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Prof. Dr. Michel Chossudovsky

Associate Writer and Journalist Global News Aruba since 2009

Is Trump’s Broader War against Syria on Hold? 
A Member State of NATO is “Sleeping with the Enemy”: America is at War with both Syria and Turkey
Global Research,  2018

First published on April, 13, 2018 (prior to US led airstrikes)

UPDATE (April 15, 2018) 

The US war cabinet chose to implement a face saving punitive bombing rather than an all out war against Syria. Defense Secretary Mattis was acutely  aware that a punitive bombing could lead to escalation and military confrontation with Russia. 

Russia’s objective was to avoid a military clash while ensuring the defense of Syria. The Russians were crystal clear. They would counterattack if Russian military assets were targeted. 

Washington also knew that they could not initiate at this juncture a major military campaign against Syria largely due to divisions within the Atlantic Alliance and the fact that a NATO member State, namely Turkey had become an ally of Russia and was fighting US proxy Kurdish rebel forces (integrated by French, British and US Special Forces) in Northern Syria. 

What Washington decided upon was a punitive attack while putting a major theater war against Syria “on hold”.

Russia did not need to respond to this attack because none of its military assets were targetted and that was part of an understanding between Moscow and Washington.

Soviet era Russian air defense technology was used by Syria. According to Russian sources, 103 missiles were launched, 71 were destroyed by Syria’s air defense.

These developments do not in any way preclude the launching of a major military campaign against Syria at some future date. 

(Michel Chossudovsky, April 15, 2018)


History is often the result of mistakes. Trump’s hawkish cabinet is made up a diabolical group of decision-makers including John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and “Mad Dog” Jim Mattis who are firmly committed to waging war. A massive US-NATO naval deployment is unfolding in the Eastern Mediterranean. The British government has put its Royal Air Force bombers on standby. The USS Truman aircraft carrier is en route to the Eastern Mediterranean. 

At this stage it is impossible to predict what actions might be taken. President Trump’s Trigger-happy threats directed against Syria (in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack) should therefore be taken seriously.  

Similarly, the implications of Moscow’s stance confirming that the Russian Military will forcefully respond to US missile attacks should also be addressed. 

However, there is an important element which has largely been neglected in recent independent media reports regarding Syria, which suggests that the US could take the decision NOT to engage in the conduct of a major military campaign at this particular juncture. 


The structure of US military alliances is in crisis. 

Military Strategy 101 tells us: you do not wage a major war when one of your key allies is “sleeping with the enemy”.

An understanding of the military structure of alliances including cross-cutting coalitions is absolutely crucial. So-called “enduring alliances” in support of America’s “Long War” can no longer be relied upon.

NATO is in crisis: The U.S. and several NATO member states are not only at war with Syria, they are also at war with Turkey which is fighting the US sponsored Kurdish rebel forces in Northern Syria.

In turn, Turkey –which remains NATO’s heavyweight in terms of conventional ground forces– has an alliance with both Russia and Iran, which in turn are supportive of the government of Bashar al Assad.

With regard to China-Turkey cooperation (including military affairs), “China has expressed openness toward Turkey’s joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security alliance … that is seen as a counterweight to NATO” (to which Turkey happens to be a member).

Syria’s Kurdistan

Within NATO the clash is not limited to a confrontation between Washington and Ankara. Other member states of the Atlantic alliance have been sucked into the US-Turkey showdown in Northern Syria including France and Britain, not to mention Israel ( a de facto NATO member and ally of Turkey) which has been supportive of the Kurdish separatist movement mainly in Iraq but also in Syria.

France and Britain Support the Kurds against Turkey

French special forces were dispatched by President Macron to Northern Syria in support of the Kurdish rebels. De facto, France is now at war with Turkey, a partner NATO member State.

President Macron is in many regards a US proxy. Contrary to the Reuters report above, France will be working hand in glove with the US,  providing military support to the Kurdish rebels who are fighting against Turkey, France’s partner state of the Atlantic alliance.

Moreover, British as well as Israeli intelligence ops have also integrated Kurdish forces.

While Germany’s “official” military support is limited to the Pechmerga Kurdish forces in Iraq, Berlin has established de facto “diplomatic” relations with Syria’s Kurdish National Council (ENKS in Kurdish).

