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Are US troops in Afghanistan causing Talibanism?

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 - 11:35pm

By Ann Jones | ( Tomdispatch.com) | – –

Here we go again! Years after most Americans forgot about the longest war this country ever fought, American soldiers are again being deployed to Afghanistan. For almost 16 years now, at the command of three presidents and a sadly forgettable succession of generals, they have gone round and round like so many motorists trapped on a rotary with no exit. This time their numbers are officially secret, although variously reported to be 3,500 or 4,000, with another 6,000-plus to follow, and unknown numbers after that. But who can trust such figures?  After all, we just found out that the U.S. troops left behind in Afghanistan after President Obama tried to end the war there in 2014, repeatedly reported to number 8,400, actually have been “closer to 12,000” all this time.

The conflict, we’re told, is at present a “stalemate.” We need more American troops to break it, in part by “training” the Afghan National Army so its soldiers can best their Taliban countrymen plus miscellaneous “terrorist” groups.  In that way, the U.S. military — after only a few more years of “the foreseeable future” in the field — can claim victory.

But is any of this necessary? Or smart? Or even true?

A prominent Afghan diplomat doesn’t think so. Shukria Barakzai, a longtime member of the Afghan parliament now serving as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Norway — herself a victim in 2014 of a Taliban suicide bomber — told me only weeks ago, “The Taliban are so over! They just want to go home, but you Americans won’t let them.”  

She reminded me that the Taliban are not some invading army. (That would be us.) They are Afghan citizens, distinguished from their countrymen chiefly by their extreme religious conservatism, misogyny, and punitive approach to governance. Think of them as the Afghan equivalent of our own evangelical right-wing Republicans. You find some in almost every town. And the more you rile them up, the meaner they get and the more followers they gain.  But in times of peace — which Afghanistan has not known for 40 years — many Taliban most likely would return to being farmers, shopkeepers, villagers, like their fathers before them, perhaps imposing local law and order but unlikely to seek control of Kabul and risk bringing the Americans down on them again.

Few Afghans were Taliban sympathizers when the U.S. overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001. Now there are a great many more and they control significant parts of the country, threatening various provincial capitals. They claim to be willing to negotiate with the Afghan government — but only after all American forces have left the country.

For the Trump administration, that’s not an option. (Think what a negotiated peace would mean for our private arms manufacturers for whom America’s endless wars across the Greater Middle East are a bonanza of guaranteed sales.) Instead, the president has put “his” generals in the Oval Office to do what generals do. Those in charge now — James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly — are all veterans of the Afghan or Iraq wars and consequently subject to what Freud labeled the “repetition compulsion”: “the blind impulse to repeat earlier experiences and situations,” often in the expectation that things will turn out differently. You’d think these particular generals, having been through it all before, would remember that very little or nothing ventured in Afghanistan (or Iraq) by “the greatest military the world has ever known” has worked out as advertised. As Freud pointed out, however, “The compulsion to repeat… replaces the impulsion to remember.”

But I was in Afghanistan too and, strangely enough, I remember a lot.

“Where Is the Money You Promised Us?”

I first went to Kabul in 2002 to work with women and girls just emerging from five long years of confinement in their homes. I found a shambles, a city in ruins. Whole districts had been reduced to rubble by civil war among factions of the mujahidin, the Afghan fundamentalists who, with U.S., Saudi, and Pakistani support, had driven the Red Army out of their country in 1989, only to be overwhelmed by the onslaught of the Taliban in the 1990s.  By 2001, when Americans made plans to bomb Kabul to unseat that Taliban regime, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld complained that there were “no good targets left to bomb.” When we finished bombing anyway, thousands of Kabulis had been killed, thousands had fled, and thousands more remained, living in makeshift shelters among toppled houses or in the blue U.N. tents that came to encircle much of the fallen city.

I lodged with an aging American woman who had lived in Afghanistan since the 1960s when her husband, a businessman, took part in America’s Cold War competition with the Soviet Union for the allegiance of Afghans.  The first morning, when I awoke chilled to the bone, she thrust some filthy paper bills into my hand, wrapped a woolen scarf around my head, and sent me out into the snow in search of bread. I turned a corner into a field of tumbled walls and there, on what had once been another corner, heat poured from an ancient brick bake-oven. I joined a line of men and waited my turn until long, flat loaves, hot from that oven, were thrust into my arms. Those hard-eyed Afghan men watched as I handed over my shabby bills and wrapped the loaves in the tail of my scarf. Who was I? What was I doing here? By week’s end, they would nod a greeting and make a space in the queue for me.

The Afghans I met were like that then: wary and guarded but curiously open and expectant. The Taliban was finished. Done. Gone. Some of its members, in plain sight, had joined the new American-installed government, but at least they had changed the color of their turbans and, for the time being, their tune. Poor and suffering as most Afghans were, they were prepared to jump at a new beginning, and they were open to anyone who seemed to have come to help.

As the American presence increased, Afghan optimism only expanded. Local leaders attended “informational” meetings called by American officials and never even complained about the aggressive military dogs — unclean by Islamic standards — that searched the premises and sometimes sniffed the Afghan men themselves. They listened to American plans to establish in their country the very best political system imaginable: democracy. There was talk of respect for human rights; there were promises of investment, prosperity, peace, and above all “development.”

Near the end of the second year of such meetings, an Afghan rose — I was there — to ask two embarrassing questions: “Where is the money you promised us? Where is the development?”  The American ambassador had a ready answer.  The promised funds were being used at first to establish American offices (with heating, air conditioning, the Internet, the works) and to pay American experts who would eventually provide the promised development and, in the process, inculcate respect for human rights, and oh, yes, women.

Let us not forget women. In 2005, First Lady Laura Bush flew into the capital (briefly) to dedicate a refurbished American dormitory for women at Kabul University. After all, the Bush administration had “liberated” Afghan women. Military security again sent in the dogs, leaving tearful students to burn their defiled clothing afterward.

By 2011, however, the State Department had dropped women’s rights from its set of designated objectives for the country and somehow human rights disappeared without notice, too.  Still, a succession of American ambassadors advised Afghan leaders to be patient. And so they were for what seems, in retrospect, like a very long time. Until, eventually, they were not.

The Experts Speak

Between then and 2015, I returned to Afghanistan almost every year to lend a hand to organizations of Afghan women and girls. I haven’t been back in two years, though — not since I recognized that, as an American, I am now a hazard to my Afghan colleagues and their families.

The accretion of witless insults, like those dogs, or the pork ribs in the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) that the U.S. military hands out to Afghan soldiers, or endless fatal U.S. airstrikes (mistakes!) on villages, hospitals, wedding parties, and Afghan National Security Forces have all added up over the years, making Americans unwelcome and their Afghan friends targets.

You undoubtedly noticed some of the headlines at the time, but the Afghanistan story has proven so long, complicated, and repetitive that, at this point, it’s hard to recall the details or, for that matter, the cast of characters, or even why in the world we’re still there doing the same things again and again and again.

The short version of that long history might read like this: the U.S. bombed Afghanistan in 2001 without giving the Taliban government either time to surrender or to negotiate the surrender of their country’s most problematic foreign guest, the Saudi Osama bin Laden. The Bush administration then restored to power the ultra-conservative Islamic mujahidin warlords first engaged by the CIA under William “Bill” Casey, its devout Catholic director, to fight the “godless communists” of the Soviet Union in the long proxy war of the 1980s. Afghans polled in 2001 wanted those warlords — war criminals all — banned forever from public life. Washington, however, established in Kabul a government of sorts, threw vast sums of cash at its selected leaders heading an administrative state that did not yet exist and then, for years to come, alternately ignored or denounced the resulting corruption it had unthinkingly built into its new Afghan “democracy.” Such was the “liberation” of the country.

The story of the last 15 years there is largely a sum of just such contradictory and self-defeating acts.  During that time, American officials regularly humiliated Hamid Karzai, their handpicked president. They set up a centralized government in Kabul and then, through Provincial Reconstruction Teams, controlled by the U.S. military, they also supported a passel of provincial warlords hostile to that government. They sent their military to invade Iraq, while the Taliban who were never allowed to surrender (as Anand Gopal recounts in his riveting book No Good Men Among the Living) regrouped and went back to war.  In 2007, they undermined Afghan efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban, opting instead to “surge” more American troops into the country, doubling their numbers in 2008, and then to continue to spend a fortune in taxpayer dollars (at least $65 billion of them) training hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police to do the fighting their elected government had wanted to stop.

In 2006 — ancient history now — I published a book, Kabul in Winter, partly about the scams I’d seen perpetrated by or on the U.S. military, the select crew of private American contractors flooding the country, and the cloistered experts of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Not long after, a prominent filmmaker invited an Afghan woman who was a physician and a member of that country’s parliament, plus Anand Gopal and me, to travel to Washington.  We were to explain our experiences in Afghanistan to influential members of various Washington think tanks who might have an effect on foreign policymaking.

We came prepared to talk, but those Washington experts asked us no questions. Instead, they spent our time together telling us what to think about the country we had just left. I remember, in particular, four young Americans, all newly minted Ivy League “experts” we met at a leading “progressive” think tank. They described in great detail their 20-year plan for the economic and political development of Afghanistan, a country, they said, they all hoped to visit one day. The Afghan doctor finally laughed out loud, but she was not amused. “You know nothing about my country,” she said, “but you plan its future into the next generation. This is your job?” It proved to be the job as well of two administrations (and now, it seems, a third).

Time to Kill Terrorists

The election of 2014, though riddled with “irregularities,” brought the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in Afghanistan, from Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani.  With it came renewed hope that the wild dream of an Afghan-style peaceful democracy might work after all.  It was a longing barely diminished by Ghani’s choice for vice president: Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord notorious for war crimes of surpassing brutality.

2014 was also the year President Obama chose to end the war in Afghanistan once and for all. Only he didn’t. Instead he left behind those under-counted thousands of American soldiers now being joined by thousands more. For what purpose?

American victory certainly hasn’t materialized, but the greatest military the world has ever known (as it’s regularly referred to here) cannot admit defeat. Nor can the failed state of Afghanistan acknowledge that it has failed to become anything other than a failure. Afghan-American Ashraf Ghani, who once co-wrote a scholarly book tellingly entitled Fixing Failed States, surrendered his U.S. citizenship to become Afghan president, but he seems unable to fix the country of his birth.

In May 2017, Ghani welcomed back to Kabul and into public life, after an absence of 20 years, the notorious Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, founder of the party Hezb-i-Islami and most favored among the mujahidin during the 1980s by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and the CIA, and most hated by Kabuli civilians for having randomly shelled the city throughout the civil war of the 1990s. In Kabul in 2002, I found it rare to meet a person who had not lost a house or a relative or a whole family to the rockets of “the Butcher of Kabul.” Now, here he is again, his war crimes forgiven by a new “Americanized” president, and an Afghan culture of impunity reconfirmed.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Donald J. Trump forgot his denunciation of “Obama’s war,” adopted the “expertise” of his generals, and reignited a fading fire. This time around, he swore, “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.” 

The American effort is now to be exclusively military.  There will be no limits on troop numbers or time spent there, nor any disclosure of plans to the enemy or the American public.  There is to be no more talk of democracy or women’s rights or human rights or peace negotiations.

Announcing his new militarized “strategy” in a long, vague, typically self-congratulatory speech, Trump lacked even the courtesy to mention the elected leader of Afghanistan by name. Instead, he referred only to assurances given to him by Afghanistan’s “prime minister” — an official who, as it happens, does not exist in the government Washington set up in Kabul so long ago. Trump often makes such gaffes, but he read this particular speech from a teleprompter and so it was surely written or at least vetted by the very military which now is to dictate the future of Afghanistan and U.S. involvement there — and yet, a decade and a half later, seems to know no more about the country and its actual inhabitants than it ever did.

“I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle,” Trump claimed, and yet he staked his case for escalating the war once again on a shopworn, cowardly ploy: we must send more troops to honor the sacrifice of the troops we sent before; we must send more troops because so many of those we sent before got killed or damaged beyond repair.

Lessons Learned (and Unlearned)

We can’t allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists, Trump insisted, echoing (however unintentionally) Barack Obama and George W. Bush before him.  He seems unaware that the terrorists who acted on 9/11 had found safe haven in San Diego and Oakland, California, Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona, Fort Lee and Wayne, New Jersey, Hollywood and Daytona Beach, Florida, and Newton, Massachusetts, among other American towns and cities.  On 9/11, those 19 terrorists possessed 63 valid U.S. driver’s licenses issued by many different states. It was in the United States that all 19 of those terrorists found safety.  It was here, not in Afghanistan, that the prospective pilots for those hijacked planes learned to fly.

Now, as more troops depart for Afghanistan, I can’t help but think of what I learned when, after so many years of living and working among Afghan civilians, I finally embedded with American troops in 2010. My first lesson was this: there is no such thing in the American military as a negative after-action report. Military plans are always brilliant; strikes always occur as expected; our soldiers are (it goes without saying) heroic; and goals are naturally accomplished without fail.  No wonder the policymakers back in Washington remain convinced that we have the greatest military the world has ever seen and that someday we will indeed succeed in Afghanistan, although we haven’t actually won a war of any significance since 1945.

My second lesson: even officers who routinely file such positive reports may be blindsided by the bogus reports of others. Take, for example, a colonel I met in eastern Afghanistan in 2010.  He was newly returned to a forward base he had commanded only a few years earlier. Overwhelmed with surprise and grief, he told me he had been “unprepared” — which is to say uninformed by his superiors — to meet “conditions” so much worse than they had been before. He was dismayed to lose so many men in so short a time, especially when American media attention was focused on the other side of the country where a full-scale battle in Helmand Province was projected to be decisive, but somehow seemed to be repeatedly postponed.

Judging by my own experience on forward bases, I believe we can hazard a guess or two about the future of the American war in Afghanistan as the latest troops arrive. First, it will be little different from the awful past. Second, it will produce a surfeit of Afghan civilian casualties and official American self-congratulation. And finally, a number of our soldiers will return in bad shape, or not at all.

And then, of course, there are the dogs again: this time, a black one — unclean, as always, by Islamic standards — in silhouette with a Taliban flag bearing an Islamic text from the Quran on its side.  That was what the Americans printed on a leaflet dropped from planes over Parwan province, home of America’s enormous Bagram Air Base. That was supposed to win Afghan hearts and minds, to use an indelible phrase from our war in Vietnam.

Afghans, insulted again, are in an uproar. And the U.S. military, all these years after invading Afghanistan, still doesn’t get this thing about dogs. Yes, the dog thing seems a little irrational and odd, but no more so than the Virgin Birth or the Rapture. The obscurity of such a simple fact to the military brass again brings the Vietnam era to mind and, from a great Pete Seeger antiwar song, another indelible line: “Oh, when will they ever learn?” 

Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter: Life without Peace in Afghanistan and most recently of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — the Untold Story, a Dispatch Books original.

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

Copyright 2017 Ann Jones

Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Democracy Now! “State Dept. Official Who Quit in 2009 over U.S. War in Afghanistan Speaks Out on Trump’s Troop Surge”

Iraq Supreme Court strikes down Kurdistan referendum, Clashes in Kirkuk

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 - 1:33am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Iraqi Supreme Court has ordered that the referendum on independence planned for September 25 be halted.

