Democrats Try to Beto Smash the Border Wall

By: Gabriel E. Miller

In a recent MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes, Democrat Beto O’Rourke (the former senator candidate for Texas) said that he would take down the southern border wall.

O’Rourke said, “Yes, absolutely. I’d want to take the wall down.”

This may be a strategy that the Democrats try to use as a narrative for the 2020 Presidential Election, or it shows their true colors, that Democrats want open borders.

In January, Texas Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said in a CNN interview, “We know walls don’t work, that they don’t stop drugs, that they don’t stop immigration.” She also mentioned that she was open to destroying existing parts of the wall.

New York Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand told Fox News on Friday, “I could look at it and see which part he means and why if it makes sense I could support it.”

At the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, O’Rourke said,


“We don’t need another wall, we don’t need another fence, because let me tell you this. Walls do not, as the president has claimed, save lives, walls end lives. In the last 10 years… 4,000 of our fellow human beings have lost their lives trying to cross into the United States to work jobs no one born in this country dare work. To be with family which is a human right, that we should honor.”


O’Rourke calls for illegal immigration on the basis that people should be with their families and because people died trying to commit an illegal act.

In Business Insider’s article listing the 50 most violent cities in the world in 2017, Tijuana, Mexico ranked number five. Tijuana is a border city with the United States’ city of San Diego. O’Rourke would compromise the security of the American people by taking down the border wall.

According to the New York Post, after the walls were erected in San Diego, it cut illegal border crossings by 95 percent.

This new attitude to border security is surprising as, in 2006, prominent Democratic leaders such as Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and then Senator Barrack Obama voted for a border wall.

Now Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi and others call the border wall “immoral”.

Pentagon Halts Further Aircraft Supplies to Saudi Arabia Following Khashoggi Scandal

By Stefan M. Kløvning

National Security – Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis confirmed Pentagon’s decision to halt further refueling warplanes to Saudi Arabia on Friday. The move has been lauded by opponents of the Yemeni Civil War fueled by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition starting in 2015, where weaponry supplied by the United States have been used to target civilians as late as August this year. Forty children and eleven adults were killed as the U.S.-supplied bomb to Saudi Arabia hit a Yemeni school bus. From here on, according to Mattis, they must “use the Coalition’s own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen.” The reactions and actions by the United States government to the activities of Saudi Arabia, however, has come only after Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government, was brutally murdered and dismembered at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Turkey on 2. October as he was trying to get a document so he could marry his financée.

Opponents of Saudi Arabia see the aircraft halt to be a good step in the right direction, but also call for further reductions in the supply of arms and ending sharing targeted information to further disassociate the U.S. military from the conflict in Yemen. Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, one of the first members to stand out in opposition against U.S. backing of the Saudi-led coalition, asserted that “By finally ending refueling missions for Saudi bombers, the Trump administration is admitting our joint operation in Yemen has been a disaster.” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) further called the move a “major victory”, and called for Congress to pass a resolution to “ensure that all U.S. involvement is shut off.”

The Saudi government, however, claimed that it had requested the halt themselves as the coalition had developed the ability to resupply more warplanes themselves. According to a public statement,

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the member countries of the Coalition to Support legitimacy in Yemen, continually pursue improvements to military professionalism and self-sufficiency. Recently the Kingdom and the Coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen. As a result, in consultation with the United States, the Coalition has requested cessation of inflight refueling support for it’s operations in Yemen.

That the Saudis and their coalition may be becoming self-sufficient could appear concerning for those who worry about the future of Yemen, but from what the coalition’s opponents can do, the goal is to fully exclude the United States from the conflict. Senator Murphy said further that

For years, the United States has sold weapons to Saudi Arabia and offered targeting and refueling assistance as American-made bombs were sent to kill thousands of innocent people, including children. The U.S. has radicalized entire generations because there was an American imprint on every civilian murdered there.

Why are we still helping the Saudis with targeting? Why are we still selling them the bombs at a discount?

A senior scholar at the think tank Defense Priorities, Benjamin Friedman, pointed blame to former president Barack Obama for having started the military support of the Saudi-led coalition and said that the campaign “is a humanitarian disaster that does nothing to advance U.S. security—if anything it undermines it. The United States should end the other forms of intelligence and logistical support provided to the Saudis, including the arms sales aiding their bombing campaign.”

