Leftward Blogs

Largest Newspaper in Spain Blames Russia and Antiwar.com for Catalonia Pro-Independence News

Antiwar.com blog - 3 hours 42 min ago

Providing still more graphic proof of its pathetic and truly cringeworthy descent from the status of a great liberal paper to that of a shameless corporatist rag dominated by baseless Atlanticist talking points, Madrid’s El País has recently suggested that behind the current drive for a vote on independence in Catalonia there there can be found the diabolical hand of Putin’s Russia. In a story that appeared yesterday on the El Pais website, David Alandete wrote:

“The same apparatus for the spreading of fake news that Russia has used to weaken the United States and the European Union, has been deployed in full force in Catalonia, according to a detailed analysis of Pro-Russian websites and Facebook profiles carried out by this newspaper with tools of digital analysis. In the wake of the covert campaigns in favor of Brexit, Marine Le Pen and the German Ultra-right, the Kremlin has come to see the Catalan independentist movement as yet another way to deepen European divisions and consolidate its international influence. They use webpages that publish rumors, activists like Julian Assange, a legion of bots, and millions of automatized pages on social media to insure that lies are shared millions of times on the web.”

But the brilliant journalist at Spain’s leading newspaper was not content to stop with this morsel of infantile thinking.

Casting his eyes across the Atlantic toward the libertarian website, Antiwar.com. One of the very few media outlets in the United States which has covered the Spanish government’s ongoing coup in Catalonia, Alandete suggested that the site and its most important writer, Justin Raimondo, were integral parts of Putin’s efforts to undermine the West’s hallowed democracies.

Working in deeply nuanced line of reasoning that holds that Julian Assange is per se bad, and that therefore anyone who sympathizes with him, or even coincides with his point of view, is either a dismissable idiot or a Russian dupe, they mock an article in which Raimondo raised the possibility that Spain could unleash a Tiananmen-style attack on the Catalan independentists.

I guess that for David Alandete, as the case for so many mainstream journalist, it is much easier (not to mention career-enhancing) to search for Russian phantoms, than to confront, and engage in debate with opinions that are not approved by his corporate bosses and that flout the group-think these bosses now demand in their news rooms.

In Alandete’s smug little Madrid/Liberal Interventionist world things like the arrest of government officials, the carrying off of millions of printed ballots, the attempts to place the long-independent Catalan police under Spanish control, the indictment for sedition of peaceful civic leaders have no weight, and certainly no resemblance to repressive behavior in other countries.

No in his Spain, that is the real Spain run from Madrid and ever-prisoner to its own endlessly repeated mythologies about self and other, none of this is real.

But what is real of course is Putin’s evil hand. After all, what other reason could the Catalans, whom centralists like Alandete have always treated with mocking condescension despite their demonstrably higher levels of civic democracy and culture, have any reason to break up their perfect marriage?

Thomas S. Harrington is professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of Public Intellectuals and Nation Building in the Iberian Peninsula, 1900–1925: The Alchemy of Identity (Bucknell University Press, 2014).

Happy Birthday to Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com’s News Editor

Antiwar.com blog - 4 hours 24 min ago

Jason Ditz is an integral part of Antiwar.com. As news editor, he writes up to 50 articles a week on the most important news stories.

Please join me in wishing him the best birthday possible.

The ONLY thing you need to know about The Vietnam “War”

Antiwar.com blog - 9 hours 51 min ago

The Vietnam War” began airing on PBS this week.

But, besides the fact it was not legally a “war,” THIS — directly from the lips of Vietnam “War” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara — is the only thing you need to know about it – – –

Mr. McNamara, didn’t you ever read a history book?” –The Fog of War

Failing dam in Puerto Rico, endangering 70,000, a reminder that Climate Denialism Kills

Informed Comment - 13 hours 21 min ago

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

President Trump, notoriously, tweeted that climate change is a Chinese hoax.

Some 70,000 US citizens in Puerto Rico living along the Guajataca River are in danger as a dam in the vicinity is failing. Built in the 1920s, the earthen dam faces a drainage problem in the midst of the downpours visited on the island, which have abruptly filled it up and put unbearable pressure on the walls.

The failure of this dam underlines that climate change science is absolutely central to good public policy and planning.

As humans put heat trapping gases into the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide, through driving their cars, providing their homes with electricity, and heating or cooling their houses, more of the sun’s heat is trapped on earth rather than radiating off into space. That trapped heat has caused the average temperature of the earth’s surface to rise.

Trapping heat so that it causes the Caribbean to heat up is highly destructive. Warm water powers hurricanes. Hotter water makes them more violent and destructive now.

Warmer water also has more water vapor floating above it. That water turbocharges the rain storms once the hurricane makes landfall.

In Puerto Rico’s case, so much rain fell so heavily and so quickly that it overwhelmed the old earthen dam, which began to fail. It so happens that nearly 70,000 people live down river and are in danger.

People in charge of dams throughout the US need to be made aware of this situation. What is an ordinary load on a dam is about to change, and human-caused climate change will just attribute them to someone else. If you don’t believe in climate change, you cannot justify the expenditure of public funds to reinforce the dam.

If you deny climate change, you will not anticipate heavier rainfall. Your dams will then fail, creating tens of thousands of climate refugees.

Global heating doesn’t cause hurricanes. It simply amplifies them and makes them stronger and makes the rainfall associated with them much heavier.

When you vote for denialist politicians, you are selecting people who make policy. The policy they make will be clueless and will actively endanger the public. Climate change is real. We are causing it by our emissions. If you don’t believe that, you are not a responsible steward of our infrastructure and of our lives.

——

Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Young Turks: “Puerto Rico Braces As Dam Fails”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

As Muslims rally for the Rohingya, what About the Rest of Us?

Informed Comment - Sat, 2017-09-23 00:27

By John Feffer | ( Foreign Policy in Focus ) | – –

If only Muslims reach out to help the Rohingya, the international community will suffer another blow to its reputation.

They were Muslims, and they were leaving the country in droves.

Their homeland, a remote corner of a multiethnic country, had become a warzone. Militants had taken up arms to fight for their rights, and the central government retaliated in force.

Human rights abuses, mostly by the government, were rampant. Caught in the gunfire, hundreds of thousands of people became refugees. The central government wasn’t unhappy to see them leave, since it believed that the refugees belonged with their ethnic and confessional brethren across the border.

The story of the Rohingya of Burma/Myanmar is a familiar one. But it also sounds an awful lot like what happened to the Kosovars in the late 1990s.

At the time, the Clinton administration declared the situation a humanitarian crisis, a genocide in the making, and intervened militarily on the Kosovars’ behalf against the Yugoslav government. Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic eventually agreed to a settlement — the Kumanovo agreement — that replaced Yugoslav forces with international peacekeepers. Most Kosovar refugees returned home, where they constitute more than 90 percent of the population. Kosovo subsequently declared its independence, but Serbia has yet to recognize it.

The Rohingyas face even longer odds. First of all, they’re a minority in Rakhine province. Second, their armed resistance is slight and poses little real threat to the government in Naypyidaw. Third, the conflict is taking place far from Europe, and the refugees are flooding into Bangladesh, not the wealthy countries of the West.

Finally, the Trump administration has no intention to intervene on anyone’s behalf for humanitarian reasons. Human rights figure rather low on the administration’s priorities. Without a strong push from Washington, the West will shy away from a forceful intervention on humanitarian grounds.

The UN, too, is hamstrung. Even though UN High Commission for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has declared the plight of the Rohingya “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the UN body has not invoked the “responsibility to protect.” Yes, the body will discuss the topic, but countries like India have agreed to do so on the grounds that no resolution will be introduced.

That doesn’t mean that the Rohingya lack supporters. The Muslim world is outraged at their treatment, with countries from Turkey to Nigeria to Indonesia up in arms.

The stark contrast between the outrage of the Muslim world and the lack of action from the international community does not bode well for the responsibility-to-protect doctrine. Nor, frankly, does it bode well for the future of the international community either.

Religion Plus Nationalism

A common ploy of Islamophobes is to claim that some religions are inherently violent while others are inherently peaceful. Sometimes they put Christianity in that latter category, though it’s a rather heavy lift given the Crusades, the Inquisition, the clerical fascism of Mussolini, and so on. Desperately backpedaling, the Islamophobe will then say, “Ah, but what about Buddhism? That is indisputably a peaceful religion.”

The Rohingya would beg to differ.

