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Turkey threatens war against US/Kurdish Force in Syria

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 - 12:21am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The US announcement that it would form a 30,000 strong policing force in northeast Syria from the YPG leftist Kurdish militia has provoked unprecedently strong words from Turkey, and signs of an unusual convergence of Syrian and Turkish foreign policy objectives. In the cross-hairs are 2,000 US special operations troops embedded with the YPG. The US strategic goal is to block Iranian transfers of men and materiel to Syria and Lebanon via Iraq. In other words, this is another of Donald Trump’s walls. It is meant to please US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, who lost the Syrian war to Iran and Russia but who want to salvage some strategic goals.

The problem is that this US policy is unpopular not only in Iran, Syria and Lebanon but also in Moscow and Ankara. Let me telegraph that I am afraid that the 2,000 US spec ops troops in northeast Syria are in the same peril that US Marines in Beirut were in in 1983. The radical Islamic Amal group drove a truck bomb into the Marines’ barracks in Beirut in that year, killing hundreds and provoking Ronald Reagan to withdraw from Lebanon (“redeploy offshore” were Reagan’s words). Al-Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden later suggested that this withdrawal convinced him that a strike on the US could push it back out of the Middle East. As good as the Kurdish militiamen are, they can’t stop ISIL remnants or other covert terrorist operations from striking in their territory.

Turkey sees the Syrian Kurds as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group, which both Turkey and the US list as terrorists. The US does not agree.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has become increasingly strident and erratic in the past few years, said that the Turkish army was now prepared to intervene in Syria against the new Kurdish border force:

“The operation may start any time. Operations into other regions will come after . . . America has acknowledged it is in the process of creating a terror army on our border. What we have to do is nip this terror army in the bud…” Saying that Turkey’s allies should not dare help what he termed terrorists in Syria, he declared, “We won’t be responsible for the consequences.”

Russia and Syria also condemned the move, alleging that the US is attempting to partition Syria. Any policy helping Kurds move toward more autonomy alarms Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, all of which have significant Kurdish populations they fear could become secessionist. The likelihood is that the Iraqi government also objects, though it isn’t being as vocal as Erdogan and the others. Prime Minister al-Abadi sent Iraqi troops into Kirkuk Province last fall to reassert Baghdad’s authority over the area, also claimed by the now-defeated Kurdistan Regional Government, a superprovince of Iraq itself.

Jordan’s al-Rai (Opinion) newspaper noted that unusual convergence of interests here between Turkey and Syria, both of which feel threatened by Kurdish subnationalism on their territories.

The US military used the Syrian Kurds as ground troops in the fight against ISIL in eastern Syria once it became a serious security concern to Iraq and France from 2014, even though former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the US ignored ISIL 2011-2014 because Washington hoped it would weaken the Baath Party state of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. When Obama and then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter decided to target ISIL in 2014 and after, they could not get allies such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia to change the policy of benign neglect the way the Americans did. Since Obama was reluctant to commit infantry, the only way to defeat ISIL in Syria’s eastern Raqqa and Deir al-Zor provinces was to deploy the eager Syrian Kurdish forces against them. After this campaign proved successful, however, the incoming Trump administration decided to repurpose the US-Kurdish alliance to an attempt to block Iranian logistics.

The People’s Protection Units or YPG are the paramilitary of the Democratic Union Party that dominates Syrian Kurdish politics. They were under Communist influence during the Cold War but from the 1990s and moved toward a form of Left anarchism (though their critics say that their co-ops are actually quite heavy-handed and limit personal freedoms, as well as being racist toward Arabs). There are about 2 million Syrian Kurds, some ten percent of the population, located primarily in the northeast of the country in three geographical cantons, Jazira, Kobane and Afrin. The Kurds, with US air support, managed to kick ISIL out of Kobane and unite it with the Jazira in the northeast. But Afrin is separated from Kobane by a string of Arab towns and villages and by a covert Turkish troop presence. The Kurds would like to unite all three cantons into what they call Rojava. At the least, they want Rojava to have a Quebec-like status as a province of a federal Syrian state with special privileges. Maximalists want independence for it. Turkey is determined to block the extension of Rojava to Afrin and wants to roll back YPG presence in Manbij in northern Syria, which they took from ISIL.

The Syrian Baath Party that came to power in the 1960s is so fanatically Arab nationalist (i.e. racist) that it took citizenship away from large numbers of Syrian Kurds. Not sure what they expected but Kurdish secessionism.

The US special ops forces and the YPG now face a similar difficulty to that of ISIL itself in 2014. None of the regional actors wanted its rise and they combined to destroy it.

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Related video:

Al Jazeera English: “Is Donald Trump ‘playing with fire’ by backing Kurds in Syria

Washington State activists launch ‘Climate Countdown’ for Urgent Legislative Action

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 - 12:19am

Brandon Jordan | (Waging Nonviolence) | – –

Climate Countdown activists rallied outside the Washington state capitol building in Olympia last week (Twitter / 350 Seattle / Alexandra Blakely)

As Washington state senators prepared for the first legislative session of 2018 at the capitol building in Olympia yesterday, their traditional welcome ceremony was disrupted by at least a hundred activists from across the state, who had made their way into the balconies. From there, to the dismay of their elected officials, they delivered a loud message for all in attendance: “We have a climate crisis. You need to act now!”

The demonstration was part of an effort organizers are calling Climate Countdown, a campaign pressuring Democrats to pass and implement legislation that reduces carbon emissions. With a Democratic majority in both legislative chambers, organizers from a handful of organizations, from local 350.org chapters to indigenous groups, believe this is the perfect — and perhaps the only — opportunity to act.

Since 2013, passing any form of climate-related legislation in Washington was difficult at best. Republicans held a majority in the state Senate and used this advantage to block proposals, such as a cap-and-trade system, from Democrats. Gov. Jay Inslee, considered the “greenest governor in America” by the League of Conservation Voters, often felt frustrated by Republican opposition to his climate plans.

Yet, on Nov. 8, Democrats succeeded in regaining control of the state Senate with a slim 49-48 majority. Alec Connon, an activist with 350 Seattle, said this victory led to activists discussing a potential plan to ensure lawmakers took responsibility without using Republicans as an excuse.

“It’s about time that the rhetoric we’ve seen from climate leaders in Washington state [translate into] actual meaningful policy,” Connon said.

As part of the campaign, residents are putting forward two demands to lawmakers. First, they want officials to follow a climate test, which are guidelines that determine a project’s approval if it harms the climate. This would reject all fossil fuel proposals.

Second, activists want lawmakers to pass a bill that ensures the state switches to 100 percent renewable energy by 2028. All sectors under the government’s jurisdiction would move toward using alternative fuels.

The window to do this is short, as Washington lawmakers will only meet for 60 days this session. As 350 Seattle communications coordinator Emily Johnston explained, every minute is precious. She referred to scientists who warned world leaders last June that we have only three years to reduce greenhouse gases to a point where the Paris climate agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius is still attainable.

“We know what happens beyond that,” she said. “[Climate] acceleration and the disasters we are starting to see become unstoppable.”

Johnston referred the federal government’s refusal to deal with climate change as a major reason for not only Washington, but also other states to focus on the environment.

“If the entire West Coast were to develop laws that were very aggressive on climate then that would have a [massive] impact because the economies of Washington and California are huge,” she said.

Connon used Montgomery County, the largest county in Maryland, as an example of what Washington state could do. Last month, officials there passed a resolution declaring a “climate emergency” and aimed to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2027, and ultimately 100 percent eight years after that.

“The example set by Montgomery County is a commendable example and one we hope Washington state will follow,” Connon said.

Washington does have commitments by law to reduce its greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. But Olympic Climate Action member Melanie Greer said Washington will fail to meet that deadline barring a significant policy change.

“I want to see real legislation that matches what scientists say has to be done, as well as demonstrable action — so that the state moves in the right direction,” Greer said.

After the activists in the balconies finished their chant, they were ordered to leave by security guards. Having made their voices heard, they are now planning the next steps of the campaign to ensure officials make climate action a top priority this legislative session.

“The clock is ticking,” Connon said. “We, as a society and as a whole, have to respond to the climate crisis.”

Via Waging Nonviolence

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Related video added by Informed Comment:

KUOW Public Radio: “What would a climate-friendly Seattle actually look like?”

Not Fighting Climate Change cost $1.5 Trillion Last Year & it is only the Beginning

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 - 12:17am

By Mark Trahant | ( TrahantReports.com ) | – –

The Trump administration, and its allies in Congress, are fighting a losing war. They continue to press forward for the development of oil, gas, coal, when the rest of the world understands the implication of that folly. Global warming is the most pressing issue for our time. Period.

The thing is governments really have two choices when it comes to managing the impact on its peoples from global warming: Spend money on trying to reduce the problem; or spend money on cleaning up the catastrophes.

The Trump administration is on the hook for the catastrophe. A report released Monday by The National Centers for Environmental Information pegged the total cost this year at $1.5 trillion, including estimates for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. (And that doesn’t even begin to count the human toll, lost lives, lost jobs, lost opportunity.)

I witnessed first hand the impact of Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica last month. We keep hearing stories about the power grid being down (similar to Puerto Rico) and you think, why? It’s been months. Why aren’t the lights on? Then you see nearly every electrical pole on the island sideways. The entire grid needs to be rebuilt (or better, rethought) and that’s decades of infrastructure. So the figure of $1.5 trillion is far short of what will be needed. Nearly every electrical line, every other house, the damage was so widespread it’s impossible to overstate. And that’s just one island. Multiple the effect across the region. The planet.

