McCain May Be Dead, But “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” Still Resounds

Authored by Brian Cloughley via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

In 2007, when making a speech during his bid for the presidency of the United States, the late Senator John McCain spoke about Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons’ programme and when questioned as to whether there might be US reaction to such allegations responded by singing “That old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran… bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb.”

This jovial retort about killing people by bombing them was not surprising to those who remembered that during the US war on Vietnam McCain was shot down on a mission to bomb a power generation plant in Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, in the course of the entrancingly-named Operation Rolling Thunder.  If he hadn’t been shot down before he released his bombs there would almost certainly have been civilian casualties and deaths. Power stations in cities are not manned by soldiers, after all, and around the Hanoi plant there were houses that would doubtless be struck by errant bombs.   

But who cares about civilians who are killed or maimed in bombing or rocket attacks?

In Syria, for example, in October 2018 “the US-led coalition was responsible for 46% of civilian casualties from all explosive weapon use in Syria.” 

And in November Reutersreported that “At least 30 Afghan civilians were killed in US air strikes in the Afghan province of Helmand, officials and residents of the area said on Wednesday, the latest casualties from a surge in air operations aimed at driving the Taliban into talks.

Forbes records that “the US has never dropped as many bombs on Afghanistan as it did this year. According to U.S. Air Forces Central Command data, manned and unmanned aircraft released 5,213 weapons between January and the end of September 2018. The UN announced that the number of civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2018 is higher than in any year since it started documenting them in 2009.” 

On January 25 Defense Post reported that “Afghanistan is investigating reports that at least 16 civilians including women and children were killed in an airstrike in southern Helmand province, the defense ministry said in a statement.” On and on its goes — Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Afghanistan.

There’s nothing new in this, so far as US Secretary of State Pompeo is concerned. As a member of Congress in 2014 he made it clear that he was one of the bombing club. As The Nation reported, “Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS), participating in the same [Foreign Affairs Committee] roundtable, urged the United States and its allies to strongly consider a pre-emptive bombing campaign of Iran’s nuclear sites. He said ‘In an unclassified setting, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces’.”

The fact that when Pompeo was asked at a US Senate hearing in April 2018 if he was supportive of a preemptive strike on Iran he declared “I’m not. I’m absolutely not” is indicative only of the fact that he is given to duplicity. 

Which brings us to Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, who has been an advocate of bombing for many years.  He is the man who declared in November 2002 that “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq” and four weeks before the US invaded Iraq, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper in February 2003, “US Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials on Monday that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards.”

Iraq was duly bombed and rocketed and reduced to chaos, and Bolton was totally unrepentant. In an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph in 2016 he pronounced that “Iraq today suffers not from the 2003 invasion, but from the 2011 withdrawal of all US combat forces. What strengthened Iran’s hand in Iraq was not the absence of Saddam [Hussein], but the absence of coalition troops with a writ to crush efforts by the ayatollahs to support and arm Shi’ite militias. When US forces left, the last possibility of Iraq succeeding as a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state left with them. Don’t blame Tony Blair and George W Bush for that failure. Blame their successors.”

In November 2016 Bolton was aptly described by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough as “a massive neocon on steroids” but the Financial Times argues that he is not a neocon, because “Neocons believe US values should be universal. Mr Bolton believes in aggressive promotion of the US national interest, which is quite different.”  Be that as it may, there are some things that are certain, such as that Bolton is a rabid warmonger who avoided serving in Vietnam just like Donald Trump and George W Bush and Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney and many others. (And here it has to be said that my feelings are strong about this, having served in Vietnam in the Australian Army in 1970-71.) 

As noted by the Daily News of his Alma Mater, Yale, “though Bolton supported the Vietnam War, he declined to enter combat duty, instead enlisting in the National Guard and attending law school after his 1970 graduation. ‘I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,’ Bolton wrote of his decision in the 25th reunion book. ‘I considered the war in Vietnam already lost’.”  But now that it is obvious that Washington lost its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bolton is ready for another one.

In July 2018, while tension between the US and Iran was heightening, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, warned Washington about pursuing a hostile policy against his country, saying “Mr Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret… America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” 

That was a red rag to a bull, and Trump responded in his normal way by tweeting “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!  — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)”

That is frightening.  Any world leader who tweets such things as “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” is verging on the psychotic. And, in his own words, the demented.