Around a million Rohingya live in in Rakhine province. The Myanmar government, claiming that they’re just Bangladeshis who crossed the border after the 1972 war of independence, refuse to consider the Rohingya to be citizens. The Rohingya themselves argue that they’re descendants of Arab traders dating back to the 8th century. Historians can trace evidence that some Rohingya have lived in Rakhine since the 18th century.

What isn’t under dispute is the discrimination they’ve suffered at the hands of the Buddhist majority. Ironically, or perhaps not, that discrimination has increased during the democratization process, as nationalism and its handmaiden of Buddhist chauvinism have intensified. As Adam Taylor writes in The Washington Post:

A growing Buddhist nationalism in Burma, where 90 percent of the population identify with Buddhism, has led to a number of laws on religion, including restrictions on interfaith marriage. There has also been major ethnic violence in Rakhine; most notably in 2012, when sectarian riots after the rape of a woman in the state led to large-scale displacement of Muslims, with many moving into squalid camps for internally displaced people.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh during this period, a country ill-prepared to handle a flood of refugees. In October 2016, militants with a shadowy outfit — the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for attacks on border posts that left nine Myanmar soldiers dead. The central state proceeded to crack down against Rohingya in general, and ethnic cleansing began in earnest.

When ARSA again attacked border posts at the end of August, killing a dozen soldiers, the war intensified. The military used the attacks to go on a genocidal rampage. Writes Robert Rotberg:

Nearly 400,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar’s military attacks since July, crossing under desperate conditions into already densely populated Bangladesh. Hundreds of Rohingya settlements in Rakhine State have been torched. At least 3,000 Rohingya have been killed, thousands raped, and more than 140,000 forced into concentration camps thanks to Myanmar’s security actions.

Particularly disappointing has been Aung San Suu Kyi’s response to the crisis. The Nobel Prize laureate gave her first speech on the situation in Rakhine province this week in Yangon in which she labeled ARSA a bunch of terrorists and insisted that the government needed more time to figure out what the rest of the world already knows: hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are fleeing violence and discrimination.

Essentially Suu Kyi claimed that her country needed to focus first on national cohesion before it could focus on such particularist claims. In other words, as in virtually every nation-building exercise in history, certain people(s) are sacrificed for the purported good of the whole.

Granted, Aung San Suu Kyi is in a difficult position. She’s not an elected leader — the constitution prevents her from becoming president — and the military still controls much of the country’s political life. The generals could step in at any moment and declare martial law, extinguishing the so-far-brief experiment with democracy.

The question remains: Is Aung San Suu Kyi looking for ways to reduce the military’s influence, or has she decided to strengthen her own position with the military and Burmese nationalists at the expense of the Rohingya?

International Response

Donald Trump made no mention of the Rohingya crisis in his speech at the UN. He barely mentioned human rights at all.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert has said, “We urge all in Burma to avoid actions that exacerbate tensions there,” and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy is heading over to Myanmar. Neither Trump nor Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has addressed the crisis directly (in marked contrast to statements by both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry). And forget about Trump easing his immigration policy to take in Rohingya refugees.

It’s hard to imagine that another wave of Muslim refugees is going to elicit any action from the Trump administration. But Muslim-majority countries are rallying behind the Rohingya.

Turkey moved quickly to supply humanitarian assistance to Rakhine province. As the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has helped to mobilize global Islamic public opinion.

Erdogan has a larger agenda. He wants to advance his conception of “civilizational politics” that emphasizes Turkey’s Ottoman legacy and the central role it can play in a volatile region. Turkey’s Islamist political tradition also offers something distinct from the United States and China, neither of which care much about human rights at the moment, particularly the rights of Muslims.

Some Muslim-majority states have gone even further than Erdogan in calling for military intervention on behalf of the Rohingya, comparable to what NATO did for the Kosovars.

“Why aren’t we Muslims thinking about forming a NATO-like joint military force that can intervene in such situations?” Ali Motahari, deputy head of the Iranian parliament, said in early September. “The crimes of the government of Myanmar will not be halted without using military force.”

That’s not likely to happen. But Muslim-majority states are concerned that, as James Dorsey argues in LobeLog, “militants will gain an upper hand in projecting themselves as the true defenders of the faith compared to Muslim governments who do little more than pay lip service and at best provide humanitarian relief.”

It’s telling that Motahari appealed to a “NATO-like” force rather than invoking the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. When it comes to international doctrines, the only thing worse than being reviled is to be ignored.

The Future of R2P

In 2011, which seems like a golden age for the international community at this point, writer David Rieff declared that Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, had reached its “high water mark.” Or, as The New York Times titled the essay, “R2P, RIP.”

Rieff was writing in the aftermath of the military intervention in Libya, which was intended to prevent the government of Muammar Qaddafi from murdering large numbers of his own citizens. That, Rieff concluded, required not a limited operation but a full effort to back regime change:

War, even when it is waged for a just cause and with scrupulous respect for international humanitarian law, always involves a descent into barbarism (think of the way Qaddafi died). This is why even when R2P is applied well, it carries moral risks. And when it is distorted, as it was by NATO in Libya, R2P is not a needed reform to the international system, but a threat to its legitimacy.

Given the even further descent into barbarism in Libya since 2011, Rieff’s words are prophetic. True, R2P could claim certain successes: Kenya in 2008-2009, Ivory Coast in 2011, and to a lesser extent in Mali in 2013. But the ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen suggest that, despite continued invocations of R2P, the international system is incapable of implementing the principle on the ground.

For critics of R2P, that’s fine. Who needs yet another set of high-minded words to disguise the reality of strong powers disregarding the sovereignty of weaker powers? Sovereignty, whether defended by Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang or Donald Trump at the UN or Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, remains a core principle of international relations.

But sovereignty doesn’t help the stateless.

If the international community doesn’t lift a finger to help the Rohingya — by intervening diplomatically, economically, and in a humanitarian manner — then they can at best hope for assistance from Muslim states. They’re fortunate to have some advocates, regardless of the motivations of those actors.

But the test of a robust international community is its capacity to act on behalf of everyone, not simply support a segmented response whereby only Christians help Christians, only Han Chinese help Han Chinese, only women help women, and so on. If only Muslims reach out to help the Rohingya, the international community will suffer another blow to its reputation.

With R2P becoming even more moribund than before, states will continue to use the shield of sovereignty to flout international law, disregard the rights of minorities, and ultimately make Rohingyas of us all.

 

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus and the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus

———-

Aljazeera English: “Thousands orphaned by Myanmar violence against Rohingya”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

US will Ease Restrictions on Drones, Expand Usage

Informed Comment - Sat, 2017-09-23 00:11

TeleSur | – –

Speaking last month of reducing restrictions on drone usage, President Trump resorted to biblical language, saying “retribution will be fast and powerful.”

The United States is preparing to eliminate several major restrictions and regulations on the use of drones, making it easier to use the controversial form of warfare more frequently, and in more situations, a New York Times report revealed Saturday citing internal officials.

Advisers within the administration of President Donald Trump are proposing to remove a rule that limits the use of drone strikes to attacks against “high-level” enemies, and would allow for their use against the vaguely defined category of “jihadist foot soldiers.”

The vetting process to approve proposed strikes would also be significantly reduced and removed in some instances.

The C.I.A. is also seeking to gain approval to carry out its own covert drone strikes in active war-zones. C.I.A. strikes, unlike their Pentagon counterparts, are completely covert and do not need to be acknowledged.

According to the New York Times report, a Cabinet-level committee has already approved the proposed rules, and they have been sent to the White House for the President’s signature.

Last month in a speech Trump praised the liberalization of the already heavy use of drones by the United States, saying that “the killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.”

Via TeleSur

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

New China TV from last Feb.: “Drone strike kills Taliban shadow governor in Kunduz”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Betsy DeVos and “Real” Rape

Informed Comment - Fri, 2017-09-22 23:24

By Gail Ukockis | (Informed Comment) | – –

            When I was in college in the early eighties, the dorm staff told us females to get escorts if we had to walk outside after dark. Watch out for the dark bushes in front of the dorm building, they warned us. Each communal bathroom also had rape whistles in case an attacker was hiding in a stall.

            Those concerns were about “real” rapes committed by evil men, blitz attackers who struck at random. Nobody warned us about date/acquaintance rapes because that concept was not yet known on my campus. Once a college friend told me about her friend who had been craving a cigarette. She went over to the men’s dorm area to ask for a smoke. Some guys invited her into their room, then locked the door. They ordered her to take off her shirt.

