Friday, August 26, 2016

The dark mirror

The Trump campaign routinely engages in "mirror imaging" -- accusing Hillary Clinton of the very sins found on Donald Trump's ledger.

For example, Trump has excoriated Hillary for being in league with Goldman Sachs, based on a few paid speeches she gave to their executives -- speeches which, by all accounts, were boilerplate. Trump's own ties to Goldman are far more profound: Goldman has invested money in Trump properties, Steve Mnuchin (Trump's financial chair) was a partner at Goldman Sachs, and Steve Bannon (now running the Trump campaign is a Goldman veteran.

I believe that Luke 6:42 has something to say about this situation.

In a recent anti-Clinton speech, Trump called Hillary a liar repeatedly -- even as he claimed that she sent classified materials. That assertion is absolutely false: No emails were marked "classified" in the header, and only a very few that were sent to her contained inner paragraphs containing data mislabeled "confidential" -- the lowest classification marking. Trump claimed that Hillary's server exposed secrets to the Russians. That's rich coming from him: His own financial ties to Russia are well-known. Moreover, Paul Manafort -- Trump's friend and former campaign chairman -- worked for Putin's stooge in Ukraine and established a close working relationship with one Konstantin Kilimnik, widely considered to have a background with Russian intelligence.

For more on Trump's Russian connections, see Michael McFaul's "Why Putin wants a Trump victory."

The latest, and perhaps most insidious, use of the "dark mirror" tactic involves Saudi Arabia.

Trump has repeatedly bashed Hillary for her supposed Saudi ties -- for example, he says that the Clinton Foundation should give back the hefty donations which the Saudi royal family has made. (The Clinton Foundation is an extremely effective charity, not a slush fund. Better, I say, for Saudi money to find a home there than elsewhere.) Trump's surrogates have also spread inane conspiracy theories portraying the Khan family as Saudi agents. Of course, we all recall Trump's claim that Hillary Clinton is the mother of ISIS.

But what of Trump's own ties to that part of the world?

Once again, the dark mirror works its magic. Only the most brazen liar would dare to lay his own sins at the feet of his enemy. Donald Trump may, in fact, be the most outrageous hypocrite in the history of American politics.

To prove the point, go here.
Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal said he twice saved US presidential candidate Donald Trump from bankruptcy, describing him as a “bad and ungrateful person”.

In an interview with Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, the prince said he bought Trump’s hotels after they were acquired by the banks which demanded he repay his debts.

The yacht he used to come to Antalya, southwest of Turkey, is one he bought from Trump when he was threatened with bankruptcy.
That yacht, by the way, is the one made famous by previous owner Adnan Khashoggi, and by the movie Never Say Never Again.

Now let's visit this New Yorker piece for more on the Trump/bin Talal relationship:
This latest tweet battle with Trump refers to the Prince’s investments in troubled Trump properties. The first of these transactions took place in 1991, when, according to Businessweek, bin Talal bought Trump’s huge yacht the Trump Princess from creditors, for eighteen million dollars. At the time, Trump’s Atlantic City casinos were heavily indebted; he also put his airline, the Trump Shuttle, up for sale.

The second deal came in 1995, when bin Talal and a partner, a Singapore hotels company, paid hundreds of millions of dollars to take control of The Plaza, on Fifth Avenue, from Trump. A Times story at the time said that the buyers had agreed to “pay part, or all, of Mr. Trump’s $300 million mortgage on the hotel, guarantee interest payments on Mr. Trump’s Plaza debt and spend $28 million to renovate part of the hotel.” Trump, the article said, was “under heavy pressure because of more than $115 million of guarantees he has given on the Trump Organization’s debt, and because of his recently announced attempt to raise $250 million to expand his casino investments.”
The prince is not just any Saudi oligarch: He was the finance minister of that nation and is rumored to represent other Saudi business interests. He is the second biggest investor in Fox News. After 9/11, he tried to donate $10 million to relief efforts, only to be rebuffed by Rudolph Guiliani.