Even the United States.

The Centers for Environmental Information says there were sixteen weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the country last year. These events included one drought, two flooding events, one severe freeze, eight severe storms, three cyclones, and one extraordinary wildfire. These “events” as the center defines them resulted in 362 deaths.

Turns out 2017 was a record-breaking year. “In total, the U.S. was impacted by 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events tying 2011 for the record number of billion-dollar disasters for an entire calendar year,” the report said. “In fact, 2017 arguably has more events than 2011 given that our analysis traditionally counts all U.S. billion-dollar wildfires, as regional-scale, seasonal events, not as multiple isolated events.More notable than the high frequency of these events is the cumulative cost, which exceeds $300 billion in 2017 — a new U.S. annual record.”

A similar report was published by the Government Accountability Office including a recommendation that Executive Office of the President “identify significant climate risks and craft appropriate federal responses.”

But instead of trying to reduce the impact — and the costs of weather-related catastrophe — the Trump administration continues on course for new development of oil and gas. The Interior Department announced new rules that, if enacted, will open up nearly all of the United States coastal waters to more oil and gas development beginning next year.

“By proposing to open up nearly the entire OCS for potential oil and gas exploration, the United States can advance the goal of moving from aspiring for energy independence to attaining energy dominance,” said Vincent DeVito, Counselor for Energy Policy at Interior in the news release. “This decision could bring unprecedented access to America’s extensive offshore oil and gas resources and allows us to better compete with other oil-rich nations.”

Or as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke put it: “The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance.”

Dominance is such a funny word. How can any nation be dominant in the face of hurricanes that are ever more powerful and destructive? How does energy dominance work when tens of thousands of Americans will have to move because their homes are no longer there because of fire or storms? What happens if that number grows into the hundreds of thousands? Millions? How can we afford to spend trillions of dollars rebuilding what we have now?

A group of elders on the Bering Sea immediately condemned the Interior Department’s offshore drilling plan. “We told them that in person last October and again in writing, that there were 76 tribes in these regions opposed to this,” said the statement from the elders. “The draft plan implies that Bering Sea communities were ‘generally supportive of some’ oil and gas activity. This is not accurate and there is no evidence of this from Bering Sea communities. For decades, our people have opposed oil and gas activity and we continue to oppose it today. The northern Bering Sea is a very fragile ecosystem. The marine mammals that we rely on use it as their highway and they follow specific migration routes. That is how we know when and where to find them. The noise and vibration associated with drilling will interfere with their sonar and disrupt their migrations. Then we the coastal people will lose our primary food source.”

There is a connection between developing oil and gas and paying the high costs to clean up after a storm. One side of the ledger goes to a few; the oil and gas “industry.” The folks who bought and paid for this administration.

The other side of the ledger is the rest of us. The taxpayers who will foot the bill for this continued folly.

And on the Bering Sea? The folks who live there are one storm away from a tragedy. As the elders put it: “Our people and our way of life are being exposed to danger and we do not understand why.”

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reprinted with permission from Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com #IndigenousNewsWire #NativeVote18

Trahant Reports is on iTunes or Soundcloud. Download here.

WION: “Gravitas: The cost of climate change”

UN Slams Saudi Arabia for Human Rights Atrocities in Yemen

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 - 12:09am

TeleSur | – –

Widespread destruction from the U.S-backed Saudi airstrikes has displaced over a million people in the region.

A U.N. report on human rights abuses has accused Saudi Arabia’s coalition airstrikes for causing extensive damage in Yemen. Since the beginning of the war in 2015, at least 10,000 people have been killed in the region.

According to information obtained by Al Jazeera, a U.N. panel investigated 10 airstrikes in 2017 that killed 157 people. It found that the targets included migrant boats, a vehicle, a night market, five residential buildings, a motel and government buildings.

“This is a report to the U.N. Security Council that has not been made public, but I’ve been allowed to read a copy. It’s very hard hitting and very critical of all of the parties in the war in Yemen,” Al Jazeera diplomatic editor James Bays said.

“The report talks about beatings, electrocutions, constrained suspension, and it talks about something called the cage which is confinement in a cage in the sunlight and the denial of medical treatment.”

The panel requested Saudi authorities to comment over their rationale behind these attacks, but has received no response, Al Jazeera reported.

The report also pointed towards the role played by Houthi rebels in Yemen’s conflict.

On Dec. 19, Yemen marked 1,000 days of Saudi-led war. Johan Mooij, CARE’s Country Director in Yemen, described the situation as “appalling.” He added that “millions of Yemenis are facing multiple crises of war, hunger, disease outbreaks and recent blockades on fuel and commercial imports.”

The same month, the Pentagon admitted to “multiple ground operations” in Yemen that have led to civilian deaths, leaving the region even more volatile.

“U.S. forces have conducted multiple ground operations and more than 120 strikes in 2017,” U.S. Central Command, Centcom, in Tampa, Florida, said in a statement.

Widespread destruction from the U.S-backed Saudi airstrikes has displaced over a million people in the region. A severe cholera outbreak in the area has also claimed lives of at least 2,119 people, according to the Red Cross. Another eight million are on the verge of starvation.

“Every day, parents are carrying their malnourished children to hospital because they haven’t eaten in days, and families are watching as loved ones die needlessly from treatable illnesses because they do not have access to medical care,” International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in a statement.

Since the Saudi-led war which started in 2015, the U.S. and U.K. has supplied nearly US$5 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Via

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Related video added by Informed Comment:

Al Jazeera: “Yemen

What Africa taught the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 - 12:38am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

In 1957 Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta went to Ghana in connection with its independence from Britain. The British had grabbed the fabled West African Gold Coast in the nineteenth century in order to profit from its gold and other resources (after having profited in the 18th century from slaving in the region). As late as the 1940s and 1950s British colonial troops treated the local population with brutality.

Despite the myth that European colonial empires did volunteer development work for peoples of the global south, mostly they invested almost nothing in industry and any infrastructure they put in was for their armies, administrators, primary product exports and settlers. Lord Cromer actually refused to spread education in Egypt, e.g. In the British Gold Coast/ Ghana, what little education and literacy the colonialists introduced was for the formation of a small collaborating bureaucratic class or for missionary work. In the Gold Coast/ Ghana the British developed a colonial export economy in the early twentieth century based on cocoa. You never get rich off of agriculture; it was industry that made a country wealthy. And even in export agriculture you need to keep all your profits to get ahead, whereas the British took their cut. Then in the Great Depression the bottom fell out of the export market anyway. Despite all the disappointments of postcolonial government since 1957, poverty has been reduced by independent Ghana from 50% to 25% of the population and literacy has been raised to 71% from almost nothing under the British. Ghana has been a functioning democracy for some time now.

There is a sense in which African-American populations in the South were under a sort of colonial rule with Jim Crow, as well.

In his sermon on the Birth of a Nation,, King addressed a church congregation in Montgomery, Alabama.

King remarked,

“You also know that for years and for centuries, Africa has been one of the most exploited continents in the history of the world. It’s been the “Dark Continent.” It’s been the continent that has suffered all of the pain and the affliction that could be mustered up by other nations. And it is that continent which has experienced slavery, which has experienced all of the lowest standards that we can think about, and its been brought into being by the exploitation inflicted upon it by other nations. ”

That European colonial nations raped Africa of its resources and reduced its populations from free peoples to colonial subjects goes without saying. Belgium is alleged to have polished off about half the population of the Congo in the course of its rapine. Now, in the 1950s and 1960s that era of direct foreign rule was coming to an end.

He detailed the competition for the resources of the Gold Coast and added,

“Finally, in 1850, Britain won out, and she gained possession of the total territorial expansion of the Gold Coast. From 1850 to 1957, March sixth, the Gold Coast was a colony of the British Empire. And as a colony she suffered all of the injustices, all of the exploitation, all of the humiliation that comes as a result of colonialism. But like all slavery, like all domination, like all exploitation, it came to the point that the people got tired of it.

And that seems to be the long story of history. There seems to be a throbbing desire, there seems to be an internal desire for freedom within the soul of every man. And it’s there — it might not break forth in the beginning, but eventually it breaks out.”

What King took away from the sordid story of colonial oppression and brutal extraction of resources was the universal human yearning to be free. And he was proud that Ghana’s independence leader, Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972), had been educated at the University of Pennsylvania.

He also firmly believed that nonviolent methods were the best, perhaps only path to true liberation:
“It says to us another thing. It reminds us of the fact that a nation or a people can break aloose from oppression without violence. Nkrumah says in the first two pages of his autobiography, which was published on the sixth of March — a great book which you ought to read — he said that he had studied the social systems of social philosophers and he started studying the life of Gandhi and his techniques. And he said that in the beginning he could not see how they could ever get aloose from colonialism without armed revolt, without armies and ammunition, rising up. Then he says after he continued to study Gandhi and continued to study this technique, he came to see that the only way was through nonviolent positive action. And he called his program “positive action.” ”

It wasn’t only that nonviolence is a useful, utilitarian tool of social mobilization. In King’s view its beauty is the promise it lays out for peaceful post-conflict reconciliation:

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence however, are emptiness and bitterness. This is the thing I’m concerned about. Let us fight passionately and unrelentingly for the goals of justice and peace, but let’s be sure that our hands are clean in this struggle. Let us never fight with falsehood and violence and hate and malice, but always fight with love, so that, when the day comes that the walls of segregation have completely crumbled in Montgomery. that we will be able to live with people as their brothers and sisters.”