            “What happened next?”

            My friend only shook her head sadly. I will never know what happened to that young woman. If she had been sexually assaulted, though, we would not have called it rape she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and her dorm mates were “just being jerks.” Until recently, many rape victims did not consider their experiences to be “real” rapes. Jackson Katz, an advocate against gender violence, quoted one woman as saying, “I have been raped twice and have had several other sexual assaults. I was not even fully aware that I had been raped either time until much later. It was so ingrained in my mind, personality, behavior, or whatever that this was how things are in the world. I believed that men had a right to my body and I was supposed to let them.”

            Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, has recently created a controversy by limiting Title IX protections for campus rape victims. During her September 7 speech, she stated that the school administrations were acting as “kangaroo courts” that were destroying the lives of young men through false accusations. Although I fully support the rights of any accused person to a fair hearing, I do not agree with her assertion that the schools’ attempts to enforce Title IX are fatally flawed. Instead, I think that Betsy DeVos is trying to revive the idea that the only “real” rape is one committed by a crazed stranger lurking behind a dark bush.

            All sexual assaults, whether by a stranger or acquaintance, are horrific crimes. However, some people want to return to the “good old days” of considering only stranger rapes as “legitimate” and any other type of attack as just a misunderstanding. The flippant remark by a DeVos staff member that 90 percent of campus rape accusations “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk’” was later retracted, but the damage was done. Last week, DeVos spent equal time with men’s rights groups, and one of which claimed that 41 percent of all rape accusations were false. The government estimate is only 2 to 4 percent.

This debate over numbers is a debate on whether “nice” college boys could really be rapists. The fresh-faced Brock Turner, who was caught attacking an unconscious woman, is one symbol of this trend. The media called him the “Stanford swimmer” instead of “perpetrator,” as if his academic record or athletic accomplishments even mattered. Perhaps if he had been an African American attending a less prestigious school, the media might have stressed the crime itself. Meanwhile, Turner’s friend wrote that he had merely made a mistake by drinking too much and having “clouded judgement.” She stressed that real rapists were only those who would kidnap a woman from a parking lot.

            In other cases, the “alleged victim” morphs into an “accuser” who is out to ruin a young man’s life. The 2011 Department of Education policy uses the word “complainant” while DeVos used the word “accuser” in her speech. Rape is the only crime that evokes that word—nobody pressing charges against a burglar would be called an “accuser.”

The painful truth is that a trusted person can sometimes be a rapist. I once knew a college student coping with the aftermath of a rape by a male friend. She had trusted him enough to let him into her dorm room, which would make some people consider the attack as not a “real” rape.

            Despite what DeVos and her allies in the men’s rights movement may think, “real” rape is forced sex in any circumstance. “Real” rape is often denied by those claiming that most rape accusations are false. “Real” rape is about facing the truth that a “promising young man” can harm somebody who is not at fault. Until we accept the uncomfortable facts about “real” rape, then, we cannot fight effectively against this ongoing crisis.

 

Gail Ukockis, PhD, MSW, MA, is an educator and social worker with an eclectic background that includes graduate studies in history. For eleven years, Dr. Ukockis taught a women’s issues course at Ohio Dominican University, which served as the foundation for this textbook. Her research interests also include HIV/AIDS, cultural competence, and human trafficking. She is author of Women’s Issues for a New Generation: A Social Work Perspective (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

CBS from 2 weeks ago: “Betsy DeVos to revamp Title IX policies on sexual assault”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

The Vietnam War: A Tragic Mistake?

Antiwar.com blog - Fri, 2017-09-22 09:04

I’ve watched the first three episodes of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick series on the Vietnam War, which take us from the French colonial period beginning in the 19th century to the end of 1965 and a mushrooming U.S. military commitment. The narrative thread, it seems to me, is the notion of the war as a tragic mistake, most especially for the United States.

The series begins with a voice-over that suggests the war was begun in good faith by America, even as other American voices in the series suggest otherwise. I kept a notebook handy and jotted down the following notes and thoughts as the series progressed:

  1. There were divisions among the Vietnamese people, but they were more or less united by one idea: resist the foreign invaders/occupiers, whether that foreign presence was French, Japanese, the French again, American, or (both earlier and later) Chinese. And there’s no doubt Ho Chi Minh would have won a democratic election, as promised at Geneva. Which is exactly why that election never came.
  2. As one American admitted, the US totally misread the situation in Indochina after the French defeat in 1954. The Cold War and Falling Dominoes dominated the thoughts of Americans, obscuring the reality of a powerful and popular anti-colonial and nationalist revolt that tapped Vietnamese patriotism.
  3. When not fearing Falling Dominoes, US officials were far more concerned about their own prestige (or political fortunes) than they were with the Vietnamese people.
  4. US officials recognized South Vietnam was a fiction, a puppet government propped up by American money and power, and that they had “backed the wrong horse.” But they came to believe it was the only horse they had in the race against communism.
  5. US presidents, stuck with a losing horse of their own creation, began to lie. As president, Kennedy said he hadn’t sent combat troops; he had. As president, Johnson tried to obscure both the size and intent of the US military’s commitment. These lies were not done to deceive the enemy — they were done to deceive the American people.
  6. After backing the wrong horse (Diem and his family), American leaders conspired to eliminate him in a coup. When Diem was assassinated, matters only grew worse. Left with no horse in the race and a “turnstile” government in South Vietnam, the US began to bomb North Vietnam and committed combat units beginning in March of 1965.
  7. More duplicity by US officials: Battles such as Ap Bac and Binh Gia, which revealed the “miserable performance” of the South Vietnamese army (ARVN), were reinterpreted and sold as victories by senior US military leaders.
  8. Both JFK and LBJ had serious reservations about going to war in Vietnam. However, domestic political concerns, together with concerns about containing the spread of communism, always came up trumps. For example, the series quotes Kennedy as saying he believed America couldn’t win in Vietnam, but that he couldn’t win the 1964 presidential election if he withdrew US advisors from Vietnam. LBJ was similarly skeptical but took a tough line with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which saw his approval rating on Vietnam soar from 42% to 72%, ensuring his electoral victory over Goldwater in 1964.

One of the more compelling sound bites comes from then-Major Charles Beckwith, who is at pains to praise the fighting quality of Viet Cong/NLF forces, their total commitment to the struggle. If only he had (Vietnamese) troops like them to work with, says Beckwith.

To summarize: the series provides evidence of US dishonesty and duplicity and showcases the mistakes generated by hubris when aggravated by ignorance. Yet, the overall message is one of sadness about a “tragic mistake” committed by decent men who were overwhelmed by fears of international communism.

Final points: As we watch the series, we follow individual Americans, and hear American commentators, far more than we hear Vietnamese voices. Also, while the series shows US bombing from afar and mentions Agent Orange, the effects of this destruction haven’t yet been shown in detail. (A telling exception: a young Vietnamese women joins the communist resistance after US bombing destroys a center for senior citizens near her home.)

In short, the Burns/Novick series privileges the American experience, suggesting that US troops of that era fought courageously as a new “greatest generation,” even as senior US leaders spoke privately of an unwinnable war.

Is killing millions of people in a lost cause merely a tragic mistake? Or is it something far worse? More to come as the series continues to air on PBS.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

Iranian Leader: Trump is “Disturbed,” speaks like a Cowboy or Mobster

Informed Comment - Fri, 2017-09-22 02:37

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Iranian hardliners are still responding to Trump’s speech at the UN Monday, in which he accused Iran of backing terrorism and called the nuclear deal the worst deal the US had ever made.

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday that Donald Trump’s address to the UN had been the performance of a “cowboy” or a “mobster.” The US president’s words, he said, were “disturbed” and “detached from reality.”

Major-General Hassan Firouzabadi, a major military adviser to Iran’s Leader, lambasted Trump, saying, “That was the emptiest, most shameful speech delivered at the UN” according to Mehr news. He said he was praying for the liberation from the world of Trump-brand ‘world arrogance’ and said that Trump was “disregarding UN norms and talking against peace.” He added, “My condolences to the United States for their president…” [h/t BBC Monitoring for trans.]

Major-General Rahim Safavi, the chief military adviser to Khamenei, said that Trump’s UN address to the UN had been “stupid.” He said that the American public realizes that Trump is unqualified, and that they widely despise him. “I don’t expect him . . . to serve out his full term.” [h/t BBC Monitoring for trans.]

