“It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy,” the Wall Street Journal quoted a senior US official as saying. -- Borger, Zonszein, The Guardian, March 24, 2015
Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics.
If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be? -- Robert Kuttner, Huffington Post, March 24, 2015
To be fair, the Nuland-Kagan mom-and-pop shop is really only a microcosm of how the Military-Industrial Complex has worked for decades: think-tank analysts generate the reasons for military spending, the government bureaucrats implement the necessary war policies, and the military contractors make lots of money before kicking back some to the think tanks — so the bloody but profitable cycle can spin again. -- Robert Perry, Consortium News, March 20, 2015
Where else but from foreign spies are members of the Congress of the United States of America supposed to get their country's secrets?
We don't believe we are completely alone in our embarrassment -- not at being successfully spied upon by our "indispensable? ally in the Middle East -- but what this "Israeli Spygate" tale reveals about the how much of the negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons has been concealed from our elected officials. But, of course, that is extremely naive of us because it has become abundantly clear in recent years now that the US "democracy" can no longer find its national interest because its government is so very busy spying on its own people and selling its blood and treasure to the military-industrial complex.
There are other reasons for what the Chinese call the "withdrawal of the mandate from Heaven" from a government, a regime, a dynasty, rule by the Republicrat Plutocracy.
And yet? And yet?
"Dude, you gotta take yourself away from that."
"Sir, I'll have to ask my pastor about that."
"My rabbi says the Left is anti-semitic."
The Guardian (UK)
US accuses Israel of spying on nuclear talks with Iran
Israel denies Wall Street Journal reports that it shared confidential information from talks with members of the US Congress in attempt to derail any deal
Julian Borger Diplomatic editor, and Mairav Zonszein in Tel Aviv
The US has accused Israel of spying on international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme and using the intelligence gathered to persuade Congress to undermine the talks, according to a report on Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal cited senior administration officials as saying the Israeli espionage operation began soon after the US opened up a secret channel of communications with Tehran in 2012, aimed at resolving the decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
The apparent decision by the White House to leak the allegations is the latest symptom of the growing gulf between Barack Obama’s administration and Binyamin Netanyahu’s government over the Iran talks, in which the Israeli leader suspects US officials of being ready to make too many concessions at the expense of Israeli security. Intelligence analysts suggested that the leak reflects the degree of anger in Washington at Netanyahu’s actions, and could mark a more serious blow to the already tottering relationship.
The leak has come exactly a week before a deadline for the US-Iranian negotiations in Lausanne to produce a framework agreement.
According to the report, the US has long been aware that Israel is among the shortlist of countries with the most aggressive intelligence operations targeting America, alongside Russia, China and France. It said American diplomats attending the talks in Austria and Switzerland were briefed by US counterintelligence officials about the threat of Israeli eavesdropping. It also raised the possibility that Israel gathered intelligence about the US position by spying on other participants in the negotiations, from western Europe, Russia, China or Iran. US intelligence had previously provided help to the Israelis to spy on the Iranians, the report said.
The US also conducts intelligence operations against Israel, and learned of the Israeli spying operation when it intercepted communication between Israeli officials exchanging classified information that US intelligence believed could only have been acquired by espionage.
However, what appears to have upset administration officials more than the spying is the use of the classified intelligence acquired to brief members of the US Congress and to persuade them to torpedo the talks. AfterNetanyahu addressed Congress this month, 47 Republican senators wrote an open letter to the Iranian leadership, warning it that a successor to Obama could refuse to honour any agreement reached.
“It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy,” the Wall Street Journal quoted a senior US official as saying.
Israel has categorically denied the allegations that it spied on closed-door nuclear negotiations between Iran and the US, however it did not deny that such information had been obtained.
“I think the report is wrong, it is inaccurate,” the outgoing Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, told the country’s Army Radio on Tuesday morning. “The State of Israel obviously has various security interests and we have excellent intelligence services, but we are not engaged in espionage against the United States.” He did not, however, deny information was obtained. Lieberman said: “All the information we gathered was from another entity, not the US.” He added: “We reached a decision a long time ago not to spy on the US and I haven’t come across anyone who has violated that instruction in several decades.”
