America’s sad history of looking the other way on child rape

Child sexual assault is the most repulsive of crimes, and the global verdict on rapists and molesters should be overwhelmingly damning. But if you’re surprised that the president of the United States and the Republican National Committee are throwing their support to a man who has been accused by multiple women, on the record, of pedophilia, remember that America has been looking the other way for a long time.

Why, for example, is the Pentagon suppressing a congressionally mandated independent report on Afghan allies who allegedly engage in systemic child sexual abuse?

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Afghanistan has revived an old and long-outlawed practice of men buying young boys, dressing them as dancing girls to be used as sex slaves for American-armed Afghan security forces. The boys are regularly raped by these American allies, engaging in “bacha bazi,” or “boy play,” while U.S. soldiers avert their eyes and try to ignore the raw violence against underage innocents.  READ MORE

Britain is seeing Trump as a royal loser. Can this special relationship be saved?

Donald Trump has a new royal headache. The next member of the British monarchy is outspoken Los Angeles native and Hollywood actress Meghan Markle, who called Trump “divisive” and “misogynistic.” Her fiancé, Prince Harry, is also reportedly miffed at Trump’s disinterest in human rights. A royal wedding invitation may not be in the offing for the House of Trump.

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But the UK royal family is not alone in its crowning criticism. Swedish Princess Madeleine’s American husband, Chris O’Neill, openly disrespects Trump, calling him “shameful” and “ignorant.” And civilian leaders around the world mock the White House as home to a 21st century American pseudo-monarchy, with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel earlier this year finding Trump progeny assertively acting “like members of a royal family.” Not in a good way.

None of this bodes well for American foreign policy.  READ MORE

The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 2.0

Russia continues to seek a foothold in European politics by building relationships with fringe political parties and leaders and developing close personal and business ties with mainstream European politicians. Through these efforts, the Russian government has developed a network of Trojan Horses: organizations and individuals who work to support Russian interests and undermine European cohesion. This report comprises a comprehensive assessment of how the Kremlin influences politics and foreign policy in three of Europe’s major powers, with the aim of destabilizing the European Union and the transatlantic partnership.
 

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“A dialogue on Russian hybrid warfare against the West should be a strong component” of multilateral cooperation going forward, write the report’s authors. The report presents cases on Greece, Italy, and Spain, each written by leading experts: Dr. Markos Kounalakis, visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and senior fellow in the Center for Media, Data, and Society at Central European University; Dr. Antonis Klapsis, academic coordinator for the Centre of International and European Political Economy and Governance at the University of Peloponnese; Prof. Luigi Sergio Germani, director of the Gino Germani Institute of Social Sciences and Strategic Studies; Mr. Jacopo Iacoboni, political analyst at La Stampa newspaper; Mr. Francisco de Borja Lasheras, director of the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations; Mr. Nicolás de Pedro, research fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs; and Dr. Alina Polyakova, David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Foreign Policy program’s Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution.  READ MORE

American companies are funding the Kremlin’s info war against us

Consumers have power. Companies know it. Just look at how quickly Keurig pulled its ads from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show over his coverage of Roy Moore’s alleged child molestation. Indeed, strategically spent big media money can take down talk show hosts, cut into the bank accounts of pro athletes and even elect an American president.

Imagine if consumers demanded the same kind of accountability from the American corporations that are bankrolling Moscow’s information-warfare campaign against U.S. voters.

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Western advertising has been filling the coffers of Russian propaganda outlets, underwriting a racistmisogynistanti-American media that keeps Vladimir Putin in place and actively threatens America’s political system. Writing in The Daily Beast, Mitchell Polman states clearly that “without those ad dollars it would be difficult for Russian media to function.”  READ MORE

2018 could lock-in Trump privilege, power in foreign policy

The last line of defense in checking President Donald Trump’s foreign-policy power is the old guard of the Republican Party, and those watchmen are about to go quietly into the night.

A 2018 Republican sweep would cripple two key Senate committees, moving them from painfully ineffective to plainly inconsequential. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee are supposed to oversee the foreign-policy and the national-security apparatus. Trump has brought them to heel.

