Category Archives: International news

Tillerson bucks Trump again … this time on Russia

What?

You mean to say that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thinks Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election?

Why, I thought the president of the United States has called it “fake news,” that the Russians wouldn’t do such a thing, that their president, Vladimir Putin, told him they didn’t do it — and that Donald Trump believes him!

Isn’t that what we’ve been told by the Liar in Chief?

Tillerson reportedly made his feelings known privately. But I guess they aren’t quite so private these days now that the world knows what the secretary of state believes about the Russian hanky-panky.

The secretary is on thin ice as it is with the president, who’s reportedly working on an exit strategy to remove Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Tillerson opposed Trump’s decision to de-certify the Iran nuclear deal, and the withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord.

He called the president a “moron” and then pointedly declined to take it back when he was asked about it.

Now we have this item in which Tillerson bucks the Big Man yet again on the Russian interference matter. Actually, Tillerson is far from alone in believing the Russians sought to meddle in the election. If anything, it’s Trump who’s singing solo in his refusal to sign on to what intelligence analysts all have said happened.

However, Trump is the president. Tillerson works at his “pleasure.” My guess is that the president is not feeling too pleased with this latest sign of diplomatic mutiny.

We’re winning the ‘war,’ but the fight will go on

Iraq has declared victory in its war against the Islamic State.

It has declared that ISIS is defeated in Iraq. The terrorist fighting force no longer is able to wage war against the Iraq military machine. Good news, yes? Of course it is.

But wait. What about the terrorist who tried to kill innocent victims in New York? He is “ISIS-inspired,” according to the FBI and New York law enforcement officials. How are we going to stop these monsters? How do we prevent the so-called “lone wolf” terrorists from perpetrating their evil acts against civilized society?

We cannot?

A Bangladeshi immigrant is now recovering from his injuries after he terrorized people in a New York train station. He tried to blow himself up, but failed.

Bold pledges and declarations of our intent to “destroy” the Islamic State shouldn’t be ignored. Indeed, our military forces have taken out many thousands of ISIS fighters; they killed or captured many ISIS leaders; they have disrupted ISIS’s command and control network.

The fight should go on. It must go on.

We are going to fight this war, however, for as long as terrorists exist anywhere on Earth. U.S. and Allied forces bombed Germany to ashes during the World War II; our forces killed thousands of Nazis; Adolf Hitler killed himself in that Berlin bunker.

Did that eradicate Nazi sympathizers in Europe — or in the United States of America? No! Nazi lone wolves are still on the prowl throughout the world.

This post-9/11 world continues to teach us a hard but necessary lesson, which is that we cannot let our guard down — ever — against those who would do us harm.

They are everywhere.

Take it easy with the ‘P-word,’ Mr. President

Donald John Trump isn’t known for possessing any sense of circumspection. He kind of blurts words out without thinking of how they might sound.

Such as when he endorsed Roy Moore in his race to become the next U.S. senator from Alabama. He said he doesn’t want a “puppet of Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer” to serve in the Senate, referring to the Democrat in the race, Doug Jones.

Imagine the president calling anyone a “puppet.” How can someone who many of us believe is a puppet of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin hang that pejorative tag on another politician?

The Russian government, which Putin runs with an iron fist, interfered in our 2016 election. Intelligence analysts believe Putin wanted Trump to defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Trump has refused to acknowledge publicly what the nation’s top intelligence agencies have said already about Putin’s involvement in meddling in our electoral process.

Other analysts contend that Putin is playing Trump.

Let me think for a moment.

Isn’t that how someone manipulates a political puppet?

Will the bombs and bullets start flying in Israel?

Donald J. Trump well just might have doomed any immediate prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The president of the United States apparently is about to make good on his pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

This is an extremely big deal, dear reader. Here’s why.

Palestinians contend that Jerusalem belongs to them. So does Israel. Trump has aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I want to stipulate that I happen to sympathize with Netanyahu’s hard line against the Palestinian terrorists who keep lobbing bombs at Israeli neighborhoods. The so-called “two-state solution,” which involves the creation of an independent Palestinian state, remains a distant dream for peacemakers in the region.

