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Engel Criticizes Trump On Soleimani Assassination

Engel Criticizes Trump On Soleimani Assassination

Juan Cole reports that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Eliot Engel (D-NY) has criticized the administration for its assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in response to a report fresh out of the DOD that said the attack was for past activities by Iran in attacking tankers and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia without any mention of a threat against US personnel in Iraq, the ostensible reason and the only legal reason for doing this.

Cole also reminds that Soleimani had been in Baghdad to negotiate peace with Saudi Arabia at the  invitation of the Iraqi prime minister.  He also reminds us that the Iraqis are denying that the original attack that killed the American contractor and initiated the escalation by the US before the Soleimani attack almost certainly did not come from Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia the US claimed was respoinsible because that Shia militia has not been anywhere near the base in Kirkuk that was attacked for 18 months, with the attack almost surely having come from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.  This puts the US attack that also killed the Iraqi general who commanded Kata’ib Hezbollah to be utterly illegal and essentially just murder and a war crime.

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Do Dirty Tricks Make 2020 Like 1972?

Do Dirty Tricks Make 2020 Like 1972?

The dirty tricks in 1972 were sustained attacks based on faleshoods by the Nixon CREEP against the most popular possible Dem opponent, Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, who was finally brought to tears in public, which fatally damaged his campaign, opening the way for George McGovern to get the nomination and take only DC and Massachusetts in the general election.  Today Trump and his many allies, both in Congress and on Fox News, have peddled a false story that Joe Biden fired a Ukrainian prosecutor because that prosecutor was investigating Biden’s son, Hunter.  They said repeatedly during the impeachment trial, and just last night I heard Sean Hannity at it again vociferously, with those on the show all nodding their heads.  Today is the New Hampshire primary and results not out yet. But Biden is expecting to do poorly, while Bernie Sanders is likely to win (although might not), with Warren also probably on the fade, leaving Bernie on top on the progressive left end of the Dems.  I read some interviews with voters in Iowa who did not vote for Biden because they fear the “baggage” of his son and that the attacks by Trump et al will weaken him like Hillary’s emails hurt her in the 2016.  But to me, this looks more like 1972 all over again.

Now I like Bernie and have lots of respect for him.  I also liked McGovern, and somewhere in July, 1972 I was out in South Dakota and actually thought he might win, although in the end he was unable to take even his home state.  I even was an economic adviser of his during his brief run in 1984, when he dropped out after surprising everybody by coming in third in the Iowa caucus (Eleanor had not wanted him to run a all).  I provided him with a budget proposal he touted there and got called “the conscience of the Democratic Party,” but nobody was under any delusions that he had any chance of winning anything, having been ousted from his Senate seat in 1980 in the Reagan sweep (which also took out the Father of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin).

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Is Iraq About To Switch From US to Russia?

Is Iraq About To Switch From US to Russia?

Today Juan Cole reports from a newspaper in Iraq that since Mohammed al-Allawi has become the new prime minister in Iraq, there has been a meeting in Baghdad between the Russian ambassador and the Iraqi milirary Chief of Staff, and the Iraqi president, Saleh, will be visiting Moscow shortly. A variety of issues and possible areas of cooperation apparently are being discussed, but the biggie apparently is that there is serious discussion of Russia replacing the US in providing air support for the Iraqi military for its ongoing campaign against the remnants of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

It looks like the new PM is very much a part of the move in the Iraqi parliament to get US troops out of Iraq, something that those in Washington have been pretending is not for real.  Juan Cole reports that key in this discussion is that when Trump killed Iranian general Soleimani at the Baghdad airport, he also killed Iraqi general al-Mohandis, a point I have posted on here before, and one that almost nobody talks about in the US (In the Dem debate just over ABC’s David Muir tried to get the Dem candidates to say they would have killed Soleimani).  But what has got lots of Iraqis upset about this is that it was a blatant violation of iraqi soverignty.  Cole reports on Putin sending out a message promising to respect Iraqi sovereignty.

This may not come to pass, but for sure the only thing that Trump had to say about all this was to brag about killing Soleimani, no menton of the 67 American soldiers suffering brain injury due to the Iranian missilee attack in respoinse to this, and also the 170 people who died in an airplane accidentally shot down by the Iranians due to their being on high alert as a result of Trump’s attack, much less a word about leaders and people in Iraq being upset over his also killing one of their generals in violation of their sovereignty.