Safavi said “Trump showed he does not abide by any international agreement including the nuclear deal, which is a multilateral accord signed among big powers.”

Safavi objected to Trump’s characterization of Iran as a supporter of terrorism, saying that the US supported the extremist state of Saudi Arabia, supported Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians, supported the Nusra Front (an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria), and he (incorrectly) accused the US of being behind the rise of ISIL.

Centrist president Hassan Rouhani, who had hoped for better relations with the US, opined that:

Hassan Rouhani: ‘No One Will Trust America’ If Donald Trump Leaves Iran Deal | NBC Nightly News

.

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

How Colonialism, Inequality turbocharge Caribbean Hurricanes

Informed Comment - Fri, 2017-09-22 00:35

By Levi Gahman and Gabrielle Thongs | (The Conversation) | – –

Hurricane Maria, the 15th tropical depression this season, is now battering the Caribbean, just two weeks after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the region.

The devastation in Dominica is “mind-boggling,” wrote the country’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, on Facebook just after midnight on September 19. The next day, in Puerto Rico, NPR reported via member station WRTU in San Juan that “Most of the island is without power…or water.”

Among the Caribbean islands impacted by both deadly storms are Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Tortola and Barbuda.

In this region, disaster damages are frequently amplified by needlessly protracted and incomplete recoveries. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan rolled roughshod through the Caribbean with wind speeds of 160 mph. The region’s economy took more than three years to recover. Grenada’s surplus of US$17 million became a deficit of $54 million, thanks to decreased revenue and the outlays for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Nor were the effects of a 7 magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010 limited to killing some 150,000 people. United Nations peacekeepers sent in to help left the country grappling, to this day, with a fatal cholera outbreak.

A tent city in post-earthquake Haiti.
Fred W. Baker III/Wikimedia Commons

These are not isolated instances of random bad luck. As University of the West Indies geographers who study risk perception and political ecology, we recognize the deep, human-induced roots of climate change, inequality and the underdevelopment of former colonies – all of which increase the Caribbean’s vulnerability to disaster.

Risk, vulnerability and poverty

Disaster risk is a function of both a place’s physical hazard exposure – that is, how directly it is threatened by disaster – and its social vulnerability, specifically, how resilient it is.

Across most Caribbean islands, hazard exposure is about the same, but research shows that poverty and social inequality drastically magnify the severity of disasters.

The Haitian Revolution’s Battle for Palm Tree Hill.
January Suchodolski/Wikimedia Commons

Haiti, where eight out of every 10 people live on less than $4 a day, offers an example of how capitalism, gender and history converge to compound storm damage.

The country is among the Western Hemisphere’s poorest in large part because of imperialism. After Haitians successfully overthrew their European enslavers in 1804, global powers economically stifled the island. From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. first militarily occupied Haiti, and then followed a policy of intervention that continues to have lasting effects on its governance.

International interference and the resulting weak institutions, in turn, impeded development, poverty reduction and empowerment efforts.

In such a context, disasters aggravate a country’s numerous existing social vulnerabilities. Take gender, for example. Mental health professionals offering support to victims after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake found that an extraordinarily high number of displaced women – up to 75 percent – had experienced sexual violence. This prior trauma exacerbated the women’s post-disaster stress responses.

Geography and gender

Inequality and underdevelopment are perhaps less marked in the rest of the Caribbean, but from Antigua and Barbuda to St. Kitts and Nevis, socioeconomic problems are now complicating both disaster preparedness and response.

Across the region, people spend most of their income on daily essentials like food, clean water, shelter and medicine, with little left over for greeting Irma and Maria with lifesaving hurricane-resilient roofs, storm shutters, solar generators and first aid kits.

For the poor, emergency radios and satellite telephones that could warn of impending disasters are largely unaffordable, as is homeowners’ insurance to hasten recovery.

Poorer Caribbean residents also tend to live in the most disaster-prone areas because housing is cheaper on unstable deforested hillsides and eroding riverbanks. This exponentially increases the danger they face. The low construction quality of these dwellings offers less protection during storms while, post-disaster, emergency vehicles may not be able to access these areas.

Caribbean women will also continue to be at particular risk well after Maria passes. In a region where gender roles remain quite rigid, women are typically tasked with childcare, harvesting, cooking, cleaning, washing and the like.

Even in post-disaster settings, women are expected to perform household labor. So when water supplies are contaminated (with sewage, E. coli, salmonella, cholera, yellow fever, and hepatitis A, among others), women are disproportionately exposed to illness.

The work of nourishing the spirits and bodies of others when food and water shortages occur is also thrust onto women, even though they generally have less access to income and credit than men.

No place for politics

Politics, too, play a role in how the Caribbean is faring during this tumultuous hurricane season. Longtime colonial rule isn’t the only reason Caribbean societies and ecosystems are now so vulnerable.

Many contemporary governments in the region are, arguably, also doing their part to make life generally worse for marginalized communities. In Trinidad and Tobago, divestment in public education has hurt working-class university students, youth from low-income communities and older adults who were previously eligible for financial aid.

In oil-rich Guyana, dependency upon fossil fuels has invited an eager ExxonMobil in for a round of drilling, despite its track record for extracting, polluting and taking profits largely elsewhere. And, from Jamaica to Belize, widespread corruption and land rights violations have severed relationships of trust between people and the states that are, in theory, supposed to protect them.

When storms threaten, such policies and practices intensify the Caribbean’s societal and ecological risks.

Irma and Maria are surely not the last extreme disasters that will strike the region. To survive and flourish in this dangerous new normal, Caribbean countries would do well to look to the heart of these issues, rethinking the concept of risk and mindfully engaging with factors like poverty, gender and climate change.

In practice, this means identifying their most vulnerable communities and working to improve their day-to-day well-being – not just their survival in a storm.

The Caribbean’s own Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), from the island of Martinique, recognized these complexities in his book, “The Wretched of the Earth.”

Fanon asserted that democracy and the political education of the masses, across all post-colonial geographies, is a “historical necessity.” Presciently, he also noted that “the soil needs researching, as well as the subsoil, the rivers, and why not the sun.”

As the Caribbean looks for solutions to the damage and suffering brought on by both nature’s revolt and social inequality, Fanon’s words seem like a good place to start.

Levi Gahman, Lecturer: Radical Geography and Critical Development Studies, The University of the West Indies: St. Augustine Campus and Gabrielle Thongs, Assistant Lecturer, Geography Department, The University of the West Indies: St. Augustine Campus

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

NBC News: “Maria: Authorities Say Much Of Puerto Rico Remains Unreachable | NBC Nightly News”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Tweeting while the Planet Burns: Dystopia 2025

Informed Comment - Fri, 2017-09-22 00:19

By Tom Engelhardt | ( Tomdispatch.com ) | – –

It’s January 2025, and within days of entering the Oval Office, a new president already faces his first full-scale crisis abroad. Twenty-four years after it began, the war on terror, from the Philippines to Nigeria, rages on. In 2024 alone, the U.S. launched repeated air strikes on 15 nations (or, in a number of cases, former nations), including the Philippines, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the former Iraq, the former Syria, Kurdistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria.

In the weeks before his inauguration, a series of events roiled the Greater Middle East and Africa. Drone strikes and raids by U.S. Special Operations forces in Saudi Arabia against both Shiite rebels and militants from the Global Islamic State killed scores of civilians, including children. They left that increasingly destabilized kingdom in an uproar, intensified the unpopularity of its young king, and led to the withdrawal of the Saudi ambassador from Washington.  In Mali, dressed in police uniforms and riding on motorcycles, three Islamic militants from the Front Azawad, which now controls the upper third of the country, gained entry to a recently established joint U.S.-French military base and blew themselves up, killing two American Green Berets, three American contractors, and two French soldiers, while wounding several members of Mali’s presidential guard.  In Iraq, as 2024 ended, the city of Tal Afar — already “liberated” twice since the 2003 invasion of that country, first by American troops in 2005 and then by American-backed Iraqi troops in 2017 — fell to the Sunni militants of the Global Islamic State. Though now besieged by the forces of the Republic of Southern Iraq backed by the U.S. Air Force, it remains in their hands.