The Fracture of Syria

The fracture of Syria and Iraq is part of a longstanding US agenda which consists in redrawing the Map of the Middle East: In southern Syria, what was envisaged from the outset of the war in 2011 is regime change and the formation of a Sunni Islamic State, In North East Syria, Washington’s project is to create an independent Kurdish State which would also encompass parts of Iraq, Iran and Turkey (see map below)

Note: The following map was prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters. It was published in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006, Peters is a retired colonel of the U.S. National War Academy. (Map Copyright Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters 2006).

Greater Israel

The fracture of Syria and Iraq including the formation of an independent Kurdish State is intimately related to the Zionist project of a Greater Israel (see Map below which identifies the “Promised Land”)

Israeli forces are involved covertly in Northern Syria against Turkey in coordination with the US military in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan)

The “Greater Israel” project consists in weakening and eventually fracturing neighboring Arab states as part of a US-Israeli expansionist project, with the support of NATO and Saudi Arabia. In this regard, the Saudi-Israeli rapprochement is from Netanyahu’s viewpoint a means to expanding Israel’s spheres of influence in the Middle East as well as confronting Iran. Needless to day, the “Greater Israel” project is consistent with America’s imperial design. (Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, December 2017)

“Greater Israel” consists in an area extending from the Nile Valley to the Euphrates. 

Inter-NATO Divisions

One assumes that Trump’s advisory team is acutely aware of these inter-NATO divisions as well as the role of the broader structure of military alliances, which –from a strategic standpoint– has contributed to weakening the US.

Under these circumstances, one would expect that the hawkish war cabinet would advise the US Commander in Chief not to initiate at this juncture a major military campaign against Syria (i.e. similar to Iraq or Afghanistan). This course of action which consists in putting a major theater war on hold, does not however exclude the conduct of so-called punitive bombings to which both Russia and Syria would no doubt react. Nor does it exclude postponing major military action (including an invasion) to a later date.

The conduct of a military campaign led by Israel (with US support) against Lebanon, however, cannot be excluded.

The Ground War

Another factor which does not favor the conduct of a major US military intervention against Syria has to do with the nature of the ground war and the defeat of US proxy rebel forces throughout most of the country.

While the ground war opposing Turkey and America’s Kurdish proxies in Northern Syria is still ongoing, in Southern Syria, the conflict opposing Syrian government forces to al Qaeda affiliated rebels (which have been supported and financed by the Pentagon, NATO, Saudi Arabia and Israel) is more or less over following the liberation of Eastern Ghouta.

In turn, the Syrian government forces with the support of Russia have arranged for the evacuation of most of the Al Qaeda terrorists in air conditioned buses en route to Idlib which happens to be occupied by Turkish forces who are fighting US sponsored Kurdish rebels.

Moreover, with the defeat of the Al Qaeda affiliated rebels, most of the Western military advisers (embedded within Al Qaeda “opposition” forces), have also been evacuated from Southern Syria.

The Russian military in turn is in routine consultation with their Turkish counterparts which have facilitated the exodus of US supported “rebels’ as well their Western military advisers from Eastern Ghouta. Needless to say, the absence of active Western special forces on the ground constitutes an impediment to effectively waging a broader military campaign against Syria.

Concluding Remarks

As this article goes to Press, President Trump has intimated that “a final decision on possible military strikes against Syria … could happen “very soon or not so soon at all” following warnings by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that “such an attack carried the risk of spinning out of control, suggesting caution ahead of a decision on how to respond to a [chemical weapons] attack against civilians last weekend [in Douma].”


Dangerous Crossroads: 
Russian Naval Exercises Off the Syrian Coast. U.S. Military Deployment in the East Mediterranean
156 44 16

The Russian based media Pravda reported on April 11, that “Russian warships kicked off naval exercises near the coast of Syria”. According to the Moscow Times, “The Russian Navy is reportedly scheduled to launch firing drills off the coast of Syria on April 11 (Wednesday) amid fears of an imminent U.S. airstrike against Syria following a suspected chemical attack”.

We are at a Dangerous crossroads: According to the report (which has not been addressed by the Western media):  on Wednesday. U.S. President Donald Trump later directly warned Russia that missiles were “coming” to Syria after blaming Damascus for an alleged deadly gas attack in the town of Douma.”

While,’s report intimates that “Russia Closes Airspace above Syrian Coast”, there is however no official confirmation from the Russian Ministry of Defense other than a routine advisory pertaining to the conduct of war games off the Syrian coastline. According to  

The message contains coordinates of the closed area and states the fact of firing exercises. The area of the exercises located in international waters of the Mediterranean is adjacent to the sea border of Syria. It will be closed on April 11-12, April 17-19 and on April 25-26 from 10 to 18 Moscow time.