The problem is that the Iraqi supreme Court’s decision will not be recognized or honored by the elites in the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdish super-province. The Kurds say that no Iraqi government troops from Baghdad can ever set foot on Kurdistan soil.

KRG president Massoud Barzani has said that he will power through the referendum despite vehement protests from Baghdad, Iran, Turkey and even the Trump administration.

Barzani’s commitment to holding the referendum has thus caused a constitutional crisis in Iraq. He says, however, that even a yes vote on secession would not necessarily entail a headlong rush to declare independence on the part of his provincial government.

(
H/t Aljazeera)

Kurds were mistreated by the Arab nationalist regimes of Iraq (Kurds are not Arabs) and were gassed by Saddam Hussein, and almost all of them want their own country now.

One question about Kurdish Iraqi secession is the exact borders of Kurdistan. The Kurdistan national guard or Peshmerga (“those who stand before death”) has a presence beyond the three Kurdish-majority provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniya, which are recognized by Iraq and other countries as constituting the Kurdistan super-province of Iraq.

In summer of 2014 after the Sunni Arab provinces acceded to the ISIL (Daesh) “caliphate,” the Peshmerga militarily occupied Kirkuk, and seem reluctant to relinquish that province. It is ethnically mixed, with Arabs and Turkmen, though Kurds are by now likely a majority. The Iraqi constitution calls for a referendum on Kirkuk’s future, but none has ever been held.

On Monday, a clash broke out between Peshmerga troops celebrating the prospect of secession, and Turkmen, who consider Kirkuk to have been theirs by longstanding right. (Maybe Kirkuk used to be largely Turkmen, but that by now hasn’t been true for a while; Kurds are now the majority).

The Kirkuk violence is a question mark, asking whether the KRG plans to annex Kirkuk by fiat and take it with the seceders.

In the meantime, Both prime minister Haydar al-Abadi from the government side and Shiite militias say that they will confront Kurdistan directly if it seems to be moving toward independence.

——-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

France 24: “Kareem, governor of Iraq’s Kirkuk region: ‘We’re not afraid of threats'”

Israeli Right Wing Faction Announces a Plan for Ethnic Cleansing

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 - 12:43am

By Ian Berman. | (Informed Comment) | – –

– Essentially an offer that says ‘Get Out or We Will Make Your Life a Living Hell, or Worse.’

The Platform Provides 3 Choices for Palestinians: Accept Ethnic Cleansing, Bend the Knee to Apartheid or Expect Even More Violence

After initiating and winning what is commonly known as the 6 Day War in June of 1967, Israel conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Since that time Israel ruled over these territories through military law and over 600,000 Israelis known as settlers have colonized these areas in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory. Article 49 of the convention explicitly states “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The international community only recognizes Israel to the extent of the borders prior to the 1967 War, but has only gone as far as issuing U.N. resolutions against the colonial settlements. Never have sanctions of any significance ever been imposed upon Israel for its brazen flouting of international law.

50 years later, on September 12, the National Union delivered the brazen “Decision Plan” to permanently integrate East Jerusalem and the West Bank into Israel, while disregarding Palestinian human rights under international law. The National Union is a faction within the powerful ultra-nationalist right wing Jewish Home Party that is part of the current coalition running the Israeli government. Although the conference does not represent ruling government, Members of the Israeli Knesset and the Jewish Home Party led the initiative. The approximate 100 delegates that attended voted unanimously for the plan.

Paraphrasing a Haaretz headline on the conference, ‘National Home has approved an annexation plan to coerce Palestinian departure.’ Further, the article’s subtitle states that “with a stamp of Netanyahu approval, right-wing party conference discusses their plan to annex the Palestinian territories and offer a surrender-or-transfer ultimatum.” Yet the offer that Netanyahu implicitly endorsed is even worse than that.

The first two points of the Decision Plan provide Palestinians may live in the Jewish State if they give up their right to participate in the government ruling over them. Those that refuse to accept this second class residency will “receive assistance” in emigrating. There is an ominous third option. Since the Palestinians may not accept the compulsion to leave their homeland, as many of us would also reject, and may also resist living under an Apartheid state, as many of us would do, the third option is to face even more violence from the soldiers already enforcing the colonization and domination of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Decision Plan specifically provides

“1. Anyone who is willing and able to relinquish the fulfillment of his national aspirations will be able to stay here and live as an individual in the Jewish state.

“2. Anyone who is unwilling or unable to relinquish his national aspirations will receive assistance from us to emigrate to one of the Arab countries.

And then there is the ominous third option, with its violent implications as plain as day.

“Anyone who insists on choosing the third ‘option’ – to continue to resort to violence against the Israel Defense Forces, the State of Israel and the Jewish population will be determinedly handled by the security forces with greater force than at present and under more comfortable conditions for us.”

So if the Palestinians choose not to leave their millennia-old homeland and do not accept the permanent domination of the Jewish State over their lives, and instead exercise their right under international law to resist the occupiers of their territories, Israel will turn its modern war machine on the defenseless Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank much as it has repeatedly done on the open air prison of Gaza.

In other words, the Israeli Right Wing’s position is ‘Get Out or We Will Make Your Life a Living Hell, or Worse.’

The 4th Option Goes Unmentioned

Notice that the three options leave out a fourth that neither the Israeli Right Wing parties nor the Western mainstream media acknowledge – peaceful resistance to living under the boot of the Israeli occupation and colonization. Apparently then anything the Palestinians do is considered violence against the Jewish State. This does help explain why 816 Palestinian political prisoners were held without charges as of May of this year.

Indeed, a peaceful protest of over 10 Palestinians has been illegal since Israel passed the far reaching Military Order 101 on August 27, 1967. For the 50 years since the Israeli military entered East Jerusalem and the West Bank in June of 1967, Palestinians not inside the internationally recognized borders of Israel have lived under military law dictated by the “only democracy in the Middle East.” The New Arab notesIsraeli military law places severe restrictions on nearly every aspect of civilian life. This also goes beyond everyday life with a ban on all freedom of expression in the occupied territories.

“Israeli authorities immediately issued Military Proclamation No.2 following the Six-Day War, granting the area commander of Israel’s military full legislative, executive and judicial authorities over the West Bank and its civilian population.

“Under Military Order 101, the display of Palestinian flags, emblems, posters or the publication of documents and images of a political nature are also banned.” Therefore, under Israeli military law, all forms of Palestinian political expression can be censored.

Military Order 101 is the ace in the hole for the Israeli occupation forces. For example, “prominent Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro was jailed in 2016 for attending a protest in Hebron without a permit.” Further, Military Order 101 is one of the many tools Israel has used to arrest and detain “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, including women and children.” As members of the dissenting Israeli veterans’ group Breaking the Silence have noted, many of these arrests occur during middle of the night home raids which have the explicit purpose of intimidating the Palestinian population. If the Israeli military chooses to prosecute, Palestinians are essentially automatically guilty given the military courts’ conviction rate of “99.7 per cent.”

Perhaps then the statement of Ayalet Shaked, the Israeli Minister of Justice and a member of the Home Party that attended the conference should not be surprising. Earlier this month she stated, “Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way.” After all, she is the person most responsible for enforcing the law of the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East.”

Finally, Honesty about the Zionist Objective to Ethnically Cleanse Palestine

Perhaps almost as startling is the implication of a comment made by one of the leading supporters of the Decision Plan, Minister of the Knesset Bezalel Smotrich.

“’After a hundred years of managing the conflict, the time has come for a decision,” MK Smotrich told the assembly.

In other words, this “conflict” between the Zionist colonizers, most of whom came from Europe, and the Palestinians that have called this land their own for millennia, has been going on since 1917, the year of the Balfour Declaration. So let us start there with the importance of the key changes the Bristh made to the original draft the Zionists submitted to Balfour. The original Zionist draft stated:

“His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people. His Majesty’s Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organization.”

Yet the British used this language in the final draft.

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

How have the Zionists fulfilled their end of the bargain then? Over the past 70 years, their reign began with the Ethnic Cleansing of 1948, the colonization and military rule of East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967, and the failed attempt to colonize Gaza as well. Yet this failure to colonize Gaza was replaced with turning the world’s largest and longest running refugee camp into an open air prison for over a decade. Clearly Israel has failed to live up to the term “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

Some Israelis now believe that Zionists were entitled to all of Palestine at the time the conflict began, 100 years ago, even though Jews only constituted 8% of the population (as of 1918).

Obviously it doesn’t matter to Zionist supporters, that some Zionists came to Palestine with the intent of “transferring” the indigenous population out of Palestine from the beginning. Not only did many early Zionists discuss this need prior to 1948, but even the draft of the declaration they presented to Lord Balfour envisioned that outcome. It is worth repeating that the Zionists’ draft stated “Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people” (emphasis added). (It is also worth noting that even the British, the leading colonizers in the world, thought that demand went too far and changed it accordingly.)

Too few in the world know that some Zionists have all along had the objective of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, let alone part of a plan for 100 years. So at least the National Union is doing something Zionist propaganda has covered up all this time. It is being honest about the destiny for Palestinians under Zionism.

– – – – – –

Ian Berman is an entrepreneur and former corporate banker at leading global banks in New York City. He now focuses on renewable energy, financial advisory services and writing about representative government, equitable public policies and ending American militarism and Israel’s continuing colonization of Palestine. He is the Co-Founder of Palestine 365, the Ongoing Oppression and its predecessor, Palestine 365, on Facebook.

© 2017. All rights reserved.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

B’Tselem: “Israeli military destroys dirt road to Masafer Yatta in South Hebron Hills”

A Sustainable future depends on Women’s Equality

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 - 12:14am

H. Patricia Hynes | ( Truthdig ) | – –

I am looking at the faces of 10-year-old girls from across the world—faces brimming with expectancy. The U.N. report, “The State of World Population 2016,” opens with their photos, and these words are part of the introduction to Chapter 4, “The Face of the Future”:

With support from family, community and nation, and the full realization of her rights, a 10-year-old girl can thrive and help bring about the future we all want.

What the world will look like in 15 years will depend on our doing everything in our power to ignite the potential of the 10-year-old girl today.

What the world will look like in 15 years depends also on our commitment to reduce substantially greenhouse gas emissions and achieve 50 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030, so that her world remains habitable.

However, we cannot get to a sustainable world without the full realization of girls’ and women’s rights, for women are responsible for providing food, fuel and water for billions of people in much of Africa and Asia, where natural resources are growing scarce or rapidly degrading. Yet many of these women lack the right to own land or to access credit and technical training to assure the sustainability of their countries’ natural resources.

We will not get there in 15 years without women’s equality in decision-making because women in governance positions sign on to international treaties that take action against climate change more than their male counterparts. Further, there is abundant evidence that women care more about the environment than men and handle risk—economic, environmental and personal—more wisely than men.

Climate Change Impacts on Women and Girls

Climate change predictions worsen daily, while climate change victims only increase. Consider these recent findings:

• Climate is changing 170 times faster due to human activity than through natural forces.

• Within 40 years, up to 1.5 billion people could be climate change migrants and refugees from rising seas.

Worsening drought, deforestation and desertification mean that women in developing countries must walk farther distances for fuel and water with higher risk of sexual violence, carry heavier loads and work harder to grow enough food for their families. In one rural Sudanese community the time required to gather fuelwood has quadrupled over a decade. Heavier loads over longer distances cause spinal damage, pregnancy complications and higher maternal mortality. Girls drop out of school more often than boys to assist their mothers, setting them up for less education and greater poverty than their brothers. Moreover, in times of crop scarcity women will give food priority to their husbands and sons.

In the early 1990s in Zimbabwe, solar cookers, a renewable technology that preserves carbon-sequestering biomass and frees women from firewood collection so they may engage in income-earning activities, were introduced. The project failed because men opposed women learning a technology that the men knew nothing about. Thus the mantra: No climate justice without justice for women.

Climate and Natural Disasters

Embedded within climate science and the study of those most vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters is a rarely acknowledged fact, namely, that women and girls are the primary victims. The extent of this injustice and its roots lie in women’s inequality. A multitude of discriminatory economic, cultural and social factors converge to worsen climate change repercussions for women. Among these are greater female poverty, fewer resources and less power in their society, physical limits imposed on women and girls and increased sexual violence during and after climate-related disasters. All contribute to women’s greater mortality, destitution and sexual victimization during extreme climate events.

Though not a climate-related natural disaster, the 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed more than 220,000 people in 12 countries, caused a high number of deaths among women and girls; and it serves to shed light on social inequalities that undermine women’s survival from climate-change disasters.

During the tsunami some women drowned, weighed down by their saris; others drowned because they had never been taught to swim—or to climb trees, as had their brothers. Many women died because they stayed behind to look for their children and other relatives. In one known case, a father struggling to hold his son and daughter from drowning, let go of his daughter’s hand—because his son was more important, given he would carry on the family line.

Yet women’s vulnerability in disasters rarely recedes with the floodwaters. Male violence against women increases with the chaos of natural and climate-related disasters, just as it does with social breakdown in war and conflict.

Typhoon Haiyan

The Philippines, one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change and an epicenter of super typhoons, is a magnet for sex traffickers who prey on homeless victims after disasters. In the wake Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded at the time (2013), an underground economy sprang up in the Tacloban Astrodome where thousands of displaced Filipinos sought shelter. Girls and women were sold into prostitution for food and aid supplies. Others were offered jobs and scholarships but then trafficked to the red light district of Angeles City, a legacy of the former U.S. Clark Air Force Base, which operated for a nearly a century. Nearly 80 percent of women and girls exploited in sex clubs and bars in Angeles City are from climate-change vulnerable areas. Climate change—a boon for traffickers, pimps and johns—victimizes women and girls doubly, with the loss of home and livelihood and the heightened risk of sexual exploitation.

Hurricane Katrina

More than a quarter of African-American women in New Orleans were living in poverty (vs. 20 percent of men) when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in August 2005 with winds up to 140 miles per hour and storm surges that broke through barrier levees. Few had cars and, those who could escape were stranded around the city at heightened risk of sexual assault. Further, pregnancy and recent childbirth limited the mobility of some.

By 2008, the number of black single mothers living in poverty had declined precipitously in New Orleans. They were displaced by a government decision to raze public housing and were replaced by higher-income whites as gentrification overran the city. They became climate migrants scattered across southern states. No studies have determined their fate.

“Thems that got will get, and thems that’s not will lose,” wrote Fatima Shalk of New Orleans, summing up the winners and losers of Katrina and the fate of the U.S. poor in future climate change disasters.

In neighboring storm-battered Mississippi, violence against women increased fourfold in the year after Hurricane Katrina. Two years later, the rate was more than double.

Investing in Women

Gender only formally entered U.N. deliberations on climate change in 2008, more than two decades after climate studies and conferences were launched by the organization. Subsequent studies and women’s testimonies have exposed the layers of climate impacts on women, worsened by gender-based inequality in their societies; and they also provide compelling evidence to invest in women as agents of land, water and forest restoration.

