May 072018


US president Donald Trump today tweeted:

I will be announcing my decision on the Iran Deal tomorrow from the White House at 2:00pm.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018

Under the international deal, the Islamic Republic has agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for reduced economic sanctions. Britain, France and Germany have been working behind the scenes for weeks in an effort to save the accord, which was closed during the Obama administration, and also signed by Russia and China. Trump, on the other hand, has made it clear right from the start of his campaign that he would pull out of the deal because it was mad, insane, the worst deal ever, horrible, laughable and disastrous among other things.

I could try to explain how and why Trump is trying to sell Americans his ideas on the deal and how terribly wrong it would be if the US pulled out of the agreement, but I’ll leave that to someone who can do that so much better, and far less boring, than I ever could: John Oliver:

In the past few weeks we’ve seen the head of states of the European dealmakers in this accord visit Washington to try and appease the American president and persuade him to stay on board by suggesting to iron out the flaws of the current deal and then negotiate a better deal with Iran.

French President Emmanuel Macron had to admit defeat after his much-televised bromance with his American colleague. Macron afterwards said he believes US President Donald Trump will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal next month “for domestic reasons,” describing the US as “insane” for its constant global policy U-turns, according to a reports from the Guardian.

Next in line was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was not granted more than a sober working lunch with president Trump.  Merkel’s rational approach failed too and she went home without that important success to her name.

She later had to defend the Iran nuclear deal again in an interview with an Israeli TV channel. Merkel told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vehemently criticized the internationally brokered accord for not doing enough to contain Iran’s nuclear ambition: “We believe it is better to have this agreement, even if it is not perfect, than to have no agreement. We will continue to discuss this, but Germany will watch very closely to ensure that this agreement will be fulfilled.”

Time is running out, so the UK sent forth British foreign secretary Boris Johnson who tried an altogether different approach. He wasn’t scheduled to meet with Trump on his short visit to Washington, so he appeared on Fox & Friends on Monday morning to court Trump on his favorite TV show:

Johnson said Mr Trump was “right to see the flaws in the deal”, though he argued they could be fixed. In typical British understatement, the foreign secretary said without the accord, “Plan B does not seem, to me, to be particularly well developed at this stage”. I think the remark may have been lost on both Trump and Fox & Friends hosts.
Johnson continued with: “If you do that you have to answer the question what next? What if the Iranians do rush for a nuclear weapon? …Are we seriously saying that we are going to bomb those facilities at Fordo and Natanz? …Is that really a realistic possibility? Or do we work round what we have got and push back on Iran together?”

He added: “There doesn’t seem to me at the moment to be a viable military solution.”

But like most leaders have learned by now, flattery is the best way to score with president Trump, and in a separate interview during the visit, Boris Johnson discussed the possibility of Mr Trump winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

“If he can fix North Korea and if he can fix the Iran nuclear deal then I don’t see why he is any less of a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama, who got it before he even did anything,” he told Sky News.

Well, tomorrow at 2:00pm we’ll learn if this combined European effort has managed to change Trumps mind or not. Or the day after, or have his decision rescinded in an early morning Tweet. After all, Trump can do with all the diversion he can muster and he is known to have a change of heart now and again.

Cross-posted with Care2 here

May 052018

I keep finding things of interest that I want to use in an Open Thread, but by the time I get time to put it together, it is old by my standards and the OT never comes to fruition.  Well today is different.  Today’s ‘My Universe’ features a different and dangerous animal in its new home.

Short Takes

Daily Kos — Kansas State legislature sent a shot across the bow of Candidate for Governor and sometimes Secretary of State Kris Kobach, telling him the state’s taxpayers would not be paying for the results of his courtroom antics.…

The legislation was offered by Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin. He said the move would prohibit using any state money for defense or penalties involved in a finding of a contempt of court by statewide elected officials. That would include the governor and the secretary of state.

“You pay your own bills if you get yourself in that kind of trouble,” Jennings said.

This from his own party no less.  And this is how it should be!  Kobach has come under fire numerous times for voter suppression and is your basic black hat Republican, evil to his political core.  The free ride is over!  Kobach is an example of Republican entitlement . . . feeding, or rather gorging from the public trough!

Reuters — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said U.S. President Donald Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, a South Korean official said on Monday.

