Living Large In Carson City: Great Is The Guilt OF An Unnecessary War: John Adams Edition

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Conrad ‘Connie’ Brean: Can’t have a war without an enemy. . . You could have one, but it would be a very dull war . . . (Robert De Niro Wag the Dog)

The premise for the 1998 movie Wag the Dog has always had echoes of degradation with what is going on in the current White House and Donald Trump. The movie begins with a scandalous scenario where the president is accused of having an unwanted and illicit encounter with a young girl scout visiting the Oval Office. The fondling accusation proves to be true, and understandably, the White House is thrown into chaos. Making matters worse, the election is just a few days away putting the president in a precarious situation to say the least.

Enter a mysterious character played by Robert De Niro named Connie Brean. He along with the Anne Heche and Dustin Hoffman characters set out to create a diversion of monumental proportions – a fake war with Albania. What unfolds over the next 90 some odd minutes is a travesty of justice and a perversion of reality. Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson (Good Ol’ Shoe) deliver riotous cameo appearances which only add to the surreal nature of the story line and add to the quixotic blend of what is and what could be.

In a real life scenario of art imitating life, the world is seeing much the same circumstances unfolding this week at a Polish conference in Warsaw dealing with stability in the Middle East or, more to the point, War with Iran. The conference is a serious attempt to redirect the world’s sentiments against Iran and is being attended by an array of heavy hitters from across the globe. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the embattled Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu are two of the most influential. And then there is Rudi. Yes, that Rudi. The mealy mouthed, bug eyed and unhinged Rudi Giuliani who is Trump’s personal lawyer and spokesman (using that term loosely).

Sixty-five governmental delegations are attending the talks with the theme of how best to control Iran’s future, and how to limit its extension of influence across the Middle East. No shrinking violet, Rudi went straight to the heart of the matter by stating,

NCRI-FAC

@iran_policy

Former NY Mayor @RudyGiuliani in Warsaw:
In order to have peace & security in the Mid-East there has to be a major change in the theocratic dictatorship in . It must end & end quickly in order to have stability

For the president’s personal lawyer to make such a strong statement, the Oval Office must be staunchly supportive of his official presence there. Think again. Rudi made the trip to Warsaw representing his client the he National Council of Resistance of Iran. Also known as the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), the group was once a terrorist organization within Iran around the time of the 1979 revolution. The investigative group called the Intercept describes the group as,

Members of the MEK helped foment the 1979 Iranian revolution, in part by killing American civilians working in Tehran, but the group then lost a struggle for power to the Islamists. With its leadership forced to flee Iran in 1981, the MEK’s members set up a government-in-exile in France and established a military base in Iraq, where they were given arms and training by Saddam Hussein as part of a strategy to destabilize the government in Tehran that he was at war with.

In recent years, as The Intercept has reported, the MEK has poured millions of dollars into reinventing itself as a moderate political group ready to take power in Iran if Western-backed regime change ever takes place. To that end, it lobbied successfully to be removed from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2012. The Iranian exiles achieved this over the apparent opposition of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in part by paying a long list of former U.S. officials from both parties hefty speaking fees of between $10,000 to $50,000 for hymns of praise. The Intercept

While Rudi acknowledged he was not in Warsaw as an official delegate, nor would he attend the talks, his presence as a paid speaker for the goals of MEK is troubling.

One official delegate, Benjamin Netanyahu, however, was more than willing to speak his mind on the purpose of the talks and give his view of what he seeks to come out of the meeting.  He stated,

Even before the conference began, the Israeli prime minister appeared to shrug off efforts by the State Department and the Polish government to portray the gathering as broadly focused on Middle East peace, describing it as primarily a meeting of Iran’s enemies. The Intercept

Never one to pull a punch, Netanyahu even went so far in the article to say “war with Iran is (the) aim of the Warsaw talks”. It doesn’t get more explicit than that in anyone’s mind. One has to ask why now? Why make incendiary statements about Iran now when peace in the Middle East is on the front burner of diplomatic circles in the region more than ever? More on this later.