Greenbelt Movement

In the 1970s, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, the first East African woman to receive a Ph.D., set off a revolution to rejuvenate the deforested and desertifying environment of Kenya, her home country. Partnering with women’s groups, she initiated community-based tree-planting efforts, in what became the Greenbelt Movement and which spread to dozens of other countries. Forty years later, more than 40 million trees had transformed landscapes, as well as the lives and minds of the women with whom Maathai worked.

The skills, knowledge and income they gained, as she testified, brought self-confidence and independence. Given women’s relationship to forests in developing countries, it is no surprise that a study of deforestation in 61 countries between 1990 and 2005 found that countries with numerous and large women’s and environmental nongovernmental organizations had significantly lower levels of forest loss.

Andra Pradesh

Agriculture contributes at least a quarter of India’s greenhouse gas emissions, nitrous oxide from fertilizers being one of the sources. More than 5,000 women in 75 villages of the arid interior of Andra Pradesh offer an exemplary mitigating alternative. Working with women’s village associations called Sanghams, the Deccan Development Society has facilitated their transition to income-generating organic agriculture using indigenous crops that need less water, as well as restoring medicinal plants and reclaiming degraded land by planting neighborhood forests (more than 1 million trees) over 25 years. Their companion accomplishments include a seed bank and a loan system for women farmers, a community radio station that reaches 200 villages and production of videos on methods of organic agriculture, seed saving and the hazards of genetically engineering in agriculture.

Most are Dalits (the broken), the poorest of the poor in India’s rigid caste system. The story of one, Chinna Narsamma, the Radio Jockey, mirrors the transformation of both their environment and themselves achieved by these many thousands of heretofore-impoverished castaways of society. Narsamma, who never had any formal education, now “womans” a radio station, produces films, speaks in-country and abroad about the Andra Pradesh model, and also cultivates her own 20 acres of organic agriculture. In a region challenged with barren land, semi-arid conditions and frequent droughts, women farmers have been able to banish hunger and provide an exemplary model of climate justice with justice for women.

Woman-Centered Policy and Actions

“The best projects tackle environmental problems while markedly improving the lives of women and girls.” —Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification

The following recommendations, gleaned from pilot projects and successful programs, are the tip of the iceberg regarding the potential for women’s contributions to mitigating and adapting to climate change, as well as to their own, simultaneous, liberation.

• Train women technicians in water-saving and solar technologies.

• Hire female as well as male trainers to teach climate-adaptation farming.

• Draw from women’s indigenous knowledge about seeds, soil and natural resources.

• Recruit women for emergency planning, especially emergency evacuation methods and routes to ensure women can escape during climate disasters.

• Assure fair and non-discriminatory allocation of disaster relief resources, including food, housing and clothing.

• Include women in local and regional decision-making councils and increase women’s leadership in delegations to U.N. climate accord conferences.

All these prescriptions and many more presume that empowering women—through access to credit and technical training, through land ownership and equal economic and political decision-making roles—is key to mitigating and adapting to climate change in both developing and developed countries.

Correspondingly, all of these recommendations—if they are to materialize—oblige men to share power with women and to commit to eliminating social, legal and cultural discrimination against women as well as all forms of violence against women. In other words—a sea change in the patriarchal order of things.

The World Bank recently reported that of 173 economies studied, nine in 10 had at least one law impeding women’s economic empowerment, including access to credit. In the allegedly democratic United States, a meager 19 percent of U.S. representatives are women, and a majority of U.S. men polled recently do not want a female president in their lifetimes. As for the ten major U.S. environmental NGOs, 80 percent are run by white men, though polls suggest that women, Native Americans, Latinos, African-Americans and Asians care more and are more seriously affected by climate change.

If today’s 10-year-old girls are to thrive and help bring about a future we all want, men need to cede their grip on power and women need to take power as partners in the project of transforming the governing paradigms of power. Otherwise, we are all doomed to armageddons of climate change, nuclear weapons, war without end, extremes of inequality and every form of sexualized and racialized violence.

Pat Hynes, a retired environmental engineer and Professor of Environmental Health, directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts .

Reprinted from Truthdig with author’s permission

——

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Stanford U.: “Founders’ Panel | Women Entrepreneurs in Sustainability – April 19, 2017”

Muslim Rohingya Refugees from Burma: “The Army… burned down my house.”

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 - 11:56pm

TeleSur | – –

“The army came and burned down my house. I was inside the house at that time,” one survivor said.

Rohingya refugees arriving at treatment centers in Bangladesh covered in burns have told of an increased wave of violence against Muslims by the government’s military offensive.

“The army came and they burned our homes, they killed our people. There was a mob of Rakhine people too,” Usman Goni, who managed to escape with his wife and seven children, told Reuters.

Families continue to arrive at Sadar Hospital in Bangladesh, fleeing the military forces attacking their villages in what the U.N. has referred to as an “ethnic cleansing.”

“My family was attacked on the 29th of August. The army came and fired indiscriminately,” Dildar Begum, a refugee told Al Jazeera. Begum managed to escape the flames of her home with her daughter but lost her husband, infant son and mother-in-law to the fire.

“My daughter and I somehow survived the attack, but the two monks accompanying the army men tried to kill us with a big knife. They thought we were dead and left us. We hid in the house for three days and then escaped,” she explained.

Shahida Begum, a 30-year-old survivor, who suffered severe burns across her body, mourns the death of her three sons who were killed just days before her home and her whole village were set on fire.

“The army came and burned down my house. I was inside the house at that time,” she said. “With no route to escape, I was also engulfed in the fire and my whole body sustained burns.

“The pain is unbearable,” she said. “It was better to die than suffer like this … Life will never be the same again.”

Refugee centers said they have enough supplies to treat burn victims for the moment, but reports from the United Nations Refugee Agency warn Bangladesh’s shelters are already “bursting at the seams” and have called for a humanitarian response from the international community.

“I’m particularly worried that the demand for food, shelter, water and basic hygiene support is not being met due to the sheer number of people in need,” said Save the Children Director Mark Pierce. “If families can’t meet their basic needs, the suffering will get even worse and lives could be lost.”

Save the Children estimates more than a million Rohingya refugees will seek safety in Bangladesh by January, saying that this figure includes at least 600,000 children who will be orphaned and consequently at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

Myanmar government leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has faced a barrage of criticism for not stopping the violence, including a petition calling for the revocation of her peace prize.

Suu Kyi is due to speak to the nation on Tuesday about a crisis as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy is due in Myanmar this week.

He will travel to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, to meet government officials and representatives of different communities, including Rohingya, but he is not expected to travel to the conflict zone in northern Rakhine state.

Bangladesh has said all refugees must go home while Myanmar has said it will take back those who can verify their citizenship.

Almost 370,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees are now known to have fled to Bangladesh from the ongoing violence in Myanmar since August according to Vivian Tan from the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Rohingya people have suffered systematic persecution over many decades by the Myanmar government, who consider them illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

The minority community has restricted rights and access to government services in the country. Since the 1970s, nearly a million Rohingya have fled persecution in the South Asian country.

Via . TeleSur

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

France 24: “Rohingyas crowd into makeshift camps in Bangladesh after fleeing Burma”

Tunisia: A Gender Equality Manifesto

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 11:17pm

Manifesto of the Under-Signed | Tunisia | – –

During the 61st anniversary commemorating the enactment of the Personal Status Code, the Tunisian Head of State Beji Caïd Essebsi made two announcements of historic proportions. If implemented, they would constitute a major step forward in the field of women’s rights.

The first proposal concerns equal inheritance rights for both sexes. When the President suggested the abolition of a gender distinction that discriminates against women in all fields by making them inherit half of what men do, he has actually addressed one of the most taboo subjects in a country where Islam is the major religion.

The second proposal deals with the abolition of the ministerial circulars forbidding the marriage between Tunisian Muslim women and non-Muslim men. By banning this blatant violation of the freedom to choose one’s spouse— similar prohibition being commonly implemented in most Muslim countries—, Tunisia would finally comply with the international conventions it ratified without integrating their provisions in its domestic law.

We, the signatories of this manifesto, must support this initiative that concerns us all. Because societies have changed and because women are playing an increasingly important role, we refuse that the injustice in the name of religion continues to sanctify women’s inferiority.

We call on the Tunisian authorities to promptly enact legislation to implement the proposals announced by the President. Tunisia, the country which adopted the Personal Status Code, would be, once again in the avant-garde of the vital path towards gender equality and would open the debate in all predominantly Muslim countries. This would be a beacon of hope for all women fighting for equality and would enshrine a real emancipation for women in these countries; any other plan to build a democratic society would be doomed to failure.

 

Liste des signataires

Abdeljaoued Héla (Médecin, Tunisie)

Abdelkéfi Habiba (Consultante, Tunisie)

Abdelkéfi Hédia, (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Abdelkéfi Faten, (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Alabdallah Hala (Cinéaste, Syrie)

Al-Abed Monia (Avocate, Tunisie)

Al-Bachiri Leïla (Chercheure, Maroc/Belgique)

Al-Masri Maram (Poétesse, Syrie/France)

Al-Salami Khadija (Cinéaste,Yémen/France)

Ammar Héla (Artiste, Tunisie)

Annabi Hella (Architecte, Tunisie)

Arfaoui Amina (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Arfaoui Khédija (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Attia Kahéna (Cinéaste, Tunisie)

Ayadi Soumaya, ingénieure, Tunisie)

Ayari Farida (Journaliste, Tunisie)

Ayari-Bergevin Enissa (Publicitaire, Tunisie)

Baccar-Bornaz Alia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Baccar Jalila (Dramaturge, Tunisie)

Baccar Selma (Cinéaste, ex-députée constituante, Tunisie)

Baccouche-Bahri Fathia (Avocate, Tunisie)

Balafrej Hédia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Baqqa Latifa (écrivaine, Maroc)

Barrada Lamia (Ecrivaine, Maroc)

Barrak   Anissa (Experte en communication, Tunisie)

Béji Hélé (écrivain, Tunisie)

Belhadj Ahlem (Pédopsychiatre, Tunisie)             

Belhaj Yahia       Emna (Ecrivaine, Tunisie)

Belhassen Souhayr (Présidente d’honneur FIDH, Tunisie)

Belhassine Olfa (Journaliste, Tunisie)

Belkadhi Samira (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Abdallah Haïfa ( Ingénieure, Tunisie)

Ben Achour Sana (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Achour          Emna (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Achour          Rabâa (Ecrivaine, Tunisie)

Ben Ali-Sassi       Najoua (Insp. géné. Enseignement, Tunisie)

Ben Amar Nihel (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Ammar Zeyneb (Universitaire, Tunisie)        

Ben Amor Amel (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Ayad Malika ( Ingénieure, Tunisie)

Ben Châabane Aïda (Militante féministe, Tunisie)

Ben DamirAmina (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Dridi Marie-Françoise (Pr.en médecine, France/Tunisie)

Ben Ezzedine-Trabelsi Saloua (Médecin, Tunisie)

Ben Frej Sonia (Economiste, Tunisie)

Ben Ghachem Houda (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Hamida Essma (Resp.en micro-crédit, Tunisie)

Ben Hassine Khédija (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Jémia Monia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Lakhdar Zohra (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Mbarek-Msaddek Dalila (Avocate, Tunisie)

Ben Mustapha Jamila (Ecrivaine, Tunisie)

Ben Guiga-Cerisier           Monique (Sénatrice honoraire de France, France/Tunisie)

Ben Othman Dalila (Chercheure, Tunisie/France)

Ben Romdhane Habiba ( Prof. de médecine, Tunisie)

Ben Salem Héla (Militante féministe, Tunisie)

Ben Slama Raja (Universitaire et psychanalyste, Tunisie)

Ben Slimane Fatma (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben SmaïlRim (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Ben Smaïl Nédra (Psychanalyste, Tunisie)

Ben Yedder Narjes (enseignante, Tunisie)

Ben Youssef Héjer (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ben Youssef Yousr (Pharmacienne, Tunisie)

Ben Zakkour Khédija (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Bendana Fatma (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Bendana Kmar (historienne, Tunisie)

Bennis Fathia (Chef d’entreprise, Maroc) 

Bererhi Afifa       (Universitaire, Algérie )

Besbes Mariem (Designer, Tunisie)

Bessis Sophie (Historienne, Tunisie)

Blaïech Yosr (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Boumédienne-Thiery Alima ( Avocate, France)

Bouraoui Fatma (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Bouraoui-Khouja Asma (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Bourguiba-Laouati           Myriam (Présid.Fond. H. Bourguiba, Tunisie)

Bouslama Latifa (Vétérinaire, Tunisie)

Bouzar Dounia (Anthropologue, France)

Chaâbane Nadia ( ex-députée constituante, Tunisie)

Chaâbane Ayda (Militante féministe, Tunisie)

Chaâr    Najla (Consultante en communication, Tunisie)

Chafiq Chahla (Ecrivaine, Iran)

Chamkhi Sonia (Cinéaste et écrivaine, Tunisie)

Chammari Alia (Avocate, Tunisie)

Chanson-Jabeur Chantal (Universitaire,France-Tunisie)

Chaouachi Afifa (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Chapoutot Sonia (Attachée de dir. Tunisie)

Chapoutot-Rémadi          Mounira (Universitaire, Tunisie)               

Charfi Faouzia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Charfi    Saloua (Journaliste, Tunisie)

Charfi-Ben Kaddour Samia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Chenik Amina (Universitaire, Tunisie)  

Chérif    Khédija (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Cherki Alice (Psychanalyste, Algérie-France)

Cherni   Zeineb (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Chiha Leïla (Administrateur, Tunisie)

Dahmani Raja (Militante féministe, Tunisie)

Dargouth Aziza (Chef d’entreprise, Tunisie)

Dérouiche-Al Kamel Salma (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Despiney-Ben Hamouda Elsa, Historienne de l’art, France-Tunisie)

Djahnine Habiba, (Cinéaste, Algérie)

Eddé Dominique (Ecrivaine, Liban)

El-Djoudi Hakima (Artiste-peintre, France-Algérie)

Ellouze  Faïza (Militante associative, Tunisie)

Elmekki-Naânaâ Salwa (Enseig Beaux-arts, Tunisie)

Essahli Wafa (Ingénieur, Tunisie)

Farhat   Zeyneb (Dir. Théâtre, Tunisie)

Fattoumi Héla (Chorégraphe, France/Tunisie)

Fersi Soraya (Traductrice, Tunisie)

Filali       Aïcha (Artiste visuelle, Tunisie)

Filali Azza (Ecrivaine et médecin, Tunisie)

Finzi Silvia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ghachem Asma (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ghanmi-Krichen Fatma (Consultante, Tunisie)

Gmir-Ezzine         (Raja Universitaire, Tunisie)

Grami Amel (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Guédiche Jalila (Psychologue, Tunisie)

Gasmi Leïla (Universitaire, Syrie/Tunisie)

Guellouz Suzanne, Pr.des universités,Tunisie/France

Guiga Salwa (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Guiga Amel (Ingénieur, Tunisie)

Guiga Jaouida (Experte judiciaire, Tunisie)         

Hadgag                   Salwa (Fonctionnaire, Tunisie)

Hajaïej Leïla (Artiste, Tunisie)

Hakimi Nadia (Militante féministe, Tunisie)