King was exuberant about independence but was anything but naive. He was well aware of the severe economic and other challenges facing newly independent countries in Africa:
“Now it will confront its wilderness. Like any breaking aloose from Egypt, there is a wilderness ahead. There is a problem of adjustment. Nkrumah realizes that. There is always this wilderness standing before him. For instance, it’s a one-crop country, cocoa mainly. Sixty percent of the cocoa of the world comes from the Gold Coast, or from Ghana. And, in order to make the economic system more stable, it will be necessary to industrialize. Cocoa is too fluctuating to base a whole economy on that…”

Colonialism made economies in the global South “lopsided” in the term of the great economic historian of the Middle East, Charles Issawi.

King was thinking analogically. What the system of racial injustice in the United States does, as the Ferguson investigation revealed, is to transfer resources (through fines and jailing for minor or trumped up “offenses”) from African-American communities to white elites. He saw clearly that racial hierarchy and domination has a powerful economic dimension. In fact, despite the legislative victories of the Civil Rights movement, which were inspired so powerfully by African decolonization, the big failure of race relations in the past fifty years is that the per capita wealth holdings of African-Americans have remained tiny compared to those of the whites, and African-Americans have been excluded from the economic growth of these last five decades (though to be fair it is mainly the top 10% or 30 million mostly upper middle class and wealthy whites who have grabbed most of this increase).

To the extent that at least in the surface law the shameful episode of some Americans treating others as pariahs, with laws on the books against racial intermarriage, joint schooling, even using the same bathrooms and water fountains, has ended–to that extent our nation owes an enormous debt to African freedom fighters of the 1940s and 1950s who inspired Americans to begin addressing their internal colonialism.

As Dr. King so memorably said, it is not the color of your skin that matters (nor the poverty of your neighborhood) but the content of your character.

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Related video:

Martin Luther King Jr After his Journey to Africa

The Rise and Fall of America’s Middle Class

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 - 12:23am

By Jim Hightower | (Otherwords.org) | – –

The middle class was built by movements — and can be rebuilt by movements.

Ever since 1776, the “common yeoman” — America’s middle class — has been hailed as the virtuous heart and backbone of our nation.

How ironic, since it took 150 years before we actually created a broad middle class. Before the 1930s, most Americans were poor, or near poor.

And, yes, “created” is the correct term for how our middle class came to be. It was pushed by two historic forces of social transformation.

First, the devastation of the Great Depression created a grassroots rebellion of labor, farmers, and others against the careless moneyed class that caused the 1929 crash. These forces produced FDR and his New Deal of union rights, Social Security, and other tools that empowered ordinary Americans to begin rising up from poverty.

Second, the government’s national mobilization for World War II created an explosion of new jobs and opportunities for millions, opening people’s eyes, boosting confidence, and raising expectations.
unions-workers-labor-strike

Striking workers in Gary, Indiana, 1919. (Photo: Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons)

A post-war rise in unionism, the passage of the GI Bill, a housing program, and other progressive actions led to a doubling of the median family income in only 30 years, creating a middle class that included nearly 60 percent of Americans by the late 1970s.

Then — phfffft — Washington’s commitment to a middle class suddenly fizzled.

In the 1980s, Reagan Republicans — and many Democrats — switched from supporting egalitarianism to backing the elitism of their corporate donors. Ever since, they’ve steadily disempowered workers and enthroned the rich, thus imposing today’s abominable, un-American culture of inequality across our land.

Just as progressives deliberately pushed public policies to create the middle class, so are today’s economic royalists deliberately pushing plutocratic policies to destroy it. That’s the momentous struggle that calls us to action in this political year.

Jim Hightower, an OtherWords columnist, is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown

Via Otherwords.org

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Elizabeth Warren: The GOP Tax Bill Is For The Rich, And No One Else (HBO)

Saudi Prince Alwaleed in talks with gov’t over demand he surrender Billions

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 - 12:17am

Middle East Monitor | – –

Saudi Arabia’s billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, detained for over two months in an anti-corruption crackdown, is negotiating a possible settlement with authorities but so far has not agreed on terms, a senior Saudi official said.

Prince Alwaleed, whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $17 billion, is chairman and owner of international investment firm Kingdom Holding, and one of the country’s most prominent businessmen.

“He offered a certain figure but it doesn’t meet the figure required from him, and until today the attorney-general hasn’t approved it,” the official said on condition of anonymity under government briefing rules.

A second source familiar with Prince Alwaleed’s case told Reuters on Saturday that he had offered to make a “donation” to the Saudi government, which would avoid any admission of wrongdoing, and to do so from assets of his own choosing. But the government refused those terms, the source said.

Since early November Prince Alwaleed has been held, with dozens of other members of Saudi Arabia’s political and business elite detained in the crackdown, in Riyadh’s opulent Ritz Carlton hotel as authorities seek to reach settlements with the detainees.

Saudi officials say they aim to claw back some $100 billion of funds that rightfully belong to the state. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched the crackdown, has indicated he wants to close existing cases quickly and expects most suspects to cut a deal.

The allegations against Prince Alwaleed include money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, a Saudi official told Reuters soon after his detention. Neither he nor his company has commented publicly on the charges.

Kingdom Holding, which has said it is continuing to operate normally, did not respond to requests for comment when asked about any settlement talks.

Construction giant Saudi Binladin Group said on Saturday that some of its shareholders might transfer part of their holdings to the state in a settlement with authorities. Chairman Bakr Bin Laden and several family members were detained in the crackdown.

In late November, senior Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a leading contender to the throne, was freed after reaching a settlement with authorities that involved paying more than $1 billion, according to a Saudi official.

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Via Middle East Monitor

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Related video added by Informed Comment:

Fox Business: “Prince Al-Waleed advisor reacts to Saudi Arabia’s corruption crackdown”

Israeli Prosecutors Throw Book at Palestinian Child Protestor

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 - 12:12am

By Bill Van Esveld | (Human Rights Watch) | – –

On Monday, an Israeli military court will decide whether to release 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi on bail or keep her in jail until the end of her trial. She has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance, and some Israeli politicians have called for her to be harshly punished. But the military court should base its decision on one criterion: whether the further detention of Ahed Tamimi, a child, is necessary as a measure of last resort, the standard international law requires.

It all began on December 15, 2017, at a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh against US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. During the protest, a soldier fired a rubber-coated bullet that severely injured Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin; when Ahed learned of the boy’s shooting she began to push and slap two soldiers who had entered her yard. A video showing the incident went viral. Border police arrested Ahed on December 19 – in the middle of the night, the usual means by which the military arrests Palestinian children.

The reasons to grant bail are straightforward. Ahed has never been indicted before, and hardly poses a serious security or flight risk. A military judge has already released from detention her 20-year-old cousin, Noor, who was also present during the altercation and is seen pushing the soldiers, and was also charged with aggravated assault. Displaying appropriate restraint, the two soldiers in the video did not arrest or even use much force to stop them. The civil courts deny bail to Israeli children in only 18 percent of cases.

But Israeli officials and politicians seem to want to make an example of Ahed, Nour, and Ahed’s mother, Nariman, who also faces charges. “They should finish their lives in prison,” said Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for “severe” punishment of Ahed and her family, “to serve as a deterrent,” and banned 20 members of her family from visiting her in detention in Israel, where she was unlawfully transferred from occupied territory.

Unlike the leniency often shown to settlers – even those who slap Israeli soldiers – the prosecution is throwing the book at the girl, whose indictment includes a dozen counts of assault, incitement, interference with soldiers, and stone-throwing in incidents since April 1, 2016.

And unlike Israeli civilian courts’ treatment of Israelis, military courts in the West Bank deny bail in 70 percent of cases involving Palestinian children. A 2013 UNICEF report found that almost all children plead guilty to reduce the length of pretrial detention, because doing so, “is the quickest way to be released,” from a system that typically denies children access to a lawyer or the presence of their parent during coercive interrogations and, “does not allow children to defend themselves.” Considering that the military prosecutor plans to summon 18 witnesses, mostly soldiers, Ahed’s trial could take months.

Issuing a well-reasoned decision on bail won’t fix the discrimination and ill-treatment of children in Israel’s military justice system. But it will at least demonstrate a willingness to abide by the law that should govern one part of that system.

Bill Van Esveld is Senior Researcher, MENA, Children’s Rights Division

Human Rights Watch)

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Related video added by Informed Comment:

Al Jazeera English: “Palestinians ?? protesters demand Ahed Tamimi’s release”

The Tunisian revolution seven years on

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 - 12:06am

By Lakhdar Ghettas | (OpenDemocracy.net) | – –

Seven years after the Tunisian revolution one can dissect four main conflict issues in Tunisia today.

A rally marking the third anniversary of the uprising that ousted long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2014 in Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis. Picture by Palacio Marieau/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.Thirty years last NovemberZine el Abidine Ben Ali assumed power in Tunisia ending thereby the rule of ailing Habib Bourguiba who ruled the country since its independence in 1956. Ben Ali promised political reforms that lured large segments of the Tunisian polity, including the Islamists. Those hopes were soon shattered by the brutal crackdown following the 1989 general elections in which Ennahda ran on independent lists, and came second after Ben Ali’s RCD party. Leftists were not spared either and by 2010 Ben Ali managed to unite most Tunisians against his authoritarian rule. Tunisians embarked on a political transition that has been underway seven years now.