The U.S. president’s decision to place the embassy in Jerusalem is likely to make that dream more distant than ever.

And for what reason? Because his pal Bibi Netanyahu wants him to do it.

It’s unclear to me why the president would choose to provoke the Palestinians with this ostensibly simple gesture. Trump is likely to find out — maybe in short order — how seemingly simple actions can provoke intensely complicated responses.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? Peace might hang in the balance

Donald John Trump reportedly is about to announce a policy that will move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

What are the stakes? Oh, let’s see. Perhaps it’s the prospect of obtaining a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which also happens to claim Jerusalem as its own.

How I wish the president would rethink what I understand is about to occur.

I spent more than a month in Israel just a few years ago. I got an up-close look at the proximity — the tight quarters — in which Israel must exist with its Palestinian neighbors; indeed, Israel is home to many people of Palestinian descent.

Jerusalem is walled off from the Palestinian Authority because of intense security concerns caused by terrorists who have rained havoc onto Israelis for centuries.

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats and their staffs have been ensconced in Tel Aviv, which isn’t all that far from Jerusalem, but far enough to avoid many of the direct threats posed to those who live in the holy city.

And in the midst of all this we have the still-remote prospect of a peace agreement that could be struck between Israel and the PA. What in the world might this blatantly aggressive move by the United States to do muck up that effort?

I have little faith that any talks — spearheaded on the U.S. side by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — is going to advance even under the best of circumstances. Kushner has zero diplomatic experience and for the life of me I cannot grasp why the president would entrust this hyper-sensitive negotiation to someone only because he is married to a member of the First Family.

Indeed, I am trying to think of any worse move the United States could make that could throw a serious dirt clod into the quest for peace in the region. I keep coming back to a potential decision to place our nation’s embassy in a city that Israel’s sworn enemy claims for itself.

Good grief, Mr. President. Keep our embassy in Tel Aviv. It’s doesn’t take long to drive there from Jerusalem.

Will he stay or will he go?

In a world fraught with peril in seemingly every region, the world’s most indispensable nation needs a top diplomat with unqualified support from the head of state.

Does Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have such support from Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States?

Um, no. Not even close.

There are reports that Trump is engineering a way to shove Tillerson out the door. The president now responds that “Rex is here,” meaning, I suppose, that he’s staying put.

Tillerson hasn’t exactly distinguished himself as secretary of state, other than to call the president a “f****** moron,” and then refuse to deny he said such a thing. Trump responded with a cheeky, childish tweet about how he would score better than Tillerson on an IQ test.

Isn’t that just swell?

This back and forth between the president and the secretary of state is unsettling in the extreme.

It has to stop. The president either needs to give the secretary his unqualified support or he needs to get someone on board who can speak for the president … without getting undermined.

Trump chides our most reliable ally … nice!

Donald J. “Tweeter in Chief” Trump campaigned for the presidency on the promise that he would shake things up, that he would do things differently.

Oh, brother. Has he ever!

Take the tiff he initiated with the United States’ most trusted, reliable and steadfast ally: Great Britain.

He retweeted an inflammatory anti-Muslim message that originated from Britain First, a fringe right-wing group that hates Muslims.

Pressure is now mounting in the UK for British Prime Minister Teresa May to disinvite the president, who is set to make a state visit before the end of the year. Trump’s conduct via Twitter has demonstrated quite graphically that he doesn’t seem to give a royal flip about offending our nation’s political forebears.

Matthew D’Ancona, a commentator for The Guardian, wrote this: As it happens, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump’s visit should be canceled in August, after the murderous white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. When the most powerful person in the world fails the simplest test of democratic leadership — answering the question “Were the Nazis uniquely bad?” — the whole world is involved. The president failed that test conspicuously and gave comfort to the loathsome “identitarianism” that understands society as a competition between races, tribes and religion.

Read D’Ancona’s column here.

Trump and May engaged angry tweets over the video. May chastised Trump for inflaming prejudices in the UK; Trump responded that she shouldn’t worry about the president, but should worry more instead about the threat of terrorism.

This is a ridiculous way to treat a trusted ally.