Halouani-Chaabouni Leïla (Syndicaliste, Tunisie)

Hamda Zakia (Agitatrice artistique, Tunisie)

Hammami Mounira (Insp. géné. enseig. Tunisie)

Hilali Asma (Islamologue, Tunisie)         

Hizem    Fathia (Activiste Droits humains, Tunisie)

Jahanguiri Guissou (Vice-présid.FIDH Iran/France)

Jamel Nadia (Médecin, Tunisie)

Jazzar    Hayet (Avocate, Tunisie)

Jeblaoui Emna (Dir.inst. de dévep. Humain, Tunisie)

Jrad Hédia (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Kabla Annie (Informaticienne, Tunisie)

Kachoukh-Brahim Lilia (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Kadar Nefla (Publicitaire, Tunisie)

Kamarti Samïa (Anc. Dir. de banque, Tunisie)

Kassab Samia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Keskes  Sadika (Chef d’entreprise, Tunisie)

Khalil-Arem         Olfa (Consultante, Tunisie)

Kodmani Basma (Arab Reform Initiative, Syrie-France)

Lakhdar Latifa (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Lamine Sihem (Architecte, Tunisie)

Laouani Fadhila (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Larguèche Dalenda (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Lebbar Hakima (Chercheure, Maroc)

Lelouche-Othmani           Simone (Chercheure, France-Tunisie)

Limam  Jinan (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Maâlla-Ben Hadid            Amina (Architecte, Tunisie)

Mabrouk Selma (ex-députée constituante, Tunisie)

Machta Insaf (Universitaire, Tunisie)    

Mahfoudh Dorra ‘Universitaire, Tunisie)

Mahjoubi-Ben Mami Neïla (Cardiologue, Tunisie)

Marii Joumana (Militante des droits humains, Liban)

Marrakchi-Charfi Fatma (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Méziou Olfa (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Mézioui Kalthoum (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Mlaïki-Abdeljaoued Leïla (Ecrivaine, Tunisie)

Mokni Souad (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Naanaa-Hamza Jamila (Cadre bancaire, Tunisie)

Naccache Sonia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Oumhani Cécile (Ecrivaine, France/Tunisie)

Ouardi  Héla (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Ouiezini-Bel Haj Zékri Radhia (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Ounis Faouzia (Cadre bancaire, Tunisie)

Poinsignon Claire (Journaliste, France/Tunisie)                

Raïs Olfa (Hôtesse de l’air, Tunisie)

Saada-Favret Jeanne (Anthropologue, Tunisie/France)                  

Safi Lamaa (Artiste peintre, Tunisie)

Saïdi Fathia (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Samara Rania (Universitaire, Syrie-France)

Sassi Zeineb (Assist. de dir., Tunisie)

Schapira Catherine, Tunisie-France Correctrice d’édition)

Sébaï-Ladjimi (Leïla Universitaire, Tunisie)

Sedef Ecer (Dramaturge, Turquie/France)

Séghir Yousra (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Shahid Leïla (Anc.Ambassadeure de Palestine, Palestine)

Sellami Zeyneb (enseignante, Tunisie)

Slim Béhija (Psychologue, Tunisie)

Slimani Leïla (Ecrivaine, Maroc/France)

Smirani Mounira (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Soudani Besma (Militante féministe, Tunisie)

Souid Karima,Tun/Fr, ex-députée constituante, Tunisie/France

Souissi Donia (Commerçante, Tunisie)

Souissi  Sémia (Animatrice culturelle, Tunisie)

Taleb-Brahimi Khaoula (Universitaire, Algérie)

Tamzali Wassila, (Ecrivaine, Algérie)

Témimi                   Rim (Photographe, Tunisie/Algérie)

Thabet  Tounès (Poétesse, Tunisie)

Tnani Najet (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Toubel Leïla (Dramaturge et comédienne, Tunisie)

Triki Souad (Enseignante, Tunisie)

Tanbay Betül,    Tur, Mathématicienne,          

Valensi, Françoise, Médecin, Tunisie/France)

Valensi Lucette, Historienne, Tunisie/France

Von Wilken Claudia ( Traductrice, Tunisie/France)

Yassin Hassan Rosa ( Ecrivaine, Syrie/Allemagne)

Youssef Olfa (Islamologue, Tunisie)

Zéghidi-Mkada (Universitaire, Tunisie)

Zouari   Fawzia (Tun/Fr, Ecrivaine)

                 

 

 

 

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

CGTN Africa: “President support women’s right to inherit, marry non-Muslims”

China to buy $300 mn. in Lab-Grown Meat from Israel

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 11:12pm

TeleSur | – –

China currently imports approximately £10 billion worth of meat annually to help feed its 1.4 billion people.

China has signed a multimillion-dollar deal to purchase lab-grown meat from Israel.

The $300-million agreement has elicited positive feedback from environmental and animal rights groups because the meat — though grown using some animal cells — is produced in a laboratory, significantly reducing the practice of slaughtering animals.

The Asian superpower is not regarded as a world leader in environmental issues, so the deal with the three Israeli companies – SuperMeat, Future Meat Technologies and Meat the Future – is viewed by some groups as a sign that China is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.

Head of the Good Food Institute, Bruce Friedrich, said the deal was a “colossal market opportunity.”

He believes the deal “could put (clean) meat onto the radar of Chinese officials who have the capacity to steer billions of dollars into this technology”.

Just last year, the Chinese government issued an advisory, telling citizens to reduce their consumption of meat by 50 percent.

China currently imports approximately £10 billion worth of meat annually to help feed its 1.4 billion people.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while Worldwatch Institute has estimated it could be as much as 51 percent.

The world’s water freshwater supply is also significantly impacted by traditional farming.

Additionally, about one billion people currently suffer from hunger globally and the population will reportedly reach 9.8 billion by 2050, making a high-animal diet unsustainable.

Via TeleSur

——–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

BuzzFeed Video: “Would You Eat Lab-Grown Meat?”

Hamas pledges to dissolve Gaza administration, hold elections

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 11:11pm

Ma’an News Agency | – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Hamas, the de facto ruling party of the Gaza Strip, has pledged to dissolve its administrative committee that runs the besieged coastal enclave and expressed readiness to hold general elections, in a bid for reconciliation with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA).

A statement from Hamas movement said the decision came in response to recent diplomatic efforts by Egypt to reconcile the rival factions, while PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been calling on Hamas to end the administrative committee, relinquish control of the small territory to the PA, and hold presidential and legislative elections.

Hamas and the Fatah-led PA have been embroiled in a more than a decade-long conflict since 2006, when Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections and a bloody conflict between the two groups broke out.

Despite numerous attempts at reconciling the groups, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliation and holding of long-overdue elections, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.

The Hamas movement said Sunday it has dissolved its administrative committee — formed earlier this year to the outrage of the PA, agrees to hold general elections for the first time since 2006, enter talks with Fatah, and allow the national reconciliation government to operate in Gaza.

Hamas signed the reconciliation agreement with the PLO in April 2014, which was to pave the way for a general election by the end of 2014. However, a devastating 50-day Israeli attack on Gaza that year, as well as a dispute over payment of the salaries of tens of thousands of Hamas security forces, first blocked progress on the deal towards reconciliation.

The Palestinian political crisis has since only continued to worsen, and Hamas said it formed the committee after the consensus government failed to take responsibility for Gaza’s administration. The PA alleges that Hamas is attempting to form a “shadow government” to run Gaza independent of the West Bank.

In recent months, the PA has been also been accused of deliberately sending the impoverished Gaza Strip further into a humanitarian catastrophe — by slashing funding for Israeli fuel, medicine, and salaries for civil servants and former prisoners — in order to wrest control of the territory from Hamas.

Last month, Abbas threatened to undertake further repressive measures against the impoverished territory should Hamas not unconditionally abide by the PA’s demands to end the administrative committee, relinquish control of the enclave to the PA, and hold presidential and legislative elections.

Following Hamas’ acceptance of these key conditions on Sunday, senior Fatah official Mahmoud Aloul told Reuters news agency that he welcomed cautiously Hamas’s position. “If this is Hamas statement, then this is a positive sign,” he reportedly said. “We in Fatah movement are ready to implement reconciliation.”

Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmed also welcomed Hamas’ decision to dissolve the administrative committee, he told PA-owned Wafa news agency.

Al-Ahmed, who is currently in Cairo for Egyptian-led reconciliation talks with Hamas, told Wafa that a lengthy meeting was held between the Fatah delegation in Cairo with the head of the Egyptian intelligence service, Minister Khaled Fawzi, in which they reviewed the continuous efforts exerted by Egypt to end the Palestinian internal split.

Al-Hamad confirmed reports that the Fatah delegation met with the Hamas leadership, and “hailed Hamas’s call for the unity government to resume its normal work in Gaza as well as its approval to hold presidential and legislative elections,” according to Wafa’s report.

The Fatah official also said that there will be a bilateral meeting between Fatah and Hamas officials followed by a meeting of all the Palestinian factions that signed the May 2011 reconciliation agreement “in order to begin practical steps to implement the deal,” and expressed hope that the coming days would “witness tangible practical steps,” Wafa said.

Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, also released a statement welcoming Hamas’ announcement. “I welcome the recent statement by Hamas announcing the dissolving of the Administrative Committee in Gaza and agreement to allow the Government of National Consensus to assume its responsibilities in Gaza,” he said.

“I commend the Egyptian authorities for their tireless efforts in creating this positive momentum. All parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people,” the UN envoy continued. “The United Nations stands ready to assist all efforts in this respect. It is critical that the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, most notably the crippling electricity crisis, be addressed as a priority.”

The development also came after head of the Hamas movement’s politburo Ismail Haniyeh and other high-ranking Hamas members met with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo last week, with talks focusing on a readiness to work toward national unity.

Hamas leadership told the Egyptians they would allow the Palestinian national reconciliation government to take charge of Gaza and carry out elections, so long as all Palestinian factions hold a conference in Cairo afterwards to elect a national government responsible for the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.

An Egyptian source close to the intelligence services told Israeli news daily Haaretz that Hamas is trying to prove to Egypt that it is not obstructing reconciliation and is responding to demands, hoping to reap the benefits if and when the talks falter on the PA’s part.

Hamas has sought to improve relations with Cairo in recent months by increasing cross border security, including the construction of the military buffer zone, in hopes that Egypt will ease its enforcement of Israel’s brutal, decade-long siege of the territory and open up the Rafah border crossing.

A Fatah delegation sent by Abbas to Cairo also discussed Egypt’s efforts to reconcile the Palestinians on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Abbas arrived in New York on Sunday to take part in the proceedings of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. He is to meet US President Donald Trump there on Wednesday, ahead of the Palestinian president’s speech at the UN Thursday.

Via Ma’an News Agency | – –

——-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Hamas ‘ready’ to work with Palestinian authority in Gaza”

The Pentagon’s Next War: Extreme Hurricanes & other Climate attacks on US Borders

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 11:09pm

By Michael T. Klare | ( Tomdispatch.com) | – –

Deployed to the Houston area to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, U.S. military forces hadn’t even completed their assignments when they were hurriedly dispatched to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to face Irma, the fiercest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Florida Governor Rick Scott, who had sent members of the state National Guard to devastated Houston, anxiously recalled them while putting in place emergency measures for his own state. A small flotilla of naval vessels, originally sent to waters off Texas, was similarly redirected to the Caribbean, while specialized combat units drawn from as far afield as Colorado, Illinois, and Rhode Island were rushed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, members of the California National Guard were being mobilized to fight wildfires raging across that state (as across much of the West) during its hottest summer on record.

Think of this as the new face of homeland security: containing the damage to America’s seacoasts, forests, and other vulnerable areas caused by extreme weather events made all the more frequent and destructive thanks to climate change. This is a “war” that won’t have a name — not yet, not in the Trump era, but it will be no less real for that. “The firepower of the federal government” was being trained on Harvey, as William Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), put it in a blunt expression of this warlike approach. But don’t expect any of the military officials involved in such efforts to identify climate change as the source of their new strategic orientation, not while Commander in Chief Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office refusing to acknowledge the reality of global warming or its role in heightening the intensity of major storms; not while he continues to stock his administration, top to bottom, with climate-change deniers.

Until Trump moved into the White House, however, senior military officers in the Pentagon were speaking openly of the threats posed to American security by climate change and how that phenomenon might alter the very nature of their work.  Though mum’s the word today, since the early years of this century military officials have regularly focused on and discussed such matters, issuing striking warnings about an impending increase in extreme weather events — hurricanes, incessant rainfalls, protracted heat waves, and droughts — and ways in which that would mean an ever-expanding domestic role for the military in both disaster response and planning for an extreme future.

That future, of course, is now.  Like other well-informed people, senior military officials are perfectly aware that it’s difficult to attribute any given storm, Harvey and Irma included, to human-caused climate change with 100% confidence. But they also know that hurricanes draw their fierce energy from the heat of tropical waters, and that global warming is raising the temperatures of those waters. It’s making storms like Harvey and Irma, when they do occur, ever more powerful and destructive.  “As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating,” the Department of Defense (DoD) bluntly explained in the Quadrennial Defense Review, a 2014 synopsis of defense policy. This, it added, “may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities” — just the sort of crisis we’ve been witnessing over these last weeks.

As this statement suggests, any increase in climate-related extreme events striking U.S. territory will inevitably lead to a commensurate rise in American military support for civilian agencies, diverting key assets — troops and equipment — from elsewhere. While the Pentagon can certainly devote substantial capabilities to a small number of short-term emergencies, the multiplication and prolongation of such events, now clearly beginning to occur, will require a substantial commitment of forces, which, in time, will mean a major reorientation of U.S. security policy for the climate change era.  This may not be something the White House is prepared to do today, but it may soon find itself with little choice, especially since it seems so intent on crippling all civilian governmental efforts related to climate change.

Mobilizing for Harvey and Irma

When it came to emergency operations in Texas and Florida, the media understandably put its spotlight on moving tales of rescue efforts by ordinary folks.  As a result, the military’s role in these operations was easy to miss, but it took place on a massive scale.  Every branch of the armed services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard — deployed significant contingents to the Houston area, in some cases sending along the sort of specialized equipment normally used in major combat operations.  The combined response represented an extraordinary commitment of military assets to that desperate, massively flooded region: tens of thousands of National Guard and active-duty troops, thousands of Humvees and other military vehicles, hundreds of helicopters, dozens of cargo planes, and an assortment of naval vessels.  And just as operations in Texas began to wind down, the Pentagon commenced a similarly vast mobilization for Hurricane Irma.

The military’s response to Harvey began with front-line troops: the National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard, and units of the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), the joint-service force responsible for homeland defense.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott mobilized the entire Texas National Guard, about 10,000 strong, and guard contingents were deployed from other states as well.  The Texas Guard came equipped with its own complement of helicopters, Humvees, and other all-terrain vehicles; the Coast Guard supplied 46 helicopters and dozens of shallow-water vessels, while USNORTHCOM provided 87 helicopters, four C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft, and 100 high-water vehicles.

