THE RUSSIAN-TRUMP CONNECTION: GETTING TO THE TRUTH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
By Harry C. Blaney III
The perspective from London: the news that both the Director of the FBI James Comey and the head of the National Security Agency Admiral Mike Rogers have confirmed two key points has given some light here on America’s own disarray: the most important revelation is that of Comey in affirming that an investigation of the connection between the Trump team and Russia is taking place. The other statement by the NSA head, at the congressional committee, is that they could not find any evidence that Obama or his administration called for a wiretap on Trump Tower and affirmed that such a request would be illegal by Obama or any president. This severely undercut the Trump White House assertion that such wiretapping was ordered. They are looking at whether there was any collusion between Trump’s team and Russia to influence the election.
Russian Interference in the 2016 election is the other key issue and the need to look more at this seem on the agenda and will have still public profile until more if revealed and this is also a finding which Trump fears.
Here in London this Russian connection story was given wide coverage especially on BBC News and in the quality newspapers. The question was also raised here whether the Trump unproved accusations that the UK GCHQ, the counterpart of the American NSA, had spied on the Trump camp. This only added to the unease about American leadership. The GCHQ stated that any idea of their spying was nonsense. In fact, at the US House Intelligence hearings on these issues, the NSA head confirmed that such an order was expressly counter to the so-call “5 eyes” of nations with special access to and sharing of intelligence information, and was contrary to its firm rules and no such order was ever given.
With all of that, the White House totally denied any reality of collusion with Russia and stood on their untenable positions, with no indication of any apology or refutation of the now totally denied chargers.
With the affirmation of the FBI Trump-Russian connection inquiry, the possibility of some connection between the Trump people and Russian, before the election and before taking office grows more worrisome. It is clear that something odd was at work in that Trump’s staff. The Trump associates did approach the Russians before the election and that the former NSC head Flynn felt he had to lie to the American Vice president about his talk to the Russian Ambassador. Also US intelligence did report that at least 3 or possibly more members of the Trump team also had contacts with Russians. There were also hints that some of these Russians were from Russian intelligence agencies.
Another disheartening news for Europe is that Secretary of State will not be coming to the forthcoming NATO Council meeting of Foreign Ministers and news reports confirm that he supports the drastic cutting of the State Department and USAID budget which will cost million of vulnerable lives. This only adds to the unease here in Europe and brightens Putin’s efforts to divide the West.
One other element is that UK Prime Minister May has set Wednesday March 27th as the date she will invoke Article 50 to leave the EU. This plays into also Putin’s goals and it seems, that the British right-wing is in its ascendancy and the Labour Party here is in even more disarray than earlier which is saying a great deal given its critical internal turmoil. There seems, as noted before, a rush of the lemmings over the clef.
Finally, the combination of Trump fighting with our allies and pushing, it seems, for their disunity, along with the UK Prime Minister May also on board with the Brexit plunge into even greater isolationism and nationalism, add also lurking economic crisis upon actual breakup. One then must mix in the ascendancy in Europe of the Alt-Right-neo-Fascist parties and groups, despite the Dutch vote, along with the factor of Putin’s Russia playing a not so secret effort to weaken and divide Europe and undermine democracy, result: we have a very dangerous landscape.
All this exacerbated by a very foolish, uninformed, and clearly malevolent man. Not a very good picture for those that prize peace, democracy and security. The costs here are too great to imagine.
More in the coming days from Europe and it’s “discontents” and America’s role in all this.
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AMERICA MADE SMALL AND THE WORLD MORE DANGEROUS!
THE TRUMP AND BANNON WAR ON AMERICAN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP.
Harry C. Blaney III
Donald Trump’s recent budget is an attack on America’s vital role in ensuring global security, prosperity, and continued cooperation with the rest of the 94% of humanity. Trump’s budget is nasty, myopic and downright dangerous to America and the rest of the world.
It will make not “America Great” it will make America Small” isolated and weaker in every metric that matters. It would make the world more dangerous both for itself and for all. It would undermine world peace and create greater risks and insecurity for mankind.
Their budget which cuts at home and abroad programs that have proved their worth for decades are derided by Trump and his new clueless and far right OMB Director. They have chosen again and again at home and abroad to cut our most needed and vital programs that help humanity, advance shared prosperity, and protect security while further enriching the extremely rich and increasing inequality. They advance polices that promote narrow and dangerous war like programs and rhetoric along with new weapons systems that only enrich the military-industrial sector and it’ s executives, but do not really advance our security, or work for a more peaceful world, just the opposite.
On specific implications, these deep nearly 30% cuts eviscerate our diplomacy, foreign assistance, the United Nations and its vital bodies and programs that maintain international cohesion necessary for needed collaboration to solve our global challenges. Together they help safeguard our fragile and conflict ridden world. They safeguard vulnerable refugees, they feed the desperate poor and children who otherwise would have no hope for health or even life. They advance non-proliferation of dangerous nuclear weapon. And yes, their work is relevant and needed. It does good where most needed. The proposed immanent cuts will bring disastrous impact especially on the most vulnerable and even in my native Manhattan and beloved London, let alone to billions of others in less prosperous lands!