In his statement on Friday, Jim Mattis proclaimed that it was necessary to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

We are all focused on supporting resolution of the conflict. The U.S. and the Coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country’s borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region. The U.S. will also continue working with the Coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country.

He also called for all parties to “support the United Nations’ ongoing efforts on this new phase in Yemen.”  The Saudis claimed they were seeking the same outcome.

The Coalition Command expresses its hope that the upcoming UN sponsored negotiations in a third country will lead to a negotiated settlement in accordance to UNSCR 2216 and see an end to the aggression by the Iranian backed Houthi militias’ against the Yemeni people and countries in the region.

WikiLeaks and Trump Campaign Threaten with Counter-Lawsuits Following the DNC’s Attempt to Sue Trump Campaign, Russia and WikiLeaks for Collusion

By Stefan M. Kløvning

Washington, National Security – The battle is on, and the Democrats have finally managed to heap up whatever evidence they could find in support of their acclaimed hypothesis of Trump being elected as a result of collusion with Wikileaks and the Kremlin. The DNC filed a lawsuit against the Trump campaign, Russia and Wikileaks on Friday, demanding compensation in an ‘amount to be determined,’ which the Washington Post claims to be sums reaching several millions, despite the lawsuit not mentioning specifics. This speculation is, however, understandable, considering the scope of the lawsuit. Both president Trump and Wikileaks have acknowledged the lawsuit, and stated their objections on Twitter. Both seemed to be in the mood to counter-sue the DNC.

The introduction in the DNC lawsuit is sourceless, despite a ton of extravagant claims being purported, but the sources referred to in the General Allegations part seem to be satisfactory for a reasonably based story – not to mention the extent of evidence required for a lawsuit on such a scale.

What were the allegations? There are three main themes discussed in this document: Trump’s and Trump Associates’ preexisting relationships with Moscow; the plan to bolster Trump and denigrate Hillary; and the conspiracy to disseminate DNC information to weaken the party and its candidate.

General Allegations

Trump and Trump associates’ preexisting relations with Russia and Russian oligarchs provided fertile grounds for Russia-Trump conspiracy

Trump’s Business Connections to Russia

  • 1980s: Trump was paid by the Soviet Union to visit Moscow to discuss a potential development program.
  • 1990s: Negotiated with Russian officials over real estate developments in Moscow.
  • 2003: Multiple estate deals with the Bayrock group, a group of Soviet emigrés, who ‘reportedly’ had ties with the Russian government and organized crime.
  • 2004: Negotiated potential real estate development with Deputy Mayor of Moscow.
  • 2005: Partnered with Russian-Canadian businessmen to develop real estate in Toronto.
  • 2006: Contracted with the Russian Standard Corporation, who owns the Miss Russia beauty pageant, to allow the winner to enter Trump’s Miss Universe pageant.
  • 2008: Sold a Palm Beach, Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch with a profit of $54 million.
  • 2013: Established business relationship with Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, a close ally of Putin, to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Russia and work on plans to develop a Trump-branded project in Moscow.
  • 2016: Continued efforts to develop real estate in Russia.
  • ‘And throughout this 30-year history, Trump sought out wealthy Russian buyers for his condominiums in the United States and abroad.’
  • Eric Trump: ‘Substantial funding’ to Trump’s golf courses come from Russian investors.

Manafort and Gate’s Ukrainian Connections

Manafort

  • 2004-2015: Advisor for Russian-allied former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich and both his party and its successor.
  • 2012: ‘Allegedly’ helped the party funnel more than $2.2 million to two prominent Washington lobbying firms.
  • Daughter: ‘The money we have is blood money.’
  • June 2017: Denied ever working for the Ukrainian government, but eventually registered as a foreign agent and reported $17.1 million received from Yanukovich’s party between 2012 and 2014.
  • October 2017-: Indicted on over 12 counts.
  • Possibly in up to $17 million in debt to Putin-tied oligarch Oleg Deripaska before joining the Trump campaign.
  • Both Manifort and Gates kept close relations with a Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian soldier believed to be an agent of the GRU, whom the FBI believes to have had communications with Russian intelligence at the time of the 2016 presidential election.