Ronen Bergman, an expert on the country’s intelligence agencies at the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, said: “Whatever you think of Netanyahu’s position on the Iran talks, if he thinks that Israel’s national security is at stake, he has the right to order the intelligence community to find out what is happening.”
But Bergman – whose book, A History of the Israeli Mossad, will be published next year – added: “What worries me and what should be of high concern to the leaders of Israel is that this is ample proof that the relations at large between the US and Israel are sustaining an earthquake. The fact that it is happening is less worrying than that it was leaked. Also, any intervention by Israel in the inner working of American politics is wrong. If this report is true and Netanyahu’s intervention used intelligence material, then it is just making it worse.”
Yuval Steinitz, the strategic affairs minister and close Netanyahu aide, told Israel’s Channel 2 that the reports were “intended to damage the strong ties between the US and Israel, despite our differences on the Iran issue”.
Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing
Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics.
If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be?
Let me suggest seven reasons:
Reason One. The Discrediting of Politics Itself. The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible.
Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded.
The media plays into this pattern by adopting a misleading narrative that makes the gridlock in Washington roughly the equal fault of both parties -- with lazy phrases such as "Washington is broken," or "politics is broken," or "partisan bickering." (Do a Google search of those clichés. It will make you sick.)
Eminent political scientists such as Jacob Hacker (Off-Center) and Thomas E. Mann and co-author Norman Ornstein, a self-described Republican (It's Even Worse Than It Looks) have thoroughly debunked the premise of symmetrical blame. It's Republicans who are the blockers. But these scholars and their evidence fail to alter the media storyline, and the damage has been done.
The very people who have given up on politics, and on Democrats as stewards of a social compact that helps regular working people, are precisely those regular working people -- who see the Dream getting away from them and government not helping.
Reason Two. Compromised Democrats. But the Democrats are hardly blameless. Instead of seizing on the collapse of 2008 as a disgrace for laissez-faire economics, deregulation, Wall Street and the Republican Party, Barack Obama tried to make nice with the GOP, refrained from cleaning out the big banks that caused the mess, and drank the Kool-Aid of budget balance.
The result: working people frustrated with economic backsliding had no party that really championed their interests. The fateful year 2008 may have been the worst missed moment for revolutionary reform in the history of the Republic -- and depending on who gets the Democratic nomination next time and what she does with it, 2016 could rival 2008 as a lost opportunity.
Republicans made big gains in the off-year elections of 2010 and 2014. Skeptical or cynical voters on the Democratic side (young people, poor people, African Americans, single women) are less likely to vote in off-years, while the rightwing base stays ferociously engaged. The more that potentially Democratic voters are disaffected, the more the Right can block any progress on inequality.
Reason Three. The Reign of Politicized Courts and Big Money. The Supreme Court's usual majority has become an opportunistic subsidiary of the Republican Party. Two key decisions, reflecting outrageous misreading of both the Constitution and the abuses of recent history, undermined citizenship and entrenched the rule of big money.
In the Citizens United case of 2010,the Court majority gave unlimited license to big personal and corporate money. And in the Shelby County v. Holder decision of 2013, the Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, declaring open season for a new era of voter suppression.
As a consequence, the potential role of invigorated democracy as the antidote to concentrated wealth has been weakened. Economic inequality translates into inequality of political influence.
Reason Four. The Collapse of Equalizing Institutions. During the postwar boom, America actually became more equal. The bottom quarter gained more income share than the top quarter. This was no historical or technological accident. Shared prosperity was built on government activism promoting opportunity, strong unions providing decent wages even for the less educated, enforcement of other labor laws, debt-free public higher education, well-regulated financial institutions, a genuinely progressive income tax, and a trading system that did not promote outsourcing.
Politics -- not technology -- caused the evisceration of these instruments. Politics could take back a fairer America.
Reason Five. Bewildering Changes in How Jobs Are Structured. In the past couple of decades, regular payroll jobs with career prospects have increasingly been displaced by an economy of short-term gigs, contract work, and crappy payroll jobs without decent pay and benefits, or even regular hours. This shift often gets blamed on technology or education, but that's malarkey.
With a different political balance of forces, regular employees could not be disguised as contract workers; corporate executives could face felony convictions for wage theft; the right to unionize would be enforced; the windfall profits of the "share economy" would actually be shared with workers; large corporations like McDonalds could not pretend that the wages and working conditions in its franchises were somebody else's problem -- and full employment would give workers more bargaining power generally.