“President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. What we need is only peace,” Moon told a meeting of senior secretaries, according to a presidential Blue House official who briefed media.

Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday pledged to end hostilities between the two countries and work towards the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula in the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.

I would like to think the Nobel Committee would have the moral fortitude to turn down Trump’s nomination.  I for one, do not believe that Trump was the impetus for the two Koreas coming together.  Of course, he thinks he is and will take all the credit.

USA Today reports that 18 Republicans Congress critters have nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Click through the article for the names of the “infamous 18”.

It’s official: President Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

On Tuesday, 18 members of Congress — all Republicans — sent a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, nominating Trump to receive the award for his work to “end the Korean War, denuclearize the Korean peninsula, and bring peace to the region.”

Here’s what they wrote:

“Since taking office, President Trump has worked tirelessly to apply maximum pressure on North Korea to end its illicit weapons programs and bring peace to the region. His Administration successfully united the international community, including China, to impose one of the most successful international sanctions regimes in history. The sanctions decimated the North Korean economy and have been largely credited for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table.

The nomination comes days after the leaders of North and South Korea announced they would enter a “new era of peace” and denuclearize the peninsula, though they provided few details on how that would happen.

As it is, Trump is an insufferable narcissist.  Should the Nobel Peace Prize committee support the nomination and make him a Nobel Laureate, he will be even more insufferable.

Quartz — If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the past couple of weeks or so, you know that America was introduced to the concept of “alternative facts.” After Trump administration press secretary Sean Spicer rebuked the media for accurately reporting the relatively small crowds at president Donald Trump’s inauguration, senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Spicer wasn’t lying—he was simply using “alternative facts.”  …

Other outlets have resisted labeling Trump’s misstatements as lies. Earlier this year, for instance, the Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief Gerard Baker insisted that the Wall Street Journal wouldn’t label Trump’s false statements “lies.”

Baker argued that lying requires a “deliberate intention to mislead,” which couldn’t be proven in the case of Trump. Baker’s critics pushed back, raising valid and important points about the duty of the press to report what is true.

As important as discussions about the role of the press as fact-checkers are, in this case Baker’s critics are missing the point. Baker is right. Trump isn’t lying. He’s bullshitting. And that’s an important distinction to make.

This article dates from February 2017.  I found the philosophical difference between bullshitting and lying interesting, and something I had not considered previously.  There has been discussion about Trump’s lies . . . are they lies or is that his reality?  Based on the definitions, I agree with the author . .  . Trump is a bullshitter, a dangerous bullshitter!  What do you think? 

My Universe

               Resist the Republican Reich!!!

Feb 012018


Below the front page of my newspaper yesterday evening.  It might appear strange that Dutch media would pay so much attention to a yearly and mostly rather ceremonial event in American politics. Are the Dutch that much interested in it? The answer is short: no, they aren’t. But note the first header of the article, right below the picture (which tells a whole story on its own) in bright red letters. Over the course of the past year Guus Valk has started writing almost daily columns from Washington, which are midway between straight-forward reports and op-eds, analyzing the shenanigans of  American President Donald Trump and the Republican party which he represents. It is very clear to many Dutch that whatever Trump and the GOP get up to in (one of) the most powerful countries in the world it will have great repercussions for the rest of that world. So reading about Donald Trump is of great interest to many Dutch, who in general have always shown an interest in what is happening in the rest of the world. And most of the time it makes for bewildering and hilarious reading ; so yes, that too.


State of the Union shows unprecedented division

Trumps tone was unctuous and patriotic. But his message was as always ‘America First’.


In this article, Valk again gives more of an analysis of Trump’s State of the Union than a report on the contents, places the speech within the context of the current American political climate and picks up on certain passages which are of interest to his Dutch readers. The headlines make it clear: Valk wasn’t very much impressed, neither by Trump’s mild tone when reading the script, nor by its contents, and hints at the possible writers of the speech with his use of “unctuous” in the sub header. The White House had indicated beforehand that Donald Trump would use his first official State of the Union to unite America after a year of extreme polarization, but Valk wasn’t seeing any of it.

