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Taibbi writes: "There's a big conference going on at the moment in Brussels, where the bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy - a group of journos, pols, and intelligence vets from around the West - is holding a conference to discuss how to rebuild the world order in a 'time of distrust.'"

Donald Trump. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Donald Trump. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


Trump Is a Dangerous Idiot. So Why Is the Media Pushing Him Toward War?

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

10 March 18


In North Korea and in Syria, we should be encouraging Trump to mellow out – not the opposite

here's a big conference going on at the moment in Brussels, where the bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy – a group of journos, pols, and intelligence vets from around the West – is holding a conference to discuss how to rebuild the world order in a "time of distrust."

Speakers like Madeline Albright, Senator Chris Murphy, New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger, U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and a host of other CNN panelist types are getting together to discuss how to solve that whole "The people are revolting!" problem Beltway pols have been stumbling over for years now.

The Alliance is part of the German Marshall Fund, which in turn is the group that built Hamilton 68, whose "digital dashboard" blacklist site exists to remind us daily that Russians are lurking behind basically all unorthodox opinions here in the U.S. Such opinions apparently include any desire to not get into a nuclear war.

For instance, according to Hamilton 68, five of the Russian bots' current six "top trending topics" are "South Korea," "Kim Jong Un," "Kim," "Jong" and "Un."

This comes in the wake of Thursday evening's news that Trump met in the White House with South Korean envoys, who in turn announced that Trump would be meeting with Kim Jong Un "by May, to achieve permanent de-nuclearization."

I stupidly thought it was good news that Trump had been convinced to sit down with Kim Jong Un to negotiate an end to the nuclear standoff, as opposed to letting him continue to egg Kim on to launch via Freudian name-calling sessions and late-night tweets.

Obviously, whenever Donald Trump is involved in any meeting of import, and particularly a peace negotiation, it would be preferable to have him gagged, perhaps with the straitjacket-and-mask setup they used to allow Hannibal Lecter to speak with Senator Ruth Martin in Silence of the Lambs. Certainly you don't want him making any sudden movements toward the nuclear football in a meeting with Kim. But talking is for sure better than trading warheads. Right?

Nope. According to David Ignatius, the well-known Washington Post reporter who apparently is also on the board of this Alliance For Securing Democracy, Trump's negotiation plan is a sign of weakness.

Ignatius wrote as much in a column this morning called "Trump is Wile E. Coyote," in which the Post writer relayed that his CIA buddies think Trump is getting pantsed by Little Rocket Man. Here's the lede:

"Beep beep" was the subject line of an email message I received a few weeks ago from former CIA analyst Robert Carlin, as Kim Jong Un was accelerating his diplomatic charm offensive. "So typical," wrote Carlin in his brief text. "The North Koreans as Road Runner, the U.S. as Wile E. Coyote."

So to recap: Russian bots are pushing Korean peninsula-related hashtags, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, whose board member David Ignatius is simultaneously telling America that negotiating an end to an unprecedented nuclear danger there makes us look like loser cartoon characters.

As Ignatius wrote: "We'll probably be chasing Kim around a negotiating table for a while, which is better than 'duck and cover.' But as Carlin says, 'Beep beep.'"

I wrote to Ignatius to ask him what would be good, if negotiating an end to a nuclear standoff is bad. He hasn't answered.

While the Trump White House has been fumbling to coordinate a response to the whole "The President of the United States apparently cheated on his wife with a porn star and then paid her off" problem, and fighting off the anaconda-like Mueller criminal probe, Trump's political opposition has been spending more and more time pushing our president into aggressive military stances.

Continuing a theme that really began last year with Trump's much-praised decision to lob missiles into Syria while eating cake with horrified Chinese leaders, Beltway voices continue to demand, for instance, that Trump escalate America's on-the-ground opposition to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Both Ignatius and Kenneth Pollock of the American Enterprise Institute are examples of think-tankers arguing the widespread D.C. consensus, that Syria is the perfect place for American forces to dig in and take on Iran, Assad, and by extension Russia as well.

Americans seem to be in denial about the tinderbox nature of this lunatic Syrian situation.