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He has belittled the outspoken Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who became a lame duck by giving up a 2018 reelection bid (Disclosure: Corker held my presidential appointment from Senate confirmation in 2016). Sitting out alongside him is another committee member, Trump-critic Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, leaving a handful of cowed Republicans and the minority Democrats to try to counter Trump policy tweets and fight for a systematically well-formulated foreign agenda.  READ MORE

China is using fentanyl in a chemical war against America

Fentanyl is the synthetic opioid driving America’s public health crisis. Its cheap price, widespread use, addictive quality and deadly effect make it more dangerous than other narcotics classified by the DEA.

It is, ultimately, a chemical. And it’s being used as a weapon in China’s 21st Century Opium War against America.

Trump talks opioid and crisis in the White House, October 2017

Trump talks opioid and crisis in the White House, October 2017

President Donald Trump’s 12-day, five-nation Asia tour will focus on North Korean nukes and international trade. In Beijing, however, he plans to address China’s fentanyl production and distribution, an industry that fuels what the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission calls “China’s deadly export to the United States.” Trump holds undeniable moral authority when it comes to substance abuse, having personally seen and felt the effects on his family. Forcing China’s hand on fentanyl is the right thing to do.  READ MORE

Trump taps JFK files to distract from the file Mueller is building

I met Lee Harvey Oswald’s Soviet control agent. It is a story that is buried in my notebooks, but memorable. His name is KGB Colonel Oleg Maximovich Nechiporenko and he has been outed before. Nechiporenko met and conferred with Oswald via the Soviet Union’s embassy in Mexico City only weeks before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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Secret JFK assassination files are buried deep in the intelligence community’s basement, but will see the light of day when released by the 45th president, a White House occupant who believes and freely deals in global conspiracies.

Releasing these files allows President Trump yet again to distract the nation from his inability to govern effectively. Further, it gives him another shot at undermining an American intelligence community he deeply distrusts by exposing CIA and FBI dark secrets and asserting these agencies are up to no good. Presidential distraction and revenge aside, the hidden files will certainly contain information about Nechiporenko and his Soviet colleagues.  READ MORE

The call Trump hasn’t made: A coherent Africa policy

Dead service members and their families deserve recognition and respect, both from presidents and the American people. Active duty military also deserve a clear mission and the commitment of a nation to their service, fight, and future.

Families of the four Green Berets killed in a Niger ambush have now received condolence calls from President Donald Trump, but a growing American military engagement in Africa calls for a complete and coherent continental policy. That call remains unanswered.

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Since his inauguration, President Trump has failed to define America’s strategic interests in Africa. In fact, he’s failed to show much interest or competence in the continent, as during a short speech to African leaders last month where he called one country “Nambia” and hit a raw nerve by saying Africa was ripe for exploitation by his “many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.”

False first steps can be corrected, however. Next week’s planned visit to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo by Ambassador Nikki Haley could bring new attention and some clarity to U.S.-Africa policy, though the trip seems limited in scope and ambition. The Niger combat killing of special operations forces and the recent death of a Navy SEAL in Somalia should focus the president’s mind and be a defining moment for him to clarify Africa policy in an America First world.  READ MORE HERE: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/article179676221.html

Donald Trump is decimating America’s tourist economy

SAN FRANCISCO 

Brown soot-filled skies darken this San Francisco day as homes and fields burn a few miles north in Napa and beyond. It is the worst regional fire here in generations.

Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and now Northern California — tourist destinations all — are reeling from a death toll and economic hit brought by hurricanes, floods, and fires. Rebuilding everywhere will be expensive, and federal money will only go so far. America’s nearly $500 billion annual tourist industry would be expected to help fuel the revenue growth that will fund local economic resurgence.

But not this year.

An area resident evacuates his Silverado Trail home as flames from a wildfire approach Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Napa, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli AP

An area resident evacuates his Silverado Trail home as flames from a wildfire approach Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Napa, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli AP

On the heels of the Donald Trump election, Las Vegas mass shooting, Muslim travel bans, an alt-right resurgence, and a palpable negative shift in how America is perceived globally, nations are issuing U.S. travel warnings and fanning fears of an America that no longer welcomes foreigners or succors its own citizens.

