Informed Comment

Syndicate content
Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion
Updated: 12 hours 36 min ago

Eight People Flee U.S. Border Patrol to Seek Asylum in Canada

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 - 12:50am

TeleSur | – –

As the U.S. looks to tighten its policies on refugees and illegal immigrants, people seeking refugee status have been pouring over the Canada-U.S. border.

Eight asylum-seekers, including four children, barely made it across the Canadian border on Friday as a U.S. border patrol officer tried to stop them and a Reuters photographer captured the scene.

As a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer seized their passports and questioned a man in the front passenger seat of a taxi that had pulled up to the border in Champlain, New York, four adults and four young children fled the cab and ran to Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the other side.

One by one they scrambled across the snowy gully separating the two countries. RCMP officers watching from the other side helped them up, lifting the younger children and asking a woman, who leaned on her fellow passenger as she walked, if she needed medical care.

The children looked back from where they had come as the U.S. officer held the first man, saying his papers needed to be verified.

The man turned to a pile of belongings and heaved pieces of luggage two at a time into the gully — enormous wheeled suitcases, plastic shopping bags, a black backpack.

“Nobody cares about us,” he told journalists. He said they were all from Sudan and had been living and working in Delaware for two years.

People seeking refugee status have been pouring over the Canada-U.S. border as the United States looks to tighten its policies on refugees and illegal immigrants. Asylum-seekers sneak across because even if they are caught, they can make a claim in Canada; if they make a claim at a border crossing, they are turned away.

Via TeleSur

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

CGTN: “Syrian family detained in Canada after illegally crossing border”

Trump invents Sweden Terror Attack, Lies about Immigrant Crime

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 - 3:04am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump made up another alleged terrorist attack at his rally on Saturday, this one about a figment of his imagination that did not actually take place in Sweden on Friday night.

It is clear that Trump and his white supremacist mafia (Steve Bannon et al.) despise Sweden and Germany for having taken in more than their fair of refugees since the crisis began. Trump and his henchmen see refugees and immigrants as inherently dangerous.

This allegation is not true. In fact, in some places immigrants appear actually to cause the local crime rate to fall! A scientific study of crime and immigration in Canada found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native-born. Haimin Zhang of the University of British Columbia writes,

not only do immigrants themselves commit less crimes, they can reduce the crime rates in the long run through channels such as changing the neighbourhood characteristics or impacting the behaviour of natives.”

The same effect can be seen in the United States. Walter Ewing and his colleagues point out,

“Between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent -—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary. According to an original analysis of data from the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) conducted by the authors of this report, roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born. This disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades.”

In countries where this effect cannot be seen, i.e. where immigrants do not reduce the crime rate, it is because of the class of immigrants admitted. The US mostly lets in fairly high-skilled immigrants. As for the undocumented, who tend to do menial labor, they are careful not to commit crimes on the whole because they don’t want to be sent back. A tiny number of gang members who are confident that their gang will bring them back if they are deported casts a shadow over millions of people. But only because we let the far right dominate this discourse.

Ironically, it is precisely people like Donald Trump’s grandfather Frederick who are responsible for some minor problems in Sweden. Frederick at least allowed prostitution in his gold rush hotels, and indeed the prospect of a crackdown on that trade along with other law enforcement actions caused him to try to go back to Germany (the German government did not want him).

Moreover, it should be noted that a lot of the refugees taken in by Sweden are from Afghanistan and Iraq. That is, they are fleeing conditions created by the United States in their countries. So actually it should have been the US who took them, not Sweden. The United States is responsible for the displacement of 4 million Iraqis out of 32 million, or over 12% of the population. The US did not displace all of them directly, but its invasion, overthrow of the government, and abolition of the army did lead to these millions losing their homes and being forced to try to find some other place to live. This would be like 40 million Americans being made homeless, a little more than the combined population of Texas and Georgia.

As for Europe, since all human populations have a certain crime rate, if you let in more people, you are letting in more crime. But the real question is relative. Compared to how many people you let in, is the crime rate out of the ordinary? We have seen that in Canada and the US, it is lower than ordinary.

In Germany, Heather Horn of The Atlantic points out, “Although the number of refugees in the country increased by 440 percent between 2014 and 2015, the number of crimes committed by refugees only increased by 79 percent. (The number of crimes against refugees increased as well.)” Sexual offenses are less than 1%, despite the wild allegations of the far right.

As for refugee rape in Sweden, Doug Saunders at the Globe and Mail quoted an actual academic who actually studies these things: ““What we’re hearing is a very, very extreme exaggeration based on a few isolated events, and the claim that it’s related to immigration is more or less not true at all,” says Jerzy Sarnecki, a criminologist at Stockholm University who has devoted his career to the study of criminality, ethnicity and age.”

Swedes are extremely feminist and define all sorts of things as rape (taking off a condom during sex without informing one’s partner e.g.) as rape that would not be considered rape in other countries.

To any extent that refugees in Sweden commit petty crime, they do so at the same rate as other people of their social class. A study cited by Saunders shows that 75% of the difference between native and foreign-born crime rates is accounted for by where people live and how much they make. He adds, “Among the Swedish-born children of immigrants, the crime rate falls in half (and is almost entirely concentrated in lesser property crimes) and is 100-per-cent attributable to class – they are no more likely to commit crimes, including rape, than ethnic Swedes of the same family income.” Saunders also points out that where rapes do occur, the victims also tend to be immigrants, so the lurid picture painted by Neonazis and Islamophobes of white women assaulted by brown men is a fiction.

In fact, a widely reported, premeditated gang rape in Germany attributed to Muslim immigrants never happened. I wrote Friday, ” There was, for instance, the fake news about the alleged Muslim immigrant mass rapes in Cologne a little over a year ago. Breitbart beat the drums for it, but the the story was not true. Or then there was the phony story about Muslims burning a church in Germany, also played up by Breitbart and also not true. Trump is deeply influenced by Bannon’s insane conspiracy theories; if you want to know why he keeps saying false and/or unbalanced things, consider that he gets his news from alt-Neonazi toilet paper like Breitbart.”

Garden Party, 1640: Iranian Lady entertains European Gentleman

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 - 1:40am

Metropolitian Museum of Art | Isfahan Tile | – –

“At the center of this scene, a lady leans on a bolster pillow and languidly holds out a filled cup. Making somewhat immodest eye contact with the viewer, she displays burn marks, associated with mystics and lovers, on her lower arms. A male figure in European dress and hat, perhaps a merchant, kneels before her. The other figures offer refreshments and conversation.”

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/455082

Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Garden Gathering”

Object Name: Tile panel

Date: 1640–50

Geography: Attributed to Iran, probably Isfahan

Medium: Stonepaste; painted and polychrome glazed (cuerda seca technique)

Are Republicans Shielding Trump from Special Prosecutor and Russia Inquiry?

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 - 1:26am

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer |

Meanwhile, some experts say there is a case for appointing a special prosecutor.

Republicans are dismissing the mounting call to thoroughly investigate the Trump campaign’s connection with Russian intelligence, and party leadership is seemingly pushing for members to fall in line behind the president amid growing outrage.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Wednesday accused Democrats of “politicizing” the issue and told Politico he would not alter the panel’s ongoing Russian probe.

“The Democrats can play their politics all they want; they’re welcome to do that, this is Washington,” Nunes said. “But as far as I’m concerned, we will continue to investigate the Russian activity like we’ve done for many years.”

Nunes and ranking committee Democrat Adam Schiff, also of California, announced plans in January to investigate Russia’s alleged influence on the 2016 election—but that was before President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn stepped down over reports that he had secretly been in touch with Russian diplomats.

Now, Nunes says he will not form a select committee to look into the allegations specifically, despite a growing demand, telling Politico, “There is not going to be one; I can tell you there is absolutely not going to be one. And I am not going to be lectured by people who are speaking out of both sides of their mouths.”

According to reporters John Bresnahan and Rachael Bade, “several senior House Republicans and GOP sources privately echoed those comments,” even as some party leaders, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have publicly stated plans to look into alleged Russian involvement in Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Brenahan and Bade write:

Another senior House Republican who did not wish to be named downplayed the need for further action in the House to investigate the matter. While the source said “there is great angst and concern about this amongst members,” he added that “there’s already an active investigation [of] the campaign in the intelligence community.”

Indeed, inoculating President Donald Trump from criticism and softening the severity of the accusations seems to be a central prescription in the House of Representatives. The source continued, “We support the president and we’re not flinching on this one.”

“[It’s] not a story playing back home. Our focus is on other issues; we have big agenda items we want to accomplish,” he said.

But the GOP’s tone has not sat well with progressives and advocacy organizations. The Los Angeles-based Courage Campaign on Wednesday called on Nunes to resign as chair, stating, “National security and the intelligence that protects the American people should never be subject to political partisanship. Nunes’ failure to take the allegations against Flynn seriously is proof positive that Nunes is either incapable or unwilling to do his job—and that is unacceptable.”

“With so much at stake, we need a Congress that will hold the members of the Trump administration accountable when they undermine and risk the security of the American people,” said Courage Campaign executive director Eddie Kurtz. “Nunes has proven that he is not up to the task.”

The House investigation is just one of several inquiries into what Trump knew about Flynn’s contact with Russian officials. Similar probes are underway in the Senate and among intelligence agencies.