The crisis of the moment, however, is in Afghanistan where the war on terror first began. There, the Taliban, the Global Islamic State (or GIS, which emerged from the Islamic State, or ISIS, in 2019), and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (or AQIA, which split from the original al-Qaeda in 2021) now control an increasing number of provincial capitals.  These range from Lashgar Gah in Helmand Province in the southern poppy-growing heartlands of the country to Kunduz in the north, which first briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015 and now is in the hands of GIS militants.  In the meantime, the American-backed government in the Afghan capital, Kabul, is — as in 2022 when a “surge” of almost 25,000 American troops and private contractors saved it from falling to the Taliban — again besieged and again in danger.  The conflict that Lieutenant General Harold S. Forrester, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had only recently termed a “stalemate” seems to be devolving.  What’s left of the Afghan military with its ghost soldiers, soaring desertion rates, and stunning casualty figures is reportedly at the edge of dissolution. Forrester is returning to the United States this week to testify before Congress and urge the new president to surge into the country up to 15,000 more American troops, including Special Operations forces, and another 15,000 private contractors, as well as significantly more air power before the situation goes from worse to truly catastrophic.

Like many in the Pentagon, Forrester now regularly speaks of the Afghan War as an “eonic struggle,” that is, one not expected to end for generations

You think not?  When it comes to America’s endless wars and conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa, you can’t imagine a more-of-the-same scenario eight years into the future?  If, in 2009, eight years after the war on terror was launched, as President Obama was preparing to send a “surge” of more than 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan (while swearing to end the war in Iraq), I had written such a futuristic account of America’s wars in 2017, you might have been no less unconvinced.

Who would have believed then that political Washington and the U.S. military’s high command could possibly continue on the same brainless path (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say superhighway) for another eight years?  Who would have believed then that, in the fall of 2017, they would be intensifying their air campaigns across the Greater Middle East, still fighting in Iraq (and Syria), supporting a disastrous Saudi war in Yemen, launching the first of yet another set of mini-surges in Afghanistan, and so on?  And who would have believed then that, in return for prosecuting unsuccessful wars for 16 years while aiding and abetting in the spread of terror movements across a vast region, three of America’s generals would be the most powerful figures in Washington aside from our bizarre president (whose election no one could have predicted eight years ago)?  Or here’s another mind-bender: Would you really have predicted that, in return for 16 years of unsuccessful war-making, the U.S. military (and the rest of the national security state) would be getting yet more money from the political elite in our nation’s capital or would be thought better of than any other American institution by the public?

Now, I’m the first to admit that we humans are pathetic seers. Peering into the future with any kind of accuracy has never been part of our skill set.  And so my version of 2025 could be way off base.  Given our present world, it might prove to be far too optimistic about our wars. 

After all — just to mention one grim possibility of our moment — for the first time since 1945, we’re on a planet where nuclear weapons might be used by either side in the course of a local war, potentially leaving Asia aflame and possibly the world economy in ruins.  And don’t even bring up Iran, which I carefully and perhaps too cautiously didn’t include in my list of the 15 countries the U.S. was bombing in 2025 (as opposed to the seven at present).  And yet, in the same world where they are decrying North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the Trump administration and its U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, seem to be hard at work creating a situation in which the Iranians could once again be developing ones of their own.  The president has reportedly been desperate to ditch the nuclear agreement Barack Obama and the leaders of five other major powers signed with Iran in 2015 (though he has yet to actually do so) and he’s stocked his administration with a remarkable crew of Iranophobes, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, all of whom have been itching over the years for some kind of confrontation with Iran. (And given the last decade and a half of American war fighting in the region, how do you think that conflict would be likely to turn out?)

Donald Trump’s Washington, as John Feffer has recently pointed out, is now embarked on a Pyongyang-style “military-first” policy in which resources, money, and power are heading for the Pentagon and the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while much of the rest of the government is downsized.  Obviously, if that’s where your resources are going, then that’s where your efforts and energies will go, too.  So don’t expect less war in the years to come, no matter how inept Washington has proven when it comes to making war work.

Now, let’s leave those wars aside for a moment and return to the future:

It’s mid-September 2025.  Hurricane Wally has just deluged Houston with another thousand-year rainfall, the fourth since Hurricane Harvey hit the region in 2017.  It’s the third Category 6 hurricane — winds of 190 or more miles an hour — to hit the U.S. so far this year, the previous two being Tallulah and Valerie, tying a record first set in 2023.  (Category 6 was only added to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale in 2022 after Hurricane Donald devastated Washington D.C.)  The new president did not visit Houston.  His press secretary simply said, “If the president visited every area hit by extreme weather, he would be incapable of spending enough time in Washington to oversee the rebuilding of the city and govern the country.”  She refused to take further questions and Congress has no plans to pass emergency legislation for a relief package for the Houston region.

Much of what’s left of that city’s population is either fled ahead of the storm or is packed into relief shelters.  And as with Miami Beach, it is now believed that some of the more flood-prone parts of the Houston area will never be rebuilt.  (Certain ocean-front areas of Miami were largely abandoned after Donald hit in 2022 on its way to Washington, thanks in part to a new reality: sea levels were rising faster than expected because of the stunning pace of the Greenland ice shield’s meltdown.)   

Meanwhile, the temperature just hit 112 degrees, a new September record, in San Francisco.  That came after a summer in which a record 115 was experienced, making Mark Twain’s apocryphal line, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” an artifact of the past. In another year without an El Niño phenomenon, the West Coast has again been ablaze and the wheat-growing regions of the Midwest have been further devastated by a tenacious drought, now four years old.

Around the planet, heat events are on the rise, as are storms and floods, while the wildfire season continues to expand globally.  To mention just two events elsewhere on Earth: in 2024, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), thanks to both spreading conflicts and an increase in extreme weather events, more people were displaced — 127.2 million — than at any time on record, almost doubling the 2016 count. UNHCR director Angelica Harbani expects that figure to be surpassed yet again when this year’s numbers are tallied.  In addition, a speedier than expected meltdown of the Himalayan glaciers has created a permanent water crisis in parts of South Asia also struck by repeated disastrous monsoons and floods.

In the United States, the week after Hurricane Wally destroyed Houston, the president flew to North Dakota to proudly mark the beginning of the construction of the Transcontinental Pipeline slated to bring Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the East Coast.  “It will help ensure,” he said, “that the United States remains the oil capital of the planet.”

Think of it this way: a new weather paradigm is visibly on the rise.  It just walloped the United States from the burning West Coast to the battered Florida Keys.  And another crucial phenomenon has accompanied it: the rise to power in Washington — and not just there — of Republican climate-change denialism. Think of the two phenomena together as the alliance from hell.  So far there’s no evidence that a Washington whose key agencies are well stocked with climate-change deniers is likely to be transformed any time soon.

Now, meld those two future scenarios of mine: the fruitless pursuit of never-ending wars and the increasing extremity of the weather on a planet seemingly growing hotter by the year.  (Sixteen of the 17 warmest years on record occurred in the twenty-first century and the 17th was 1998.)  Try to conjure up such a world for a moment and you’ll realize that the potential damage could be enormous, even if the planet’s “lone superpower” continues to encourage the greatest threat facing us for only a brief period, even if Donald Trump doesn’t win reelection in 2020 or worse than him isn’t heading down the pike.

The Frying of Our World

There have been many imperial powers on Planet Earth.  Any number of them committed massive acts of horror — from the Mongol empire (whose warriors typically sacked Baghdad in 1258, putting its public libraries to the torch, reputedly turning the Tigris River black with ink and that city’s streets red with blood) to the Spanish empire (known for its grim treatment of the inhabitants of its “new world” possessions, not to speak of the Muslims, Jews, and other heretics in Spain itself) to the Nazis (no elaboration needed). In other words, there’s already competition enough for the imperial worst of the worst.  And yet don’t imagine that the United States doesn’t have a shot at taking the number one spot for all eternity. (USA! USA!)

Depending on how the politics of this country and this century play out, the phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” might have to be seriously readjusted.  In the American version, you would substitute “fighting never-ending wars across the Greater Middle East, Africa, and possibly Asia” for “fiddling” and for “Rome,” you would insert “the planet.” Only “burns” would remain the same.  For now, at least, you would also have to replace the Roman emperor Nero (who was probably playing a lyre, since no fiddles existed in his world) with Donald Trump, the Tweeter-in-Chief, as well as “his” generals and the whole crew of climate deniers now swarming Washington, one more eager than the next to release the full power of fossil fuels into an overburdened atmosphere.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that my own country, so eternally overpraised by its leaders in these years as the planet’s “indispensable” and “exceptional” nation with “the finest fighting force the world has ever known” might usher in the collapse of the very environment that nurtured humanity all these millennia.  As the “lone superpower,” the last in a line-up of rival great powers extending back to the fifteenth century, what a mockery it threatens to make of the long-gone vision of history as a march of progress through time.  What a mockery it threatens to make of the America of my own childhood, the one that so proudly put a man on the moon and imagined that there was no problem on Earth it couldn’t solve.