Take Mexicans, for example. President Trump actively denigrates them, so they increasingly have decided to stay home this year. That means the U.S. will lose over a billion tourist dollars from Mexico. Estimates for 2018 are even worse. Travel professionals see the dramatic drop in U.S. tourism as an international reaction to America’s new politics. They call it the “Trump Slump.”

READ MORE

Nuke deals are for suckers

Nuke deals are all the rage these days. The United Nations sees nuclear accords as a path to world peace. President Barack Obama worked toward a “global zero” nuclear-free future.

President Trump, on the other hand, is highly skeptical of deals with Iran and North Korea because he understands what Tehran and Pyongyang leaders already know: Nuclear disarmament deals are for suckers.

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Countries generally balk at giving up their hard-won and expensive nuclear capabilities because nuclear weapons are a time-tested and reliable deterrent. Giving up these weapons requires faith that any agreement inked is rock solid and that the countries agreeing to unilateral nuclear disarmament are assured they will not wind up like Ukraine or Libya – invaded or overthrown.

Trump does not inspire this faith. Neither does he have faith that the other side will do as it’s told. READ MORE

Trump trash-talks his way into war

Sandbox politics is hard to watch, but easy to interpret. One side hurls an insult, the other responds louder and more offensively. The exchange ends with thrown sand or thrown fists. Bloody noses and bruised egos follow.

Ask any parent. Or Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who just called the President Trump-Kim Jong-Un war of words a “kindergarten fight.” No one wants to be lectured by Russians about civility, but the man has a point. The childish Trump-Un verbal showdown is frightening. It could lead to war.

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The world may be beyond shock or outrage given last year’s rude and raucous presidential election. But every once in a while it’s worth stopping to ask how we got here and what it means.

POTUS is name-calling, potentially making a bad situation with North Korea worse. Un deserves every epithet flung his way, of course, but what’s unprecedented is the loud, public invective coming from the leader of the free world and commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest military force.  READ MORE

This is the murderous version of Trump’s Muslim ban

Kill the Muslims. That's how the latest version of the Muslim ban is shaping up. Started shortly after Donald Trump made it clear to the world that Muslims were not welcome in the United States, other countries started their own, more brutal and deadly effective ban.

Rohingya Muslims stretch out their arms to reach food being distributed near Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. With Rohingya refugees still flooding across the border from Myanmar, those packed into camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh are desperate for scant basic resources and fights erupt over food and water. Bernat Armangue AP

Rohingya Muslims stretch out their arms to reach food being distributed near Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. With Rohingya refugees still flooding across the border from Myanmar, those packed into camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh are desperate for scant basic resources and fights erupt over food and water. Bernat Armangue AP

The Myanmar military maims and massacres Muslims as they run them out of their country. In Myanmar, it’s not enough to ban Muslims; they are being permanently banished. Army regulars are chasing Muslim Rohingya toward and over a recently beefed-up border wall that is a low-tech, high-risk strip of land made of land mines and barbed wire. There is no big, beautiful door in this border wall.

Without mincing words, the United Nations has now declared what is happening in Myanmar “ethnic cleansing.” Yale researchers and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari agree that it looks like genocide.

Enter an expressly “America First” administration as ethnic cleansing returns to the world stage and hits the headlines. Not our problem, apparently. In this new world, Rohingya are as likely to see the American cavalry coming as Midwesterners are to experience Martians landing in Chippewa Falls.  READ MORE

Harvey and Irma were hard. But most of the world’s disasters are ignored

What a disastrous few weeks. Historic hurricanes, massive earthquakes, and large-scale wildfires have all simultaneously struck the Americas, grabbing headlines and inspiring telethons. The reporting has been extensive and the outpouring of generous homegrown support seems endless.

American society might be uniquely constituted to work together during crises, with national self-reliance a distinct part of this country’s character, heritage, and mythology. American leaders call attention to disasters and ask communities and their political representatives for help and money. A free, open and independent media report it all.