Trump’s former foreign policy officials were not altogether in favour of having Iran and North Korea suffer unspecified but obviously terrifying consequences for having expressed its views on Trump policy, but now, as the BBC notes, “Mr Trump has built a foreign policy team that is largely on the same page – his page.” 

That’s the Fire and Fury ‘page’, and it’s being proof-read and expanded by Pompeo and Bolton.  Stand by for Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran.

Americans Are Fleeing Illinois And Moving To…Idaho?

Every year, roughly 14% of the US population moves from one state to another, according to Census Bureau data. But after a careful analysis of the data from 2018, North American Moving Services published its latest report on American migration patterns…and it contained some surprising conclusions.

For example, while Illinois was once again the top state for outbound moves (thanks, we imagine, to its dysfunctional state government, high taxes and massively underfunded pensions), the top state for inbound moves was…Idaho?

A quick glance at the data reveals a familiar pattern: Americans are leaving high-tax blue states in favor of red states with low taxes and low cost of living.

Moving

Here are some additional takeaways from the report (text courtesy of North America Moving Services):

Northeastern states

Until this year, Connecticut has consistently been in the top 8 of outbound moves since 2013. It was #1 in 2013 and #2 in 2017. Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have also made the list of outbound moves consistently since 2013. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have both gone back and forth in having more inbound or outbound moves over the years.

Southern states

South Carolina was in the top 3 of inbound moves starting in 2011, then started to slip down starting in 2016. They were still in the top 4 but lost their top ranking as the state with the most inbound moves. North Carolina beat South Carolina for the first time in 2016. They kept their rank in 2017 for inbound moves until falling back down below South Carolina in 2018. Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Texas remained constant in the top 8 from 2013-2017 for inbound moves. Tennessee, Texas and Florida held their spot in the top 8 list for inbound moves in 2018. Overall, the Southern states have had more inbound moves than some of the other regions.

Midwestern states

Illinois has consistently been in the top 3 positions of outbound moves since 2013, getting the #1 position 4 times. It may not be surprising due to the fact Illinois is one of the highest tax burden states. Michigan has been on the top 8 list of states with the most outbound moves since 2011. Iowa consistently had more outbound than inbound moves until 2017, when it had more people move out of the state than in the state. However, in 2018, Iowa had more inbound moves. Minnesota and Ohio have stayed constant, having more outbound moves than inbound. Over the years, Wisconsin has gone back and forth in having more inbound or outbound moves.

Western states

In 2013 and 2014, Idaho wasn’t in the top inbound states. Then in 2015 it was #1. It remained #1 in 2016 and slipped to #2 in 2017. Based on the most recent Census data, Idaho is currently the nation’s fastest growing state, with its population increasing 2.2% between July 2016 and July 2017. Now, in 2018, Idaho is back up to #1 for inbound moves. This is not overly surprising to also know that Idaho is one of the least tax burden states which may be a contributing factor. Oregon, Arizona and Colorado have consistently been in the top 8, with Arizona #2 for 3 years and topping at #1 in 2017. The western states also have had more overall inbound moves than the Midwest and Northeast.

The End Of Russia’s “Democratic Illusions” About America

Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation,

How Russiagate has impacted a vital struggle in Russia…

For decades, Russia’s self-described “liberals” and “democrats” have touted the American political system as one their country should emulate. They have had abundant encouragement in this aspiration over the years from legions of American crusaders, who in the 1990s launched a large-scale, deeply intrusive, and ill-destined campaign to transform post-Communist Russia into a replica of American “democratic capitalism.” (See my bookFailed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia.) Some Russian liberals even favored NATO’s eastward expansion when it began in the late 1990s on the grounds that it would bring democratic values closer to Russia and protect their own political fortunes at home.

Their many opponents on Russia’s political spectrum, self-described “patriotic nationalists,” have insisted that the country must look instead to its own historical traditions for its future development and, still more, that American democracy was not a system to be so uncritically emulated. Not infrequently, they characterize Russia’s democrats as “fifth columnists” whose primary loyalties are to the West, not their own country. Understandably, it is a highly fraught political debate and both sides have supporters in high places, from the Kremlin and other government offices to military and security agencies, as well as devout media outlets.