Imagine the government of that same country, distracted by its hopeless wars and the terrorist groups they continue to generate, facing the possible frying of our world — and not lifting a finger to deal with the situation.  In a Washington where less is more for everything except the U.S. military (for which more is invariably less), the world has been turned upside down.  It’s the definition of an empire of madness.

Hold on a second!  Somewhere, faintly, I think I hear a fiddle playing and maybe it’s my imagination, but do I smell smoke?

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

[Note: Credit must be given for the citation in this piece of “Hurricane Donald,” the storm that devastated Washington in 2022. I stole it from John Feffer’s superb dystopian novel Splinterlands. Tom]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Nova PBS: “Why Did Houston Flood?”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Yemen’s Children Are Being Shelled While the World Sits Back

Informed Comment - Fri, 2017-09-22 00:02

By Kristine Beckerle | ( Human Rights Watch) | – –

Deadly Attack in Taizz Shows Need for International Inquiry

Yemenis were again mourning their children this weekend – this time in Taizz, Yemen’s third largest city. Houthi-Saleh forces indiscriminately shelled a residential neighborhood killing three children – two of whom were playing football – and gravely wounding nine more, activists said. The same day, a world away, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva was debating whether to create an international inquiry into all side’s abuses in Yemen’s armed conflict.

The war has taken a particularly heavy toll on Taizz. For over two years, Houthi-Saleh forces have fired artillery indiscriminately into the city. Human Rights Watch has documented repeated attacks that have struck the city’s populated neighborhoods, killing and wounding civilians, including children. The attacks we’ve documented are a tiny fraction of the deadly bombardment Taizz’s residents have endured. We’ve seen list after list, photo after photo, video after video of lethal attacks documented by local activists. The shelling of Taizz, the UN human rights office reports, has been “unrelenting.”

In the face of these laws-of-war violations, many likely war crimes, the world remains largely silent.

Governments in Geneva should not need Friday’s attack for the plight of Yemeni civilians to get their attention, or to act to hold perpetrators on both sides to account.

But so far the Human Rights Council has failed to agree on setting up an independent, international inquiry into wartime abuses, despite plentiful evidence that Houthi-Saleh forces and the Saudi-led coalition – which killed at least 33 children in six airstrikes over the past three months – have been repeatedly violating the laws of war.

Delegates in Geneva: The next time you walk by the Broken Chair, a memorial to victims of landmines and cluster munitions outside the UN – think of Yemen, think of Taizz. Taizz, where landmines remain littered after Houthi-Saleh forces laid them, where a 12-year-old boy grazing sheep, a mother of six, and many more have lost their limbs and their loved ones. Where coalition airstrikes have wiped out entire families. Where unrelenting, indiscriminate shelling continues.

Yemeni children need so much more. The Human Rights Council cannot afford to fail them again.

Kristine Beckerle Yemen and UAE Researcher, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch

Via Human Rights Watch

———-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Aljazeera English: “Yemen: Houthi rebels marks third anniversary of Sanaa takeover”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Presidential Bomb Threats at the UN

Antiwar.com blog - Thu, 2017-09-21 18:13

Donald Trump denounced North Korea and its president Kim Jong-un as "depraved" before the United Nations Sept. 19, saying the nation "threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of life." Of course North Korea can barely feed itself, and yet has to defend itself against an onslaught of Western hostility, UN sanctions, and ongoing US/South Korean war games which are rehearsals for an invasion of the North. It tests rockets and bombs to be sure, just as the US and its allies and adversaries do all year round. It’s big business.

Trump’s claim that North Korea is threatening is preposterous since it has no deliverable nuclear weapons at all. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week that North Korea is no danger to the United States. In June 2016, the Institute for Science and International Security reported that Pyongyang may have between 13 and 21 warheads. The CIA, whose job it is find hostile weapons (even where they don’t exist) says Pyongyang has at most about 21. US intelligence agencies’ combined estimates are that while it may have miniaturized a nuclear warhead, North Korea has no missile that can drop them on the United States. The Federation of American Scientists is more skeptical and estimates it has "potentially produce[d] 10-20 nuclear warheads."

Like an 8th grade imbecile contradicting himself repeatedly, Trump claimed that North Korean President Kim Jong-un "is on a suicide mission." In April 2016 Trump had called him a "smart cookie." Kim appears quite the opposite of suicidal since Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs are aimed at preventing a repeat of the Korean War in which, according to US Air Force General Curtis LeMay, "we burned down every town in North Korea."

Trump asserted that, "[I]f the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea." Here is Trump in a nutshell: Condemning threats of "unthinkable loss of life" in one sentence, then making precisely the same threat in the next. Perhaps Trump knows nothing about the Korean War, but the idea that the United States might "have no choice" but to totally destroy an entire country is not just a deliberate lie and an outrage, it is intended to prepare the population to get comfortable with bloodlust and atrocities, and intended to teach children to embrace them as well.

Governments always have a choice about whether to begin bombing, and since North Korea has done absolutely nothing against the United States or its allies, Trump’s hate-filled spittle about total war is all the more monstrous. Delivered before the world’s largest peace group, Trump’s ghastly threat was a barbaric embrace of genocidal violence.

Trump must have for a moment believed that to "totally destroy North Korea" is a "thinkable loss of life," as opposed to the "unthinkable" sort that he condemned. But if he did, a big "if," since Trump seems not to think that words have meaning, — then it is Trump himself who is depraved. He must be ostracized, stigmatized and shamed into resigning so his Administration of Hate can be replaced.

The United States’ destruction of North Korea from 1950 to ‘53, and today’s threats of more should, be considered in the context of the living memory of its older generation. Robert Neer’s 2013 book Napalm (Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press), reports that Gen. LeMay, head of 21st Bomber Command, wrote, "We killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million more from their homes…" Neer reports that more bombs were dropped on Korea than in the whole of the Pacific theater during World War II — 635,000 tons, versus 503,000 tons. "Pyongyang, a city of half a million people before 1950, was said to have had only two buildings left intact," according to "Napalm."

Howard Zinn’s groundbreaking "People’s History of the United States" says, "Perhaps 2 million Koreans, North and South, were killed in the Korean war, all in the name of opposing ‘the rule of force.’" Bruce Coming’s history "The Korean War" (Modern Library, 2010) says, "[O]f more than 4 million casualties … at least 2 million were civilians. … Estimated North Korean casualties numbered 2 million including about 1 million civilians… An estimated 900,000 Chinese soldiers lost their lives in combat."

According to Neer in "Napalm," Gen. Douglas MacArthur testified to Congress in May 1951: "The war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20 million people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at that wreckage and those thousands of women and children … I vomited."

Trump used the word "sovereignty" 21 times in his speech. The United States is devoted so convincingly to national sovereignty that it has maintained military occupations and shooting wars inside Afghanistan and Iraq for a combined total of 30 years and counting, and is simultaneously making war on five other sovereign states in the region. Add to the recent (post-WW II) historical list of the attacked: Yugoslavia, Serbia, Iran, Bosnia, Somalia, Kuwait, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Lebanon, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Peru, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Guatemala, and of course Korea. (Sarcasm Alert): Not a single UN delegate was aware of the president’s deceit or hypocrisy, which explains the roaring applause in the General Assembly during Trump’s bomb threats.

John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.

Defense Secretary Mattis: US Cannot Survive On ‘Puny’ Military Budget

Antiwar.com blog - Thu, 2017-09-21 14:57

Defense Secretary Mattis is worried about the military budget. No, he’s not worried that spending a total of more than a trillion dollars a year on the military might bankrupt the country and thus make us more vulnerable to outside forces with ill intent. He’s worried that our very survival depends on even more money for the military and no more yearly budget “fights” on funding the military. Even though Congress gave him even more than he requested, he’s worried. But what about the policy? What is the proper US role in the world a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War? Some “realists” are longing for the days of the Cold War, where America ruled the roost. Today in the Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

News Photos: Taking 2 Quakes to Feel for Mexico

BAGNewsNotes - Thu, 2017-09-21 10:06

Should it take a double disaster to focus more intimately on human suffering?