Rudi is not the only MEK supporter in the ranks of the Trump administration. John Bolton is a supporter of MEK as well. Here is a tweet describing Bolton’s position on regime change in Iran,

Bahman Kalbasi

@BahmanKalbasi

8 months ago among MEK supporters tells them they will overthrow ’s regime and celebrate in with Bolton himself present, “before 2019”

The speech exile Kalbasi speaks of was well before Bolton was named as Trump’s national security adviser at a rally in Paris held by the MEK. He also predicted that the regime change imminent. He stated,

“The outcome of the president’s policy review should be to determine that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution will not last until its 40th birthday,” Bolton said. (The 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution will be on February 11, 2019.) “The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” Bolton added. “The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.”The Intercept

While he was obviously wrong,  but the implications are disturbing coming from someone so mentally unstable and with so much power.

On Valentine’s Day, Mike Pence while attending the Warsaw Talks called out members of the European Union, most notably France and Germany, for trying to undermine the United States sanctions on Iran and urged them to pull out of the Iran nuclear treaty. Both countries refused to send delegates to the Warsaw meeting fearing the meeting would devolve into a free for all condemnation of Iran which would only further isolate the Iranian government from the rest of the region and the world.

Pence’s condemnation of the EU members is particularly galling considering that it was Trump who blew up part of the deal by withdrawing from the treaty. Barrack Obama secured the treaty in the hope of taking the only realistic course to impede Iran from furthering their nuclear capacity. All indications and reporting on the treaty point to the fact that the treaty is working and the U.S. sanctions are only exacerbating the problem. (PBS)

So, a quick score card of who’s who in the rush for war with Iran. There is Netanyahu who is facing corruption charges and a tough election coming up at home which bodes badly for him. John Bolton is simply a dyed-in-the-wool maniac when it comes to Iran, and who harbors a deep-seated need to blow them off the face of the earth. Mike Pence is little more than a puppet for whatever Trump tells him to think and say. Then there is Rudi, the president’s personal lawyer. It has become obvious Rudi does not have an intelligent thought in his head these days and has become the president’s stooge saying anything and everything that comes to mind.

But most of all, there is Trump himself. Beset by the Robert Mueller investigation, the newly empowered Democratic majority and Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives, and in the face of monumental failures in the form of the shut down and the newly signed immigration bill, it is safe to say Trump might be feeling the heat for all sides. The condemnation of Iran takes on both ominous and strategic importance to the president. Could there be ulterior motives behind the machinations of so many world leaders and their minions who are in such deep do do?

Or as Conrad ‘Connie” Breansaid: Can’t have a war without an enemy. . . You could have one, but it would be a very dull war . . . (Robert De Niro Wag the Dog)

Living Large In Carson City: I Spy Something Large And Orange Edition

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Urban Dictionary: Bromance describes the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males.

Be honest. If someone had suggested two years ago that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump were embroiled in a nefarious handler/operative relationship, the appropriate response would have been to laugh out loud and call the person a paranoid conspiracy nut job. Certainly, there were rumors of Russian tampering with the election results that resulted in a Trump surprise victory, but at that time, even that accusation would have been a serious leap of the imagination. What a difference two years makes.

Since Trump took office in January 2017, his relationship with Putin has been both problematic and unsettling for the majority of Americans except for Trump’s base of supporters who are presumably blinded by their need to promote “white supremacy” and unbridled nationalism. Of course, since Inauguration Day, Trump has assumed a friendly default position toward Russian and Putin; one that denies Russian meddling in the 2016 election and a pro-Putin stance regardless of what the former KGB officer does or says.

Despite what the Putin/Trump relationship is in reality, there has been growing concern and mounting trepidation of allies who seem as baffled by Trump’s foreign policy shenanigans as are most Americans. In recent days the Trump administration revealed that a meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki will be held after the NATO summit and after Trump visits England late this week. After what can only be expected to be high drama and farce, Trump heads to Scotland for a couple of days of golfing at one of his properties before meeting with one of the world’s most vicious dictators. What could go wrong?

This morning America awoke to Trump’s first interaction with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. The event was a good-will breakfast photo op that was meant to be an ice breaking ceremony before the actual business of defense comes before the body. By all accounts and this video, Trump was in all-out attack mode as he castigated NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. It was also a bone-headed tirade that did nothing to uplift America’s interests in Europe or allay the concern of NATO members in light of Trump’s upcoming meeting with Putin.

Seriously, all one has to do to see the effect of Trump’s words on those present are to look at Mike Pompeo and John Kelly’s reactions. Pompeo looks like a elementary school student sitting in the principal’s office after being caught backing up a bully on the school’s playground. He all but squirms in his chair as Trump unleashes and unhinged harangue that eventually focuses on Germany and a deal with Russia for construction of a pipeline. Kelly repeatedly looks down or away as his boss mouths idiotic concerns over Germany and Russia. This from the man who claims to be a skilled negotiator?