Things took a serious turn in early February, when a mysterious news story suggested Russian contract fighters were killed by American weapons in a town called Deir al-Zour. The incident reportedly happened on the night of February 7th, as part of a counterattacking raid conducted across the Euphrates River by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

News outlets in both the east and the west seriously buried the lede when this incident first took place. The BBC and the AP were classic examples. This was the second-to-last line in the BBC's February 8th article: The Russian defense ministry said the U.S. strike wounded 25 pro-government volunteers

What? Were any of those "wounded" by our strike Russians? Were they planning to retaliate? What was going on?

The Russians similarly downplayed the incident at first. There were reports from the Russian government that first suggested "five Russian citizens" had died. That later became dozens "injured."

Then on February 14th, Novaya Gazeta, historically the most trustworthy and independent of Russian news outlets, ran a piece called "Mistake or Treason?" that asserted 13 Russians had died that night. The paper claimed Russian officials let private Russian "Wagner" contract fighters join pro-Assad forces in a troop advance Russian military leaders had assured their American counterparts would not take place.

Novaya Gazeta said the Russians died under fire from Apache helicopters, F-15s, drones, and ground batteries. There were later rumors that the casualties were in the hundreds, but subsequent investigations by outlets like Der Spiegel failed to bear that out.

Still, the mere fact that Russian citizens were killed by American forces in an ongoing proxy war that both sides seem determined to escalate should be absolutely terrifying to ordinary citizens here and there – especially given that aggressive rhetoric is at an all-time high, again on both sides.

Vladimir Putin recently gave a frightening speech in advance of the March 18 presidential "election" in which he spent most of his time boasting about the size, modernity, and potency of Russia's military.

Pooty-poot boasted of new "unlimited range" nuclear missiles. He paused mid-speech to show a pulled-straight-from-Dr.-Strangelove animated clip of a missile weaving through snow-covered mountains on its way to the American continent (the presentation ended up including simulated explosions over Florida).

"Nobody in the world has anything like this," Putin bragged.

Meanwhile here in the States we've had a constant drumbeat of "new Pearl Harbor" stories describing the troll farm indictment as an "act of war," with politicians and pundits alike calling for escalations of hostilities with Russia.

Putin's boasts are completely in line with what he's always been about, using nationalist rhetoric and military imagery to cover up his almost total incompetence as an economic leader. He's just the latest in a long line of Russian heads of state, dating back to the Soviet days, who reflexively try to cover up for empty shelves and crumbling infrastructure with marches and missile parades.

Meanwhile, in the States, the only thing about Donald Trump that any sane person ever had to be grateful for was that he entered the White House claiming to be isolationist and war-averse. That soon proved to be a lie like almost everything else about his campaign, but Jesus, do we have to help this clown down the road toward General Trump fantasies?

We have the dumbest, least competent White House in history. Whatever else anyone in America has as a goal for Trump's remaining time in office, the single most important priority must to be keeping this guy away from the nuclear button. Almost anything else would be survivable.

Which is why it makes no sense to be taunting Trump and basically calling him a wuss for negotiating with Kim Jong Un or being insufficiently aggressive in Syria. In the middle of a shooting conflict, our troops are currently stationed right across the river from large numbers of both private and official Russian forces. Who doesn't think this is crazy?

The rhetoric we're hearing now about Trump's weakness from the likes of Ignatius and Max Boot is essentially identical to the stuff we heard directed at Barack Obama when he had the temerity to express willingness to talk to leaders of nations like Iran.

There is a segment of D.C. thinkluencers who seem to think the U.S. is setting a bad precedent if it doesn't bomb and threaten its way through every foreign policy conundrum, from Libya to Yemen to Iran to Syria to, apparently, even Russia.

It seems like the smart thing to do would be to wait until we had someone with an IQ over 9 in office before we start demanding that the White House play war with nuclear opponents. Of course, I might be biased because I have kids and live in a major population center. Can we chill on the gunboat diplomacy for a couple of years at least? And if not, why not? 


