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Top 6 Graphs that Refute Donald Trump’s Lies about the United States

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 - 12:31am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

AP’s Fact Check found that as usual Donald Trump’s statistics in his GOP acceptance speech are way beyond the ‘damned lies’ level. So here are some illustrative graphs to suggest the level of his duplicity:

“Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”


h/t Statistica

Actually violent crime including murder has fallen precipitously in the US since 1990. The murder rate is historically low, which means that year to year statistical fluctuations can easily be exaggerated. (Note that when you say things like ‘in the 50 largest cities’ it is a sign you are tinkering with the sample).

With regard to Mexican immigration, actually more Mexicans leave the US annually than come. A Pew Charitable Trust poll found some corroborating evidence that the wave of Mexican immigration in the 1980s and 1990s has long declined– fewer and fewer Mexicans say they have friends or family in the US:


h/t Pew

Trump’s fixation on Mexican immigrants focuses on something that was an maybe an issue decades ago, when he still had normal hair.

Trump said, ““The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 percent compared to this point last year.”

This is simply not true. The number is up to 67 from 62. Every life is precious, and no police should be dying on the job, but the number of officers felled annually is quite low in a country of 320 million, and Trump is just making stuff up again. AP points out, “the 109 law enforcement fatalities in 2013 were the lowest since 1956.”


h/t AEI (Yes.)

Trump said “My opponent has called for a radical 550 percent increase in Syrian (refugees). … She proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people.”

The percentage increase sounds so big because the US has been taking almost no Syrian refugees. The US has taken a iittle over 13,000, while Turkey has taken 2.5 million. The US Congress passed a Syria Accountability Act in the Bush era to destroy the Syrian economy and the US has armed and funded hard line Salafi rebel groups, so maybe we owe something to the 11 million Syrians we helped make homeless.

This was the situation until last November, 2015:


h/t Vox.com

Refugees are intensively vetted in a process that takes 18 months to two years. Trump’s allegation that these people are not being vetted is a lie. Of some 750,000 refugees let into the US since 2001, only 10 have been found to have been involved in anything like terrorism, and that was usually a matter of sending money to the wrong group overseas.


h/t Arab-American Institute

Purge of teachers and academics bulldozes through Turkish education

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 - 11:21pm

By Moritz Pieper | (The Conversation) | – –

As news of the attempted military coup in Turkey unfolded, I was in Pennsylvania. Travelling in the US, I had coincidentally found myself in the home state of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has singled out as the mastermind of the uprising. Gülen, once a close Erdoğan associate until he fell out with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has lived in exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

In what Erdoğan calls a “parallel state”, the Gülen movement is said to have “infiltrated” state institutions, most notoriously the judiciary and the police. The Turkish government reacted to the coup attempt by arresting tens of thousands of state officials including judges, civil servants, soldiers, and teachers.

In rhetoric reminiscent of the Stalinist purges, Erdoğan promised to “cleanse all state institutions”, rid Turkey’s judiciary of “cancer cells” and purge state bodies of the “virus” that has spread throughout Turkish state structures.

The numbers of those arrested is on a truly shocking scale. More than 7,000 soldiers have been detained, 8,000 police have been removed from their posts, 3,000 members of the judiciary suspended, and thousands of civil servants in diverse ministries dismissed, including over 15,000 in the education ministry alone. All levels of education have been affected: 21,000 teachers have their licences withdrawn and more than 1,500 university deans have been told to quit their jobs.

These numbers make it hard to believe that the crackdown is not operating according to lists that had been ready already before the attempted coup.

On July 20, a three-month state of emergency was declared. Academics currently on study missions abroad have been told to return home while those in Turkey are banned from travelling abroad until further notice.

Sustained attacks on academic freedom

Turkish academics have been targeted before, most recently after a petition of the Academicians for Peace Initiative was circulated that spoke out against the government’s attacks in Kurdish provinces. The official state reaction was to sack and persecute academics for “spreading terrorist propaganda”.

The Turkish Higher Education Board (YÖK) and public prosecutors in several Turkish university cities subsequently launched investigations against academics who signed the petition. Signatories of peace petitions were accused by the government of undermining national security and of “supporting Kurdish propaganda”.

The preemptive obedience on the part of university managements was a grim indicator of the state of freedom of speech in Turkey and the erosion of the independence of the higher education sector. Universities started to self-censor, reacting with disciplinary measures including forced resignations, suspensions, and the launch of formal investigations.

Crackdown on schools and students

The arrest wave following the July 15 coup will only aggravate this clampdown on higher education. Gülen’s movement, also called Hizmet, operates a network of private schools and universities, both in Turkey and abroad. What worries Erdoğan is Hizmet’s objective of educating its followers “for the common good” and to “build schools instead of mosques”. Hizmet marries its emphasis on education with a moderate and pragmatic approach to Islam. It is accused of working to “infiltrate” Turkish state institutions and the AKP itself by taking up influential positions and undermining, in an almost Trotskyist analogy, state structures from within.

It is this paranoia that explains the Turkish government’s obsession with cracking down on student protests and anti-government rallies at universities. Repression followed the 2013 Gezi Park protests and subsequent demonstrations at the Middle East Technical University in 2014.

Erdoğan’s message is unequivocal, lumping student protesters together as “atheists, leftists, terrorists”. Passing bills to shut down private prep-schools, many of which are run by the Hizmet movement, serves the same purpose of “cleansing” Turkish schools of “unhealthy” elements.

The world must speak up

State pressure on students to remain depoliticised is matched by the Higher Education Board’s work to rein in the activities of academics and teachers. Following the coup attempt, the board asked university rectors to “urgently examine the situation of all academic and administrative personnel” with links to what it calls the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation.

The recent clampdown on teachers and education ministry officials in the wake of the coup attempt adds to a depressing list of continued attempts to staunch dissent in Turkish society. Turkey must respect the freedom of speech to which it officially subscribed as a member of the Council of Europe and as signatory of UN conventions that enshrine such fundamental democratic rights as the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Academic freedom of thought is at the heart of a healthy civil society. Restricting the free movement of academics and curtailing the independence of universities defeats the purpose of scholarship. The exceptional proportions of the recent arrests should be met with a resolute response worldwide.