Dubbed the Arab Spring’s exception, a number of explanations have been put forward by different analysts. There is the role of a vibrant civil society, high levels of education, the homogenous fabric of the Tunisian society, and the limited geostrategic interests. One important factor, however, is experiences of dialogue and coalition building among political and civil society actors of different worldviews, especially between secular leftists and Islamists. Those involved in the 18 October 2005 dialogue initiative rightly argue that the outcome of that experience facilitated reaching the agreement on which the 2012 Troika government was formed.

The international community hailed the 2014 constitution as unique in the Arab world

Political transitions following bottom up upheavals are very difficult to navigate in that they bring to the surface all the contradictions that were suppressed by the authoritarian regime. It was inevitable that the Troika government would hit stubborn obstacles that threatened the entire democratic change. In addition to the old ideological battles among Islamists and secularists, the 2011 uprising allowed the emergence of the Salafi voice as a new political actor that attracted sizable segments of Tunisian youth. The 2013-14 national dialogue managed to ensure a minimal consensus on issues that blocked drafting of a new constitution in the 2011 Constituent Assembly. Yet, key issues were either avoided or formulated in vague language. Besides, the participative Salafi voice was not formally present at the negotiation table between Ennahda and its political adversaries led by Nidaa Tounes.

This reality could explain to some extent the bloody political violence during the first months of the post-Troika era, under Habib Essid’s 2015 government. The international community hailed the 2014 constitution as unique in the Arab world and the Quartet that convened the dialogue was rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize.

As Tunisians embarked on a fresh start led this time by Nidaa Tounes high hopes were nurtured by the media campaign that supported Nida Tounes and its electoral promises. The reality was, however, more complex than defeating Ennahdha in elections as Nida learned while the party set off to form its government. President Beji Caid Essebsi witnessed the emergence of differences that tore apart the secularists’ alliance against Ennahda. Essebsi understood he needed Ennahda in the government if it were not going to play the shadow government role in the parliament. This decision shattered the secularists’ 2014 alliance and pushed the Popular Front into the opposition.

Soon after, Nidaa Tounes as well started to disintegrate due to a combination of party leadership struggle thinly disguised as political orientation differences. Current and former figures of Nidaa Tounes disagree on the assessment of this episode. Some evoke the 2013 Paris Consensus between Essebsi and Rached Ghannouchi, others explain it by a genuine commitment on the part of President Essebsi to rise above narrow partisan politics and act in the ultimate national interest, as any statesman should do, especially during historical junctions of the country.

The Nidaa-Ennahda coalition has so far survived three years. Ennahda has become the first political force in the parliament following the string of splits in Nidaa party and its parliamentary bloc. This reality that was unthinkable hereto has shaken the Tunisian civil and political landscape and forced shifts in alliances. While the leadership of the two political parties are busy conceptualising ways to institutionalise the coalition for it to hold for the next decade, other secularist political groups have been repeatedly trying to form new fronts in order to undo the coalition.

The rank and file of Nidaa-Ennahda are not however completely in tune with their respective leaders

The rank and file of Nidaa-Ennahda are not however completely in tune with their respective leaders. Segments of Ennahda youth, especially in the south have not yet swallowed this shift of alliance from former ally Moncef Merzouki, to Ennahda’s Bourguibism foe Essebsi. The same applies for Nidaa’s youth who were recruited and mobilised on an anti-Islamist platform but are now told to make peace with Ennahda. Some figures in the opposition think this coalition of the “Big Two” is killing the spirit of pluralism and fair political play. Some even think that it would ultimately produce the same conditions that fuelled the 2011 uprising.

Analysts and Tunisian political figures offer diverging assessments on the transition strategy. Some argue that holding local elections first could have spared Tunisia all the political violence and economic hardship it has suffered over the last seven years. They argue that the root causes of the uprising that began in the marginalised inland regions has not been addressed seven years on; which explains the recurring unrest throughout those regions. The debate around the economic reconciliation project defended by Ennahda and Essebsi has to some extent shifted the traditional ideological fault lines in favour of new rapprochement among Islamist and leftist youth who all oppose the law that they consider a license for impunity.

Seven years on, one can dissect four main conflict issues in Tunisia today. First, the issue of the coalition of Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda; second, the nature of the political system; third, the political role of the UGTT labour union; and finally, the urgency of holding the local elections. These represent the main obstacles to the democratic transition in Tunisia but there are other aspects of the transition that contribute to the social unrest other than the economic hardship. A great deal remains to be done in term of dealing with the past. The Truth and Dignity Commission has embarked on a promising journey but there is no consensus on its mandate and role among the Tunisian polity. The Islamist-secularist ideological divide continues to underpin the political debate in the country, the latest episode being President Essebsi’s call to reform the inheritance law in order to promote equal sharing between all citizens in a civic state as the country’s constitution stipulates.

The coalition of the ‘Big Two’

Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda agree that their coalition based on the Paris consensus is vital for the success of the transition. Ennahda even thinks that the coalition should be developed and institutionalised to devise a development strategy backed by the two parties in parliament and government, over the next five, even ten, years in order to consolidate the transition.

Other parties, however, fear this coalition of the Big Two

Other parties, however, fear that this coalition of the Big Two will pave the way for the return to authoritarian rule. They are in favour of a consensual rule that is enlarged to all political actors (big and small, inside and outside the parliament). Two recent acts reflect these dynamics. Nidaa Tounes, Ennahda and Slim Riahi’s UPL have backed a single candidate to preside the elections’ watchdog ISIE and voted for Mohamed Tlili Mansri last November.

The response came from Mohcen Merzouk’s El Houra bloc, the Democrats bloc by the formation of the Progressive Parliamentary Front. This new front’s stated objective is to “re-establish power balance in the parliamentary affairs and guarantee political stability”. But few weeks later the talk is about challenging the Nidaa-Ennahdha coalition in general.

The nature of the political system

There has been growing calls to review and amend the current hybrid political system that is semi-parliamentary / semi-presidential. Some in Nidaa Tounes think that in order to guarantee the ideal conditions possible for the success of the transition (re-vitalise the economy, and pass the necessary laws and policies), Tunisia needs an electoral law that brings about a majority party rule. They are not necessarily calling for amending the 2014 constitution, but they argue a reform of sorts should be undertaken. This unnerved the other small political parties who consider such a step would pave the way to the return of authoritarian rule. They argue that the institutions enacted by the 2014 constitution have not even been fully established yet to judge the sustainability of the constitution.

In his interview for the national Watania 1 TV on 18 September, Essebsi said that he understands why some are calling for the reform of the hybrid system, and that although the current constitution allows him to take such an initiative, he nevertheless won’t take it. At the same time, he added, the parliament is free to launch such an initiative. In other words, he is leaving the door open. Politically, opponents of Ennahda consider a presidential system would ensure that opponents of Ennahda control the presidency (last line of defence of secularists), since they are convinced Ennahda will have the control of local, regional assemblies as it has the majority in parliament now. Ennahda, however, is not clear on this issue.

During the Troika years, Ennahda first called for a parliamentary system (convinced of their popularity), but after the 2013 crisis the party agreed to the current hybrid system. Since the beginning of the coalition Nidaa-Ennahda some advisers around Ghannouchi, such as Lotfi Zeitoun, have been on the offensive for a general reconciliation and a presidential system. The party’s Shura council is, however, divided. Some think if a reform of the system is on the agenda, then a parliamentary system should be Ennahda’s choice not for partisan calculations but to prevent the return of the despotic practices of the presidential rule under which Islamists suffered most.

The political role of the labour union

Figures of Nidaa Tounes and even some leftists have expressed strong disapproval of the political role of the labour union, UGTT. They consider that the labour union should cease exerting political pressure on the government and the political system (through the Popular Front). This is of course a thorny issue in Tunisia given the historical role the UGTT played in Tunisia’s independence struggle and state building since then. Besides, the labour union played a critical role in the downfall of Ben Ali’s regime as well as the Troika. It was crucial in the National Dialogue 2013-14.

There is no consensus on the urgency of holding the local election

Since the temporary alliance between Nidaa Tounes and the PF fell apart because of the inclusion of Ennahda in 2015, government tensions have been growing to unprecedented levels, especially after the PF / UGTT voted against the civil servants reconciliation law. In the above-mentioned interview president Essebsi openly and aggressively attacked Hamma Hammami, PF’s leader, in words with negative connotations. While the president could have opted for another word, he used the term Faasiq that is religiously loaded. The interview stirred a polemic in mass media and social media.

To hold or not to hold elections

There is no consensus on the urgency of holding the local election: Disagreements on the urgency of local elections have resulted in postponing them to next spring 2018. Opponents of Ennahda think that holding the local elections now is technically not feasible because the new local governance law is not ready to discuss and pass, and because the electoral body in charge of organising elections, ISIE, has just been fully staffed. In addition to these technical arguments, they argue that for voters’ mobilisation sake, budget savings, and to avoid electoral fatigue, it would be logical to combine the local elections with the upcoming regional elections sometime mid-2018.

Ennahda, however, considers those justifications are baseless and that the real reason other political parties have been dragging their feet is their fear that unlike other secularist parties Ennahda is ready for elections, which would give it an advantage for the legislative and presidential elections in late 2019.