Bin Talal makes every effort to denounce ISIS in public -- for example, he does so here and here and here. Last month, however, this surprising revelation made headlines (though not in this country, and certainly not on Fox News).
Yesterday, a picture was surfaced on Arab social websites, showing the Saudi Prince and multi-millionaire media tycoon al-Waleed bin Talal visiting the notorious ISIS military commander Abu Omar al-Maghribi in a luxurious hospital in Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Renowned for his entrepreneurial acumen and immense political influence within Saudi foreign ministry, al-Waleed bin Talal is spearheading the Saudi media campaign seeking to give an innocuous and friendly picture of ISIS and other terrorist organizations to Arab viewers.

Dr. Richard Macmillan, a retired CIA counterterrorism expert in Illinois believes that Mr. Bin Talal's blatant visit to an ISIS warlord is tantamount to an overt peace accord between the oil-rich Saudi Arabia and so-called Islamic State; and therefore the international community must sincerely intervene to stop Riyadh making its proxies, namely ISIS and al-Nusra Front, a reality that cannot be easily eradicated from Middle-East's political scene, Qatari News Agency (QNA) reported.
Now let's go back in time. Let's see what Bin Talal was up to at the same time he was helping Donald Trump get out of his self-inflicted financial hole.

The following comes from a report by Daniel Lazare on the testimony of Zacarias Moussaoui.
Now serving a life sentence in a federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, Moussaoui, the so-called “twentieth hijacker,” told lawyers about top-level Saudi support for Osama bin Laden right up to the eve of 9/11 and even a plot by a Saudi embassy employee to sneak a Stinger missile into the U.S. under diplomatic cover and use it to bring down Air Force One.

Moussaoui’s list of ultra-rich al-Qaeda contributors couldn’t be more stunning. It includes the late King Abdulllah and his hard-line successor, Salman bin Abdulaziz; Turki Al Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence and subsequently ambassador to the U.S. and U.K.; Bandar bin Sultan, a longtime presence in Washington who was so close to the Bushes that Dubya nicknamed him Bandar Bush; and Al-Waleed bin Talal, a mega-investor in Citigroup, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the Hotel George V in Paris, and the Plaza in New York.
Further on:
Moussaoui, who says he was put to work compiling a financial database upon joining al Qaeda in late 1998, describes flying by private plane to Riyadh as a special courier.

“We went in to a private airport,” he recalled. “[T]here was a car, we get into a car, a limousine, and I was taken to a place, it was like a Hilton Hotel, OK, and the next morning Turki came and we went to a big room, and there was Abdullah and there was Sultan, Bandar, and there was Waleed bin Talal and Salman” i.e., the Saudi crème de la crème. When asked if the princes knew why he was there, he said yes: “I was introduced as the messenger for Sheik Osama bin Laden.”

Moussaoui says that prominent Saudis visited bin Laden’s camp in Afghanistan in return: “There was a lot of bragging about I been to Sheik Osama bin Laden, I been to Afghanistan, I’m the real deal, I’m a real mujahid, I’m a real fighter for Allah.”
Is this testimony credible? No-one is completely sure, but see here.
Mr. Moussaoui’s behavior at his trial in 2006 was sometimes erratic. He tried to fire his own lawyers, who presented evidence that he suffered from serious mental illness. But Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, who presided, declared that she was “fully satisfied that Mr. Moussaoui is completely competent” and called him “an extremely intelligent man.”

“He has actually a better understanding of the legal system than some lawyers I’ve seen in court,” she said.

Also filed on Monday in the survivors’ lawsuit were affidavits from former Senators Bob Graham of Florida and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and the former Navy secretary John Lehman, arguing that more investigation was needed into Saudi ties to the 9/11 plot.
If Moussaoui is credible, one must wonder why the Saudis would invest in Trump at the same time they invested in Bin Laden.