 

The Common Plan: Bolster Trump and denigrate the Democratic Party nominee

  • December 2011: Largest protest in Russia since the fall of the U.S.S.R. Protesting Putin winning the election as rigged and a fraud. Putin laid the blame on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom he claimed had ordered ‘the opposition movement into action.’
  • Trump’s support for Putin and Russia.
    • Putin ‘doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia (2007).’
    • ‘I really like Vladimir Putin and respect him. He does his work well. Much better than our Bush (2008).’
    • Annexation of Crimea was ‘so smart … And he [Putin] really goes step by step by step, and you have to give him a lot of credit (2014).’
    • Called NATO obsolete
    • Argued that U.S. shouldn’t counteract Russia’s attempt to become a global power
    • Opposed sanctions on Russia for annexation of Crimea. ‘The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard would rather be with Russia than where they were.’
  • ‘Thus, the Trump Campaign, Trump Associates, and Russia shared the common purpose of undermining Secretary Clinton’s candidacy, undermining the DNC and the Democratic Party, and promoting Trump, whose presidency was expected to benefit Russia’s political and financial interests, and in turn, benefit Trump’s financial interests.’
  • Assange and Wikileaks also shared that purpose. ‘Assange had a long of history conflicts with Secretary Clinton, and Assange publicalt stated that his policy disagreements with Clinton would maker her presidency far more problematic than a Trump presidency.’

 

The conspiracy to disseminate stolen DNC data to aid Trump

  • Referring to ‘The IC Report’ of January 2017, wherein the intelligence community is cited to have concluded that Putin ordered an influence on the U.S. presidential election to ‘undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.’
    • May 2016: GRU having exfiltrated large volumes of data from the DNC and relayed the information from it and senior Democratic officials to Wikileaks.
  • June 16, 2015: Trump announces his candidacy for President of the United States.
  • July 2015: Russian intelligence gained access to DNC network and maintained the access until June 2016. Data was disseminated, made it highly difficult for the DNC to communicate with and persuade voters, raise funds for its organization and support its campaigns.
  • Late 2015-Summer 2016: European intelligence agencies reported suspicious communications between members of the Trump Campaign and Russian operatives.
  • October 2015: Trump Organization secured a letter of intent to licsense Trump’s name for a real estate project in Moscow, which Trump signed. The deal was destroyed by Russian émigré Felix Sater, who had been a longtime business associate of the Trump Organization. The project was planned to be funded by the Russian bank Vneshtorgbank (VTB), against which the United States Treasury has leveled sanctions.
  • Email by Mr. Sater to Cohen on November 3, 2015:

    Michael I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins [sic] private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin. I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected. We both know no one else knows how to pull this off without stupidity and greed getting in the way. I know how to play it and we will get this done. Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.

  • Papadopoulus: Admitted to have ‘repeatedly sought to use the professor’s ( Joseph Mifsund) Russian connections in an effort to arrange a meeting between the campaign and Russian government officials.’ Spoke extensively about the Russians’ intel on Clinton. Mailed Trump Campaign official on April 27, 2016: ‘Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.’ In May 2016 he told an Australian diplomat that Russia had politically damaging information on Secretary Clinton, who in turn reported about it to U.S. authorities, which launched the FBI counterintelligence investigation. Continued communications with Russian nationals and informaing the Trump Campaign officials at least until mid-august 2016. He pleaded guily to lying about the communications in October 2017.
  • April 18, 2016: New cyberattack against DNC by GRU agents.
  • April 28, 2016: IT staff in DNC detected and confirmed that unauthorized users had access to the DNC network. They contacted a cybersecurity technology firm known as ‘CrowdStrike’, who performed a forensic analysis of DNC’s computer network and servers, and set up a monitoring system for the ongoing attack, and to alert the DNC of future attacks. DNC had to decommission over 140 servers, remove and install all software, including the operating systems, for more than 180 computers, and rebuild at least 11 servers due to the cyberattack.
  • The forensic analysis by CrowdStrike and the U.S. Government both concluded that the computer system was hacked by two Russian state-sponsored adversaries, who both had nexus to Russia’s intelligence services. The IC report concluded that one of them acted as an agent for the GRU, while the other was an ‘operative of or associated with Russian intelligence.’
  • Communication between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on June 3, 2016:

    Good Morning. Emin [Agalarov] just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras [Agalarov] this morning and their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

    • Trump, Jr., 17 minutes later: ‘Thanks Rob [Goldstone] I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I [will] just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.’
  • June 9, 2016: Meeting between Trump, Manafort, Jared Kushner and Trump Jr. of the Trump Campaign, and Rob Goldstone, Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Agalarov business associate Irakyl Kaveladze, lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and a translator, representing Russia’s interests. [Toronto political professor Savi Gunitsky: ‘where is the quid pro quo in that?’]
  • June 14: DNC publically announced that its systems had been hacked by Russian intelligence agencies.
  • June 15: GRU Operative #1 claimed responsibility for the hack and leaked an opposition research report on Trump written by the DNC in December 2015. It also announced it had provided Wikileaks with DNC documents.
  • June 21: GRU Operative #1 released DNC research on Republican candidates and Secretary Clinton.
  • July 6: Released DNC’s ‘counter-convention’ to the convention by the RNC.
  • July 18: Members of Trump campaign objected to RNC’s proposal for the US to provide lethal arms to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia.
  • July 22: WikiLeaks released first major tranch of DNC emails and documents stolen by Russian intelligence agents. Trump responded to event by saying, ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing … I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.’ Release of DNC documents by WikiLeaks and GRU Operative #1 continued until November 2016.
  • Roger Stone
    • Longtime friend and political advisor of Trump.
    • Began revealing that he was in contact with Assange, WikiLeaks and GRU Operative #1 in the spring of 2016.
  • September 20: WikiLeaks provided Trump, Jr. with a password to an anti-Trump PAC website and asked him to have his father retweet a link to a WikiLeaks website containing stolen Democratic documents. Trump tweeted fifteen minutes later, ‘Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by Wikileaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!’
  • October 2, 2016: Mr. Stone on Twitter: ‘Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.’
  • October 7: Hollywood Access clip was released elsewhere. One hour after, WikiLeaks published 2,000 emails of Podesta, and continued sharing them nearly daily until November 9, 2017.
  • Trump tweeted plenty of times in support of the release of the DNC documents by WikiLeaks between July and November.
  • November 6, 2016: Wikileaks published ‘DNC Leak 2’, which included internal discussions about DNC’s strategy and communications efforts.
  • November 8, 2016: Trump won the election. Moscow allegedly reacted with jubilation.

 

Response to DNC’s Lawsuit

This seems to have the potential to be daring against the Trump campaign if true, so what does the opposition have to say in response? WikiLeaks tweeted on Saturday a link to an article by Mike Masnick of TechDirt, which said the lawsuit was ‘full of legally nutty arguments.’ What was so wrong with the lawsuit? He does concede that ‘there’s little doubt at this point that the Russians were behind the hack and leak of the documents, and that Wikileaks published them. Similarly there’s little doubt that the Trump campaign was happy about these things, and that a few Trump-connected people had some contacts with some Russians. Does that add up to a conspiracy?’ His article is mainly concerned about the legal arguments, whether the claims add up to the descriptions in the laws, and the adequacy of the legal arguments. The critique is structured based on which laws the claims are directed to: DMCA, CFAA, SCA and Trade Secrets Act.

DMCA

The DMCA concerns copyright. It is argued that §1201 in this law is being misused as a ‘mini-CFAA’ (about which will be mentioned later), and that Russia’s hacking into the DNC has nothing to do with copyright. He argues that if this would become precedented, ‘nearly any computer break-in to copy content would also lead to DMCA claims,’ which he opines to just be silly.

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

This act is claimed to have been quite frequently been abused as something to use against anyone who does something on a computer that one dislikes, and was written in response to the movie ‘War Games,’ to target ‘hacking.’ He admits that hacking is what’s actually concerned here, and ‘that this may be one case where the CFAA claims are legit.’ Still, he goes on to say that

So, I’m actually fine with those claims. Other than the fact that they’re useless. It’s not like the Russian Federation or the GRU is going to show up in court to defend this. And they’re certainly not going to agree to discovery. I doubt they’ll acknowledge the lawsuit at all, frankly. So…

WikiLeaks and Assange would not be targeted under this law, as they only disseminated information they had received from those who hacked and stole it. The point Masnick seems to be making here is that neither the Russian Federation nor the GRU will ever admit to be behind it, and will likely not recognize the lawsuit as legitimate at all.