Reason Six. The Internalization of a Generation's Plight. Compared to my age cohort, Millennials are the screwed generation. The dream of homeownership has been undercut; good jobs with career prospects are in short supply; young adults begin economic life saddled with student debt; the pension system has been blown up; and if you want to have kids, society doesn't do anything to help the work-family straddle.
You'd expect young adults to be in the streets, but here the cynicism about politics blends with a natural inclination to make a virtue of necessity. Maybe I'll never own a home but I have to move around a lot anyway. I have all I need on my iPad, which means I'm less materialistic than my parents. And hey, I don't get to be a millionaire like the people who created Uber, but maybe I'll be an Uber driver, which is cool. Not to mention airbnb.
On the other hand, the political leader who called for a one-time write off of all past student debt might still rally a lot of Millennials. In the distribution of income and opportunity, a lot of questions that are actually political have been personalized and internalized. The assumption that we are all on our own is deeply political. But that can be changed.
Reason Seven. The Absence of a Movement. In the face of all these assaults on the working and middle class, there are many movements but no Movement. The Occupy movement, which gave us the phrase, "The One Percent," was too hung up on its own procedural purity to create a broad movement for economic justice.
Looking out at the plethora of local and national groups pursuing greater economic equality, one sees mainly idealism and fragmentation.
Some of it is caused by that dread phrase, 501 c 3. Well-meaning foundations fall in love with the charismatic activist leader de jour, seem intent on creating yet another grass roots group or coalition, and then that group needs to differentiate itself from rivals and dance to the foundation's tune. (This is a column for another day.)
The remedies that would restore economic opportunity and security to ordinary Americans are far outside mainstream political conversation, and will not become mainstream until forced onto the agenda by a genuine mass movement. Sometimes that movement gets lucky and finds a rendezvous with a sympathetic national leader.
This has occurred before -- in the Roosevelt Revolution of the 1930s and the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s. But without a potent movement on the ground, mainstream electoral politics is likely to remain stuck with remedies too weak either to rouse public imagination and participation, or to provide more than token relief for today's extreme inequality.
This vicious circle -- really a downward spiral about depressed expectations and diminished participation -- can be reversed, as it has been reversed at moments in the American past. As that noted political consultant Joe Hill put it, as they were taking him to the gallows, "Don't mourn, organize."
Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, as well as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. He is the author of
A Family Business of Perpetual War
Exclusive: Victoria Nuland and Robert Kagan have a great mom-and-pop business going. From the State Department, she generates wars and – from op-ed pages – he demands Congress buy more weapons. There’s a pay-off, too, as grateful military contractors kick in money to think tanks where other Kagans work, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
Neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, run a remarkable family business: she has sparked a hot war in Ukraine and helped launch Cold War II with Russia – and he steps in to demand that Congress jack up military spending so America can meet these new security threats.
This extraordinary husband-and-wife duo makes quite a one-two punch for the Military-Industrial Complex, an inside-outside team that creates the need for more military spending, applies political pressure to ensure higher appropriations, and watches as thankful weapons manufacturers lavish grants on like-minded hawkish Washington think tanks.
Not only does the broader community of neoconservatives stand to benefit but so do other members of the Kagan clan, including Robert’s brother Frederick at the American Enterprise Institute and his wife Kimberly, who runs her own shop called the Institute for the Study of War.
Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution (which doesn’t disclose details on its funders), used his prized perch on the Washington Post’s op-ed page on Friday to bait Republicans into abandoning the sequester caps limiting the Pentagon’s budget, which he calculated at about $523 billion (apparently not counting extra war spending). Kagan called on the GOP legislators to add at least $38 billion and preferably more like $54 billion to $117 billion:
“The fact that [advocates for more spending] face a steep uphill battle to get even that lower number passed by a Republican-controlled Congress says a lot — about Republican hypocrisy. Republicans may be full-throated in denouncing [President Barack] Obama for weakening the nation’s security, yet when it comes to paying for the foreign policy that all their tough rhetoric implies, too many of them are nowhere to be found. …
“The editorial writers and columnists who have been beating up Obama and cheering the Republicans need to tell those Republicans, and their own readers, that national security costs money and that letters and speeches are worse than meaningless without it. …
“It will annoy the part of the Republican base that wants to see the government shrink, loves the sequester and doesn’t care what it does to defense. But leadership occasionally means telling people what they don’t want to hear. Those who propose to lead the United States in the coming years, Republicans and Democrats, need to show what kind of political courage they have, right now, when the crucial budget decisions are being made.”
