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Russian Collusion? – Article by Mollie Hemingway

Russian Collusion? – Article by Mollie Hemingway

The New Renaissance Hat
Mollie Hemingway
October 1, 2017
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This essay is reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on September 7, 2017, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

We keep being told that President Trump is not normal. This much has been blindingly obvious. He had never run for office or otherwise served in a public capacity. He has been accused, not without reason, of breaking all manner of political norms. America’s most nontraditional president was never going to conduct business as usual from the West Wing. Less than a year into his first term, he has already caused much anguish in Washington. This should be no surprise—while running for office Trump repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and shake things up. Americans knew who they were voting for, and history will judge the results.

That said, Trump’s nascent presidency has coincided with perhaps the greatest violation of political norms this country has ever seen—a violation that has nothing to do with Trump’s behavior. Since the election last November, there has been a sustained, coordinated attack on Trump’s legitimacy as president following his victory in a free and fair election. This has the potential to cause far more lasting damage to America than Trump’s controversial style.

Democratic operatives and their media allies attempted to explain Trump’s victory with a claim they had failed to make stick during the general election: Trump had nefarious ties to Russia. This was a fertile area for allegations, if for no other reason than that Trump had been reluctant to express criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. By contrast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly condemned Russia’s 2011 elections, saying they were “neither free nor fair” and expressing “serious concerns” about them. She publicly called for a full investigation while meeting with top Russian officials. This made Putin livid. “Mr. Putin said that hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘foreign money’ was being used to influence Russian politics, and that Mrs. Clinton had personally spurred protesters to action,” The New York Times reported.

Trump’s relationship with Putin was decidedly different. In December 2015, Putin called Trump “a really brilliant and talented person.” Trump replied: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” He added, “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”

Then rumors surfaced in the summer of 2016 that Russia probably had something to do with the alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee email system, as well as the successful “phishing” of Democratic insider John Podesta’s inbox. Russia was also alleged to have tried to hack the Republican National Committee, but without success. It remained an open question whether the Russians were trying to help Trump or were simply trying to create chaos in the election. Regardless, these Democratic Party emails were published by WikiLeaks, and they confirmed what many critics had said about Clinton and the DNC—the DNC had engineered the primary to ensure a Clinton victory; the Clinton campaign had cozy, borderline unethical relations with members of the mainstream media; Clinton expressed private positions to Wall Street banks that were at odds with her public positions; and various other embarrassing details indicating her campaign was in disarray.

According to Shattered, a well-sourced book about the Clinton campaign written by sympathetic reporters, Clinton settled on a Russia excuse within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [Campaign manager Robby] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.

The Russian collusion story involves a lot of details, but there are two basic tactics that Trump’s enemies have used to push the narrative: they have put seemingly innocuous contacts with Russians under a microscope, and they have selectively touted details supplied by a politicized intelligence apparatus. And this has all been amplified by a media that has lost perspective and refuses to be impartial, much less accurate.

Meetings with Russians

If most of us can now agree that Putin’s Russia is a potential threat to the United States, we shouldn’t forget that the Washington establishment regarded this as a radical opinion not so long ago. Shortly after President Obama was elected in 2008, Time magazine ran a cover with him asking a Russian bear, “Can we be friends?” The media generally celebrated Secretary of State Clinton’s attempt at a Russian “reset” in 2009. Obama was later caught on a hot mic promising Putin more “flexibility” once he was reelected. And during Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, when his opponent Mitt Romney characterized Russia as our greatest geopolitical foe, Obama mocked him by saying, “The 1980s called. They want their foreign policy back.” The New York Times editorial page said of Romney’s Russia comments that they “display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender.”

Trump’s election changed all that. Not since the heyday of McCarthyism in the 1950s have so many in Washington been accused of consorting with Russians who wish to undermine American democracy.

The Washington Post reported in mid-January that Mike Flynn, Trump’s incoming National Security Advisor, had spoken via telephone with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials in retaliation for the DNC hacking. Although such conversations are perfectly legal, the Postsuggested, quite incredibly, that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act, which bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. The Logan Act, which has a long record of being cited by cranks, has not been enforced since it was passed (in 1799!) because it is widely considered to be grossly unconstitutional. In addition to the PostThe New York TimesForeign Policymagazine, and other outlets credulously repeated the same ludicrous talking point about Logan Act violations.

Let it also be noted that Flynn, while a critic of Russia and of the Iran nuclear deal that Russia helped put together, also was paid to speak at a dinner hosted by the Russian TV network Russia Today.

When then-Senator Jeff Sessions was asked, during his confirmation hearing to be U.S Attorney General, about allegations of Russian attempts to compromise the Trump campaign, he noted that he had been a Trump surrogate and hadn’t heard of any meetings for this purpose. When it turned out Sessions had met with Kislyak in a different capacity—as a U.S. Senator on the Armed Services Committee—the ensuing uproar in the media led him to recuse himself from any investigation into Russian meddling. Of course, it was Kislyak’s job to facilitate as many meetings as possible with top officials across the political spectrum, and he was seen at meetings with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Claire McCaskill, two prominent Democrats, as well as other Republicans. Indeed, such meetings between foreign ambassadors and U.S. elected officials are routine.

It’s true that Trump was associated with people who had ties to Russians. His former campaign manager Paul Manafort had previously done political consulting work in Ukraine for Russia-aligned groups. Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor with a limited role, is a Naval Academy graduate, businessman, and academic who has been open about his belief that America’s anti-Russian foreign policy has been counterproductive. And Roger Stone, a campaign advisor with a reputation for outlandish campaign work, reportedly spoke with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as well as Guccifer 2.0, who may be a Russian hacker.

But perhaps no meeting attracted as much scrutiny as one in June 2016 between Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and various Russians, including a Russian lawyer. According to email correspondence, the Trump associates were told they would receive opposition research on Clinton that may have been provided by the Russian government. No research was handed over, but critics said that the language in the emails supported claims of attempted collusion. After weeks of accusations, the story quickly ran out of steam when it was revealed that the Russian lawyer, who was to have provided the information, had employed a shadowy opposition research firm known as Fusion GPS—a business that had strong ties to Democratic interests, had previously tried to smear Mitt Romney donors and critics of Planned Parenthood, and had played a key role in a recent and infamous attempt to smear Trump.

Politicized Intelligence

Many allegations concerning Russia have been taken seriously based solely on the institutional credibility of the accusers. It appears that members of America’s intelligence community are some of the President’s most passionate opponents.

Late last December, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI put out a 13-page report touted as definitive proof of Russian state involvement in the DNC server hack and the phishing attack on John Podesta’s emails. It was remarkably paltry—vague and non-specific in a way that really didn’t help clarify the precise nature of Russia’s involvement. Cyberwarfare expert Jeffrey Carr wrote that the report “adds nothing to the call for evidence that the Russian government was responsible” for the hacks. It listed every threat ever reported by a commercial cybersecurity company that was suspected of having a Russian origin, Carr noted, lumping them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services, without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection existed. Former Air Force cyberwarfare officer Robert Lee said the report was of limited use to security professionals, in part because of poor organization and a lack of crucial details.