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Elsewhere in the world, however, bad instincts or habits lead political and corporate leaders to mislead, hide, and deny disasters or impending doom. Russia and China are particularly susceptible to this trait, but it is generally true for less democratic and minimally accountable governments and institutions where disaster can translate into political crisis or even the threat of regime change.

In the former Soviet Union, the initial reaction and official denial of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown and crisis set in motion the conditions for the eventual downfall of the entire empire. In a new biography about Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Chernobyl cover-up was considered the turning point that put Gorbachev on the political reform path toward a greater openness that became unstoppable.  READ MORE

Obama’s Asia Pivot is in full, disastrous swing under Trump

Characterizing himself as “America’s first Pacific president,” Barack Obama tried to shift America’s focus, strategic commitments and resources to Southeast Asia. Hillary Clinton was all for it, too, authoring a 2011 vision for an Asia-focused foreign policy titled “America’s Pacific Century.”

President Trump – consciously or not – is now suddenly fast-tracking the Obama-Clinton policy goal with his new, crisis version of the “Asia Pivot”.

In this Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, file photo, a man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea has announced a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers. If carried out, it would be the North's most provocative missile launch to date. Ahn Young-joon AP

In this Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, file photo, a man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea has announced a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers. If carried out, it would be the North's most provocative missile launch to date. Ahn Young-joon AP

North Korean nuclear blasts and ICBM testing met by intransigent American rhetoric and military might have suddenly and intensively led to a rapid, if perhaps accidental, Asia Pivot 2.0. This new pivot is made up of more guns and less butter. If the Clinton-Obama policy led with trade, the Trump Pivot leads with tirade.

This quickly evolving Trump pivot is now in full swing, being implemented more by circumstance and reaction than design. A hydrogen bomb can focus the mind and crystallize a new policy. All the world’s eyes are watching to see how it plays out as miscalculation, mistake or failure could be catastrophic.  READ MORE

Can an America First nation get the world’s help after Harvey?

Natural disasters know no political boundaries. And that’s why international humanitarian relief flows so quickly, and in such great and humbling quantities, when hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis strike.

But today, with Houston suffering as Mother Nature’s latest victim, will the world’s giving nations step-up and step-in to help American relief efforts?

Or are things in an America First world different?

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Questioning the world’s appetite to help Trump’s America at this moment is a serious question.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans tragedy that followed, the world was tripping over itself to help George W. Bush and Louisiana. The relief efforts ranged from offers of Afghan cash to deployment of Thai doctors and nurses. The Spanish sent crude oil, electric generators and food rations and Swedes airlifted over an emergency mobile phone network. The outpouring of help was overwhelming.  Read more

Trump preps Afghan war for sale to India

Fighting his instincts, reneging on campaign promises, and disregarding his anti-globalist advisers, President Trump told America he changed his mind about Afghanistan. It is the kind of reversal he hates because it dilutes his brash brand.

An Afghan National army soldier stands guard a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. On Monday, President Donald Trump delivered his first formal address to the nation since taking office as he revealed his strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Rahmat Gul AP

An Afghan National army soldier stands guard a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. On Monday, President Donald Trump delivered his first formal address to the nation since taking office as he revealed his strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Rahmat Gul AP

But true to his gut, he won't be nation building, constructing hospitals, or making sure girls can once again wear miniskirts to school. The Trump strategy instead is to make sure Afghanistan doesn't further devolve while he looks to hand off the problem to someone else.

Like a distressed property, Trump wants to offload the war and Afghan reconstruction at the right discounted price in a handshake deal.

His ideal buyer is not a mercenary band, though he was pitched and considered the idea. It’s not to a still incapable Afghan government or even to tired and distracted European allies. They aren’t buying. No, Trump figures that with a mini-surge of patching and fresh paint, he can sell this problem asset as an opportunity to someone in the neighborhood with interest in the location, location, location.

India tops the list.

Confederate monuments deserve Soviet treatment

Budapest’s Freedom Square hosts a prominent and controversial Soviet war memorial. Hungarians regularly argue for its removal, but it remains unmoved and guarded. It is an exception.