However, as Ken Gude and Kate Martin write at Just Security, “the existence of such investigations is not sufficient grounds to determine that no special counsel is needed because questions have also been raised about the impartiality of the FBI Director and the Bureau which suggest the existence of a conflict.”

There is a case for a special prosecutor to look into Trump’s ties with Russia, they write, outlining numerous conflicts of interest that range from newly-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ key role in the president’s campaign—the U.S. Department of Justice is charged with investigating members of the administration—to moves by the FBI that seem “calculated to be helpful to the Trump campaign and transition.”

“In sum, it is hard to imagine a case for concluding that these circumstances do not present both a conflict of interest and extraordinary circumstances,” Gude and Martin write. “These questions about the Trump administration also undermine public trust in the legitimacy of the government and democratic institutions and thus the public interest would be served by an outside independent and impartial Special Counsel conducting the investigation.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License< Via Commondreams.org

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

WISN 12 News: “Baldwin calls for Trump, Russia investigation”

Not Over: Trump Ban still ruining life of Iraqi Interpreter for US Military

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 - 1:15am

by Megan Rose | ProPublica | – –

In 2006, when I arrived at Camp Taqqadum in Iraq to embed with the U.S. Marines, I was immediately invited for tea by the unit’s interpreter. A quiet, exceedingly courteous father of three young girls, Haider told me how he spent three months at a time away from his family, but didn’t dare carry their pictures. He was a wanted man for helping the Marines, and couldn’t risk insurgents seeing his family should he be captured.

Haider longed to get them out of the country, envisioning the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan — home to a large contingent of Arabs — as something of a promised land.

In 2009, he got his wish and quickly embraced the American dream, starting a small business and buying a house. In November, Haider, now 46, passed his immigration interview for U.S. citizenship.

But even though he is one step away from becoming an American, he is still affected by the 90-day ban on his countrymen — a status unchanged by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ temporary hold on President Donald Trump’s executive order. Though he has been in the country for eight years, leaving now would be a risk. That has quickly become a dicey financial problem for Haider, whose company buys damaged cars at auction, scraps them for parts, then exports them for sale in Iraq. The week after the ban, he said, he was supposed to meet a 15-ton shipment of auto parts at a port in southern Iraq. But it remains unclaimed because he fears if he departs the country he now calls home, he won’t be allowed back in.

“I’m not taking the risk,” Haider said.

After the ban, I had reached out to him on Facebook to see if he was okay, and he told me he was scrambling to find people in Iraq to help him sell his goods at a discount. He’s anticipating that he’ll lose a significant amount of money.

“I’ll do my best,” he said. “I have no choice.”

Haider’s immigration lawyer, an Iraqi-American named Farah Al-Khersam, had herself been detained at the border the day Trump signed the executive order. Even though she is a U.S. citizen and her husband has Canadian citizenship, they were held for hours at the U.S.-Canadian border. They were both eventually allowed to return to their home near Detroit, but Al-Khersam said she immediately called all her clients and told them not to travel.

“They might let you in, but maybe not,” she said she told them about the order that even now, despite several Department of Homeland Security clarifications, is sowing confusion and misgivings. She is also concerned that some clients, like Haider, might think it is safe to leave for several months and come back after the ban is over, only to find it has been extended or more restrictions have been added.

Like many interpreters who aided the U.S. military, and U.S. journalists, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Haider remains vulnerable in his home country. It was only years after I first met him that I learned his real name, instead of the nickname used by the Marines to protect his identity. His family, which now includes two sons, still lives in Iraq and the danger is such that ProPublica isn’t using his full name.

Haider told me while I was embedded that he accepted the risk of his work near Fallujah in the dangerous Anbar Province — hours from his relatively safe home — because he believed the Americans were trying to help. In Iraq and Afghanistan, where I reported for Stars and Stripes, I relied on people like him to help me do interviews in the field, just as the military and State Department did. The entire counterinsurgency strategy in both countries hinged on developing strong ties with the locals — something that wouldn’t be possible without those who, like Haider, were willing to defy death threats.

Haider came to the U.S. on a Special Immigrant Visa designed to help those who worked for the U.S. mission in Iraq and Afghanistan escape potential retaliation and start over. He was one of the nearly 15,000 Iraqis and Afghans who were granted the special status through 2015, according to the Congressional Research Service.

When Trump’s order first came out, there was immediate outrage from veterans and the Pentagon that Iraqi interpreters still trying to make their way to the U.S. were affected by the ban. In early February, Homeland Security said that Special Immigrant Visa holders could “apply for and receive a national interest exception to the pause upon arrival.” Officials did not respond to questions about how the exception worked at the border, what Iraqis had to do to apply for it, and how many have been granted or denied.

Ironically, the State Department has been routinely criticized by Congress for taking too long to process these types of visas — a lag time blamed in part on the security measures in place to vet the applicants. In 2013, a bi-partisan group from Congress wrote to President Barack Obama to decry the encumbered process that had kept more of the visas from being issued, pleading for more “efficiency and effectiveness.”

“Our allied military translators are quite possibly the most vetted individuals aligned with our military,” wrote Matt Zeller, a combat veteran and co-founder of No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that helps interpreters immigrate to the United States.

Interpreters like Haider have to provide a letter of recommendation from a military officer, in some cases from a general, as a first step to qualify for the visa. (Haider has recommendations on USMC letterhead from 10 officers attesting to his loyalty and dedication.) And interpreters are essentially vetted with security checks twice: once before being allowed to work alongside U.S. service members and then again when applying for the visa.

Zeller and other military advocates say the ban could have damaging long-term consequences, scaring off people willing to work with the U.S. military abroad. Marines are once again back in Al Taqqadum to help the Iraqis fight the Islamic State.

Back in 2006, Haider questioned the cumbersome process for Iraqi interpreters to get visas, wondering how after working closely with the military for years, the U.S. government still didn’t trust them. Now he finds that even after assimilating into American culture for nearly a decade, he remains suspect.

Despite that attitude, and the damage to his business, Haider feels warmly about his adopted home and hopes to bring his family to live with him once he’s a citizen.

“America,” he told me, “is a place of work and good chances.”

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

CBS This Morning: ” What’s next for President Trump’s travel ban?”

Dutch Far-Right Leader Vows to Rid Nation of ‘Moroccan Scum’

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 - 1:04am

TeleSur | – –

Geert Wilders hopes the global upsurge in anti-establishment and xenophobic feeling that has helped propel Trump to power will propel him to power.

Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders promised to crack down on “Moroccan scum” who he said were making the streets unsafe and urged the Dutch to “regain” their country as he launched his election campaign on Saturday.

Wilders was surrounded by police and security guards during a walkabout in Spijkenisse, part of the ethnically diverse industrial area surrounding the vast port of Rotterdam and a stronghold of his Freedom Party.

“Not all are scum, but there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who makes the streets unsafe,” he told reporters, speaking in English. “If you want to regain your country, if you want to make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands, your own home, again, then you can only vote for one party.”

Crime by young Moroccans was not being taken seriously, added Wilders, who in December was convicted of inciting discrimination for leading supporters in a chant that they wanted “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Moroccans in the country.

Wilders — who has lived in hiding since Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was shot and killed by Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004 — pledges to ban Muslim immigration, close all mosques and take the Netherlands out of the European Union.

Wilders hopes the global upsurge in anti-establishment, xenophobic and anti-immigrant feeling that has already helped to propel Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and to persuade Britons to vote to quit the EU will propel him to power in the March 15 parliamentary election.

A win for Wilders would boost French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the Alternative for Germany party, both hoping to transform European politics in elections this year through their respective brands of xenophobic nationalism

“Despite all the hate and fear-mongering of the elite both in Britain and Brussels, people took their fate in their own hands,” he said. “I think that will happen in Holland, in France, Austria and in Germany.”

Wilders’ party leads in opinion polls with 17 percent, a whisker ahead of the neoliberal Liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who has closed the gap by matching some of Wilders’ anti-immigration rhetoric and received a boost from a surging economy.

But if he wins, Wilders will struggle to form a government, since most major parties have ruled out joining a coalition with him, viewing his policies as offensive or even unconstitutional.

The fragmented political landscape means a coalition government of four or more parties is all but inevitable.

A study published by the Social Affairs Ministry on Tuesday found that up to 40 percent of the Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands do not feel that they belong or are accepted.

Via TeleSur

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Dutch politician Geert Wilders calls Moroccans “scum””

Top 8 Signs someone is a White Terrorist, e.g. plotting to Blow up Mosque

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 - 3:08am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

1. If you appoint yourself to carry out surveillance of a mosque congregation who have never given any evidence of being violent, you might be a white terrorist.

2. If you don’t know the difference between gentle Sufi mysticism and violent extremism, you might be a white terrorist.

3. If you plot to burn down a mosque, you might be a white terrorist.

4. If you also plot to burn a school and a cafeteria, you might be a white terrorism.

5. If you plot to put together a militia to attack the mosque, you might be a white terrorist.

6. If you make phone calls to potential militia members discussing using assault rifles on Muslims at the mosque who put up resistance, you might be a white terrorist.

7. If the County Commissioner of your county posted a sign showing a cowboy pointing his rifle at the viewer with a caption, “How to wink at a Muslim,” you might be a white terrorist.