Trump's ties to that part of the world are ongoing. From a 2015 CBS report:
As late as this May, Ivanka Trump told the trade publication Hotelier Middle East that in addition to Dubai, the Trump Organization was actively looking "at multiple business opportunities" in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Trump launched his formal presidential bid in June.
Now let's turn to a little-noticed piece titled "Wealthy Muslims helped Donald Trump build his empire":
Saudi princes: Prince Mutaib bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a former minister in the Saudi government, and member of the Saudi royal family, reportedly lives in a floor-through Trump Tower apartment. Other former Trump property tenants include Prince Nawaf bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a Saudi royal family member who owned a 10,500 sq. foot (975 sq. meter) condo at the Heritage at Trump Place that went on sale this year for $48.5 million.
I'd like to know more about Trump's recent hotel project in Saudi Arabia.
Yet Trump wasn’t just politicking: On that same day, he incorporated four companies that seem related to a possible hotel project in Jeddah, the second biggest city in Saudi Arabia. He was president and owner of THC Jeddah Hotel Advisor and DT Jeddah Technical Services Advisor.

The Jeddah companies came to light in Trump’s latest financial disclosure filings, released Wednesday by the Federal Election Commission. The documents do not detail the purpose of the Jeddah companies, and Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Just a few months ago, Donald Trump announced that the world would be better off if Saudi Arabia had nuclear weapons.

Despite his Saudi interests, Trump and Bin Talal are now fighting a "War of Tweets" with each other. It's hard to tell if the acrimony is genuine -- after all, Trump staged a "break-up" with his long-time friend Roger Stone, who remains a close adviser and campaign surrogate. (The putative split was meant to protect Trump from the odor of Stone's rather reeky reputation: In 1996, a sleazy sex scandal ended Stone tenure as Bob Dole's campaign chief.)

How do we explain Bin Talal's strangely schizoid stance on ISIS and terror? In interviews, he takes a strongly anti-ISIS stance, yet he apparently visited an ISIS commander in the hospital, and Moussaoui's testimony casts him as a participant in an Al Qaeda conspiracy.

This new NYT article looks into the role of the Saudi royal family as both "Arsonists and the Firefighters":
Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.
In a huge embarrassment to the Saudi authorities, the Islamic State adopted official Saudi textbooks for its schools until the extremist group could publish its own books in 2015. Out of 12 works by Muslim scholars republished by the Islamic State, seven are by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Saudi school of Islam, said Jacob Olidort, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Adil al-Kalbani declared with regret in a television interview in January that the Islamic State leaders “draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, our own principles.”
The United States’ reliance on Saudi counterterrorism cooperation in recent years — for instance, the Saudi tip that foiled a 2010 Qaeda plot to blow up two American cargo planes — has often taken precedence over concerns about radical influence. And generous Saudi funding for professorships and research centers at American universities, including the most elite institutions, has deterred criticism and discouraged research on the effects of Wahhabi proselytizing, according to Mr. McCants — who is working on a book about the Saudi impact on global Islam — and other scholars.
That's just a taste of it.

Obviously, I do not believe that the NYT is going to give us the full story of Saudi Arabia and jihad; for example, this report does not touch on Moussaoui's bombshell claims. Still, the NYT has given us a much more compelling and detailed article than I would have expected. It's definitely worth a read.

And as you read, consider this: Trump is clearly not worth what he claims, as evidenced by the fact that he keeps scraping after the kind of chump change that a real billionaire would disdain. He has been through four bankruptcies. Banks hesitate to lend him money without a co-signer.

So who is helping him acquire capital for that Saudi hotel project?

Will that investment affect Trump's decisions, if he wins the presidency? He absolutely refuses to place his interests in a blind trust.

Yes, Saudis have donated to the Clinton Foundation -- but the Foundation is a charity, from which the Clintons derive no profit. Trump's hotels in Jeddah are serious business. Talk about a conflict of interest! Most Americans are not even aware that Trump has substantial investments in Saudi Arabia. You know damned well that if the Clintons had made such investments, our news media would remind you of that fact every single day.

Steve Mnuchin is a deeply unpleasant man with a deeply unpleasant business. If you look into him you will understand that many people are homeless because this man stole their house.

I asked a spooky aquaintaince whether Donald was really a russian agent of influence. He told me he was probably not. He was a "useful idiot". The irony is that while everyone thinks he is an idiot, only Langley thinks he is useful.

HRC'S speach talk there was described to me as "odd cos she spoke as if she worked there".

Donald is not a very rich man by billionaire standards. He needs to use others money and he is happy to lend them his name.

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