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On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, a retired CIA man, Douglas London, wrote an article for Just Security: ‘CIA’s Former Counterterrorism Chief for the Region: Afghanistan, Not An Intelligence Failure — Something Much Worse’:

Douglas London is that former counterterrorism chief. He worked for the CIA for 34 years. Nowadays, he teaches at Georgetown University, is a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute and is author of the book The Recruiter, which details the changes in the CIA post-9/11.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Until his retirement in 2019, he was responsible for preparing security assessments for President Trump about Afghanistan. He volunteered in the same capacity for then-candidate Joe Biden.

Withdrawal — how and when?

He writes that the American withdrawal from Afghanistan has long been predicated with ‘what-if’ scenarios (emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

The U.S. Intelligence Community assessed Afghanistan’s fortunes according to various scenarios and conditions and depending on the multiple policy alternatives from which the president could choose. So, was it 30 days from withdrawal to collapse? 60? 18 months? Actually, it was all of the above, the projections aligning with the various “what ifs.”  Ultimately, it was assessed, Afghan forces might capitulate within days under the circumstances we witnessed, in projections highlighted to Trump officials and future Biden officials alike.

He says that Biden and Trump viewed withdrawal differently, citing Biden’s speech of August 16 (emphases mine):

In his prepared remarks on Monday, President Biden stated, “But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.  The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” That’s misleading at best. The CIA anticipated it as a possible scenario.

By early 2018, it was clear President Trump wanted out of Afghanistan regardless of the alarming outcomes the intelligence community cautioned. But he likewise did not want to preside over the nightmarish scenes we’ve witnessed. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the principal architect of America’s engagement with the Taliban that culminated with the catastrophic February 2020 withdrawal agreement, terms intended to get the president through the coming elections. Pompeo championed the plan despite the intelligence community’s caution that its two key objectives– securing the Taliban’s commitment to break with al-Qa’ida and pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict — were highly unlikely.

Douglas London outlines the various scenarios:

Scenarios for an orderly withdrawal ranged from those in which the United States retained roughly 5,000 troops and most of the existing forward military and intelligence operating bases, to what was determined to be the minimum presence of around 2,500 troops maintaining the larger bases in greater Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Khost, as well as the infrastructure to support the bases we would turn over to Afghan partners. The larger of these two options was judged more likely to prevent Afghanistan’s collapse for 1-2 years and still provide for a degree of continued U.S. counterterrorism pressure; the smaller footprint was more difficult to assess but allowed flexibility for the United States to increase or further reduce its presence should circumstances rapidly deteriorate. (It would be valuable if commentators and news coverage included a greater appreciation of how such contingency-based assessments work rather than conflating assessments.)

Initially, even a “Kabul only” option included the retention of the sprawling U.S. Bagram Air Base and other intelligence facilities in the greater capital area through which the United States could project force, maintain essential logistical, intelligence and medical support to Afghan operated bases, and retain some technical intelligence collection and counterterrorist capability across the country. But without any U.S. military and intelligence presence beyond the Embassy in Kabul, faced with a Taliban military and propaganda offensive, and undermined by Ghani’s fractious relationship with his own national political partners, the intelligence community warned the government could dissolve in days. And so it went.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a questionable special representative

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was America’s special representative during the Trump administration’s negotiations.

In 2018, he was a private citizen who had contacts with a number of Afghans. Douglas London said that the intelligence community did not trust him because he was:

dabbling on his own in 2018 with a variety of dubious Afghan interlocutors against whom the intelligence community warned, trying opportunistically to get “back inside.” Undaunted, his end around to Pompeo and the White House pledging to secure the deal Trump needed which the president’s own intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals claimed was not possible absent a position of greater strength, was enthusiastically received. Our impression was that Khalilzad was angling to be Trump’s Secretary of State in a new administration, were he to win, and would essentially do or say what he was told to secure his future by pleasing the mercurial president, including his steady compromise of whatever leverage the United States had to incentivize Taliban compromises.

Because the withdrawal plan was popular with voters in 2020, the Biden camp also endorsed it:

Moreover, from my perspective, they appeared to believe that negative consequences would be at least largely owned by Trump, the GOP, and Khalilzad, whose being left in place, intentionally or not, allowed him to serve even more so as a fall guy. For the candidate, who had long advocated withdrawal, the outcome was, as it had been with Trump, a foregone conclusion despite what many among his counterterrorism advisors counselled. President Biden himself has said as much in terms of his mind being made up.

There was a rather naïve confidence among Biden’s more influential foreign policy advisors that the Taliban’s best interests were served by adhering to the agreement’s main points. Doing so, they argued, would guarantee the U.S. withdrawal, and leave room for more constructive engagement, possibly even aid, should the Taliban come to power.

The Taliban’s PR offensive

Meanwhile, the Taliban were becoming more aware of the importance of a PR offensive aimed at the West:

The Taliban learned a great deal about the utility of PR since 2001, and maximized their access to Western media as highlighted by Taliban deputy and Haqqani Taliban Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani’s apparently ghost written New York Times OpEd. The reality, of course, as the intelligence community long maintained, was that the Taliban’s control over the country was predicated on isolation from the rest of the world, rather than integration. International recognition, global financial access, and foreign aid were not going to influence how the Taliban would rule.

Also:

Momentum the Taliban needed to secure their adversaries’ cooperation was facilitated by a robust propaganda machine that, in many instances, successfully manipulated the media into positive, disproportional coverage from the outset of their offensive in casting their conquest as inevitable. Neither the Afghan government nor the United States could ever effectively counter the Taliban’s persistent and savvy media efforts given the need to protect sources and methods, legal restraints, and an unfortunate lack in investment and imagination.

For Afghan politicians, money talks

Greasing palms is part of Afghan life among those in power locally and regionally. Money can also determine one’s political alliances, which can be fluid:

U.S. policy makers were also cautioned that the broad coalition of Afghan politicians, warlords and military leaders across the country benefiting from the money and power that came with a sustained U.S. presence were likely to lose confidence and hedge their bets were U.S. military forces and intelligence personnel to withdraw. Further, that President Ashraf Ghani’s stubborn resistance to the Afghan political practice of buying support and his dismantling of the warlords’ private armies would weaken their incentives to support the government. Switching sides for a better deal or to fight another day is a hallmark of Afghan history. And U.S. policy to impose an American blueprint for a strong central government and integrated national army served only to enable Ghani’s disastrous and uncompromising stewardship.

On that topic, Britain’s talkRADIO has been interviewing another seasoned American counterintelligence specialist, Malcolm Nance, who said that, over the past year at least, the Taliban were co-opting other Afghans, including those from the country’s Western-backed army.

He said that it did not have to be that way, since he went into Afghanistan in November 2001. The US could have done the job in short order, had Bush II not switched priorities to Iraq:

Keeping the money aspect in mind, Douglas London describes how the 2021 debacle unfolded. Al Qa’ida also played a part:

The clock began to accelerate when US military and intelligence elements withdrew from Kandahar on May 13, and thereafter closed remaining forward operating bases and “lily pads,” the term used for temporary staging areas under U.S. or coalition control. By the time Bagram was closed on July 1, the United States and NATO had also departed Herat, Mazar I Sharif, Jalalabad, Khost and other locations I am not at liberty to name. The Taliban was moving in even as we were packing up. They were quite likely joined by the many al-Qa’ida members (some of whom had enjoyed Iranian sanctuary),-if not direct operational support, augmented further by recently released comrades the Taliban set free from Afghan detention at Bagram and elsewhere.

Policy makers were also aware of the Taliban’s effective use of a parallel “shadow government” structure maintained since losing power that provided for reliable lines of communication with local elders across the provinces, as well as government authorities, often owing to shared family or clan connections. To an American it might be surprising, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for an Afghan military commander or police chief to be in regular contact even with those faced daily in combat.

The Taliban was thus well positioned to negotiate and buy rather than fight their way to successive conquests, itself an Afghan tradition. Moreover, the Taliban was prepared to quickly rule and provide services in the territories coming under its control. And by prioritizing the periphery to secure borders and the lines of communication required to sustain an insurgency, striking first from where they were defeated in 2001, the Taliban clearly learned from history, whereas we still have not. But where did the money come from to finance this campaign?

Persuading low level government fighters and functionaries to turnover their weapons and abandon their posts was well within the Taliban’s means, but it was undoubtedly more expensive securing the cooperation of senior officials with the authority to surrender provincial capitals. Layer on that the need to pay the surge of their own fighters, many of them essentially part-time and seasonal. Payroll and care for the families of fighters killed and wounded is often the greatest expense for the Taliban and its terrorist partner groups, and in Afghanistan, likewise the most important incentive to attract fighters.

Where Taliban money comes from

The Taliban finance themselves from a variety of sources, from drug trafficking to donations from other foreign countries:

The Taliban’s finances are complicated, more so by a structure which is not monolithic, and heavily dependent on the vast international criminal network operated by the Haqqani Taliban Network in the East, and somewhat autonomous regional commanders in the West. Revenues are variously drawn from taxes imposed on locals, narcotics trafficking, foreign donations-largely from Arab Gulf countries, real estate (some of which is abroad), the extortion of mining companies operating in areas under their control–many of which are Chinese government parastatals, and other foreign governments. Pakistan has long been a principal backer, but Russia and Iran increased their investments to court the group in recent years. Moreover, both benefited decidedly from the Taliban’s swift, bloodless conquest that expeditiously purged and humiliated the United States, and minimized what might have been a violent, prolonged fight that increased regional instability and the flow of refugees.

Dichotomy between US Department of Defense and CIA

Douglas London noted the disparity of opinion between the Department of Defense and the CIA:

in grading their own homework, the U.S. defense establishment only exacerbated the problem. While it’s little surprise the Department of Defense was unwilling to objectively evaluate the resolve and capacity of those they trained, equipped, and advised to resist a forthcoming Taliban offensive, their rose-colored depictions of achievement over 20 years flew in the face of reality, and was consistently challenged by the CIA’s more gloomy, albeit realistic projections.

Conclusion

He concludes:

there was no intelligence failure by the agency in warning either Trump or Biden as to how events would play out. Operating in the shadows and “supporting the White House” will prevent the intelligence community from publicly defending itself. But the failure was not due to any lack of warning, but rather the hubris and political risk calculus of decision makers whose choices are too often made in their personal and political interest or with pre-committed policy choices, rather than influenced by (sometimes inconvenient) intelligence assessments and the full interests of the country.

It is difficult to see how the Afghanistan debacle can ever be rectified now, especially after 20 years.

As to what happens going forward, unfortunately, the grim possibilities are endless.

More on Afghanistan tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post covered the intractable situation in Afghanistan from Alexander the Great through to America’s involvement as of 2018.

I ended with an article by Lawrence Sellin, a retired colonel in the US Army Reserve, who wrote an article for the Indian Center for Diplomatic Studies, ‘China Moves into Afghanistan As Part of Its Global Expansion Mission’.