Still more aircraft were provided by the Air Force, including seven C-17 cargo planes and, in a highly unusual move, an E-3A Sentry airborne warning and control system, or AWACS.  This super-sophisticated aircraft was originally designed to oversee air combat operations in Europe in the event of an all-out war with the Soviet Union.  Instead, this particular AWACS conducted air traffic control and surveillance around Houston, gathering data on flooded areas, and providing “situational awareness” to military units involved in the relief operation.

For its part, the Navy deployed two major surface vessels, the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship, and the USS Oak Hill, a dock landing ship. “These ships,” the Navy reported, “are capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, [and] medium and heavy lift air support.”  Accompanying them were several hundred Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, along with their amphibious assault vehicles and a dozen or so helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

When Irma struck, the Pentagon ordered a similar mobilization of troops and equipment.  The Kearsarge and the Oak Hill, with their embarked Marines and helicopters, were redirected from Houston to waters off Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  At the same time, the Navy dispatched a much larger flotilla, including the USS Abraham Lincoln (the aircraft carrier on which President George W. Bush had his infamous “mission accomplished” moment), the missile destroyer USS Farragut, the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, and the amphibious transport dock USS New York.  Instead of its usual complement of fighter jets, the Abraham Lincoln set sail from its base in Norfolk, Virginia, with heavy-lift helicopters; the Iwo Jima and New York also carried a range of helicopters for relief operations.  Another amphibious vessel, the USS Wasp, was already off the Virgin Islands, providing supplies and evacuating those in need of emergency medical care.

This represents the sort of mobilization you would expect for a small war and is characteristic of how, in the past, the U.S. military has responded to major domestic disasters like hurricanes Katrina (2003) and Sandy (2012).  Such events were once rarities and so weren’t viewed as major impediments to the carrying out of the military’s “normal” function: fighting the nation’s foreign wars.  However, thanks to the way climate change is intensifying the weather, disasters of this magnitude are starting to occur more frequently and on an ever-larger scale.  As a result, the previously peripheral mission of disaster relief is threatening to become a primary one for an already overstretched Pentagon and, as top military officials are aware, the future only holds promise of far more of the same. Think of this as the new face of “war,” American-style.

Redefining Homeland Security

Even if no one else in Donald Trump’s Washington is ready or willing to deal with climate change, the U.S. military will be. It’s already long been preparing in its own fashion to take a pivotal role in responding to a world of recurring natural disasters. This, in turn, will mean that in the coming years climate change will increasingly dominate the domestic national security agenda (whether the Trump administration and those that follow like it, or even admit it) and such domestic emergencies will undoubtedly be militarized. In the process, the very concept of “homeland security” is destined to change.

When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in November 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, its principal missions included preventing further terrorist assaults on the country as well as dealing with drug smuggling, illegal immigration, and other similar issues.  Climate change never entered the equation.  Even though FEMA and the Coast Guard, major components of the DHS, have found themselves dealing with its increasingly disastrous effects, the department’s focus on immigration and terrorism has only intensified in the Trump era.  The president has ensured that this myopic outlook would reign supreme by, among other things, calling for a sharp increase in the number of Border Patrol agents (and greater infusions of funding for border control issues), while working to slash the Coast Guard’s budget.

He has also, of course, ensured that all parts of the government other than the military that might in any way deal with climate change were staffed and run by climate-change deniers. Only at the Department of Defense do senior officials still describe climate change in a more realistic fashion, as an observable reality that will pose new dangers to America’s security and create new operational nightmares.

“Speaking as a soldier,” said former Army Chief of Staff General Gordon Sullivan back in 2007, “we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield.” The same, he continued, was true regarding climate change. “If we keep on with business as usual, we will reach a point where some of the worst effects are inevitable.”

General Gordon’s comments were incorporated into a highly influential report that year on “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” released by the CNA Corporation (formerly the Center for Naval Analyses), a federally-funded research center that aids the Navy and Marine Corps.  That report focused with particular concern on the risk of an increase in overseas conflicts from the impact of climate change, particularly if prolonged droughts and growing food scarcity inflame existing ethnic and religious schisms in a range of poor countries (mainly in Africa and the Greater Middle East).  “The U.S. may be drawn more frequently into these situations, either alone or with allies, to help provide stability before conditions worsen and are exploited by extremists,” the report warned.

The same climate effects that could trigger a more embattled world would also, military analysts came to believe, produce increased risk for the United States itself and so generate a greater need for Pentagon involvement at home.  “Extreme weather events and natural disasters, as the U.S. experienced with Hurricane Katrina, may lead to increased missions for a number of U.S. agencies, including state and local governments, the Department of Homeland Security, and our already stretched military,” that CNA report noted a decade ago.  In a prescient comment, it also warned that this could lead to clashing strategic priorities.  “If the frequency of natural disasters increases with climate change, future military and political leaders may face hard choices about where and when to engage.”

With this in mind, a group of officers — active duty as well as retired — endeavored to persuade top officials to make climate change a central focus of strategic planning.  (Their collective efforts can be sampled at the website maintained by the Center for Climate and Security, an advocacy group former officers established to promote awareness of the issue.)  These efforts achieved a major breakthrough in 2014, when the Pentagon released a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, a blueprint for Pentagon-wide remedial action in a warming world.  Such an effort was needed, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel explained in his foreword, because climate change was sure to generate more conflict abroad and more emergencies at home. “The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters.” As a consequence, the DoD and its component organizations must begin “integrating climate change considerations into our plans, operations, and training.”

For a time, the armed forces embraced Hagel’s instructions, taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions and better prepare for just such a future.  The various regional combatant commands like NORTHCOM and the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which covers Latin America and the Caribbean, responded with increased training and other preparations for extreme storm events and for sea-level rise in their areas of responsibility, a change reflected in a 2015 DoD report to Congress, “National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate.”

In the past, such efforts, only beginning, were never allowed to distract the services from their main presumed function: contesting America’s foreign adversaries. Now, as with Harvey and Irma, the military’s domestic responsibilities are on the rise just as the president is assigning them yet more (or more intensified) missions in the never-ending war on terror, including a stepped-up presence in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq and Syria, more intense air campaigns across the Greater Middle East, and a heightened pace of military maneuvers near North Korea.  As shown by a series of deadly collisions involving Navy vessels in the Pacific, this higher tempo of operations has already stretched the military to or even beyond its limits in various conflicts it has proven incapable either of winning or ending.  The result: overworked crews and overstretched resources. With the massive response to Harvey and Irma, it is being pushed yet further.

In short, as the planet continues to heat up, the armed forces and the nation at large face an existential crisis.  On the one hand, President Trump and his generals, including Secretary of Defense Mattis, are once again fully focused on the increased use of military force (and the threat of more of the same) abroad. This includes not only the wars against the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their numerous spin-offs, but also preparations for possible military strikes on North Korea and perhaps even, at some future date, on Chinese installations in the South China Sea.

As global warming intensifies, instability and chaos, including massive flows of refugees, will only grow, undoubtedly inviting yet more military interventions abroad.  Meanwhile, climate change will increase chaos and devastation at home and there, too, it seems that Washington will often see the military as America’s sole reliable response mechanism.  As a result, decisions will have to be made about ending American conflicts abroad and refocusing domestically or that overstretched military will simply swallow even more of the government’s dollars and gain yet more power in Washington.  And yet, whatever else the armed forces might (or might not) be capable of, they are not capable of defeating climate change, which, at its essence, is anything but a military problem. While there are potential solutions to it, those, too, are in no way military.

Despite their reluctance to speak publicly about such environmental matters right now, top officials in the Pentagon are painfully aware of the problem at hand.  They know that global warming, as it progresses, will generate new challenges at home and abroad, potentially stretching their capabilities to the breaking point and leaving this country ever more exposed to the ravages of climate change without offering any solutions to the problem.  As a result, the generals face a fundamental choice.  They can continue to self-censor their sophisticated analysis of climate change and its likely effects, and so remain complicit with the administration’s headlong rush into national catastrophe, or they can speak out forcefully on its threat to homeland security, and the resulting need for a new, largely non-military strategic posture that puts climate action at the top of the nation’s priorities.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of 14 books including, most recently, The Race for What’s Left. He is currently completing work on a new book, All Hell Breaking Loose, on climate change and American national security.

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

Copyright 2017 Michael Klare

Via Tomdispatch.com

——-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Center for Climate and Security: “The National Security Implications of Climate Change (June 2017)”

Trump as Stephen King’s ‘It’: Lashing out at Clinton, N. Korea

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 11:04pm

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Beltway Bandits who are always opining about Trump transitioning from campaign mode to presidential stature, and pronouncing after he does something petulant, “Today Donald Trump became president,” are domed to be wrong for at least 3.5 years.

Trump’s politics are those of a pulp novel horror villain. He is Stephen King’s ‘It.’ Remember that ‘It’ takes the form that particularly horrifies you. It isn’t always necessarily Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Are you worried about a relative with a pre-existing condition losing healthcare if the ACA is repealed? There is Trump as “It,” trying to repeal it. Are you worried about America’s forever wars? There is Trump extending them and announcing a troop escalation. Are you haunted by the specter of nuclear war? There is Trump trying to release Iran from its inspection regime, and menacing nuclear-armed North Korea with fire and fury. He is Pennywise the Dancing Clown. But he is so much more. He is your every nightmare.

What non-villain non-monster would retweet juvenile horse manure like Trump’s golf ball hitting Hillary Clinton and knocking her down? She is a grandmother and a private citizen.

We knew he hates women. We knew he is petty. And we will never forgive the benighted voters who put this shambling horror in charge of the nuclear codes.

Donald Trump's amazing golf swing #CrookedHillary pic.twitter.com/vKhxxFCBV1

— CNN SUCKS (@Fuctupmind) September 14, 2017

What non-monster non-villain responds to nuclear blackmail by the unhinged North Korean regime with taunts and threats? I mean, this attempt to tag people with nicknames may be all right for certain of his voters (“I love,” Trump once said, “the poorly educated!”) But I just don’t think it plays well in international diplomacy.

This is like “It” meets Kim Jong Un:

I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2017

Rocket man?

And it seems pretty obvious that Trump’s talk of fire and fury like you’ve never seen was always pie in the sky as even his Rasputin, Steve Bannon, admitted. It is just like the Hollywood techniques used to keep “It” scary– loud, eery music and sudden close-ups. And then the crew packs up the cameras and goes home after getting the adrenalin going.

This creeping horror-movie It-ism has now infected US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who has started talking about “General Mattis” dealing with North Korea.

She insisted that the fire and fury thing is not an empty threat. You could have fooled me.

She actually said,

“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed. And we all know that. And none of us want that. None of us want war.”

Yeah, you can’t actually destroy a nuclear state. If you were to try (no one ever has), it would sort of be like trying to strangle a rattle snake with one arm tied behind your back.

Now Nikki Haley is playing ‘It,’ treating Kim Jong Un like the little boy who lost his ball in the gutter.

People who talk like this should not be in public office. We had them in the 1960s and they killed a couple million Vietnamese and 58,000 American troops. Then they were Democrats. It doesn’t really matter. It is the arrogance that gets you.

And you will note that Gen. Mattis himself hasn’t strutted around shouting fire and fury into the gloaming. What with knowing about military affairs and all.

This all comes after Trump sent the British political elite into panic by jumping the gun on assigning blame in the tube terrorist attack. For one thing, the police are trying to make sure the perpetrator (at that time still not arrested) did not know what the government knew– that he had been caught on closed circuit tv. If he didn’t know, he might not urge his network of co-conspirators to go underground, and the police might be able to round them up. But Trump made it look as though he had knowledge he did not have (no one in London would ever again share intelligence with him!), and may have stampeded the terrorist gang so that they can live to strike again.

Trump is enabling terrorism by his grandstanding and his It-ism.

Trump as president is actually in a small, tight room– the room of super-power responsibility. And if you’re shut up in such a room and you swing at a golf ball, it doesn’t hit someone else.

It is called karma.

————-

Related video:

Warner Brothers: “IT – Official Teaser Trailer”

Iraqi PM to Secessionist Kurds: “You’re Playing with Fire!”

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 2:38am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Iraqi prime minister Haydar al-Abadi threatened on Saturday to deploy military force against Iraqi Kurdistan if it goes through with the referendum on independence authorized Friday by its regional parliament. The Kurds, he said, are “playing with fire.” The referendum is set to be held on September 25.

h/t BBC

Iraq is about 60% Shiite Arab, 22% Kurdish, and the rest is mostly Sunni Arabs with some small sects and a few Chaldean Christians.

Turkey is 20% Kurdish and is determined to stay that way.

Iran, a country of 78 million, has about 4 million Kurds in its northwest northeast, but has repeatedly showed its willingness to deploy force.

————–
See Ali Abootalibi on the Kurdistan crisis at Informed Comment
————–

In the meantime, the United Nations suggested to the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that he mothball plans for a referendum and instead embark on a 3-year-long process of negotiations with Baghdad with the aim of reaching a compromise acceptable to both sides, under UN auspices.

Barzani declined the offer.

The British government expressed concern that Barzani’s plans will roil the region at a time when resources must be pooled to defeat ISIL.

Turkey and Iran, both with large Kurdish minorities. expressed anxiety about the referendum.

Iran pointed out that its Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) saved the Kurds from ISIL in summer of 2014.

Given that the Iraqi army collapsed in June of 2014 and has only slowly been
rebuilt, I don’t think Iraq has the military resources to invade Kurdistan. The Kurdish peshmerga militia is quite good, but I was surprised how poorly they did against ISIL three years ago. Neither side may have the high-powered military they think they do.

Moreover, Turkey and Iran are neighbors and won’t let the KRG secede if they can help it.

ISIL will certainly take advantage of this turmoil.

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Newsy: “US won’t support Kurdistan’s independence vote”

Which Lives Matter?: Fresh St. Louis Protests over Acquittal of Accused Killer

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 1:46am

By TeleSur | – –

Saturday’s demonstrations were markedly calmer after nearly three dozen people were arrested the day before.

Protests have continued for a second day in St. Louis, Missouri following the acquittal of former cop Jason Stockley, who had been charged with first-degree murder for the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.

Hundreds of demonstrators shouted slogans such as “Black lives matter!” and “It is our duty to fight for our freedom!” as they circled the city’s most populous areas such as the Delmar Loop in suburb of University City, which is known for its concert venues, restaurants, shops and bars.

“I don’t think racism is going to change in America until people get uncomfortable,” said Kayla Reed of the St. Louis Action Council, a protest organizer, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“Not saying or doing anything makes you complicit in the brutalization of our friends and neighbors,” said Susanna Prins, who carried a “White silence is violence” banner during the protests.

Saturday’s demonstrations were markedly calmer after nearly three dozen people were arrested the day before, mostly for failure to disperse, resisting and interfering.

The protests had heated up Friday night with hundreds taking to the streets, prompting the National Guard to be on standby, and shutting down several businesses, schools and banks early.

More protests are expected Sunday. Events, including concerts by Ed Sheeran and U2 have been cancelled because police say they cannot provide aqequate security resources given the levels of unrest.

Former Officer Stockley had pleaded not guilty, saying he had acted in self defense during the December 2011 incident, while prosecutors had accused him of planting a gun on Smith to justify the shooting.

The revolver found at the scene only showed the officer’s DNA.