Moritz Pieper, Lecturer in International Relations, University of Salford

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

—–

AFP: “Erdogan declares 3-month state of emergency in Turkey”

The West Under Attack: What we can Learn from the Roy vs Kepel Debate

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 - 11:20pm

By Mustafa Gürbüz | (Informed Comment) | – –

The ax attack on a train in Würzburg, Germany, sparked the latest controversy on lone wolf radicalization in the West. Recently, just days before the attack in Nice, two prominent French academics on terrorism, Olivier Roy and Gilles Kepel, were covered in the New York Times story—not for quoting their opinions but featuring their offensive slurs to each other. For Roy, Kepel’s claim that we face emergence of third generation jihadism is baseless. The problem, instead, is the Islamization of radicalism—-referring to alienated petty criminals’ allure to violence in an Islamic discourse—which seems to be a powerful explanation of the Nice truck driver who truly had a secular lifestyle. Kepel, on the other hand, finds Roy’s explanation too simplistic. He argues that failure of Western integration policies and increasing frustration among Muslim youth are main driving the factors.

The two perspectives, indeed, are not mutually exclusive. Some 120 years ago, yet another French thinker, Emile Durkheim, coined the term “anomie” to refer the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the larger society, claiming that being “lost” and alienated in modern urban context lead suicidal acts. But Durkheim was just too busy with modern urbanization problems and did not explore his theory’s implications in a postmodern condition in a fast globalized world. Durkheim believed that someone could take steps toward “altruistic suicide”—the term he would use for suicide attacks—only if there is too strong social bond that destroy individual’s own autonomy.

Postmodern condition proved Durkheim wrong. Feelings of alienation and search for identity have become increasingly relevant under the forces of rapid globalization. Fractured social bonds have triggered a plethora of insecurities—economic, psychic, theological, and ethno-familial. Postmodern motto “anything goes” has found its symbiotic reactionary twin that calls for re-assertion of ethnic, religious, local, and tribal identities. Searching for a belonging, however, did not eradicate one’s individual autonomy because postmodern condition allowed individuals experiencing global complex— in the case of Orlando shooter, being a frequent to a gay club and pledging the cause of ISIS simultaneously.

What is peculiar about globalization and feelings of insecurity? Is it sheer coincidence to witness global rise of populism and autocrats as well as global revival of identity havens and religion? Conventional wisdom may suggest that autocrats fuel mass grievances, and thus, led to reactionary violence. What if, however, a third factor is at play, shaping both populist tendencies that support autocrats—or far right politicians in the West—and fringe impulses that nurture violent extremism. That, I believe, is globalization-insecurity complex.

Thomas Piketty brilliantly articulated the new slavery under neo-liberalism. Distribution of wealth in the Middle East and North Africa is strikingly troubling, “the most unequal on the planet,” writes Piketty—despite the fact that the region has abundant natural resources. Almost a third of the population is aged between 15 and 29—representing over 108 million, the largest number of young people to transition to adulthood in the region’s history. Unemployment rate is skyrocketing under urbanization that generates more slums. Having a grim future, economic deprivation, and constant conflicts, the region is sitting on a powder keg for extremism.

Hard economic conditions, however, need to be translated into a religious discourse in a meaningful way. Enter radical entrepreneurs. What distinguish ordinary Muslims from radicals are interpretations of such hard economic realities, which has complex roots and evolution. For moderates, there is no intentional oppression that target Muslims exclusively. Yet, when right wing populist European politicians, for example, present headscarves as a national security issue, the radical narrative gains prominence: Muslims are under attack and a self-defense is religious obligation as well as a survival strategy. That’s where hard economic factors in Piketty’s analysis meet with increasingly populist Western political culture, which is also fed by global insecurities.

Muslim radicalization, in this sense, is a phenomenon of “Islamization of radicalism.” Islamism has filled the vacuum of the social space that left by socialism and anarchism in the 20th century. A search for belonging and identity is especially rewarding for youngsters suffering under the forces of alienation, exclusion, and discrimination. Religious zeal in a nationalist tone, whether from Arab Marxism to populist Islamism or from secular Zionist movement to religious nationalism in Israel, invites us to rethink the future of identity politics among millennials. Growing psychological insecurity is less about ancient hatred, but rather it is where global and local negotiate. Psycho-analytic analysis of Frantz Fanon—who praised violence as repair for stigmatized self—remains relevant as long as violence will be sanctioned by a legitimate authority—perhaps by a Sheikh Fanon instead of an African communist Fanon.

No theological school other than Islamic Puritanism would better fit to a psychology of a millennial. Millennial values of self-dignity and self-made authority may be seen reincarnation of what Samuel Huntington calls “anti-power ethic” that radically questions moral religious authority. Thus, global mobilization of Salafism cannot solely be attributed to the translations of Qurans distributed by the Saudi elite. Millennial youth rejects their parents’ immigrant psychology that prioritizes economic well-being over an identity search. Not only those unemployed in a ghetto but also the rich who seek a commanding belonging are now vulnerable to the radical message. They all feel “lost”—but not in Durkheimian sense, rather in a postmodern wild.

Mustafa Gürbüz teaches Middle East politics at American University in Washington, DC, and author of Rival Kurdish Movements in Turkey: Transforming Ethnic Conflict
Follow him @Mustafa__Gurbuz

Related video added by Juan Cole:

NYU Florence – OLIVIER ROY: THE STRATEGIC LIMITS OF ISIS

Mike Pence on the “American Heartland” and the Holy Land

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 - 11:19pm

By Shalom Goldman | ( Patheos )

The Republican Party platform, posted last week, gives the American-Israeli relationship considerable space. Pundits in the U.S. and Israel have duly noted the absence in the platform of any reference to a “two-state solution”—a phrase that appeared in the 2012 Republican platform but has now become identified with the Democratic Party and the State Department tenures of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Republicans are by inference rejecting the elusive “two-state solution,” though both the Israeli and Palestinian governments endorse the concept—though not, it seems, its implementation.

To students of the intersection of religion and politics what is most striking in the Republican platform is the strong religious language describing Jerusalem as “the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state” to which the U.S. embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv. This phrase, with its direct echoes of Benjamin Netanyahu’s pronouncements, was missing from the 2012 platform.