Lithium and other minerals

China’s involvement in Afghanistan will become much deeper. The country’s mineral deposits, lithium in particular, are much sought after. This is what the US withdrawal on August 15 means:

The tweeted article is by an Indian scientist, Ameya Paleja, writing for Interesting Engineering: ‘With Taliban, Is China Eyeing Afghanistan’s Mineral Deposits?’

Paleja writes (emphases mine):

The abrupt removal of the US forces has left a political vacuum that China seems eager to fill. The Week reported that Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a Taliban delegation earlier in July and the two have agreed on a bigger role for China in the “future reconstruction and economic development of the region.”

China had made some inroads in mining projects in 2008 with a plan to mine copper out of what is believed to be the second-largest copper reserve in the world. However, progress on the project had been slow. Its next target could be the rare earth elements like lithium that China currently mines and exports from its mainland to fuel the electric transformation of transportation in the US and Europe.

Lithium-ion batteries are now ubiquitous in almost all electronic appliances and even working as storage systems for grids powered by renewable energies.  However, China would be happy to move the operations to another country, given the environmental risks entailed in the process. 

Therefore, it is curious that Joe Biden abruptly ended US involvement in Afghanistan, known to be the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium’.

Where was that expression coined? In the United States, by their own defence department:

Yet, for whatever reason, Ameya Paleja points out that the 2020 United States Geological Survey (USGS) report:

does not even mention Afghanistan in the list of global lithium reserves

Newsweek invited Nigel Farage to write an editorial on Biden’s perilous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Farage wrote about the lithium deposits:

A commentator on GB News this week said that China plays the long game. Western countries think four or five years ahead. China looks 10 to 20 years ahead.

In reading Farage’s article, one might be forgiven for thinking that China started putting the pieces together some years ago, even before electric cars became a thing:

Afghanistan’s lithium reserves were first identified during geological studies carried out in the 1980s by the Soviet Union. At that time, the discovery did not resonate with most people because demand for the mineral was fairly low. After the Americans arrived in Afghanistan 20 years ago, they sought to back up the work done decades earlier and, in 2007, the United States Geological Survey discovered vast deposits of iron, gold, copper, cobalt and lithium. This discovery remained largely unknown until 2010. Yet media reports from that year confirmed its significance to modern industry, saying that Afghanistan was on course to be one of the most important mining centers in the world. An internal Pentagon memo that was unearthed at the time even stated that the country could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” It should be noted that Joe Biden was vice president when that memo became widely known.

Almost 15 years after that survey, most of these mineral deposits remain unexploited as a result of the various problems which have overshadowed Afghanistan. Recently, however, rapidly rising commodity prices have proved just how vital lithium has become. This development makes Biden’s irresponsible withdrawal from Afghanistan even more difficult to comprehend.

Farage discussed China’s strategy in Africa, which clearly works for the continent’s leaders:

Despite its great size, China is surprisingly short on many of the vital minerals it needs to support its modern industrial revolution. To date, its Belt and Road initiative has used Africa to ensure vital supplies for the future, successfully securing the rights to mineral mining in many countries in that continent. In return, African administrations receive revenue for opening up their countries to the Chinese. The fact that some individual African politicians seem to have become extremely wealthy very quickly in recent years is not a coincidence.

Therefore, he says, China can use the same strategy with the Taliban, despite the Uighur situation:

I predict that exactly the same thing will happen in Afghanistan. True, there will almost certainly have to be a compromise over the appalling treatment of the 12 million-strong Muslim Uighur minority living in Xinjiang, but I have no doubt that China and Afghanistan will reach an understanding. China is desperate to forge links with the Taliban in order to obtain Afghanistan’s assets as quickly as possible.

Arguably, it has already begun to do so. It was announced this week that a Chinese consortium intends to reopen the Mes Aynak copper mine near Kabul, which is believed to contain some of the largest copper deposits in the world. The consortium, consisting of the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC Group) and another Chinese company, Jiangxi Copper, was awarded a 30-year, $2.9 billion contract in 2008 but halted work because of the pandemic. According to an unnamed source at the state-owned Global Times “We would consider reopening [Mes Aynak] after the situation is stabilised and international recognition, including the Chinese government’s recognition of the Taliban regime, take place.”

Farage concludes:

Although guaranteeing the future availability and price of any commodity is difficult, in this particular situation one thing seems certain: the West’s green revolution has been dealt a major blow. In strategic terms, this underlines the madness of Biden’s withdrawal decision. Was the president poorly briefed, or simply not up to the job? Whatever the answer, the green revolution that has been planned by every G7 nation has suffered a setback. The blame can be laid squarely at the feet of blundering Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, August 17, Cynthia Chung of Canada’s Rising Tide Foundation wrote an article for Strategic Culture: ‘Afghanistan: Whatever the Future Brings, One Thing Is for Sure, Britain and the U.S. Should Stay Out’.

Chung wrote about the Chinese government’s interest in the Wakhan Corridor, about which I wrote yesterday. It is a slim tongue-shaped piece of eastern Afghanistan that borders China. Among other projects:

Beijing is also building a major road through the Wakhan Corridor, which would connect China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang to Afghanistan.

The Wakhan Corridor project is fraught with risk, but the Chinese have been negotiating with the Taliban since 2019. From what Chung reports, the Taliban might sacrifice any concern for the Uighurs for the good of Chinese investment:

China has been undergoing negotiations with the Taliban since 2019.

The Wakhan Corridor is regarded as a rather risky endeavour having the potential to act as a corridor for terrorism rather than development.

Just a few weeks ago, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview that “China is a friendly country and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan…if [the Chinese] have investments, of course we will ensure their safety.

On the issue of whether the Taliban might support alleged Uyghur militants against China in neighboring Xinjiang, Shaheen responded, “We care about the oppression of Muslims, be it in Palestine, in Myanmar, or in China, and we care about the oppression of non-Muslims anywhere in the world. But what we are not going to do is interfere in China’s internal affairs.

This may seem like empty talk meant to impress Beijing and earn more brownie points, but the Wakhan Corridor is narrow and will not be difficult to monitor. Thus Beijing is offering this in good faith but it is also an easy test to see how much substance is indeed behind such words, and the Taliban know this.

On July 28th, Taliban representatives met with Chinese officials in Tianjin. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi statedThe Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country, and will play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation, and reconstruction there.

This is sending a clear message, that so long as the Taliban agrees to defend Afghanistan against terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and serves to increase stability in the region, it will continue to have a seat at the negotiation table.

Trump’s withdrawal plan had wide approval

President Donald Trump presented his plan for American withdrawal from Afghanistan on February 29, 2020: ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan’.

It placed a certain degree of trust in the Taliban to negotiate with the then-Afghan government.

It also met with wide approval from not only the UN Security Council but also Russia and China. Chung gives us an outline of Trump’s strategy. It included:

provisions including the withdrawal of all regular American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge that they would oppose al-Qaeda in their zones of influence and open up talks with the Afghan government. This peace agreement was also supported by Russia, China, Pakistan and unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.

Under this peace agreement there was to be an initial reduction from 13, 000 to 8, 600 troops in July 2020, followed by a full withdrawal by May 1st 2021 if the Taliban kept its commitments during this downscaling of U.S. military presence.

This agreement looked promising under the Trump Administration, and it was thought that it would be possible to work with the Taliban in securing peace and stability in Afghanistan, to counter al-Qaeda, and to allow for American troops to finally leave a country they had been occupying for two decades. And again, this was a proposal that was supported by Russia, China, Pakistan and the UN Security Council.

Even Gen. Nick Carter, the UK chief of the General Staff stated in an interview, “I think that the Taliban is not the organization it once was, it is an organization that has evolved significantly in the 20 years that we have been there…They recognize that they need some political legitimacy and I would not be surprised if a scenario plays out that actually sees it not being quite as bad as perhaps some of the naysayers at the moment are predicting.

Trump was already discussing his plan the year before, in January 2019. On January 31, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) agreed, saying that it was not in any way ‘precipitous’. Who at the time could have imagined Biden’s precipitous move 17 months later?

The following day, February 1, Trump tweeted:

I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the “Endless Wars” of unlimited spending and death. During my campaign I said, very strongly, that these wars must finally end. We spend $50 Billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace

However, the Senate disagreed with a proposed withdrawal. Jesse Kelly, a Marine Corps veteran, wrote about it on February 4 for The Federalist: ‘Congress’s Vote To Keep War In Afghanistan Sells Out American Soldiers’.

It began:

The U.S. Senate cannot agree on anything. They are so mired in partisan gridlock, a resolution declaring the sky to be officially the color blue would fail along party lines. But there is one thing and one thing only they agree on: 17 years of our troops dying in Afghanistan isn’t long enough.

By a 68-23 margin, the Senate decided we haven’t spilled enough blood, broken enough soldiers (mentally and physically), or spent enough money. All for a now-aimless conflict in a part of the world Americans don’t even care about.

What began as an attempt to hunt down Osama bin Laden has now become a generational conflict where sons are patrolling the same areas as their fathers did. This no longer a war. This has become a hopeless mission to tame a part of the world that has never been and will never be tamed.

Afghanistan is a rugged, tribal nation with different interests than ours. As with so many parts of the world, the strong will rule over the weak there, and there is precious little America can do about that. That is why we’re now resigned to negotiating a peace deal with the very Taliban we’ve been fighting for 17 years.

He cited three Founding Fathers, none of whom thought that America should be the world’s policeman.

Kelly concluded:

Let us stop this. Let us revert back to an originalist foreign policy that lets America worry about America and Americans.

That’s not isolationism, as America must remain ever vigilant and ready to take on the evils of this world should they threaten her interests. Instead, it’s a foreign policy that focuses on neutrality, trade, and places high value on the life of the American soldier. Let us finally send neoconservative interventionalism to the death it wishes upon our troops.

With regard to the Senate vote, Rand Paul told Fox News:

He also suggested that it was time for the Senate to stop using US troops to further a prevailing narrative in politics and the media:

On September 7, Trump was ready to meet a Taliban delegation at Camp David, but the meeting fell through. He tweeted:

Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday. They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to…

I don’t know what the next tweet said.

On Thanksgiving Day that year, while the media accused him of being on holiday, Trump travelled to Afghanistan to meet with American troops:

He was at Bagram Airfield:

On February 20, 2020, just nine days before Trump issued his ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,’ Mike Pompeo and his negotiators met with the Taliban in Doha and arrived at an agreement to further the Afghan Peace Process:

How was this going to work? Trump said that the US would keep an eye on the Taliban:

Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said the Taliban had been trying to reach an agreement with the US for a long time

“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time,” Mr Trump added. “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no-one’s ever seen.”

The agreement, fragile though it was, was signed on Saturday, February 29, 2020:

Trump expressed his gratitude for the support he received from the UN and NATO. Dr Fauci is there because coronavirus press conferences in the United States had already begun:

On March 1, however, Afghanistan was reneging on the release of prisoners. President Ghani said at the time that the release was a decision for the Afghan government, not the United States.