Stored Communications Act

Masnick argues that the claims appealing to this act only seem as repetitive with the CFAA as those regarding the DCMA. He writes ironically that ‘instead of just unauthorized access, it’s now unauthorized access … to communcations.’ He also repeats that this still doesn’t affect WikiLeaks or Assange.

Trade Secrets Act

He argues that this is where matters become a bit more problematic, and WikiLeaks and Assange is involved in the claim. The DNC lawsuit said that

‘Defendants Russia, the GRU, GRU Operative #1, WikiLeaks, and Assange disclosed Plaintiff’s trade secrets without consent, on multiple dates, discussed herein, knowing or having reason to know that trade secrets were acquired by improper means.’

Masnick strongly objected to this, claiming that ‘if that violates the law, then the law is unconstitutional,’ referring to the freedom and regularity of the press to share trade secrets acquired through questionable means by others and later handed to the press. He goes on to assert that it would raise serious First Amendment issues for the press. He also turned this around on those strongly oppositional to Trump, illustrating that

‘I mean, what’s to stop President Trump from using the very same argument against the press for revealing, say, his tax returns? Or reports about business deals gone bad, or the details of secretive contracts? These could all be considered “trade secrets” and if the press can’t publish them that would be a huge, huge problem.’

 

Reactions on Social Media

Chief political correspondent of the Washington Examiner Byron York asked on Twitter: ‘Does this mean the defendants will get access to the DNC servers?

This has been echoed by several others, including a Michelle Mortensen, who similarly proposed the DNC and the Clinton Campaign to turn the rest of their emails, texts and phone logs over in the counterlawsuit.

Bill Mitchell, host of YourVoice America, questioned the effectiveness of the lawsuit, tweeting that

In another tweet he also predicted that ‘80% of the country’ would laugh at the DNC for the lawsuit while the rest will be pandered to by the Democrats.

There are people on the other side, however, who have a bit more positive attitude to the lawsuit.

A tweet by @olgaNYC1211, for instance, received 1,300 retweets and 3,600 likes for opining that it was ‘Strategically smart [by the DNC] to force the evidence that the govt has to come out.’

Some even more popular favorable tweets was those of @ProudResister, who received about 3,500 retweets and 9,000 likes for both tweets in favor, one saying ‘It’s about damn time,’ and the other, ‘I’m one proud Democrat today.’

The political advisor of Hillary Clinton, Adam Parkhomenko, was also quick to respond on the issue:

 

Afterthoughts

There’s a ton of questions which can be asked about this issue. Here is a few I consider the the most essential, with an attempt to find an answer.

Q: What is true and what is not regarding the hypothesis of collusion between the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks?

A: If we trust and follow the viewpoint of Mr. Masnick – which we maybe should and maybe not – we could be fine with accepting the conception that Russia was behind the hacking and dissemination of the DNC, WikiLeaks publishing the information, and the Trump Campaign accepting whatever help they could receive, and rather object to the choice of laws being appealed to. This is only a conception, however, and conceptions don’t always go hand-in-hand with the truth. We could also have either the conception that everything the DNC says is true, or everything they say is false, but those would obviously be generalizations. If we want the truth, we have to dig into the sources (some of which cost money to read), or wait until the lawsuit (and counterlawsuits) are completed, if they are going to occur at all. It is also worth checking out the investigation by the Republicans of the House Intelligence Committee, which lasted 14 months without finding any evidence. How did the Democrats find so much while the Republicans find nothing? It’s clear that there could be a bit of bias here, but the extent of it would be unbelievable. Whom should we assume to be the least biased in such a case?

Q: Will Russia or WikiLeaks take responsibility for their influence in the election?

A: Likely not. As Masnick said, most of the claims doesn’t include Assange or Wikileaks, and even those that do are unlikely to go through due to the issue of press freedom. The Russian government is a more relevant part in this case, but the problem is whether they think they actually need to come up and meet in the lawsuit. After all, the state has the monopoly of violence to force its own citizens to follow the law of the land, but what about other states? Perhaps even the International Court of Justice – which judges cases between states – will get involved in judging the case if taken far enough, but as the lawsuit is now, the defendants seem rather undisturbed. WikiLeaks is also prepared to countersue the DNC by showing how they rigged the primary election in 2016. The battle that DNC has started will most likely become brutal if continuing.