So, the way to show “courage” – in Kagan’s view – is to ladle ever more billions into the Military-Industrial Complex, thus putting money where the Republican mouths are regarding the need to “defend Ukraine” and resist “a bad nuclear deal with Iran.”
Yet, if it weren’t for Nuland’s efforts as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, the Ukraine crisis might not exist. A neocon holdover who advised Vice President Dick Cheney, Nuland gained promotions under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and received backing, too, from current Secretary of State John Kerry.
Confirmed to her present job in September 2013, Nuland soon undertook an extraordinary effort to promote “regime change” in Ukraine. She personally urged on business leaders and political activists to challenge elected President Viktor Yanukovych. She reminded corporate executives that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” and she literally passed out cookies to anti-government protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square.
Working with other key neocons, including National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and Sen. John McCain, Nuland made clear that the United States would back a “regime change” against Yanukovych, which grew more likely as neo-Nazi and other right-wing militias poured into Kiev from western Ukraine.
In early February 2014, Nuland discussed U.S.-desired changes with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt (himself a veteran of a “regime change” operation at the International Atomic Energy Agency, helping to install U.S. yes man Yukiya Amano as the director-general in 2009).
Nuland treated her proposed new line-up of Ukrainian officials as if she were trading baseball cards, casting aside some while valuing others. “Yats is the guy,” she said of her favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Disparaging the less aggressive European Union, she uttered “Fuck the EU” – and brainstormed how she would “glue this thing” as Pyatt pondered how to “mid-wife this thing.” Their unsecure phone call was intercepted and leaked.
Ukraine’s ‘Regime Change’
The coup against Yanukovych played out on Feb. 22, 2014, as the neo-Nazi militias and other violent extremists overran government buildings forcing the president and other officials to flee for their lives. Nuland’s State Department quickly declared the new regime “legitimate” and Yatsenyuk took over as prime minister.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been presiding over the Winter Olympics at Sochi, was caught off-guard by the coup next door and held a crisis session to determine how to protect ethnic Russians and a Russian naval base in Crimea, leading to Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia a year ago.
Though there was no evidence that Putin had instigated the Ukraine crisis – and indeed all the evidence indicated the opposite – the State Department peddled a propaganda theme to the credulous mainstream U.S. news media about Putin having somehow orchestrated the situation in Ukraine so he could begin invading Europe. Former Secretary of State Clinton compared Putin to Adolf Hitler.
As the new Kiev government launched a brutal “anti-terrorism operation” to subdue an uprising among the large ethnic Russian populations of eastern and southern Ukraine, Nuland and other American neocons pushed for economic sanctions against Russia and demanded arms for the coup regime. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]
Amid the barrage of “information warfare” aimed at both the U.S. and world publics, a new Cold War took shape. Prominent neocons, including Nuland’s husband Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century which masterminded the Iraq War, hammered home the domestic theme that Obama had shown himself to be “weak,” thus inviting Putin’s “aggression.”
In May 2014, Kagan published a lengthy essay in The New Republic entitled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” in which Kagan castigated Obama for failing to sustain American dominance in the world and demanding a more muscular U.S. posture toward adversaries.
According to a New York Times article about how the essay took shape and its aftermath, writer Jason Horowitz reported that Kagan and Nuland shared a common world view as well as professional ambitions, with Nuland editing Kagan’s articles, including the one tearing down her ostensible boss.
Though Nuland wouldn’t comment specifically on her husband’s attack on Obama, she indicated that she held similar views. “But suffice to say,” Nuland said, “that nothing goes out of the house that I don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.”
Horowitz reported that Obama was so concerned about Kagan’s assault that the President revised his commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of the criticism and invited Kagan to lunch at the White House, where one source told me that it was like “a meeting of equals.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Obama’s True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.’”]