Nevertheless, by March 9, US troops began going home. American Military News reported:

Hundreds of U.S. troops have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan in line with the U.S. commitments announced in the recent U.S.-Taliban peace deal.

American service members are leaving Afghanistan, with no troops planned to replace them in the country, the Associated Press reported Monday following conversations with an unnamed U.S. military official. The withdrawal comes even as uncertainty persists around the Taliban peace agreement, as well as political upheaval within the Afghan government.

On November 16, several days after the hotly-contested election, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) sided with Joe Biden and again said that Trump’s plan was premature:

However, freshman senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) urged Trump to press ahead in his final weeks in the White House:

The Concerned Veterans for America also urged Trump to act before he left office:

Unfortunately, by January 2021, President Trump’s hands were tied and, on Inauguration Day morning, as planned, he left the White House.

Biden and Afghanistan

On April 14, 2021, Joe Biden made an announcement about further troop withdrawals:

Biden said that he spoke with Obama and Bush before taking a decision:

The then-Afghan president Ashraf Ghani confirmed a conversation with Biden:

By July 8, however, the wheels were falling off the bus, even though Biden insisted there was no threat of Taliban takeover:

On July 9, the Taliban were already on their way to retaking control of Afghanistan, as you can see from this BBC map:

https://www.strategic-culture.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/sc17082101.jpg

By the time Biden created chaos on August 14 and 15, the Taliban had triumphed.

More on Afghanistan to follow next week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, was a sad day for American conservatives.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh died of lung cancer.

His weekday radio show, broadcast all over the United States, gave a voice to independents and Republicans who support American values and common sense.

Why millions mourn

Although Limbaugh spent nearly all his career in broadcasting, he became a household word during the Clinton administration. Adults listened to him intently. They encouraged their children to listen to him also, whether at home or on the road.

Limbaugh spoke the truth in a witty, humourous way that kept the syndication of his show on the rise.

The man with the golden microphone influenced millions of Americans, young and old, in a tie that he designed himself. He had a series of these ties, of varying designs of his own which were made in pure silk and produced in the 1990s. They sold like hotcakes:

His broadcasting company was called EIB: Excellence in Broadcasting.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis gave one of the state’s two most famous residents — the other would be President Trump — a proper tribute, including an excellent potted biography. Click on the image in the tweet to see more:

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used one of Rush’s invented terms for those who agreed with him: ‘ditto heads’. As I recall, in order to help pace calls from listeners, he encouraged them to say ‘ditto’ if they agreed with him. In time, he affectionately called them ditto heads:

Trump supporters and commentators Diamond and Silk also sent their condolences:

Limbaugh’s many millions of fans knew that he was gravely ill.

Nevertheless, he helped President Trump out by having him do a two-hour rally on air last October. As many states were on coronavirus lockdown, it seemed a sensible way to reach listeners all across the country, which it duly did. Dan Scavino’s tweet includes a link to the transcript and to the video:

On October 19, he provided his audience with an update on his health. An excerpt follows:

I just don’t like to talk about it often ’cause I don’t want to be a cancer patient on the radio.

And there’s another thing too. Folks, it’s an up and down thing. It really is a day-to-day thing. And so what I tell you one day could very well be true. And then the next day, oops, setback, oops, then I gotta go back, “Folks, what I told you yesterday, forget it. It’s not true today.” I don’t want to put you through that. I don’t want to put myself through it. But I know you’re concerned. So, it is time. I do want to provide you with a brief and honest update.

In a nutshell, there are lots of ups and downs in this particular illness. And it can feel like a roller coaster at times that you can’t get off of. And again, I want to stress here that I know countless numbers of you are experiencing the same thing. If it isn’t lung cancer, it’s some kind of cancer. If it isn’t you, it’s somebody really close to you. If it isn’t an illness, it’s something. We’re all going through challenges. Mine are no better and mine are no different and mine are no more special than anybody else. But it can feel like a roller coaster.

On Christmas Eve, his audience wasn’t sure whether he would make it back for the New Year. Thankfully, he did, for a while:

On the day of his demise, his widow Kathryn introduced the show with aplomb. All credit to her. She did a brilliant job at what must have been one of the most difficult moments in her life:

No doubt the show’s producer, Bo Snerdley, helped her with a highly professional announcement:

Speaking of family, this is David Limbaugh’s tribute. Rush was his brother:

Career success

Part of the reason Rush Limbaugh retained such great listener loyalty was that he could make boring or contentious subjects funny.

One of his early radio heroes was Larry Lujack, known during the 1970s as Chicago’s ‘superjock’ when he was employed by WLS. Lujack’s ratings were enormous, even for a top-40 station.

Another one of Limbaugh’s favourites was William F Buckley Jr, who founded National Review and hosted PBS’s Firing Line for many years.

Limbaugh came from a family of lawyers and judges, so the admiration of Buckley is understandable.

However, Limbaugh was not one for legal or serious academics, and, as a boy in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, he gravitated towards American football and radio.

Little did Rush Limbaugh know that he would be able to surpass his ‘mentors’ during his career and become one of the most famous men in the United States.

He borrowed heavily from both.

Radio

Having a career in radio is very difficult.

You get hired and fired in quick order. Even a superjock like Larry Lujack had his ups and downs before finding ratings success at WLS.

Interestingly, this is how he did it. And Rush Limbaugh did something similar during the early days of his career.

WLS used to carry farm reports before it became a Top-40 music station. When Lujack started, the station was still receiving farming magazines, so, instead of reading the grain reports with a formal farming report, he began relating stories from the farming magazines. These eventually became a regular feature on his show and were called Animal Stories.

Similarly, in 1971, when Lujack was at his height in the disc jockey ratings, Limbaugh was working at a Pittsburgh radio station which also had farm reports. Fox News has an article on Limbaugh’s career and relates how he got around farm reports:

“The last thing that the audience of my show cares about is farm news. If farm news came on, bam! They pushed the button and go somewhere else. So, we had to figure out, ‘Okay, how do we do this and protect the license?’ So I turned the farm news every day into a funny bit with farm sound effects and the roosters crowing and so forth, and I’d make fun of the stockyard feed prices or whatever it was, so that we could say, ‘We’re doing barn news,’ agriculture news. There was all kinds of things like that,” Limbaugh told listeners.

The tidbit offered a glimpse into Limbaugh’s early days, proving that he was a master of keeping audiences engaged from a young age.

Veteran talk radio host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr wrote a warm and detailed tribute to Limbaugh, which shows just how he mastered radio. Excerpts follow:

Thanks for being the absolute best lead-in any other radio-talk show host could have ever dream of having.

Thank you for all the great nicknames from old Top 40 songs, including for local Massachusetts politicians Mike Dukakis (“Nowhere Man”), Ted Kennedy (“The Philanderer”) and Barney Frank (“My Boy Lollipop”) …

Thank you for teaching all of us other hosts how to properly utilize sound cuts, even before the digital era, when it became so easy to pull up audio clips.

Thank for those unforgettable shorthand descriptions of, say, John Kerry (“who, you may not have heard, served in Vietnam”), not to mention such memorable phrases as “the drive-by media,” “talent on loan from God,” and “random acts of journalism.”

Thanks for your unfailingly good humor, and the fact that you were “up” every afternoon at noon, no matter how you may have felt inside …

Thank you being, as you used to say, America’s anchorman, not to mention, providing show prep for the rest of the media …

Thank you for driving President Bill Clinton so crazy that one morning on Air Force One, speaking to the morning hosts on KMOX, the blowtorch station in Rush’s home state of Missouri, he whined and said something like, “It’s so hard to compete against a guy like Limbaugh who has three hours a day.”

In other words, Clinton was complaining that a journeyman radio guy had a bigger bully pulpit than the president of the United States.

Thank you for giving me, and a hundred others, brand-new careers, that I might add paid so much better than newspapers or spinning 45’s on a dying Top 40 station.

One of my listeners, Jay from Chelsea, texted me yesterday afternoon:

“Forget Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, TODAY is the day the music died.” Vaya con Dios, Rush. Go with God.

Well said.

Howie also said more than once on his show that day that Rush Limbaugh was renowned as being a big tipper in restaurants.

Conservative analysis

In addition to absorbing conservative thought, particularly by William F Buckley Jr, Limbaugh took a number of trips across Europe and Asia. The Fox News article says:

Limbaugh has said he realized America was the “greatest country ever” when taking trips to Europe and Asia in his late 20s and early 30s, an experience that helped shape his political views.

Like Buckley, Limbaugh was careful to do his research before every show. Rather than conduct a continuous call-in, he gave his own views based on the news, interviews and books he had read. When he took calls, which he did daily, he engaged the listeners in conversation.

Of Buckley, Limbaugh said:

He single-handedly is responsible for my learning to form and frame my beliefs and express them verbally in a concise and understandable way.

The interesting thing is that, as was true with Buckley, both could predict things that came true several months later. That requires analysis of facts and trends. Limbaugh was able to replay clips of his previous programmes when those times came.

Dan Bongino compiled ‘The 20 Greatest Quotes From Rush Limbaugh’. Four follow. My favourite is the 17th (emphases mine):

19) “For government to give, it must first take away.”

17) “Now, what is the left’s worldview in general? What is it? If you had to attach not a philosophy but an attitude to a leftist worldview, it’s one of pessimism and darkness, sadness. They’re never happy, are they? They’re always angry about something. No matter what they get, they’re always angry.”

2) “You know why there’s a Second Amendment? In case the government fails to follow the first one.”

1) “What about feeling sorry for those…who pay the taxes? Those are the people NO ONE ever feels sorry for. They are asked to give and give until they have no more to give. And when they say ‘Enough!’ they are called selfish.”

Courtesy

Rush Limbaugh never lorded himself over his audience and was very courteous to his callers.

On Wednesday, Howie Carr, who knew Limbaugh peripherally, said that, even when Limbaugh became mostly deaf, he could sense the tone of a caller’s voice. If they were worried, he reassured them. When they were happy, he laughed along with them.

Howie Carr says that during the last ten years or so of Limbaugh’s show, he employed a transcriber who could type as quickly as a caller spoke. This further enabled him to engage with those phoning in to the show, which he broadcast from a custom-built studio at his home in Palm Beach.

The show’s future

Howie Carr said that, for now, The Rush Limbaugh Show will continue with retrospective audio clips on various topics, of which there are many. He thinks there will be a presenter to oversee the show and introduce various archived pieces.

WXJB-FM, a station that carries The Rush Limbaugh Show, issued a statement on Wednesday, which reads in part:

All of Rush’s audio has been extensively archived and catalogued by subject, topic and opinion.  Given how timeless and insightful Rush’s commentary is his producers will be able to pull segments that are relevant for each day’s news cycle and allow us to feature the best of Rush for the full three hours of the program.

The familiar voices of the programs’ guest hosts will be used in the show when needed to guide Rush’s audio from one topic to another, but Rush will be the predominant voice heard for the three-hour Monday-Friday show, the AM Daily Update and The Week in Review three-hour show.