8. If despite organizing a terrorist attack and recruiting accomplices from other states, you still aren’t charged with terrorism– you might be a white terrorist.

Robert Doggart has been found guilty on 4 counts of plotting to commit arson and violate civil rights. But he was not charged with terrorism.

Antarctica: Iceberg Size of Delaware Poised to Break Away

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 - 1:51am

Mark Phillips | “CLimate Diaries” | CBS this Morning Video Report | – –

“A massive iceberg in Antarctica is poised to break away at a time of uncertainty over the U.S. government’s policy toward climate change. Mark Phillips is aboard the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Explorer with scientists who are using thousands of photographs to monitor the changing environment.”

CBS this Morning: “Scientists document glaciers melting in Antarctica”

Trump’s Refugee Ban Is Even Crueler Than You Think

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 - 1:41am

By Max Friedman | (Foreign Policy in Focus) | – –

The so-called “Muslim ban” has been compared to U.S. treatment of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. It’s actually even more draconian.

The MS St. Louis, whose Jewish refugee passengers were turned away from the United States shortly before the Holocaust. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The specter of desperate refugees gratefully touching American soil for the first time, only to be sent back to the countries they were escaping, has naturally evoked comparisons to Jewish refugees who were turned away from the United States in the Nazi era.

In particular, many critics of the Trump admiration’s Muslim and refugee ban have invoked the German ocean liner the MS St. Louis, which was packed with more than 900 desperate Jews fleeing Hitler in 1939. After being denied entry to Cuba, it then tried unsuccessfully to enter a U.S. port, tailed by the Coast Guard. Entreaties to the highest levels of the Franklin Roosevelt administration were of no use. The St. Louis steamed back to Europe, where more than 250 of its passengers would perish in the Holocaust.

This comparison, however, is inexact, because those passengers didn’t hold U.S. visas. In fact, what the Trump White House ordered is even harsher.

As my colleagues Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman showed in FDR and the Jews, U.S. officials had leaned on Cuba to accept the St. Louis passengers, and expected them to find temporary asylum there. When Cuban officials canceled their landing permits and turned them away, Roosevelt didn’t open U.S. ports to them because the passengersdidn’t have visas to enter the United States.

The moral failings of this approach now seem clear. But it’s important to remember that there were no death camps in 1939. Though the level of persecution Jews faced in Germany and Austria was horrifying, it hadn’t yet developed into mass murder. Nonetheless, Roosevelt had worked hard to get other countries to take in more Jewish refugees. Under his leadership the United States itself eventually accepted some 200,000 through a legal process he personally labored to expand.

Of course, it wasn’t enough — there was a ten-year waiting list for U.S. visas — but Breitman and Lichtman argue that Roosevelt went as far as he thought the anti-immigrant Congress would permit without provoking it into shutting the gates entirely.

The refugees Trump has ordered turned away, on the other hand, do hold valid visas to enter the United States. The door to their salvation, opened after an extensive vetting process lasting more than a year, has been slammed in their faces. Some were detained or denied boarding at the airport. They face return to their countries of origin or degraded conditions in crowded camps.

It’s as if the passengers on the St. Louis had been clutching U.S. entry visas as they sailed mournfully back to Europe, watching the lights of Miami disappear over the horizon. That would be unimaginable — and is why, as with so much else coming from the new administration, Trump’s action is unprecedented.

A better historical comparison to Trump’s order banning legitimate refugees would be the actions of the highest-ranking official dealing with European refugees during the war, Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long. In 1940, Long personally authored an order making it nearly impossible for any more Jews to come to the United States — even if they were able to amass all the documents and sponsors necessary and persuade a consular officer of their bona fides. Long issued his order knowing it would cause a “drastic reduction” in refugees saved.

Long confided to his diary his feelings about Jews: “They are lawless, scheming, defiant — and in many ways unassimilable… Some are certainly German agents.”

Long was wrong. Not a single Jewish refugee admitted to the United States ever spied for the Nazis. Like refugees fleeing the charnel house of Syria today, they were escaping persecution and violence, not spreading it. But Long ensured that even Jews legally eligible to immigrate to the United States were kept out, thereby becoming the chief villain of the U.S. response to the Holocaust.

Like Long’s, Trump’s action isn’t a rational security measure, since vetted refugees who settle in the United States have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks. Like the phantom Jewish refugees who supposedly worked for the Nazis, the charge of collaboration with the oppressors they’re fleeing is a canard. (Trump counters by pointing to Germany, but the few new arrivals who committed acts of terrorism there did not go through the extensive U.S. vetting process.)

From chief strategist Steve Bannon’s crusader talk to ex-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s blustery tweet that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” from calling for a “Muslim ban” to preferential treatment for Christians, Trump has made clear what motivates his order. He should think about how history has judged Breckinridge Long. Tragedy ensues when policy is based on prejudice.

Max Paul Friedman is a professor of history at American University and a visiting fellow at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. He’s the author of Nazis and Good Neighbors (Cambridge University Press).

Via Foreign Policy in Focus

——

Related video added by Juan Cole:

AP: ” Trump’s travel ban brings anxiety to refugee haven”

Trump’s Mideast Policy is clear as Pea Soup, but likely bad for Palestinians

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 - 1:31am

Jacob Eriksson | (The Conversation) | – –

By the standards of his turbulent time in office, President Donald Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was relatively nondescript. In many ways, Trump’s statements to the assembled press were characteristic of the colloquial, rambling, but above all vague, policy announcements made to date. His press conference with Netanyahu generated more questions than answers and the outlook for Israeli-Palestinian peace remains grim.

As has been widely acknowledged, Trump appeared to reverse 15 years of explicit (and decades of implicit) US support for a Palestinian state and a two-state solution. However, it was much more ambiguous than a direct disavowal. When it comes to solutions: “I like the one that both parties like … I can live with either one”. Trump failed to even express a preference.

He has also taken an ambiguous position on Israeli settlements. He blasted the Obama administration for abstaining on a UN Security Council resolution criticising settlement construction, thereby allowing it to pass. He reiterated this on Wednesday by rejecting “unfair and one-sided” action against Israel at the UN. His nominated ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a known funder and ideological supporter of the settlement movement. Emboldened by their expectations of this duo, the Israeli government in January and February announced new wave of construction in Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, and elsewhere in the West Bank.

In response, the White House said it had not taken an official position on settlement activity, but urged all parties to refrain from unilateral actions. Trump also told Netanyahu: “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit – we’ll work something out.” While this can hardly be considered a rebuke and is devoid of specifics, it adds a level of uncertainty.

What’s the policy here?

As with so many other areas of policy, Trump vacillates from one pole to another. In December 2015, he appeared to take a more even-handed approach to the conflict when speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). His unusual refusal to call for an undivided Jerusalem elicited boos from the crowd. He has since made moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a priority, and then prevaricated.

At that same RJC meeting, he said, “I’d like to go in with a clean slate, and just say, ‘let’s go, everybody’s even, we love everybody and let’s see if we can do something’”. In an interview a few months later, he asked a reporter to “let me sort of be a neutral guy” by not making pronouncements for one side or the other.

The problem is of course that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, everybody is not even. The Palestinians live under Israeli occupation. This asymmetry means that not pushing back against settlement expansion or being coy about support for a Palestinian state is tantamount to a green light for Israel to continue its creeping annexation of the occupied West Bank.

No room for indecision

The one hint of what “really a great peace deal” would look like referred in thinly veiled terms to the wider Arab world: “It would take in many, many countries and would cover a very large territory”. Such a deal (referred to as an outside-in strategy) would aim to capitalise on the shared antipathy between Israel and Sunni Arabs towards Iran, and convince them to bring the Palestinians into line in order to more easily confront their common enemy.

While the principle of including the Arab world in negotiations is both old and correct, the notion that they will readily abandon the idea of a Palestinian state is overly optimistic. Moreover, the idea that most Palestinians would settle for anything less is practically delusional. Although Arab leaders are as frustrated as ever with the divided and failing Palestinian leadership, the issue is important on the street. After the turmoil of the Arab Spring, the regimes in Egypt, the Gulf, and elsewhere are not keen on provoking their citizens over the subject.

On the one hand, Trump’s flexibility and bluster can be seen as the positive pragmatism of a deal-maker. On the other hand, it also suggests an astounding naivety and a lack of understanding of the details of the conflict. Policy seems to fluctuate depending on who Trump last spoke to. Reversal on the US embassy, for example, appeared to come after meeting King Abdullah of Jordan, who emphasised the possible negative implications.

While Trump seems to take a great deal of pleasure from being unpredictable, this does not augur well for peace in a chaotic region. Netanyahu is notoriously risk-averse, and often points to instability as a reason not to make any drastic peace overtures. The Arab states, for their part, have other issues such as Islamic State, Syria, Iraq and Yemen on their minds. As they wade into these treacherous diplomatic waters, Trump and his son-in-law turned negotiator Jared Kushner will soon discover why this conflict has bedevilled seasoned diplomats and experts for decades.

Jacob Eriksson, Lecturer in Post-war Recovery Studies, University of York

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

———

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Al Jazeera English: “Palestinians react to Trump’s statement on two-state solution”

As Antarctica Ice Cover Shrinks, Trump Picks ‘Most Dangerous’ EPA Leader

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 - 1:13am

TeleSur | – –

Pruitt, a suspected climate change denier, has expressed plans to roll back climate policies that regulate the fossil fuel industry.