Democrats too, despite many challenges from the Left at party meetings, have spun a positive view of Israeli Jerusalem, though in less theological language. Jerusalem, the Democratic platform claims, is “the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

Equally significant in the Republican platform is the thus far unremarked upon assertion that “support for Israel is an expression of Americanism.” Like the platform’s language about Jerusalem, this elevates the relationship with Israel from the realm of the political and diplomatic to the realm of eternal verities and, one may say, to the realm of theology.

One would be hard pressed to find a better representative of that “eternal” and “biblical” approach to Israel and to other burning American issues now dividing the country than Governor Spence of Indiana. Seen from a religious studies perspective, Pence’s elevation to the rank of vice-presidential candidate seems much more serious and weighty than a last-minute choice that Trump allegedly tried to undo at the last minute. As Trump’s choice of Mike Spence came only three weeks after Trump’s 21 June meeting with nearly one thousand conservative Christians in New York City, the decision and its wider implications call for careful analysis.

At that June meeting in New York, Israel—and America’s commitment to it—was the subject of much speechifying, theologizing, and evangelizing. Accompanying that pro-Israel rhetoric was its current corollary, the fear of Islam. Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., son of the founder of the Moral Majority and president of Liberty University, told the assembled faithful that “Mr. Trump is a bold and fearless leader who will take the fight to our enemies and to the radical Islamic terrorists.” Trump, in turn, let the assembled worthies know where he stood on Israel. Vowing to “restore faith to its proper mantle in American society” (yet another odd Trumpism), Trump said, “I’m 100 percent for Israel.” But the candidate couldn’t let it rest at that. The implication that the current president wasn’t for Israel needed to be made explicit. To hammer the point home, Trump said, “I can’t imagine Bibi likes Obama too much. He’s totally forsaken Israel.”

At the 21 June meeting, the organizers announced the formation of two working groups: the Evangelical Executive Advisory Board and the Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee. As the Washington Post reported, “the meeting was a display of many old-guard conservative Christian leaders.” In attendance, and on the podium, were James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Ralph Reed, founder of the Christian Coalition; and Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University. In his welcome to Trump, former Arkansas governor and former presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee told the candidate, “I don’t think anyone here expects you to be theological today. I want to put you at ease. I don’t think anyone here thinks that we are interviewing you to be our next pastor. You’re off the hook on the deep theological questions.”

Governor Pence, in contrast, is much more at home among Christian conservatives and no doubt more conversant with “the deep theological questions.” And if he becomes vice president and lives “a heartbeat away from the presidency,” the voters—both those who opposed Trump and those who voted for him—will quickly become aware of Pence’s deeply conservative ideas and intentions. Not that any of this is secret. A look at his voting record in the House and his record as Indiana governor tell the story. Against gay rights, reproductive rights, and environmental activism, Pence is also highly critical of any opposition to the American wars in the Middle East. According to the New York Times, Pence, who has made numerous trips to Iraq, denied assertions made in 2005 that the intelligence used to back the U.S. invasion was questionable. “There was no manipulation,” he told reporters. “The war in Iraq was just, is just, and the freedom of the teeming millions who established a constitutional republic one week ago supports that conclusion.”

In December 2014, Pence spent nine days in Israel on a Christmas pilgrimage sponsored by John Hagee’s Christians United For Israel. Katie Glueck, Politico’s astute correspondent, noted at the time that “Israel has become a routine stop for politicians with national ambitions,” and that the Indiana governor’s long sojourn in Israel was “a move sure to stoke speculation about his presidential ambitions.” While in Israel, Pence was invited to address a meeting of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. And here too he invoked the heartland image. “As governor from the heart of the heartland I say with conviction: Israel is not merely our strongest ally in the Middle East. Israel is our most cherished ally and a beacon of hope in a troubled region of the world.”

At the conclusion of that 2014 visit Pence recorded a video message to Netanyahu in which he promised to continue the “partnership” with Israel. “I would pledge to you from my vantage point in the heart of the heartland … that not just during this very special time of the year for people who share my tradition, but all throughout the year, that an appreciation for the state of Israel and the partnership between the state of Israel and America has never been stronger,” Pence told Netanyahu.

And on his return to Indiana, Pence issued a proclamation stating that “Hoosiers have cherished our relationship with the people of Israel for generations.” With remarkable consistency Pence, throughout his political career (twelve years in the House of Representatives before he was elected governor), has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”

Mike Pence’s conversion story bears telling here: raised in a Catholic family he found the Catholic Church of the 1980s too liberal and sought a more rigorous theology and practice. Christian Reconstruction provided the structure he sought, and the supporters of that ultra-conservative ideology helped propel Pence into Indiana politics.

As religion scholar Julie Ingersoll noted in her 2015 book Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, this branch of evangelical thought advocates “dominion theology,” a biblical worldview that points to the ways in which humanity is to exercise dominion over creation, and especially over people for whom they deem themselves responsible. Under the intellectual and organizational leadership of Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001), Reconstructionists, in Professor Ingersoll’s words, “laid an intellectual foundation that would shape the twenty-first century Christian subculture, developing what would become the religious right’s critique of the American social order, and plotting strategies to bring about change.” Rushdoony advocated the institution of “Biblical Law” in the U.S. “You can have two kinds of law,” he told an interviewer. “Theonomy—God’s law. Or autonomy—self-law. That’s what it boils down to. And autonomy leads to anarchy, which is what we are getting increasingly.” To counter this “anarchy,” Rushdoony advocated a very long-term plan, one that promoted Christian home schooling as an alternative to “Godless public school education.” Though his ideas might sound very abstract to those not theologically oriented, they take on a greater reality and urgency when we look at the support currently given this movement by the Koch brothers and other funders of the Christian right.

Denominational labels seldom transfer well across religious boundaries. The Reformed churches, for example, have little in common with Reform Judaism, and the Jewish Reconstructionist movement is in many ways the diametrical opposite of Christian Reconstructionism. The Jewish movement, with its emphasis on Jewish peoplehood and the progressive and pragmatic ideas of Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, is the most liberal of American Jewish denominations. Christian Reconstructionism, on the other hand, is the most conservative of evangelical movements.

