Kim Jong Saud.

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The Saudis have destroyed a key airport in Yemen, a point of entry for crucial aid shipments, making the grim prospect of a major famine even more likely than before. This happened the same week that the Kingdom apparently chose to hold Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri against his will, by some accounts, and forced his resignation (Hariri now disputes this) in an effort to sow discord in a country that survived a 15-year sectarian civil war. This multi-pronged effort to roll back Shi’a influence in the region is largely the handiwork of Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (or “MBS” as the folks in the know call him), a man who is taking the blood-stained legacy of Saudi’s extremism up to the next level.

Meet Sal the Butcher.Praised by many in the American imperial class as a “modernizer”, Prince Salman has leveled neighboring Yemen over the past two years, turning it into one of the world’s most deadly war zones. This attack was probably born of the Iran nuclear deal; perhaps Yemen was the bone thrown to a disgruntled kingdom after an American war with Persia was averted. The fight in Yemen is an extension of Saudi’s longterm efforts to remake the Arab world in its own image. Its principal enemy used to be Arab nationalism, championed by Nassar and others. Now that that wave of leaders is past, Iran and Shi’a populations are in the crosshairs, and the trigger has been pulled repeatedly – in Bahrain, in Syria, and most devastatingly in Yemen.

I don’t want to place responsibility for this disgusting war solely at the feet of MBS and his autocratic government. They could not do what they’re doing without military and diplomatic support from the United States. If we told them – firmly – to stop, they would stop. The fact that it continues demonstrates a desire on the part of Washington – and elements of both major political parties – for the conflict to continue. It’s similar to the situation in Korea in that there is an obvious solution to the problem and the fact that we fail to grab it up suggests more than stupidity and stubbornness. The other similarity is that MBS’s swagger is like that of Kim Jong Un, only our leaders appear willing to eat it up. Really disturbing.

I strongly suggest you contact your congressional representatives and tell them in no uncertain terms that this conflict has gone on long enough and it is time for the killing to stop. Senator Chris Murphy appears to have gotten the memo – now let’s see if we can get others on board.

luv u,

jp

Gulf War IV.

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Yes, I know … Trump is melting down, and I should say something about it. The truth is, there’s little to say that hasn’t already been said. It’s not like the Republican Congress is going to do anything about him – far from it. They invented the freaking guy. He is their Frankenstein’s monster. If they ever pull an intervention on him, it’s going to start with, “Hello, handsome!”

You are not evil ... you are GOOD!Besides, there are more important things going on, partly as a result of having a dolt as president. The Qatar crisis is one of those things, and after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen (or the Saudi controlled piece of it), and Egypt abruptly broke off diplomatic relations with the country, Trump had this to say on Twitter:

“…so good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

Qatar, mind you, hosts a major U.S. military base that serves as a staging area for operations in the Gulf. Setting aside for a moment the absurdity of a state like Saudi Arabia accusing someone of sponsoring terrorism, Trump’s comments appear to confirm that the U.S. gave a green light to the Gulf Cooperation Council states to pull this number. The White House subsequently backed off of the President’s drunk tweet, claiming the president had called the Qatari Emir and “emphasized the importance of all countries in the region working together to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology,” essentially offering to mediate. That sounds like the foreign policy establishment stepping in somewhat hurriedly to keep this from spinning out of control.

My reaction to this has been, what the fuck? I think the most reasonable explanation I’ve heard thus far was from Trita Parsi on Democracy Now!, suggesting that Saudi and its allies may have done this as a strike against Al Jazeera in advance of a renewed offensive against Iran (which just got attacked by ISIS extremists on Wednesday). Do we need a fourth Gulf War, after Iran-Iraq (1980-88), the Gulf War/Desert Storm (1991), and the Iraq War (2003 – whenever)? Apparently Trump thinks so.

This was a dramatic and disturbing departure. Not confident about what will come next.

luv u,

jp

Middle passage.