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, with support from 50 Republicans and two Democrats.

Pruitt, a suspected climate change denier, has expressed plans to roll back climate policies that regulate the fossil fuel industry. President Donald Trump’s pick falls in line with his vision of massively downsizing the EPA’s role, or at least “leaving a little bit,” as he said during a campaign speech.

News of Pruitt’s confirmation came hours after the release of a new study reporting that sea ice around Antarctica shrunk to its lowest monthly extent on record in January. The study, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, adds that Antarctic sea ice extent averaged just 4.04 million square kilometers, 1.19 million square kilometers below the 1981 through 2010 average.

It doesn’t stop there — Arctic sea ice had its smallest January extent on record, topping the previous record set last year, Science News reports.

Freaked out? You’re not the only one. Environmental activists and politicians were immediately alarmed by Trump’s pick.

Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, predicted that Pruitt will be “the worst, most dangerous administrator in EPA history,” Common Dreams reports.

“We’ll be drinking dirtier water and breathing dirtier air because of this disturbing decision, and our wildlife and climate will pay a terrible price.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) tweeted that Pruitt’s confirmation “shows once again that Republicans will deny climate change and protect the interests of Big Oil at all costs.”

You don’t have to look far to learn Pruitt’s views on the EPA and the environment.

His Oklahoma Attorney General bio page describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” And in 2015, he sued the EPA for an “unlawful clean power plan rule” that “threatens Oklahoma power reliability and affordability.”

Pruitt has even been accused of collaborating with corporations and lobbyists to file lawsuits against federal regulations on air pollution and fracking, the New York Times reports.

The EPA was established by former President Richard Nixon in 1970.

Via TeleSur

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Young Turks: ” EPA-Hating Scott Pruitt Confirmed Head Of EPA”

Tomorrow, they will say, “Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.”

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 - 2:35am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

So Trump did rant and rave at the press on Thursday. But not at all the press. He has never attacked Breitbart, the vehicle for white supremacist falsehoods piloted by his Rasputin, Neofascist Steve Bannon (White House chief of strategy and National Security Council eminence grise).

And that is the real significance of his accusation that the major corporate media outlets are “fake news.” What he means by that is their refusal to adopt a white supremacist editorial line.

He doesn’t actually mind fake news, or he would fire Bannon and dissociate himself from Breitbart, which is mostly filled with far-right racist falsehoods. There was, for instance, the fake news about the alleged Muslim immigrant mass rapes in Cologne a little over a year ago. Breitbart beat the drums for it, but the the story was not true. Or then there was the phony story about Muslims burning a church in Germany, also played up by Breitbart and also not true. Trump is deeply influenced by Bannon’s insane conspiracy theories; if you want to know why he keeps saying false and/or unbalanced things, consider that he gets his news from alt-Neonazi toilet paper like Breitbart.

He is attacking mainstream media for not following the Breitbart lead, and for disrupting the narrative that he and Bannon are trying to spread, of persecuted white people suffering at the hands of invading Mexicans, Chinese and Arabs.

He minds the mainstream media giving over their airwaves to critics of his Muslim ban (not everyone has; Rupert Murdoch’s Faux News has been a cheerleader for it and even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has insisted that Judge James Robart and the panel at the 9th Circuit were out of line in challenging it).

He minds the mainstream media reporting on the spike in threats to synagogues since he was inaugurated, and on his White House refusal to mention Jews in his Holocaust message (“other people suffered”). That is why he was so rude to Jake Turx of Ami magazine. Bannon and Trump think the liberal Jewish elite are behind Fed monetary policy and pro-immigration policy (i.e. the Jews are to blame for the Muslims).

He minds negative coverage of his policies toward Mexico, including his smearing of Mexican-Americans as rapists and drug dealers and threat to send down US security forces to take care of their ‘bad hombres.’ He has no Latino cabinet members. He clearly does not like Latinos or think they belong in the US (even though old Castilian Californio families have been here since 1769, rather before the petty grifter Frederick Trumpf began his seedy activities in 1885 in Queens).

What Trump is trying to do by vilifying the corporate media is to bring them to heel and to put pressure on them to bring more Breitbart and Stormfront commentators on air to spew Trumpist talking points.

Ironically, Jared Kushner is also playing a role in trying to bring e.g. CNN to heel. He’ll be sorry.

This is not cute, folks, and for all the giggles it produces on the late night opening monologues, it is extremely sinister.

When someone like Trump moves the signposts on allowable public discourse, things can get ugly fast. You start having panels on cable news at 2 pm debating about whether African-Americans have only themselves to blame because of their laziness and violence. (You can tell this is propaganda because self-contradictory; lazy people wouldn’t have the vim for violence). You start having anchors who think that Islam is an intrinsically violent or anti-democratic religion (this has already happened on HBO via phony liberal and stealth supremacist Bill Maher). You start having commentators opining on the dangers of undocumented immigrants voting in New Hampshire.

Trump hopes to keep the pressure on, by portraying independent news and commentary as inherently false and unfair, and to use his shock troops to intimidate the media into taking his line, which is to say, the Neofascist line.

Trump went on to boast about his New Improved Mussolini foreign policy:

I have directed our defense community headed by our great general, now Secretary [James] Mattis. He’s over there now working very hard to submit a plan for the defeat of ISIS, a group that celebrates the murder and torture of innocent people in large sections of the world. It used to be a small group, now it’s in large sections of the world.They’ve spread like cancer. ISIS has spread like cancer — another mess I inherited.

ISIL does not actually murder people in large sections of the world. Obama rolled it back into being a relatively small terrorist group. All it has left in Iraq is part of the city of Mosul; it has half of dusty, remote Raqqa province in Syria. It has been kicked out of Sirte in Libya, in part by Obama’s AFricom strategy. While small terrorist cells can hit anywhere at any time, portraying ISIL as actively committing massive violence in large sections of the world is just vast exaggeration and fear-mongering.

Then he said:

“And we have imposed new sanctions on the nation of Iran, who has totally taken advantage of our previous administration, and they’re the world’s top sponsor of terrorism, and we’re not going to stop until that problem is properly solved. And it’s not properly solved now, it’s one of the worst agreements I’ve ever seen drawn by anybody.”

In fact, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has made it clear that he is not tearing up the Iran nuclear agreement, so Trump may as well stop complaining about that deal. Trump doesn’t seem to realize that his own policy is to support Russia in Syria, and Russia is allied with Iran in Syria. Moreover, ISIL was only rolled up in Iraq with Iranian help.

Iran is not the world’s primary backer of terrorism, despite what Washington pols keep saying. They considered Hizbullah’s struggle to liberate illegally occupied south Lebanon from Israeli occupation to be ‘terrorism,’ and minded that Iran backed Hizbullah. A country like the US, which waged a war of aggression on Iraq, set in train the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, bombed urban residential districts, made four million Iraqis homeless, and left behind a country of orphans and widows, really doesn’t have room to criticize Iran, which has not launched a war of aggression on a neighbor in modern history.

Then Trump boasted about plans to vastly expand the Pentagon budget. The US has less than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan and half that in Iraq. Aside from those two situations, America is not at war. Yet is has a military budget that roughly 40 percent of world military spending! The US is 5 percent of the world population. With the exception of some police actions we aren’t at war. We don’t need all that military spending.

Actually, if Trump worked to make Central America more prosperous, that would be a much better use of several hundred billion dollars going to the Pentagon. And that step, not building a wall, is what would reduce immigration to the US across its southern border (though note that already, more Mexicans leave annually than come in, because of the good Mexican economy).

None of this is funny. Bad.

Juan Cole

—–

Related video:

Press, fake news, leaks and Russia: Highlights from Trump presser – BBC Newsnight

Image of the Day: Gemini Constellation, As Seen in the Heavens, Iran,1630

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 - 12:36am

New York Public Library |

Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library. “Gemini, as seen in the heavens. Mirror image of f. 91?” Tarjumah-i suwar al-kawâkib (Translation of “Images of the Planets”). Iran, c. 1630, possibly Mashhad.

New York Public Library Digital Collections.

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/8d2bcb1e-42d4-7f14-e040-e00a180641da

The New Patriotism: Loving the Real America to resist Trumpism

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 - 12:19am

By Frida Berrigan | ( Tomdispatch.com ) | – –

So reality has inexorably, inescapably penetrated my life.  It didn’t take long. Yes, Donald Trump is actually the president of the United States. In that guise, in just his first weeks in office, he’s already declared war on language, on loving, on people who are different from him — on the kind of world, in short, that I want to live in. He’s promised to erect high walls, keep some people in and others out and lock up those he despises, while threatening to torture and abuse with impunity.

Still, a small personal miracle emerges from this nightmare. It turns out that, despite growing up an anarchist protest kid who automatically read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States alongside the official textbooks, I love this country more each day.  So I find myself eternally upset about our new political reality-show, about a man so thin-skinned he lashes out at everything and so insulated in his own alt-reality that no response to him seems to matter.

Above all, I am so mad. Yeah, I’m mad at all those people who voted for Trump and even madder at the ones who didn’t vote at all. I’m mad at everyone who thinks the sum total of their contribution to the political well-being of this country is voting every two or four years. I’m mad at our corporate-political system and how easily distracted people are. I’m steaming mad, but mostly at myself.  