I had been drafting a post about the photo coverage of Mexico’s deadly earthquake on September 8th. That was before the second one, centered 100 miles south of Mexico City, shook the capital with a 7.1 magnitude. I was going to highlight how many of the photographs that followed—especially in the U.S. press—treated buildings and the ground as their most significant feature. I was going to point out how human beings were “decentered” in the photos, playing supporting roles alongside a landscape whose charismatic force was overwhelming. I was going to ponder whether that focus on the land was a matter of visual distancing in the face of Mexico’s foreignness or a strategy for creating common ground between Mexico, Texas, and Florida as natural disasters ripped across them all in quick succession.

That post only makes partial sense now because the morning after the second quake the photographs appearing in U.S. newspapers shifted dramatically. The double tragedy of back-to-back earthquakes (the second echoing the lethality of the Mexican earthquake on the same day in 1985) have changed the photographic attitude overnight

Today we see people. Active people. People at the center of the scene. People caring for their compatriots. People crowding streets in fear of aftershocks. With an emphasis on the parents whose children were in the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen School, the anxiety, solidarity, and loss of the people of Mexico City are now in the spotlight.

That is powerfully the case for the photograph that opens this post. Today, photos of citizens standing in long lines, passing rubble down human chains to aid rescue efforts, have become an emotional signature of Mexico’s loss. That many of the citizens in the photo seem to staring at us further heightens the emotional experience.

The photographs of the September 8 earthquake often have people in them, but more often than not they are of secondary importance to the scene. Tiny, passive, and off to the side, they gaze in shock at collapsed buildings, walk through shattered hallways, or sit on the side of otherwise deserted streets.

This photograph of a guard at Benito Juarez International Airport exemplifies such photographs. The ruptured floor takes up more than half of the photograph’s visual space. The woman in the advertisement on the far left—seemingly about to fall through the crack in the floor—is as visually weighty as the guard on the right who seems to have accidentally wandered into the frame of the photograph, stunned by the damage. Likewise, the bright, cracked pavement in a Coatzacoalcos courtyard is quite clearly the subject of the photograph, its owners shunted aside into the shadows.

Photographs of rescue efforts underway show the shift in perspective perhaps most forcefully. The two pictures below, the first from September 8 and the second from September 19, though they are perhaps extreme examples, powerfully illustrate the difference in the two quakes’ dominant images. Where once we saw tiny workers dwarfed by the magnitude of the shattered earth around them, we now face determined rescuers standing above and in the center of the wreckage.

Maybe it’s too simple to say that the piling-on of tragedy awakens a human awareness that was lacking before. That it forces particularity rather than a sense of generic natural disaster. It could be that the denser population of Mexico City just inevitably means there are more people in the frame or maybe media outlets need a new focus to distinguish this earthquake from the previous one.

But I suspect that the shift is, at least in part, a case of human sympathy welling up as the horror doubles. After all, the quakes could have been distinguished as more rural and more urban and photographers always have choices about framing. The ground remains treacherous—rippling, shaking, too soft to sustain buildings. Infrastructure collapse remains visually impressive. But the living and the dead, the injured and the rescuer take center stage in the second earthquake. That says something about how the photographers and those of us looking on are interpreting the scene before us.

There are risks to centering human experience in tragedy. The evils of disaster porn, with its shock of emotion and lingering apathy, are well known. But given a choice between pictures that sideline human victims in favor of deadly terrain and pictures that foreground human tragedy and resilience in the face of that treacherous ground, I’ll choose the latter. It shouldn’t take a double disaster to get there.

— Christa Olson | @christajolson

Photo: Latincontent / Getty Images Caption: Rescuers and residents look for victims amid the ruins of a building knocked down by a magnitude-7.1 earthquake that jolted central Mexico on Tuesday. Photo 2: Edgard Garrido/Reuters. Caption: Damage on the floor is seen in an entrance of the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City. September 8, 2017 Photo 3: Angel Hernandez / European Photopress Agency/EFE. Caption: A couple looks at the damaged floor of their yard in Coatzacoalcos. September 8, 2017.  Photo 4. Mario Vazquez/AFT/Getty Images. Caption: Rescuers search for survivors amid the ruins of buildings in Juchitan de Zaragoza. September 9, 2017. Photo 5: Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press. Caption: An injured man was pulled out of a collapsed building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City. September 19, 2017.  

The post News Photos: Taking 2 Quakes to Feel for Mexico appeared first on Reading The Pictures.

The Anti-Bouazizi: Did Russia try to ‘flash mob’ a Trump Victory?

Informed Comment - Thu, 2017-09-21 03:04

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Russian internet trolls linked to an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin went beyond just posting meme-making posters exalting Donald Trump and demeaning Hillary Clinton. They actually promoted “flash mob” spontaneous protests in the real world in 17 cities, according to the scoop of Ben Collins, Gideon Resnick, Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast.

A flash mob is a crowd that gathers at a particular time and place in response to a call on the internet. Many are frivolous. Some turn dangerous. Others can set off revolutions.

In December of 2010, a flash mob was called by a California choral society to sing Handel’s messiah at a mall in California. Some 5,000 people showed up, and police had to evacuate them because it was felt that they might turn dangerous.

A similar incident had occurred earlier that fall in Philadelphia.

If flash mobs have been kind of large pranks in the US, in the Middle East they have shaken governments. The crowds that gathered in Tunisia after the police harassed Mohamed Bouazizi, who was selling vegetables in the street, and drove him to suicide, swelled to 200,000 strong in the capital of Tunis. They drove the president, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, from power in mid-January, 2011.

The difference here is that Bouazizi’s cause was genuinely taken up by Tunisian youth, as I explain in my book The New Arabs. The Russia effort was a piece of internet fraud, a cyber Potemkin Village.

The Tahrir Square revolution against Hosni Mubarak in Jan-Feb 2011 was only partially a flash mob. Most people came to the square because activists walked neighborhoods or sent text messages. Only a fourth came because they heard about it at social media sites.

The Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013 were to some extent flash mobs. Youth were protesting the plan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to put a mall into a public park. Privatizing public spaces is a way for authoritarian governments to exert control over crowds. Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan succeeded in crushing these protests.

The Russian pro-Trump hackers were attempting to replicate the Middle East success of the flash mob without knowing how it had been sited within civil society.

The question is still out as to whether Moscow managed actually to affect the outcome of the election. But it now seems pretty clear they they were trying to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton with danse club.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Aljazeera English: “Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort investigated in Russia probe”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

How did the Persecution of Burma’s Rohingya Arise?

Informed Comment - Thu, 2017-09-21 01:46

By Engy Abdelkader, JD, LL.M. | (The Conversation) | – –

Some 420,000 Rohingya Muslims, a religious and ethnic minority community in Myanmar, have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August this year.

The United Nations has called the Rohingya the world’s most persecuted minority group and described the atrocities by Myanmar’s authorities as “ethnic cleansing,” whereby one group removes another ethnic or religious community through violence.

But the persecution of the Rohingya is not new. My research on the Rohingya Muslim experience in Myanmar shows that this pattern of persecution goes back to 1948 – the year when the country achieved independence from their British colonizers.

Here is their brief history.

The legacy of colonialism

The British ruled Myanmar (then Burma) for over a century, beginning with a series of wars in 1824.

Colonial policies encouraged migrant labor in order to increase rice cultivation and profits. Many Rohingya entered Myanmar as part of these policies in the 17th century. According to census records, between 1871 to 1911, the Muslim population tripled.

The British also promised the Rohingya separate land – a “Muslim National Area” – in exchange for support. During the Second World War, for example, the Rohingya sided with the British while Myanmar’s nationalists supported the Japanese. Following the war, the British rewarded the Rohingya with prestigious government posts. However, they were not given an autonomous state.

In 1948, when Myanmar achieved independence from the British, violent conflicts broke out among various segments of its more than one hundred ethnic and racial groups.

Decades-long persecution

After independence, the Rohingya asked for the promised autonomous state, but officials rejected their request. Calling them foreigners, they also denied them citizenship.

These animosities continued to grow. Many in Myanmar saw the Rohingya as having benefited from colonial rule. A nationalist movement and Buddhist religious revival further contributed to the growing hatred.