Through our State and USAID programs we save millions of lives and I have seen personally the good they do around the world. The lives of our most threatened populations and the poorest in the world would die without our full assistance bilaterally and through international organizations.
The Trump budget would totally cut funding, for the UNHCR, and greatly reduce payments to UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and World Food Organization programs that are the first line of protection for the millions of refugees and displaced persons fleeing from conflict, famine, and natural disasters. This would increase not decrease the growth of conflict and terrorism that Trump says he will conquer.
We can’t defeat ISIS or religious, ethnic or inter-communal conflict by just bombing and killing or denigrating a religion or ethnic groups. But we can through diplomacy and “soft power” including a show of concern and support for “the least among us.”
Trump’s policies and budget cuts call for just the opposite of what we need to win against our greatest threats and to protect our nation’s values. This trajectory must be stopped and immediately before it does total harm to the fabric of a responsive and cooperative international community and global security.
I am now in London and can attest to the dismay from our closest ally and even a sense of a deep alienation from Trump’s policies. The TV screens here are filled with the unhappy meeting of Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House which was seen here as not helping convince Europeans and specifically the British, that Trump cares for the unity of the West. This includes seeing the EU, and specifically NATO as vital interests, despite of some reassurances, as binding long-term unquestioned commitments especially in times of possible conflict. The sense is that many Western leaders can’t depend on Trump’s words or that of his officials, has given a deep chill and anxiety to our European partners. That sense has never existed in the decades I have been active as a diplomat and analyst with concentration on these issues.
Cruelty and indifference to human suffering or to authoritarian rule are not American values either at home or abroad. Yet these attributes appear from his actions as unquestionable values of Trump and his alter ego Stephen Bannon, and it appears most of the GOP in Congress. Even in my still early encounters here in London the view of Trump is one of fear and worried.
. More on this development in coming posts.
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THE RUSSIAN DEBACLE, WIRETAPPING, UNDERMINING OF ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, AND DIPLOMACY & USELESS EXPANSION OF DEFENSE SPENDING.
THE REAL TRUMP REVEALED!
Harry C. Blaney III
The last few days have revealed even more than the proceeding months of follies and the debacle that is the Trump regime. The series of tweets in which Trump accused former president Obama of wiretapping his Trump Tower offices before his election was one of the most bizarre acts by any president in memory and I go back beyond the Nixon administration. This was done without any proof and with denials by both the Obama staff and James Clapper the former Director of Central Intelligence.
It was made clear by former officials that Obama banned any such acts. These wiretaps take place when the court believes there was an actual illegal act committed. To carry out such wire tapping would require a court’s review and approval which would only be done with creditable evidence. This charge many be hashed out by a possible FBI public statement and the intelligence committees of Congress likely next week who will hold hearings on this and the Russian hacking of the Democrats.
The issue of Russian actions to undermine our election and democracy and include ties of Trump and his associates don’t seem to go away. This despite Trumps efforts to change the subject. So far they are not going away and are even viewed as deepening. There is something about the Russian “connection” that Trump fears and has responded to almost in a manic reaction. It upset his own staff and only highlighted his obsession or fear of this issue and the desire to push it aside with outlandish actions to change the subject according to some commentators.
Thus we see the focus on the “repeal and replacement” of the ACT (Obamacare), which in a odd way only seem now to further undercut his credibility on many levels and adds to his reputation of repetitive lies and dishonesty. Trump promised cheaper, better and wider coverage which the Bill in the House is the opposite, costing much more and covering millions fewer needed people and transferring the savings to the very very rich via tax breaks at the expense of health services. The culmination of Wiretaps by Obama, Russian ties and attacks on citizens health care and ordering dismantling of climate change regulations, are examples of how Trump manipulates the landscape to his own and our cost.
Other examples of his destructive bent are his action to in effect demolish agencies that are critical to the security, health, environmental protection, education, science research and truth. Yet he has on problem wasting taxpayer money on large additional spending for DOD without any real purpose. All at the expense of cutting massively assistance to the most vulnerable souls at home and not least now abroad by massive cutting back the assistance to threaten refugees and others in conflict zones that are facing mass starvation and certain millions of deaths.. This is making, as I have noted, not a “Great America” but a mean, authoritarian, and selfish “Small America.”
These events in any case, could be the possible start of the further unwinding of the Trump credibility. It furthers the view by some citizens of fear and unease and it has created a perception among some key leaders abroad already of disquiet and distance from American leadership.
Press reports state Trump showed a high level of anger at his staff, denounced Sessions recusal in the Russian hacking case, and along with Trump’s continued accusations against Obama, the intelligence agencies and the media.
