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12 September 2013

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William R. Cumming

Israeli penetration of USA elites including government, military and economic complete and now Guardian revealing US has given raw INTEL data to Israel through a TS memorandum of agreement. What is the legal authority for this document? Is it treasonous?

C M

Col. Lang,
Links to an important story follow, in the unlikely chance you haven't seen it already. Thanks for running a great blog.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/11/nsa-americans-personal-data-israel-documents

http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/sep/11/nsa-israel-intelligence-memorandum-understanding-document

"Mossad, here is everything we have. We take at face value your promise not to use it to optimize your political influence operations in the United States."

Duncan Kinder

Recent developments in campaign finance should make AIPAC obsolete.

Since Citizen's United, the question has arisen over whether, and if so, to what extent foreigners can directly finance US elections through PACs and the various other devices which have become so notorious.

As a general rule, "foreign nationals" cannot contribute to US elections. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) sets forth these rules here: http://www.fec.gov/ans/answers_general.shtml

Despite Citizens United, the United States Supreme Court has upheld this prohibition.

However, this prohibition has an exception, a loophole. One which a major entity such as a foreign corporation or government, should readily be able to exploit.

"[F]oreign nationals may not donate funds or anything of value in connection with state or local elections if:

* These activities are financed by the foreign parent or owner; or
* Individual foreign nationals are involved in any way in the making of donations to nonfederal candidates and committees."

This is stated in the negative, but basically means that a foreign national may indeed donate funds provided that it has set up a domestic subsidiary and all political activity is actually conducted by its US employees.

Needless to say, there is red tape involved. You do not want to do this without the assistance of a Wall St. law firm as well as a major accounting firm. But we are talking about foreign entities well able to secure such help.

So just about anybody. Saudi sheiks, Russian oligarchs, Chinese billionaires, or anybody else with an interest in influencing US elections can basically do so.

For example, according to the following article:

"UBS, the Swiss financial services company, for example, is headquartered in Zurich and Basel, Switzerland, but its American subsidiaries are free to run a PAC (UBS Americas) to raise money for federal campaigns. UBS Americas is among Mitt Romney’s top 20 donors in the 2012 election cycle, having contributed almost $75,000. So is Credit Suisse, also headquartered in Zurich, whose U.S. subsidiaries have raised over $200,000. So is Barclays, headquartered in London, whose U.S. subsidiaries have raised over $150,000."

This is perfectly legal so long as it’s American employees running the PAC and contributing the money, and so long as the PAC remains unfinanced by the foreign parent corporation.
http://www.wnyc.org/articles/its-free-country/2012/jan/20/explainer-can-foreign-companies-make-political-donations/

So AIPAC is obsolete. And even if I were an Israeli interested in influencing US policy, I would be interested in these new vehicles instead.

David Habakkuk

I have in earlier comments recalled two occasions when a shift in the 'conventional wisdom' in Britain developed over time, and then manifested itself in abrupt change.

One was the way the turning away from 'appeasement' both in the political class and the public in the months following Munich -- on which I am grateful to johnf for his recollection of the chronology, which I found extremely illuminating.

Another is the way in which the trade union movement, which had been generally accepted as being a force which nobody could contest, and which in an important sense everyone accepted as legitimate, was exposed as a paper tiger by Thatcher after her election victory in 1979.

As I was at pains to point out, she was the beneficiary both of an underlying shift in opinion which had been developing under the surface for many years, and also accidental good fortune. Had the Argentian air force sorted out their fusing problems earlier, British history -- as well as Argentinian -- might have been very different.

How the shifts in Obama's approach to Syria are to be explained remains it seems to me very much an open question. However, quite unexpectedly, a major rift has become apparent. It is quite clear that the Lobby have been desperate to avoid any climbdown by Obama, in large measure because they are desperate to see the United States take decisive military action against Iran.

Equally, it has become clear that, in the United States as in the United Kingdom, there is an overwhelming public revulsion against the prospect of being entangled in the new wars in the Middle East.

It may be that an opportunity may be emerging to break the power of the Israeli Lobby for good.