Senior intelligence appointees tried again in early January, with a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It was also lacking in specifics. But comments from high profile Democrats, supported by a leak campaign to media outlets, did have an effect. By late December, more than half of Democrats believed—despite the lack of evidence—that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President,” according to a YouGov.com poll.

When Trump responded to these reports with dismissals and a few begrudging admissions of minor contacts with Russians, critics gleefully warned him that partisans at intelligence agencies would retaliate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.” Former George W. Bush speechwriter and current never-Trump activist David Frum echoed this sentiment: “CIA message to Trump: you mess with us, get ready for a leakstorm of Biblical proportions.” Essentially, intelligence agencies were being publicly encouraged to abuse their power to stop Trump before he had even assumed office.

In January, the big story dropped. “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” blared the headline from CNN. According to highly placed anonymous sources, top intelligence appointees had informed Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Trump that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” A former British intelligence operative had compiled a damaging “dossier” on the President-elect. CNN reported that intelligence officials considered this operative’s past work credible. But he had paid his Russian sources for the compromising information, and CNN published its report on the dossier without confirming any of the allegations. Within the hour, BuzzFeed published the actual text of the dossier. It said, among other things, that a senior Trump advisor and three of his colleagues had met with Kremlin operatives in Prague in late August or early September to undermine the Clinton campaign. And the Russians were said to have a kompromat file on Trump, including an amazing story about him renting a hotel room the Obamas had used and paying prostitutes to urinate on the bed.

One of the claims was quickly disproven: Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer who was alleged to have gone to Prague for a clandestine meeting with Kremlin operatives, had never been to Prague. And to date, no media organization has provided any independent evidence to confirm a single claim made in the dossier. It was soon revealed that the firm that had hired the former British operative and put together the dossier was the aforementioned Fusion GPS. What’s more, the FBI allegedly sought to pay the British operative to continue gathering dirt on Trump.

Aside from a lack of concern about the accuracy of the charges against Trump, intelligence chiefs were not discriminating about who got caught up in their anti-Trump crusade. In March, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced that “unmasking” of Trump transition team members had occurred during the last three months of the Obama presidency—that is, significant personal information from and about Trump associates had been collected and widely disseminated.

“I recently confirmed that, on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes said. The information collected, he added, had little or no foreign intelligence value, and nothing to do with Russia. Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes were later reported to be involved in this rampant unmasking activity.

Trump created one of the biggest firestorms of his presidency in May when he fired FBI Director James Comey. The embattled FBI head, who let Hillary Clinton slide after her illegal handling of classified information, had been routinely criticized by both Democrats and Republicans and was officially fired for general ineptness. However, Trump said it was also because Comey was playing games with the Russia investigation. In his letter relieving him of his duties, Trump mentioned that Comey had told him three times he was not under investigation. Many journalists scoffed at this claim, since Comey was publicly intimating otherwise. When he was fired, stories favorable to Comey about private meetings between Comey and Trump came out in the media.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee a few weeks later, Comey admitted he had, in fact, told Trump at least three times he was not under investigation by the FBI. Comey also admitted under oath that his leaks to The New York Times were designed to force the hiring of a special prosecutor. His strategy paid off when his close friend and former colleague Robert Mueller was appointed to head an investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. That investigation has since spiraled out to include leads “that have nothing to do with Russia,” according to media reports.

The egregious behavior of influential officials such as Comey has encouraged people to think that the verdict of the intelligence community was more conclusive than it was. During a 2016 presidential debate, Clinton said, “We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election.” Clinton’s claim wasn’t true. It was only three agencies—the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency—that made the claim. Yet media outlets such as NBC, CBS, CNN, and The New York Times repeated the number 17. In late June, The New York Times corrected a story that made the false claim. So did the Associated Press.

In general, the media have overstated the confidence and public evidence in support of Russian hacking. One group of skeptical intelligence analysts, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), issued a memo in late July arguing that the hack of the DNC emails wasn’t a hack at all, but an internal leak. VIPS is generally thought to be sympathetic to the Left—the same group had cast doubt on the quality of intelligence that led the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. The VIPS memo raises questions about why the FBI failed to perform an independent forensic analysis of the Democratic emails or servers in question. In fact, no federal agency performed a forensic analysis, leaving that to CrowdStrike—a company with strong ties to the Clinton campaign that had an incentive to blame foreign governments for the attack. Surely, more forensic scrutiny of the centerpiece of the Russia hack claim is in order.

To date, despite all the misleading claims in news reports, the only actual crime related to the Trump-Russia investigation is the criminal leaking of classified information about U.S. citizens by intelligence officials.

Media Problems

A compliant media responded to the Clinton campaign’s “blame Russia” strategy by pushing stories alleging wrongdoing by Russia. Many of the early ones fell apart. The Washington Post published a story saying that “fake news”—a term originally used to describe the dissemination of blatantly false news reports intended to go viral on social media—was a Russian operation designed to help Trump. An editor’s note was appended backing away from the report a couple weeks later. (Trump would famously appropriate the term “fake news” to describe reports from the mainstream media he found unfair.) A few weeks later, the Post ran an even more incendiary story alleging that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electrical grid. This turned out to be false. One media outlet headline read: “Trump, Russian billionaire say they’ve never met, but their jets did.” Presumably, these inanimate objects exchanged pleasantries and discussed sensitive foreign policy matters.

CNN has had particular trouble. Breathless headlines such as “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign” fail to be supported with evidence. Anonymous officials would say that such communications “are not unusual” and investigators had not “reached a judgment” of any nefarious intent. Other CNN stories had bigger problems, such as the one reporting that Comey would testify he never told Trump he was not under investigation. As mentioned previously, Comey admitted under oath that he’d said this three times, just as Trump claimed. Another story reporting a problematic meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian, again based on a single anonymous source, was quietly retracted, and three employees who worked on it were dismissed.

Journalism in the Trump era has become far too dependent on unreliable and anonymous sources. And considering the steady drumbeat in the media about Trump having a strained relationship with facts, there is plenty of irony in the fact that the media have had to correct or retract an unprecedented number of stories about him and his administration.

There are three primary ways of viewing the Trump-Russia narrative.

View one is that Russians hacked the election and Donald Trump committed treason by knowingly colluding with them. The Obama administration didn’t surveil Trump or his associates, but if it did, it was simply doing its job.

View two is that Russia was probably involved in the hacking and releasing of emails from the DNC and John Podesta. Some Trump associates had ties to Russia, but there is no evidence of Trump or his campaign colluding with Russia.

View three is that the Russia story is a complete fiction concocted by sore losers unable to deal with the reality of their electoral loss.

It shouldn’t be difficult to ascertain which one of these views is most grounded in facts. Despite his friendly rhetoric toward Russia and Putin during the campaign, Trump’s presidency has been marked by a bombing of Russia-backed Syria, bombing of the Russia-aligned Taliban in Afghanistan, stricter enforcement of economic sanctions, support for the expansion of NATO, liquid natural gas exports to Europe that undercut Russia’s economy, the selling of U.S. missile defense to Poland and Romania, and opposition to the Russian-negotiated Iran nuclear deal.

In the meantime, the self-styled anti-Trump “resistance” has created a standard it must meet to justify the broken norms and political trauma to which it has subjected the country. That standard is nothing less than proof that Donald Trump is a traitor put into the White House through collusion with Russia to undermine our electoral system. The better part of a year into his presidency, Trump’s enemies have not come close to meeting that standard.