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Trump was on the road this week, touching base with traditional allies, shaking his fist at traditional foes, making occasional awkward statements and non-sequiturs but generally doing what is expected of him as official high protector of the empire. Amazing how quickly even a low-intelligence loose cannon like “The Donald” will snap into place when there are longstanding economic and imperial ties in play.

At the helm of the Death Star. Who knew it was in Saudi Arabia?Much as he criticized Saudi Arabia during the primary campaign and even the general election, it was all smiles and bows and the dangling of manly swords when he arrived in Riyadh, not to mention threats against Iran and its embattled Shi’a allies in Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere. Then there’s the humongous arms sale, allowing Saudi to continue the bloody Yemen adventure that Trump will not mention but can’t stop funding with U.S. taxpayer dollars. (My money’s being used inappropriately. Someone call Mick Mulvaney!)

I have to think that the institutional elites that most benefit from the imperial profit machine probably don’t much mind Trump as a foreign policy president. His ignorance very likely is, in their eyes, his most positive attribute. The man knows nothing about any of the regions he is likely to visit as president. That means he can be steered into preferred policies by his aides. He is the proverbial empty vessel, even more so than George W. Bush was – at least Bush had some vague sense of his own objectives and a team of fanatical, experienced bureaucrats to fill the void between his ears. With Trump, there’s none of that. He’s truly at sea.

Empire abhors a vacuum, and so the absence of leadership is filled with the priorities of the forever-state. This is not a conspiracy theory – every empire that has lasted as long as ours has a structure of governance and self-perpetuation. It’s that great self-driving car, running over people of color by the thousand in thirsty pursuit of the next filling station. That’s why the pieces all fall into place, and the policy stays within certain boundaries, sometimes jiggling a little leftward, occasionally lurching to the right, but never crossing the line.

When I say “never”, I mean other than that one time with Dubya Bush when his reckless war-making tested those limits and brought on the correction we saw in 2006 – one of the most amazing periods in recent history. I suspect Trump’s correction will come from some other quarter, but I guess we will see.

luv u,

jp

Persistent truths.

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As I write this post, the parliament in Crimea has just voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, to which it belonged until the mid 1950s. The Russian parliament, in turn, is considering legislation to enable it to accept new provinces, an ominous turn to Where's America in this picture?be sure. There is a referendum on Crimean secession scheduled for later this month, and the new Ukrainian government is crying foul. So … are we on the brink of a new Crimean War? Charge of the Light Brigade, anyone?

The “Putin is Crazy” narrative is dominating the news cycle here in the United States. I can hear it right now, on the evening news. Even supposed activist liberal shows like Rachel Maddow are playing this as a crisis for which Russia is solely responsible, and strong evidence of Putin’s departure from reality. He’s living in another world, the German premier suggests, and that claim is being hammered home, day after day, on every network, every news channel, every media outlet. One would think no one had ever occupied a square mile of foreign territory before. (Ummm …. Afghanistan? Guam?)

I hate to be the lone dissenting voice on anything, but this thing is obviously spinning out of control, and the potential consequences are enormous. Despite his autocratic tendencies, Putin is not hard to figure out, friends. He doesn’t want another Syria as his next door neighbor. With the ouster of Yanukovych, he sees the potential for civil conflict, possible failure of the central government, etc. Putin sees the United States and Europe as having stoked the opposition, and in all frankness, it’s probably true that we did. We regularly support political movements in other countries to an extent that we would consider unacceptable should another country attempt the same on us. Now we openly support the revolution in Ukraine.

Is is about supporting democracy? Well, that’s certainly not a prerequisite for U.S. support. See Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc., etc. In all honesty, I think it would be a really good idea to work towards a diplomatic solution with greater energy. There is a tendency to fall into old cold war habits – a fact that reveals the bankruptcy of our obsession with communism back in the day. It’s really just about great power competition, and that should be considered illegitimate, particularly when so many lives are at stake.

Between us, we still have thousands of nuclear weapons. This is not something to fool around with.

luv u,

jp