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+38 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-03-10 12:31
My take on the Alliance for Securing Democracy is a lot harsher. It is the new neo-con front group in the way that the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) was in the 90s and early OOs. The same people are behind it. This time, it is lining up behind mostly democrats who will be the captive party of the neo-cons.

The neo-cons derive their ideology from Leo Strauss who hated democracy. He was a German Jewish Nazi who left Germany after Hitler came to power over differences on Hitler's treatment of Jews. Not all Nazis were against Jews and there were important Jews in the Nazi party.

Strauss taught political philosophy at the Univ. of Chicago. He's the reason there are neo-cons. Taibbi should have listed the leaders of the Alliance just to see if any of these people care a shit about democracy:

Michael Chertoff
David Kramer
Bill Kristol
Michael Morrell
Mike Rogers

These people are america's fascists. They are the right-wingers who ran the Obama administration and the right-wingers from the Bush II administration. They've teamed up to propagandize for a New Cold War.
 
 
+33 # tedrey 2018-03-10 16:24
Let's not forget the US military, whose huge budget, prestige, perks, and immunities are largely predicated on keeping fear of Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea in the forefront of American minds.
 
 
+14 # Johnny 2018-03-10 16:32
?They've teamed up to propagandize for a New Cold War." But now they've teamed up to propagandize for a New Hot War.
 
 
+5 # MidwestDick 2018-03-10 16:47
Strauss was not a Nazi. He was a conservative who believed that the masses of people could not handle some information. His main case in point -- the rise of Nazism.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Strauss
The most influential neocon was Norman Podhoretz. Strauss was just an intellectual affectation of that crew.
Beyond that, this small but influential group of mostly Jewish opinionators and influence peddlers represent a modest segment of overall Jewish thought on American and Israeli politics.
More potent proponents of casual mass slaughter in our government come from the confederacy, where antisemitism is an article of faith.
Of course there is plenty of vicious antisemitism outside of the confederacy. For instance, in Russia where the original owner of your pseudonym was convicted of murder.
 
 
+3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-03-11 09:38
Podhoretz, Kristol and others were just jorunalists. They did help move Jewish intellectuals in America from the left to the hard right wing. On the left, they were essentially Stalinists, totalitarian communists. They moved to the conservative side because it was more effective; it was winning.

I'm concerned with the underlying philosophy behind nazism and fascism, or the reaction against the age of democracy. In philosophy, the 20th century will be remembered as the period when anti-democratic thought triumphed over the enlightenment and democratic thought. Strauss was an important part of that. Dostoyevsky understood this philosophical change probably better than anyone.

Strauss wrote in the 1930s that reactionaries like himself needed to counter the Hitler faction from the rightwing -- be more reactionary than the Hitler group. Hitler made concessions to labor and socialists. Strauss would not have. But he was a philosopher and not a politician.

The philosophical foundation of nazism is the totalitarian state, the deification of the state. The Hitler faction wanted to equate the state with the race. Strauss opposed that. (You have to see this in contrast to democratic theory in which the state is no absolute but only an instrument of people's collective interests. States get power from people. In nazi theory, the state is absolute -- this is the basic theory of neo-conservativ es.)
 
 
+6 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-03-10 18:20
Te key to Strauss' thinking was that anything goes for the sake of 'never again'; the double with that is that it justifies 'anything goes'.
 
 
+5 # wrknight 2018-03-11 10:14
Strauss did play an important part in the rise of neo-con-ism in the U.S., but he was not the cause of it. Neo-cons, or those who cheer from the sidelines and for whom war is glamorous and glorious (so long as someone else is fighting it and paying for it), have existed since the birth of the human race. War, for the neo-cons, is a spectator sport. Unfortunately, Strauss and others have succeeded in rallying those chicken hawks into a cabal that now controls both major parties of our so-called republic.
 