However, Wilson ruled that based on “nearly thirty years on the bench … an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly,” concluding that Smith had been the owner of the firearm, and referencing the drug found in Smith’s car.

Numerous studies have revealed the disproportionate times that Black people are targeted and killed by police in the United States compared to whites.

Via TeleSur

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

St. Louis erupts in protests after officer is acquitted of killing unarmed black man

Given Fundamentalist impact on Syria, Women’s Freedoms in Doubt

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 1:31am

By Manal Ismael | ( Global Voices Online ) | – –

In early September 2017, a piece of paper with a potent message targeted against women, held by a group of Hezbollah fighters in Juroud Arsal, Eastern Lebanon, went viral.

The message, which celebrates “every woman who is not using her own photo as a profile picture on Facebook,” emerged as pitched battles raged between Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite militia and the Syrian Sunni al-Nusra Front (officially a former Al Qaeda affiliate) in the area straddling the Syrian-Lebanese border.

This came on the heels of a widely-circulated video of Sami Khadra, a renowned Shiite Lebanese cleric, asking women to replace their photos on Facebook, considered inappropriate and profane, with images of “trees” and Quranic verses.

The video came under attack by social media users and women’s rights activists, igniting a storm of sarcastic comments, but also some support.

One woman retorted, “you put a tree” while another woman posted a photo of herself next to trees saying “I tried looking for a photo with lots of trees.” One man, however, said that the cleric’s words “are beautiful and represent true Islamic thinking.”

Badia Hani Fahs, a writer for the Lebanese An-nahar newspaper and daughter of the renowned late anti-Hezbollah Shiite cleric Hani Fahs, lashed out in a Facebook post at Sami Khadra’s remarks:

“Use a tree instead of your photo…A piece of wood, a table…Use an image of a monkey, a female dog or a jennet [female donkey]…May Allah curse their empty turbans!”

Lebanese journalist and filmmaker Diana Moukalled mocked the picture of Hezbollah fighters in a tweet, poking fun at their claims of liberating women from “takfiris” (Arabic for those who call others infidels) while aping their conduct.

“From Juroud Arsal a call for women not to post their photos on Facebook…[It is laughable that] these are the same people claiming to be saving us women from takfiris who take women as sabaya (women captured during war).”

Fighters in the heat of a raging battle with time to consider women’s social media habits seemed so far-fetched and ironic that critics drew comparisons with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups. Many others derided the Shiite group’s alliance with the Syrian regime that has long boasted its secularity.

Controlling women through targeted messaging

In Idlib province, a painted sign reading “The Woman is Awra” made its rounds in 2015.

“Awra” refers to the parts of a woman’s body that must be covered under Islamic law. The sign, produced by a group affiliated with the al-Nusra Front, implies that all of a woman’s body must be covered. Raseef22 translated it as ‘“Women Must be Covered to the Nails”.

“A Woman is Awra” followed by “Idlib Religious Mission and Endowment.” Source: Raseef22.

Both ISIS and al-Nusra impose austere dress codes on women based on a rigid interpretation of Sharia law. Proponents claim the code is intended to “protect” women as “jewels” and “hidden pearls.”

This claim, however, is considered an outright human rights violation by all major human rights organizations as well as Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In June 2017, independent Syrian news outlet Enab Baladi commented:

Despite the spread of a large number of civil society organizations dedicated to supporting the role of women and bolstering their participation and position in society in opposition areas, women’s role in the Syrian workplace has not registered a notable advance, but has actually seen a relative decline.

Groups such as Hezbollah, al-Nusra, and ISIS, all stakeholders in the current Syrian war, have consistently promoted discriminatory views against women. These groups promote policies that treat women as inferiors and restrict their basic rights including movement, dress and the use of social media.

Failing to comply carries grave consequences, the mildest being social and religious shaming while the harshest amounts to whipping and fines.
Women’s rights activists struggle to stay hopeful

In 2015, breath-taking videos showed elated Syrian women ripping off Islamic garments after escaping persecution under ISIS, a public outpouring of ecstasy that captured the world’s attention:

While some Syrian women celebrated liberation from ISIS-controlled areas, the emergence of new messages targeted at women sparks pessimism among women and women’s rights activists concerned about their futures under any of the warring groups.

Five years ago, four Syrian women dressed in bridal gowns staged a peaceful march in the heart of Damascus to demand wider freedoms and an end to military operations. Yet today, many Syrian women still grapple with authorities to secure their most basic human rights.

As Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch put it:

“Extremist groups like ISIS and al-Nusra are undermining the freedoms that Syria’s women and girls enjoyed, which were a longtime strength of Syrian society. […] What kind of victory do these groups promise for women and girls who are watching their rights slip away.”

Any hope kindled by early pro-democracy protests has dwindled, making it difficult to ameliorate the situation for Syrian women. Political parties whose agendas neglect women’s rights have seized control of the indefinite future.

Creative Commons License

Via Global Voices Online

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Joy for Syrian refugee family as daughter graduates – BBC News

Russia rebuffs Israeli demand for 40 mi. Buffer with Iran in Syria (Haaretz)

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 - 2:17am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

According to Haaretz Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked Vldadimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, to keep Iranian troops and Hizbullah militiamen in Syria about 40 miles from the Israeli border. The Russian replied that these were matters for the Syrian Arab Army, but that Russia could keep those forces only 3 miles from the border, which is no demilitarized zone at all.

In essence, Putin has claimed Syria as a Russian sphere of influence. And he has adopted the Iranians and the Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite militias as essential allies in Syria and elsewhere.

Israel’s leaders are afraid of a new, more accurate generation of rockets that Iran is giving to Hizbullah. Some of them might be able to hit Israeli targets from Syria.

But why should the Israeli leadership care about a few rockets? Because they are vulnerable to psychological warfare. It isn’t the rockets that matter. Israel has several hundred nuclear warheads and the best air force in the Middle East. Militarily, Iran and Hizbullah pose no danger at all to Tel Aviv.

But, about a million Israelis already have left Israel for the West, mostly the US, and many more are nervous about staying. Iran could potentially defeat Israel without firing a shot if it could make Israelis nervous enough about those rockets. Many could vote with their feet, or so Iran may hope.

Israel has already been occasionally hitting Shiite men and facilities in Syria, in hopes of sending a signal to Iran.

But I think there is a bigger issue here, which is that Israel had been treating Syria as its own sphere of influence. Now it is having to yield that position to an outsider, Russia. And Russia has other fish to fry than Israeli border security.

If the Russians, moreover, upgrade Syria’s military capabilities and anti-aircraft batteries, that process would make Syria even less vulnerable.

———

Related video added by Juan Cole:

TRT World: “The War in Syria: Israeli war planes target Syrian military base”

Can Iran keep its Influence in Baghdad?

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 - 12:43am

Mustafa Habib | Baghdad | (Niqash.org) | – –

Iran wants to reunite the fighting Shiite Muslim political parties in Iraq that once gave it unconditional support. But that job is far from easy.

Last week Mahmoud Shahroudi, the head of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council, which advises that country’s theological leader, Ali Khamenei, visited Baghdad. His objectives were clear: He planned to visit a variety of different Shiite Muslim political groups and potentially try and convince them of the advantages of sticking together.

Among the Shiite Muslim politicians that Shahroudi met was former Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, the cleric and political leader, Ammar al-Hakim, and also the leaders of some of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim militias, including Qais al-Khazali, head of the hard-line League of the Righteous militia. He also visited the headquarters of the Nujaba movement in the province of Salahaddin. Both the League of the Righteous and the Nujaba movement, which has ties to Hezbollah, have pledged allegiance to Iran’s religious leaders, rather than Iraq’s.

Iran’s main goal is to keep the prime minister’s seat for the Shiite Muslim parties.

Indicating just how serious the various arguments between the different Shiite Muslim movements are, several Shiite Muslim leaders refused to meet with Shahroudi. Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads the Sadrist movement – this is both political and military – refused to meet with Shahroudi as did four senior clerics in Najaf, closely associated with the highest Shiite Muslim religious authority in the country, Ali al-Sistani.

Al-Sistani believes that while religion should play a major part in Iraq’s governance, that it should not interfere too heavily in politics. Iran’s Khamenei holds a very different point of view. The last senior politician to meet with Shahroudi in Iraq during this visit was the country’s current prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi.

“Shahroudi’s visit to Iraq is part of recent Iranian efforts to bring about rapprochement between different, rival Shiite Muslim parties in Iraq,” says one official from a Shiite Muslim party, who did not wish to be named because of the sensitivities of the subject. “There have been a number of these kinds of visits from Iranians, and Iraqis have gone to Tehran for the same reason.”

Apparently during his various meeting Shahroudi said he understood that the different Shiite parties had their differences but that it would be better if they all stuck together, especially with elections coming up in Iraq.

“Iran’s main goal is to keep the prime minister’s seat for the Shiite Muslim parties,” the official told NIQASH.

On paper, Shahroudi is a good choice to guide a Shiite reconciliation in Iraq. He is one of the founders of the party to which both al-Maliki and al-Abadi belong. He also has offices in both of Iraq’s important Shiite Muslim religious centres, Najaf and Karbala. Some rumours even have it that he is a potential successor to al-Sistani in Najaf; al-Sistani is getting older.

Of course, having Shiite Muslim politicians fighting amongst themselves is nothing new in Iraq’s turbulent political landscape. However in the past most of the scraps were between the main parties in the broader Shiite political alliance. Today there are internal fights, which have seen the major parties divide.

For example, since 2014, the State of Law coalition, which has 101 seats in Iraq’s parliament currently, has been split between the ex-prime minister, al-Maliki, and the new prime minister, al-Abadi.

Although members of the two men’s party maintain there is no infighting, it seems clear the two senior politicians harbour ill will toward one another. Al-Maliki has often been openly critical of al-Abadi’s government and al-Abadi has been forced to respond.

One recent conflict saw al-Maliki announce his support for the deal reached between the Lebanese group, Hezbollah, and the extremist group known as the Islamic State. Meanwhile al-Abadi has said the deal, which would see fighters from the group transferred to the Iraqi-Syrian border, was an insult to the Iraqi people.

Al-Maliki countered by saying the Iraqi government had clearly made a similar deal with the Islamic State, or IS, group after fighting in the town of Tal Afar. Iraqi pro-government forces were able to retake the town far faster than expected after IS fighters simply fled. In a tit-for-tat, al-Abadi replied that such comments belittled the efforts of Iraqi forces fighting the IS group and that no such deal had been made.

Clearly the pair are not on particularly good terms.

There is also Ammar al-Hakim to worry about. In July, al-Hakim announced that he would be distancing himself from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, an important religious and political organisation that is considered his family’s legacy. Al-Hakim announced he was forming a new alliance, one, which actually most of the senior members of his former organisation then joined. Left behind at the Islamic Supreme Council were older members, who mostly disapproved of the younger al-Hakim.

Among these are Humam Hamoudi, who had been deputy leader but now becomes leader of the Council, Bakr Jabir al-Zubaidi and Jalal al-Din al-Saghir. Those left behind appear closer to Iran whereas it seems al-Hakim would prefer to join the Iraqi camp, with their allegiances with al-Sistani.

Fighting over the split continues to this day with arguments about the division of funds and property going on.

Another young cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, is also of intense concern to the Iranians. His bloc, which holds 30 seats in the Iraqi Parliament, was the first to announce its dissatisfaction with the broader Shiite Muslim alliance and has apparently been considering entering into a new alliance with secular parties. The Shiite Muslim alliance will lose the majority they have had in parliament for the last few years if the Sadrists depart.

Currently the Sadrists have nothing to do with the Shiite Muslim alliance, Jaafar al-Moussawi, a senior Sadrist politician, told NIQASH. “The Sadrist movement is not a member of the alliance and has nothing to do with what is going on inside it, including the selection of a new head and the formation of any electoral alliances.”

On September 5, Ammar al-Hakim’s two-year role as the president of the Shiite Muslim political alliance ended. Al-Hakim had already given a speech saying he would not seek to remain in the job and suggested that other Shiite Muslim parties arrange a replacement as quickly as possible.

By rights it would be the turn of the Dawa party, the party that includes both al-Maliki and al-Abadi, to choose a new leader of the alliance. But this will be difficult. Besides the divisions within the Shiite alliance, al-Maliki is competing with Hadi al-Ameri, the leader of the large and influential – and armed – Badr organisation, for the job.

“Al-Ameri is a strong candidate,” Amir al-Fayez, an MP belonging to the alliance, told NIQASH. “He has supporters and during the next few days, an important meeting will be held in this regard.”

The rules of the Shiite Muslim alliance say that whichever party holds the prime minister’s job, cannot also hold the leadership of the broader alliance.

What’s really going on will only be revealed after the passing of several laws on election procedures: Currently the plan is to hold both the provincial council and federal elections on the same day in April next year. After the legislation has been passed, the divisions and alliances between various Shiite Muslim political groups will become much clearer, as they will announce the alliances with which they plan to contest the elections.

Via Niqash.org

——

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Press TV: “Iran’s expediency council discusses politics with Iraqi officials”

Superstorm Donald Hits GOP, aims to Ravage US

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 - 12:29am

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

If Trump succeeds in ramping up military spending and gutting everything else, we’ll be left with a bunch of nukes and an underfunded state — and no one but China to keep us afloat.

The storm inside the Republican Party has reached Category Four.

At the end of August, as Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas and Hurricane Irma was poised to devastate Florida, the hard right was experiencing its own high winds and pelting rain. On the TV show Fox and Friends, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham took aim at the Trump administration for being ill prepared to handle the incoming storms:

We can all look at these horrific pictures, and we can conclude that a federal government does need staff. We see it acutely in need of staff in a situation like this. This isn’t the only crisis we’re facing. This is massive, humanitarian. We’re also facing a huge crisis with North Korea. We’re facing a crisis of confidence across the country where people wonder even with President Trump in, he said he was going to drain the swamp, can we have a government that works for the people and not just have a people enslaved to the government.

The president, a big fan of Fox and Friends, immediately responded in his inimitable style through his medium of choice, Twitter: “We are not looking to fill all of those positions. Don’t need many of them — reduce size of government.”

Ingraham, not usually an advocate of the sensible, was pointing out an inescapable fact of modern politics. If you want to change the direction of a country, you have to have people to do it. She called Trump’s sentiment “laudable,” but wanted to know “why our USTR” — the U.S. Trade Representative, that is — “doesn’t have a single Deputy in place during NAFTA talks.”

Good question, Laura! But it’s a little late in the game to realize that, with football season already underway, the Trump team showed up on the field with little more than an erratic quarterback, several tough-looking linebackers, and a couple of utility players trying to fake it at unfamiliar positions. There’s a vocal cheerleading squad on the sidelines and a small claque of fervent fans, but nothing can substitute for a roster of players who actually know how to run plays. It’s no surprise that the Trump team is facing a shutout at the end of the first quarter.

Of course it’s not just Trump. Ingraham should also direct her attention to all the “small government” conservatives who are busy in Congress — and have been for years — subjecting the institutions they serve to a death by a thousand cuts.