This disagreement is reflected in the parliament. Party blocs in the parliament have spent months before they could finally elect a president for ISIE, this November. Ennahda fears that even the April date being floated by the opposition is not definite since there are calls to postpone them further and combine with regional elections, which is another dossier on the agenda next year. Meanwhile, there is growing frustration at the local level and minor parties (who have nothing to lose) think that holding elections on time, regardless of partisan gain, is crucial for establishing the democratic culture during this founding phase of the second republic. Opponents of this group think that holding elections before arriving at a large consensus is more dangerous for the transition than postponing them.

Via OpenDemocracy.net

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Al Jazeera English: “Tunisia

Impeachable Offense? Trump golfs while Hawaiians endure Nuclear Panic

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 - 1:08am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

A false alert was sent out by the state of Hawaii on Saturday to residents’ cell phones warning of an incoming North Korean nuclear strike, as Mary Papunfuss of Huffpost explains.

That is a remarkable falsehood and symptomatic of the hysteria in the age of Trump, a man who routinely talks about or hints at deploying nuclear bombs. So does the wacky government of North Korea. Neither should be taken so seriously.

The falsity of the alert was quickly discovered but the same screw-ups who sent it out then sent the retraction to the wrong address so that it did not hit people’s cell phones. They finally got the correct information after nearly an hour of panic.

But here’s the thing. The US military knew all along that there was no such threat. Nobody from the Pentagon tried to reassure the public.

And, President Trump was on his West Palm Beach golf course and got the notice that it was a false alarm. He just went on playing golf. Then he wrapped up the game. He never tweeted any reassurance to the people of Hawaii. He let them twist in the wind. His apologists are saying it was a state exercise and it is unfair to blame him. But he is president of all the state residents, too, and he had knowledge that could have benefited his co-citizens and did nothing.

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Wochit News: “White House Says Hawaii’s False Ballistic Missile Warning Was ‘A State Exercise'”

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) did take to twitter to reassure people, and has been criticized for going outside channels, but WTF. People were terrified for no good reason.

Of all the horrible things Trump has said and done, declining to give the straight scoop to panicked Hawaiians is the absolute worst.

The US constitution, Article 3, Section 3, Clause 1, defines treason in this way:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

I propose that by declining immediately to refute the false alarm, Trump gave aid and comfort to North Korea, which has been attempting to play mind games with Hawaiians as part of its belligerent strategy toward the United States.

I’d say that’s an impeachable offense.

Trumpist UK Thugs waving US Flags try to Apprehend London’s Muslim Mayor

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 - 12:24am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

London Mayor Sadiq Khan was about to begin a speech on gender equality to the leftist Fabian Society when he was interrupted by British Trumpist hooligans shouting that they intended to make a citizen’s arrest of the mayor. After a while, during which Khan leafed through some reading material, the police carted off the thugs.

They sported American flags and anti-European Union slogans, and had been enraged by Trump’s cancellation of a planned trip to London, about which Khan remarked that the US president had “gotten the message” that he is unwelcome in the UK. The brown shirts had built a gallows to show that they had an old-fashioned lynching on their minds. Among their leaders was David Russel of the fascist English Defense League. He announced that the name of the group is the Pendragons.

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The Guardian News: “Far-right group disrupts speech by Sadiq Khan”

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Last June a far-right Briton inspired in part by Trump’s hatred of Muslims rammed his van into a crowd of peaceful worshipers leaving a mosque in London.

After the Trumpist shock troops had been removed, Khan apologized for the delay, occasioned, he said, by “very stable geniuses.”

Apparently no one took the incident very seriously and it provoked a good deal of mirth. But as symbolic politics it is worth dwelling on a little bit.

The deployment of the American flag as an icon of Islamophobia (Khan is a Muslim), bigotry and fascism is extremely disturbing. It is a powerful sign of how Trumpism is rebranding the United States as a country supporting racial hierarchy and hatred for minorities and immigrants.

“Pendragon” is of course the surname of the legendary King Arthur. That sort of medieval romanticism also influenced mass murderer Anders Breivik, who killed 77 Norwegians in 2011. (He targeted Norwegian liberals on the grounds that they did not hate Muslims, a common theme in the fascist Right).

Here are some other twists. The Fabian Society where the mayor was speaking had been founded in the late 19th century by British socialists. Their ranks included George Bernard Shaw the dramatist, science fiction writer H. G. Wells, and Beatrice and Sidney Webb, among many others. They had pushed for workers rights and a more just society, though most of them were from the upper crust. Although Islamophobes attempt to paint Muslims across the board as anti-feminist, that stereotype clearly is not universally true. That a London mayor of Pakistani immigrant heritage is now a guest speaker for the Fabians on women’s rights and was interrupted by the British far right is also symbolic of our current political moment.

Sadiq Khan was right to laugh the very stable geniuses off. But we should keep our eye on the phenomenon of Trumpist brownshirts. Germans used to laugh at Hitler in the 1920s, too.

Trump allegedly Paid $130,000 to Porn Star for Her Silence

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 - 12:16am

TeleSur | – –

The deal was brokered by President Trump’s lawyer with the adult-film actress a month before the 2016 presidential elections.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney arranged a US$130,000 payment to a former porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from going public about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

A White House official categorically denied the report in which the woman, Stephanie Clifford, says she met Trump at a celebrity golf event in 2006 — a year after he married his current wife, Melania.

Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, says the encounter happened sometime after that, the Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen brokered the payment to the woman in October 2016 — one month before the election — under a deal that included a nondisclosure agreement, the sources told the newspaper.

“These are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election,” a White House official said.

During the presidential campaign, a videotape emerged of Trump boasting that he could grope women with impunity.

Several women have accused the 71-year-old of sexual misconduct. Trump has denied all of the claims as lies, and even suggested the taped comments were falsified.

But former “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush said he and seven others witnessed Trump making the lewd remarks.

Via

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Related video added by Informed Comment:

TYT: “Trump Paid $130k to Porn Star for Her Silence”

‘Shithole countries’: Trump uses the rhetoric of dictators

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 - 12:15am

By Henry Giroux | (The Conversation) | – –

George Orwell warns us in his dystopian novel 1984 that authoritarianism begins with language. In the novel, “newspeak” is language twisted to deceive, seduce and undermine the ability of people to think critically and freely.

Donald Trump’s unapologetic bigoted language made headlines again Thursday when it was reported he told lawmakers working on a new immigration policy that the United States shouldn’t accept people from “shithole countries” like Haiti. Given his support for white nationalism and his coded call to “Make America Great (White) Again,” Trump’s overt racist remarks reinforce echoes of white supremacy reminiscent of fascist dictators in the 1930s.

His remarks about accepting people from Norway smack of an appeal to the sordid discourse of racial purity. There is much more at work here than a politics of incivility. Behind Trump’s use of vulgarity and his disparagement of countries that are poor and non-white lies the terrifying discourse of white supremacy, ethnic cleansing and the politics of disposability. This is a vocabulary that considers some individuals and groups not only faceless and voiceless, but excess, redundant and subject to expulsion. The endpoint of the language of disposability is a form of social death, or even worse.

As authoritarianism gains strength, the formative cultures that give rise to dissent become more embattled, along with the public spaces and institutions that make conscious critical thought possible.

Words that speak to the truth to reveal injustices and provide informed critical analysis begin to disappear, making it all the more difficult, if not dangerous, to judge, think critically and hold dominant power accountable. Notions of virtue, honour, respect and compassion are policed, and those who advocate them are punished.

I think it’s fair to argue that Orwell’s nightmare vision of the future is no longer fiction in the United States. Under Trump, language is undergoing a shift: It now treats dissent, critical media coverage and scientific evidence as a species of “fake news.”

The Trump administration, in fact, views the critical media as the “enemy of the American people.” Trump has repeated this view of the media so often that almost a third of Americans now believe it and support government-imposed restrictions on the media, according to a Poynter survey.

Thought crimes and fake news

Trump’s cries of “fake news” work incessantly to set limits on what is thinkable. Reason, standards of evidence, consistency and logic no longer serve the truth, according to Trump, because the latter are crooked ideological devices used by enemies of the state. Orwell’s “thought crimes” are Trump’s “fake news.” Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” is Trump’s “Ministry of Fake News.”

The notion of truth is viewed by this president as a corrupt tool used by the critical media to question his dismissal of legal checks on his power, particularly his attacks on judges, courts and any other governing institutions that will not promise him complete and unchecked loyalty.

For Trump, intimidation takes the place of unquestioned loyalty when he does not get his way, revealing a view of the presidency that is more about winning than about governing.

One consequence is the myriad practices by which Trump gleefully humiliates and punishes his critics, wilfully engages in shameful acts of self-promotion and unapologetically enriches his financial coffers.

Under Trump, the language of civic literacy and democracy has become unmoored from critical reason, informed debate and the weight of scientific evidence, and is now being reconfigured and tied to pageantry, political theatre and a deep-seated anti-intellectualism.

One consequence, as language begins to function as a tool of state repression, is that matters of moral and political responsibility disappear and injustices proliferate.

Fascism starts with words

What is crucial to remember here, as authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat notes, is that fascism starts with words. Trump’s use of language and his manipulative use of the media as political spectacle are disturbingly similar to earlier periods of propaganda, censorship and repression.

Under fascist regimes, the language of brutality and culture of cruelty was normalized through the proliferation of strident metaphors of war, battle, expulsion, racial purity and demonization.