The bulk of Soviet-era statues in Budapest and in countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain have been removed, relocated, and reinterpreted. The idea is not to erase history, but to contextualize it. And now, as recent events and President Trump rekindle the debates surrounding Confederate statues and monuments, America should look to other countries’ tortured histories and controversial memorials to get a grip on how to handle its own.

The bronze statue of Lenin at Memento Park in Budapest, Hungary, a museum exhibiting dozens of Socialist-era statues and monuments removed from the streets of Budapest after the fall of the communist regime.

The bronze statue of Lenin at Memento Park in Budapest, Hungary, a museum exhibiting dozens of Socialist-era statues and monuments removed from the streets of Budapest after the fall of the communist regime.

In Hungary, Freedom Square’s remaining Soviet monument is a fenced off, sometimes vandalized reminder of a WWII liberating army. Notably located, the Soviet obelisk stands next to the U.S. Embassy, just below the ambassador’s window. Unlike other U.S.S.R. monuments in Budapest, a treaty guarantees this one’s place and preservation.

Other Communist monuments, however, have been removed and relegated to a final resting place just outside of town in Memento Park. The park boasts “the biggest statues of the cold war” and is a lesson in how to reinterpret a nation’s painful past. Supersized statues of Communist-era commissars stand quietly in the elements, without interpretation. Nearby, however, a museum barracks full of educational material puts the era and objects into complete and nuanced context. School groups and tourists visit regularly.  Read More

Trump won’t blink in North Korea standoff. But China might.

In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy was facing the threat of nuclear weapons within striking distance of the United States. The Soviet forward-deployment forced America to stop Russia’s advance, just 90 miles from the homeland. Brinksmanship brought Kennedy “eyeball to eyeball” with Nikita Khrushchev. It was the Soviet president who blinked.

Fast forward to 2017. President Trump will not be the one who blinks, but someone else might. If it is Kim Jong-un, then the game of chicken and nuclear confrontation has paid off for this U.S. administration. The real challenge in this crisis, however, faces not Kim but his patron in Beijing.

Indeed, the real question in 2017 is whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will blink.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered for a rally at Kim Il Sung Square carrying placards and propaganda slogans as a show of support for their rejection of the United Nations' latest round of sanctions on Wednesday Aug. 9, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Jon Chol Jin AP

Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered for a rally at Kim Il Sung Square carrying placards and propaganda slogans as a show of support for their rejection of the United Nations' latest round of sanctions on Wednesday Aug. 9, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Jon Chol Jin AP

Trump’s team won a remarkable unanimous-vote UN Security Council resolution to punish North Korea last week. It was a diplomatic coup that set the legal and multilateral stage for action against North Korea and any nation aiding and abetting the pariah state. Mainly, that means China.  Read More

America forgot Afghanistan. Donald Trump’s chief of staff has not.

Americans may have lost sight of the Afghan war, but Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, General John F. Kelly, has not. He sacrificed his son to that war. He knows that what happens in Afghanistan does not stay in Afghanistan. Now, if he can focus West Wing minds, he may bring Afghanistan back to the public consciousness, where it belongs.

Americans pay more attention to fantasy sports, Instagram feeds, and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” than they do to the longest war in America's history. If there is collective attention deficit disorder, it's understandable. The war is white noise.

John Kelly, then-Homeland Security secretary, talks to the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Andrew Harnik AP

John Kelly, then-Homeland Security secretary, talks to the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Andrew Harnik AP

War reporters call kinetic action “boom-boom.” Exploding stuff makes good pictures and gets attention. But nearly 16 years of boom-boom has dulled Americans’ senses, and their outrage. Years of fighting to turn out the Taliban evolved into nation building, troop surges and active counterinsurgency and then morphed into rounds of presidentially-ordered redeployments and more training of Afghan forces before creeping, finally, into the supposedly narrow counterterrorism mission that falls short of the withdrawal politicians every election cycle say they support.

Clearly, something happened along the way.  READ MORE