He continues with a description of how both parties in Congress reacted to Trump’s “unifying words”

In the Chamber of the House of Representatives, where Trump made his speech, it was visible how divided the political climate is. The Republican Congressmen, to left of Trump, have abandoned their aversion to Trump. They stood up as one man again and again to applaud the president. For the first time in the history of the State of the Union, there was prolonged scanting of: ‘USA! USA! USA!’ (emphasis mine)

The Democrats sat to the right of Trump: looking away, playing with their phone, disapprovingly shaking their heads. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House, had instructed her group not to interrupt Trump’s speech. But the hissing , growling an booing became increasingly loud especially when Trump spoke about immigration.

Valk then goes on to explain Trump’s need to reconcile both parties on ‘Dreamers’ to avoid a new closure of the government on February 8 but with the strict conditions he linked to the deal and the way he put it, it seems Trump has blown his chance:

At least as important was rhetoric, which was reminiscent of the way he depicted immigrants as criminals during his campaign. ‘For decades, open borders have ensured that drugs and gangs flew into our most vulnerable communities.‘ He also said, ‘Americans are dreamers too.’ (emphasis mine)

By summing up all the conservative results he achieved in the past year, Trump was the president as Republicans wanted him: An ordinary Republican president

No tweets, no Russia research, no war against the intelligence services and the FBI. That explained the dozens of standing ovations.

But Valk notes that Trump came up with remarkably few plans, even though a State of the Union is meant to do so. Even now, in a president’s best-prepared speech, Trump remained close to the alarmist tone that made him great, but he couldn’t deliver new plans and new inspiration to a Republican Party which is heading for a possible big defeat in the midterm elections in November.

Valk then ends with a remarkable observation:

Trump said the most interesting and most polarizing words just before he left the room. The speech was over, Trump walked to the exit, shaking hands. A Republican Congressman, Jeff Duncan, accosted him and said, ‘Just release the memo.’ A TV camera recorded the conversation.

Duncan was referring to a memo that here that has an explosive status in Washington. A Republican, Devin Nunes, is said to demonstrate in that memo that the FBI is biased against Trump. The Republicans want to release the memo, but that will almost certainly lead to a total escalation of the conflict between Trump and the FBI, and that between Democrats and Republicans. It will also endanger Robert Mueller’s Russia research.

The person who now has to decide on releasing the note is Trump himself. He has received the document and must now make a decision. He already anticipated  on that to Congressman Duncan. He said, ‘Do not worry, hundred percent.’ When he was off-script, Trump showed what his conciliatory tone was worth this evening.

Guus Valk obviously wasn’t fooled by Trump’s State of the Union, to him it was just another one of this showman’s many campaign speeches and I think many Dutch will agree with him and can’t wait for the next chapter to unfold. “New Republican Weapon: Memo” is the headline of today’s article on Trump, or rather in the parallel series : RUSSIA INVESTIGATION US

Cross-linked with Care-2 here

Dec 212017

It rained a few nights ago but stopped early the following morning.  By noon, it was -1 C (30F) and snowing.  It snowed for the rest of the afternoon and early evening.  Looking at the parking lot outside, there is plenty of ice under the snow.  Yesterday was clear and cold, and definitely very icy.  I made it to physio  but my student cancelled our session.  The rest of the week is busy too, including Sunday evening when I will have Christmas dinner with friends.  I am responsible for multigrain dinner rolls and fresh pomegranates.

Short Takes

The Nation — As 2017 winds down, signature gatherers across Florida are on a last push to qualify the Voting Rights Restoration Initiative for the 2018 ballot, an initiative that, if it passes, would restore voting rights to well over a million Floridians.

The campaign needs just over 766,000 certified signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. Since many signatures in any such drive are ultimately disqualified, campaigners are aiming for 1.1 million signatures statewide that they can take to the division of elections in Tallahassee, the state capital, for review and certification by the February 1 deadline. To do this, they have to submit all of their signatures to the counties by the end of this year, so that the counties can in turn forward them to Tallahassee.

So far, organizers believe they have close to 1 million signatures. In the next 10 days, they will be making their final push.

A few days ago, I published a piece, Voting Rights for Felons — A Contrast Between Two Countries, about restoring the voting rights of felons and ex-felons.  In Florida, felons’ voting rights were restored in 2007 provided they had served their time.  But then, in 2011, Republican Governor Rick Scott reversed those reforms and felons were permanently stripped of their voting rights.  Let us hope that this ballot initiative does not meet with foul play from Republican Governor Rick Scott or others.  This is democracy in action.