As German historians such as Richard J. Evans and Victor Klemperer have made clear, dictators like Adolf Hitler did more than simply corrupt the language of a civilized society, they also banned words.

Soon afterwards, the Nazis banned books and the critical intellectuals who wrote them. They then imprisoned those individuals who challenged Nazi ideology and the state’s systemic violations of civil rights.

The end point was an all-embracing discourse of disposability — the emergence of concentration camps and genocide fuelled by a politics of racial purity and social cleansing.

Echoes of the formative stages of such actions are upon us now. An American-style neo-fascism appears to be engulfing the United States after simmering in the dark for years.

More than any other president, Trump has normalized the notion that the meaning of words no longer matters, nor do traditional sources of facts and evidence. In doing so, he has undermined the relationship between engaged citizenship and the truth, and has relegated matters of debate and critical assessment to a spectacle of bombast, threats, intimidation and sheer fakery.

This language of fascism does more than normalize falsehoods and ignorance. It also promotes a larger culture of short-term attention spans, immediacy and sensationalism. At the same time, it makes fear and anxiety the normalized currency of exchange and communication.

In a throwback to the language of fascism, Trump has repeatedly positioned himself as the only one who can save the masses — reproducing the tired script of the model of the saviour endemic to authoritarianism.

There is more at work here than an oversized ego. Trump’s authoritarianism is also fuelled by braggadocio and misdirected rage as he undermines the bonds of solidarity, abolishes institutions meant to protect the vulnerable and launches a full-fledged assault on the environment.

Trump is also the master of manufactured illiteracy, and his obsessive tweeting and public relations machine aggressively engages in the theatre of self-promotion and distractions. Both of these are designed to whitewash any version of a history that might expose the close alignment between his own language and policies and the dark elements of a fascist past.

Trump also revels in an unchecked mode of self-congratulation bolstered by a limited vocabulary filled with words like “historic,” “best,” “the greatest,” “tremendous” and “beautiful.”

Those exaggerations suggest more than hyperbole or the self-indulgent use of language. When he claims he “knows more about ISIS than the generals,” “knows more about renewables than any human being on Earth” or that nobody knows the U.S. system of government better than he does, he’s using the rhetoric of fascism.

As the aforementioned historian Richard J. Evans writes in The Third Reich in Power:

“The German language became a language of superlatives, so that everything the regime did became the best and the greatest, its achievements unprecedented, unique, historic and incomparable …. The language used about Hitler … was shot through and through with religious metaphors; people ‘believed in him,’ he was the redeemer, the savior, the instrument of Providence, his spirit lived in and through the German nation…. Nazi institutions domesticated themselves [through the use of a language] that became an unthinking part of everyday life.”

Sound familiar?

Under the Trump regime, memories inconvenient to his authoritarianism are now demolished in the domesticated language of superlatives so the future can be shaped to become indifferent to the crimes of the past.

Trump’s endless daily tweets, his recklessness, his adolescent disdain for a measured response, his unfaltering anti-intellectualism and his utter ignorance of history work in the United States. Why? Because they not only cater to what historian Brian Klaas refers to as “the tens of millions of Americans who have authoritarian or fascist leanings,” they also enable what he calls Trump’s attempt at “mainstreaming fascism.”

The language of fascism revels in forms of theatre that mobilize fear, hatred and violence. Author Sasha Abramsky is on target in claiming that Trump’s words amount to more than empty slogans.

Instead, his language comes “with consequences, and they legitimize bigotries and hatreds long harbored by many but, for the most part, kept under wraps by the broader society.”

Surely, the increase in hate crimes during Trump’s first year of his presidency testifies to the truth of Abramsky’s argument.

Fighting Trump’s fascist language

The history of fascism teaches us that language operates in the service of violence, desperation and troubling landscapes of hatred, and carries the potential for inhabiting the darkest moments of history.

It erodes our humanity, and makes too many people numb and silent in the face of ideologies and practices that are hideous acts of ethical atrocity.

Trump’s language, like that of older fascist regimes, mutilates contemporary politics, empathy and serious moral and political criticism, and makes it more difficult to criticize dominant relations of power.

His fascistic language also fuels the rhetoric of war, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, anti-intellectualism and racism. But it’s not his alone.

It is the language of a nascent fascism that has been brewing in the United States for some time. It is a language that is comfortable viewing the world as a combat zone, a world that exists to be plundered and a view of those deemed different as a threat to be feared, if not eliminated.

A new language aimed at fighting Trump’s romance with fascism must make power visible, uncover the truth, contest falsehoods and create a formative and critical culture that can nurture and sustain collective resistance to the oppression that has overtaken the United States, and increasingly many other countries.

No form of oppression can be overlooked. And with that critical gaze must emerge a critical language, a new narrative and a different story about what a socialist democracy will look like in the United States.

Reclaiming language as a force for good

There is also a need to strengthen and expand the reach and power of established public spheres, such as higher education and the critical media, as sites of critical learning.

We must encourage artists, intellectuals, academics and other cultural workers to talk, educate, make oppression visible and challenge the common-sense vocabulary of casino capitalism, white supremacy and fascism.

Language is not simply an instrument of fear, violence and intimidation; it is also a vehicle for critique, civic courage and resistance.

A critical language can guide us in our thinking about the relationship between older elements of fascism and how such practices are emerging in new forms.

Without a faith in intelligence, critical education and the power to resist, humanity will be powerless to challenge the threat that fascism and right-wing populism pose to the world.

Those of us willing to fight for a just political and economic society need to formulate a new language and fresh narratives about freedom, the power of collective struggle, empathy, solidarity and the promise of a real socialist democracy.

We would do well to heed the words of the great Nobel Prize-winning novelist, J.M. Coetzee, who states in a work of fiction that “there will come a day when you and I will need to be told the truth, the real truth ….no matter how hard it may be.”

Democracy, indeed, can only survive with a critically informed and engaged public attentive to a language in which truth, rather than lies, become the currency of citizenship.

Henry Giroux, Chaired professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University

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

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SABC: “AU, UN condemn Trump’s derogatory utterances on Haiti, Africa”

Not falling for Phony Sympathy: Iranians on all sides oppose Trump’s policies

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 - 12:10am

By Reese Erlich | (48hills.com) | – –

During a recent reporting trip to Iran, I interviewed almost two dozen people at random in both rich and poor neighborhoods of Tehran. All the middle and upper-middle class people I spoke with said the government of President Hassan Rouhani had made economic progress, although not as much as they wanted. All the working-class Iranians said they had seen no economic improvements since Rouhani’s election in 2013.


Iranians overwhelmingly oppose Trump’s policies. Reese Erlich photo

Starting in late December, spontaneous protests broke out among young, working-class Iranians. While hundreds demonstrated in Tehran, tens of thousands demonstrated in eighty towns and smaller cities. To date, the government has arrested an estimated 1,000 people and twenty-two have died. The 2009 Green Movement mobilized much larger crowds but attracted mostly intellectuals and other middle-income folks.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that Iran’s economy will grow 4.2 percent by March. But, just as in the United States, very little of the country’s wealth trickles down.

A construction worker told me he has no regular place to live while working in Tehran. Sometimes contractors provide refurbished shipping containers as living quarters. Sometimes he stays with relatives. He blamed Iran’s economic problems on the economic sanctions imposed by the United States. He also blamed the Iranian government for wasting billions of dollars on wars in Syria and Iraq.

“First you have to feed your own people and then go around helping others,” he told me. He criticized widespread Iranian corruption. When the Revolutionary Guard builds projects, for example, workers often don’t get paid on time and then the officers say, “Oh, we spent the money in Syria or Iraq.”

But many other Iranians, while critical of corruption, are not willing to break with the Rouhani government. Tens of thousands of people participated in pro-government marches on December 5 as hardliners blamed the United States and foreign powers for the unrest.

Back in the United States, President Donald Trump has sought to use the protests to justify his aggressive policies.

He tweeted, “Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”

But Iranians don’t believe Trump supports them. In my numerous, random interviews, I did not encounter a single person with anything positive to say about Trump. They opposed his ban on Iranian travel to the United States, his declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his efforts to cancel the nuclear accord.

“Iranians are angry at Trump’s policies,” veteran journalist Mohammad Reza Noroozpour told me.

Iranians worry that Trump will use the anti-government protests as an excuse to abrogate the nuclear agreement.

In 2015, the United States, Iran, and five other countries signed an internationally binding agreement, ratified by the U.N. Security Council. Iran agreed not to develop nuclear weapons. In return, the United States and European countries were supposed to lift harsh economic sanctions.

Iran has lived up to its end of the bargain. It poured concrete into a major nuclear reactor, shipped enriched uranium out of the country, severely reduced the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, and allowed intrusive inspections at all its nuclear facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.

Nevertheless, last October Trump decertified the agreement, a unilateral move rejected by all the other signatories: Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China. Trump is seriously considering re-imposing sanctions, using the Iran protests as an excuse.

So what is Iran going to do? Iranian officials are considering options ranging from stepped-up diplomacy to military confrontation, according to Iranian foreign policy experts and high government officials in Iran.

“When Trump became President, I think this was a big shock for the Rouhani administration,” Foad Izadi told me. Izadi is an assistant professor at the North American Studies Department at the University of Tehran. Rouhani’s supporters hope Trump will “be impeached before he can cause more damage. And if that doesn’t happen, they are hoping that Trump’s advisers will tell him that agreement is actually good for the United States.”