Please note that we will continue with this transitional programming until the audience is prepared to say good-bye. The long-term plan will be shared with you in the upcoming weeks.

We will mourn together in a respectful way and celebrate the incredible life of Rush with his millions of loyal listeners.  Today, a three hour tribute will air in Rush’s regular time slot.  Follow-up information will be posted on www.rushlimbaugh.com.

Thank goodness.

President Trump’s tribute

Fox News interviewed President Trump on Wednesday. This 12-minute video is very interesting, definitely worth a watch:

Here is a shorter excerpt from that interview:

President Trump said that he did not know Limbaugh until shortly after he began his presidential campaign in 2015 at Trump Tower. Sometime afterwards, a mutual friend got in touch with candidate Trump to say that he had a fan in Limbaugh.

Trump then began listening to Limbaugh’s shows. The radio host mentioned him and his candidacy frequently. Finally, the two men met. As they both had homes in Palm Beach, Florida, it was convenient. When time permitted, they shared a game of golf. Trump praised Limbaugh’s strong swing.

He also had high praise for his wife Kathryn Limbaugh and credits Rush’s ability to survive for the last few months to her good care as well as to the radio host’s indomitable spirit.

When it came time to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union Address in 2020, Limbaugh was receiving treatment in a Boston hospital. Trump wanted to keep the medal a surprise but could not do so, because allowing Limbaugh out of hospital required details of why he had to be temporarily discharged. Further complicating matters was the fact that Limbaugh was incapacitated for the most part and had to use a wheelchair. The video has a clip of the presentation. I remember it from last year. It was very moving, indeed.

Fortunately, Newsmax also has a clip. Kathryn Limbaugh is on the left of the screen. First Lady Melania Trump presented the honour:

Much applause and a standing ovation from Republicans followed:

The last time the US president spoke to the ailing radio host was a few days before his death. He called to check in on his friend, who, by then, was very ill indeed.

President Trump said that Rush Limbaugh truly loved America. He also said that America’s most famous radio host was also religious, which is why he was able to be philosophical about his illness.

Tens of millions of us can believe it.

The word most often used this week to describe him is ‘irreplaceable’. Tens of millions of us can believe that, too:

May Rush Limbaugh rest in eternal peace with perpetual light forever shining upon him.

My prayers go to his widow Kathryn, his brother David, the rest of his family and all his friends.

Rush Limbaugh was one of the last people who exemplify Americana in all its greatness.

On Monday, February 25, 2019, President Donald Trump left for Hanoi, where he is meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea:

The Governors’ Ball was held the evening before at the White House. Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Ambassador Bob Lighthizer, Attorney General Bill Barr and his wife Christine Barr also attended:

President Trump made the following remarks about his trip to Vietnam to broker peace with North Korea:

He began by discussing last week’s highly successful trade talks with China, which resulted in an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). Emphases mine below:

I see Steve Mnuchin’s here and Ambassador Lighthizer, we’ve just had a big meeting with China, we just put out a statement and we’re doing very well with China. It was a long weekend; they decided to stay for two and half more days. They’ll probably be leaving late tonight. They’re going back and if all works well, we’re going to have some very big news over the next week or two. And it’s really been terrific. I tell you that the whole relationship has been outstanding. We’ve put ourselves into a position of strength for the first time in about 35 years, or probably a lot more than that

China is everywhere and I think you’d really amazed with what you see. Maybe. Let’s see what happens. We still have a little ways to go. Would you say that’s correct, Mr Ambassador? We have a little bit. But I want thank you, Bob, you’ve been working 24 hours around the clock and I will say this publicly, when I was able to be lucky enough to win the presidency I called Bob Lighthizer because for years people have known he’s the greatest trader that we have on this type of trade – we have many different types of trade – and I really understand now why. Thank you very much. Fantastic.

Also, I was going to leave very early tomorrow, but now I’m going to do it a little bit later. I had an option to do it at six in the morning or 11 and I chose 11. I can spend a little bit of time with you tomorrow morning because you’re having a breakfast and I’ll come to the breakfast. But literally, I said what kind of an option is that, I can leave at six in the morning or 11? They said you can leave at six or anywhere between 11 and 12. I said I’ll take 11 to 12. But you’re having a breakfast so I’ll be with you at the breakfast.

Then he spoke about North Korea:

But we’ll be leaving for Hanoi, Vietnam, and we’ll be meeting with Kim Jong-un. It’s a very interesting thing to say but I’ve developed a very, very good relationship. We’ll see what that means but he’s never had a relationship with anybody from this country and hasn’t had lots of relationships anywhere.

The media sometimes will say, well, what have they given up? We’ve given up nothing. The sanctions are on, everything’s on, but we have a special feeling and I think it’s going to lead to something very good and maybe now. I think ultimately it will, but maybe not, and I’m not pushing for speed but we’re not removing the sanctions. And we’re going to have, I think, a very interesting two and half days in Vietnam and we have a chance for the total denuclearisation of an area of the world that was very dangerous.

When I first came in, or really more particularly at the end of the last administration, there were rockets going up, there were missiles going up, there were bombs going off, there were massive cannons being tested. If you ever saw the picture of the beach, I’ve never seen anything like it where you had literally thousands of cannons on the beach shooting out into the waters. And there was nuclear testing. In fact, they thought it was earthquakes. They said there are massive earthquakes and then they realised it was North Korea. They said wow, it’s maybe not an earthquake. Now there’s no testing, there’s no rockets, there’s no nuclear testing and we get along well, very well, so it will be very interesting to see.

As I tell Chairman Kim, he has a chance to have a country that is so vibrant economically. Maybe one of the most in the world. He’s got a location that’s unbelievable. As a real estate person, I’ve always done well with location, but he’s right between China, Russia and on the other side South Korea, so they can’t touch each other unless they go through North Korea. And I say, you have one of the greatest locations, they have incredible people, hardworking people, smart, energetic, and I think it could be really one of the great financial and economic countries anywhere in the world. So I tell him that but I said you can’t do that if you’re going to keep nuclear. If you do nuclear, that can’t ever happen.

And we see eye to eye, I believe, but you’ll be seeing it more and more over the next couple of days, one way or the other. What’s going to happen, I can’t tell you. I think eventually it would but I can’t tell you and I’m not in a rush, I don’t want to rush anybody, I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy. So we’ve done really something, I think, very special with respect to North Korea and it’s a long flight and I’ll be back at the end of the week. But we have two very interesting days planned and I think it’s a very important thing.

Prime Minister Abe of Japan said he can’t believe what’s happened in such a short period of time because rockets were being fired over Japan: rockets and missiles both. And now that hasn’t happened in long time, 16 months, 17 months, no more testing, no more rockets, no more checking to see whether or not this stuff works. So you’ll be seeing it and I think it’s going to be very interesting for people but there’s a chance to do something very, very special. It’s very exciting.

And likewise, if we can do a great economic deal, it will be the largest trade deal ever made by far if you look at it, our deal with China, and we truly are very close. So those are a couple of very interesting things. But our country’s doing incredibly well economically. We’ve pick up in terms of value worth $18 trillion. Now China – I don’t want this – but China has lost about $44 trillion. So they were catching us, catching us, catching us, and now we’ve zoomed out. And I can say this: as long as I’m president, they’re not going catch us, and they’re going to do well – but I want them to do well, they’re not going to catch us.

So I just want to give a toast to the incredible people in this room and to our unbelievable country. We have a very, very special country. I want to thank our First Lady for having done – this is such a beautiful job. Melania, thank you very much. And I would like to ask Governor Bullock to come up please from a very special place that I like very much for the obvious reason. And perhaps you could give a toast, please. Thank you, governor …

Governor Steve Bullock from Montana gave the toast.

A prayer was then said.

The White House published a statement about the meeting between the two leaders:

  • On February 27 and 28, 2019, President Donald J. Trump will meet with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Chairman Kim Jong Un for a second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.
  • This summit aims to make further progress on the commitments the two leaders made in Singapore:  transformed relations, a lasting and stable peace, and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
  • The President has made clear that should North Korea follow through on its commitment to complete denuclearization, we will work to ensure there are economic development options.
  • The United States and partners are prepared to explore how to mobilize investment, improve infrastructure, enhance food security, and more in the DPRK.
    • Robust economic development under Chairman Kim is at the core of President Trump’s vision for a bright future for United States–DPRK relations.

I hope that Kim has started feeding his starving people in the countryside. Man cannot live on a diet of dirt and dung.

More to follow.

In April 2017, I wrote about the plight of the Reverend Andrew Brunson in Turkey. At that time, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was trying to secure his release.

Nearly a year later, in March 2018, Fox News reported that Brunson could be imprisoned for 35 years:

An American pastor has been charged in Turkey with engaging in espionage and having links to terror groups, crimes that carry a potential sentence of up to 35 years in prison, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Tuesday.

An indictment accuses Andrew Brunson of working with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen’s network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, to stir chaos in Turkey and divide the country, Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.

The news agency said the pastor faces 15 years for crimes committed in the name of Gulen’s group and the PKK and another 20 years for obtaining state secrets for political and military spying purposes.

Brunson is originally from North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years. He was arrested during the mass detentions and firings soon after a failed July 2016 coup attempt. He denies any wrongdoing.

The United States has demanded his release.

In April, President Trump was still on the case:

In May:

In July, Trump tweeted:

In August, Trump used tariffs as leverage against Turkey. On August 15, CBS News reported that Turkey responded in kind:

Turkey announced Wednesday that it is increasing tariffs on imports of certain U.S. products as a local court denied an American pastor’s appeal to be released from house arrest — both moves which could escalate a feud with the United States that has helped trigger a currency crisis. In a decision announced in the Official Gazette, Ankara said it will impose extra tariffs on imports of products including rice, vehicles, alcohol, coal and cosmetics.

Tariffs on American cars were doubled to 120 percent while the tariff on alcoholic drinks rose to 140 percent. Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter that the tariffs on certain products were increased “within the framework of the principle of reciprocity in retaliation for the deliberate economic attacks by the United States.”

A local court in Izmir, meanwhile, rejected the appeal by Pastor Andrew Brunson to be released from house arrest pending his trial on espionage and terrorism-related charges … 

The Trump administration imposed its own financial sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on the country earlier this month as President Donald Trump tries to secure the Brunson’s release.

The Turkish lira has dropped to record lows in recent weeks, having fallen some 42 percent so far this year …

On October 11, there was light at the end of the tunnel for the imprisoned pastor:

On October 12, Brunson was on his way home via Germany in a US military plane:

The US ambassador to Germany was on hand to greet the pastor and his wife:

President Trump spoke from a rally that day:

Fox News reported:

Brunson was arrested and detained for 18 months before finally being charged by the Turkish government with a connection to the coup attempt.

U.S. officials also refuted the accusations against Brunson, and amid mounting pressure from American politicians, Brunson was moved from prison to house arrest in July.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., hailed the verdict Friday, calling it “long overdue news” and adding that “the Turkish government should put Pastor Brunson on the next flight home.”