For instance, in the budget bill that the Republican-controlled Congress proposed before Hurricane Harvey hit, the agency tasked with dealing with emergencies like the twin hurricanes faced nearly a $1 billion in cuts, with the funds to be reallocated to building Trump’s promised wall with Mexico. Although FEMA is likely to see at least some of that money restored, other agencies won’t be so lucky. Trump wanted to cut the Environmental Protection Agency budget by $2.6 billion, while Congress is proposing somewhat less aggressive surgery. In all, Trump wanted to cut $54 billion from domestic programs, a shock-and-awe opening bid that makes the congressional counter-offer of $5 billion in cuts more politically feasible.

Meanwhile, presented with a golden opportunity to legislate a massive change in policy, the Republicans in Congress fumbled: no new health care bill, no new tax reform, no new infrastructure legislation. Given this poor record, President Trump had to turn to the Democratic Party to raise the debt limit temporarily and push through funding for hurricane relief. This is no dawn of a new age of bipartisanship. Trump wanted to send a message to the Republicans that they can’t take him for granted. He’s also is setting up Republican legislators he didn’t like in the first place to take the fall for everything that has gone wrong in the first year of his term.

Steve Bannon, now restored to his perch at Breitbart, has articulated this strategy in starker terms. Trump’s former senior advisor is working with mega-donor Robert Mercer to develop a slate of Trump-style challengers to unseat Republican incumbents in the 2018 primaries. That includes Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada, both of whom had the temerity to challenge the more hare-brained of Trump’s policies.

The superstorm that Trump and Bannon are about to unleash on the Republican Party — on the heels of the electoral hurricane that brought them both to Washington in 2016 — has the potential to permanently remake American politics.

In 1917, Russia experienced two revolutions. The first one, in February, was more or less democratic. The second one came eight months later and installed the Bolsheviks. Bannon thinks of himself as a Leninist dedicated to destroying the establishment. Now he’s preparing for this second revolution.

Other countries are taking note.

Smaller Government, Smaller Empire?

In his incisive new book, In the Shadows of the American Century, historian Alfred McCoy assesses the rise and decline of the U.S. empire. In an especially provocative part of the book, he investigates the methods by which the Obama administration attempted to check China’s influence and how the Trump administration has unraveled that particular project.

While Beijing was maneuvering to transform parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe into a unified “world island” with China at its economic epicenter, Obama countered with a bold geopolitical vision meant to trisect that vast landmass by redirecting its trade toward the United States.

Obama translated that vision into the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free agreement for most of Asia minus China, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) designed to further strengthen the U.S. trade alliance with Europe. Added to that was Obama’s effort to gradually reorient the Pentagon’s hitherto obsessive focus on the Middle East and Afghanistan over to the Pacific Rim.

These best laid plans went awry during the extreme political weather events of 2016. Donald Trump cancelled the TPP in his first week in office and froze negotiations for the TTIP. He has also called into question the free-trade agreement with South Korea.

Needless to say, China is thrilled at this opportunity to cement its economic position in Asia. Since China is Mexico’s third largest trade partner (though at a rather low 1.4 percent) and Canada’s second largest trade partner (at a more substantial 4.1 percent), Beijing is no doubt eyeing Trump’s short-handed effort to renegotiate NAFTA as a potential chance to get more of an economic foothold in North America as well.

On military issues, it’s more of a mixed bag. Bannon wanted Trump to focus more on China — and forget about North Korea. He’s gone, and the “globalists” who remain, like chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, are not keen on antagonizing Beijing. Still, the “generals” want to preserve at least part of the Pacific Pivot, if only to demonstrate resolve in the face of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

China watches all this with trepidation and amusement. It can’t quite believe the auto-destruction of the U.S. state. To put it mildly, China isn’t interested in small government. Beijing believes in the power of markets and capitalism, but it also places a lot of credence in state-led economic development. Moreover, it takes climate change seriously and has invested a huge amount of capital into sustainable energy and infrastructure.

To return to the football metaphor, the Trump team is now realizing that it has to play away games against teams from other countries. It will soon discover that the Chinese have mastered the tactics of geopolitical football. Beijing fields a full squad of competent, if not exactly flashy, players, and boasts a strong bench as well.

“Small government” might have a certain appeal in certain quarters of the United States. But slashing the State Department budget and failing to replace personnel that have left puts the United States at a tremendous disadvantage geopolitically. China, in other words, is ready to pounce on all the errors made by the Trump team because of its failures to prepare for the game.

For all those who exult at the prospect of an imminent collapse of the American imperium, however, it’s premature to pop the champagne.

Military First Foreign Policy

When Donald Trump tweeted that the United States would respond to North Korea’s missile launches with “fire and fury,” he sounded as if he’d hired Pyongyang rhetoricians to staff his Twitter feed. But the resemblance between Trump policy and North Korea doesn’t end there.

Like North Korea, the United States is willing to prioritize military spending even as natural disasters eat away at the edges of domestic infrastructure. In fact, the Trump administration has embraced something very similar to North Korea’s “military first” policy. Pyongyang’s implementation of this songun ideology in the 1990s not only directed more state resources to the military but also accorded more power to the generals to determine state policy.

In his own version of songun, Trump has brought the generals into high-ranking positions in the administration — John Kelly as chief of staff, Jim Mattis as head of the Pentagon, H.R. McMaster as national security advisor.

And the president has offered a major budget increase for the Pentagon that, including a significant war budget (known as the overseas contingency operations account) totals about $640 billion. Throw in the other items in the budget that are actually defense-related, such as nuclear weapons, homeland security, military aid, and intelligence, and the overall national security budget nears $1 trillion. Well, let’s just make it a cool trillion by throwing in the (as-yet-determined) cost of that wall with Mexico.

But the real bankrupting of the state will come with Trump’s tax reform, which will add $3-7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.

That’s the likely end game for the Trump team: to destroy politics as we know it, to destroy democracy as we know it, to bankrupt the state as we know it, but to hold on to a massive military and a large nuclear arsenal.

When Hurricane Donald gets through with the United States, we’ll be left with a Dear Leader, a bunch of nukes, and a garrison state, with no one but China to keep us afloat. Welcome to Pyongyang on the Potomac.

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

Via Foreign Policy in Focus

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Federal Budget: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

How solar power can protect US military from threats to the grid

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 - 12:11am

By Joshua M. Pearce | The Conversation | – –

As the U.S. military increases its use of drones in surveillance and combat overseas, the danger posed by a threat back at home grows. Many drone flights are piloted by soldiers located in the U.S., even when the drones are flying over Yemen or Iraq or Syria. Those pilots and their control systems depend on the American electricity grid – large, complex, interconnected and very vulnerable to attack.

Using solar power could give the U.S. military some advantages – and more security.
Diane Durden/U.S. Marine Corps

Without electricity from civilian power plants, the most advanced military in world history could be crippled. The U.S. Department of Energy has begged for new authority to defend against weaknesses in the grid in a nearly 500-page comprehensive study issued in January 2017 warning that it’s only a matter of time before the grid fails, due to disaster or attack. A new study by a team I led reveals the three ways American military bases’ electrical power sources are threatened, and shows how the U.S. military could take advantage of solar power to significantly improve national security.

A triple threat

The first threat to the electricity grid comes from nature. Severe weather disasters resulting in power outages cause between US$25 billion and $70 billion in the U.S. each year – and that’s average years, not those including increasingly frequent major storms, like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The second type of threat is from traditional acts of crime or terrorism, such as bombing or sabotage. For example, a 2013 sniper attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric substation in California disabled 17 transformers supplying power to Silicon Valley. In what the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission called “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred,” the attacker – who may have been an insider – fired about 100 rounds of .30-caliber rifle ammunition into the radiators of 17 electricity transformers over the course of 19 minutes. The electronics overheated and shut down. Fortunately, power company engineers managed to keep the lights on in Silicon Valley by routing power from other sources.

The third threat is from cyberspace. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security responded to approximately 200 “cyber incidents” across critical infrastructure sectors, nearly half of which attacked the electrical grid. A major breach in the electric system could cost as much as $1 trillion. And China, Russia and North Korea are all trying to break into the grid, potentially to disrupt the U.S. electricity supply the way Russia has in Ukraine in recent years. The security firm Symantec recently warned that hackers have already gained direct access to the electric grid.

A major grid failure, thanks to nature or malicious humans, could easily outstrip the ability of generators and fuel supplies to fill the gaps. Rebuilding or replacing large numbers of damaged transformers could take months or even years: Fixing just 17 of them after the 2013 attack in California cost roughly $100 million and took 27 days.

It wouldn’t just be homes and businesses waiting for the lights to come back on: Military bases, too, would be in the dark.

Securing the ability to fight

U.S. national security requires that the military have electricity even during a long-term blackout for other parts of society or the country. Fortunately, there is a solution that addresses all three types of threat to the electric grid at once: distributed power generation.

In a sense, stationing diesel-fueled generators outside key buildings to provide emergency power is a start down this path. But fuel supply lines can be disrupted too, so renewable energy is best for a long-lasting solution. Solar photovoltaic systems, which generate electricity directly from sunlight, are best because they are easy to maintain, can be located almost anywhere and don’t need to be refueled.

The U.S. military is already working toward this goal. Congress has decided that military facilities must get 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. To meet that requirement, also by 2025, the department wants to be able to generate 3 gigawatts of renewable power every year. (A nuclear power plant operating at peak capacity produces about 1 gigawatt.)

Much more to be done

These steps are in the right direction but are not enough to relieve the threat. Only a few military bases have installed solar panel systems, which generally cover only part of their loads. Most military bases remain unprotected against long-term interruption of electrical power.

In our study, we found that the 3 GW goal by 2025 is far short of the real need: About 17 GW of solar-generating capacity would be enough to fortify the U.S. military domestically. And more is needed to protect overseas bases, which are vulnerable because other countries’ civilian electricity grids are as vulnerable as those in the U.S.

This is an enormous need for solar capacity: Only in 2015, after years of effort and investment, did the U.S. as a whole reach 20 GW of solar-generating capacity. And while our study found that the work will cost around $42 billion, it will save as much as $2 billion a year in electricity bills the military now pays to civilian suppliers.

Remote overseas bases already use solar power to sustain themselves.
Maj. Paul Greenberg, U.S. Marine Corps

Companies already serving the military are ready and able to do the work. For example, Lockheed Martin, a major defense contractor, has built a demonstration system at Fort Bliss in Texas with a 120-kilowatt solar array and a 300-kilowatt energy storage system. The equipment is connected together – and to buildings it serves – in what is called a “microgrid,” which is normally connected to the regular commercial power grid but can be disconnected and become self-sustaining when disaster strikes.

To truly secure the U.S. military, every base will need this kind of system – supersized, including both rooftop and ground-based solar arrays. The costs are manageable – and the solar panels are largely one-time costs. In fact, we found that the military could generate all of its electricity from distributed renewable sources by 2025 using these types of microgrids – which would provide energy reliability and decrease costs. And it would largely eliminate a major group of very real threats to national security.

Joshua M. Pearce, Professor, Michigan Technology University

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

———

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability: “Powering the Navy: Renewable Energy as National Security” by Ray Mabus

Book-Burning, Trump’s Torchbearers & Reading Donald Duck

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 - 11:21pm

By Ariel Dorfman | ( Tomdispatch.com) | – –

The organizers of the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville last month knew just what they were doing when they decided to carry torches on their nocturnal march to protest the dethroning of a statue of Robert E. Lee. That brandishing of fire in the night was meant to evoke memories of terror, of past parades of hate and aggression by the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and Adolf Hitler’s Freikorps in Germany.

The organizers wanted to issue a warning to those watching: that past violence, perpetrated in defense of the “blood and soil” of the white race, would once again be harnessed and deployed in Donald Trump’s America. Indeed, the very next day, that fatal August 12th, those nationalist fanatics unleashed an orgy of brutality that led to the deaths of three people and the injuring of many more.

Millions around America and the world were horrified and revolted by that parade of torches.  In my case, however, they also brought to mind deeply personal memories of other fires that had burned darkly so many decades before, far from the United States or Nazi Europe. As I watched footage of that rally, I couldn’t help remembering the bonfires that lit up my own country, Chile, in the aftermath of General Augusto Pinochet’s September 11th coup in 1973 — that “first 9/11,” which, with the active support of Washington and the CIA, had overthrown the popularly elected government of Salvador Allende.

The Chilean people had voted Allende in as their president three years earlier, launching an exceptional democratic experiment in peaceful social change. It would be an unprecedented attempt to build socialism through the ballot box, based on the promise that a revolution need not kill or silence its enemies in order to succeed. It was thrilling to be alive during the thousand days that Allende governed. In that brief period, a mobilized nation wrested control of its natural resources and telecommunication systems from multinational (primarily U.S.) corporations; large estates were redistributed to the peasants who had long farmed them in near servitude; and workers became the owners of the factories they labored in, while bank employees managed their nationalized institutions previously in the hands of rich conglomerates. 

As an entire country shook off the chains of yesteryear, intellectuals and artists were also challenged. We faced the task of finding the words for, the look of, a new reality. In that spirit, Belgian sociologist Armand Mattelart and I wrote a booklet that we called Para Leer al Pato Donald (How to Read Donald Duck). It was meant to respond to a very practical need: the mass media stories Chileans had been consuming, that mentally colonized the way they lived and dreamed of their everyday circumstances, didn’t faintly match the extraordinary new situation in their country. Largely imported from the United States and available via outlets of every sort (comics, magazines, television, radio), they needed to be critiqued and the models and values they espoused, all the hidden messages of greed, domination, and prejudice they contained, exposed.

If there was a single company that embodied the overarching influence of the U.S. — not just in Chile but in so many other lands then known as the Third World — it was the Walt Disney Corporation. Today, in addition to the many amusement parks that bear its name, the Disney brand conjures up a panoply of Pixar princesses, avatars of cars and planes, and tales of teen-age angst and Caribbean piracy. But in Chile, in the early 1970s, Disney’s influence was epitomized by a flood of inexpensive comic books available at every newsstand. So Armand and I decided to focus on them and in particular on the character who then seemed to us the most symbolic and popular of the denizens of the Disney universe. What better way to expose the nature of American cultural imperialism than to unmask the most innocent and wholesome of Walt Disney’s characters, to show what authoritarian tenets a duck’s smiling face could smuggle into Third World hearts and minds?

We would soon discover what an attack on Disney would be met with — and it wasn’t smiles.

Roast Author, Not Duck

Para Leer al Pato Donald, published in Chile in 1971, quickly became a runaway bestseller. Less than two years later, however, it suffered the fate of the revolution and of the people who had sustained that revolution.

The military coup of 1973 led to savage repression against those who had dared to dream of an alternative existence: executions, torture, imprisonment, persecution, exile, and, yes, book burnings, too. Hundreds of thousands of volumes went up in flames.

Among them was our book. A few days after the neo-fascist takeover of Chile’s long-standing democracy, I was in hiding in a clandestine house when I happened to see a live TV transmission of a group of soldiers throwing books onto a pyre — and there was Para Leer al Pato Donald. I wasn’t entirely surprised by this inquisitorial blaze. The book had touched a nerve among Chilean right-wingers. Even in pre-coup times, I had barely avoided being run over by an irate motorist who shouted, “Viva el Pato Donald!” I was saved by a comrade from being beaten up by an anti-Semitic mob and the modest bungalow where my wife and I lived with our young son Rodrigo had been the object of protests.  The children of neighbors had held up placards denouncing my assault on their innocence, while their parents shattered our living-room windows with some well-placed rocks.