In this regard, Russiagate allegations in the United States, which have grown from vague suspicions of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 presidential election to flat assertions that Putin’s Kremlin put Donald Trump in the White House, have seriously undermined Russian democrats and bolstered the arguments of their “patriotic” opponents. Americans, who may have been misled by their own media into thinking that Russia today is a heavily censored “autocracy” in which all information is controlled by the Kremlin, may be surprised to learn that many Russians, especially among the educated classes but not only, are well-informed about the Russiagate story and follow it with great interest. They get reasonably reliable information from Russian news broadcasts and TV talk shows; from direct cable and satellite access to Western broadcasts, including CNN; from translation sites that daily render scores of Western print news reports and commentaries into Russian (inosmi.ru being the most voluminous); and from the largely uncensored Internet.

How many Russians believe that the Kremlin actually put Trump in the White House is less clear. Widespread skepticism is often expressed sardonically:

If Putin can put his man in the White House, why can’t he put a mayor in my town who will have the garbage picked up?

Others, who believe the allegation, often take some pleasure, or schadenfreude, from it, having grown resentful of US “meddling” in Russian political life for so many years. (In recent history, the remembered example is the Clinton administration’s very substantial efforts on behalf of President Boris Yeltsin’s reelection in 1996.)

But what should interest us is how Russiagate allegations have tarnished America’s democratic reputation in Russia and thereby undermined the pro-American arguments of Russia’s liberal democrats, who were never a very potent political or electoral force and whose fortunes have already declined in recent years. Consider the following:

  • Russian democrats argue that their country’s elections are manipulated and unfair, including, but not only, those that put and kept Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.Patriotic nationalists” now reply that Russiagate rests on the allegation, widely reported and believed in the United States, that an American presidential election was successfully manipulated on behalf of the desired candidate and that the entire US electoral system may be vulnerable to manipulation.

  • Russian democrats protest that oligarchic and other money has corrupted Russian politics. Their opponents argue that special counsel Robert Mueller’s convictions and other indictments – in the cases of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, for example -prove that American political life is no less corrupt financially.

  • Going back to Soviet times and continuing today, a major complaint of Russian democrats has been the shadowy, malevolent role played by intelligence agencies, particularly the KGB and its successor organization. Patriotic nationalists point to disclosures that their US institutional counterparts, the CIA and FBI, played a secretive and major role in the origins of Russiagate allegations against Trump as a presidential candidate and since his inauguration.

  • Russian democratic dissidents have long protested, and been stifled by, varying degrees of official censorship. Their Russian opponents argue that campaigns now underway in the United States against “Russian disinformation” in the media are a form of American censorship.

  • Many Russians distrust their media, particularly “mainstream” state media. Their opponents retort that American mainstream media is no better, having undertaken a kind of “war” against President Trump and along the way having had to retract dozens of widely circulated stories. In this connection, we may wonder what Russian skeptics made of an astonishingly revealing statement by the media critic of The New York Times – an authoritative newspaper in Russia as well – on January 21 that the “ultimate prize” for leading American journalists is having “helped bring down a president.” By now, Americans may not be shocked by such a repudiation by the Times of its own professed mission and standards, but for Russian journalists, who have long looked to the paper as a model, the reaction was likely profound disillusionment.

  • Putin’s Russian democratic critics often protest his “imperial” foreign policies, so imagine how they interpreted this imperial statement by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen on January 15: “Nations, like children, crave predictability. They need to know the rules. The United States is like a parent. Other countries look to it for guidance and to enforce the rules. Trump has utterly failed in that regard.” Any Russian with a medium-range memory is unlikely to miss this echo of the Soviet Union’s attitude toward the “children” it ruled. And yet, a columnist for The Washington Post – also an authoritative newspaper in Russia – emphasizes Trump’s failure to “enforce the [imperial] rules” as a Russiagate indictment.

  • Perhaps most Russians who are informed about Russiagate believe that all the various allegations against Trump are actually motivated by US elite opposition to his campaign promise to “cooperate with Russia.This means, as Russia’s “patriotic nationalists” have always argued, that Washington will never accept Russia as an equal great power in world affairs, no matter who rules Russia or how (whether Communist or anti-Communist, as is Putin). To this, Russia’s liberal democrats have yet to find a compelling answer.

One Russian, however, who personifies biographically both that system’s recent democratic experiences and its nationalist traditions, has had a mostly unambiguous reaction to Russiagate. Despite US mainstream-media claims that Russian President Putin is “happy” with the “destabilization and chaos” caused by Russiagate in the United States, such consequences are incompatible with what has been Putin’s historical mission since coming to power almost 20 years ago: to rebuild Russia socially and economically after its post-Soviet collapse in the 1990s, and to achieve this through modernizing partnerships with democratic nations – from Europe to the United States – in a stable international environment. For this reason, Putin himself is unlikely to have plotted Russiagate or to have taken any real satisfaction from its woeful consequences.