The one funny relief factor is Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s reaction to Trump’s words. Throughout the exchange, she has what can only be deemed a world-weary, cautious smile that remains etched on her face. There are times when her eyes grow large in imitation of a deer-in-the-headlights when Trump makes a particularly off the wall remark. You can almost see her mind asking, “Did he say what I think he said?” It is obvious that she is way in over her head when it comes to the Orange One’s crazy claims or how to counter them.

Trump’s main concern is that our allies are not paying their full share of the NATO budget. Stoltenberg acknowledges that in the past there have been issues of underpayment, but tries (in vain) to tell Trump that the problem is being addressed and positive changes have or are taking place. Trump, of course, is having none of it, and he launches into the Germany/Russia deal, a deal, that he has no right to criticize. It is simply none of his business. He speculates that Germany is controlled by Russia because of the money involved in the transaction.

A more positive track would have been for  Trump to reassure our NATO allies that he is not in bed with the Russians, and they have no reason to be concerned with his upcoming meeting with the former KGB spy. Trump, however, is in full blown clown mode and unable to see the hypocrisy that his words create. Remember, this encounter occurred at the summit’s opening breakfast photo op.

The question has to be asked, “What is it with Trump, Russia, and Putin by association?” NATO delegates’ concern over what Trump might discuss or concede to the Russians are legitimate. His short time as president has provided both our allies and Americans with several incidents that make the meeting suspect. For example, shortly after firing then Director of the FBI, James Comey, Trump invited two of Russia’s top diplomats, Foreign Minister Sergei Labrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, into the Oval Office for a chat and pleasantries.

Trump, unable to contain himself, proceeds to reveal classified information gleaned from an American ally about the Islamic Terrorist State. The information was from an ongoing investigation and had the potential of doing serious harm to players involved and causing long term damage to the continued trust of the ally who shared the information. For Trump, it was just another in a long series of faux pas’ that most normally intelligent people working in government would understand was a forbidden topic, especially with two Russian operatives in the Oval Office no less.

So, we can expect a week long circus of Trump acting the stooge while real life diplomats from the NATO countries worry about both his erratic behavior, and his mean spirited spiels of lies and contempt directed towards our allies that only Trump  will fully understand.

The real issue simmering below the surface is what is Trump’s connection to Putin. Is it just a harmless bromance? Or is it a deeper connection that bodes badly for both NATO and our own democracy? Jonathan Chait published an article earlier this week in New York Magazine titled, Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart – Or His Handler? A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion. Chait’s thoughts are both provocative and believable. While the article covers a lot of ground concerning this topic (and well worth an entire read), these two paragraphs sum up the salient details,

The first intimations that Trump might harbor a dark secret originated among America’s European allies, which, being situated closer to Russia, have had more experience fending off its nefarious encroachments. In 2015, Western European intelligence agencies began picking up evidence of communications between the Russian government and people in Donald Trump’s orbit. In April 2016, one of the Baltic states shared with then–CIA director John Brennan an audio recording of Russians discussing funneling money to the Trump campaign. In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ, flew to Washington to brief Brennan on intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The contents of these communications have not been disclosed, but what Brennan learned obviously unsettled him profoundly. In congressional testimony on Russian election interference last year, Brennan hinted that some Americans might have betrayed their country. “Individuals who go along a treasonous path,” he warned, “do not even realize they’re along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.” In an interview this year, he put it more bluntly: “I think [Trump] is afraid of the president of Russia. The Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”

The Putin/Trump meeting is scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki. Several things might be on the agenda. One thing that surely will be parroted by Trump is that Putin and Russia did not collude with the Trump campaign nor did they interfere in the 2016 election. This has been repeated by Trump so often and loudly his protestations sound like the drum beat of a Tiki lounge overture. What is more likely is Trump will unilaterally recognize Russia’s annexation of the Crimeria over the objections of Congress who continue to push for more sanctions on Russia. If not that, it is anyone’s guess what the Orange One will come up with to further piss off our allies and the American public.

One thing is certain; For Trump, a meeting of this importance and stature will not be a missed opportunity. Something will come out of it that might give a clue to just how far Trump has sunken into the web of the Russians and their influence. Expect stormy weather and widespread angst.