 
+14 # jwb110 2018-03-10 14:40
If the US were to simply remove itself from the Middle East, of course the exception is always Israel, Russia would have a Viet Nam War on its hands that would make Afghanistan look like a tussle in a kids sandbox.
Let Saudi Arabia finance all this. Let their men and women die to secure their neighborhoods. Let the other oil rich countries get involved with the problem. Their religion, for those who actually practice it would prevent them from attacking their Muslim brothers. The Saudis might stop backing the most virulent and conservative sects of Islam. A sect that would be more than happy to see the US fall.
Let all this duplicitous BS fall on them.
And for those whose major concern is oil. The White House just opened up drilling rights to most of the Western parts of the US and its National Parks. If there is oil there then there shouldn't be any worries.
Jefferson said that we should stay out of the petty squabbles of other nations. On this, I stand with Jefferson.
 
 
+33 # tedrey 2018-03-10 16:20
I think a large part of staying out of the petty squabbles of other nations is not financing, arming, training, egging on, or providing air cover for *any* of them.

And let's leave the oil in the ground.
 
 
-2 # ericlipps 2018-03-11 08:38
Quoting tedrey:
I think a large part of staying out of the petty squabbles of other nations is not financing, arming, training, egging on, or providing air cover for *any* of them.

And let's leave the oil in the ground.

Leave the oil in the ground?

Sorry--it's not going to happen. It will be a LONG time before anything replaces, rather than supplements, petroleum in our energy infrastructure.

That means the U.S. and Russia will both continue to meddle in the Middle East, whether folks on the left like it or not. (As for those on the right, the only replacements for oil they're interested in are coal, natural gas and nuclear power.)
 
 
+3 # virtualaudio 2018-03-13 15:46
Solar and, to a lesser extent, wind power are doing very well as reliable efficient alternative sources of energy. We need not start indiscriminatel y drilling in national parks (or the Artic) to move toward sustainable energy, thus reducing petroleum as a geopolitical consideration; even if you don't believe in climate disruption (my preferred term) or care about maintaining areas of pristine ecosystems, it should be obvious that 'resource wars' are at the root of all the hot wars in the last century or so (Bill Kristol / PNAC called it 'The Great Game' - a term and geopolitical strategy also adopted by Sec. Clinton, though this is rarely made public). Even in the case of Vietnam, the profit motive was a primary driver (the MIC needed another infusion), and the USSR's attempts at expansion into the Ukrainian / Romanian & Mid-East oil fields had to be stopped - or so the 'great minds' of the time believed. Strategic Interest & National Security. Besides, War has an appeal to the egos and libidos of a certain segment of the National Security Intelligencia, including Presidents and Congress-peoples.
Somewhere along the way Promoting the General Welfare went out of fashion.
 
 
+25 # Rationalist 2018-03-10 14:50
While I have the utmost respect for Mr. Taibbi, and agree with him that the popular press is too bellicose, I think he may have missed the point of Mr. Ignatius's column, which I read as saying that Trump is the last person we'd want to have negotiating with Kim Jong Un. Even so, Ignatius seems to be saying that negotiation is the lesser of two evils: "We’ll probably be chasing Kim around a negotiating table for a while, which is better than “duck and cover.” The scary thing is that Trump fancies himself an ace negotiator while lacking the experience, facts, and diplomatic skills for the role.
 
 
+1 # Dave_s Not Here 2018-03-12 19:15
Yes, but Trump has more than just a persuasive argument at his disposal.
 
 
+19 # HenryS1 2018-03-10 14:59
An entertaining mix of information from events under-reported in mass media, and interesting opinion and analysis.

My preference would be for Taibbi to not take hyperbole and insults directly from Trump's playbook to add sizzle to the writing. But Taibbi is singing to the choir, and a choir that I at least partially identify with.

So, I am pleased to read this, share Matt's alarm at steps leading closer to war, and appreciate the analysis on the various hawkish players that are shaping U.S. foreign policy with approval from both the left and the right.

Personally, I think that politics seems to deaden politicians to real-world costs on people. It just becomes a strategy and power game. And brinskmanship just seems like another game play.

Thanks to RSN for highlighting this piece, I hope my mild criticism of the name-calling doesn't take away from the enjoyment of others. But I would put forth that saying your opponent is an idiot and has an IQ of 9 says something negative about the speaker's own judgement, values, and intentions. It's what my mother would have called "playing to the peanut gallery". Trump's game, and nobody seems to be better at it. And ultimately it downplays the seriousness of what is being discussed, perhaps to gain a wider audience, or perhaps to emotionalize and sensationalize. There is a choice here.