Mollie Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor. She received her B.A. from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has been a Philips Foundation Journalism Fellow, a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and a Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College. She has written for numerous publications, including The Wall Street JournalThe Washington Post, and Christianity Today, and is the author of Trump vs. the Media.

Will Congress and Trump Declare War on WikiLeaks? – Article by Ron Paul

Will Congress and Trump Declare War on WikiLeaks? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 3, 2017
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The Senate Intelligence Committee recently passed its Intelligence Authorization Act for 2018 that contains a chilling attack on the First Amendment. Section 623 of the act expresses the “sense of Congress” that WikiLeaks resembles a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such.” This language is designed to delegitimize WikiLeaks, encourage the federal government to spy on individuals working with WikiLeaks, and block access to WikiLeaks’ website. This provision could even justify sending US forces abroad to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or other WikiLeaks personnel.

WikiLeaks critics claim that the organization’s leaks harm US national security. However, these critics are unable to provide a single specific example of WikiLeaks’ actions harming the American people. WikiLeaks does harm the reputations of federal government agencies and politicians, however. For example, earlier this year WikiLeaks released information on the CIA’s hacking program. The leaks did not reveal any details on operations against foreign targets, but they did let the American people know how easy it is for the government to hack into their electronic devices.

For the last year, most of the news surrounding WikiLeaks has centered on its leak of emails showing how prominent Democrats worked to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In order to deflect attention from these revelations, Democrats, aided by their allies in the media and even some Republicans, promulgated a conspiracy theory blaming the leaks on Russian hackers working to defeat Hillary Clinton. Even though there is no evidence the Russians were behind the leaks, many in both parties are still peddling the “Putin did it” narrative. This aids an effort by the deep state and its allies in Congress and the media to delegitimize last year’s election, advance a new Cold War with Russia, and criminalize WikiLeaks.

If the government is successful in shutting down WikiLeaks by labeling it a “hostile intelligence service,” it will use this tactic to silence other organizations and websites as well. The goal will be to create a climate of fear to ensure no one dares publish the revelations of a future Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning.

Some have suggested that criticizing police brutality, the surveillance state, the Federal Reserve, or even federal spending aids “hostile foreign powers” by weakening the people’s “trust in government.” This line of reasoning could be used to silence, in the name of “national security,” websites critical of the welfare-warfare state.

By labeling WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service” and thus legitimizing government action against the organization, the Senate Intelligence Authorization Act threatens the ability of whistleblowers to inform the public about government misdeeds. It also sets a precedent that could be used to limit other types of free speech.

President Trump should make it clear he will veto any bill giving government new powers to silence organizations like WikiLeaks. If President Trump supports the war on WikiLeaks, after candidate Trump proclaimed his love for WikiLeaks, it will be further proof that he has outsourced his presidency to the deep state.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, along with notable whistleblowers, foreign policy experts, and leading champions of peace and liberty, will be addressing this important issue at my Institute for Peace and Prosperity’s conference on Saturday, September 9 at the Dulles Airport Marriott Hotel in Dulles, Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. You can get more information about the conference and purchase tickets at the Ron Paul Institute.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.
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This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
No Good Can Come from Trying to Resurrect the Cold War – Article by Brittany Hunter

No Good Can Come from Trying to Resurrect the Cold War – Article by Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter
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A few days go, as I sat with my eyes fixated on my television screen during a particularly riveting Netflix marathon, an alert on my iPhone went off and interrupted an otherwise perfect night of binge-watching.

As I glanced down to see what fresh new hell awaited me in the hectic non-fiction world, I noticed that it was an alert from an Apple news app that I never bothered to deleted when I upgraded to a newer iPhone over six months ago. The app only goes off if there is significant breaking news, which, usually means a terrorist attack or another lost airliner.

This time, however, the news that disrupted my luxurious night of lounging was a headline about Jared Kushner, Trump’s loyal son-in-law, and his connection to Russia. The content of the alert was vague at best, something along the lines of “Kushner has Russian connection Proving Malicious Intent,” or something equally over-dramatic and sensationalized.

Enough Is Enough

Normally, I would roll my eyes at the media rushing to conclusions and go about my day, but after the roller coaster of an election cycle that the nation is still attempting to recover from, this alert somehow managed to become my own personal “straw that broke the camel’s back,” as they say.

For the record, I am no fan of Jared Kushner nor of Trump, but that is because I am no fan of any politician. However, given the amount of times I have personally been subjected to the “ fear Russia” rhetoric, I find myself quickly losing faith in what passes for “news” these days and am even more concerned that this fear-mongering will inevitably turn to warmongering if the drums of war continue to beat in Russia’s general direction.

Between hearing the term “Russian meddling” every 30 seconds on CNN, and Time Magazine’s controversial cover depicting the White House being taken over by the Kremlin, I have had just about enough of this return to 1950s Cold War speak.

While I am wary of any news story that justifies the military industrial complex’s lust for war, the Time cover speaks volumes about the modern day media industry as a whole. When it comes to the purposefully shocking Time cover, no one bothered to notice that the “Kremlin” seen swallowing the White House into a sea of red is in fact St. Basil Cathedral. The sensationalism of the story, despite its possible consequences, was of more importance than fact-checking the actual content.

Some might argue that this is a small detail to get worked up over in the long-run, but as the country “celebrates” Memorial Day today, it is important to remember that any rhetoric that aims to perpetuate our country’s obsession with war should always be questioned and scrutinized to the utmost degree.

Reinventing the Red Scare

Russia has recently replaced the millennial generation as America’s favorite group to collectively throw under the bus every time something goes wrong.

At a pivotal moment just a few weeks shy of voting day, Wikileaks revealed leaked emails that showed collusion between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign (as if either can be distinguished from the other). The content of these emails seemed to shed light on the combined efforts of the DNC and the Clinton campaign, who together had done everything within their power to rig the election against Bernie Sanders.

But rather than blame those actually responsible for the constructed demise of the Sanders campaign, Russia somehow became the enemy — again.

Suddenly, the shadiness on the part of the DNC and the Clinton camp were pushed aside as “Russian hackers” became the main cause for concern. While there has yet to be a definitive answer on the matter, the authenticity of the leaked emails was not a source of outrage for devoted Democrats. Instead, they wanted justice because how dare we let Putin interfere in our elections! This is America! This is a Democracy!

Overnight, the Democrats began to sound like the bloodthirsty Republicans of the Bush/Cheney era, calling for war without any logical forethought. What their candidate did was of less importance than punishing those who may or may not have brought the information to light.

Appearing almost out of thin air, Russia became the culprit even though there was evidence to the contrary and Wikileaks maintains that Russia is not involved. For those insistent that the Red Scare be brought forth from its warmongering grave, the idea of a foreign body meddling in the U.S. presidential elections was too egregious a reality to live with in an allegedly free country.

Apparently, these same people have forgotten about the numerous times throughout history where the United States Government has interfered in foreign elections over the years.