Barkley Rosser

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Will The “Impeachment Charade Fade Quickly”?

Will The “Impeachment Charade Fade Quickly”?

We have not yet had all the final speechifying where GOP senators attempt to justify their votes to make this the first US federal impeachment trial in history (there have been 15, mostly of judges) not to have any witnesses, as well as the foregone acquittal.  But the battle over how it will be viewed in both the short and medium and long runs is already going on.  A sign of this is a column in yesterday’s Washington Post by Hugh Hewitt entitled, “This impeachment charade will fade quickly,” with Hewitt viewing the “charade” part not to mean the refusal of the Senate to have witnesses, but the entire trial itself, which he Trumpisly declares to have consisted of “fake history,”  because Trump will be viewed in 50 years as an “outsize personality” with “a growing list of achievements.”  Claims like this will clearly underpin Trump’s reelection campaign, even as several GOP senators up for reelection will probably find that their votes for the charade of not having witnesses will not “fade quickly” and may well do them in, even if Trump manages to squeak through to reelection.

Here is the list of things Hewitt things are achievements, almost none of which I think are, and most, if  not all, will be viewed as mistakes or Bad Things 50 years from now to the extent they are remembered at all, my comments in brackets.

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Which Lie Is The Worst?

Which Lie Is The Worst?

With the conclusion of the Trump defense in his impeachment trial, the question arises as to which lie told by the defense is the worst?

Sean Hannity has been emphasizing four in particular.  In the first, he claims that there was no linkage between military aid and investigating the Bidens in the July 25 phone transcript.  But there it is in black and white that when Zelensky mentioned wanting more military aid, Trump immediately goes to “I need a favor though,” and with that immediately followed up by his demand for inveatigating the supposedly missing laptop with mention of investigating Bidens coming a bit later.

Then we have the true claim that Zelensky has never publicly said he felt “pressure” from Trump.  Indeed, but we know no way would he say so as long as he wants aid.

Then we have the claim that Zelensky knew nothing about this before the July 25 phone call.  But in fact numerous witnesses have testified that he did and was fully aware of what was coming (more or less) when he participated in the July 25 phone call. This one is an outright lie.

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Guns and Commas

Guns and Commas

I am glad that the large pro-gun rights rally in Richmond on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ended without any violence as had been threatened by some people around the US.  That is nice, but it does not end the unpleasant situation legal situation that has arisen here in Virginia.  As of now 93 jurisdictions, mostly counties, have declared themselves “gun sanctuaries” where any gun control legislation passed by the Virginia government will not be enforced.  The bills currently having received majority support in the Assembly and Senate with support from Governor Northam include requiring uinversal background checks for all gun sales (while allowing intra-family gun transfeers without that), a one-gun per month limit on gun purchases, and an especially controversial “red flag” bill allowing for a person deemed to be a danger to themselves or others to have their guns temporarily taken.

I am located in the Shenandoah Valley where this “gun sanctuary” movement got going, with neighboring county to the south of me, Augusta, getting highlighted in an article about this in The Economist recently.  VA is the only state where cities and counties are distinct and separate from each other.  So I live in the City of Harrisonburg, which is surrounded by Rockingham County, which supported Trump with over 70 percent of the vote.  Rockingham County has joined Augusta in becoming one of these on a unanimous vote of its Board of Supervisors, although I know at least one of those not happy about this. But an angry gun-toting crowd showed up at the meeting.  In Harrisonburg such a crowd showed up at the city council, but left angrily after the council refused to go along with this garbage.

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Covering Up The Coverup

Covering Up The Coverup

I keep thinking that Fox News cannot get worse, but there seems to be no bottom to how low they can go.  New lows are being exhibited in their coverage of the current Senate impeachment trial.  They are fully involved in covering up the Trump administration coverup of what Trump did regarding the articles of impeachment. Anybody getting their news on this trial from Fox will really have no idea what is going on or what the case is that the House managers of the prosecution are arguing.

I am not following the trial fully, and I am only occasionally popping to Fox News to see what they are doing, but I have seen enough.  The main thing they do, and I am seeing Sean Hannity do more of it after seeing Tucker Carlson also do it, is that they barely show the presentations of the House managers. They cover over the presentations with themselves and their allies talking and characterizing what is being said without showing whar is being said except for scattered cherry picked comments.  For Hannity Adam Schiff is a liar and “crazy.”  He  repeats standard talking points he has presented almost every night for months, but never lets the House managers actually their stuff.  Tucker Carlson is no better.