Q: Will the Trump Campaign take responsibility for their influence in encouraging a foreign government and hacking organizations to illegally obtain and leak documents by its opposition?

A: The Trump Campaign is obviously more vulnerable to the consequences of breaking a law in the United States than the Russian government and WikiLeaks would, but they still seem confident to be in the right in this case. Trump also proposed to countersue the DNC, but here ‘for the DNC Server that they refused to give to the FBI, the Debbie Wasserman Schultz Servers and Documents held by the Pakistani mystery man and Clinton Emails.’ Trump will in other words be a tough opponent for the Democrats, and will likely not go down easily.

Q: Has Russia gained anything yet by Trump’s presidency?

A: It’s difficult to say exactly, and under what frame of reference. The main theme underlying the DNC’s account of the story is that it is all a conspiracy meant to undermine the American democracy. Toronto political professor Seva Gunitsky, who has grown up in Russia and followed the development of Trump’s relation with Russia for about a decade, thinks rather that ‘To understand the roots of the collusion, set aside Putin and follow the money.’ Under that account, Trump may not be acting as ‘Russia’s puppet’, as several Democrats have accused him of being. Russia was, for instance, not very pleased when Trump cooperated with Macron and May to strike a chemical weapons facility in Syria. And metal manifacturers in Russia are estimated to lose up to $3 billion under Trump’s tariffs. In that sense Trump is only a burden for them as well as for the rest of the world, but does it benefit politicians in the Kremlin regarding their positions in power? However, Trump again refused to initiate sanctions against Russia on Monday, contradicting U.N. Ambassador Nikki R. Haley’s announcement of it being a consequence for Russian companies assisting Syria’s chemical weapons program, so there could be a lead there, but exactly to where is rather uncertain.

 

Syrian Military Base Struck by Britain, France and U.S. Following Douma Chemical Attacks

Picture credit: AP

By Stefan M. Kløvning

Syria, National Security – A military base in Syria expected of holding chemical weapons ingredients were struck by American, British and French missiles on Saturday, as retaliation for the Syrian government allegedly being behind the attack in Douma on April 8, which took the life of up to 75 people and injured about 500 more. British Prime Minister Theresa May maintained that this was not done to intervene in Syria’s civil war or an attempt of regime change, but solely…

…about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties. And while this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian Regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke in a similar fashion about the decision, but didn’t mention any evidence of the Syrian government to be behind it. Mrs. May didn’t either, only referring to ‘a significant body of information including intelligence’ assumably indicating that they are.

According to Russia, the Syrian government struck down 71 of the 103 missiles launched against them.

The air strikes have been warmly welcomed by Western allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Austrialian PM Malcolm Turnbull, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg, European Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker all deemed the air strikes necessary and justified as retaliation against the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against their own population.

Other nations, however, have been more skeptical. The Iranian Foreign Ministry, for instance, strongly opposed the attack. ‘The United States and its allies have no proof and, without even waiting for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to take a position, have carried out this military attack,’ they said in a statement. Iraq has also been concerned, referring to the possibility of the action being a catalyst for spreading terrorism in the region. The spokesperson for Indonesian Foreign Ministry Arrmanatha Nasir criticized the decision being done without prior authorization by the U.N. Security Council, asserting that ‘For Indonesia, peace and stability in Syria can only be achieved through dialogue and an inclusive political process.’

How do they know for sure that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical attack in Douma, without being able to present clear evidence? Mrs. May stated, and rightly, that Russia vetoed a resolution in the U.N. Security Council proposing an independent investigation into the chemical attacks, and that that has made it very difficult for them to figure out the true nature of the situation. ‘We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this,’ she affirms. She therefore refers to the history of the regime with this, saying ‘The Syrian Regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way.’