But at the current strange political moment these radically different movements, one Christian, the other Jewish, both profess loyalty to Israel and its government. And that profession of loyalty, often expressed as “love of Israel,” has become the most powerful cross-denominational factor in contemporary Jewish life.

To move from the abstractions of religious thought to the political arena: CNN’s Dana Bash has reported that Trump was so unsure about Mike Pence that at midnight on Friday he asked top aides if he could get out of it. But I think that this is a bluff: from the standpoint of appeal to evangelicals, Pence is a brilliant choice. And I would make a similar claim about the joint appearance of Trump and Pence on 60 Minutes on Sunday night. Pence may have acted like the silent and meek partner, but in the larger scheme of things he is the important player.

So, while Donald Trump plays the clown—or the arrogant aspirant to the monarchy—Mike Pence and his supporters, energized by a deeply conservative theological-political agenda, are now a step closer to the corridors of power. And for many who share Pence’s political agenda, professions of loyalty to the State of Israel and its “eternal and indivisible capital” seem to have talismanic power.

 

Shalom Goldman is Professor of Religion at Middlebury College. His most recent book is Jewish -Christian Difference and Modern Jewish Identity: Seven Twentieth-Century Converts (Lexington Books, 2015). It is currently featured in the Patheos Book Club.

Reprinted from Patheos with author’s permission

Arab nationalist press Reacts to Erdogan’s Crackdown with cries of “Dictator!”

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 - 12:06am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s firing of some 50,000 people, including educators, bureaucrats, police and military personnel, in the wake of the failed July 15 coup against him, provoked sharp criticism in Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries that have an adversarial attitude toward the Religious Right such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Erdogan has typically been an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, and this secular/ religious politics split seems to account for the differences in how his actions are seen in various Arab countries.

In Egypt, Husain Yusuf of al-Yawm al-Sabi` (The Seventh Day) lambasted Erdogan. He said that the president’s interview on Wednesday on Qatar’s Aljazeera was intended to whitewash his dictatorial actions. Yusuf says that Erdogan is attacking everyone he perceives as an enemy, violating human rights, and pursuing a politics of exclusion. He slammed Erdogan as “Turkey’s Hitler.” He also criticized Erdogan for his diatribe against the Egyptian press coverage of the coup and its aftermath, saying that Erdogan appeared to be demanding that the Egyptian press just take the government line and ignore the “massacres” Yusuf says Erdogan’s government has committed against his opposition. In contrast, Yusuf maintained, the Egyptian press has just reported the facts in a dispassionate manner.

Yusuf says that Erdogan is hypocritical, since his government had sharply criticized Egypt for implementing a state of emergency in the Sinai Peninsula, while Erdogan has put all of Turkey in a state of emergency for at least three months. He said Erdogan despises Egypt because the country virtually ignores him.

Bassam Ramadan, writing in al-Masry al-Yawm (Egypt Today), quotes Egyptian observer Mustafa al-Fiqi that Erdogan is preparing to become a new dictator. He said Egypt’s overthrow of the previous government was completely unlike that in Turkey, since Egypt’s masses came out in favor of the military.

But actually, of course, the coup by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt and the counter-coup by Erdogan in Turkey look very similar in the firings, jailings and other tactics used.

BBC Monitoring surveyed some other outlets, writing,
“Many writers, especially from Egypt and Jordan criticised Erdogan’s decisions that directly affected more than 45,000 people, accusing him of trying to fully control the county and get rid of any sort of opposition. Some also described the coup as a play that aims to strengthen Erdogan’s reign.”

Another writer in the pro-government al-Yawm al-Sabi`, Abdel-Salam, wrote that “The European confusion in front of Erdogan’s policies will definitely make him a new Hitler with new weapons”.

In Jordan’s Al-Rai newspaper, Sameh al-Mahariq wrote, “What is happening now is political utilization of the coup to benefit Erdogan; a golden chance for that enabled him of launching a wide purging campaign.”

The Syrian al-Thawra (Revolution) had a piece speculating that more significant coups are on their way in Turkey.

The Gulf press was primarily interested in what the coup attempt might mean for Turkish-Iranian relationships and for themselves.

In the Kuwaiti government-owned centrist Al-Watan, Abdullah al-Hadlaq wrote, “The Iranian Persian regime is scared, terrified and frightened from the possibility of the military coup in Turkey being contagious…” He predicted that such a coup is coming in Iran.

Source: Middle East Arabic press review from BBC Monitoring in Arabic 0700 gmt 20 Jul 16

Related video:

Arirang: “Turkey fires all university deans in post-coup purge: state TV”

US to ‘Reconsider’ Backing for Syrian Rebels After Boy Beheaded

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 - 11:26pm

TeleSur | – –

The killers claim to be fighters om a rebel group that has received both financial and arms support from the United States and allies.

A disturbing video circulating online shows an alleged group of U.S.-backed Syrian rebels beheading a Palestinian boy who they accused of being a fighter loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The footage first shows the terrified child, who is ostensibly under the age of 12, surrounded by fighters in the trunk of a pickup car. A knife-wielding man then beheads the boy, who is laid down on the trunk with his hands cuffed.

The executioner shouts “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), holds up the boy’s head, then put it down on his back.

The militants claimed to be fighters from the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, an armed Syrian opposition group that has received both financial and arms support from the United States, as well as Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Militants arrested and killed the child near Handarat Refugee Camp in northern Aleppo, for allegedly being a fighter of the Palestinian Liwaa Al Quds (Al-Quds Brigade), a pro-government militia currently active near that war-torn city.

Meanwhile the U.S. State Department said it may reconsider its affiliation and support for the Syrian opposition if the gruesome video of the death is true.

The group is considered by the Syrian, Russian and Iranian governments to be a terrorist organization and has not been included in any truce or ceasefire deal.