Russia currently has about 15 warships and logistics vessels of the Black Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, including Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen frigates (they carry Caliber cruise missiles), as well as submarines.

These war games are conducted in response to ongoing US military threats directed against Syria, not to mention the ongoing deployment of US naval power in the Eastern Mediterranean.

It is also worth noting that according to the Daily Star (April 6, 2018)  Russian warships have also been conducting naval war games in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Latvia. See screenshot below

Who is Playing with Fire? Russia or US-NATO?  

According to Foreign Policy (April 9) ,

If U.S. President Donald Trump decides to take military action against the Syrian government in response to Saturday’s chemical weapons attack outside of Damascus, he would almost certainly have to approve a wider operation than the limited strikes he ordered just over a year ago. 

“In order for the administration to actually inflict enough pain on the [Bashar al-]Assad government to send the signal that Trump wants, the U.S. would have to hit a wider package of targets,” says Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “That would essentially cripple Assad’s military capabilities.”

Trump’s Chemical Weapons justification to bomb Syria is based on the presumption that President Assad is allegedly killing his own people is fabricated. This is a lie. Moreover, there is ample evidence that the U.S sponsored “rebels” (aka Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists) rather than the government of Bashar Al Assad are not only in possession of chemical weapons, they have been trained by the Pentagon.

According to CNN report by Barbara Starr dated September 2013:

Who is doing the training of terrorists in the use of chemical weapons?  From the horse’s mouth: CNN

Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons

For further details see Michel Chossudovsky Pentagon Trained Syria’s Al Qaeda “Rebels” in the Use of Chemical Weapons, Confirmed by CNN, Global Research, April 9, 2018

US Naval Deployments in the Eastern Mediterranean

According to the Washington Times, coinciding with the commencement of Russia’s war games off the Syrian coast, the US Navy has deployed several warships in the Eastern Mediterranean. including the  USS Ramage, USS Mahan, USS Gravely and USS Barry which are armed with ballistic missiles. (Washington Times, April 10, 2018)

These deployments of US Naval power are to be followed by the dispatch of the USS Truman Carrier Strike Group “accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and the guided-missile destroyers USS Arleigh Burke, USS Bulkeley, USS Forrest Sherman and USS Farragut.” (Stars and Stripes, April 09, 2018).  The Carrier group has 6500 sailors as well as air force personnel.

US Missile and Gunboat Diplomacy.

Dangerous crossroads.

Failures of the anti-war movement.

Distortion and omissions of the mainstream media.

Spread the word.

Featured image is from

The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2018

Relax and Listen to Jazz Below

The Bayer-Monsanto Merger Is Bad News for the Planet



APRIL 2018

Bayer and Monsanto have a long history of collusion to poison the ecosystem for profit. The Trump administration should veto their merger not just to protect competitors but to ensure human and planetary survival.

Two new studies from Europe have found that the number of farm birds in France has crashed by a third in just 15 years, with some species being almost eradicated. The collapse in the bird population mirrors the discovery last October that over three quarters of all flying insects in Germany have vanished in just three decades. Insects are the staple food source of birds, the pollinators of fruits, and the aerators of the soil.

The chief suspect in this mass extinction is the aggressive use of neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly imidacloprid and clothianidin, both made by German-based chemical giant Bayer. These pesticides, along with toxic glyphosate herbicides (Roundup), have delivered a one-two punch against Monarch butterflies, honeybees and birds. But rather than banning these toxic chemicals, on March 21st the EU approved the $66 billion merger of Bayer and Monsanto, the US agribusiness giant producing Roundup and the genetically modified (GMO) seeds that have reduced seed diversity globally. The merger will make the Bayer-Monsanto conglomerate the largest seed and pesticide company in the world, giving it enormous power to control farm practices, putting private profits over the public interest.

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.) noted in a speech in December before the Open Markets Institute, massive companies are merging into huge market-dominating entities that invest a share of their profits in lobbying and financing political campaigns, shaping the political system to their own ends. She called on the Trump administration to veto the Bayer-Monsanto merger, which is still under antitrust scrutiny and has yet to be approved in the US.