Blood on Our Hands

If for example, Russia was found to be explicitly and directly tied to the election of Donald Trump, it does not, at least thus far, come close to the disastrous consequences that arose from America’s role in the Iranian coup d’etat in 1953. It also pales in comparison with the American backing of the President of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem in the 1960s. In the predominantly Buddhist territory of southern Vietnam, the United States ushering a devout Catholic into the powerful role of President was not appreciated, as history proved.

While these are just a few instances of many, the aforementioned examples have both caused and perpetuated conflicts that are still ongoing today. The United States’ reputation of meddling in the Middle East is exactly what gave rise to the sentiment seen with Islamist extremists, such as ISIS. But it didn’t begin in 2003 with the Invasion of Iraq.

The United States left Vietnam in shame after forcing their own men to go off and die in foreign jungles without a clear purpose. But U.S. intervention was largely to blame for the escalation of the conflict in the first time.

Simply knowing and understanding that the federal government has an unfortunate tendency of being all too hasty to declare war — or just attack without any formal declaration — should be enough to caution those who are calling for the nation to retaliate against Russia.

Let’s Really Remember

Memorial Day has unfortunately become a holiday that glamorizes war and glorifies professional federally sanctioned killing, rather than urging caution against escalating foreign conflict. While the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) has been an utter and complete disaster when it comes to honoring those who went off to die for undefined “American interests” abroad, the government has instead declared that Memorial Day is sufficient enough to at least calm the masses.

But as we spend the majority of the day enjoying our paid time off with BBQs and pool time, may we not forget to be increasingly skeptical of any propaganda that seeks to put the federal government’s interests ahead of individual life.

To be sure, the atrocities committed by Putin and other Russian agents of the state are reprehensible. However, not only does this not explicitly prove that Russia was involved in the leaks, those seeking to perpetuate this rhetoric are doing so only to save face and distract from the actions of the DNC and the Clinton camp.

For those who continue attempting to reignite the Cold War, protecting partisan politics is more important than sparing innocent lives from the brutal realities of war.

Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Brittany studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

What Everyone is Missing About Trump Literally Going Nuclear on Twitter – Article by Carey Wedler

What Everyone is Missing About Trump Literally Going Nuclear on Twitter – Article by Carey Wedler

The New Renaissance HatCarey Wedler
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Trump critics have long cautioned that the president-elect’s impending administration will be a disaster, often referencing the potential for nuclear war. Trump can’t be trusted with his hand on the nuclear button, many warn.

On Friday, President-elect Donald Trump confirmed these fears when he tweeted in favor of expanding America’s nuclear arsenal.

His statement drew widespread criticism, with Twitter users sounding the end of the world as we know it. Few people outside Trump’s loyal fan base would deny the severe risks Trump poses by vowing to expand America’s nuclear arsenal. But as the media launches a barrage of condescending condemnations of Trump’s nuclear fantasies, many outlets are ignoring vital context.

Trump appears to represent chaos and danger and would undoubtedly hamper U.S.  and global interests by bloating the country’s nuclear weapons systems. His recklessness contrasts starkly with Obama’s seemingly reasoned approach.

Earlier this year, Obama asserted that “Of all the threats to global security and peace, the most dangerous is the proliferation and potential use of nuclear weapons.”

But when Obama made those comments, he had already directly contradicted his own rhetoric against the destructive weaponry. During his presidency, he ensured the country’s nuclear triad would be modernized, a massive project that includes sweeping nuclear modernizations that include improved weapons, bombers, missiles and submarines.” This endeavor is slated to cost over one trillion dollars over the next three decades — an indicator the U.S. government, under the guidance of Obama, seeks to establish a long-term commitment to nuclear arms.

This is hardly evidence of a president committed to reducing the influence and dangers of nuclear weapons, even as he preaches to other nations about the need to dispose of them. Though he deserves a modicum of credit for committing $5 billion to efforts to better secure nuclear weapons, this accounts for less than one percent of the United States’ total military budget. He ultimately scaled back his original goals on this endeavor.

Further, according to figures from the Pentagon, “the current administration has reduced the nuclear stockpile less than any other post-Cold War presidency,” the New York Times reported in May. President Obama “reduced the size of the nation’s nuclear stockpile at a far slower rate than did any of his three immediate predecessors, including George Bush and George W. Bush.

According to Hans M. Kristensen of the anti-armament Nuclear Information Project, though Obama’s progress has been disappointing on some fronts, he deserves credit for dismantling some nuclear warheads over the years. Kristensen also cited Russia as a justification for Obama’s less-than-impressive record on disarmament.

His vision of significant reductions and putting an end to Cold War thinking has been undercut by opposition ranging from Congress to the Kremlin,” Mr. Kristensen wrote in a blog. “An entrenched and almost ideologically-opposed Congress has fought his arms reduction vision every step of the way.

Though Kristensen lays some of the blame on tensions with Russia, the president’s own policies have exacerbated this very rift with a country that has more nuclear weapons than the United States, which comes in second place. Amid Obama’s resistance to finding common ground with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the fight against the Islamic State and other radical factions in Syria, he has escalated hostilities between the two countries, offering few ill-fated efforts to cooperate.

In one such example, Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Russia must be held accountable for bombing hospitals in Syria. This a noble goal — and the Russian military has inexcusably killed civilians — but the secretary failed to acknowledge that the United States military bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in 2015 and that the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led assault on Yemen has destroyed multiple hospitals in the last year and killed thousands of civilians. He also failed to note that the United States has killed one million Iraqis.

Obama has also publicly adopted the Democratic narrative that Russia hacked the U.S. election and vowed retaliation in spite of the fact no evidence has been presented. These accusations led Putin to intimate that the U.S. needs to present proof of or, essentially, shut up (interestingly, a Clinton presidency, which, according to establishment figures was thwarted by Russia, would have increased the risk of a nuclear confrontation due to her interventionist approach to the Syrian conflict).

Before these developments, the consistent deterioration of U.S.-Russia ties inspired scientists who operate a “Doomsday Clock” to keep the time at three minutes to midnight. Midnight represents doomsday. They wrote:

“That decision is not good news, but an expression of dismay that world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world’s attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change.”

(Indeed, scientists have warned that nuclear weapons are a major threat to the environment, a reality apparently overlooked by President Obama.)

The ongoing hypocrisy on the part of the Obama administration is exactly why it’s difficult to take outrage about Donald Trump’s nuclear designs seriously.

There is no doubt Trump is advocating dangerous policies on nuclear weapons, but like many other issues currently terrifying Americans fearful of The Donald, Obama set the stage for Trump to implement his aggressive goals. Obama’s expansion of presidential powers, such as setting the precedent that presidents may kill American citizens without trial, will make it that much easier for President Trump to impose ill-advised, risky policies.

The same is to be expected once Trump takes control of a nuclear arsenal Obama dutifully expanded.


Carey Wedler joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in September of 2014. Her topics of interest include the police and warfare states, the Drug War, the relevance of history to current problems and solutions, and positive developments that drive humanity forward. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised.

This article (What Everyone is Missing About Trump Literally Going Nuclear on Twitter) is free and open-source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific.

Trump: The Moral Monster Beyond Hope – Post by G. Stolyarov II

Trump: The Moral Monster Beyond Hope – Post by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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Two excellent recent editorials highlight the unprecedented danger that Donald Trump poses to liberty and basic human decency in America.