The armed conflict in Syria began in 2011 and the United Nations has confirmed that over 400,000 people have been killed along with millions of people displaced.​

Via TeleSur

—–

Related via added by Juan Cole:

RT: ” US may ‘take a pause’ in aiding Syrian rebels after beheading of Palestinian boy”

Secret Service Investigating Trump Advisor who Wants Hillary Clinton Shot for Treason

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 - 11:06pm

Wochit News | (Video News Report) | – –

“During a radio interview this week. New Hampshire Representative Al Baldasaro, a Trump delegate who reportedly advises the candidate on veterans issues, said that Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason. When contacted by The Boston Globe, Baldasaro stood by his remarks, saying, “When you take classified information on a server that deals with where our State Department, Special Forces, CIA, whatever in other countries, that’s a death sentence for those people if that information gets in the hands of other countries or the terrorists.” He then added, “As far as I’m concerned, that’s information for the enemy. So I stand by what I said.”

Secret Service investigating Trump adviser Al Baldasaro who said Hillary Clinton should be 'shot for treason.' https://t.co/eNqwWgtqwD

— ABC News (@ABC) July 20, 2016

Wochit News: “Trump Advisor Wants Hillary Clinton Shot for Treason”

Top 4 Republican Plagiarisms of the Democrats

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 - 11:37pm

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The scandal over Melania Trump’s stealing Michelle Obama’s lines for her convention speech should make us recall the ways in which GOP strategists have on many occasions stolen a Democratic line but put it to the opposite purpose.

But first, it is worth noting that the lines Mrs. Trump took over from Michelle included a plea that people be respected. Her husband has disrespected more people in the past year than I think any presidential candidate in history has.

Here are some instances of sticky fingers or the even more insidious ‘sticky reverse fingers’. The Republican party is forced to behave this way because it primarily represents the rich, not a very attractive program.

1. Teddy Roosevelt took over from the democrats a critique of big corporations, then called ‘trusts,’ and used it to make himself popular.

2. Woodrow Wilson issued his famous 14 points on the right of people to self-determination and democracy after World War I. George W. Bush took up the line about other countries’ right to democracy, but used it as a pretext to invade and occupy Iraq. I don’t think he understood that ‘self-determination’ bit very well.

3. In his 1970 State of the Union address, Republican President Richard M. Nixon shocked Democrats in the Senate by lifting their party’s talking points on several issues almost verbatim. The Democrats had put forward ideas on fighting crime. Nixon stole them. The Democrats had sounded the alarm about the environment. Nixon took over their rhetoric. But Democratic politicians pointed out that Nixon only wanted the facade of the Democratic proposals, constructing a sort of rhetorical Potemkin Village. He would not actually ask Congress for enough money effectively to implement these proposals, and where Congress anyway appropriated the money, he refused to spend it. So he only talked about fighting pollution, taking over a Democratic issue for himself, but did not actually do as much about it as he could have. Nixon gave us Earth Day, but the air and water could have gotten a lot cleaner than he made them.

4. When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he signed the 2006 health care law that had been in part inspired by the demand of Democratic Party activists that the number of people without health care be reduced.. But Romney went on to disavow the very similar Obamacare in the 2012 elections, and to pledge to repeal it. You get the sense some politicians only want a program if they can take full credit for it; it isn’t about the lives saved.

Related video:

The Young Turks: “Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michelle Obama’s Speech”

Iranian Hardliners Want to Stop Blocking Twitter — to Defeat Saudi Propaganda

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 - 11:26pm

By Mahsa Alimardani | ( GlobalVoices.org) | – –

A group of Iranian government hardliners, who typically stand at the forefront of policies curtailing freedom of expression, are demanding that Iran stop blocking Twitter.

This sudden change of tune has very little to do with the rights of Iranian users. Rather, they are making this move in an effort to ensure Iranian dominance in a so-called Twitter war with Saudi Arabia.

The group first took this new position in an article on Tabnak News, a conservative news website founded by former Revolutionary Guards’ commander (and current member) Mohsen Rezaee, in a piece entitled: “Has the time come to remove the filter on Twitter in order to enter into a “online battle”? The unnamed author reasoned that Twitter's international appeal justified the move:

وییتر یک رسانه کارآمد و یک بلندگوی به شدت قوی در سطح بین‌الملل است که پیش از مسلط شدن سعودی‌ها بر آن، باید توسط ایرانی‌ها کنترل شده باشد. انتظار می‌رود برای حضور وسیع کاربران ایرانی در این «نبردآنلاین» که بخواهیم یا نخواهیم رسماً آغاز شده، بستر لازم در این دوره زمانی فراهم شود و قدرت عمل در اختیار تعداد بالای کاربران ایرانی قرار گیرد.

Twitter is an efficient media and a extremely strong microphone on the international level and before Saudi takes it over it must become controlled by Iranians. The necessary conditions should be provided for Iranian users during this period since the online war is official started whether we like or not.

The Tabnak article argues for the removal of censorship to obstruct a so-called “psychological operation” perpetrated against Iran by Saudi Arabia.

عربستان سعودی، یک عملیات روانی را در توییتر علیه ایران به راه انداخت و با هشتگ #ایران_تدعم_الارهاب_بفرنسا، کوشید تا به استدلا‌ل‌های مضحک حملات نیس را به گردن ایران بیندازد.

Saudi Arabia, has commenced a psychological operation against Iran on Twitter with the hashtag #Iran_Supports_Terrorism_France, trying to blame the Nice attacks on Iran with ridiculous arguments.

These concerns are nothing new, as Saudi Arabia and Iran have a long history of tensions in the region. While Saudi Arabia is often the leader in the Sunni sectarian side of regional tensions, the majority-Shiite Iran leads the other side. This past January, Saudi cut diplomatic ties with Iran when its missions in the country were ransacked following the execution of Sheik Nimr, a Shiite leader who advocated for Shiite rights in Saudi Arabia. Conflicts between the two nations also have escalated with the proxy combatants that both countries maintain in the Yemeni civil war. And last year, Global Voices documented the ongoing social media campaigns of Saudi-led Twitter accounts that fueled Kurdish tensions in Mahabad.

The Tabnak article does mark a departure from the ongoing contrast between the relatively moderate administration of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and more conservative factions of the Iranian government. However, it should be noted that Tabnak and Rezaee form into a hardline faction that are often critical of other hardliners, such as those close to the former conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Before Rouhani came into office, the government's position on Internet content was often articulated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In one speech, he said:

Today, there is Internet, satellite, and many other communication platforms for easy communications. Various thoughts compete to dominate the minds of Muslims. Today however, we are at a battlefield and face a real campaign to influence our minds. This war and campaign is not a disadvantage. In fact, it is to our advantage. I am certain that we will win the war if we enter the battlefield and do what we have to do, taking out and using our ammunitions, which are our Islamic thoughts stored in our barracks of divine studies. We have to do this.