The Trump administration advocated persistently for Brunson’s release, leading to an intense economic showdown between the two NATO allies. In August, the U.S. slapped sanctions on an array of Turkish officials and on some goods, sending Turkish currency into freefall.

Brunson was not the only American behind bars in Turkey on questionable charges. Several Turkish-American citizens — including NASA scientist Serkan Golge and several workers from the United States Embassy in Ankara — are languishing in prison alleged to have a connection to Gulen’s group.

Trump has put much emphasis on not paying ransom money for the pastor’s release:

Trump’s efforts in arranging hostage and prisoner releases overseas have been historic:

Brunson’s release brought much gratitude, not only from the Brunsons but also the Evangelical community.

Breitbart reported that Brunson issued a statement:

“We are grateful for the President’s commitment and efforts in securing my release,” Brunson said in a statement released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working to secure his release. “My entire family thanks the president, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support.”

“This is the day our family has been praying for – I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States,” Brunson said. “It’s been an extremely difficult time for our family and we want to express our appreciation to the millions of people around the world who have faithfully prayed for this day.”

“I am thankful for the representation of the American Center for Law & Justice – especially ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and ACLJ Senior Counsel CeCe Heil – as well as the many others who worked so hard to obtain my freedom,” Brunson said.

“I look forward to returning home and being reunited with my family,” Brunson said.

The Breitbart report has a comment from the ACLJ which says what many of us assumed; this was not about spying, it was about evangelising for the Christian faith (emphases mine):

The ACLJ said Brunson was targeted because of his Christian faith. Brunson has been leading a Christian congregation and mission in Turkey for two decades.

Pastor Brunson was on trial for the crime of ‘Christianization,’” the ACLJ statement said. “The ACLJ, which has been working in this country and abroad to secure his freedom, said President Trump, as well as members of Congress, continued to push for Pastor Brunson’s release and Turkish officials finally agreed.

“President Trump and his team have been tenacious in seeking the release of Pastor Brunson,” Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ said.“We’re grateful to the president, members of Congress and diplomatic leaders who continued to put pressure on Turkey to secure the freedom of Pastor Brunson.”

Politico reported on the enthusiasm of Evangelical pastors for Trump at the news of Brunson’s release:

When a Turkish court released American Andrew Brunson after two years of confinement, it was a profound moment for Christian evangelicals, who had made the pastor a symbol of religious persecution worldwide.

In Brunson’s case and others, they had prayed for deliverance. And President Donald Trump, they said, delivered …

Again and again, evangelical activists say, the administration has made good on promises made to the faith voters who lifted Trump into office — a group he will sorely need to turn out again for his 2020 re-election bid.

“He wouldn’t be our Sunday School teacher necessarily, but he’s doing a great job of leadership,” said televangelist and Trump adviser James Robison. “I love him so much I can hardly explain it.”

The Hand of God is at work. God is using President Trump as one of His many instruments.

Sarah Sanders’s father, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, acknowledged the Trump administration’s efforts and wondered how the media would cover this joyous event:

At least one journalist understood:

On Saturday, August 13, the excitement was building.

Trump graciously acknowledged Turkish president Erdogan:

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) spoke to the press:

As scheduled, that afternoon, the Brunsons met with President Trump in the Oval Office:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also present …

… as were other members of the administration who worked long and hard to secure Brunson’s release:

Pastor Brunson then prayed over the president, asking the Holy Spirit to descend upon him, granting him wisdom and discernment:

CBN had more on the White House meeting:

Brunson prayed for the commander-in-chief in the Oval Office saying, “I ask that you give him strength. I ask you to protect him.. make him a great blessing to this country and fill him with your wisdom and strength.”

“We pray for you often as a family, my wife and I pray for you,” the pastor told the president …

“We are so grateful to so many people in Congress who stood with us, prayed with us and fought with us,” Brunson said.

President Trump said the US did not give up anything in return for the evangelical minister’s release and pushed back on reports he agreed to lift sanctions.

“Right now the whole world is a fan of yours, the whole world is a fan,” Trump said. “It’s a great honor to have you back home.”

You can see the full event below:

Trump was as energised about this as the Brunsons were:

My prayer is for Pastor Brunson not to return to Turkey, not that he is thinking of doing so now, but he might do so in future.

I hope that he and his family enjoy a happy reunion period at home in North Carolina. May he find a divine calling there.

In closing, may the Trump administration be successful in releasing the other innocent Americans being held in Turkey.

On August 1, 2018, Vice President Mike Pence presided over the  Honorable Carry Ceremony for 55 returned remains of US soldiers from the Korean War.

On Tuesday, August 14, President Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, explained what will happen next.

What follows are excerpts from that day’s press briefing. Emphases mine below.

MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. The images from the Honorable Carry Ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor this month made us all proud to be Americans.

President Trump is committed to getting the almost 8,000 left behind from the Korean War home, and bringing closure to the families who have been waiting for more than 60 years. The process of identifying and verifying the remains is challenging but one that this administration is committed to.

Overseeing this process is Kelly McKeague, the Director of the Defense for POW and MIA Accounting Agency. Leading DOD’s worldwide operation of research, investigation, recovery, and identification, and supporting functions, Director McKeague strives to provide the fullest possible accounting of our missing personnel.

The Director, along with his colleagues, Dr. John Byrd, the Defense POW and MIA Accounting Agency Laboratory Director, and Dr. Timothy McMahon, Director of DOD DNA Operations, have joined us today to offer remarks and take your questions on this topic …

Kelly McKeague then spoke. He noted that the 55 cases returned do not 55 soldiers’ corpses but rather a collection of remains, which might or might not be human (e.g. personal effects):

MR. MCKEAGUE: Thank you, Sarah. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

The August 1st repatriation and homecoming in Hawaii of the remains of the Korean War unaccounted for was a poignant manifestation of the commitments secured by President Trump and pledged by Chairman Kim at the Singapore Summit.

For the families of the 7,700 still unaccounted for from the Korean War, this first step in fulfilling this commitment has undoubtedly provided a seed of hope.

Last week, over 700 of these family members gathered in Arlington, Virginia to receive government updates, and they were resoundingly appreciative of the successful advocacy of the President and his administration.

Two of those family members who attended, Charles and Larry McDaniel, were the recipients of the dog tag their father, Master Sgt. Charles McDaniel, of Indiana. It was the sole personal effect returned by the North Koreans.

The remains of those 55 cases are well into the painstaking multi-faceted analyses by Dr. John Byrd and his forensic science team in Hawaii. And in the coming weeks, Dr. Tim McMahon and his dedicated DNA specialists in Delaware will begin their meticulous testing.

The met[tle] of our scientists and the capabilities of our labs will be challenged. But in the months and years ahead, they will make identifications from these remains and give families long-sought answers.

We are guardedly optimistic the 1 August repatriation is the first tangible action of others with which we will be able to account for more of our missing from the Korean War.

The second aspect of the Korean — of the Singapore commitment was the recovery of remains in North Korea, which DPRK officials reaffirmed last month. We are in the midst of exploring next steps as well as discussions with the Korean People’s Army for the express purpose of resuming joint field operations and having additional repatriations.

But our mission to search for, find, and account for missing Department of Defense personnel from World War II through Operation Iraqi Freedom is one not limited to the Korean Peninsula.

Today, 186 personnel from DPA and private partners are deployed in seven nations. And yesterday, 50 of those members returned from Laos and the Philippines.

Our global mission is humanitarian in every respect, because the impact of a missing American to their family is not constrained by time or generations. And it leaves an enduring pain and void. This is why former enemies, like Vietnam, used cooperation on the POW/MIA mission as a bridge to normalization in today’s thriving bilateral relationship with the United States.

The fact that the United States of America vigorously pursues the fullest-possible accounting of our missing reflects our values as a nation.

The sacred obligation, if not moral imperative, remains a high priority for the Department of Defense. Inherent to the exceptional teamwork, resources, and resoluteness provided by multiple agencies is a solemn vow that those were sent off in harm’s way and are missing will not be forgotten. And their families will receive answers to their decades of uncertainty.

John Byrd, in responding to Major Garrett of CBS News, further confirmed that the 55 boxes contain the partial remains of more than 55 soldiers. He also explained the forthcoming painstaking forensic analysis:

DR. BYRD: … what our lab specializes in is making identifications in circumstances where you have very little to work with. And so I’m confident that we’re going to do well with the remains in these 55 boxes over the coming months and maybe the next several years.

When you look at what’s at stake, we’re going to be doing a lot of DNA sampling. And that’s what Dr. McMahon’s lab does, is they process the samples and then they go into a mass database where they can be compared to all of the other samples that we’ve generated from remains from North Korea, and also compared to the family members.

And so it takes some time to get the samples processed through the lab at AFMES; it takes some time to get them into the mass comparison. But once they’re in there, we’ll start looking for the quick identifications that can be made where you have compelling matches that show themselves early on.

We also look for comparisons to dental records that can be distinctive. We look for individuals that are unusual, in the sense of being very tall, very short, very old. Anything that distinguishes somebody, we can usually get a good clue and identify them faster.

But because of the preservation of the remains, that will just sort of guide the kinds of methods that we can bring to bear on the case. And the case will be very DNA — or very DNA-intensive in terms of the way that we’re going to go about this.

Q And did the number of 55, is that — what does that number represent

DR. BYRD: It’s the number of boxes.

Q Is that 55 individuals?

DR. BYRD: No. It’s the number of boxes that the remains came in. And at no time did we expect there to be one body, one box. Nor did the North Koreans try to pitch it that way to us when we were in Wonsan.

The question arose whether the remains of soldiers of other nationalities were included in the 55 boxes. It is highly possible that not all of these remains are 100% American:

MR. MCKEAGUE: We have a high confidence. So in the early ‘90s, for five years, the North Koreans would repatriate, unilaterally, remains that they had recovered. Out of those 208 boxes over those five years, we estimated, after DNA sampling, 400 individuals.

Now, from that, 200 were Americans. So the likelihood is — you’re correct, there may be some of U.N.-sending forces, there may be some South Korean soldiers — remains, as well as Chinese and North Korean.

What our laboratories — both DNA and the forensic laboratory have the technology and the capabilities by which to differentiate those remains over the course of the next several years.

McKeague explained to another reporter that the US halted the joint search for remains in 2005 (under Bush II), because of the increased nuclear threat from North Korea. He also emphasised that the searches and returns requiring co-operation from both countries:

MR. MCKEAGUE: So for 10 years, we operated between 1996 and 2005, over time conducting 33 joint activities with the North Koreans. Security is primarily our responsibility for our personnel. We also pay attention to communications — having communications abilities as well as having an ability to medevac our personnel should they get hurt.

What we would be looking for from the North Koreans is, again, a commitment from them that communications, medical evacuation requirements can be met, and more importantly, that we can conduct these joint operations in a collaborative way, as we had done for 10 years.