TPM — Republican Roy Moore and hasn’t conceded his 20,000-vote loss to Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s Senate race, and provisional ballots and military votes totals announced Wednesday aren’t enough for Moore to close the deficit.

Jones beat Moore on Dec. 12 to become the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century. Moore was beset by allegations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls decades ago.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced Wednesday that a total of 366 military ballots were returned from overseas and 4,967 provisional ballots were cast. Even if all of those votes went to Moore, that is well short of the 20,000-vote deficit that Moore would need to close the gap. It also would not be enough to trigger an automatic recount.

It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.  To my knowledge, Moore still hasn’t conceded defeat and is now on a tear, according to Raw Story, blaming Muslims and Marxists.  In a FB post, Moore “… attacks Democrats for registering minorities to vote and warns Republicans that these minorities could end up toppling their rule.”  I wonder how long it will be before Moore concedes. 

Roy, go home and don’t bug us again. 

The Hill — A group of House Republicans has been quietly investigating the Justice Department and the FBI for weeks over concerns the agencies improperly handled the unverified contents of a dossier alleging ties between President Trump and Russia.

Politico reported Wednesday that the group, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has been quietly working without the knowledge of the committee’s Democrats alongside the House investigation to examine what they see as corruption in the nation’s highest law enforcement body.

In a related Hill story, “Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) said late Saturday that he received an assurance from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that subpoenas would be issued for various senior FBI and Justice Department officials amid increased GOP allegations of anti-Trump bias in the bureau.”   These Republicans should make better use of their time and do the People’s business, not Trump’s.  Devin Nunes is the last person who should be doing this investigation.  Plus, not including Democrats on the investigation is unconscionable, yet so Republican.  Further proof that Republicans need to go the way of the Whigs . . . or the dodo bird! 

My Universe

A beautiful and determined Bengal cat decided that she wanted to get away from all the noise downstairs and skillfully carried her matching bed up the stairs and around the curve despite the fact it was at least twice her size.

Dec 182017

It has been sometime since I last posted an Open Thread.  I have wanted to but just could not wrangle enough time to get it done before the issues became old news.  I have been working at this and a second piece all day, kept company by my 3 cats.  I did not even do my feature, “My Universe”, in the interests of my time.  Now I will post this to Care2 and start on TomCat’s offerings.

Short Takes

Washington Post — Shortly after Democrat Doug Jones wrested back one of ­Alabama’s solidly Republican U.S. Senate seats for the first time in more than two decades, President Trump offered an optimistic and forward-looking assessment on Twitter, congratulating Jones on his “hard fought victory.”

But by Wednesday morning, as Trump watched the unflattering portrait of the loss unfold on television, the president grew piqued at the notion that he, somehow, was responsible.

“I won Alabama, and I would have won Alabama again,” Trump said, according to a senior administration official. …

The president himself spread the blame. He faulted his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, for selling him what one outside adviser described as “a bill of goods” in urging him to support Roy Moore, and he faulted Moore himself for being an abysmal candidate.

In the lead-up to Tuesday night, he had also groused about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying he had been too aggressive in trying to push out Moore.  …

A senior administration official, however, argued that Trump often acts as his own senior strategist and the White House doesn’t necessarily need an official political cranium.

There is the biggest problem — Trump does not listen to advice and consider it thoughtfully — Trump only listens to himself.  The next big problem, he gets lousy advice, whether he takes it from himself or from an adviser.

Open Media — Bell is desperate to censor Canada’s Internet. First they tried through NAFTA.1 Now they’re at it again through the CRTC.

Their radical proposal for website blocking with no court oversight would result in sweeping Internet censorship and put Canada’s robust Net Neutrality rules at risk.2

Shaw has come out in support of the proposal.3 But Telus and Rogers are still on the fence.4 If we can get them to come out against this proposal we can split Big Telecom on the issue, and significantly weaken Bell’s position.

Tell Telus and Rogers to oppose Bell’s censorship plan and stand up for Net Neutrality.

Canada, like the US, is fighting against telecoms which are threatening net neutrality.  Click HERE to bring up the letter to Telus and Rogers, 2 of the big 4 telecoms in Canada who have not yet expressed support for Bell’s position.  If you can help us with your signature, that is great!  Thanks

Newsweek  — The 25th Amendment to the Constitution may define the conditions for suspending a president’s authority, but it does not constrain the reasoning behind it.