Which leaves us with an as-yet-unanswerable question. Eventually, Trump and Putin will leave office. But the consequences of Russiagate, both in America and in Russia, will not depart with them. What will be the subsequent, longer-term consequences for both countries and for relations between them? From today’s perspective, nothing good.

Ban Cars In Florida? US Pedestrian Deaths Soar In Last Decade

Pedestrians are the only group among U.S. road users that are being killed at a significantly higher rate than ten years ago.

While deaths of motor vehicle occupants decreased by 6.1 percent and deaths among non-motorists like bikers remained relatively stable, Statista’s Katharina Buchholz notes that fatalities of pedestrians increased from 11.8 percent to 16.1 percent of all road accident deaths. Meanwhile, the number of people taking trips walking has not increased significantly.

Florida is the most dangerous state for pedestrians, as a study by activist group Smart Growth Americashows. An average 2.7 people per 100,000 inhabitants get killed in the state every year while walking on streets or roads. Among the six most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians in the U.S., five are in Florida. In general, a lot of Southern states exhibit pedestrian death rates that are higher than the national average.

Infographic: More Pedestrians Killed in U.S. in Last Decade | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

Smart Growth America estimates that this is because Southern metros are more likely to be designed for cars rather than for a variety of road users. Southern cities, for example, experience more sprawl, which is again linked to more pedestrian deaths.

The study also highlights that older people, poor people and people of color are killed while walking in higher numbers. A person over the age of 75 is twice as likely to be fatally hit by a car than the average American. The same is true for Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Black Americans are 25 percent more likely to die in this fashion. Americans in areas where the median income is below US$36,000/year are 60 percent more likely to get killed on the road while walking.

According to Smart Growth America dangerous roads with no provisions for pedestrians are more likely to have been built in low-income neighborhood or communities of color. The National Highway System also predominantly cuts through these communities. Reservations for Native populations were historically put in places unsuitable for walking. Finally, research has shown that motorists yield to minority walkers less frequently.

Given the logic that has permeated the ever-increasing nanny states of America, we wonder how long before cars are banned (or speed limits are lowered to walking pace, or all vehicles are mandated to be made from bubble-wrap)… especially in Florida?

Netanyahu’s Risky Election Run-Up Bombing Campaign Of Syria May Lead To War

Authored by Elijah Magnier, Middle East based chief international war correspondent for Al Rai Media

Israel has attacked Syria many times during the last seven years of war imposed on Syria. It has run red-lights and broken taboos in order to provoke the “Axis of the Resistance” inside Syria, but has refrained from infuriating Hezbollah in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the most recent Israeli attack has pushed Syria and its allies beyond tolerable limits. Thus, President Assad prepared himself for a battle against Israel between the wars, knowing that such a battle could last weeks. But the president of Syria won’t be alone: Assad and Hezbollah’s Secretary general Hassan Nasrallah will both be running any future battle against any Israeli aggression when the decision to engage will be taken.

Most recently Israel bombed the Syrian army and destroyed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) offices and bases in Syria without inflicting any human casualties. At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put himself on the level of IRGC-Quds brigade General Qassem Soleimani, by challenging him on social media.  In fact, Netanyahu fell right into the trap the Iranian general set for President Donald Trump

Soleimani asked President Hassan Rouhani “to avoid answering this thug (Trump) who is beneath your level” and to allow him (Soleimani) to respond to Trump’s provocations of Iran. Thus Soleimani, a mere officer in the Iranian security forces, directly engages leaders of countries and even an arrogant Prime Minister who commands what he considers the best army in the Middle East and among the strongest in the world. But Soleimani’s style is different from Netanyahu’s. He doesn’t have a twitter account; he spends his time in the battlefield and in meetings with group leaders, officials, and sometime presidents and prime ministers. Soleimani is patient but he can be expected to respond to provocations sooner or later.

Well-informed sources say that Iran is unwilling to abide the repetitive Israeli aggressions against Syria and IRGC positions. The Axis of Resistance is aware that Netanyahu is trying to pull it into a confrontation while US forces are deployed in Northeast Syria and before the Warsaw meeting organized by Trump against Iran. It is a difficult moment for Iran to react, but that doesn’t mean its allies can’t respond.