Nina Khrushcheva, great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, writes of how Donald Trump has brought Soviet-Style politics, particularly the sweeping use of the Big Lie, to the United States. (“Trump Through Russian Eyes”. Project Syndicate. September 27, 2016)

Khrushcheva observes,

Indeed, from my perspective, many of the nastiest and most perverse features of Russian politics now seem present in the United States as well. The Big Lie – invented in Nazi Germany, perfected in the Soviet Union, and wielded expertly by Russian President Vladimir Putin – is today a core component of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

***

So far, Trump has been allowed to get away with his lies. The news media have largely been what Lenin called ‘useful idiots,’ so eager to use Trump to boost their own ratings that they did not notice or care that they were also boosting his. No surprise, then, that an emboldened Trump now delivers lies of ever more breathtaking audacity.

Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen likens Donald Trump to Gilgamesh – and not in a flattering manner. (“Donald Trump is a walking, talking example of the tyrannical soul”. The Washington Post. October 8, 2016.) In the early “Epic of Gilgamesh”, the king Gilgamesh (before he journeys on his quest to obtain eternal life) is an arbitrary, capricious tyrant with no regard for any other individuals’ rights or for basic human dignity and decency. Only when Gilgamesh realizes that death is a fundamental problem affecting everyone (him, too), is he impelled away from tyranny and toward wisdom.

But it is too much to hope that Trump would all of a sudden turn from a populist demagogue and would-be tyrant into a life-extension supporter. Instead, Trump should be recognized as completely devoid of moral character, and a completely lost cause for anyone who thought that he might somehow magically transform himself into a reasonable person.

It is time to break free from the spell of the Big Lie and universally denounce Trump for the moral monster he is. All people of good moral character must stand against Trump. Support anyone else you wish (Libertarian, Democrat, Green, Transhumanist, McMullin, none of the above) – but express the conviction that a decent, humane society should not allow such an unseemly, tyrannical brute as Trump to have any degree of power.

This post may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

I Wish Nobody Was Bombing Syria – Article by Ron Paul

I Wish Nobody Was Bombing Syria – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
October 5, 2015
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The US regime-change policy for Syria has been a catastrophe. More than 200,000 killed and an entire country reduced to rubble at least partly because President Obama decided that “Assad has lost his legitimacy.” How is it that the president of a country 6,000 miles away has the authority to decide whether another leader belongs in office or not? What if Rouhani in Iran decided that Obama had lost his legitimacy for killing a number of American citizens by drone without charge or trial? Would we accept that?

At least three years of US efforts to train rebels to overthrow the Syrian government has produced, as General Lloyd Austin, Commander of US Central Command, testified last month, “four or five” trained and vetted “moderates” in Syria. The $500 million appropriated for this purpose has disappeared.

The neocon solution to this failure to overthrow Assad and “degrade and destroy” ISIS is to increase the bombing and lead a ground invasion of Syria. The confusing policy of fighting Assad and also fighting his enemies does not seem to bother the neocons. They want us to forget all about their recent failures in Libya and Iraq and to try the same failed strategy one more time.

But something dramatic happened last week. Russian president Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the United Nations criticizing the US policy of partnering with one set of extremists – al-Qaeda and its allies – to attack both ISIS and Assad. “Do you realize now what you have done?” asked Putin.

Shortly after Putin’s UN speech, he requested and was granted authority from the Russian parliament to use force in Syria in response to the Syrian government’s request for assistance against the rebels. Russian fighters and bombers began flying sorties over Syria almost immediately. In less than a week of Russian bombing, considerable damage appears to have been done to both ISIS and to al-Qaeda affiliates – some of which are considered allies by the US and were actually trained by the CIA.

It may be tempting to cheer Russian military action in Syria, as it seems ISIS is finally suffering some considerable losses. Press reports suggest large numbers of desertions in their ranks after the Russian attacks. All of a sudden what looked to be an inevitable ISIS takeover of Syria once Assad was overthrown, seems far less likely with the Russians on the scene.

But I cannot cheer the bombs, whether they are Russian bombs or US bombs or French or British bombs. I do not believe a terrorist group created by foreign intervention in the region will be solved by more foreign intervention in the region. Bombs represent a total failure of policy. They destroy a country’s economy and infrastructure.

I wish the American people would finally demand that their government end its destructive policy of trying to change any regime that does not bow to Washington’s demands. I wish Congress respected our Constitution enough to demand that the president seek a declaration of war before attacking a foreign country. I wish President Bush and his neocon advisors had never decided to overthrow the Syrian government. I wish President Obama had fired the neocons who led him from one foolish intervention to another. I wish the CIA had not trained rebels to fight alongside al-Qaeda in Syria. I wish we would reject the shrill cries of the warmongers. I wish the US media was more than just a propaganda arm of the US government.

I am not thrilled that Russia is bombing Syria. I wish nobody was bombing Syria.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Will Seizure of Russian Assets Hasten Dollar Decline? – Article by Ron Paul

Will Seizure of Russian Assets Hasten Dollar Decline? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
June 23, 2015
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While much of the world focused last week on whether or not the Federal Reserve was going to raise interest rates, or whether the Greek debt crisis would bring Europe to a crisis, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague awarded a $50 billion judgment to shareholders of the former oil company Yukos in their case against the Russian government. The governments of Belgium and France moved immediately to freeze Russian state assets in their countries, naturally provoking the anger of the Russian government.

The timing of these actions is quite curious, coming as the Greek crisis in the EU seems to be reaching a tipping point and Greece, having perhaps abandoned the possibility of rapprochement with Europe, has been making overtures to Russia to help bail it out of its mess. And with the IMF’s recent statement pledging its full and unconditional support to Ukraine, it has become even more clear that the IMF and other major multilateral institutions are not blindly technical organizations, but rather are totally subservient lackeys to the foreign policy agenda emanating from Washington. Toe the DC party line and the internationalists will bail you out regardless of how badly you mess up, but if you even think about talking to Russia you will face serious consequences.

The United States government is desperately trying to cling to the notion of a unipolar world, with the United States at its center dictating foreign affairs and monetary policy while its client states dutifully carry out instructions. But the world order is not unipolar, and the existence of Russia and China is a stark reminder of that. For decades, the United States has benefited as the creator and defender of the world’s reserve currency, the dollar. This has enabled Americans to live beyond their means as foreign goods are imported to the US while increasingly worthless dollars are sent abroad. But is it any wonder after 70-plus years of a depreciating dollar that the rest of the world is rebelling against this massive transfer of wealth?

The Europeans tried to form their own competitor to the dollar, and the resulting euro is collapsing around them as you read this. But the European Union was never considered much of a threat by the United States, existing as it does within Washington’s orbit. Russia and China, on the other hand, pose a far more credible threat to the dollar, as they have both the means and the motivation to form a gold-backed alternative monetary system to compete against the dollar. That is what the US government fears, and that is why President Obama and his Western allies are risking a cataclysmic war by goading Russia with these politically motivated asset seizures. Having run out of carrots, the US is resorting to the stick.

The US government knows that Russia will not blithely accept Washington’s dictates, yet it still reacts like a petulant child flying into a tantrum whenever Russia dares to exert its sovereignty. The existence of a country that won’t kowtow to Washington’s demands is an unforgivable sin, to be punished with economic sanctions, attempting to freeze Russia out of world financial markets; veiled threats to strip Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup; and now the seizure of Russian state assets.