Yep, I’m mad at myself and at the Obamas. They made empire look so good! Their grace and intelligence, their obvious love for one another and the way they telegraphed a certain approachability and reasonableness. So attractive! They were fun — or at least they looked like that on social media. Michelle in the karaoke car with Missy Elliot singing Beyoncé and talking about global girls’ education! Barack and a tiny Superman at a White House Halloween party. Michelle, unapologetically fierce after Trump’s demeaning Access Hollywood comments came to light. I loved those Obamas, despite my politics and my analysis. I was supposed to resist all his efforts at world domination through drones and sweeping trade deals and instead I fell a little bit in love, even as I marched and fasted and tried to resist.

Falling in Love With My Country

Now, we have a new president. And my love is gone, along with my admiration, my pride, and my secret wish to attend a state dinner and chat with the Obamas over local wine and grass-fed beef sliders.

What’s not gone, though, what’s strangely stronger than ever, is my love for this country.

I didn’t love the United States under Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or Bush the First. I was a kid and they were names on protest banners and headlines in the news. My parents were the Catholic peace activists Liz McAlister and Phil Berrigan, and I grew up in an anarchist collective of Christian resisters. My parents and their friends went to jail repeatedly and resolutely. We demonstrated, rallied, and railed at every institution of power in Washington. Those presidents made the adults around me angry and agitated, so they scared me.

I didn’t love the United States under Bill Clinton either — I was young and in college and opposed to everything — nor under George W. Bush. I was young and in New York City and still opposed to almost everything.

I started calling myself a “New Yorker” three years after moving there when, on a sunny Tuesday morning, airplanes became weapons, tall towers fell, and 3,000 people died. I emerged from my routine subway ride at 14th Street, unaware and unscathed, to stand still with the rest of the city and watch the sky turn black. I spent the rest of that day in Manhattan with friends trying to reach my parents and following the news, as we all tried (and failed) to come to grips with the new reality. Once the bridges reopened, we walked home to Brooklyn that evening, terrified and shell-shocked.

9/11 provided the rationale for sweeping changes in Washington. War by fiat, paid for in emergency supplementals that circumvented Congressional processes; a new Department of Homeland Security (where did that word “homeland” even come from?); a proliferation of increasingly muscular intelligence agencies; and a new brand of “legal” scholarship that justified both torture and indefinite detention, while tucking secret black sites away in foreign countries. All this as the United States went to war against “terrorism” — against, that is, an idea, a fringe sentiment that, no matter how heavily weaponized, had been marginalized until the United States put it on the map by declaring “war” on it.

The U.S. then invaded and occupied big time, including a country that had nothing to do with the terrorists who had attacked us, and we’ve been at war ever since at a heavy cost — now inching toward $5 trillion. Conservative estimates of how many people have been killed in the many war zones of what used to be called the Global War on Terror is 1.3 to 2 million. The number of U.S. military personnel who have lost their lives is easier to put a number to: more than 7,000, but that doesn’t count private contractors (aka mercenaries), or those (far more difficult to quantify) who later committed suicide. Now, President Trump has begun adding to this bloody death toll, having ordered his first (disastrous) strike, a Special Operations raid on Yemen, which killed as many as 30 civilians, including children, and resulted in the death of an American Navy SEAL as well.

September 11th was a long time ago. But I finally fell in love with my country in the days following that awful attack. I saw for the first time a certain strain of patriotism that swept me away, a strain that says we are stronger together than alone, stronger than any blow that strikes us, stronger in our differences, stronger in our unities. I’m talking about the kind of patriotism that said: don’t you dare tell us to go to Disney World, Mr. President! (That was, of course, after George W. Bush had assured us that, while he made war, our response as citizens to 9/11 should be to “get down to Disney World in Florida.  Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”)

Instead of heeding that lame advice, some of us went out and began to try to solve problems and build community. I had read about it in books — the labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s — but I hadn’t seen it myself, hadn’t been a part of it before, and I fell in love.

Of course, the drumbeat for war started instantly in Washington and was echoed throughout the nation, but many of us — the intended victims of that attack — said “our grief is not a cry for war.” We circled around the victims’ families; we reminded America that it wasn’t only lawyers and hedge-fund managers who died that day, but cooks and couriers and homeless people and undocumented immigrants, too.

We pulled people from the rubble.  We made the “pile” a place of sacred memory long before a huge monument and gift shop were erected there.  We honored the first responders who died, we stood up for Muslims and Arabs and all those whom ignorance scapegoated.  We marched against war in Afghanistan and then in far vaster numbers against war in Iraq.  We called for an international police response to those acts of terrorism — that weapon of the weak, not the powerful — instead of the unilateral, militarized approach adopted by the Bush administration. We celebrated, and saw as a strength, New York’s incredible diversity. We made art and music and poetry. We prayed in all languages to all the names of God.

The Donald, a One-Man 9/11

I guess I’ve been thinking about September 2001 again because, only weeks into his presidency, Donald Trump already seems like a one-man 9/11. He’s ridden roughshod over business as usual without even a geopolitical crisis or calamity as an excuse — and that’s not so surprising since Trump himself is that calamity.

With a razor-thin mandate, considerable bluster, and a voracious appetite for alt-facts (lies), he’s not so much tipping over the apple cart as declaring war on apples, carts, and anything else beginning with the letter A or C.

It seems almost that random and chaotic. In these weeks, he’s shown a particular appetite for upending convention, saying screw you to just about everyone and everything, while scrapping the rules of decorum and diplomacy. With a sweep of his pen and a toss of his hair, he takes away visas, nullifies months of work by advocates for refugees, and sends U.S. Special Forces off to kill and be killed. With a few twitches of his thumbs he baits Mexico, disses China, and throws shade at federal judges. With a few ill-chosen words about Black History month (comments that would have been better written by my 10 year old), he resurrects Frederick Douglass, disparages inner cities, and slams the “dishonest” media again (and again and again). His almost-month as president can be described as busy and brash, but it barely hides the banality of greed.

Flying Our Flag

Sure, Donald Trump’s a new breed, but perhaps in the end our resistance will make him the aberration he should be, rather than the new normal. So many of his acts are aimed at demeaning, degrading, demonizing, and denigrating, but he’s already failing — by driving so many of us to a new radical patriotism. I’m not the only one falling in love with this country again and this love looks like resistance — a resistance that, from the first moments of the Trump era, has seemed to be almost everywhere you looked.

Even at his inauguration, a group of young people stood on chairs wearing matching sweatshirts spelling out R-E-S-I-S-T in big letters. They had positioned themselves in the inner ring of the Capitol and were loud and visible as Chief Justice John Roberts swore the new president into office. The environmental group Greenpeace greeted Trump’s White House with a daring banner drop from a crane across the street — a huge, bright banner also emblazoned with RESIST. Pink woolen “pussy hats” were popularized by the Women’s March, a global event and possibly the largest demonstration in American history, one that rekindled our hope and strengthened our resolve on inauguration weekend. Now, those hats help us recognize and salute one another.

We’re working hard. We’re tying up the phone lines all over Capitol Hill, turning town halls into rowdy rallies for health care and human rights, shelling out money to support Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the immigration lawyers fighting for people barred from the U.S. and the closest Black Lives Matter chapter. We’re getting organized, getting trained, getting prepared, and getting connected. And we’re doing it all with a sense of humor: the Bowling Green Massacre Victims Fund? Priceless!

We are, in short, resisting in old ways and new.

Given my background, it’s no surprise that I’m not a flag waver. While growing up, I learned a lot more about what was wrong with my country than about what was right with it. But I’m seeing so much that’s right about it in this new Trump era of engagement or, if you prefer, call it radical patriotism. I’m mad… I’m scared… I’m hopeful… I’m still in love — more so than ever — with this country Trump is trying to hijack.

I don’t live in a big city any more. I’m not a scrappy kid in my early thirties either. I’m a mother of three kids and a homeowner. I’ve sunk my roots in a small, struggling, stalwart community along Connecticut’s eastern shoreline and I’m planning to live here for the rest of my life.

New London is a community of 27,000 or so, poor and diverse.  It’s almost a majority-minority community, in fact. We’re home to three refugee families settled from Syria and Sudan. We have a good school system, getting better all the time. Every Wednesday, the chefs at the middle school up the street from my house cook a meal, open the cafeteria, and invite the whole community to eat dinner for five dollars per person. I went with my girls a couple of weeks ago for Cajun shrimp stew and white rice. The room was full and the mood was high. Young professionals and hipsters with kids ate alongside folks who had just stood in line for an hour and a half for a free box of food from the United Way across the street and gotten a free meal coupon as well for their troubles.

New London’s mayor held a press conference soon after in the lobby of City Hall where the heads of all the city departments asserted their support for immigrants and refugees in our community. The last city council meeting was standing room only as people pushed an ordinance to keep fracking waste out of our area.

The weekend after the inauguration, my husband and I raised a flagpole on the second story porch of our house and hung a rainbow peace flag from it. I look up at it every morning waving in the breeze and I’m glad I live here, in this country, in this moment of radical upsurge and a new spirit of patriotism.