Rouhani came into power in 2013 with promises of increasing freedoms online. While a conservative majority in other parts of the Iranian government has made this promise difficult to keep, they have had some victories.

In January of 2015 they prevented the filtering of popular messaging applications such as Whats App and Viber by blocking the decisions of the hardline judiciary in implementing their filtering rulings. In January of 2016 they also brought the CCDOC (Committee Charged with Determining Offensive Content) towards a decision not to filter Telegram. This was no small feat, given that the CCDOC is managed by the judiciary (not to be confused with Iran’s Ministry of Justice), which is typically a conservative body.

Iranian Internet users have often wondered why these decisions have not been extended to unblock Twitter and Facebook, platforms that were censored following the 2009 Green Movement.

What is the the difference between Instagram or Telegram and Twitter where only the latter is blocked in Iran?!

— MAHDI TAGHIZADEH (@mahdi) July 5, 2016

The Tabnak article continues, specifically highlighting Twitter “Trends” as a reason for Saudi Arabia's success in dominating Iran on Twitter:

به نظر می‌رسد با توجه به شرایط کنونی و فعال شدن عربستان سعودی در توییتر برای ایجاد جنگ روانی علیه ایران از طریق «ترند» کردن موضوعات ضدایرانی، باید در این مقطع درباره رفع مسدودیت توییتر در کشورمان بررسی‌هایی توسط نهادهای تصمیم‌گیرنده صورت پذیرد.

It seems that considering the current situation and the active presence of Saudi Arabia on Twitter for the psychological warfare against Iran through “trending” anti-Iran issues, we must at this time gather the deciding organizations to considering the unblocking of Twitter.

The feature of Twitter “Trends” that amplifies certain social media campaigns does not in work in Iran, since the Iranian government blocks the platform, which prevents Twitter from tracking the geolocation of trends inside the country.

It is unclear how far Tabnak's call to re-open Twitter will go. Tabnak founder Mohsen Rezaee himself has been a member of Facebook since his 2013 bid to run for President and on Twitter since 2015.

In a Facebook post from earlier this year, Rezaee stoked Israeli and Saudi tensions with Iran with this statement to his followers:

روزی كه #اسرائیل، دوست امروز #آل‌سعود از ایران شكست بخورد، همه مردم منطقه فریاد زنده‌باد #ایران سر خواهند داد».

The day that #Israel, today's friend of the Al Saud's are defeated by Iran, the people of our region will celebrate with cries of “long live Iran”

A follower responded to Rezaee's post, mocking the fact that he had circumvented Iranian laws and censorship for religious reaons:

ضمنا شما برای استفاده از فیلترشکن حجت شرعی دارید دیگه؟

The day you use a circumvention tool for religious justifications?

The irony of Iranian officials belonging to social networks that are blocked in the country has long been acknowledged by Iranians.

In its conclusion, the Tabnak piece argues that the only dangers Twitter poses to Iran are through Saudi-led efforts:

حقیقت آن است که توییتر دارای ابعاد اخلاقی منفی نیز نیست و تنها ابعاد امنیتی برای آن متصور بود که با توجه به تحرکات اعراب ضدایراتی، این ابعاد پررنگ‌تر می‌شود.

The truth is Twitter does not have a negative moral dimension just a security dimension that was magnified through a anti-Iranian movement led by Arabs.

Previous official reasons given in 2009 linked Twitter to foreign efforts to promote “sedition” with the Green Movement protests.

This is part of a new tide of political figures previously inclined to condemn and censor media such as Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan who took to social media to counter the recent coup, to now Iran's hardliners using it to counter Saudi Arabian propaganda.

Via GlobalVoices.org

WikiLeaks Release 300K Emails Related to Turkey’s ruling Party

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 - 11:08pm

TeleSur | – –

The group leaked the documents despite being under a major cyber attack for more than 24 hours by suspected allies of the Turkish government.

WikiLeaks released its first batch of leaked emails from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Tuesday. Founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the whistleblowing group claims the documents offer an inside look into the power structures within Turkey and its most powerful political party.

“Part one of the series covers 762 mail boxes beginning with ‘A’ through to ‘I’ containing 294,548 email bodies together with many thousands of attached files,” WikiLeaks said on its website. “The emails come from “akparti.org.tr”, the AKP’s primary domain.”

The documents were released amid more than 24 hours of cyber attacks against WikiLeaks’ after it announced the major leak. The group’s Twitter account suggested the attacks could be from Turkish political forces fighting against the release of the documents. “We are unsure of the true origin of the attack. The timing suggests a Turkish state power faction or its allies. We will prevail & publish.”

The release of the documents was moved ahead of schedule, the group said, because of the recent coup attempt in Turkey and the ensuing crackdown by the government. The leak was supposed to happen at the end of the year.

“The material was obtained a week before the attempted coup. However, WikiLeaks has moved forward its publication schedule in response to the government’s post-coup purges,” the statement added.

The emails date all the way back to 2010 and the most recent one was sent on July 6, 2016. However, WikiLeaks said that “emails associated with the domain are mostly used for dealing with the world, as opposed to the most sensitive internal matters.”

WikiLeaks said Monday that it was planning to release documents on Turkey’s political power structure after a failed coup attempt over the weekend.

“Get ready for a fight as we release 100k+ docs on #Turkey’s political power structure,” WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed.

The Turkish government ordered police forces around the country to down any helicopters without warning while President Erdogan said he ordered all the country’s F-16 jet planes to patrol the country’s airspace, local media reported Sunday evening.

Erdogan also called for the possibility of reintroducing the death penalty, while Germany reacted by announcing it would would mean “an end to Turkey’s EU accession talks.”

Via TeleSur

Rep. Steve King, White People and ‘Civilization’

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 - 12:30am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Rep. Steve King objected to a comment during a cable news discussion at MSNBC that this will be the last election dominated by old white people.


Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) offered an unusual defense of the racial homogeneity of his party during a panel on MSNBC Monday evening.

The group, led by Chris Hayes, was discussing the first day of the Republican national convention and Donald Trump’s history of racially-loaded comments and behavior. King told Hayes that he thought Trump had “modified” his behavior in that regard, but Esquire’s Charlie Pierce said he didn’t see much diversity reflected in the gathering itself.

“If you’re really optimistic, you can say that this is the last time that old white people will command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, its public face,” Pierce said. “That hall is wired,” he continued. “That hall is wired by loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people.”

King objected.

“This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie,” King said. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

“Than white people?” Hayes asked, clearly amazed.

“Than, than Western civilization itself,” King replied. “It’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”

There are lots of basic things wrong with King’s statement, even just starting with his category of ‘whiteness’. Whiteness is not ‘natural’– it is an invented category. Were Irish white? A lot of English didn’t think so. “Whites” rioted against Greek immigrants to the US. White supremacists still argue over whether to let in Italian-Americans. Me, I don’t want to be called white and I decline that categorization whenever the government or other people with questionnaires will let me. The Appalachian side of my family probably has some Melungeon to it and some of us aren’t all that ‘white.’

As for civilization, there are lots of kinds. Archeologists were shocked to discover that African villagers did sophisticated iron-working around the time of Jesus, even though they didn’t have big cities or other infrastructure. They were just good at smithing and the technology needed for it.

If by civilization is meant urban society with high rates of literacy, scientific and technological innovation, role specialization and division of labor, and high levels of collective government, then northern European Christians did not invent it.

Iraq, Iran, India, China and Egypt did. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Elamites, Persians, Indians, Chinese and the Pharaohs of Egypt had civilization for thousands of years while Celts in Britain were painting themselves blue and doing hunting and gathering in the wastes.

Sanskrit gave us our numbers, otherwise we’d be doing long division of IX into XXVI. The Arabs and Iranians at the court of the Abbasid caliphate added the zero, and invented algebra and algorithms (named for al-Khwarizmi, an Iranian Muslim mathematician). Omar Khayyam, an Iranian, pioneered using geometry to solve algebraic problems. Muslims gave us the latteen sail and a whole host of other key inventions. Chinese science in the Song period (late medieval) was so far ahead of the rest of the world that others probably did not catch up until 1750 or so. Ancient Indian astronomers were likewise way ahead of their peers in Europe of the day.

As for Christianity, while it could not be proved to cause the fall of the Roman Empire in the 400s of the common era, it is certainly the case that Greece and the Roman republic were huge successes when pagan, but went into a tailspin only a century after Constantine imposed a Middle Eastern monotheism on the empire. There doesn’t seem to be a connection between Christianity and civilization. There were some negatives. Christian know-nothingism of the Tertullian sort put paid to high philosophizing in Western Europe for centuries, with deep damage to science and innovation. Abbasid caliph Haroun al-Rashid was debating Aristotle at court while Charlemagne, lord of a few muddy villages compared to the splendors of Baghdad, was desperately trying to learn to write his name.

Western Europeans and North Americans got slightly ahead of the rest of the world with regard to gross domestic product and scientific innovation from about 1750, but this should not be exaggerated. Even as the people at the center of an empire, most Portuguese were poor, and likely poorer than the Indians they hoped to rule. It certainly had nothing at all to to with Christianity. Some of it was the ‘ghost acreage’ of slavery and colonialism, which produced economic ‘cream’ for white society beyond subsistence that got invested and had a multiplier effect.

But there is another critique of what King said, which is that our model of civilization may be very damaging. It is after all a high-carbon enterprise that produces masses of pollution. It may have endangered our species with its carbon emissions. A less ‘civlized’ life like that of pre-European Native Americans would certainly have been in greater harmony with the environment.

======

Related video:

Raw Story: ”
CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and Chris Cuomo slam Steve King for opposing Harriet Tubman
Raw Story”

GOP Convention Opens in City Pillaged by Its Policies

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 - 11:44pm

TeleSur | – –

Cleveland, once called the Mistake on the Lake, hosts nominating convention of the political party that authored its downfall

Just a few miles from downtown Cleveland’s preoccupied hum and gleaming skyscrapers, in the hollowed-out slums that resemble deserted ghost-towns, the notion of this city hosting the Republican National Convention that begins Monday is akin to a killer returning to the scene of the crime, to gloat if nothing else.

There is almost no poorer place in the U.S. than this post-industrial patch of land on the banks of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, thanks in no small part to the GOP’s conservative scheme to empty the pockets of what was once the wealthiest working class in history.

With its railroad lines, steel refineries, and auto-manufacturers, Cleveland was once among the world’s wealthiest cities. But, much like the protagonist in a Hemingway novel, the city went broke, gradually, and then suddenly, beginning as the sun set on the golden era of U.S. industrialism, and accelerating with the deregulation of mortgage finance.

Between 2000 and 2010, banks foreclosed on 110,000 home loans in the city, triggering a population loss of nearly a fifth over that period, according to a report Sunday by the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper. Cleveland is now the second-poorest big-city in the country, according to 2015 U.S. Census figures.

And deepening that seismic shift in the U.S. economy, from manufacturing to finance, are two billionaires who figure prominently in the GOP Convention which begins Monday at the Quicken Loans arena in downtown Cleveland: the party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, and billionaire Dan Gilbert, who owns the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers franchise and the arena where the team plays.

In 2008, Trump, a real estate mogul, counseled “pupils” enrolled in a now shuttered business school, Trump University, to target vulnerable communities like Cleveland where indigent property owners were desperate to unload homes purchased with predatory loans.

“Investors Nationwide are Making Millions in Foreclosures … AND SO CAN YOU!” the real estate mogul said in newspaper ads published across the country. According to The Guardian, Trump had only recently closed a brokerage company, Trump Mortgages, which offered offered subprime mortgages to customers through cold calls.

“Trump is a speculator. He’s a scavenger. They tell you how you can get rich, and often that means getting rich (by) taking advantage of other people’s foibles or miscues or faults,” said Jim Rokakis, vice president of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in northern Ohio.