A 2016 survey of Trump’s voter base found that over half disapproved of the Monsanto/Bayer merger, fearing it would result in higher food prices and higher costs for farmers. Before 1990, there were 600 or more small independent seed businesses globally, many of them family owned. By 2009, only about 100 survived; and seed prices had more than doubled. But reining in these powerful  conglomerates is more than just a question of economics. It may be a question of the survival of life on this planet.

While Bayer’s neonicotinoid pesticides wipe out insects and birds, Monsanto’s glyphosate has been linked to over 40 human diseases, including cancer. Its GMO seeds have been genetically modified to survive this toxic herbicide, but the plants absorb it into their tissues; and in the humans who eat them, glyphosate disrupts the endocrine system and the balance of gut bacteria, damages DNA and is a driver of cancerous mutations. Researchers summarizing a 2014 study of glyphosates in the Journal of Organic Systems linked them to the huge increase in chronic diseases in the United States, with the percentage of GMO corn and soy planted in the US showed highly significant correlations with hypertension, stroke, diabetes, obesity, lipoprotein metabolism disorder, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, end stage renal disease, acute kidney failure, cancers of the thyroid, liver, bladder, pancreas, kidney and myeloid leukaemia. But regulators have turned a blind eye, captured by corporate lobbyists and a political agenda that has more to do with power and control them protecting the health of the people.

The Trump administration has already approved a merger between former rivals Dow and DuPont, and has  signed off on the takeover of Swiss pesticide giant Syngenta by ChemChina.  If Monsanto/Bayer gets approved as well, just three corporations will dominate the majority of the world’s seed and pesticide markets, giving them enormous power to continue poisoning the planet at the expense of its living inhabitants.

The Shady History of Bayer and the Petrochemical Cartel

To understand the magnitude of this threat, it is necessary to delve into some history. This is not the first time Monsanto and Bayer have joined forces. In both world wars, they made explosives and poisonous gases using shared technologies that they sold to both sides. After World War II, they united as MOBAY (MonsantoBayer) and supplied the ingredients for Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.

In fact corporate mergers and cartels have played a central role in Bayer’s history. In 1904, it joined with German giants BASF and AGFA to form the first chemical cartel. After World War I, Germany’s entire chemical industry was merged to become I.G. Farben. By the beginning of World War II, I.G. Farben was the largest industrial corporation in Europe, the largest chemical company in the world, and part of the most gigantic and powerful cartel in all history.

A cartel is a grouping of companies bound by agreements designed to restrict competition and keep prices high. The dark history of the I.G. Farben cartel was detailed in a 1974 book titled World Without Cancer by G. Edward Griffin, who also wrote the best-selling Creature from Jekyll Island on the shady history of the Federal Reserve. Griffin quoted from a book titled Treason’s Peace by Howard Ambruster, an American chemical engineer who had studied the close relations between the German chemical trust and certain American corporations. Ambruster warned:

Farben is no mere industrial enterprise conducted by Germans for the extraction of profits at home and abroad.  Rather, it is and must be recognized as a cabalistic organization which, through foreign subsidiaries and secret tie-ups, operates a far-flung and highly efficient espionage machine — the ultimate purpose being world conquest . . . and a world superstate directed by Farben.109

The I.G. Farben cartel arose out of the international oil industry.  Coal tar or crude oil is the source material for most commercial chemical products, including those used in drugs and explosives.  I.G. Farben established cartel agreements with hundreds of American companies. They had little choice but to capitulate after the Rockefeller empire, represented by Standard Oil of New Jersey, had done so, since they could not hope to compete with the Rockefeller/I.G. combination.

The Rockefeller group’s greatest influence was exerted through international finance and investment banking, putting them in control of a wide spectrum of industry. Their influence was particularly heavy in pharmaceuticals.  The directors of the American I.G. Chemical Company included Paul M. Warburg, brother of a director of the parent company in Germany and a chief architect of the Federal Reserve System.

The I.G. Farben cartel was technically disbanded at the Nuremberg War Trials following World War II, but in fact it merely split into three new companies — Bayer, Hoescht and BASF — which remain pharmaceutical giants today. In order to conceal its checkered history, Bayer orchestrated a merger with Monsanto in 1954, giving rise to the MOBAY Corporation. In 1964, the US Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against MOBAY and insisted that it be broken up, but the companies continued to work together unofficially.

In Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation (2007), William Engdahl states that global food control and depopulation became US strategic policy under Rockefeller protégé Henry Kissinger, who was Secretary of State in the 1970s. Along with oil geopolitics, these policies were to be the new “solution” to the threats to US global power and continued US access to cheap raw materials from the developing world. “Control oil and you control nations,” Kissinger notoriously declared. “Control food and you control the people.”

Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity and establishing proprietary control with GMO seeds distributed by only a few transnational corporations led by Monsanto; and by a massive taxpayer-subsidized propaganda campaign in support of GMO seeds and neurotoxic pesticides. A de facto cartel of giant chemical, drug, oil, banking and insurance companies connected by interlocking directorates reaps the profits at both ends, by waging a very lucrative pharmaceutical assault on the diseases created by their toxic agricultural chemicals.

Going Organic: The Russian Approach

In the end, the Green Revolution engineered by Henry Kissinger to control markets and ensure US economic dominance may be our nemesis. While the US struggles to maintain its hegemony by economic coercion and military force, Russia is winning the battle for the health of the people and the environment. Vladimir Putin has banned GMOs and has set out to make Russia the world’s leading supplier of organic food.

Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments), predominantly organically. Dacha gardens produced over 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. Russian author Vladimir Megre comments:

Essentially, what Russian gardeners do is demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world – and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year – so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.

In the US, only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. Most farmland is soaked in pesticides and herbicides. But the need for these toxic chemicals is a myth. In an October 2017 article in The Guardian, columnist George Monbiot cited studies showing that reducing the use of neonicotinoid pesticides actually increases production, because the pesticides harm or kill the pollinators on which crops depend. Rather than an international trade agreement that would enable giant transnational corporations to dictate to governments, he argues that we need a global treaty to regulate pesticides and require environmental impact assessments for farming. He writes:

Farmers and governments have been comprehensively conned by the global pesticide industry. It has ensured its products should not be properly regulated or even, in real-world conditions, properly assessed. . . . The profits of these companies depend on ecocide. Do we allow them to hold the world to ransom, or do we acknowledge that the survival of the living world is more important than returns to their shareholders?

President Trump has boasted of winning awards for environmental protection. If he is serious about protecting the environment, he needs to block the merger of Bayer and Monsanto, two agribusiness giants bent on destroying the ecosystem for private profit.


Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution

The Coming Firestorm in Syria

by Stephen Lendman 

Associate Journalist of Global News Aruba since 2009

The die is cast on Syria. A US-led attack on the country almost surely is coming.

The only unknowns are when and its severity. Will it be similar to last April’s Shayrat airbase attack or is striking multiple Syrian military and perhaps other targets this time coming? The latter option seems most likely.

Short of full-scale “shock and awe” war like Iraq 2003 and Libya 2011, nothing strategic can be accomplished.

Attacking Syria is just a way for Trump to look tough, appeasing administration and congressional hawks, based on a Big Lie.

The alleged Douma incident never happened, a false flag mirage made to appear real by fake images prepared in advance – clear to everyone in the White House, Congress, US allies and Western media supporting what demands opposition.

Trump’s belligerent tweets and other remarks on Syria crossed the line he’s unlikely to pull back from.

On Monday, John Bolton assumed his post as national security advisor. At the same time, deputy national security advisor Nadia Schadlow resigned – the third senior NSC official to quit or be forced out.

On Tuesday, Trump’s homeland security advisor Tom Bossert resigned. So did national security advisor Michael Anton, both likely fired.

An unnamed source close to the White House said these changes were “100%” on John Bolton’s orders, hardening Trump’s war cabinet for whatever is coming – in Syria and elsewhere.

Raging hawk CIA director/incoming secretary of state (once clearing rubber-stamp Senate confirmation) Mike Pompeo signaled more trouble ahead, saying in congressional testimony:

“Russia continues to act aggressively, enabled by years of soft policy toward that aggression. That’s now over.”

“The list of this administration’s actions to raise the cost for Vladimir Putin is long.”

“The actions of this administration make clear that President Trump’s national security strategy, rightfully, has identified Russia as a danger to our country.”

According to the London Times, “Theresa May has cleared the way for Britain to join a US-led military attack on Syria within days after national security advisers presented new evidence blaming President Assad for the ‘barbaric’ gas attack in Douma.”

“The prime minister is recalling cabinet ministers from their Easter break to seek approval today.”

“She is set to defy calls, including from Jeremy Corbyn, the Labor leader, to follow recent convention and allow MPs a vote.”

According to a Times poll, only 20% of UK voters support attacking Syria, 40% against, another 40% undecided.

