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Tillerson Won’t Use $80 Million To Fight ISIS Propaganda, Because Don’t Tell Him What To Do

Tillerson’s one patch of dark hair makes me think he’s wearing a kippah.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is doing his part to prevent the State Department from doing too much diplomacy, since as everyone knows, America needs to be tough, not talky, and that’s probably a good enough reason right there for Tillerson’s refusal to spend some $ 80 million already allocated to counter propaganda from ISIS and from other, ahem, foreign disinformation campaigns. Besides, some of the funding might go to messages the Russians don’t like, and we wouldn’t want them unhappy with us, would we? An investigative report in Politico has the teeth-grinding details on why Tillerson’s State Department may let money earmarked to fight propaganda just go away:

Tillerson has not issued a simple request for the money earmarked for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, $ 60 million of which is now parked at the Pentagon. Another $ 19.8 million sits untouched at the State Department as Tillerson’s aides reject calls from career diplomats and members of Congress to put the money to work against America’s adversaries.

If the $ 60 million portion isn’t transferred to State by September 30, it will expire. Politico didn’t say where the money would then go, so we’ll just assume the Trump Foundation gets it.

There are all sorts of very good reasons Tillerson hasn’t requested the money. For one thing, he’s busy “reorganizing” the State Department so it will be smaller and more efficient, although efficient at what still remains to be determined, since there’s no real foreign policy besides “America First,” and you don’t have to spend hardly anything to say that. Also, the Global Engagement Center is an interagency group established in 2016 by the Obama administration to coordinate American messaging to counter propaganda from terrorist groups and foreign governments. Obviously, if it’s an Obama thing, it is unholy, so not funding it is probably good. Sez Politico:

[Its] staff of about 80 is responsible for coordinating governmentwide efforts to counter the online messages of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.

A Pentagon spending bill signed into law by former President Barack Obama in December broadened the center’s mandate to include battling state-sponsored disinformation campaigns by countries such as China, North Korea and Russia. U.S. intelligence officials say Moscow used fake news reports and malicious Twitter accounts to influence the 2016 election, and lawmakers in both parties have called for a more robust U.S. response.

The money for the Center is already out there; Tillerson just needs to request it. But he doesn’t want to. Why? Well, for one thing, because he’s really a petty dick:

State Department officials began urging Tillerson to seek the first $ 60 million from the Defense Department soon after he took office in February, according to the former senior State Department official.

But they quickly found themselves mired in a new, confusing and bottlenecked decision-making process imposed by Tillerson’s top aides. For example, officials involved with the center first put in their request in an “action memo,” the standard document sent to the secretary of state when a decision is required. Tillerson’s aides retorted that he “didn’t like being told what to do,” the former senior State official said, and ordered that the request be refashioned as an “information memo.”

That’s real mature, guys. Also, one of Tillerson’s top aides, R.C. Hammond, who serves both as a spokesperson and in planning department policy, isn’t at all happy about the idea of having to deal with a bunch of new money when Tillerson is looking to cut budgets and staff at State. Just wait a while and maybe they’ll get around to counter-propaganda efforts eventually, if that turns out to be something State Department 2.0 is interested in, OK?

According to a former State Department official, Hammond had all sorts of reasons not to spend any of the money allocated for the Global Engagement Center. For one thing, there’s the reorganization. For another, why aren’t we making Middle Eastern allies take more responsibility for driving anti-ISIS propaganda? It’s not like the USA has anything useful to say on the matter, probably. Oh, and then there’s our Good Friend Russia:

Hammond further expressed hesitation about needling the Russians at a time when Tillerson was trying to find common ground with the Kremlin on sensitive matters such as the war in Syria. The Kremlin-backed news outlet Sputnik has compared the Global Engagement Center to George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

“Hammond said the secretary is in the process of working through disagreements with Russia, and this is not consistent with what we’re trying to do,” the former senior State official said.

That makes things much clearer: We don’t want to do anything Moscow’s propaganda tells us is “Orwellian.” Seems to us there’s a word for that, but we can’t recall it. (Oh yeah — Kafkaesque.)

There are also turf considerations at work: The Global Engagement Center was initiated under Obama, so the people staffing it are established foreign service professionals, not part of Team Trump, but part of the Deep State Department. Those in the Bannon-arama wing may see the embedded experts as greater threats to Real America than terrorists or the Russians or Chinese, so withholding funding may be useful to the Trump/Tillerson agenda of gutting State as much as they can get away with. (For an excellent-scary read on how they’re doing that, check this piece in Foreign Policy). One former official from State told Politico,

They use the reorganization as an excuse to not act on anything […] That’s why people doubt the motivations of the reorganization. They think it’s all about starving the beast.

But Hammond is very reassuring about rumors the administration wants to eliminate the Global Engagement Center or reshape it in its own image, telling Politico, there are “no plans” to do that (because there are no “plans” at all in this administration).

Regarding Russia,” he added, “we have not sought to reduce efforts to spotlight and combat Moscow’s ‘active measures’ or information activities.”

The just don’t want any funding to do it, see? It’ll be fine — the president can get on Twitter and tell ISIS to stop doing radical Islamic terrorism, and that should do the trick.

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[Politico]

Source: Politics – Wonkette

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