In 1950, some Rohingya staged a rebellion against the policies of the Myanmar government. They demanded citizenship; they also asked for the state that had been promised them. Ultimately the army crushed the resistance movement.

Much like today’s terrorists, the rebels at the time were called “Mujahid” or engaged in “struggle” or “jihad.” It is important to point out that the international community has never agreed on how to define “terrorism.” The legal definition could vary by country as politics dictates its contours. As scholar Ben Saul says, officials can use its meaning as a weapon against even valid political rivals. The lack of consensus, as Saul argues, reflects disagreement about what violence is legitimate, when and by whom.

In 1962, just over a decade later, a military coup culminated in a one-party military state where democratic governance was woefully lacking. During the next 60 years of military rule, things worsened for the Rohingya. The authorities saw the minority group as a threat to nationalist identity.

Calling them foreigners, the army killed, tortured and raped. They closed Rohingya social and political organizations. They also transfered private Rohingya businesses to the government, debilitating the group financially. Further, the Rohingya suffered forced labor, arbitrary detention and physical assaults. In 1991 and 1992, more than 250,000 attempted to escape to Bangladesh.

Rohingya ‘statelessness’

In 1977, when the army launched a national drive to register citizens, the Rohingya were considered illegal. More than 200,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh at the time because of further atrocities. Authorities pointed to their flight as purported evidence of their illegal status.

The Citizenship Act of Myanmar, enacted in 1982, formally denied the group citizenship rights. This law required that a person’s ancestors belong to a national race or group present in Myanmar prior to British rule in 1823, to become a citizen. The Rohingya were still classified as illegal immigrants allowed in by British colonizers. As Human Rights Watch has noted, however, their presence actually dates back to the 12th century.

Today, the Rohingya are the single largest “stateless” community in the world. Their “statelessness” or lack of citizenship increases their vulnerability because they are not entitled to any legal protection from the government.

Without citizenship, they are deprived of basic rights such as access to health services, education and employment. The illiteracy rate among the Rohingya, for example, is a staggering 80 percent.

Additionally, they have been denied the right to worship freely. They also face restrictions on the right to marry, move freely and own property because of their religious and ethnic identity.

Even though Rohingya population growth has slowed down, anxieties not only persist but are codified in law: Rohingya couples are allowed no more than two children.

Those who break the law risk imprisonment, and the government blacklists their children. Without legal status, they cannot go to school, travel or buy property. The police can also arrest and imprison them.

The current crisis

Despite Myanmar’s recent democratic transition, the persecution persists.

The current humanitarian catastrophe ostensibly began with an assault on police posts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a new insurgency group.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh told Human Rights Watch that Myanmar government forces had carried out armed attacks, and burned down their homes. In addition, they beheaded men, raped women and murdered children. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have become internally displaced. Even prior to this crisis, 120,000 displaced Rohingya had been living in internment camps.

Amnesty International said there were indications that authorities in Myanmar have also placed illegal landmines at locations commonly used by refugees Among those killed were two children. What is more, international humanitarian aid has been blocked, preventing necessities like food, water and medicine from reaching a quarter of a million people.

Aung San Suu Kyi and human rights

The Myanmar Army, meanwhile, denies any wrongdoing. Despite the global outcry, they claim to be conducting “counterterrorism” operations. Due to the severity of the human rights crisis, however, the British government decided to stop its defense engagement and training of the military in Myanmar.

None of this criticism, however, has made Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel laureate, acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya. Amid international criticism, she recently canceled her visit to this week’s U.N. General Assembly in New York. In her speech to Myanmar’s parliament, she denied that there had been any “armed clashes or clearance operations” since September 5, this year.

Tragically, her actions signal there will be no end to the persecution of Rohingya anytime soon.

Engy Abdelkader, JD, LL.M., , Rutgers University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Young Turks: “5 Things You Need To Know About The Rohingya Genocide”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Much of U.S.’s Puerto Rico “Destroyed” by 138 mi/hr Storm, Pleads with Trump for Aid

Informed Comment - Thu, 2017-09-21 01:29

By TeleSUR | – –

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello has asked U.S. President Donald Trump to declare the island a “disaster” area.

Hurricane Maria tore across Puerto Rico as the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in almost 90 years, leaving at least nine people dead and causing widespread flooding.

The Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello asked U.S. President Donald Trump to declare the island a “disaster” area, making it eligible for increased recovery funding.

After devastating Dominica and Guadeloupe and battering St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm.

The island’s capital, San Juan, was battered with sustained winds of [138 miles per hour /] 220 kilometers per hour beginning at 6 a.m. local time, according to the U.S. based National Hurricane Center, NHC.

Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello told CNN that the energy grid took such a severe blow that restoring power to everyone may take months.

Rossello also said the system was “a little bit old, mishandled and weak.”

The extent of the damage is still being assessed. Carlos Mercader, a spokesman for Rossello said it was “total devastation.”

A Category 4 hurricane hasn’t hit Puerto Rico since 1932.

Nine people are known to have been killed in Dominica, where Hurricane Maria first made landfall.

Two people died in the French territory of Guadeloupe.

Via TeleSur

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

ABC News: “Island of Puerto Rico ‘destroyed’ by Hurricane Maria”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Israel threatens Bedouin communities with Forced Relocation

Informed Comment - Thu, 2017-09-21 01:16

Ma’an News Agency | – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces have notified residents of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar that they are at risk of imminent forcible transfer from their lands, weeks after Israeli Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly announced that plans were underway to expel Khan al-Ahmar’s residents within a few months.

Lieberman also said that plans for the full expulsion of the community of Susiya, located in the South Hebron Hills, were also underway.

Following the remarks, Israeli rights group B’Tselem slammed the Israeli government and sent an urgent letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that said the evacuation of the Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar, located east of Jerusalem, would “constitute a war crime carried out at your instruction and under your personal responsibility.”

B’Tselem then reported that officials from the Israeli army and Civil Administration told locals in Khan al-Ahmar on Wednesday that their only option is to move to a so-called relocation site that was allocated by Israel to the Bedouin community without consulting them.

According to the group, the proposed site known as al-Jabal West is located next to a garbage dump in Adu Dis.

The Khan al-Ahmar community’s lawyer Shlomo Lecker had informed the Civil Administration officer in charge that he was not permitted to meet with his clients without his consent and presence, “yet the CA went ahead regardless,” B’Tselem said.

A hearing at the Israeli Supreme Court has meanwhile been scheduled for Sep. 25, regarding petitions submitted against the Israeli state’s plans to demolish all Khan al-Ahmar’s structures, as well as a petitions submitted by illegal Israeli settlements in the area that want Khan al-Ahmar’s school to be demolished.

“The Civil Administration’s actions appear to be paving the way for the state to claim that it is acting in good will and has consulted the community,” B’Tselem said.

Earlier this year, Israeli authorities delivered demolition notices to every single home in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, including the village’s elementary school.

The village is located on the site of planned Israeli settlement development and on the Israeli side of the planned route of Israel’s separation barrier.

According to B’Tselem, on Aug. 27, hundreds of Israeli settlers, joined by Israeli parliamentarians, demonstrated near Khan al-Ahmar, pressuring the government to move forward with its demolition plan.

The demolition notices were issued on the basis of the community lacking almost impossible to obtain Israeli building permits, which the United Nations has said results from the discriminatory zoning and planning regimes implemented in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control.

Khan al-Ahmar is one of 46 Palestinian Bedouin villages comprising of a population of 7,000 — 70 percent of whom are Palestinian refugees — in the central West Bank that are considered by the UN as being at risk of forcible transfer by Israeli authorities to alternative sites.

“The Demolition of an entire community in the Occupied Territories is virtually unprecedented since 1967. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel is obliged to respect in all its actions in the West Bank, this amounts to forcible transfer of protected persons, which constitutes a war crime,” B’Tselem emphasized.

Via Ma’an News Agency

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Real News: “Israel Demolishes Bedouin Village to Build Jewish-Only Town”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Ron Paul on Trump’s UN Speech: A Neocon Dream?

Antiwar.com blog - Wed, 2017-09-20 14:35

President Trump’s speech yesterday at the United Nations got rave reviews from neocons like John Bolton and Elliot Abrams. The US president threatened North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Yemen, and Iran. At the same time he claimed that the US is the one country to lead by example rather than by violating the sovereignty of others. Are the neocons on a roll as they push for more war? Have they “won” Trump?

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

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