Last night we had the extreme spectacle that I actually saw live, of while Hakeem Jeffries was speaking Tucker Carlson had a large chryon scrolling under him saying “Dems Push Hysterical Talking Points in Trial.”  As  it is, most observers have noted that whatever  one thinks of the bottom line, the House managers have presented careful arguments supported by lots of evidence.  Nothing “hysterical” about any of it.

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The US-China Nothing Burger Trade Deal

The US-China Nothing Burger Trade Deal

There has been much hype about the signing of Phase One (and probably only) US-China trade deal.  However based on a front page story in today’s Washington Post, there is not much there.  The US did not raise tariffs as planned, but tarifsf still remain on two thirds of the sectors that had them, although some were halved.  But numerous US sectors see no change at all and are now viewing the  situation as not likely to improve, with them suffering losses of business likely to return.  Among those are chemicals, apparel retailers, and auto parts. In these and other sectors there is not much reduction of uncertainty regarding US-China trade, so not likely much increase in investment.

The main items in it besides no worsening of tariffs, China has made promises not to pressure US firms to turn over technology and also to increase imports from the US by $200 billion over the next two years, especially in energy and agriculture. So maybe US soybean farmers will no longer need the bailouts of billions of $ Trump has been providing to them.  However, such promises have been made in the past.

As it is, I am watching commentators on Bloomberg, and about the most any of them are willing to say is that this “puts a floor” on the “deterioration” of US-China trade relations.  That is far from some dramatic breakthrough, and most of the tariffs put on as part of the US-China trade war remain in place.

Barkley Rosser

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Further Followup On The Soleimani Assassination

Further Followup On The Soleimani Assassination

I wish to point out some matters not getting a lot of attention in the US media.

An important one of those was reported two days ago by Juan Cole. It is that apparently it has not been determined for certain that the initial attack that set off this current round of deaths when a militia in Iraq attacked an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk in which an American contractor was killed, almost certainly a matter of collateral damage although not recognized as such, was actually done by Kata’b Hezbollah, the group reported to have done it.  That group was commanded by al-Mushani, who was also assassinated with Soleimani, with whom he was allied.  But it is not certain that they did it.  As it is, the Kirkuk base is dominated by Kurdish Pesh Merga, with whom it is not at all obvious the pro-Iranian militias like the Kat’b Hezbollah have hostile differences.  This may have been cooked up to create an excuse for assassinating Soleimani.

Indeed, it has now been reported that seven months ago Trump had approved killing Soleimani essentially at the first instance there would be a good excuse for doing so.  In fact it is now reported that although Trump had not heard of Soleimani during th 2016 election, within five minutes of his inauguration he suggested killing Soleimani.  SecState Pompeo been encouraging and pushing this action, but it has been something Trump has been hot to do for some time.  Going up for an impeachment trial looks like a really good time.

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Can The US Assassination Of Qasem Solemiani Be Justified?

Can The US Assassination Of Qasem Solemiani Be Justified?

We know from various Congressional folks that briefers of Congress have failed to produce any evidence of “imminent” plans to kill Americans Soleimani was involved with that would have made this a legal killing rather than an illegal assassination.  The public statements by administration figures have cited such things as the 1979 hostage crisis, the already dead contractor, and, oh, the need to “reestablish deterrence” after Trump did not follow through on previous threats he made.  None  of this looks remotely like “imminent plans,” not to mention that the Iraqi PM Abdul-Mahdi has reported that Soleimani was on the way to see him with a reply to a Saudi peace proposal.  What a threatening imminent plan!

As it is, despite the apparent lack of “imminent plans” to kill Americans, much of the supporting rhetoric for this assassination coming out of Trump supporters (with bragging about it having reportedly been put up on Trump’s reelection funding website) involves charges that Soleimani was “the world’s Number One terrorist” and was personally responsible for killing 603 Americans in Iraq.  Even as many commentators have noted the lack of any “imminent plans,” pretty much all American ones have prefaced these questions with assertions that Soleimani was unquestionable “evil” and “bad” and a generally no good guy who deserved to be offed, if not right at this time and in this way.  He was the central mastermind and boss of a massive international terror network that obeyed his orders and key to Iran’s reputed position as “the Number One state supporter of terrorism,” with Soleimani the key to all of that.

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