Attacking Syria will escalate ongoing US-led aggression on the country based on a Big Lie, including by ISIS, al-Nusra and other terrorist foot soldiers likely poised to launch attacks once cruise missile fireworks begin.

The strategy risks direct confrontation with Russia. It’ll ease things for Trump to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, Britain and France likely going along enough to likely kill it.

As of now, it’s anyone’s guess precisely what’s coming – to be known once hostilities begin.

It’s also unclear how Russia will respond – virtually certain to retaliate if its personnel in Syria are harmed.

Will its military down incoming missiles and strike their launch pads, as claimed by its Lebanon ambassador, or will it remain passive in the face of US-led aggression again, letting Syrian targets be smashed, along with unknown numbers of soldiers and civilians killed?

We’ll have these and other answers in the fullness of time.

Letting America get away with naked aggression time and again assures more of it.

If Russia fails to act forcefully this time, will it wait for its heartland to be attacked before defending its national security?

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.


Senior Editorial Author, Journalist & Associate of Global News Aruba

How Uncle Sam Launders Marijuana Money

by Ellen Brown J.D, Attorney at Law and Author

Senior Editorial Writer of Global News Aruba International Online News Paper

APRIL 2018

Thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. The herb has been shown to have significant therapeutic value for a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, lung disease, anxiety, muscle spasms, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis pain. The community of Americans who rely on legal medical marijuana was estimated to be 2.6 million people in 2016 and includes a variety of mainstream constituency groups like veterans, senior citizens, cancer survivors and parents of epileptic children. Unlike patented pharmaceuticals, which are now the leading cause of death from drug overdose, there have been no recorded deaths from marijuana overdose in the U.S. By comparison, alcohol causes 30,000 deaths annually, and prescription drugs taken as directed are estimated to kill 100,000 Americans per year.

Under federal law, however, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance—a “deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse”—and its possession remains a punishable offense.

On the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump said the issue of marijuana legalization should be “up to the states,” continuing the “hands off” policy established under President Obama. Under the 2013 Cole memorandum, the Department of Justice said it would not prosecute individuals and companies complying with robust and well-enforced state legalization programs. But on January 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that memo and gave federal prosecutors the authority to pursue marijuana cases at their own discretion, even in places where the herb is legal under state law. The action has made banks even more afraid to take marijuana cash, which can be prosecuted as money laundering, an offense that can incur stiff criminal penalties.

The Government Has “Unclean Hands”

As explained by Dr. Richard Rahn, author of “The End of Money and the Struggle for Financial Privacy”:

Money laundering is generally understood to be the practice of taking ill-gotten gains and moving them through a sequence of bank accounts so they ultimately look like the profits from legitimate activity. Institutions, individuals, and even governments who are believed to be aiding and abetting the practice of money laundering can be indicted and convicted, even though they may be completely unaware that the money being transferred with their help was of criminal origin.

The law has focused on banks, but all sorts of businesses accept money without asking where it came from or being required to report “suspicious activity.” As Rahn observes, even governments can be indicted for and convicted of money laundering. Strictly construed (as Sessions insists when interpreting the law), that means the U.S. government itself could be indicted.

In fact, the U.S. government is the largest launderer of marijuana cash in the nation. The IRS accepts this tainted money in the payment of taxes, turning it into “clean” money; and it is not an unwitting accomplice to the crime. Estimates are that marijuana business owners across the U.S. will owe $2.8 billion in taxes to the federal government in 2018.

The government makes a massive profit off the deal, snatching up to 70 percent of the proceeds of the reporting businesses, as opposed to the more typical rate of 30 percent. It does this by branding marijuana businesses criminal enterprises, which are not entitled to deduct their costs when reporting their income.

This is not only a clear case of the unequal protection of the laws but is a clear admission by the government that it is knowingly accepting illegal funds. The government is a principal beneficiary of a business the government itself has made illegal.

Under those circumstances, both marijuana businesses and banks should be able to raise the “unclean hands” defense. As summarized in Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd. v. Superior Court (1999):

The defense of unclean hands arises from the maxim, “He who comes into Equity must come with clean hands.” The doctrine demands that a plaintiff act fairly in the matter for which he seeks a remedy. . . . The defense is available in legal as well as equitable actions. . . . The doctrine promotes justice by making a plaintiff answer for his own misconduct in the action. It prevents a wrongdoer from enjoying the fruits of his transgression.