Rouhani, a political centrist, wants to see less confrontation with the West and greater foreign investments. His camp advocates robust diplomatic efforts against Trump, trying to take advantage of fractures within the US administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has taken a softer line, arguing the administration must insure that Iran lives up to the agreement. The heads of intelligence agencies and the former generals now populating the White House, on the other hand, advocate a hard line against Iran.

“The reformists don’t want to provoke the US,” said Noroozpour, and hope pressure from European allies will restrain Trump.

By contrast, the conservative camp, known in Iran as principlists, advocate a series of escalating actions that would not violate the nuclear accord but would nonetheless send a message to Washington.

The principlists “emphasize a new alliance with Russia and Turkey,” Noroozpour explained. “Principlists believe this alliance can force the US to get out of the Middle East.”

The principlists insist that Iran can reinstitute its nuclear engineering and science programs at universities, which have languished over the past few years. Also, under International Atomic Energy Agency rules, Iran can enrich uranium up to 20 percent for medical research. Iran could enrich uranium to even higher levels as part of plans to develop nuclear powered submarines. But Iran currently has no nuclear subs.

Professor Izadi told me that, as a sign of even stronger resistance, some principlists want Iran to withdraw from the decades-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which Iran ratified back in the 1960s. Conservatives argue that the treaty allows western spies to enter sensitive Iranians military bases under the guise of snap inspections.

These principlists say, according to Izadi, “The benefits of NPT have not materialized for Iran.”

In my opinion, if Iran formally withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, US hardliners would immediately claim Iran was rushing to make a bomb, leading to the further escalation of tensions and possible confrontation. North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 as the first step in developing its nuclear weapons.

But that doesn’t worry some principlists, according to a high-ranking government official who asked to remain anonymous. “Some principlists now advocate confrontation with the US,” he said. Iran wouldn’t directly attack the United States, but would utilize allies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

“We can bother the US around the world,” he said confidently. “We have nothing to lose. The negotiations were important for our national dignity. We will not be humiliated.”

Ironically, the hardliners in the United States and Iran play into one another’s hands. Trump and has cronies seek to use the popular protests in Iran as justification for more attacks. The hardliners in Iran want to blame the protests on foreign powers in order to justify more confrontation with the United States.

Let us hope saner voices prevail on both sides.

Reprinted with author’s permission from 48hills.com)

Did Trump just Paint a target on backs of US Diplomats & Businessmen?

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 - 2:06am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The United States as a superpower is in competition with global and regional competitors for influence in the world. Its rivals and enemies will take advantage of Trump’s insult of Africa, the Caribbean and Central America to reduce US leverage there and to increase their own. Radical terrorist and criminal cartels groups may feel emboldened to attack US diplomatic staff and US businesses, knowing that the public has turned unsympathetic to the United States. Russia’s and Iran’s anti-American media in Arabic are trumpeting Trump’s remarks throughout the global South. The US keeps saying it is worried about Iranian influence in Muslim Africa; what bigger gift could Trump have given Tehran?

China has already stolen a march on the US with regard to trade with Africa. Beijing does $200 bn a year in trade with the continent, while the US does only $100 bn. The next time an American firm is competing with a Chinese one for a contract and the offers are similar, you could well see a tilt away from the US on the basis of Trump’s filthy language.

Trump’s foul-mouthed remarks about immigrants from Haiti, Africa and El Salvador have been widely reported in the Arab world, as well, which in part overlaps with Africa. (The Arab world is made up of Arabic-speaking countries, marked by language rather than geography. North Africa is largely Arabic-speaking, along with Sudan and some of the Sahel countries.) The slur thus was read to apply to them, as well, in many instances.

China’s CGTN reported anger from the Egyptian street about the insult (see below), with Egyptians warning that Trump is in danger of losing Africa and Asia.

The Algerian “Biladuna” (Our Country) put its identification in the title of its article, “Trump describes our African countries as ‘Dirty Nations.'” A lot of Arabic language newspapers could not bear to use the word “shit” as Trump did in his term “shithole,” and preferred euphemisms such as “dirty.”

Algeria is an oil country and influential in the Arab League and in the African Union, and they took it personally.

In other cases, diplomatic rivals of the US saw an opportunity to hive off the Christian African states from the US-Israeli axis. The Egypt-based al-Yawm al-Jadid (New Day) gloated that the African countries that had not voted against Trump’s Jerusalem decision at the UN General Assembly had now been called “shitholes” by the American president.

Senegalese president Macky Sall, head of one of the more democratic African states, said on twitter that he was shocked at Trump’s discourse:

Je suis choqué par les propos du Président Trump sur Haïti et sur l'Afrique. Je les rejette et les condamne vigoureusement. L'Afrique et la race noire mérite le respect et la considération de tous. MS

— Macky SALL (@Macky_Sall) January 12, 2018

Senegal summoned the US ambassador in Dakar for an explanation.

Senegalese poet and statesman Leopold Senghor had pioneered a postcolonial pride in Negritude or Blackness in his path-breaking poetry, which encompassed pride not only in Africa but in the Afro-Caribbean cultures.

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Israel approves $230m for settler only roads in West Bank

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 - 12:19am

Middle East Monitor | – –

Israel’s Channel 7 has reported that the Israeli government has approved the allocation of $230 million to finance the construction of settlement roads in the occupied West Bank.

According to the channel, which is close to the settlers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the Head of Shomron Regional Council in the occupied West Bank, Yossi Dagan, of this decision, which was welcomed by the settlers.

The channel reported yesterday that Netanyahu issued instructions to link the Havat Gilad settlement, built on Palestinian land near occupied Nablus, to the national power grid, as well as to develop its infrastructure network.

The decision comes after an Israeli settler was shot and killed near the Havat Gilad settlement on Tuesday night.

Settlers have recently escalated their demands for the government to build a bypass road in order for them to avoid entering Palestinian cities and villages, as they claim they pose a danger to them.

Several Israeli ministers called for more settlement construction in response to the shooting, according to Haaretz.

Local and international human rights organisations expressed their belief that the settlement bypass road projects are a new expression of Israel’s systematic policy of apartheid against the Palestinians.

The Israeli decision will lead to the confiscation of more Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Via Middle East Monitor

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Is China’s dominance of Green Energy Markets a path to Global Dominance?

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 - 12:15am

By Chris G. Pope | (The Conversation) | – –

If there is to be an effective response to climate change, it will probably emanate from China. The geopolitical motivations are clear. Renewable energy is increasingly inevitable, and those that dominate the markets in these new technologies will likely have the most influence over the development patterns of the future. As other major powers find themselves in climate denial or atrophy, China may well boost its power and status by becoming the global energy leader of tomorrow.

President Xi Jinping has been vocal on the issue. He has already called for an “ecological civilization”. The state’s “green shift” supports this claim by striving to transition to alternative energies and become more energy efficient.


h/t Wikipedia

But there are material benefits as well. China’s proactive response has impacted on global energy markets. Today, five of the world’s six top solar-module manufacturers, five of the largest wind turbine manufacturers, and six of the ten major car manufacturers committed to electrification are all Chinese-owned. Meanwhile, China is dominant in the lithium sector – think: batteries, electric vehicles and so on – and a global leader in smart grid investment and other renewable energy technologies.

This is only a start. There are modest projections that just 20% of the country’s primary energy consumption will come from non-carbon sources by 2030. Nonetheless, China’s sheer size means Beijing’s aggressive pursuit of emergent and expanding renewables markets should not be ignored. After all, dominating such markets has strong material benefits, while pioneering a green revolution provides intangible benefits in terms of state image and prestige.

So what are these benefits? First, concerns over environmental degradation are very real in China, owing to issues such as air, food and water pollution, and should be acknowledged. Beijing doesn’t want food and water scarcity or smoggy skies either, whether for altruistic environmental reasons or concerns over its popular legitimacy.

But it is worth also considering the geopolitical implications of climate change leadership. Take the US for example, historically the largest carbon emitter. The country had previously been active in climate policy, if somewhat hypocritical (support for hydraulic fracturing, for instance). But the current Trump administration is forthright in its baseless denial of climate change, having withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. It has also hired climate deniers to head its environmental agencies and other offices of power.

Contrast this with China, which is becoming increasingly proactive. In 2016 it became the largest shareholder in a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which, along with the BRICS-established New Development Bank, invests heavily in green energy. The two institutions are seen as potential competitors to the IMF and the World Bank.

Of course, the situation is not black and white with China “going green” and everyone else sitting idly by. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which commits to political, economic and military integration across Eurasia, the world’s largest landmass, for instance, comprises of nations with strategic interests in exporting hydrocarbons and coal. However, the same is true for the more environmentally aware Obama administration which advocated forcefully the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would have overriden attempts to establish green industries and constrained signatory states to its agreements with big business ahead of climate change action.

To this end, former president Obama argued that it was necessary for the US to shape the rules of global trade to US benefit. That being the case, what about China? As a major power, it is strengthening its international agency by pioneering these multilateral alternatives, many of which heavily invest in green energy projects. Through development banks or Asian trade agreements, China can provide an alternative vision to an international integration ostensibly based on the universal values espoused by the US and its chief allies.

“Going green”, then, while undeniably necessary, is a useful image or value to uphold as it serves to legitimate Chinese international and regional leadership. In this sense, it mirrors the way G7 nations espouse “democracy” or “freedom”. Going green also happens to be economically viable for those that have the funds to invest, contributing to China’s transition from the world’s manufacturing base to a truly major power.