Sinking a Peace Deal
And, whenever peace threatens to break out in Ukraine, Nuland jumps in to make sure that the interests of war are protected. Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande hammered out a plan for a cease-fire and a political settlement, known as Minsk-2, prompting Nuland to engage in more behind-the-scenes maneuvering to sabotage the deal.
In another overheard conversation — in Munich, Germany — Nuland mocked the peace agreement as “Merkel’s Moscow thing,” according to the German newspaper Bild, citing unnamed sources, likely from the German government which may have bugged the conference room in the luxurious Bayerischer Hof hotel and then leaked the details.
Picking up on Nuland’s contempt for Merkel, another U.S. official called the Minsk-2 deal the Europeans’ “Moscow bullshit.”
Nuland suggested that Merkel and Hollande cared only about the practical impact of the Ukraine war on Europe: “They’re afraid of damage to their economy, counter-sanctions from Russia.” According to the Bild story, Nuland also laid out a strategy for countering Merkel’s diplomacy by using strident language to frame the Ukraine crisis.
“We can fight against the Europeans, we can fight with rhetoric against them,” Nuland reportedly said.
NATO Commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove was quoted as saying that sending more weapons to the Ukrainian government would “raise the battlefield cost for Putin.” Nuland interjected to the U.S. politicians present that “I’d strongly urge you to use the phrase ‘defensive systems’ that we would deliver to oppose Putin’s ‘offensive systems.’”
Nuland sounded determined to sink the Merkel-Hollande peace initiative even though it was arranged by two major U.S. allies and was blessed by President Obama. And, this week, the deal seems indeed to have been blown apart by Nuland’s hand-picked Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, who inserted a poison pill into the legislation to implement the Minsk-2 political settlement.
The Ukrainian parliament in Kiev added a clause that, in effect, requires the rebels to first surrender and let the Ukrainian government organize elections before a federalized structure is determined. Minsk-2 had called for dialogue with the representatives of these rebellious eastern territories en route to elections and establishment of broad autonomy for the region.
Instead, reflecting Nuland’s hard-line position, Kiev refused to talks with rebel leaders and insisted on establishing control over these territories before the process can move forward. If the legislation stands, the result will almost surely be a resumption of war between military forces backed by nuclear-armed Russia and the United States, a very dangerous development for the world. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Poison Pill for Peace Talks.”]
Not only will the Ukrainian civil war resume but so will the Cold War between Washington and Moscow with lots of money to be made by the Military-Industrial Complex. On Friday, Nuland’s husband, Robert Kagan, drove home that latter point in the neocon Washington Post.
But don’t think that this unlocking of the U.S. taxpayers’ wallets is just about this one couple. There will be plenty of money to be made by other neocon think-tankers all around Washington, including Frederick Kagan, who works for the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, and his wife, Kimberly, who runs her own think tank, the Institute for the Study of War [ISW].
According to ISW’s annual reports, its original supporters were mostly right-wing foundations, such as the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, but it was later backed by a host of national security contractors, including major ones like General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and CACI, as well as lesser-known firms such as DynCorp International, which provided training for Afghan police, and Palantir, a technology company founded with the backing of the CIA’s venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Palantir supplied software to U.S. military intelligence in Afghanistan.
Since its founding in 2007, ISW has focused mostly on wars in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, including closely cooperating with Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded U.S. forces in those countries. However, more recently, ISW has begun reporting extensively on the civil war in Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons Guided Petraeus on Afghan War.”]
In other words, the Family Kagan has almost a self-perpetuating, circular business model – working the inside-corridors of government power to stimulate wars while simultaneously influencing the public debate through think-tank reports and op-ed columns in favor of more military spending – and then collecting grants and other funding from thankful military contractors.
To be fair, the Nuland-Kagan mom-and-pop shop is really only a microcosm of how the Military-Industrial Complex has worked for decades: think-tank analysts generate the reasons for military spending, the government bureaucrats implement the necessary war policies, and the military contractors make lots of money before kicking back some to the think tanks — so the bloody but profitable cycle can spin again.
The only thing that makes the Nuland-Kagan operation special perhaps is that the whole process is all in the family.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative...
The Kaganate of Nulandistan lives!--blj