I’ll stand with those who are urging Prime Minister May to cancel the state visit. Now!

What? Flynn is turning on Trump? Who knew?

While many of us were eating turkey and getting prepped for today’s shopping mayhem, a bit of news came to light back east.

It seems that former national security adviser Michael Flynn might be turning “state’s witness” in the ongoing probe into whether Donald John Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian hackers who sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Flynn held his national security job for 24 whole days at the start of the Trump administration. Then he got canned because he didn’t tell the truth about what he said to whom about meeting with Russian government officials during the campaign.

The New York Times is reporting that Flynn — a retired U.S. Army three-star general — is no longer talking with the Trump legal team and well might be starting to cooperate with the legal eagles working with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Read the Times story here.

The Flynn story sickens me at a couple of levels. First of all, I didn’t like that he had been appointed national security adviser in the first place. He assumed a highly political role during the Trump campaign. In my mind, he sullied and soiled a brilliant military career by standing in front the GOP convention two summers ago leading the “Lock her up!” chants against Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The man clearly knows plenty about what the Trump campaign did in regard to the Russian hackers. Mueller is pursuing the truth methodically and meticulously. Will the former national security boss provide him with the silver bullet that pierces the armor surrounding the president and his inner circle?

I don’t expect this investigation to accelerate in speed. Mueller’s reputation as a patient prosecutor likely will preclude any rush to judgment.

However, it’s hard — for me — to disbelieve the notion that if Gen. Flynn is working with Mueller’s team that a major development in this probe is likely to explode.

Trump seeks to tighten screws on N. Korea

Donald J. Trump has acted appropriately with regard to North Korea. Instead of blustering about delivering “fire and fury” to the Marxist regime, he has returned North Korea to the list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

The president has made the correct call.

He is seeking to isolate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in his effort to build a nuclear weapons arsenal. The aim, according to Trump, is to impose the strictest economic sanctions possible on the rogue nation. It’s also meant to pressure China, North Korea’s chief trading partner, into following suit.

I don’t know about you, but I believe this approach holds far greater potential than threats of military strikes.

The designation — which reverses a decision made by President George W. Bush in 2008 — puts North Korea on a short list of state-sponsored-terrorist nations; the others are Sudan, Iran and Syria.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson doubts the designation will have much practical effect, given that the United States already has imposed heavy sanctions on North Korea. But he is talking openly about his “hope for diplomacy” in the effort to persuade North Korea to stand down in its effort to build a nuclear arsenal.

The great Winston Churchill once told us it was better to “jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war.”

The late British prime minister’s wisdom ought to apply to the present-day crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump does the impossible yet again

Donald John “Smart Person” Trump Sr. has done the seemingly impossible one more time.

He has made LaVar Ball, the loudmouth “Little League father” of an NBA player and one of three UCLA students caught shoplifting in China, a (semi) sympathetic character.

LiAngelo Ball was one of the Bruin basketball players caught pilfering some goods at a high-end department store. The Chinese government tossed the boys into jail.

Then the president of the United States entered the picture and reportedly/allegedly finagled a deal to get the young men released and sent home; under Chinese law they faced a potentially lengthy prison sentence.

So, what does LaVar Ball do? He tweets something about Trump really not doing anything to help LiAngelo and his teammates.

Trump’s response? He tweeted back something about how ungrateful Daddy Ball is for what the president did to obtain the release of his son and his pals. The president tweeted this: Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!

There you go. Presidential dignity has taken a hike from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Try to imagine any of Trump’s predecessors engaging in this kind of petulant pettiness.

Do not misunderstand me: Daddy Ball is far from a sympathetic character. He’s brash, brazen and bellicose. He earned his 15 minutes of fame through some kind of “reality TV” gig — that I have never seen. He has produced some sons with decent athletic skill and he’s trading on their prowess to advance his own agenda … whatever the hell it is!

As for the president, I have quit wondering whether Trump will outgrow his Twitter fetish and whether he’ll ever learn to stick to matters of statecraft and high-level diplomacy.

I know the answer to that. He won’t. He can’t.

Bizarre.