But maybe I am just showing my media naivete. In any case, thanks, Matt and RSN, mostly.
 
 
+22 # Carol R 2018-03-10 15:02
"He's [Putin] just the latest in a long line of Russian heads of state, dating back to the Soviet days, who reflexively try to cover up for empty shelves and crumbling infrastructure with marches and missile parades."

I can see why Trump admires Putin. They both have the same goal for their country.
 
 
+28 # wantrealdemocracy 2018-03-10 18:12
The Russians do not have empty shelves and crumbling infrastructure- --we do. And they have weapons that are superior to ours and cost less than our planes that can't fly and ships that can be shut down buy jamming our computers.

Media is pushing war to make money for the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about years ago.
 
 
+9 # Benign Observer 2018-03-10 21:42
I think they have universal health care too.
 
 
+9 # CDMR 2018-03-11 14:27
They do. And they have very good schools.
 
 
+64 # wrknight 2018-03-10 15:02
The most galling aspect of the arguments of the beltway chicken hawks is that not one of them would ever risk their own hides by putting on a uniform, picking up a gun and deploying to any of the places they want to go to war.

So long as we have a professional military, the chicken hawks are more than happy to risk the lives of other people in war for their own glory.

Every one of these chicken hawks should be drafted into the Army and forced to serve on the front lines in their glamorous wars.
 
 
+15 # warkovision 2018-03-10 16:35
I think Smedley Butler had it right.
 
 
+13 # Benign Observer 2018-03-10 21:47
There were hearings recently on the future of Arlington National Cemetery. They expect to run out of space sometime in the 2040s. There is a southern space they might purchase but it only buys them ten years, so they might limit eligibility to just those who are killed in action, were POWs or received a notable distinction such as the Medal of Honor.

At no point did anyone say that maybe we should quit fighting or reduce the size of our military.
 
 
+7 # CDMR 2018-03-11 14:29
Yes. Well said.
 
 
+22 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-03-10 16:35
Come on Matt Taibbi, If you haven't realized that the Military/Indust ry/Complex has/has had a strangle hold on "our" government, you should not be in the "news" business. You start with,"Speakers like Madeline Albright" the worst of the War Hawks (500,000 children dead in Iraq is collateral damage). You were not so harsh on Mr. Nobel Peace Prize Obama who bombed seven countries without authorization, expanded the military budget to over 50%, and allocated One Trillion dollars for development of Nuclear Weapons.
Can'y you see that the neocons, the republicans, the Democrats,and especially Trump realize the jig is up, so they are pigs at the trough getting all they can in a last gasp effort. Deregulate Wall Street, do away with environmental regulations, privatize education. cut taxes on the rich, open seashore and parklands to drilling, etc.,etc., while the media focuses on Russiagate and a porn star. Bring back kneeling football player and for God's sake WAKE UP
 
 
+9 # wilding 2018-03-10 16:39
Sanity. Why indeed are they pushing?
 
 
+3 # angelfish 2018-03-10 20:16
What I'd like to know is WHY we can't get this most Incompetent, Ignorant, Self-Servicing Moron OUT of our White House? I am Horrified that he has been tolerated for THIS long! He is Morally Bankrupt and lacking in the BASIC Talents it takes to be a HBUMAN BEING, let ALONE a President of the ONCE Greatest country in the Free WORLD! I believe that when "THeY" decided to put Reagan in the Oval Office and getting the Ball Rolling on our eventual demise, Seeing just HOW easily led Americans are, made them realize how easy it had been to DO, following up with Bush II and finally, THIS Moron to administer the Coup de Gras! May our Good God Speed Special Prosecutor Mueller in his endeavors and remove ALL the Treacherous, Treasonous, Back-Stabbing ReTHUGlicans in our Government and Congress! Rebel! Resist! RePudiate them ALL until JUSTICe is Served!
 