Is this really the case? The New York Times reported on the day of the chemical attacks that ‘Days after President Trump said he wanted to pull the United States out of Syria, Syrian forces hit a suburb of Damascus with bombs that rescue workers said unleashed toxic gas.’ But why would the Syrian government want to give the U.S. military a reason to stay in the region, or generally undertake such an attack against their own citizens with such strange timing? The story doesn’t really fit together unless the Syrian government would have a motive for doing so. Independent journalist Eva Bartlett proposes that the Western media has given a skewed picture of what is really happening in Syria. She has talked to many Canadians with relatives in Syria, whom she claims to say that are being told a different story about the situation than the Western media is promoting. She has also been to Syria 6 times to report on the situation there. ‘What you hear in the corporate media … BBC, Guardian, New York Times, etc. on Aleppo is also opposite of reality,’ she asserts. After the chemical attack in Khai Shaikhoun last year, the Syrian Army General Command explicitly denied them ever having used toxic gases against either terrorists or civilians, and that they had no plans of doing so. He asserted in the statement that ‘The armed terrorist groups used to accuse the Syrian Arab Army of using toxic gases against them or against civilians at anytime they fail to implement the targets of their sponsors and operators or when they are unable to achieve any advantages on the ground in an desperate attempt to justify their failure and to maintain the support of their masters.’ Whatever Eva Bartlett says about Fox News, there’s a reporter there on her side: Tucker Carlson. He observed the day after the Douma Attack that

Universal bipartisan agreement on anything is usually a sign that something deeply unwise is about to happen. If only there were no one left to ask skeptical questions. And we should be skeptical of this. Starting with the poison gas attack itself. All the geniuses tell us that Assad killed those children, but do they really know that? Of course they don’t really know that, they’re making it up. They have no real idea what happened. Actually, both sides in the Syrian civil war possessed chemical weapons. How would it benefit Assad, using chlorine gas last weekend? Well it wouldn’t. Assad’s forces had been winning the war in Syria. The administration just announced America’s plans to pull its troops out of Syria, having vanquished ISIS. That’s good news for Assad, and about the only thing he could do to reverse it, and to hurt himself, would be to use poison gas against children. ‘Well he did it anyways,’ they tell us. ‘He’s that evil!’ Please. Keep in mind this is the same story they told us last April, you remember that?

It’s too early yet to cite any polls of public opinion in different countries about the air strikes, but many notable reactions have been promoted on social media. Some of them will be mentioned below.

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  • Trump’s statement ‘mission accomplished’ being taken from George W. Bush’s in 2003

  • ISIS using airstrikes as cover

https://twitter.com/arturaskerelis/status/984972546742341632

  • Vote on Gab.ai (right-wing alternative media site) (n=894) on who supports or opposes Trump’s decisions on air strikes. 84% voted that they opposed. https://gab.ai/Archangel1111/posts/23762226
  • Won’t lead to expected results

(‘These strikes against engage us in a path with unpredictable and potentially dramatic consequences. France again loses an opportunity to appear on the international stage as an independent and balanced power in the world. MLP’)

 

Thousands of Illegal Immigrants to flood US Border from Mexico Within Months

Image: Luc Forsyth

By Stefan M. Kløvning

Over a thousand Central Americans have been marching through Mexico the past week, on the way to crossing the US-Mexico border and seek asylum in the US. They are claiming to flee poverty, political unrest and violence, and come to seek a better life in the US. This has recently been revealed by Buzzfeed reporter Adolfo Flores, who has followed the caravan for the last few days. Flores says that

For five days now hundreds of Central Americans — children, women, and men, most of them from Honduras — have boldly crossed immigration checkpoints, military bases, and police in a desperate, sometimes chaotic march toward the United States. Despite their being in Mexico without authorization, no one has made any effort to stop them.

The caravan is organized by a group of volunteers called Pueblos Sin Fronteras (English: People Without Borders), and are seeking to help Central Americans reach the US, bypassing both authorities seeking to deport them and gangs and thugs known to assault vulnerable migrants. Pueblos Sin Fronteras counted around 1200 people participating in the march on the first day, 70% of which are from Honduras.

The immigration wave from Honduras is rooted in Juan Ornando Hernández being elected president there last year, causing political unrest and violence as a ‘highly contested election,’ according to Flores.