I’m talking to my neighbors. I’m going to city council meetings. I’m writing letters to the editor of our local paper. I’m taking my Sudanese neighbors grocery shopping and to the post office. I’m loaded for bear (nonviolently, of course) if anyone tries to mess with them.

My kids are the anti-Trumps. “We went to the women’s march in Hartford, Mommy,” two-year-old Madeline shouts every time she hears the word woman. She knows enough to be proud of that. “Look, Mommy! They have a flag like ours!” says four-year-old Seamus with delight whenever he sees another rainbow, even if it’s just a sticker. He’s learning to recognize our tribe of patriots.

We’re engaged, we’re awake, we’re in love, and no one is taking our country from us.

Frida Berrigan, a TomDispatch regular, writes the Little Insurrections blog for WagingNonviolence.org, is the author of It Runs In The Family: On Being Raised By Radicals and Growing Into Rebellious Motherhood, and lives in New London, Connecticut.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Frida Berrigan

Via Tomdispatch.com

How Trumpist White Supremacy Builds On Earlier Far-Right Upsurges

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 - 12:18am

By Matthew N. Lyons | (TeleSur) | – –

The “alt-right” network has brought together multiple currents, from neo-Nazis to men’s rights activists, right-wing anarchists to neo-reactionaries.

The day after Donald Trump’s upset electoral victory over Hillary Clinton, "alt-right" founder Richard Spencer declared that his movement was "the new Trumpian vanguard" — offering ideological direction to Donald Trump’s fuzzy-headed populism. Spencer and his comrades have generally supported President Trump’s early measures but they want more — a total ban on all immigration, for instance — and instead of Trump’s dog whistle appeals, they advocate an explicit politics of race. Some Alt-Rightists, in addition, have warned that they might "revolt" if the Trump administration doesn’t follow their lead.

The alt-right (short for alternative right) — a loose network of white nationalists, misogynists, and authoritarians who are as hostile to mainstream conservatives as they are to multicultural liberals — offered vital help to Trump’s presidential campaign through the skillful use of internet memes and online harassment of Trump opponents. But they have never seen Trump as truly one of their own or believed he would bring about the changes they wanted. Most alt-rightists hope that a Trump presidency will give them space to promote far more sweeping changes — notably dismantling or seceding from the United States to establish a white "ethno-state."

The alt-right’s attitude toward Trump highlights an important dividing line within the U.S. right — the divide between those who accept the legitimacy of the existing political system, and those who don’t. I reserve the term "far right" for forces that (1) regard human inequality as natural or inevitable and (2) reject the established political order on principle. The "system-loyal right," by contrast, includes those forces that want to make change through incremental measures. An analogy on the left is the difference between social democrats and communists, reformists and revolutionaries.

One of the biggest ways that far rightists make an impact is through collaboration and interchange with system-loyal rightists, such as alt-rightists helping to put Trump in the White House and using his campaign to increase their own visibility. Yet the two part company on whether to accept the U.S. political system or abandon it and sooner or later that is likely to lead to conflict.

Far-right movements, as I use the term, have risen periodically in U.S. history, starting with the original Ku Klux Klan in the years after the Civil War. Denouncing northern "military despotism," the Klan and similar vigilante groups waged a campaign of terror across the former Confederacy to disenfranchise African-Americans and destroy the Radical Reconstruction state governments in which black people played a leading role. By contrast, the second Klan, founded in 1915, was a system-loyal movement that vilified Catholics, Jews, and immigrants as well as Blacks, but found ample room to promote its supremacist politics within the political order of its day.

Today’s far-right politics began forming in the 1970s and 80s as part of a broader rightist backlash against the progressive upheavals of the 1960s. The Black liberation movement and other social liberation forces not only challenged established hierarchies and transformed U.S. culture; they also brought about big changes in the U.S. government’s role. Under pressure from the left, the federal government banned racial discrimination and protected Black people’s right to vote, created new social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, increased regulation of business in areas such as the environment and occupational health and safety, strengthened protections for criminal defendants and prisoners, and expanded women’s reproductive rights.

Most of the rightist counterattack to these changes, such as the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, was designed to shift the existing political system in a more conservative direction. But for the first time since World War II, a significant minority of rightists began to withdraw their loyalty from the U.S. government. In the 1960s, white supremacist groups such as the Klan had concentrated on defending Jim Crow segregation and keeping Black people from voting. After these efforts were decisively defeated, many white supremacists gravitated toward a new kind of revolutionary rightist politics, based on an unprecedented convergence of Klan and neo-Nazi forces.

By the 1980s, a resurgent white supremacist movement was pursuing multiple strategies. David Duke used an electoral strategy, masking his neo-Nazism behind a populist veneer, and pioneered campaign themes that system-loyal rightists such as Patrick Buchanan later emulated. Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance developed a militant, street-fighting presence, recruited heavily within the skinhead subculture, and promoted "Third Position" politics that blended racism with twisted anti-capitalism. Most dramatically, an underground cell known as The Order "declared war" on the U.S. government and embarked on a string of bank robberies, killings, and bombings before its members were rounded up or killed in shootouts with the police.

In the 1990s, a broader array of rightists — including neo-Nazis, the Christian right’s hardline theocratic wing, and some anti-environmentalists, gun rights activists and libertarians — converged to form the Patriot movement, which grew explosively to include some 858 groups in 1996. The movement warned that globalist elites were plotting to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and impose a dictatorship. This claim involved wildly implausible conspiracy theories but was fueled by real acts of deadly state repression, notably federal assaults on the Weaver family home in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and the Waco, Texas, compound of the Branch Davidian religious cult in 1993. Patriot activists promoted hostility to the federal government and formed "militias" and "common law courts," which claimed to exercise governmental authority. Some of these groups rejected the federal government on principle, and a few planned or carried out physical attacks on federal institutions or personnel. The Patriot movement declined sharply in the late 1990s, partly due to increased government investigation following the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing by neo-Nazi Timothy McVeigh and others, which was widely but inaccurately blamed on Patriot groups. The movement rebounded after Obama was elected president.

Today, the alt-right is spearheading a new far-right upsurge. The movement has brought together multiple supremacist and authoritarian currents, from neo-Nazis to men’s rights activists, from right-wing anarchists who envision Nietzschean supermen rising above the sheeplike masses to neo-reactionaries who think that popular sovereignty is a grave threat to civilization. Like other far-right movements before it, the alt-right has attracted system-loyal sympathizers and apologists — known as the "alt-lite" — who help spread a lot of its message without endorsing its full ideology or ethno-state goals. This alt-lite includes Steve Bannon, formerly Breitbart News head and now Trump’s chief strategist, who stuck the alt-right label on his own brand of authoritarian nationalism in the same way he latched onto the Tea Party label a few years ago.

Unlike the Nazi-Klan movement of the 1980s or the Patriot movement of the 1990s, the alt-right mostly exists online. This means it is unlikely to take up armed struggle or organize militias, but it has powerful tools to continue its "metapolitical" strategy, to shift the parameters of political discourse as a first stage before transforming institutions. And unlike the previous two far-right upsurges, which were met by federal government crackdowns, the alt-right now faces a presidential administration that it helped to put in power. The alt-right’s alliance with Trump could flounder on many issues — from the president’s "half measures" on border control to his strong support for the government of Israel — but for the time being it offers unprecedented opportunities for far-right politics to grow and thrive.

Matthew N. Lyons is an independent scholar who blogs at Three Way Fight, and co-author with Chip Berlet of Right-Wing Populism in America (Guilford, 2000). This article is based on his forthcoming book, Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire

Via TeleSur

———–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

VICE News: “Armed and Anxious: VICE News Tonight on HBO (Full Segment)”

Israeli, Palestinian officials react to Trump’s shift away from 2-state solution

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 - 12:02am

Ma’an News Agency | – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Following a controversial meeting held Wednesday between US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli and Palestinian leaders reacted with praise and condemnation in response to a clear shift in US policy away from backing the two-state solution.

Trump responded to a question on Wednesday regarding his administration’s position on the two-state solution during a press conference preceding the meeting, a day after a US official said that the country was not necessarily committed to the policy as the sole way out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said, eliciting laughter from Netanyahu. “I can live with either one.”

While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, a growing number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace given the existing political context, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli reactions

Right-wing Israeli politicians were quick to applaud the meeting between Trump and Netanyahu, with Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoting far-right Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett as saying that “the Palestinian flag has been taken off the flagpole and was replaced with the Israeli flag. The Palestinians already have two states — Gaza and Jordan. There is no need for a third.”

He also wrote on social media: “A new era. New ideas. No need for third Palestinian state beyond Jordan and Gaza. Big day for Israelis and reasonable Arabs.”

Bennett had previously expressed his support for Trump, saying in November following the US presidential elections that a Trump presidency would mark the end of a push for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country (Israel), which would hurt our security and just cause,” Bennett said at the time. “This is the position of the President-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple. The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan from the Likud Party was quoted by Haaretz as saying that Trump’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “proves we are in a new era. The positions the president took indicate an understanding that the two-state solution is not the only solution for achieving peace and that the time has come to reverse the equation and exert pressure on the Palestinian side.”

Right-wing ministers across the board indicated their view that Israel was entering a “new era” not restricted by the two-state solution or longstanding peace standards established by the international community.