So far these series of missteps indicate a leader without good judgment but also a person intent more on destruction of the fabric of a secure and compassionate society. Even in his arrangement of his White House staff there is more chaos and dysfunction as a result of his manic and often unpredictable rule on his own turf with a staff made of equally unbalance types. Creating chaos and his desiring to be the only story of the day by getting more and more bizarre and demoniac does not serve American interests.
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BOOK REVIEW: THE MIND OF THE AFRICAN STRONGMAN BY AMBASSADOR HERMAN “HANK” COHEN
by Harry C. Blaney III
Africa has always been one of the most difficult continents to fully understand and to carry out diplomacy with any lasting effect. It is also the place where we have needed to be engaged with out best people and with effective assistance programs that reached the general population and not squandered or wasted especially on wars and civil strife.
This book “The Mind of the African Strongman: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures” (New Academia Publishing, 2015, paperback), is filed with person-to-person meetings and dialogues of the key leaders of Africa over decades and provides Ambassador Cohen’s wise observations of their views, weaknesses, and strengths. In the process the reader gets an insight of the many difficulties of achieving prosperity for the people and also the many barriers to development and real democracy.
Not speared in this book is the many conflicts between African states and internal conflicts that caused so much suffering like the civil war between Liberia’s two strongmen Charles Taylor and Samuel Doe, which brought great carnage and deaths to the people of that nation. And as Cohen noted “Liberia was totally destroyed.”
Ambassador Cohen knows better than just about anyone of his generation and beyond the challenges and pitfalls of dealing with the wide variety of conditions, forces and wide range of leaders of African nations especially in their post-colonial era. In this book he sets forth as good a look at the leaders that shaped or misshaped that contentment in this key post-colonial period.
The books chapters are like a short history of African leadership from a personal perspective of a U.S. diplomat who was engaged intensively with these leaders and the problems of that period. So we gain an insight on the strengths and weaknesses and difficulties covering such countries as Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo, Zaire, Nigeria, Libya, Somalia, Angola Liberia, and not least South Africa. In each case and in their own chapters these countries’ first leaders are portrayed with incisive insight and their inner personalities are given some light.
Africa has a long history of upheavals, conflicts and abject poverty, the hope was that progress could be made by independence. That promise however was moved forward in some cases and sadly in others was held back by a multiplicity of problems and poor leadership and corruption.
In Cohen’s summing up chapter he says “The African leaders portrayed in this volume were typical of their generation. Their outlooks were somewhat contradictory. They rejected colonial-era institutions, yet they adopted some colonial-era socioeconomic theories.” ”He adds: “The newly independent African nations of the early 1960s rejected Western multiparty democracy and all the trappings of open societies. He notes they also used the African “tradition of consensus building, but one party sates.
On the economic side Cohen notes that many leaders had an economic outlook of “African socialism” taken from the UK and French socialist parties they knew. The result were often corruption, diversion of resources away from priority areas like health and education and toward maintaining the one party state authoritarian rule and their constituencies. The consequence was “A vicious cycle….that caused most African countries to suffer from negative growth for over two decades.” He notes that in the 1980s external efforts to reform and help African countries “succeeded over a decade in reversing economic decline in most of the countries.”
He argues that with a new generation of leaders, there was more demand for freedom and often it resulted in less authoritarian rule along with the rise of independent media, and rise of some opposition parties and some private enterprise. Looking at 2015 Cohen notes that Africa was making progress on political and economic fronts. But he holds that in some countries the process was far from full democracy.
In this last chapter Cohen makes an argument for the need for democracy as a means of stability, growth and fairness and the best leaders are those that face the next election and thus do not fear so much for “day-to-day security.”
Cohen addresses also the use by early (and now recent) leaders of “illegitimate surrogate wars. Here I think is one of the key points of criticism of the African political and security landscape and one of the causes of great poverty and deprivation. He makes the point that the African Union will expel any government that comes to power through a military coup, but the AF “continues to ignore the illegitimate surrogate wars that are so devastating to life and property.”
Cohen ends with the hope for the development of good leaders that understand the needs of their people and are modern in their outlook on technology, listen to their people, and wake up in the morning determined to do good. He points to South Africa as a possible modal for other African countries.
American policy he notes is taking a positive attitude towards developments in Africa. But he seems to think we have taken too light a hand and avoided “blunt talk,” letting the World Bank and IMF do the hard words. He ends by writing that “President Obama appears more inclined that his predecessors toward “tough love” with respect to Africa.” He hopes President Obama will talk more openly about corruption and human rights abuses. He argues he can get away with a harder line and urge a move towards good governance. He worries also about growing unemployed youth becoming “explosive.” Amb. Cohen says there are grounds for some optimism in Africa “in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
This book, for those interested in the recent history of Africa and its many problems and the role and impact of it’s early leadership and what inheritance they gave to Africa, will make for exciting and insightful reading and a lot of thought about the landscape of Africa today.
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The Mind of the African Strongman: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures” (New Academia Publishing, Washington DC, 2015, paperback. available from Amazon
Washington DC, 2015, paperback. We welcome your comments!