It all comes down, back into 2005, to their behavior on the international stage. The President, rightfully so, was concerned that their nuclear activities, their missile activities, were countermanding and counterproductive to our joint operations, which is why we suspended —

In his talks with the North Koreans, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been working to resume the searches, which are considered to be a humanitarian mission:

MR. MCKEAGUE: … So, Secretary Pompeo, in getting a reaffirmation from the North Koreans last month, affirmed that they do want to establish communications with us and to conduct joint operations. We have not started those negotiations. We will do so. It is on a separate track.

However, as you well pointed out, it could be drawn into the greater geopolitical stream. But for now, we’re treating it as a military-to-military contact, but more importantly, as a humanitarian endeavor that’s separate and distinct from anything else.

And, by the way, the 45 countries that we work with all rightfully recognize this as a humanitarian endeavor, including countries like Russia and China, where we have tremendous cooperation with them.

A reporter asked whether the search for the remaining missing in Vietnam was closed:

MR. MCKEAGUE: It has. So, right now, there are close to 1,700 — 1,600 that remain missing and unaccounted for. Within that set of unaccounted for is what we call “last known alive.” It’s a small subset of individuals who, for whatever reason, were seen alive at a certain point during the war and will remain unaccounted for.

Our priority with the Vietnamese is to get at that subset — small subset. I think it’s down to 25 — not necessarily prisoners of war, but again, last known alive at the time that they were seen.

Another reporter asked whether animal remains had been inadvertently included in the 55 boxes or whether everything pertained to humans:

DR. BYRD: Yes, we did a cursory inspection of the remains in Wonsan before we loaded them onto our military aircraft just to ensure that at least some of what was in each box was human. When we got to Osan, in South Korea, we spent two days going through every box in detail, conducting what we call a field forensic review. The purpose of that review is to ensure that every item is consistent with being human. And if there were any animal remains, we would have pulled them at that point. As it was, we did not find any animal remains.

No one knows at this point the number of soldiers whose remains could be in the 55 boxes. It will take some time to find out:

DR. BYRD: … You know, there is a scientific process to estimate that. And I wish it were very fast, because I think a lot of people would really like to know. The families would love to know that information. But unfortunately, it’s going to take months of analysis to start to get a refined estimate.

Although there is no future timetable at present, it is hoped that the searches will continue now in light of the successful Singapore Summit in June:

DR. BYRD: Okay, so the first question, as Mr. McKeague mentioned, we’re in the process of planning next steps. So we can’t say we have any timeline today for bringing back more remains. We’re hopeful that we will be in the not-too-distant future.

I will say, though, in terms of having worked there — I worked there in the past, during the 1996 to 2000 — five years. I spent a lot of time in the field there. And then I went into Wonsan with our team on July 27th, and there was a very different feel to it this time. It was a much more friendly, welcoming, and collegial approach this time compared to the way it used to be.

I hope that the explanations from the White House press briefing go some way to answering various questions about the remains of soldiers from the Korean War.

I also hope to post the next instalment of Forbidden Bible Verses tomorrow.

My past two posts have been about the US, North Korea and China.

The first post discussed developments that immediately followed the US-North Korea Singapore Summit held on Monday, June 12, 2018.

Yesterday’s concerned Mike Pompeo’s meetings in North Korea and Japan early in July as well as the trade war between the US and China.

Today’s entry looks at events from the past month.

On July 19, news emerged that China was nearly doubling the amounts of crude oil they were sending to North Korea, possibly jeopardising UN sanctions. From OilPrice.com via South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper (emphases mine):

The surge in Chinese shipments to North Korea is raising additional concerns that China could undermine the international sanctions against Kim’s regime.

Pipeline volumes of between 30,000 tons to 40,000 tons are enough in the summer to keep the pipeline from China to North Korea unclogged, while this volume is around 80,000 tons in the winter, Chosun Ilbo’s source said. Although it’s summer, China has recently increased the oil flow to the winter levels, the source told the South Korean outlet …

If China sends 80,000 tons of oil to North Korea every month, this volume already brings the amount to 960,000 tons a year—above the 525,000 tons limit for a 12-month period in the sanctions, Chosun Ilbo argues.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley met with the UN Security Council the next day. The crude oil shipments were one of Pompeo’s first topics. He reminded the UN of the collective responsibility member nations have in enforcing sanctions. From the State Department transcript:

Right now, North Korea is illegally smuggling petroleum products into the country at a level that far exceeds the quotas established by the United Nations. These illegal ship-to-ship transfers are the most prominent means by which this is happening.

These transfers happened at least 89 times in the first five months of this year and they continue to occur. The United States reminds every UN member-state of its responsibility to stop illegal ship-to-ship transfers, and we urge them to step up their enforcement efforts as well.

We must also crack down on other forms of sanctions evasion, including the smuggling of coal by sea, smuggling by overland borders, and the presence of North Korean guest workers in certain countries. North Korean cyber thefts and other criminal activities are also generating significant revenues for the regime, and they must be stopped.

President Trump remains upbeat about the prospects of denuclearization of North Korea. So do I, as progress is happening. It is the Trump administration’s hope that one day the DPRK could be in our midst here at the United Nations – not as a pariah, but as a friend. Imagine UN Security Council meetings in which the DPRK nuclear and missile programs were not the agenda time and time again. We’ll be able to focus our energy on so many urgent problems that face our world.

I believe this reality is possible, and so does President Trump. But it will take full enforcement of sanctions for us to get there. It will also take Chairman Kim following through on his personal commitments that he made to President Trump in Singapore. The path ahead is not easy; it will take time. But our hopes for a safer world for all of us and a brighter future for North Korea remains our objective, and that hope endures.

That day, President Trump signed into law House Resolution (HR) 2061, the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorisation Act of 2017:

At the end of the month, things began happening in North Korea, not all of which made sense.

On July 23, North Korea began dismantling key facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station:

However, on July 25, Mike Pompeo said the country was still producing fuel for nuclear bombs:

Asked at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing whether North Korea was still making bomb fuel, Pompeo responded to Democratic Senator Ed Markey by saying: “Yes, that’s correct … Yes, they continue to produce fissile material.”

Pompeo declined to respond when asked whether North Korea was continuing to pursue submarine-launched ballistic missiles or whether its nuclear program was advancing generally.

He said he would be happy to answer the latter question if necessary in a classified setting, but suggested public statements on the issue would not help “a complex negotiation with a difficult adversary.”

The following day, a new North Korean military chief of staff was appointed:

On July 27, as North Korea pledged, remains of US soldiers from the Korean War landed in Hawaii. US Air Force veteran flying ace Chuck Yeager tweeted a tribute:

On August 1, Vice President Mike Pence presided over a ceremony and reception of the fallen soldiers’ remains in Hawaii, their return being part of the Singapore Summit agreement.

Meanwhile, interesting discussions took place between South Korea and China regarding the Korean War Armistice. Noon in Korea has an excellent Twitter thread from July 31, excerpted below:

Excellent news! The Korean War could finally come to an end!

Meanwhile, back in China — North Korea’s controller — an article on American Thinker excerpted another from the Financial Times, which says the Chinese think that President Trump is ‘a genius’. On July 29, American Thinker‘s Monica Showalter wrote:

Has anyone ever called the Chinese ‘stupid’? Not those guys.

So now they’re reading President Trump, and unlike the childish Eurotrash of western Europe, they see a shrewd, wily, chess-playing, Sun Tzu-grade genius, who could easily checkmate them, and they’ve got a lot of reasons for thinking so.

That’s the report from a European policy-domo, who actually went to Beijing and asked the local leaders what they were seeing.

Instapundit also has excerpts from the FT article, written by the European Council of Foreign Relations President Mark Leonard:

I have just spent a week in Beijing talking to officials and intellectuals, many of whom are awed by his skill as a strategist and tactician. . . .

Few Chinese think that Mr Trump’s primary concern is to rebalance the bilateral trade deficit. If it were, they say, he would have aligned with the EU, Japan and Canada against China rather than scooping up America’s allies in his tariff dragnet. They think the US president’s goal is nothing less than remaking the global order

In Chinese eyes, Mr Trump’s response is a form of “creative destruction”. He is systematically destroying the existing institutions — from the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement to Nato and the Iran nuclear deal — as a first step towards renegotiating the world order on terms more favourable to Washington.

Once the order is destroyed, the Chinese elite believes, Mr Trump will move to stage two: renegotiating America’s relationship with other powers. Because the US is still the most powerful country in the world, it will be able to negotiate with other countries from a position of strength if it deals with them one at a time rather than through multilateral institutions that empower the weak at the expense of the strong.

My interlocutors say that Mr Trump is the US first president for more than 40 years to bash China on three fronts simultaneously: trade, military and ideology. They describe him as a master tactician, focusing on one issue at a time, and extracting as many concessions as he can. They speak of the skilful way Mr Trump has treated President Xi Jinping. “Look at how he handled North Korea,” one says. “He got Xi Jinping to agree to UN sanctions [half a dozen] times, creating an economic stranglehold on the country. China almost turned North Korea into a sworn enemy of the country.” But they also see him as a strategist, willing to declare a truce in each area when there are no more concessions to be had, and then start again with a new front.

Why don’t Westerners view Trump the same way the Chinese do?

Nevertheless, China isn’t going to go down without a fight.

On August 4, Trump posted a series of tweets about the success his tariffs on Chinese goods. This was the first:

The Conservative Treehouse correctly predicted what lay ahead:

Do not be surprised if North Korea launches another provocative missile test soon. Watch China, not N.Korea. It’s Chairman Xi’s people in the DPRK who are taking action. Kim Jong-Un is an expendable proxy regime. The war is the U.S. -vs- China trade and economic confrontation. North Korea is the Potemkin backdrop for the Beijing puppeteer.

The following day, Reuters reported:

China’s state media on Monday lashed out at the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump in an usually direct attack, accusing him of “starring in his own carefully orchestrated street fighter-style deceitful drama”.

Trump’s wish for others to play along with his drama is “wishful thinking,” the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

The editorial said the United States had escalated trade friction with China, and turned international trade into “zero-sum game”.

“Governing a country is not like doing business,” the editorial said, arguing that Trump’s actions imperiled the national credibility of the United States.

The Conservative Treehouse explained what was going on:

Each time China takes aggressive action (red dragon) China projects a panda face through silence and non-response to opinion of that action;…. and the action continues. The red dragon has a tendency to say one necessary thing publicly, while manipulating another necessary thing privately.  The Art of War.

President Trump is the first U.S. President to understand how the red dragon hides behind the panda mask

It is specifically because Trump understands Panda is a mask that President Trump messages warmth toward the Chinese people, and pours vociferous praise upon Xi Jinping, while simultaneously confronting the geopolitical doctrine of the Xi regime.

In essence Trump is mirroring the behavior of China while confronting their economic duplicity.