Thus far the Russian response has been incredibly restrained, but that may not last forever. Continued economic pressure from the West may very well necessitate a Sino-Russian monetary arrangement that will eventually dethrone the dollar. The end result of this needless bullying by the United States will hasten the one thing Washington fears the most: a world monetary system in which the US has no say and the dollar is relegated to playing second fiddle.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Political Murders in Kiev, US Troops to Ukraine – Article by Ron Paul

Political Murders in Kiev, US Troops to Ukraine – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
April 22, 2015
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Last week two prominent Ukrainian opposition figures were gunned down in broad daylight. They join as many as ten others who have been killed or committed suicide under suspicious circumstances just this year. These individuals have one important thing in common: they were either part of or friendly with the Yanukovych government, which a US-backed coup overthrew last year. They include members of the Ukrainian parliament and former chief editors of major opposition newspapers.While some journalists here in the US have started to notice the strange series of opposition killings in Ukraine, the US government has yet to say a word.Compare this to the US reaction when a single opposition figure was killed in Russia earlier this year. Boris Nemtsov was a member of a minor political party that was not even represented in the Russian parliament. Nevertheless the US government immediately demanded that Russia conduct a thorough investigation of his murder, suggesting the killers had a political motive.As news of the Russian killing broke, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-CA) did not wait for evidence to blame the killing on Russian president Vladimir Putin. On the very day of Nemtsov’s murder, Royce told the US media that, “this shocking murder is the latest assault on those who dare to oppose the Putin regime.”Neither Royce, nor Secretary of State John Kerry, nor President Obama, nor any US government figure has said a word about the series of apparently political murders in Ukraine.

On the contrary, instead of questioning the state of democracy in what looks like a lawless Ukraine, the Administration is sending in the US military to help train Ukrainian troops!

Last week, just as the two political murders were taking place, the US 173rd Airborne Brigade landed in Ukraine to begin training Ukrainian national guard forces – and to leave behind some useful military equipment. Though the civil unrest continues in Ukraine, the US military is assisting one side in the conflict – even as the US slaps sanctions on Russia over accusations it is helping out the other side!

As the ceasefire continues to hold, though shakily, what kind of message does it send to the US-backed government in Kiev to have US troops arrive with training and equipment and an authorization to gift Kiev with some $350 million in weapons? Might they not take this as a green light to begin new hostilities against the breakaway regions in the east?

The Obama administration is so inconsistent in its foreign policy. In some places, particularly Cuba and Iran, the administration is pursuing a policy that looks to diplomacy and compromise to help improve decades of bad relations. In these two cases the administration realizes that the path of confrontation has led nowhere. When the president announced his desire to see the end of Cuba sanctions, he stated very correctly that, “…we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.”

So while Obama is correctly talking about sanctions relief for Iran and Cuba, he is adding more sanctions on Russia, backing Saudi Arabia’s brutal attack on Yemen, and pushing ever harder for regime change in Syria. Does he really believe the rest of the world does not see these double standards? A wise consistency of non-interventionism in all foreign affairs would be the correct course for this and future US administrations. Let us hope they will eventually follow Obama’s observation that, “it’s time to try something new.”

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Interventionism Kills: Post-Coup Ukraine One Year Later – Article by Ron Paul

Interventionism Kills: Post-Coup Ukraine One Year Later – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
March 29, 2015
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It was one year ago in February that a violent coup overthrew the legally elected government of Ukraine. That coup was not only supported by US and EU governments — much of it was actually planned by them. Looking back at the events that led to the overthrow it is clear that without foreign intervention Ukraine would not be in its current, seemingly hopeless situation.

By the end of 2013, Ukraine’s economy was in ruins. The government was desperate for an economic bailout and then-president Yanukovych first looked west to the US and EU before deciding to accept an offer of help from Russia. Residents of south and east Ukraine, who largely speak Russian and trade extensively with Russia were pleased with the decision. West Ukrainians who identify with Poland and Europe began to protest. Ukraine is a deeply divided country and the president came from the eastern region.

At this point the conflict was just another chapter in Ukraine’s difficult post-Soviet history. There was bound to be some discontent over the decision, but if there had been no foreign intervention in support of the protests you would likely not be reading this column today. The problem may well have solved itself in due time rather than escalated into a full-out civil war. But the interventionists in the US and EU won out again, and their interventionist project has been a disaster.

The protests at the end of 2013 grew more dramatic and violent and soon a steady stream of US and EU politicians were openly participating, as protesters called for the overthrow of the Ukrainian government. Senator John McCain made several visits to Kiev and even addressed the crowd to encourage them.

Imagine if a foreign leader like Putin or Assad came to Washington to encourage protesters to overthrow the Obama Administration!

As we soon found out from a leaked telephone call, the US ambassador in Kiev and Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, were making detailed plans for a new government in Kiev after the legal government was overthrown with their assistance.

The protests continued to grow but finally on February 20th of last year a European delegation brokered a compromise that included early elections and several other concessions from Yanukovych. It appeared disaster had been averted, but suddenly that night some of the most violent groups, which had been close to the US, carried out the coup and Yanukovych fled the country.

When the east refused to recognize the new government as legitimate and held a referendum to secede from the west, Kiev sent in tanks to force them to submit. Rather than accept the will of those seeking independence from what they viewed as an illegitimate government put in place by foreigners, the Obama administration decided to blame it all on the Russians and began imposing sanctions!

That war launched by Kiev has lasted until the present, with a ceasefire this month brokered by the Germans and French finally offering some hope for an end to the killing. More than 5,000 have been killed and many of those were civilians bombed in their cities by Kiev.

What if John McCain had stayed home and worried about his constituents in Arizona instead of non-constituents 6,000 miles away? What if the other US and EU politicians had done the same? What if Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt had focused on actual diplomacy instead of regime change?

If they had done so, there is a good chance many if not all of those who have been killed in the violence would still be alive today. Interventionism kills.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

To Prevent World War III, Do Not Arm Ukraine’s Regime – Article by G. Stolyarov II

To Prevent World War III, Do Not Arm Ukraine’s Regime – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
February 8, 2015
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I can no longer say that this Cold War will not lead to a ‘Hot War.’ I fear that they could risk it. […]The statements and propaganda on both sides make me fear the worst. If anyone loses their nerve in this charged atmosphere, we will not survive the next few years. […]I do not say such things lightly….I am a man with a conscience. But that’s how it is. I’m really extremely worried.

~ Mikhail Gorbachev

I’m uneasy about beginning a process of military engagement without knowing where it will lead us and what we’ll do to sustain it. […] I believe we should avoid taking incremental steps before we know how far we are willing to go. This is a territory 300 miles from Moscow, and therefore has special security implications.

~ Henry Kissinger

It is an extremely dangerous development, which has been brewing ever since Washington violated its verbal promises to Gorbachev and began expanding NATO to the East, right to Russia’s borders, and threatening to incorporate Ukraine, which is of great strategic significance to Russia and of course has close historical and cultural links. […] The Russian autocracy is far from blameless, but we are now back to earlier comments: we have come perilously close to disaster before, and are toying with catastrophe again. It is not that possible peaceful solutions are lacking.