Tony

Bob Menendez said "Putin Op-Ed Almost Made Me Want To Vomit"
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/menendez-putin-vomit_n_3910927.html)
I wonder what Mr. Menendez would say after reading this....then again, who am I kidding. Most probably he is one of the recipients of AIPAC's generosity.

Fred

President Putin is in the NY TImes and Senator Menendez is being quoted in Huffington Post. Lets see if he gets equal time. Then we can all ask the Senator why the citizens of the Republic still can't be trusted enough to see any of that 'proof' he said is good enough for him to demand we start killing Syrians over.

confusedponderer

I read the annotation of Putin's OpEd by Max Fisher in the WP, and I am dismayed by the level of discourse it offers. Some random thoughts on Fisher's comments:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/09/12/vladimir-putins-new-york-times-op-ed-annotated-and-fact-checked/

#1 Putin:
Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

Fisher:
Still, you'll be shocked to learn that Putin does not hold himself to the same standard he's setting here for Obama. Putin's Russia launched a war against Georgia just five short years ago.

-> Mr. Fisher will be shocked to learn that actually Georgia started that war.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8281990.stm

#2 Putin:
No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

Fisher:
This is the section of the op-ed that's drawing by far the most criticism. There is very little reason to believe that rebels carried out the attack but strong circumstantial evidence that chemical weapons were used by the Assad regime.

-> That so? What about those Al Nusra folks apparently arrested in Turkey for purchasing CW precursors and possessing Sarin? What did they have that stuff for? Where did they get it? Why did they want to bring it to Syria?

http://www.globalresearch.ca/turkish-police-find-chemical-weapons-in-the-possession-of-al-nusra-terrorists-heading-for-syria/5336917

#3 Putin:
"A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

Fisher:
Let's follow through on the Russian plan to have Syria give up its chemical weapons in exchange for the United States not attacking. And Obama is clearly interested.

It's hard to miss, though, that this appears to strongly contradict Putin's claim that rebels were responsible for the chemical weapons attack. As Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein tweets, “Putin’s oped argues: 1. The rebels used chemical weapons, not Assad. 2. Let’s encourage Assad to give up his weapons (no mention of rebels).”

-> This is about Russia doing the US the favour of keeping them from bombing Syria, to which the CW are but a pretext. Russia's proposal is quite straightforward: Remove the pretext, CW - and remove the US excuse for having to bomb Syria because of it.

The 'double standard' they blithely accuse Putin of employing does not exist in reality, since the question what to do about rebel CW is a different thing entirely.

The Turks apparently do something it with law enforcement.

In Syria the rebels won't give up their CW without a fight i.e. Assad would disarm rebel CW after their defeat - an impossible sell to the US. As a result including rebel CW in Russia's proposal simply would have killed the deal. Nobody needs that. Putin not mentioning Rebel CW reflects that. One thing at a time.

#4 Putin:
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

Fisher:
"American exceptionalism" is a complicated idea but it basically boils down to a combination of simple nationalism and a belief that the United States can and should play a special role in shaping the world. The one other country that has most closely shared this view of itself was the Soviet Union. Putin's Russia has obviously lost the ability to play the role of a superpower, but he still cultivates a sense of nationalism and national greatness. That often means nursing Russian pride hurt by perceived American bullying. This jab at "American exceptionalism" is a great illustration of that."

-> Mr. Fischer does not get it. Putin isn't ... jealous. Putin's point is about that "belief that the United States can and should play a special role in shaping the world" and where it comes from. Now, what about hat? How is that at play in Syria? And besides, why is it that Mr. Fisher has to reassure himself permanently that Putin is wrong? He doesn't even go there.

++++++++

I stop here because there is so much more and delving into it is not really worth the time. Fisher's comment is an exercise in 'Why we are right and Putin is wrong anyway'. I have little doubt that the US TV commentariat argues on as low a level as does Fisher.