On August 6, ZeroHedge confirmed Trump’s strategy in an article about the continuing decline of China’s currency, the renminbi: ‘China Is Now Left With Just Three Options, And They Are All Equally Bad’ (emphases in the original):

  1. intervene in currency markets to offset market pressures risking a new wave of reserve depletion;
  2. raise interest rates to defend the currency causing monetary tightening and risking economic weakness; or
  3. let the currency depreciate beyond the above critical levels along with market pressures risking capital outflows and a more abrupt move

It goes without saying that all three choices have severely adverse consequences for the market and the global economy, and yet Donald Trump would be delighted with any of the three. After all, recall what One River CIO Eric Peters … laid out what may be the best long-term foreign policy recommendation for Trump, or any other administration: crash China…

Engineering a decade of rolling Chinese financial crises would be the most effective foreign policy the US could run.” Forget about the South China Sea, don’t bother with more aircraft carriers, just let Beijing try to cope with their financial system.

“And we’re 80% of the way there – we instigated a trade war, implemented a massive fiscal stimulus, which created the room to raise interest rates. The combined policy mix makes capital want to leave at the same time it makes the dollar more attractive and effectively shuts down new investment inflows to China.”

On August 7, ZeroHedge discussed the aforementioned dismantling of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station and disparaged the lack of Big Media coverage on it, especially as the dismantling goes beyond what the US and North Korea negotiated:

activity at the launch pad appears to go beyond that commitment.

ZeroHedge said:

As we previously noted, these stories of supposed North Korean betrayal by NBC, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal are egregious cases of distorting news by pushing a predetermined policy line. But those news outlets, far from being outliers, are merely reflecting the norms of the entire corporate news system

As we concluded previously, a media complex so determined to discredit negotiations with North Korea and so unfettered by political-diplomatic reality seriously threatens the ability of the United States to deliver on any agreement with Pyongyang. That means alternative media must make more aggressive efforts to challenge the corporate press’s coverage... and today’s news seems positive (but we will see what spin it gets).

Last weekend, North Korea and the United States held working meetings in Panmunjom. Mike Pompeo was not there, although it is now thought he could be making another trip to North Korea.

On Monday, August 13, representatives from North and South Korea met in the city. It is now thought that a summit between the two countries could be held in September.

On August 15, Yonhap News Agency reported that South Korea’s:

President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday used his Liberation Day address to pitch his Korea peace drive, calling for railway, energy and economic cooperation with the North as a cornerstone for Northeast Asian peace and prosperity.

Speaking at a ceremony marking Korea’s independence from the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule 73 years ago on the day, he renewed his commitment to end the division of the Koreas, saying “true liberation” can only be achieved when the two countries establish a lasting peace and economic community.

On August 16, CNBC reported that a fresh round of trade talks between the US and China could take place later in August. This was good news for the Dow Jones.

Coming next week:

These families have been separated for over 60 years.

All of these news stories lead to a conclusion best voiced by entrepreneur and media host, Jon Taffer:

I couldn’t agree more, Jon! This is an exciting, positive time in world history! What’s not to like?

Yesterday’s post discussed developments that immediately followed the US-North Korea Singapore Summit held on Monday, June 12, 2018.

Much went on with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to South-east Asia and the US-Chinese trade war early in July.

Keep in mind this explanatory graphic about the relationship between North Korea and China from The Conservative Treehouse:

https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/us-vs-china-7-e1502656780990.jpg

On July 7, the US state department’s impression of the two nations’ talks was different to that of North Korea, according to an unnamed North Korean official who called them ‘regrettable’. Townhall reported:

Just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that his talks during the past two days with the North Korean government were “productive” and beneficial regarding “central issues,” the communist nation’s Foreign Ministry categorically disagreed, calling the meetings in Pyongyang “regrettable.”

The Associated Press reports that an “unnamed North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman” claims that the United States “betrayed the spirit of last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by making unilateral demands” regarding denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. 

The North Koreans issued a lengthy official statement along those lines, which ended with this:

If the objective situation does not stand in favor of the denuclearization against our wills, this would rather cast a heavy cloud over the atmosphere of developing bilateral relations which had shown its good movement in its beginning.

Should the headwind begin to blow, it would cause a great disappointment not only to the international society aspiring after global peace and security but also to both the DPRK and the U.S. If so, this will finally make each side seek for another choice and there is no guarantee that this will not result into yet another tragedy.

We still cherish our good faith in President Trump.

The U.S. should make a serious consideration of whether the toleration of the headwind against the wills of the two top leaders would meet the aspirations and expectations of the world people as well as the interests of its country.

The Conservative Treehouse pointed out (emphases mine):

Keep in mind that Secretary Pompeo was not permitted to meet with Kim Jong-un.  If our ongoing thesis is accurate it is likely Red Dragon (Chairman Xi) is positioning the DPRK for maximum trade and economic leverage.  It would be against Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping’s interests for Pompeo and Kim Jong-un to have a public display of agreement.

Until there is an empirical or factual reason to counter what seems like an obvious geopolitical strategy, we should consider all events through the prism that the primary leadership within the DPRK, the officials controlling Kim, are under the control of China.

The trade confrontation is China’s biggest geopolitical risk.  The primary weapon China holds toward demanding terms from the U.S. would be their ability to change the dynamic in North Korea at any given moment.  From this frame-of-reference things begin to make more sense.

On the surface it appears the U.S. is negotiating terms for a denuclearized North Korea; however, under the surface the bigger issue is the ongoing economic confrontation between the U.S. and China.   The DPRK is Red Dragon leverage.

That day, Mike Pompeo had left North Korea for Japan:

He also met with foreign ministers Kong and Kang, from China and South Korea, respectively:

The US-China trade war also attracted attention.

US tariffs on Chinese goods went into effect on July 6. To mask what was really going on in their economy, the Chinese maintained that Americans did not support this policy:

In fact, the truth is that most Americans want tariffs on foreign goods:

The Rasmussen survey of March 12 says:

89% of American Adults believe it is at least somewhat important for the United States to have a major manufacturing and industrial base, including 63% who believe it is Very Important. Only eight percent (8%) say it is not very or Not At All Important to keep a manufacturing base at home. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

On July 6, White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro appeared on Fox Business to explain the American view of trade with regard to China. As The Conservative Treehouse explained:

Almost all of the financial media and economic punditry are intentionally obfuscating the underlying nature of China’s economic model.

China is a communist central government controlled economic system. Free-market principles do not apply when dealing with China; therefore trade strategies based on ‘free markets’ cannot succeed against the centralized planning of a communist regime.

Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, active on university campuses, put it bluntly:

On July 8, Mike Pompeo met with Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan and Kang Kyung-wha, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea in Tokyo. The full State Department transcript of their press conference is here. Interestingly, some of the media correspondents there asked about the ‘abductions’ by the North Koreans of the Japanese (emphases in the original, video here):

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: (Via interpreter) …

Now on the question of abduction, from Secretary Pompeo this time around the issue was raised, and I’d like to thank him for raising the issue at the meeting. Regarding the reaction from North Korea, I will refrain from making any comment.

As far as Japan is concerned, the U.S. and North Korean negotiations should advance furthermore, and we’d like to work in tandem with the international community so that Security Council resolution-based sanction can be solidly implemented regarding North Korea.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: … On the abduction issue, yes, my president has also raised this in two rounds of discussions with Chairman Kim, and we urge them to engage in bilateral discussions with Japan on this issue. After all, it’s a bilateral issue. We also have a couple of our nationals detained in North Korea, so it’s an issue that concerns us as well. 

SECRETARY POMPEO: … I did raise the issue of the abduction of Japanese. I’ve done it at each conversation I’ve had with my North Korean counterparts, whether it was on my first two trips with Chairman Kim or on this trip with Kim Yong-chul. I’ve raised it repeatedly. I won’t go into any of the details about particular parts of that element of our discussion. Know that it is important to the United States; it’s part of our discussions each and every time we interact with our North Korean counterparts. 

Pompeo and US officials also met privately with Kono and his delegation:

On July 9, the South China Morning Post reported that China responded to the imposition of tariffs by the United States with tariffs on American goods going into the country. The main thrust of the article, however, was that the Chinese government thought it would be a good idea to go easy on Trump (emphases mine):

After answering Washington’s 25 per cent levy on US$34 billion of Chinese goods with equivalent tariffs on US products, Beijing has directed state media to watch how they report on US President Donald Trump, mainland media sources said.

“It’s been said that we should not use aggressive language for Trump,” said one of two sources who declined to be named because internal directions often are regarded as confidential information.

Even though Chinese officials and state media have attacked the trade policies of the Trump administration, so far they have not laid blame on the US president or his officials – a move seen as an attempt to avoid antagonising Trump and further complicating negotiations.

While the Beijing directive may not have been issued across the board – two other state media sources said they were not instructed how to write about Trump with regards to trade – it mirrored one of the guidelines on an official propaganda instruction widely circulated on social media.

The edict called on media outlets not to make vulgar attacks on Trump to avoid “making this a war of insults”.

Breitbart had more. One way the Chinese are able to criticise Trump is by quoting Westerners:

Reuters’ sources also said they were “instructed not to mention the impact of the trade war on Chinese companies” because they don’t want to give the impression pressure against China might be working

China might need to restrict the market access of American companies. But to purge American companies that are already operating in China might be a very bad idea. Those companies generate jobs and revenue for China. Most Apple products are made in China. To do something to harm American firms that are already operating in China would be very stupid,” ventured trade expert Wang Jiangyu of the National University of Singapore.

The Communist Party People’s Daily provided an interesting example of the tightrope walked by Chinese media on Wednesday, publishing an article that attacked Trump for accusing China of sabotaging talks with North Korea but using a few Westerners plucked from Twitter at random to do it, rather than editorializing against Trump directly or quoting Chinese social media users.

That day, the tension surrounding Pompeo’s meetings with North Korea was still in play. Trump tweeted:

CNBC reported that, after leaving south-east Asia, Pompeo made an unscheduled trip to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he told the media:

We still have a long ways to go. But that commitment that the North Koreans made, frankly that Chairman Kim personally made to President Trump, remains as when reinforced,” he said.

Pompeo also stressed that North Korea’s remarks were “mixed,” and represented an expression of Kim’s continuing “desire to complete the denuclearization to which he is so committed.”

Meanwhile, the North Koreans were still committed to strengthening ties with their fellow travellers:

On July 12, Trump received a gracious letter from Kim Jong Un …

… which Big Media ignored:

On July 15, the US and North Korea held meetings to discuss the return of American soldiers’ remains, the first since 2009:

Korean media reported:

The North Koreans agreed to transfer the remains already in their possession to the United States on:

July 27, which is the 65th anniv of the Armistice Agreement

This was another result:

The Premium Times said that the head of the North Korean government occasionally grants amnesty. The last time was in 2015. This year’s is part of marking North Korea’s 70th anniversary:

The Communist Leadership in Pyongyang would grant amnesty to those convicted of crimes against the state in light of North Korea’s 70th anniversary, the state-run KCNA reported on Monday …

Similar to other instances in which amnesty has been granted, it remained unclear exactly which groups the announcement applied to and how many prisoners would be affected.

The following day, the Trump – Putin Helsinki Summit of July 16 included discussions about North Korea and China.