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev, also from the Likud party, reportedly said that “the era of the freeze has ended. It’s the end of the [construction] freeze in Judea and Samaria,” an Israeli term for the West Bank, adding that “a new diplomatic era began in Washington today.”

Other right-wing ministers expressed their relief that the Israeli government no longer had to maintain an image of supporting the two-state solution which international peace efforts have focused on for decades as a route out of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

“Finally the end has come for a mistaken and dangerous idea: setting up a Palestinian terror state in the heart of the Land of Israel,” Israeli Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis was quoted by Haaretz as saying.

Meanwhile, Knesset member Shelly Yacimovic from the Zionist Union, considered to be more “left-wing” in the Israeli political landscape, reportedly stated that Trump’s remarks on Wednesday evening did not differ in any major way from previous US administrations, pointing out that Trump had expressed his disapproval of Israeli settlement expansions and articulated his support for finding a solution that benefits both parties.

Palestinian and international reactions

Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour released a statement following the press conference saying that peace would not be achieved “without determining the basis of the peace process,” and highlighted the fact that the majority of the international community continued to support a two-state solution despite Trump and Netanyahu’s comments.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasim called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to abandon negotiations with Israel and the belief that the US is capable of acting as a mediator to the peace process, adding that Trump had made it clear that the current and previous US administrations were biased in favor of Israel.

“The US has never been serious about giving the Palestinian people their rights,” he said in the statement, adding that the US has only “provided a cover for Israel to continue its aggression against the Palestinian people and confiscation of our lands.”

He also said that the US administration backing down from its already weak position on the two-state solution indicated an escalation of US bias in favor of the Israeli occupation.

Fatah official Rafaat Elayyan also released a statement condemning the meeting, saying that Netanyahu and Trump had “publicly killed the dream of establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.” He also stated that Trump had disregarded international law and all previous agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis to achieve peace in the region.

“We are facing today an occupation that refuses to establish an independent state and aims to annex the West Bank and Jerusalem to Israel by expanding settlements supported by the US administration,” Elayyan said. He went on to urge the Palestinian leadership to “adopt a new strategy” based on unification that can end national conflict within Palestine.

“If the Trump-Netanyahu meeting is not enough to unify our national front, then we will never be able to confront this challenge,” Elayyan added.

Elayyan also said that Palestinians were waiting for the Arab Summit to be held in Amman next month where Muslim and Arab states should take a stand to support Palestinian people and their rights “before it’s too late.”

Elayyan added that Trump had given “a green light for the Israeli government to continue settlement activity and aggression against the Palestinian people,” and underscored that the US would be responsible for any “explosive situation” in the region.

“The Palestinian people will continue our fight towards freedom and democracy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Media Commissioner of the Fatah movement Nasser al-Qudwa said that “rejecting the two-state solution is rejecting the peace process,” and underscored that any substitute would be a “bloody and painful confrontation.”

He also said that the move away from the two-state solution would not make the Palestinian state disappear or weaken the Palestinian idea for an independent state, and that a one-state solution where all citizens would be equal is “pure nonsense and impossible.”

Al-Qudwa added that the Palestinian leadership and Fatah had a clear position stressing the importance of Palestinian national existence and the establishment of a Palestinian state, noting that Palestinian rights were “non-negotiable.”

The left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said in a statement that the Trump-Netanyahu meeting marked a “clear turning point to terminate Palestinian goals,” adding that the policy shift represented a violation of international law.

The PFLP highlighted five steps it believed must be conducted to confront the recent US-Israeli policy shift: declare a unified Palestinian stance rejecting US-Israeli policies; withdraw Palestinian recognition of Israel; hold an urgent meeting between all national and Islamic forces to prepare a new national strategy to address oncoming challenges and protect national rights; end the Palestinian national conflict immediately and continue efforts to hold a Palestinian national council session; and cease the PA’s “creation of illusions” on the international stage and pull out of the Oslo Accords.

Meanwhile, High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said on Wednesday that the EU would always support the two-state solution, adding that “there is no doubt that our embassy [Italian] will stay in Tel Aviv… and we are still convinced that the solution is coexistence between two states Israel and Palestine.”

On Wednesday, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said that the two-state solution was already a hard-reached compromise as a basis for peaceful conflict resolution, and that the proposed Israeli alternative to such a solution would equal to apartheid.

“(The two-state solution) represents a painful and historic Palestinian compromise of recognizing Israel over 78 percent of historic Palestine,” he said. “Today, almost six million Palestinians live under Israeli control in all of historic Palestine, while almost six million Palestinians live in exile.”

“Contrary to Netanyahu’s plan of one state and two systems, apartheid, the only alternative to two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 border is one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, on all of historic Palestine,” Erekat stated.

Via Ma’an News Agency

—-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Al Jazeera: “Trump drops US commitment to Israel-Palestine two-state solution”

Trump plots to keep Palestinians Stateless forever

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 - 2:23am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Trump-Netanyahu Show on Wednesday was par for the course in American and right wing Israeli discourse about the Palestinians.

Nobody brought up that the British colonialists conquered Palestine during World War I and instead of preparing it for statehood, as they promised the League of Nations they would do, they set the Palestinians up for destruction as a people. These actions contrast with Iraq, e.g., which the British did bequeath to the Iraqi nation.

No one brought up that 60% of Palestinian families were kicked out of their homes in 1948 by militant European Jewish colonialists brought there by colonial Britain, and that these families are still homeless and stateless whereas the Israeli perpetrators have never paid a dime in reparations for the billions of dollars worth of property they stole from the Palestinian people.

No one brought up that Europeans who committed the Holocaust have not borne the cost of that monstrous crime against humanity but rather the innocent Palestinians have.

The fact is that by about 1300 AD there were virtually no Jews in Palestine. And yes, there was a Palestine– a recognized geographical concept, coins with “Filistin” written on them, diaries of Palestinian travelers who said they missed ‘Palestine;’ and a distinctive Palestinian dialect of Arabic. The people who lived there were almost all Christians and Muslims, 1300-1850. My recollection is that the French found about 3,000 Jews there in 1799 when Bonaparte invaded, when the general population must have been around 200,000.

No one brought up that the Palestinians are the largest stateless group in the world, lacking basic human rights and lacking rights of citizenship. Their private property is daily and brazenly stolen from them by Jewish squatters coming over into Palestine from Israel proper. This grand larceny on a cosmic scale is secretly encouraged and sometimes even funded by the Israeli government. Militant armed settlers have murdered dozens of Palestinians and routinely commit sabotage against their olive orchards and crops.

Israeli propaganda depicts Palestinians as violent, but Israelis killed nearly 7,000 Palestinians 2000-2014 whereas Palestinians in that period were responsible for about 1,000 Jewish deaths. Given what is being done to the Palestinians by the far right wing squatters, they have reacted with amazing forbearance and peacefulness.

The only resolution of the conflict is for Palestinians to attain the rights of citizenship in a state and the right firmly to own property and to control their land, air and water.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has pledged that the Palestinians will have no such rights as along as he is prime minister.

So what is Trump going to do about this human rights travesty?

Here is what he said:

TRUMP: As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made, I think a deal will be made. I know that every president would like to — most of them have not started till late because they never thought it was possible and it was impossible because they didn’t do it but Bibi and I’ve known each other a long time.

Smart man, great negotiator, and I think we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand. That’s a possibility so let’s see what we do.

I predict that Netanyahu will not in fact pause land theft by the Israeli squatters. I also predict that Netanyahu will keep his campaign promise to keep the Palestinians stateless and little better than prisoners in their own land. The only deal to be had from Netanyahu is to screw the Palestinians over even harder than ever before.

Then a journalist posed a question:

QUESTION

Thank you very much. Mr. President, in your vision for the new Middle East peace, are you ready to give up of the notion of two-state solution that was adopted by previous administration? And will you be willing to hear different ideas from the prime ministers as some of his partners are asking him to do, for example, annexation of parts of the West Bank and unrestricted settlement constructions? . . . And Mr. Prime Minister, did you come here tonight to tell Mr. — the president that you’re backing off the two-state solution? Thank you.

DONALD TRUMP

So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.

We know that Netanyahu, who has boasted about destroying the Oslo Peace accords and has pledged no Palestinian state, does not actually want a two-state solution.

But Netanyahu does not want a one-state solution in the sense of having to give Palestinians citizenship rights in Israel.

He wants a continuation and expansion of the status quo, with the Palestinians under the Israeli jackboot and helpless and stateless. So for Palestinians, a ‘no-state solution.’ I.e. he wants Apartheid. Just as the white nationalists of South Africa took citizenship rights away from the Black African majority and tried to consign them to artificial Bantustans, so Netanyahu wants to keep Palestinians in Bantustans.

In offering to relinquish a two-state solution, Trump shredded decades of American policy. But since there isn’t going to be a two-state solution, it is just as well. Realistically, there is no place to put a Palestinian state any more.

What Trump was really offering was some polite fiction where the Palestinians could be parceled out to Jordan, Egypt and Israel itself, even as they remain stateless, and economic investments would seek to depoliticize them and improve their per capita GDP. The white nationalists in South Africa tried something like that with their Black African population. It didn’t last.

In other words, it would be Apartheid, but an attempt would be made to implicate Egypt and Jordan in it. I predict failure in that regard.