As written, the amendment states that if a president “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office,” the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can suspend him. Historically, such an inability was attributable to illness or medical problems, but, in light of President Donald Trump, I offer we expand our interpretation: Medicine aside, it is clear Trump is unfit to serve, and lawmakers must invoke the 25th Amendment against him.

Fears of physical disability were certainly foremost in bringing about the amendment. Going back to at least the 1890s, when President Grover Cleveland had surgery to remove a cancerous growth on his jaw, the country had been in jeopardy of being governed by a chief executive who had lost his physical capacity to lead the nation. In 1919-1920, when a stroke immobilized Woodrow Wilson, and his wife largely ran the executive branch, Americans worried about finding a way to overcome temporary or permanent presidential incapacity.

Franklin Roosevelt’s tenure in the White House added to the sense of urgency about replacing a disabled president. By 1944, it was clear to people around Roosevelt that his health was in decline and that he might not live out a fourth term, which proved to be the case.

Ten years later, in the midst of the Cold War, when Dwight Eisenhower served in the Oval Office and suffered a heart attack that temporarily sidelined him, the need to do something about presidential health became more compelling, or so it seemed to the country’s governing authorities. With Lyndon Johnson in the White House, and questions swirling about his rationality in response to the stalemated war in Vietnam, political leaders from both parties saw the wisdom of passing the 25th Amendment.

Years later, in 1981, after Ronald Reagan had been shot and temporarily incapacitated, and then in 1998, when I revealed John F. Kennedy’s hidden medical problems that surely would have barred him from the presidency in 1961, people were all the more convinced that we could no longer turn a blind eye to a presidential candidate’s or a sitting president’s ability to conduct the affairs of state.

In all this, however, nothing was explicitly said about questions of personal temperament to acquit one’s presidential duties. There were glimmerings of this concern not only with LBJ but even more so with Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis in 1973-74. Rumors about Nixon’s excessive drinking, as the crisis engulfed him, raised fears that the country was in jeopardy of dangerous presidential actions. The country had to wait until Nixon’s taped conversations reached the public 30 years later before it understood the extent to which Nixon’s irrationality had put the nation in peril. In a drunken stupor, he had slept through an unauthorized decision by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and White House chief of staff Al Haig to raise the country’s defense condition (or DEFCON) in response to a Soviet threat to interfere in the Yom Kippur War between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The rise of Trump to the presidency now brings the question of presidential competence back into focus. Trump’s stumbling performance in his first 11 months represents a new low in the history of the modern presidency. It cannot be chalked up to medical disability, at least not at this juncture, but Trump is vulnerable under the amendment anyway.

We have all said it here at Politics Plus — Trump is unfit to be POTUS.  In my opinion, mental illness is a medical disability, and clearly, Trump has mental health issues that should lead to his ousting under the 25th amendment.  I am not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, so my opinion does not count. 

NBC News — Matthew Petersen, the judicial nominee who was widely ridiculed last week after a video went viral of him struggling to answer basic legal questions at his Senate confirmation hearing, withdrew from consideration on Monday.

Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission, said in his resignation letter to President Donald Trump that it “become clear to me over the last few days that my nomination has become a distraction — and that is not fair to you or your Administration.”

Trump nominated Petersen or a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which carries a lifetime tenure.

The brightest thing this oaf has done is to withdraw his name from consideration.  One thing that annoys me however is that his announcement is made as a “so I am not a distraction to the work of the administration” rather than the truth . . . “I am not qualified to hold such a position.”  He really looked like an incompetent fool in the interview.

Common Dreams — A United Nations independent expert presented a searing indictment of the wealth gap in the United States, saying that “contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound” and that the Republican tax plan “is essentially a bid to make the U.S. the world champion of extreme inequality.”

The recent statement by Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, follows his two-week visit to Alabama, California, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.. Based on the fact-finding mission, he said, “The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion as the U.S. … now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries.”  …

He added: “at the end of the day, particularly in a rich country like the USA, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated.”

Doing so requires “democratic decision-making, full employment policies, social protection for the vulnerable, a fair and effective justice system, gender and racial equality, and respect for human dignity, responsible fiscal policies, and environmental justice.” “Currently,” Alston said, “the United States falls far short on each of these issues.”