The participators of the caravan hopes to be granted asylum when crossing the border to the United States, or that US immigration authorities will completely ignore them crossing the border illegally. This is certainly an ambitious project for the Central Americans, especially considering that the United States now has a president which based much of his Presidential campaign on promising to restrict immigration from Mexico, and seeking to build a wall between the countries. This horde of illegal immigrants will impose a challenge on the Trump administration, however, as immigration authorities will have difficulties regulating about a thousand people flooding the border at once. They hope this to be the case. Rodrigo Abeja, one of the organizers of the caravan, said to the people before entering Mexico from Guatemala: ‘If we all protect each other we’ll get through this together.’

The caravan was organized into groups of 10-15 people before the journey started. Each of these have their own tasks in the caravan, for instance responsibility for food, security or logistics. They’ve also made it so that five groups constitute a sector in the caravan. The organizers say this structure is meant to make the migrants empower themselves.

Flores updated his story on Friday afternoon, announcing the caravan to currently be located in Santiago Niltepec in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. This is still very far from the US-Mexico border, as they’ve only been marching through Mexico the past week, but the organizers estimates that about 2/3 of them seeks to end up in the United States (by asylum or illegally) when they get so far. The participants of the caravan has shown real persistence thus far, so the US government should really start discussing what they should do about this issue before they arrive at the border within the next few months.

Updates on the caravan can be seen regularly on Flores’ Twitter account.

Oakland Mayor Warned Criminal Undocumented Immigrants Ahead of ICE Raids

Photo by: Jane Tyska

By Stefan M. Kløvning

Oakland, National Security – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (D) has been widely criticized after having sent a notice to the public warning that the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) would be conducting raids on February 24. Mrs. Schaaf says she does not regret her decision. The day after the operation was conducted, she shared the messaged on Twitter:

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Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan later announced that there were about 800 undocumented immigrants ICE was unable to document due to this move. He also criticized Schaaf for being no better than a ‘gang lookout’ shouting ‘police’ when they come to the neighborhood, but that this was rather shared with a whole community. He further noted that ‘This is a whole new low, to intentionally warn criminals that law enforcement is coming.’ Criminal defense attorney Jonna Spoilbor said on Fox News that this was a ‘text-book definition of obstruction of justice,’ and that Schaaf has risked up to 10 years emprisonment. She added that she couldn’t see how Schaaf could get around being found guilty of obstruction, as it is such a clear case with the warning to a whole community that the law enforcement is coming to investigate.

Criticism isn’t all Schaaf has received following this decision, however. She has for instance been supported by Senator and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kamara Harris (D-CA), who’ve asserted that she stands behind Schaaf’s decision ‘100 per cent,’ because she was doing what she thought was in the best interest of her community.  Harris has been critical of the decision of the Justice Department (DoJ) to file a lawsuit against California’s sanctuary laws, saying the administration is trying to ‘turn back the clock,’ and that they’re ‘scared of the future.’ She also opined that ‘this administration [Jeff Session’s DoJ] is using our tax dollars to engage in a political game instead of what’s in the best interest of Californians.’

What kind of people were ICE targeting in their raid? A total of 232 illegal immigrants was arrested during the operation, where 180 of them ‘were either convicted criminals, had been issued a final order of removal and failed to depart the United States, or had been previously removed from the United States,’ according to ICE. These arrests also include 115 people whom ICE claimed to have ‘had prior felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges and assault, or had past convictions for significant or multiple misdemeanors.’ ICE said that the state’s ‘sanctuary city’ legislation had restricted the agency’s ability to enforce immigration laws.

Even when knowing she is under federal investigation, Schaaf still doesn’t regret her action after all the backlash, saying that ‘I did what I believe was right for my community as well as to protect public safety. People should be able to live without fear or panic and know their rights and responsibilities as well as their recourses.’

A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports shows that ca. 47% of American voters agree with Spoilbor that Schaaf should be prosecuted by the DoJ for obstruction of justice.

ICE spoke of the consequences of her decision in a recent press conference:

Recent legislation has negatively impacted ICE operations in California by nearly eliminating all cooperation and communication with our law enforcement partners in the state by prohibiting local law enforcement from contracting with the federal government to house detainees.

Ultimately, efforts by local politicians have shielded removable criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and created another magnet for more illegal immigration, all at the expense of the safety and security of the very people it purports to protect.