Alba Etie

Mr Habakkuk,
There could be another dynamic at play in in the demise of AIPAC - several Jewish leaders here in Central Texas are beginning to openly question what they call the misguided "Likud -Zionist " foreign policy agenda that includes attacking Iran . Could it be we are in the Israeli comity as well , after all there would very likely be much 'blowback' to the average Israeli citizen if Iran is attacked by the IDF .

David Habakkuk

Alba Etie,

It has long been a problem in my country, and I think in yours, that Jews who have deep doubts about the policies advocated by AIPAC have profound inhibitions about articulating them publicly. If these inhibitions are breaking down in your part of the world, that is excellent news.

I have long suspected that, if the United States was to be pulled back from its current disastrous course, certain groups of people would be key. Current and retired members of the American military who take their oath to defend the Constitution with the utmost seriousness are one such group.

Of equal importance, it has seemed to me, are Jewish Americans who grasp that the policies advocated by AIPAC over the years have been disastrous -- that they have not actually helped Israel, and may involve long-term costs and dangers for Jews outside it.

Current events have certainly brought a revulsion against military adventures among the general population both in Britain and the United States to a head. It may indeed be that they are also making more people of influence in Jewish communities on both sides of the Atlantic realise that the policies advocated by Netanyahu and his American fellow-travellers are disastrous, and that the taboo on criticising them has to be broken.

Castellio

Good post, worth the time reading it. Perhaps the most negative aspect of "exceptionalism" is how it blinds one to the perspective of others. Clearly, Mr. Fischer isn't trying too hard to understand Putin's perspective, and doesn't feel any compelling need to do so.

As for the misinformation regarding the Georgian war; it does the American public no favors. How is it possible to write in a prestigious newspaper, present oneself as knowledgeable in the field, and then get such a basic fact wrong?

johnf

DH

Thank you for your kind comments on the post-Munich change.

Its something which has interested me since the time of the Iraq War. I particularly admire how the anti-appeasers - despite being an often antagonistic and incompetent bunch - kept going and finally managed to pull it off, and I looked to them for inspiration.

If anyone's interested I wrote an audio drama for BBC Radio 3 on it - from the defenestration of Anthony Eden as Foreign Secretary til 1941 - which was broadcast earlier this year. (It took me 10 years to sell it to them). If anyones interested its available for download (at £5.95) on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Change-Drama-on-3/dp/B009JYFSDM

A word of warning. Drama is not history. Drama has to be coherent, history isn't.

David Habakkuk

CP,

Another discussion of the NYT op-ed by Fisher also vividly reveals the complete collapse of intellectual standards in the MSM in the U.S. (also in Britain, I hasten to add.)

It is entitled: ‘Is it possible that Putin wrote the New York Times op-ed himself?’ The opening reads:

‘A spokesman for Ketchum, the public relations firm that helped place Russian President Vladimir Putin's op-ed in Thursday's New York Times, tells Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray that Putin wrote it himself.

‘On its face, that obviously sounds pretty implausible. Putin is very busy running one of the world's largest countries. Even if he did have spare time to craft carefully worded op-eds, his English is good but not that good. And even one of the world's more narcissistic heads of state is unlikely to take a step this high-stakes without bringing in the Kremlin communications/propaganda staff he surely keeps on hand for precisely such occasions.’

(See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/09/13/is-it-possible-that-putin-wrote-the-new-york-times-op-ed-himself/ )

Whether Putin ‘keeps on hand’ ‘communications/propaganda staff’ for ‘precisely such occasions’ I simply do not know. No evidence whatsoever has been produced by Fisher for his assertion – my suspicion to be blunt is that he is simply assuming that Putin works like an American (or British) politician.

The possibility that Putin ‘keeps on hand’ competent English translators, and that one of these rendered a Russian original into English, is clearly beyond Fisher’s comprehension: almost all Russian diplomats are fluent in English, while rather few American diplomats can even read Russian.

However, anyone who has done basic research ought to be aware that Putin has taken the trouble to make his major communications to Russian audiences available in English. If one visits the archive of the ‘Russky Mir’ website, one will find fluent English translations of seven articles in which, prior to last year’s presidential election, Putin outlined his positions on domestic and foreign policy issues.