Seeing your own book being burned on television was, however, another matter. I had mistakenly assumed — an assumption I still find hard to dislodge, even in Donald Trump’s America — that after the infamous Nazi bonfires of May 1933 in which tons of volumes deemed subversive and “un-German” had been consigned to the flames, such acts would be considered too reprehensible to be done in public. Instead, four decades after those Nazi pyres, the Chilean military was broadcasting their fury and bigotry in the most flagrant way imaginable. And of course it brought home to me in an alarming fashion a simple fact of that moment: given the public fate of my book, the perpetrators would have no compunctions about acting with the same virulence against its author. The experience undoubtedly helped persuade me, a month later, to reluctantly accept orders from the underground Chilean resistance to leave the country to assist in the campaign against General Pinochet from abroad.

From exile, I would then witness how our country became a laboratory for the shock-therapy treatments of the Chicago boys, a group of economists mentored by Milton Friedman who were eager to apply the economic strategies of a brutal laissez-fare capitalism that would conquer England and the United States, too, in the Thatcher and Reagan eras.  They still, of course, reign supreme among conservatives everywhere, especially the plutocrats around Donald Trump. Indeed, many of the policies instituted and attitudes displayed in post-coup Chile would prove models for the Trump era: extreme nationalism, an absolute reverence for law and order, the savage deregulation of business and industry, callousness regarding worker safety, the opening of state lands to unfettered resource extraction and exploitation, the proliferation of charter schools, and the militarization of society. To all this must be added one more crucial trait: a raging anti-intellectualism and hatred of “elites” that, in the case of Chile in 1973, led to the burning of books like ours.

I carried into exile that image of our book in flames. We had intended to roast Disney and the Duck. Instead, like Chile itself, the book was consumed in a conflagration that seemed to know no end. That the military conspirators and their oligarchic civilian masters had been financed and aided by the American government and the CIA, that President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had worked to destabilize and bring down the whole Allende experiment, only added a bitter scent of defeat to the suppression of our book (and so of our critique of their country and its ideology). We had been so sure that our words — and the marching workers who had stimulated them — were stronger than the empire and its acolytes.  Now, the empire had struck back and we were the ones being roasted.

And yet, though so many copies of Para Leer al Pato Donald were obliterated — the entire third edition of the book was thrown into Valparaíso Bay by Chilean navy sailors — as with the Nazis, as with the Inquisition, books are hard things to truly destroy.  Ours was, in fact, being translated and published abroad at the very moment it was being burned in Chile. As a result, Armand and I nursed the hope that even if How to Read Donald Duck could no longer circulate in the country that had given it birth, the version translated by art critic David Kunzle might, at least, penetrate the country that had birthed Walt Disney.

It soon became apparent, however, that Disney, too, was more powerful than we had anticipated. No publisher in the U.S. was willing to risk bringing our book out because we had reproduced — obviously without authorization — a series of images from Disney’s comics to prove our points and Walt’s company was (and still is) notorious for defending its copyright material and characters with an armada of lawyers and threats.

Indeed, thanks to the Disney Corporation, when 4,000 copies of How to Read Donald Duck, printed in London, were imported into the United States in July 1975, the whole shipment was impounded by the Treasury Department. The U.S. Customs Service’s Import Compliance Branch labeled the book an act of “piratical copying” and proceeded to “detain,” “seize,” and “hold [it] in custody” under the provisions of the Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. 106).  The parties involved in the dispute were then invited to submit briefs regarding a final determination of the book’s fate.

The Center for Constitutional Rights took up our defense and, incredibly enough, under the leadership of Peter Weiss, beat the serried ranks of Disney barristers. On June 9th, 1976, Eleanor Suske, head of the Imports Compliance Board, wrote that “the books do not constitute piratical copies of any Walt Disney copyright recorded with Customs.” As philosopher John Shelton Lawrence pointed out in his account of the incident in Fair Use and Free Inquiry, there was, however, a catch to this “victory,” a “serious snag in the final determination of the Customs Department.” Alluding to an arcane law from the late nineteenth century as justification, it allowed only 1,500 copies of the book into the country. The rest of the shipment was prohibited, blocking many American readers from becoming acquainted with the text and turning the few copies that made it to these shores into collector’s items.

Duck, It’s Another Donald!

More than four decades have since passed and only now, eerily enough in this Trumpian moment, is the text of How To Read Donald Duck finally being published in the land of Disney.  It is part of a catalogue accompanying an exhibition at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles.

I would hardly deny that, so many years later, I find satisfaction in the continuing life of a book once consigned to the flames, no less that its “birth” in this country is taking place not so far from Disneyland or, for that matter, from the grave at Forest Lawn Cemetery where the cremated remains of Walt himself lie. (No, he was not frozen cryogenically, as urban legend has it.) No less important to me, our scorched book has snuck into the United States at the very moment when its citizens, animated by the sort of nativism and xenophobia I remember from my own Chile when General Pinochet reigned, have elected to the presidency another Donald — albeit one more akin to Uncle Scrooge McDuck than his once well-known nephew — based on his vow to “build the wall” and “make America great again.” We are clearly in a moment when a yearning to regress to the supposedly uncomplicated, spotless, and innocent America of those Disney cartoons, the sort of America that Walt once imagined as eternal, fills Trump and so many of his followers with an inchoate nostalgia.

It intrigues me that our ideas, forged in the heat and hope of the Chilean revolution, have finally arrived here just as some Americans are picking up torches like the ones that once consumed our book, while millions of others are asking themselves about the conditions that put Donald Trump in the Oval Office where he could fan the flames of hatred. I wonder whether there’s anything those who are now my fellow citizens could learn from our ancient assessment of this country’s deep ideology. Can we today read a second Donald into How to Read Donald Duck?

Certainly, many of the values we impaled in that book — greed, ultra-competitiveness, the subjection of darker races, a deep-seated suspicion and derision of foreigners (Mexicans, Arabs, Asians), all enwreathed in a credo of unattainable happiness — animate many of Trump’s enthusiasts (and not merely them). But such targets are now the obvious ones. Perhaps more crucial today is the cardinal, still largely unexamined, all-American sin at the heart of those Disney comics: a belief in an essential American innocence, in the utter exceptionality, the ethical singularity and manifest destiny of the United States. 

Back then, this meant (as it still largely does today) the inability of the country Walt was exporting in such a pristine state to recognize its own history. Bring to an end the erasure of, and recurring amnesia about, its past transgressions and violence (the enslavement of blacks, the extermination of natives, the massacres of striking workers, the persecution and deportation of aliens and rebels, all those imperial and military adventures, invasions, and annexations in foreign lands, and a never-ending complicity with dictatorships and autocracy globally), and the immaculate Disney worldview crumbles, opening space for quite another country to make an appearance.

Though we chose Walt Disney and his cartoons as our foil, this deep-seated belief in American innocence was hardly his property alone.  Consider, for instance, the recent decision by the generally admirable Ken Burns, that quintessential chronicler of the depths and surfaces of Americana, to launch his new documentary on the Vietnam War, a disastrous and near-genocidal intervention in a faraway land, by insisting that it “was begun in good faith by decent people” and was a “failure,” not a “defeat.”

Take that as just one small indication of how difficult it will be to get rid of the deeply ingrained idea that the United States, despite its flaws, is an unquestionable force for good in the world. Only an America that continues to bathe in this mythology of innocence, of a God-given exceptionalism and virtue destined to rule the Earth, could have produced a Trump victory.  Only a recognition of how malevolent and blinding that innocence is could begin to open the way to a fuller understanding of the causes of Trump’s ascendancy and his almost mesmerizing hold upon those now referred to as “his base.” My small hope: that our book, once reduced to ashes thanks to an anything-but-innocent CIA-backed coup, might in some small way participate in the renewal of America as its better angels search the mirror of history for the reasons that led to the current debacle.

There is, however, an aspect of How to Read Donald Duck that might offer a contribution of another sort to the quest upon which so many patriots in the United States are now embarked.  What stirs me as I reread that document of ours today is its tone — the insolence, outrage, and humor that flow through every page. It’s a book that makes fun of itself even as it mocks Donald, his nephews, and his pals.  It pushes the envelope of language and, behind its language, I can still hear the chants of a pueblo on the march.  It brings back to me the imaginative enormity that every true demand for radical change insists upon.  It catches a missing feeling of our age: the belief that alternative worlds are possible, that they are within reach if we’re courageous enough, and smart enough, and daring enough to take control of our own lives. Para Leer Al Pato Donald was and still is a celebration of such imaginative joy that was its own best reward and that could never be turned into ashes in Santiago or drowned in the bay of Valparaíso or anywhere else.

It is that joy in liberation, that alegría, that spirit of resistance that I would love to share with Americans via the book Pinochet’s soldiers could not liquidate or Disney’s lawyers ban from this country.  Now, it finally finds its way into the very land that invented both Donald Duck and Donald Trump.  At a terrible moment, I hope it’s a modest reminder that we really don’t have to leave this world as it was when we were born.  If I could, I might retitle it though.  What about: How to Read Donald Trump?

Ariel Dorfman, an emeritus professor of literature at Duke, is the author of the play Death and the Maiden, the upcoming novel Darwin’s Ghosts, and a new book of essays Homeland Security Ate My Speech: Messages From the End of the World. He lives with his wife in Durham, North Carolina, and in their native Chile.

[Note: How to Read Donald Duck has now been published in the United States for the first time in How to Read El Pato Pascual: Disney’s Latin America and Latin America’s Disney, the catalogue accompanying an exhibition at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles mentioned in this piece.]

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

Copyright 2017 Ariel Dorfman

via Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Pen America: “Ariel Dorfman in Conversation with Gabriel Sanders”

Rice Vindicated: She did Unmask Trump, Bannon– but they were meeting UAE

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 - 2:52am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The United Arab Emirates crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan slipped into the United States on December 15 for a secret meeting with Trump, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon.

It is unusual for high government officials to visit without letting the White House know. Barack Obama was clearly being frozen out of this meeting. Obama kept insisting that we only have one administration at a time, and was disturbed by the way the Trump circle immediately began pursuing its own foreign policy, not waiting for Jan. 20.

But the National Security Agency has high politicians throughout the world under surveillance, and notices when their cell phones start talking to towers in New York all of a sudden, instead of in Abu Dhabi. So National Security Adviser Susan Rice knew that Sheikh Mohammed was meeting with someone on a surreptitious visit to the US. And she asked the NSA for the identities of the Americans in the meeting. And there they were, Trump, Flynn, Kushner and Bannon. Its like when you hear animals eating garbage in your garage at night and you turn on the light and there are four fat raccoons chowing down on rotten chicken bones.

What was the purpose of this meeting? CNN’s reporting is that the 3-hour conversation ranged over Iran, Yemen and the Mideast peace process. In other words, it was about Iran and Israel.

The UAE felt abandoned by Obama. He put relatively few resources into helping the rebels in Syria,though perhaps a billion dollars (not a large sum for that country).

And he had made that nuclear deal with Iran, which the Arab powers saw as a signal that he was tilting toward Tehran and away from them.

Obama was also increasingly uncomfortable with the Yemen war.

So the UAE, which is a fabulously wealthy if small country (maybe 1.5 mn citizens, 9 million residents) had swung into action to make sure Trump was on their side.

My guess is that they will have urged him to tear up the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, which he had already pledged to do.

It is despicable for these foreign leaders to connive at getting young American soldiers killed for their own purposes.

The UAE royal family is also close to Erik Prince, who runs mercenaries in the global south. Prince in turn is close to Trump. Trump made his sister Betsy DeVos a cabinet member.

A month later, the UAE used Prince to try to reach out to Russia and get Moscow to abandon Tehran.

So Trump’s hysterical tweet that the Obama administration had put him under surveillance is both true and false. It is false that they bugged his penthouse. It is true that he showed up in their sights, because he kept meeting with persons of interest.

Flynn seems to have liked meetings, and called the Russian embassy a lot in this period, as well. And his company had a big payday from a Turkish crony of president Tayyip Erdogan.

Why, despite their protestations of being afraid of or hating Muslims, you wonder whether they weren’t working for some. And that raises another question, which is whether the UAE came bearing bribes.

——

Related video:

ABC: “Democrats say General Michael Flynn committed criminal acts by concealing information”

AT&T and Verizon Need to Hang Up On Fossil Fuels

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 - 1:28am

By Todd Larsen | Otherwords.org | – –

One text at a time, America’s largest telecommunications companies are fueling climate change.

Smartphones are a huge part of our lives.

We use them constantly for texts, social media, calls, directions, and finding information online. Even when we’re sleeping, they’re still active, receiving data all night.

But those little notifications we get on our phones have a surprisingly big environmental footprint. Keeping millions of people connected uses enormous amounts of energy, and most of that energy comes from fossil fuels.

AT&T and Verizon, the two largest telecommunication companies in the United States, use an incredible 26 million megawatts of energy per year, as much as 2.6 million households. And they get less than 2 percent of that energy from wind or solar power.

For their millions of customers, that means every call, text, or search we make is fueling climate change.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In the tech industry, leaders like Google and Apple are already at or near 100 percent power from renewable energy sources. Even Amazon, which isn’t known for its social responsibility, has a goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy for its servers.

Sprint, a direct competitor to AT&T and Verizon, has a goal of reaching 10 percent renewable power this year.

It’s not a question of AT&T or Verizon denying climate change or its impacts. Both companies state that they take climate change seriously. Both have worked to reduce the amount of energy it takes to process data on their massive servers. As a result, even as data usage has grown tremendously, their overall energy usage has increased more slowly.

They’ve slowed the growth of the problem, and saved themselves money in the process. But they’re still using millions of megawatts of energy that directly fuel climate change.

Now is the ideal time for both companies to embrace a commitment to 100 percent clean energy. Clean energy is on the rise in the United States. There are 75,000 megawatts of wind power installed in the country, making up 5.4 percent of the power grid, with the projection to double by 2020 and reach 20 percent by 2030.

Last year, a record of 14,000 megawatts of new solar were installed, and 2018 will bring total U.S. solar installations up to 2 million units.

As clean energy sources grow, they’re getting much cheaper. If major companies like Apple can achieve 100 percent renewable energy across all data centers, we know that AT&T and Verizon can do the same.

It’s not a lack of money that’s holding them back. Both AT&T and Verizon are taking in over $120 billion in revenues per year. They spend millions upon millions of dollars on advertising to lure in new customers.

What’s missing is pressure from their customers to purchase greener energy options. Companies care about what their customers think. Consumers have pushed food companies to offer organic options. They’ve pushed toy manufacturers to remove unsafe chemicals like phthalates.

And they’ve gotten many tech companies to commit to 100 percent clean energy.

AT&T and Verizon need to hear from customers that a commitment to clean energy matters. And if enough of us take action and tell them to hang up on fossil fuels, they will. If they don’t, more and more customers might find themselves turning to Sprint.

Todd Larsen is the executive co-director of Green America. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Ring of Fire: “Billionaires Who Own Republican Party Are Stopping Action On Climate Change”