Later on, the Israeli prime minister said this:

NETANYAHU

“I told you what are the conditions that I believe are necessary for an agreement. It’s the recognition of the Jewish state and Israel’s — Israel’s security control of the entire area. Otherwise, we’re just fantasizing. Otherwise, we’ll get another failed state, another terrorist Islamist dictatorship that will not work for peace, but work to destroy us, but also destroy any hope for a peaceful future for our people.”

So there you have it. Netanyahu insists on Israeli security control of neighboring Palestine, insists that the Palestinians be kept stateless, and even goes so far in typically racist fashion to allege that Palestinians are congenitally incapable of erecting a state.

And since Trump seems to believe whatever the last person he talked to alleged, likely Netanyahu will win out.

The only problem is that there is no scenario in which millions of Palestinians are kept under martial law and deprived basic citizenship rights and go on being stolen from– there is no scenario in which this story ends well.

Juan Cole

======

Related video:

Trump, Netanyahu Hold Joint Press Conference

Iranian Drummer Woman, 1842

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 - 12:37am

British Museum | – –

“Portrait of a young woman; single-page painting mounted on album folio. A woman beats a drum slung over her shoulder. She wears an orange blouse, a green skirt and a grey flowered jacket. A mauve veil is suspended from a head band adorned with a feather and a jewelled ornament. Album contains 19 paintings of Persian costumes.

Ink and opaque watercolour on paper. Album bound in green leather with gold gilt trim, with pages of gold trim. Includes loose letter (in French) on thin blue paper describing contents and addressed to recipient.”

British Museum

Museum number: 1921,0614,0.1.9
Title (series): Persian Costumes

School/style: Qajar School

Culture/period: Qajar dynasty

Date: 1842 (date of European binding) 19thC

Production place: Made in: Iran

Materials: paper

Technique: painted

Why America needs the Muslim Ms. Marvel now more than Ever!

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 - 12:19am

By Katie M. Logan | (The Conversation) | – –

During the first few weeks of the Trump administration, we’ve seen increased pressure on Muslim and immigrant communities in the United States.

In the face of these threats, which Marvel superhero might be best equipped to defend the people, ideals and institutions under attack? Some comic fans and critics are pointing to Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel.

Khan, the brainchild of comic writer G. Willow Wilson and editor Sana Amanat, is a revamp of the classic Ms. Marvel character (originally named Carol Danvers and created in 1968). First introduced in early 2014, Khan is a Muslim, Pakistani-American teenager who fights crime in Jersey City and occasionally teams up with the Avengers.

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, fans have created images of Khan tearing up a photo of the president, punching him (evoking a famous 1941 cover of Captain America punching Hitler) and grieving in her room. But the new Ms. Marvel’s significance extends beyond symbolism.

In Kamala Khan, Wilson and Amanat have created a superhero whose patriotism and contributions to Jersey City emerge because of her Muslim heritage, not despite it. She challenges the assumptions many Americans have about Muslims and is a radical departure from how the media tend to depict Muslim-Americans. She shows how Muslim-Americans and immigrants are not forces that threaten communities – as some would argue – but are people who can strengthen and preserve them.

Superhero-in-training

After inhaling a mysterious gas, Kamala Khan discovers she can stretch, enlarge, shrink and otherwise manipulate her body. Like many superheroes, she chooses to keep her identity a secret. She selects the Ms. Marvel moniker in homage to the first Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, who has since given up the name in favor of becoming Captain Marvel. Khan cites her family’s safety and her desire to lead a normal life, while also fearing that “the NSA will wiretap our mosque or something.”

As she wrestles with her newfound powers, her parents grow concerned about broken curfews and send her to the local imam for counseling. Rather than reinforcing her parents’ curfew or prying the truth from Khan, though, Sheikh Abdullah says, “I am asking you for something more difficult. If you insist on pursuing this thing you will not tell me about, do it with the qualities benefiting an upright young woman: courage, strength, honesty, compassion and self-respect.”

Her experience at the mosque becomes an important step on her journey to superheroism. Sheikh Abdullah contributes to her education, as does Wolverine. Islam is not a restrictive force in her story. Instead, the religion models for Khan many of the traits she needs in order to become an effective superhero. When her mother learns the truth about why her daughter is sneaking out, she “thank[s] God for having raised a righteous child.”

The comics paint an accurate portrait of Jersey City. Her brother Aamir is a committed Salafi (a conservative and sometimes controversial branch of Sunni Islam) and member of his university’s Muslim Student Association. Her best friend and occasional love interest, Bruno, works at a corner store and comes from Italian roots. The city’s diversity helps Kamala as she learns to be a more effective superhero. But it also rescues her from being a stand-in for all Muslim-American or Jersey City experiences.

Fighting a ‘war on terror culture’

Kamala’s brown skin and costume – self-fashioned from an old burkini – point to Marvel Comics’ desire to diversify its roster of superheroes (as well as writers and artists). As creator Sana Amanat explained on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” last month, representation is a powerful thing, especially in comics. It matters when readers who feel marginalized can see people like themselves performing heroic acts.

As one of 3.3 million Muslim-Americans, Khan flips the script on what Moustafa Bayoumi, author of “This Muslim American Life,” calls a “war on terror culture” that sees Muslim-Americans “not as complex human being[s] but only as purveyor[s] of possible future violence.”

Bayoumi’s book echoes other studies that detail the heightened suspicion and racial profiling Muslim-Americans have faced since 9/11, whether it’s in the workplace or interactions with the police. Each time there’s been a high-profile terrorist attack, these experiences, coupled with hate crimes and speech, intensify. Political rhetoric – like Donald Trump’s proposal to have a Muslim registry or his lie that thousands of Muslims cheered from Jersey City rooftops after the Twin Towers fell – only fans the flames.

Scholars of media psychology see this suspicion fostered, in part, by negative representations of Muslims in both news media outlets and popular culture, where they are depicted as bloodthirsty terrorists or slavish informants to a non-Muslim hero.

These stereotypes are so entrenched that a single positive Muslim character cannot counteract their effects. In fact, some point to the dangers of “balanced” representations, arguing that confronting stereotypes with wholly positive images only enforces a simplistic division between “good” and “bad” Muslims.

Unbreakable

Kamala Khan, however, signals an important development in cultural representations of Muslim-Americans. It’s not just because she is a powerful superhero instead of a terrorist. It’s because she is, at the same time, a clumsy teenager who makes a mountain of mistakes while trying to balance her abilities, school, friends and family. And it’s because Wilson surrounds Kamala with a diverse assortment of characters who demonstrate the array of heroic (and not-so-heroic) actions people can take.

For example, in one of Ms. Marvel’s most powerful narrative arcs, a planet attacks New York, leading to destruction eerily reminiscent of 9/11. Kamala works to protect Jersey City while realizing that her world has changed – and will change – irrevocably.

Carol Danvers appears to fill Kamala in on the gravity of the situation, telling her, “The fate of the world is out of your hands. It always was. But your fate – what you decide to do right now – is still up to you … Today is the day you stand up.” Kamala connects the talk with Sheikh Abdullah’s lectures about the value of one’s deeds, once again linking her superhero and religious training to rise to the occasion. In both cases, the lectures teach Kamala to take a stand to protect her community.

Arriving at the high school gym now serving as a safe haven for Jersey City residents, Kamala realizes her friends and classmates have been inspired by her heroism. They safely transport their neighbors to the gym while outfitting the space with water, food, dance parties and even a “non-denominational, non-judgmental prayer area.” The community response prompts Kamala to realize that “even if things are profoundly not okay, at least we’re not okay together. And even if we don’t always get along, we’re still connected by something you can’t break. Something there isn’t even a word for. Something … beautiful.”

Kamala Khan is precisely the hero America needs today, but not because of a bat sign in the sky or any single definitive image. She is, above all, committed to the idea that every member of her faith, her generation, and her city has value and that their lives should be respected and protected. She demonstrates that the most heroic action is to face even the most despair-inducing challenges of the world head on while standing up for – and empowering – every vulnerable neighbor, classmate or stranger. She shows us how diverse representation can transform into action and organization that connect whole communities “by something you can’t break.”

Katie M. Logan, Assistant Professor of Focused Inquiry, Virginia Commonwealth University

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

=====

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Marvel Entertainment: “What is Ms. Marvel: Generation Why? – Marvel TL;DR”

Pentagon To Recommend US Deploy Ground Troops in Syria?

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 - 12:16am

TeleSur | – –

Countries opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will meet on Friday for the first time since Donald Trump’s U.S. administration took office.

The U.S. Defense Department may recommend that the United States deploy regular combat troops to Syria to fight Islamic State group militants, CNN reported on Wednesday.

The idea is one of several ideas the Pentagon is considering after President Donald Trump gave defense officials until the end of the month to come up with proposals to speed up the war against the Islamic State group.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the United States already had a small number of special operation troops in Syria. The official added that the review was still underway and no options had been presented to Trump.

“It’s way, way speculative,” the official said of the report.

Countries opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will meet on Friday for the first time since Donald Trump’s U.S. administration took office, to seek common ground ahead of U.N.-backed peace talks in Geneva next week.

The talks on the sidelines of a G20 foreign ministers meeting come as Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, is in his strongest position since the early days of the war, and as Trump’s policy on Syria remains unclear.

Via TeleSur

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: “Pentagon Considering Proposing Combat Troops In Syria”