Far be it from me to suggest that there is any reason to take what Putin says at face value. But before dismissing what a foreign leader claims as disinformation, it is advisable at least to take the trouble to familiarise oneself with what he is saying. And if have yet to see any indication whatsoever that either Fisher or any other MSM foreign affairs commentator has taken the trouble to read what Putin clearly intended as a comprehensive account of his political positions.

These people are, to be blunt, indolent and incurious, as well as conformist and cowardly.

If Fisher had done a little of what we old-style MSM types once regarded as basic research, he might have noticed something rather interesting.

The clear profession of admiration for what American democracy has been in the concluding paragraph of the NYT op-ed meshes totally with what Putin told his Russian audience in his February 2012 article in Kommersant on ‘Democracy and the Quality of Government.’

Had he grasped this, it might then just conceivably have occurred to Fisher that the whole message and tone of Putin’s op-ed might reflect a belief that American democracy might still be something rather more than a system where cynical politicians used their ‘communications/propaganda staff’ to manipulate an electorate they actually heartily despise.

And accordingly, it might have seemed to Putin worth his while to spend time trying to produce a message which might resonate with reasonable people – rather than an exercise in cynical manipulation.

(For Putin’s pre-election articles, see:
http://www.russkiymir.ru/russkiymir/en/publications/articles.jsp?pager.offset=120&pageIndex=11&pageSize=12 ; http://www.russkiymir.ru/russkiymir/en/publications/articles.jsp?pager.offset=108&pageIndex=10&pageSize=12)

CK

This was not Mr. Putin's first editorial in the NYT. He had a very prescient one in 1999.
Coming off the Moscow apartment bombings by Chechen militants he asked how the USA would respond to having Islamic militants bomb us in our sleep. We found out. 12 years 8 wars.

The beaver

Yeh right !!!

"The Syria vote in Congress, Elsner said, was important mainly because it would influence how other countries viewed American military resolve. If Congress were to deny an American president the authorization he sought, America's standing in the world might have suffered. "Anything that weakens the United States in the eyes of the world would weaken Israel," Elsner said. "But that's very different from imminent danger."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/14/aipac-syria_n_3923483.html

One word: Iran for (other countries)

different clue

Shortly after Professors Walt and Mearsheimer wrote their book about the Israel Lobby's role in American foreign policy
the New York Review of Books carried a review about it and some of the issues it opens a pathway to. The first few paragraphs discuss what are considered to be flaws in some of what Walt and Mearsheimer themselves have written, but the rest of the review is about how AIPAC excercises power and targets money-availability or money-deprivation to targeted candidates for office. It then goes on to describe how AIPAC tried working through Congress to sabotage and undermine Clinton's/Arafat's/Rabin's efforts to make the Oslo Agreement achieve something real. It makes me wonder whether AIPAC is an arm of Israel in general or an arm of Likud (and further rightward groups) in particular. Here is the link.
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2006/jun/08/the-storm-over-the-israel-lobby/?pagination=false

Also, I wonder if people interested in reducing/countering AIPAC's influence over time might want to create groups with very similar acronyms to in part to crowd into AIPAC's mindspace. Perhaps J Street could rename themselves ALIPAC (American Lesser Israel Public Affairs Committee). Perhaps supporters of Palestine could create an APalPAC (American Palestine Public Affairs Committee).

CK

To admit that Georgia was the aggressor is to open another can of Israeli sponsored arms deals and blithe America dog wagging.
The intellectual difference between Senator McCain and Mr. Fischer is minimal.

David Habakkuk

johnf,

I will get hold of the audiobook, and listen with interest.

Ironically, perhaps, it has long since come to seem to me that the invocation of Munich as a means of discrediting any suggestion that it might be wise to compromise with or accomodate adversaries ended up being a pathological feature of post-war political argument.

I carry some odd baggage on this, as my father became an extremely active anti-appeasement campaigner, but some of the people he most admired were committed supporters of the strategy. Curiously, he and they were still able to disagree with civility, right through until the outbreak of war.

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