 
+2 # lfeuille 2018-03-10 21:01
In the midst of trying to turn a potentially positive development into a problem, the neocon establishment is ignoring the much more important occurance of Russia's recent announcment of new weapons systems they have been developing in secret in response to US hostility since W trashed the ABM treaty. Four senators, including Bernie have written to Tillerson demanding that he start new arms negotiations with Russia asap. The MSM has ignore this story completely.

There was an article about it in consortium news today. It was flawed mainly because of an unwillingness to acknowledge that Mueller has ample grounds for investigating Trump & Co. even without the tit-for-tat spy drama and alleged "election interference", but it really is just unreal that they press could leave this story uncovered.\

Gang of Four: Senators Call for Tillerson to Enter into Arms Control Talks with the Kremlin
https://consortiumnews.com/2018/03/10/gang-of-four-senators-call-for-tillerson-to-enter-into-arms-controltalkswiththekremlin/
 
 
+5 # janie1893 2018-03-11 03:11
the human species has a death wish and is about to leap over the edge.
 
 
+4 # tedrey 2018-03-11 15:40
Actually I think it's a greed wish combined with I don't care if the other guys die wish.
 
 
+9 # librarian1984 2018-03-11 06:35
Ignatius is a frequent guest on Morning Joe and offers a window into the neoliberal mindset.

He's constantly upset that Trump (and America) aren't reacting with more violence and aggression, particularly in Syria. He's heartbroken that the TPP didn't go through. He's a shill for the CIA, always supports violence and always thinks the military deserves more $.

Hamilton 68 is a who's who of neocon/neoliber al monsters, the same people who gave us PropOrNot -- Clint Watts and many from HRC's circle, which categorized truthdig, the Intercept and others as anti-American.

These are the worst of the worst warmongers and MIIC apologists. We need reputable journalists of Taibbi's reach to shine a light on their activities because the msm is not doing so.

By uncritically swallowing their rhetoric left-wing-ers damage our cause. These people are censors and militarists, rabidly anti-Russian, anti-Iranian and anti-peace. They use Trump's many flaws as cover to advance their heinous and immoral agenda -- and rabid anti-Trumpers have fallen right into these creeps' trap.

**It is possible to fight Trump without getting into bed with monsters.**

Thanks to Taibbi, who also had a great article last week about how neos are using Russiagate to censor progressive media.

We seriously need a resurrected anti-war movement in this country. Our military adventures threaten the world, worsen climate change and guarantee continued US impoverishment.
 
 
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-03-11 09:43
lib -- thanks for this. Good points. It is, indeed, possible to fight Trump without getting in bed with monsters. That's a great image. The monsters are now seducing the left into going to bed with them. The seduction of the left by the neo-cons monsters has been made a lot easier because people like Obama simply jumps head-long into their bed.
 
 
+16 # relegn 2018-03-11 07:03
A constant state of War serves the purpose of the Wealthy none of who will ever fight and many of who will benefit monetarily.
 
 
+3 # chapdrum 2018-03-11 11:48
Could it be that the media is taking its cue(s) from Congress which, "dangerous idiot" or not, sits back and lets Donald continue to fulfill his promise (via fascist Bannon) to "dismantle the administrative state."
 
 
+3 # futhark 2018-03-11 20:16
Let's not forget that war is usually good for business. It stimulates manufacturing and transport and especially draws larger numbers of people to watch news reports and buy newspapers and magazines. Where would Wolf Blitzer be without the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan?
 
 
+1 # Dave_s Not Here 2018-03-12 19:17
Lotsa stuff gets blowed up good. Great for business.
 
 
+2 # librarian1984 2018-03-12 20:25
If we made war nonprofit, which is the only morally defensible policy, it will end fast.

I remember being shocked as a kid to find out people made money from war.
 
 
0 # yolo 2018-03-12 15:35
The fact that Trump said he would like to meet with Kim Jong In, isn't a sign of a dangerous idiot. The media and establishment players who push for confrontation and war are the dangerous idiots. I just hope Trump doesn't have his mind changed by the establishment because they will paint him as being weak, while on the contrary by going against the establishment he is showing his strength to not follow convention. As JFK once said, "So let us begin anew--rememberi ng on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."
 

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