China’s response to climate change combined with the size of its economy has thrust it to the centre of a global shift. Large-scale funding through Chinese-led multilateral frameworks could see a new energy system emerge – led by China. This would greatly extend its influence on the international political economy at the expense of those major powers unable or unwilling to respond.

Chris G. Pope, Researcher, University of Sheffield

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

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Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ Backfires, Improves Attitudes Toward Them

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 - 12:10am

TeleSur | – –

A recent study shows the U.S. “Muslim ban” became unpopular among U.S. voters after its implementation, media coverage contributed to shift.

Political scientists revealed that public opinion on the so-called Muslim ban has shifted after a nationwide debate on immigration, racism and religion in the U.S. was sparked as a result of the ban’s implementation and subsequent protests, dealing yet another blow to one of President Donald Trump’s key campaign promises.

A study recently published on the academic journal Political Behaviour shows that media coverage of the demonstrations and criticism of the ban portraying it as “as incompatible with core American values” played an important role in an observable shift in attitudes from supportive or ambivalent to disapproving of the ban.

Political scientists from the University of Delaware, Michigan State University and University of California who co-authored the paper conducted 400 nationwide surveys to the same sample before and after the ban’s implementation. The research points to “a decrease in support for the policy […] among high American identifiers […] who might have initially shown support.”

“Cross-sectional data from Quinnipiac University suggests that public opinion moved swiftly against the ban after President Trump signed the executive order,” the researchers argued in their detailed report.

“In a poll released on January 12th, 2017—several weeks before the executive order announcement—the travel ban received near majority support: 48–42 percent. But by February 7th, support for the ban had dropped to 44 percent and opposition had grown to 50 percent.”

Shortly after his inauguration, on Jan. 27, 2017, United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S., allegedly to “protect” the nation from “foreign terrorists.”

The ban was followed by a higher number of reported attacks on Muslims and a series of protests in solidarity with Muslims living in the U.S. who were affected by the travel ban.

The Middle East Eye reported that the Council on American Islamic Relations found that 2017 was one of the worst years for Muslims in the U.S. due to a 44 percent hike in attacks on community members.

Furthermore the ban has been challenged by the U.S. justice system, which has claimed the executive order is illegal and it exceeds the president’s authority, forcing the the administration to revise the policy multiple times and delaying its implementation for almost a year before it went into effect in December.

Via TeleSur

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The US Role in Turning Countries into Shitholes and provoking Immigration

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 - 1:37am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump just can’t help letting the cat out of the bag. And boy does his administration have a lot of cats in bags. The line of the Republican Party right wing has been that voter suppression laws are necessary for the integrity of elections. In fact, they are crafted to prevent racial minorities from voting, by making it hard and/or expensive to register. Race drives the policy, not a search for fair elections. Likewise, Trump’s policies on immigration have been portrayed as a matter of law and order. But they aren’t about lawlessness. They are about racial hierarchy.

That is, in some key areas–corporate power, racial hierarchy, militarism– the Trump wing of the Republican Party are Franco or Mussolini fascists in ideology.

Trump could go along with the polite fiction that he is worried about criminality when he addresses immigration. But yesterday according to the Washington Post he launched a tirade at Dick Durbin asking why we have to have people here from shithole countries and why we can’t have more Norwegians. Trump always used to say on the campaign trail that countries are not sending us their best citizens (as if countries are sending anyone at all intentionally). But now he is admitting that the real problem in his view is that it isn’t the best countries that immigrants are coming from.

Trump was badmouthing a whole range of countries including Haiti, El Salvador and some African states, but for the sake of clarity let me hone home in on El Salvador here.

Since Trump is a racist, he thinks that countries get to have poor economic and security situations because of the race of the people that inhabit them. That is silly (and dangerous) as history and social science. Central Americans were among the more civilized people in the world when German tribesmen were raiding the Roman Empire.

The United States has about 1.5 million Salvadorans, some of the people at issue in Trump’s conversations with Durbin and other lawmakers. Most of them came to the United States because of a right wing dirty war against liberals and leftists backed in the 1980s and early 1990s by the US Republican presidency (Reagan and Bush senior) and the US military. The right wing government and military and death squads of El Salvador, with American help, murdered 70,000 civilians in the 1980s, in the course of crushing a leftist insurgency. They included Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero (who will likely end up being made a saint), four American nuns, 800 villagers (children, women, noncombatant men) in El Mozote and environs, and tens of thousands of others. US politicians such as Ronald Reagan, Elliott Abrams, and the joint chiefs of staff and the CIA station chief actively collaborated in this mass killing. The stated purpose was to roll back the Soviet Union (which I doubt was much involved).

The actual purpose was to make the country safe for US corporations, which had virtually run the place. United Fruit owned 80% of the banana crop in the early 20th century along with much of the prime land. Then came the rise of the coffee oligarchy. The International Land Coalition notes,

“In El Salvador, the history of land ownership has been marked by coffee cultivation. After production of that crop peaked at the end of the 19th century, the Salvadoran oligarchy of the period concentrated land ownership and dispossessed campesino and indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands. During the first half of the 20th century, the alliance between the military government and the United States went hand-in-hand with landed power linked to coffee cultivation. In 1971, the Agricultural Census identified the persis-tence of an unequal distribution of productive land in the country, with 0.3% of owners owning real estate of more than 200 hectares, which represented 28.2% of the total land area, while 92.5% of owners had real estate of less than 10 hectares, representing 27.1% of the country’s total surface area.”

Thus, the US corporate shaping of the country’s political economy had left it with a small landlord class that owned most of the good land (a common colonial outcome) and millions of impoverished sharecroppers, and as even right of center analysts recognize this class conflict fueled much of the civil war. But it was also fueled by the sheer viciousness of the government death squads, which weakened the otherwise positive effect of the land reform instituted in the 1980s.

The Reagan civil war in El Salvador provoked massive out migration, to Honduras and to the United States. Many Salvadorans got citizenship in the 1980s via the 1986 congressional amnesty.

In the 1990s, very large numbers of Salvadoran refugees were deported from the United States. The war-racked economy could not absorb them, and some of them founded Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street Gang which became major criminal cartels that Trump now complains about endlessly. (They are a big problem, especially in El Salvador where they have a support base of 8% of the country, but very few of the 16,000 murders a year in the US are committed by them).

In the early 1990s about 200,000 Salvadoran refugees of American foreign policy were given Temporary Protected Status. They have high rates of employment and are raising 275,000 U.S.-born children.

So now, having messed up their country, in part for the sake of US corporate greed and American hegemony, the US president is declaring them to be from a “shithole” and is set to deport all 200,000 of the adults, raising the question of what will happen to a quarter of a million American children that they are raising.

The Crisis Group is deathly afraid that the Salvadoran-American children, on being sent forcibly from their country of birth to a foreign land and left without resources are jobs, will be recruited by … MS 13.

By the way, the current government of El Salvador, which runs a country the size of Massachusetts with a population of about 6 million, has some achievements despite the severe challenges of pervasive gang violence. Poverty has been significantly reduced in the past decade, leading to a lower gini coefficient and one of the more equal societies in Latin America. The environmentally conscious government has banned predatory metals mining, against which villagers had been protesting. But one of the country’s big assets economically has been remittances from workers abroad, into which Trump is about to take a big bite by deporting 200,000 of them from the US. And economic growth, at 2% a year, was already among the lowest in the region and is one of the reasons for the ongoing violence.

The World Bank notes,
“Immunization rates have also increased from 76 percent in the 1990s to 93 percent in 2016. Similarly, the share of the population with access to improved water sources increased from 79 percent to 89 percent, and the share with access to improved sanitation expanded from 56 percent to over 95 percent during the same period. In education, both access (particularly at the primary level) and literacy rates have increased…”

Crime and violence are still an enormous problem. If Trump wanted less immigration from El Salvador he could get it by directing some productive investment to that country much more efficiently than throwing people out of their homes of 20 years.

One short answer to Trump’s question about Norwegians (and could you get more American Nazi Party than that preference?) is that Norwegians are wealthy and have a much better run country than the US and they mostly have no particular reason to leave home. It isn’t the nineteenth century any more, Donald. The US takes in about a million legal immigrants every year. In the past two decades roughly 61,000 a year have come from Europe. And Norway ain’t in the picture.

The alternative to taking in immigrants is to shrink demographically, as Japan is doing and as Germany was doing before the recent change in immigration policy. Urban educated people don’t want a house full of children usually, and so the Japanese are not replacing themselves, and nor would Americans without immigration. A big shrinkage of the population of the sort in which Japan is engaged is an unprecedented social experiment. Who will support the growing ranks of the elderly and retired? Who will build new buildings? What will happen to property prices as houses and schools empty out? Who will serve in the military? Who will invent new technology? Wouldn’t the country become weak economically and militarily and perhaps prey for a younger, more dynamic neighbor? And, no, Trump, Norway is not going to save you from all that. Salvadoran Americans might, if you let them.

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Unused to Real Journalists, Trump envoy to Hague Stunned at Questions on his Bigoted Lies (Video)

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 - 12:17am

David Pakman | (Video News Report) | – –

“Pete Hoekstra, US Ambassador to the Netherlands, repeatedly gets called out and stumped by Dutch reporters who demand answers on his claims about “no-go zones” and Dutch politicians getting set on fire.”