~ Noam Chomsky

Outside countries should leave Ukraine to resolve the conflict itself. However, even as the US demands that the Russians de-escalate, the United States is busy escalating! […] Why is ‘winning’ Ukraine so important to Washington? Why are they risking a major war with Russia to deny people in Ukraine the right to self-determination? Let’s just leave Ukraine alone!

~ Ron Paul

One can rarely find four thinkers as distinct from one another as Gorbachev, Kissinger, Chomsky, and Ron Paul, and yet, for all of their differences, each of them is clearly guided by a systematic, thoroughly considered intellectual framework. All four of these thinkers have concluded, starting from different practical and moral premises, that further escalation of the Ukraine crisis by the United States would be a dangerous, deeply inadvisable behavior.

Two of these thinkers – Gorbachev and Kissinger – played crucial roles in helping to maneuver the world out of the existential danger of the Cold War. One might consider them to have made tactical or even moral errors, but they deserve recognition for being among the cooler heads that prevailed, helping defuse decades-long tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union that could have easily ended in a nuclear holocaust.

The other two thinkers – Chomsky and Paul – are thought leaders of principled polar opposites of American thought, left-progressivism and right-libertarianism. While sharply at odds over economics, philosophy, and politics, these two systems are both vastly superior to the American political establishment, which is dominated by a tight alliance of special-interest pressure groups, whose primary purpose is to protect existing political privileges through lobbying at the expense of innovative entrepreneurs, consumers, and people of merit in general. Left-progressives and right-libertarians each have a vision of human dignity and morality that is driven by principles and conscience. The American political establishment, represented by virtually indistinguishable “neoconservative” Republicans and “humanitarian interventionist” Democrats, is driven solely by the impulse to entrench the politically connected interests of the status quo at all costs. While both right-libertarians and left-progressives strongly favor peace as an integral component in their project to improve human well-being, the amoral interventionist political establishment in the United States does not care about human well-being. Bombs will drop, drones will massacre innocent civilians, everyone will be deprived of privacy, dignity, and due process – but they will have their privileges and their dominance, even though the world might burn for it.

The “neoconservatives” and “humanitarian interventionists” in the United States speak and act out of misguided short-sightedness, but the pressure they constantly exert on President Barack Obama could be the greatest threat to world peace and the progress of human civilization today, turning a tragic but local conflict into one that could escalate into World War III.

Obama rose to power through left-progressive idealistic rhetoric, but he has shown to be far more inclined toward accommodation to the entrenched political establishment. Even so, he has been reluctant to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, as vestiges of his left-progressivism have given him justified unease at the prospect. Yet the chorus of establishment hawks has recently grown to a warmongering holler. The worst among them are John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who even seek to mandate that Obama send weapons to the Ukrainian regime of Petro Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatseniuk. This same regime has been confirmed to have murdered over 5,300 of its own civilian population, to have employed savage, indiscriminate tactics – such as the deliberate shelling of densely populated neighborhoods and the use of cluster munitions – to have reinstituted military conscription at the point of a gun, and to have incorporated overtly fascist paramilitary “volunteer” units into Ukraine’s military structure. American “neoconservative” and “humanitarian interventionist” politicians, in the name of humanitarian ideals (mostly, vague sound bites about “territorial integrity” and “national self-determination” – neither of which concepts they actually respect with any consistency), seek to aid and abet genuine moral monsters who have already killed thousands and terrorized and displaced millions.

The civil war in Ukraine has thus far been confined within the borders of Ukraine, with modest support from Vladimir Putin’s regime for the Donetsk and Luhansk separatists. (If Putin’s support were indeed decisive or fully commensurate with his abilities, he would have occupied all of Ukraine by now – but his behavior demonstrates that this is not his intention. Putin does not have any grand design on Ukraine, and his sporadic assistance to the separatists has largely been reactive, to prevent their complete obliteration.) If the United States funnels weapons to the Poroshenko/Yatseniuk regime, a local conflict will be turned into a global one, with the United States fighting a proxy war against Russia. If the United States then makes the fateful step of introducing ground troops, the proxy war will quickly turn into a direct war. From a direct conventional war to a nuclear war is only a small step, which is why the actual strategists of the Cold War – wiser men than today’s hawks – understood that it would be unacceptable for the militaries of the United States and the Soviet Union to ever fight one another directly.

Arming the Ukrainian government will perpetuate its ability to inflict a massive death toll upon civilians. Furthermore, it would be completely counterproductive to any lasting peace. Both the separatists and Putin will see it as a validation of the claim that the United States has been behind the “regime change” in Ukraine all along. They will furthermore see it as another step toward Ukraine’s absorption into NATO – an alliance that was originally formed specifically to counter the Soviet Union. One of Putin’s consistent demands throughout the past year has been for a commitment that Ukraine’s membership in NATO would be out of the question. It should be an easy commitment to give – considering that NATO has no real appetite to allow Ukraine to join, and Ukraine’s precarious situation would only endanger the security of all other NATO members, who would be compelled to assist in any of Ukraine’s wars. Yet, instead of acceding to this one demand – which could resolve everything – Western governments have given the Poroshenko/Yatseniuk regime every hope of eventual NATO membership, with no intention of following through. Still, sending weapons at this juncture would strongly reinforce this hope on the part of Poroshenko and Yatseniuk, and the corresponding fear on the part of Putin.

While thoughtful men of principle and even hyper-intelligent ruthless pragmatists (like Kissinger) are against escalating the Ukraine crisis, the “neoconservatives” and “humanitarian interventionists” are neither thoughtful nor pragmatic. Many of them are driven by blind hatred for Russia and a desire to re-ignite the Cold War to re-live its alleged glory days. They would again place the world just a few steps away from nuclear annihilation, just to re-enter a paradigm which is conceptually familiar to them. They are so afraid of a possible new world of hyper-pluralism, individualism, accelerating technological progress, and the irrelevance of national boundaries – that they would place all humankind at risk just to avert their discomfort. Perhaps some of them truly believe their own rhetoric – that Vladimir Putin is a new Hitler and that the annexation of Crimea – a historically Russian territory until Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954 in order to gain support from the leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic – is in any way similar to Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. (Never mind that Putin has never perpetrated a Holocaust and that the ethnic chauvinists, xenophobes, and anti-Semites are predominantly fighting on the side of the Ukrainian government and wearing Nazi emblems – while many of Putin’s unofficial allies have donned the emblems used by the Russian resistance to the Nazi invasion during World War II!) Perhaps some of the hawks truly believe that the United States has a moral duty to spread “democracy” and “self-determination” at the barrel of a gun to the rest of the world, and to serve as a global policeman, punishing all violations of these vaunted American principles. Yet what the ordinary people who suffer the consequences of American foreign-policy interventionism see are not “democracy” and “self-determination”, but rather dead bodies and homes reduced to rubble. Yes, Vladimir Putin is a ruthless autocrat who suppresses dissent and free inquiry. Yes, Viktor Yanukovych was a corrupt kleptocrat who sometimes employed thugs to deter and punish criticism of his expropriation of the Ukrainian people. At worst, Yanukovych may have ordered snipers from the Berkut police to fire upon the Maidan protesters during his last days in power (although it is perplexing why the snipers fired upon both the protesters and at Berkut police themselves). But neither of them murdered thousands of innocents among their own population, nor used indiscriminate shelling against them. It is one matter to suffer under a repressive autocracy, which will spare you if you keep your head down; it is quite another to quake under omnipresent brutality, murder, and destruction, from which no one is safe and where your next trip to the grocery store could result in your limbs being torn from your body. People who, under Yanukovych, were able to eke out a modest living and hope for gradual improvement, have been devastated and sometimes utterly destroyed by the savage Ukrainian civil war. A swath of Third-World barbarism has been carved out of a region that had, for seventy years, only known drab Second-World sub-optimality. Even if Putin were attempting to resurrect the Soviet Union – quite a far-fetched allegation – the Ukrainian government is creating another Liberia in Europe.

