miriam Carey of Stamford, Connecticut, who has been identified as the dead woman, tried to “ram the gates of the White House,” which the Daily News and a host of irresponsible news reports charged willy-nilly on Thursday. As for being “crazed,” there is some thread of unknown origin that Carey had been suffering from “mental illness,” “mental issues,” “depression” and/or  “post-pardum depression” (the last two were from the Daily News gumshoes who stalked Carey’s family in New York Thursday night, snapping photos of their weary faces from across the street).

Simply put, from all the interviews I’ve scanned on the story — some of the most authoritative reporting I’ve seen so far has been from The Washington Post — the  best picture I can get is that Carey was a dutiful dental hygienist, who was generally liked, and for some unknown reason drove down to Washington with her one-year-old daughter in a luxury car, where she led police on a deadly high-speed chase.

Meanwhile, eye-witness accounts and raw video tell a different story about “crazed woman” in the Infiniti sedan. It looks like she might have made a wrong turn down a cordoned street (of which there are many) around the White House (though to be entirely fair, the DC police chief says it was no “accident,” but has offered no details to that end). She was yelled at, according to witnesses, by a plain-clothed guard and others who banged on the hood of her car. She freaked, hit the guard and a makeshift barricade that was put in her way, then tried to turn around and flee. Shots were fired at her car and the chase ensued. It ended in a hail of bullets when Carey emerged from the car (see UPDATE), outside the Hart Office Building on Capitol Hill (not far away), reportedly unarmed. From Time:

B.J. Campbell, 69, a tourist visiting from Portland, Ore., said he saw the black car drive past White House security. Officers began “banging on the car, yelling at her,” Campbell told TIME. One tried to use a bicycle rack to box in the vehicle, but the car spun around and rammed into the rack and hit the officer, who was not wearing a uniform. The officer, whom the Associated Press identified as a Secret Service agent, was knocked onto the hood of the car and rolled off onto the street, according to Campbell. However, another witness said the officer got up and did not appear to be injured.

No evidence yet has been provided, save for rumors, that she was “crazed,” or that she was trying to “ram the barricades” in some Kamikaze-style mission to wreak havoc on “the heart of our nation,” which, frankly, is how the blaring headlines sounded the alarms here in Washington yesterday when the facts were still fuzzy. Capitol Hill was on lock down, with everyone — last month’s horrific Navy Yard shootings no doubt fresh on their minds — fearing the worst. Washington, the city under siege. The media, which is always in the same place at the same time on Capitol Hill, swarmed the crime scene. But it turned out not to be the work of terrorists at all, but an unarmed black mother whose side of the story, essentially, will go to her grave.

Meanwhile, beyond the garish headlines and the applause — yes, the police got a “standing ovation” from members of the House of Representatives afterwards, ostensibly for riddling a woman’s car and body with bullets  — we know nothing except a woman is dead and her child, motherless.

The police will no doubt be excused for engaging in a dangerous high speed chase through the streets of Washington, endangering pedestrians and the child inside (there are confusing reports about whether they saw the baby inside before she left the White House area or not) and then shooting Carey dead. This is a post-9/11 world, where she could have easily been careening toward the Capitol, armed with a trunk full of explosives, right? The truth is, more people are killed by cops each year than terrorists have attacked our cities. We need to get to the bottom of what happened to Miriam Carey, and keep the terror bugaboo out of it. And please, New York Daily News, stop acting like a law enforcement apparatchik, just do your job and report the facts. If they’re not readily available, don’t make them up.

Really? Anticipated Study Finds No Evidence of Iraqi Birth Defects

Baby Seif in Fallujah, born with spina bifida. Credit: Donna Mulhearn
Baby Seif in Fallujah, born with spina bifida. Credit: Donna Mulhearn

Human rights and health observers have been waiting a year for the results of a World Health Organization/Iraqi Health Ministry study that would, at last, shed some “official” light on a problem that local doctors and journalists have been reporting for years: that a disproportionate number of babies in areas that saw heavy western bombardment during the war are being born with horrifying birth defects.

Well, after a summer of anticipation, a “summary” of the report was quietly released on Sept. 11 and it says the complete opposite of what health officials — even the Iraqi ministry officials in charge of the study! — have been saying:

The rates for spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital birth defects found in the study are consistent with or even lower than international estimates. The study provides no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq.

The full summary report can be found in .pdf form, here.

Using 72 local teams, the ministry last year conducted a survey of Iraqi women of child-bearing age and their households in 18 districts across Iraq (two districts in each governorate). The districts represented those that “had or had not been exposed to bombardment or heavy fighting” during the war. Out of the 10,800 households visited, 95 percent or 10,355 had responded, according to the summary. The questionnaire was chiefly concerned with determining the number of stillborns, spontaneous abortions and birth defects among live births, the presence, magnitude and trends of birth defects and “limited risk factors” involved. On all counts, the summary report seems to find no evidence of a high incidences of birth defects or of babies born dead.

Antiwar has been covering this story for years now. Where the WHO/Ministry of Health report laughingly refers to the lack of study on this issue, we know that prominent doctors like US-based Dr Mozhgan Savabieasfahani have been working on this and have done several studies indicating a “epidemic of birth defects,” demanding more study on the link to war pollutants, like heavy metals, radiation from depleted uranium (DU) and other contaminants left over from the war. Savabieasfahani has already found higher levels of lead and mercury in children in Basra, which could account for the reported higher rates of cancer there.

There is the testimony from activist Donna Mulhearn who has been there. Even the ministry officials who went on record with BBC last spring said the study would confirm the worst and blamed it on the war. Why are they changing their stories now?

There are many questions to be asked. Why does WHO suddenly take a tiny role in this study, resigned to providing “technical assistance” to the MOI when it was originally billed as a “collaboration,” “co-financed” by both organizations?

Dr. Savabieasfahani published a response to the summary on Sept. 16 raising a number of questions about the methodology, the preliminary results, and wondering, too, about the “reviewers” — all British and American researchers — as well as the apparent anonymity of the report’s authors:

Another unusual and outrageous feature of this report is its anonymity. No author(s) are listed or identified. An anonymous report is rarely seen in epidemiological reporting given the multiple questions that often arise when interested readers examine complicated study designs, large data sets, and multiple analysis. Identification of corresponding authors is critical for the transparency and clarity of any report. Without author names and affiliations, without identified offices in the MoH, the reader must ask, who is responsible to answer for this report? To whom must the public direct their questions and concerns about this report?

Media Lens has also published a lengthy article on the subject, interviewing a number of interested parties, including former WHO advisors who are obviously disgusted with the way things have gone so far.

Dr Keith Baverstock, the former WHO adviser on radiation and public health mentioned earlier, told (Media Lens):

‘I have not had time to study this report in detail so I will not comment on the scientific aspects. However, there are aspects which cause me very considerable concern. Firstly, this is not the independent academic analysis that is required – it certainly would not find a place in a reputable scientific journal. So it is strange to my mind that apparently reputable scientists have, through what is purported to be a peer review process, endorsed this study. I would have several questions for these people, none of whom I know. For example, how did they ensure that there was no selection bias: why was such a simplistic approach taken to the statistical analysis of the results. The implication is that these people were appointed by WHO although WHO does not appear to be a co-author, or in other ways connected with the report. If this peer review group have had access to information not in the report where and when will this information be made public?’

The summary is a big disappointment and and even greater mystery, considering those WHO officials who reportedly spoke to BBC last March with assurances that the report would find obvious rates of increased birth defects in Fallujah and Basra. There have been reports of government/western pressure on local physicians, but this is too much. Seeing the full report now is even more essential, but can we trust what it says?