The government is enjoying the fruits of money it considers “dirty.” It has unclean hands and should not be allowed to prosecute others for the same crime.

Should “Money Laundering” Even Be a Crime?

If the government itself is profiting handsomely from this laundered money, the question arises whether money laundering should even be a crime. Rahn thinks it should not. It became a criminal activity in the U.S. only in 1986, and in many countries it still is not a crime. Banks operating in the U.S. must now collect and verify customer-provided information, check names of customers against lists of known or suspected terrorists, determine risk levels posed by customers and report suspicious persons, organizations and transactions. The reporting requirements are so burdensome and expensive that they have caused many smaller banks to sell out to larger banks or close their doors. Moreover, they have not been cost-effective in deterring crime. According to Rahn, in an article titled “Why the War on Money Laundering Should Be Aborted”:

[I]t has failed to produce the advertised results and, in fact, has not been cost effective, has resulted in wholesale violations of individual civil liberties (including privacy rights), has violated the rights of sovereign governments and peoples, has created new opportunities for criminal activity, and has actually lessened our ability to reduce crime. …

Banks are required to supply the government with not only Currency Transaction Reports but also Suspicious Activity Reports. These reports impose huge regulatory costs on banks and require bank employees to operate as police officers. As a result, the total public and private sector costs greatly exceed $10,000,000 per conviction. This whole effort not only does not make any economic sense, but is clearly incompatible with a free society. The anti-money laundering laws allow almost complete prosecutorial discretion.

One small banker complained that banks have been turned into spies secretly reporting to the federal government. If they fail to comply, they can face stiff enforcement actions, whether or not actual money-laundering crimes are alleged. In 2010, one small New Jersey bank pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Bank Secrecy Act and was fined $5 million for failure to file suspicious-activity and cash-transaction reports. Another small New Jersey bank closed its doors after it was hit with $8 million in fines over its inadequate monitoring policies. The cost of compliance and threat of massive fines for not complying have been major factors in the collapse of the community banking sector. The number of community banks has fallen by 40 percent since 1994 and their share of U.S. banking assets has fallen by more than half, from 41 percent to 18 percent.

“Regulation is killing community banks,” Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said at his confirmation hearing in January 2017. If the process is not reversed, he warned, we could “end up in a world where we have four big banks in this country.” That would be bad for both jobs and the economy. “I think that we all appreciate the engine of growth is with small and medium-sized businesses,” said Mnuchin. “We’re losing the ability for small and medium-sized banks to make good loans to small and medium-sized businesses in the community, where they understand those credit risks better than anybody else.”

If the goal of the anti-money laundering statutes is to identify and deter criminal activity, strictly enforcing the law could actually backfire in the case of state-legalized marijuana businesses. As noted in a Jan. 9 article in The Daily Beast:

Marijuana businesses have to register and incorporate in states and that puts them on the IRS radar. … Sky-high federal taxes on top of state taxes can make it almost impossible to operate a legal business. … If the government fails to cut businesses a break, legal marijuana could be sold on the black market to dodge taxes.

On the black market, cash proceeds can be dispersed in a way that avoids banks and makes the money hard either to trace or to tax.

Federal Law Needs to Change

With more than half the states legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, Congress needs to acknowledge the will of the people and remove this natural herb from the Schedule I classification that says it is a deadly dangerous drug with no health benefits. The Tenth Amendment gives the federal government only those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and regulating medical practice is not one of them. Federal courts have held that the federal Controlled Substances Act does not allow the federal government to usurp states’ exclusive rights (pursuant to their inherent police powers) to regulate the practice of medicine.

H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, sponsored by Virginia Republican Thomas Garrett and 15 cosponsors, would remove marijuana from Schedule I and eliminate federal penalties for anyone engaged in marijuana activity in a state where it is legal. Congress just needs to pass it.

In its zeal for eliminating burdensome, costly and ineffective regulations, the Trump administration should also consider lightening the heavy reporting burden that is killing community banks and the local businesses that have traditionally relied on them for affordable credit. On Tuesday, a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general sent a letter to leaders in Congress requesting advancement of legislation such as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to “provide a safe harbor” for banks that provide financial products or services to state-legal marijuana businesses. If the government can accept marijuana money in the payment of taxes, banks should be able to accept it, keep track of it and prevent the crimes associated with storing and transporting large sums of cash.

The Tjon Ajong group

The Tjon Ajong Group