As tragic as it might be, Putin’s most advantageous response to any US decision to send arms to Ukraine would be to immediately escalate the situation, before those arms could arrive to make a difference on the battlefield. This means that the trickle of Putin’s support for the separatists would become a flood, and it would not be surprising if Russian forces directly and openly entered Ukraine and pressed toward Kiev. Undoubtedly, the Ukrainian military would put up a stiff resistance and turn every civilian settlement along the way into another Donetsk Airport. Tens of thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians would be killed in the process, and all of their lives would be lost in vain. Nobody truly wants this outcome, but the hawks in the US Congress are blinded by their desire to punish Russia. They fail to realize that this carnage is precisely the result they would get by further goading Putin on with escalation from the American side. In the face of such thoughtless saber-rattling, one should applaud the frantic, heroic efforts of European leaders – particularly Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s François Hollande – to forestall a deadly and irreversible sequence of events and to reach a diplomatic solution.

“A bad peace is better than a good war,” counsels an old Jewish and Russian proverb. Benjamin Franklin agreed. “There was never a good War, or a bad Peace,” he wrote in his bestselling Poor Richard’s Almanack – one of 18th-century America’s civilizing moral influences. Right now a sub-optimal peace – what some would consider a bad peace – is the best that could be hoped for in Ukraine. This would involve some manner of sustainable demarcation between the territory held by the Ukrainian government and the rebel People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. It does not matter whether this demarcation takes the form of officially recognized independence or broad “regional autonomy” – as long as the shells stop falling and the civilians stop dying. National borders are artificial fictions, but human lives are real. It does not matter where officials and diplomats decide to draw their lines on the map, as long as the result is a mutually acceptable understanding of future behaviors, by which living humans would be spared from slaughter.

The Minsk Agreement reached in September 2014 was unsustainable precisely because the Ukrainian government never intended to abide by the agreed-upon demarcation line; Ukrainian troops stubbornly held onto the ghastly, apocalyptic ruin of the once-state-of-the-art Donetsk Airport, despite the fact that it will never be usable as an airport again. According to the Minsk Agreement, the Donetsk Airport was to fall within the autonomous separatist-held territory. Its location was sufficiently close to the city of Donetsk for the Ukrainian army to continue to shell civilian neighborhoods. Understandably, the separatist rebels could not tolerate such a situation of perpetual bombardments, and so they threw their forces at the airport in wave after wave of bloody assaults, until it finally fell. Unfortunately, what also fell in this struggle was the entire premise of a sustainable demarcation line. The Ukrainian government would not respect its commitments, so the separatists saw no need to respect theirs as well. They have launched an offensive in the hopes of creating more buffer territory around their capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk. Tragically, this offensive involves shelling of population centers such as Debaltseve and Mariupol, whose residents are innocent victims, much like the inhabitants of Luhansk and Donetsk. In perpetrating these attacks, the separatists have become as bad as the regime forces they oppose – using the same indiscriminate tactics and the same mass-impact weapons.

It does not matter which side bombards the civilians of Eastern Ukraine, who used to be one another’s neighbors and whose social, cultural, and economic lives used to be tightly intertwined. All of these assaults are a savage, ultimately pointless folly. The lives they take can never be restored, and the ill will they engender can never abate. This is why the idea that the Ukrainian government should ever regain de facto control over the separatist-occupied regions is an absurdity. Who would accept living under a government that murdered their neighbors and families and ruined what meager livelihoods they had? A lasting peace agreement might keep these territories nominally within the boundaries of Ukraine, in order to save face diplomatically, but the actual governance of these territories must be delegated to the people who live there, even if these people would make economically and politically counterproductive decisions. Donetsk and Luhansk might well become neo-communist enclaves and will certainly need decades of painstakingly slow economic recovery to restore 2013-level standards of living. However unfortunate this may all be, it is better than children being blown to bits. If peace is restored, along with free movement across borders (which existed prior to the civil war), the more ambitious and talented residents of these territories will be able to emigrate to the West, to Israel, or even to Russia, where their prospects would be greatly improved. Such emigration has already been happening for decades and has enabled the best minds and the better cultural vestiges of the former Soviet republics to be preserved.

With two key points – (i) broad autonomy for the rebel-held areas, separated by a buffer zone to prevent shelling of population centers, and (ii) a commitment for Ukraine never to join NATO – a peace plan might just avert escalation of the savage Ukrainian civil war. There may still be occasional violations of any resulting cease-fire, since neither side has full control over its fighters. However, redirecting the incentives and conversation away from escalation and toward peaceful coexistence is imperative to avoid making this tragedy worse. Eventually, if peace becomes the general rule rather than the exception, armed attacks in the region could equilibrate to a level very close to zero, and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics could become unofficial statelets, like Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia – de facto autonomous enclaves that are governed poorly but pose no threat to world peace or to anyone outside their boundaries.

If, on the other hand, weapons are sent to the Poroshenko/Yatseniuk regime and events spiral out of control into a World War III, then all of human civilization would be in grave danger. Decades of economic, technological, and cultural progress could be wiped out in days. The infrastructure – not just in Eastern Ukraine but in the West itself – could be devastated sufficiently to bring about another Dark Age, if humankind survives at all. Gone would be the dreams of colonizing other planets, dramatically extending human lifespans and curing chronic diseases, creating radical abundance through technological innovation, and obliterating age-old superstitions and oppressions. The old hawks who seek to relive the Cold War would plunge the world into a predicament far worse – all because they could not let go of their fear, their hatred, and their obsolete zero-sum “us versus them” worldview. Putin would, of course, also be complicit in such a scenario, but not because he would have made the first move. His foremost objective – as has been the case for every Russian autocrat – will be to avoid humiliation and save face, to claim a dignified resolution with an image of strength – no matter what the substantive outcome, in order to avoid domestic unrest. For Russian strongmen, much is forgiven – but losing a war (or seeming to lose it) is unacceptable and is practically a sentence of deposition, if not death. This is why, if the West ratchets up military pressure on Putin, he will have no incentive to put the brakes on the deadly cycle of escalation.

The saber-rattling of hawks in the US Congress and their supporters threatens the progress and the very survival of humankind. One can only hope that cooler heads – the thinkers, the thoughtful idealists, the pragmatists, the diplomats – will prevail and enable a local conflict to remain local and to eventually subside. The next few decades will be crucial for setting the course of human civilization for millennia hence – if people of conscience will be able to wrest those millennia from the short-sighted jingoists who would rob us of them.