So much for American exceptionalism.  Trump campaigned on “Make America Great Again”, but what he and Republicans are doing is stealing the country’s future and its hard fought for reputation built over the decades.  For many of us on the outside looking in, it has been apparent what is happening, and I dare say, we all have our thoughts on this.  For myself, it all comes down to power and greed, power and greed that is systemic in many institutions.


Posted to Care2  (open in new window)

Aug 292017

When I read this article from AlterNet, my mind immediately went back to Iraq.  With Trump saying “We are not nation-building again.  …”, what I heard was one nation, the US, justifying the rape and pillaging of another, Afghanistan. 

From AlterNet

The upsurge of the Taliban has nothing to do with the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan. It does, however, have a great deal to do with the entry of al-Qaeda fighters of various stripes from Pakistan into its ranks. But even al-Qaeda is not central to the Taliban’s surge.

That surge can only be explained by the slow desiccation of the Afghan government in Kabul. Despite billions of dollars of aid, Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world (31%) and half of Afghanistan’s children are stunted with a third of the population suffering from food insecurity.

The collapse of humane aspirations for the Afghan people certainly fuels the insurgency and the violence, making it harder to build state and social institutions to tackle these key problems, which once more fuels the war. This cycle of chaos could only be ended if regional powers agreed to freeze their interventions in Afghanistan and if the Afghan state would be able to robustly build up the infrastructure to feed and educate its citizens.

Trump’s comment that he is against ‘nation-building’ shows how little he understands war, for the only antidote to this endless American war in Afghanistan is for the people to reconcile around a believable mandate for human development rather than violence and corruption. No such agenda is on the table.

Late in July, before Trump made his recent announcement, one of Afghanistan’s most hardened leaders, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, held a press conference in his home in Kabul. Hekmatyar, who was a key CIA and Pakistani ally in the 1970s and ’80s, said that ‘neither the Afghan government nor foreign troops can win the war. This war has no winner.’ This is remarkable coming from Hekmatyar, who was known as the ‘Butcher of Kabul’ for his role in the siege of that city after the Soviet troops left Afghanistan (more Afghans died in that civil war than in the mujahedeen’s war against the communist government and their Soviet ally). He has called for negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban.

U.S. General Nicholson painted the Taliban as ‘a criminal organization, more interested in profits from drugs, kidnapping, murder for hire,’ but nonetheless called upon them to join a peace process. It is clear that whatever the U.S. thinks of the Taliban, they have positioned themselves to be a major political force in Afghanistan in the near future. This is why Nicholson and Trump have begun to distinguish between the Taliban (which should be in a peace process) and ISIS/al-Qaeda (which have to be destroyed). That al-Qaeda is now a key ally of the Taliban should sully this simplistic thinking. But it has not.

Negotiations seem far off in Afghanistan. The Taliban is well positioned to increase its bargaining power as its legions expand across the country. Surrendered Taliban leader Zangal Pacha (Amir Khan) recently left the fight in Nangarhar province with six fighters. He said that a foreign intelligence service—most likely that of Pakistan—has been egging the Taliban onwards to take more territory. Attacks on tribal elders and public welfare projects are being urged, largely to squeeze Kabul’s hold on the provinces and to strengthen the Taliban’s claim to being the natural rulers of Afghanistan. Pakistan has long wanted a friendly government in Kabul and it has seen the Taliban as its instrument. Whether the U.S. will once more turn a blind eye to al-Qaeda’s role in the Taliban is to be seen. History does repeat itself, particularly when it comes to geopolitical hypocrisy.

Rachel covered it in two segments.  In the first, she explains what she thinks Trump means and who is tasked with investigating the opportunity and bringing it to fruition.

In the second, she speaks with the former Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan about Trump’s initiative.

When I first read this article, my thoughts went back to Iraq and the 2003 invasion by the US and the UK and allies, Australia and Poland.  Wikipedia describes the rationale for the invasion as follows:

“According to U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition mission was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.””

However, in the years since, it has been generally acknowledged that oil was the goal.  Some of the first heavy fighting was around Basra in the south east by Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, an area rich in oil.  In his 2003 book, General Wesley Clark described talking to a senior military officer:

“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”” 

So when I hear Trump saying that the US is not into nation building, and saying that it will mine the mineral resources, particularly lanthanum, to pay for the war, it is déjà vu!