Two days later:

Trump tweeted:

He enjoys solving problems:

His 2020 campaign manager made an excellent point:

Tomorrow’s post will cover the most recent developments between the United States, North Korea and China.

Two months ago, after writing about the Singapore Summit of Monday, June 12, 2018, I said I would analyse it the following week, largely because the media will not focus on this historic event:

Other meetings have taken place since then, and it seemed apposite to wait a while to see how things were progressing between the United States and North Korea as well as China.

Most recently, on August 1, Vice President Mike Pence presided over a ceremony and reception of fallen soldiers’ remains in Hawaii, part of the Summit agreement.

Going back to the Summit, it was reported that President Trump showed a special video about the United States to President Kim Jong Un and his negotiators:

The following day, North Korea’s state-run news bureau reported that Kim accepted Trump’s invitation to visit Washington for denuclearisation talks. This was hailed as a ‘radical switchover’ in relations between the two nations.

On June 13, Trump tweeted:

It wasn’t just Fake News. The cancer had spread earlier in the month to other television programmes, such as this one:

In an interview that day, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s short-lived White House communications director from 2017, focussed on trade:

Despite the positive developments …

… on June 21, Trump renewed the ‘national emergency’ declaration regarding North Korea for another year. BT.com reported:

In an executive order on Friday, the president extended for one year the so-called “national emergency” with respect to the nuclear-armed nation, authorising economic restrictions against it …

It states that “the existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material” and the actions and policies of the North Korean government “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States”.

The national emergency has been in place since 2008 …

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said on Friday evening that it has “indefinitely suspended” a major military exercise with South Korea, known as Freedom Guard and scheduled for August, as well as two Korean Marine exchange training exercises.

Officials had announced on Monday that planning for Freedom Guard had been suspended in line with Mr Trump’s decision to halt what he called US “war games” in South Korea.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Dana W White, said further decisions about military exercises in South Korea “in support of diplomatic negotiations” led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will depend on North Korea “continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith”.

Air Force veteran Lisa Mei Crowley noted that change was in the air:

Fox News and The Daily Caller also reported on this welcome development, which the US secretary of state acknowledged:

Not surprisingly, ‘tensions’ were rising in China — North Korea’s controller — and defence secretary James Mattis visited the country, with subsequent stops in Japan and South Korea:

Meanwhile, the two Koreas had tensions of their own over human rights legislation.

The White House issued a strong statement about China and tariffs, which reads in part:

To stop China’s predatory attacks on America’s innovation base, President Trump is instituting a program of tariffs and is considering investment restrictions and strengthened export controls. These tariffs will help pressure the Chinese to stop engaging in unfair practices and fully open up its markets to U.S. products, including U.S. technologies. The correct response from China would be to stop stealing from Americans and give American products a level playing field to compete in China, not to retaliate and reinforce its own position.

Bloomberg asked how prepared China’s Xi was for a trade war. Hmm:

Xi Jinping vowed to match Donald Trump blow for blow in any trade war. Now as one gets closer, some in Beijing are starting to openly wonder whether China is ready for the fight — an unusually direct challenge to the leadership of the world’s second-largest economy.

In recent weeks, prominent academics have begun to question if China’s slowing, trade-dependent economy can withstand a sustained attack from Trump, which has already started to weigh on stock prices. The sentiments are being expressed in carefully worded essays circulated on China’s heavily censored internet and — according to interviews in recent days with ministry officials and foreign diplomats who asked not to be identified — repeated in the halls of government offices, too.

The Conservative Treehouse explained:

China has focused so intensely on durable-goods manufacturing, their consumable goods market (food) is dependent; they cannot feed themselves.  The U.S. can survive without exporting food, China cannot survive without importing food.  The U.S. economy can survive without importing durable goods; the Chinese economy cannot survive without exporting durable goods.  This is the unavoidable trade reality.  As a consequence President Trump has all the factual leverage.

June 28 was the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mike Pompeo gave a speech about North Korea and Iran in this regard. Concerning the former, he said:

The next day, controversy arose as to whether North Korea was being honest and Obama’s national security advisor tried to make Trump into a chump:

On July 3, Trump refuted Rice and others:

Pompeo had returned to South-east Asia:

According to one South Korean press outlet, Pompeo had with him as a gift for Kim a CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man, a song he said he’d never heard. The State Department said that was false:

The State Department kept Americans updated:

On July 6, the other big news item was the US-China trade war. CNBC’s Jim Cramer said the American people supported Trump’s perspective:

“We simply, as a people, seem to be united that the president’s position is wrong. I hear more of that on TV than I hear reality. I think that there are a lot of people [who say], ‘Thank you for standing up for us,’” Cramer said on CNBC …

“There are a lot of companies that are doing quite well in the country. And I think if you’re going to take on the Chinese you do it from strength. And we have much more strength than they do,” he said. “Look at 211,000 jobs on average the last three months, this economy is very strong.”

Wall Street trader and Sarge986 President Stephen Guilfoyle agreed. He told Fox News that day:

President Trump’s trade policies have China “by the short hairs” and “right where we want them” in the bid to win any impending trade wars.

“They have retail sales in the hole… they’ve got industrial production in the hole,” Guilfoyle said. “The Shanghai Composite [stock index] is down 17 percent year-to-date. We’ve got these guys where we want them.

News about Pompeo’s trip and the trade war circulated, so they will comprise tomorrow’s post.

That said, most of the established media wanted to focus on the Mueller probe:

No wonder Trump got shirty about that and the short shrift he received for the Singapore Summit:

At least Asian nations appreciate his sterling efforts:

True. One cannot say better than that.

Monday, July 15, 2018 was not the first time President Trump had a meeting with President Putin.

They had met at the G20 in 2017:

Also:

The Left and the GOPe in hysterics over Helsinki 2018. Hmm!

Anyway, before going into the Trump-Putin summit, this is what happened beforehand.

The president, first lady and their entourage arrived in Helsinki, Finland, on Sunday, July 15:

Many locals lined the motorcade route:

Jack Posobiec of OAN was also in town to cover the event:

This was the president’s schedule for Monday, July 16:

President Trump renewed his friendship with President Sauli Niinistö, whom he had hosted at the White House on August 28, 2017 (fashion notes here):

There American and Finnish officials had a working breakfast (another video here):

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was an important part of the delegation and was grateful to Finnish officials for their hard work in setting up not only the breakfast meeting but also arrangements for meetings with the Russians. Pompeo met with Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

While the presidential motorcade was on its way to the Hilton Helsinki, Putin’s plane was landing. Putin went straight to the Presidential Palace for his meeting with Trump.

Trump’s and Pompeo’s staff met up. Pompeo visited the US embassy.

The Finnish president and first lady escorted their American counterparts into the Presidential Palace, in the eastern part of the city:

The Trumps greeted Putin:

This is where they met:

The Russians and Americans shared a working lunch:

When their meeting ended, the two presidents held a joint press conference (OAN videos here and here), after a member of the press corps had to be escorted out by the Secret Service for holding up a written message about a nuclear weapons ban (videos here and here):

Then, Putin lobbed a few zingers, such as this one:

And this one:

Putin also gave a World Cup football to Trump, which worried Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina):

Trump said he would give the ball to his 12-year-old son Barron.

Ultimately:

Fox News posted press conference highlights, and the White House has a full transcript, excerpted below, emphases mine:

PRESIDENT PUTIN: (As interpreted.) Distinguished Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen: Negotiations with the President of the United States Donald Trump took place in a frank and businesslike atmosphere. I think we can call it a success and a very fruitful round of negotiations.

We carefully analyzed the current status — the present and the future of the Russia-United States relationship; key issues of the global agenda. It’s quite clear to everyone that the bilateral relationship are going through a complicated stage, and yet those impediments — the current tension, the tense atmosphere — essentially have no solid reason behind it.

The Cold War is a thing of past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of the remote past, is a vestige of the past. The situation in the world changed dramatically …

We’re glad that the Korean Peninsula issue is starting to resolve. To a great extent, it was possible thanks to the personal engagement of President Trump, who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation …

Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia when the American elections, and I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including the election process

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Thank you. I have just concluded a meeting with President Putin on a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries. We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue. It went very well.

Before I begin, I want to thank President Niinistö of Finland for graciously hosting today’s summit. President Putin and I were saying how lovely it was and what a great job they did.

I also want to congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup. It was really one of the best ever and your team also did very well. It was a great job …

But our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that. Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage. But that would not accomplish anything. As President, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct

During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt this was a message best delivered in person. We spent a great deal of time talking about it, and President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly — because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.

We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation. I provided an update on my meeting last month with Chairman Kim on the denuclearization of North Korea. And after today, I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem. They’re going to work with us, and I appreciate that commitment …

Q Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if so, what would you consider them — that they are responsible for?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago — a long time, frankly, before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame …

But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore.

So far, that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. And frankly, we beat her — and I’m not even saying from the standpoint — we won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it.

People know that. People understand it. But the main thing, and we discussed this also, is zero collusion. And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe …

PRESIDENT PUTIN: (As interpreted) …

We heard the accusations about the Concord country [sic]. Well, as far as I know, this company hired American lawyers. And the accusations doesn’t — doesn’t have a fighting chance in the American courts. So there’s no evidence when it comes to the actual facts. So we have to be guided by facts and not by rumors.

Now, let’s get back to the issue of these 12 alleged intelligence officers of Russia. I don’t know the full extent of the situation, but President Trump mentioned this issue, and I will look into it

Moreover, we can meet you halfway; we can make another step. We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller — we can let them into the country and they will be present at this questioning

For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor in the United States, and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent a huge amount of money — $400 million — as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Well, that’s their personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal

PRESIDENT PUTIN: (As interpreted.) I’d like to add something to this. After all, I was an intelligence officer myself, and I do know how dossiers are made up. Just a second. That’s the first thing.

Now, the second thing: I believe that Russia is a democratic state, and I hope you’re not denying this right to your own country. You’re not denying that United States is a democracy. Do you believe the United States is a democracy? And if so, if it is a democratic state, then the final conclusion in this kind of dispute an only be delivered by a trial by the court, not by the executive — by the law enforcement.

For instance, the Concord company that was brought up is being accused — it’s been accused of interference. But this company does not constitute the Russian State. It does not represent the Russian State. And I brought several examples before.

Well, you have a lot of individuals in the United States — take George Soros, for instance — with multibillion capitals, but it doesn’t make him — his position, his posture — the posture of the United States? No, it does not. Well, it’s the same case. There is the issue of trying a case in the court, and the final say is for the court to deliver.

We’re now talking about the private — the individuals, and not about particular states. And as far as the most recent allegation is concerned about the Russian intelligence officers, we do have an intergovernmental treaty. Please, do send us the request. We will analyze it properly and we’ll send a formal response

Of course, all of this blew up that day and the rest of the week. More on that to follow.

Trump tweeted his thanks to the Finnish president:

And to the people of Helsinki:

That evening, the president and first lady arrived in Washington (another video here):

More on Helsinki 2018 to follow.

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