As noted in a previous article about the decision of the central government in Damascus to establish a new rule of engagement against continuous Israeli attacks, Syria was planning retaliation against any future Israeli attacks. This Syrian decision came just before Trump’s announcement of his intention to withdraw from Syria. This statement gave pause to Syria and its allies, as they reflected upon the best way to respond.

Tel Aviv is aware of the limitation of Iran in this critical moment and understands that the Resistance Axis would rather see a US withdrawal than to retaliate against Israel’s continuous attacks. Nevertheless, the most recent Israeli attack has pushed Syria and its allies beyond tolerable limits. Netanyahu announced his responsibility for the multiple bombardments of Syria–an unprecedented break with Israel’s protocol of silence. He used the army as an advertising tool for his forthcoming election.

The Israeli Prime Minister perhaps doesn’t realize that Soleimani won’t reply to his provocation in Syria because Iranian targets were not bombed in Iran. Damascus responded to the attack by launching missiles against Israel, which in turn resulted in Israel bombarding tens of targets in Syria while stopping short of a larger escalation. Nevertheless, the Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari warned that Tel Aviv airport could be bombed if Israel repeats its aggression on Syria. What al-Jaafari didn’t reveal is the fact that President Assad prepared himself for a battle against Israel between the wars, knowing that such a battle could last weeks.

Indeed, a long battle between Syria and Israel would put an end to Netanyahu’s chances to be re-elected. No Israeli Prime Minister has been elected who has exposed his country to danger and triggered the death of citizens.

2010 SANA file photo of a meeting between Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

But how can Syria retaliate if, as Israel claims, all Syrian and Iranian warehouses have been bombarded and destroyed with their thousands of missiles? How can Hezbollah support Syria if, as Israel claims, it has crippled all convoys transiting from Syria to Lebanon? How is it possible to re-supply Lebanon if the US is occupying the al-Tanf crossing between Syria and Iraq, allegedly to stop the flow of weapons from Tehran to Beirut?

In 2006, Israel paid the price when it believed that it had undermined Hezbollah’s arsenal and discovered, through the massacre of the Merkava at Wadi al-Hujeir and the bombing of the Saar-5 vessel, that its intelligence about Hezbollah missiles and Syrian support was poor and that the US and Israeli intelligence failed. Tel Aviv wrongly believed it could easily fulfill the US dream of establishing a “new Middle East” announced by its Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. No one in Israel expected Hezbollah to stand with its Kornet anti-tank guided missiles and its Chinese anti-ship missiles.

Today, the Resistance Axis, i.e. Syria and Hezbollah in the Levant, not only possess greater experience of warfare, but they also have more modern anti-ship missiles (Yakhont) and other lethal surprises like precision missiles capable of hitting any target anywhere in Israel.

Moreover, Hezbollah has several bases for its strategic missiles on the Lebanese-Syrian borders. The group will not hesitate to generously use them against Israel if Israel attacks its ally Syria. But Hezbollah is not expected to limit its support to weaponry. Hassan Nasrallah is not only a compelling orator and a skilled psychologist of warfare, but also a meticulous military planner and commander. He was present in the military operational room in every single battle against Israel and participated in every single move his men took against Israel in the 2006 war and since.

Logistic-technical-military planning and command and control between Hezbollah and Syria is today united. Nasrallah knows how to fight Israel, how much fire power to use and when. Assad and Nasrallah will both be running any future battle against any Israeli aggression when the decision to engage will be taken.

Syrian air defenses fire missiles to repel Israeli warplanes attacking government positions during a major offensive in November, via Reuters.

Russia is aware of determination of the Resistance Axis to respond and the danger this could pose for everyone in the Levant. The Russians tipped the IRGC to evacuate their command and control bases less than an hour before they were attacked by Israel. Russian military command asked the IRGC about their new command and control bases and were told that “their bases, from today onward, will be spread over the entire Syrian geography alongside the Syrian army, in every single barracks”.

This answer pushed Russia to ask Israel, more directly and overtly, to stop bombing Syria. Russia would hate to find itself in the middle of an exchange of missiles between Syria and Israel flying above its head in the Levant.

Netanyahu’s arrogance pushed him to abandon Israel’s policy of refusing to admit responsibility for its aggression, confusing the military command. The Prime Minister transmitted his electoral gossip inside the military establishment; he prefers to become a social media star rather than to follow the discreet example of his predecessors. 

If Netanyahu wants to be re-elected, he needs to avoid a battle with Syria whose outcome he cannot control; his best strategy would be to keep silent until the polls.