Said Xavier Allen, 44, pointing to a bullet-ridden Cleveland home with a collapsing ceiling and two armchairs submerged in debris: “Donald Trump doesn’t care. He was part of the problem.”

Gilbert also made the bulk of his estimated US$5.2 billion fortune from real estate, though some critics say it’s been anything but honest work. Gilbert was arrested once for bookmaking in college, sued, unsuccessfully by former employees for overtime pay, and by the U.S. Justice Department for mortgage fraud. That case is still pending.

The trajectories of Trump and Gilbert mirrors that of the country’s wealthiest 1 percent over the past 50 years. Historians and the Marxist geographer David Harvey note that as maturing postwar industries in Europe and Japan began to produce exports to compete with goods manufactured in the U.S., profit margins began to shrink, and the financial class began to look to alternatives to manufacturing.

Bankers and corporate executive found their muse in the free-market ideology of the economist Milton Friedman, who preferred low-inflation and favorable conditions for investors to the Keynesian ideology of stimulating overall buying power. Beginning with New York City’s 1975 financial crisis, the top 1 percent weakened public sector unions, deregulated financial markets, and imposed belt-tightening austerity measures around the country.

This Republican agenda began to hit rustbelt cities like Cleveland hard beginning in the late 1970s, when a cash-strapped Cleveland became known as the “Mistake on the Lake.” That crisis mushroomed as the 90s drew to a close, the Democrats fully embraced the GOP’s corporatist ideology, free-trade opened the door to cheap labor abroad, and speculators like Trump and Gilbert were unbound of virtually all constraints.

“If you’re for the blue collar worker or the people that have been pushed aside,” Cleveland resident Anita Gardner told The Guardian, “this is what the people who have been pushed aside have to deal with,” she said pointing to a collapsing door frame.

In an attempt to organize residents to fight blight and combat rogue landlords, Gardner formed the Concerned Citizens Community Council in 2008.

“So if you want to ‘Make America Great Again’, come down here and see what America really has to deal with.”

Via TeleSur

Israeli opposition leader warns of ‘uprising of hatred’ in Israel

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 - 11:30pm

Ma’an News Agency | – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog warned of what he called “growing hatred and racism” in Israel encouraged by right-wing politicians, adding that it could pave the way for further deadly violence, Hebrew-language news site NRG reported on Monday.

“We are on the verge of an uprising of hatred, racism, darkness and upcoming killings and assassination based on the overwhelming internal hatred here,” NRG quoted Herzog as saying during a speech at a Zionist Camp parliamentary bloc session on Monday.

“We hear hatred at every turn, whether it is directed towards women by military rabbis, by Ashkenazi Jews against Sephardi Jews and Mizrahi Jews against Ashkenazis, from military school rabbis towards homosexuals, or between Arabs and Jews,” the Labor Party leader added, notably in reference to the recent appointment of Eyal Karim, who has implicitly justified the rape of women in times of war, as the new chief rabbi of the Israeli army.

Herzog went on to blame the current Israeli government, which he said has encouraged the growing right-wing discourse in Israeli society.

“This way the seeds of the uprising of hatred are planted, which will lead to a civil war. This hatred is being carried out by the full support and cover of those in the government,” Herzog said.

“(Likud MK) Miri Regev will shed tears, (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu will write a post on Facebook, and (Minister of Education) Naftali Bennett will call for self-assessment, but they will be the ones indicted this time,” Herzog added.

“Whoever heads this government remains silent about the uprising of hatred, without working against it, ending it, taking steps against its leaders, or preventing those behind it from receiving funding.”

“They have forgotten that protecting the weak is a major condition of being Jewish, in addition to tolerance and protecting democracy, values and morals. It seems that Netanyahu has forgotten the meaning of being Jewish,” Herzog said.

Earlier this month, Herzog denounced the passage of legislation requiring that Israeli NGOs reveal the sources of their public foreign funding — a law which has been denounced as an attack on left-wing Israeli organizations working to denounce Israeli occupation practices against Palestinians.

At the time, Herzog slammed the law for “symbolizing the budding fascism that is rising and flourishing in Israeli society.”

Via Ma’an News Agency

Newt Should Check out Mike Pence’s Christian Sharia

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 - 12:42am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Newt Gingrich suggested late last week on cable tv that Muslim Americans should be asked if they believe in “sharia” and if they answer yes, they should be deported. You can’t deport US citizens, so the whole remark was ridiculous.

Sharia for Muslims is the equivalent of Canon Law for Catholics, Halakhah for Jews, and I guess the entire Bible for some fundamentalists (though there are laws in Deuteronomy that it is hard to imagine anyone actually practicing). All religions have laws. Sharia is the Muslim one. But it is fluid and an arena of contention within Islam. It forbids murder, theft, adultery, and drinking. You’d think people would be happy about all that. In any case, observant Muslims would all say they believe in sharia, just as observant Jews would say that the believe in Halakhah or observant Catholics would say they believe in canon law.

Although most interpretations of sharia frown on same-sex marriage, American Muslims are more likely to support it than are US evangelicals. That datum is an example of what I mean when I say it is fluid and an arena of contention. And by the way, whatever the Vatican says, http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/catholic/2001/01/the-catholic-abortion-paradox.aspxAmerican Catholics have a higher abortion rate than Protestants. You can’t read off things from abstract data about people’s religion.

The American right wing (or far right; how could you tell anymore?) has tried to substitute “sharia” for the Communist Manifesto, attempting to configure it as radical or inherently un-American. The American Right never got over losing Communism as a boogey man with which to threaten people into accepting lower wages and being obedient to . . . the American Right. So it wants to shoehorn everyday Muslims into that role, on the grounds that sharia involves jihad or holy war. But in Shiite Islam, for instance, offensive holy war is forbidden under today’s circumstances. And in mainstream Sunni Islam, state authority would have to declare it, and I don’t know of any that have any time recently (you can’t imagine secular leaders like Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi or Caid Beiji al-Sebsi talking that way). It is only for fringe extremists that vigilanteism is allowed, and that is true in all religions.

One of the alleged grounds on which people like Gingrich attack Muslim religious law is that they say they fear the 1% of Americans who are Muslims will try to impose it on everyone else. That allegation is also ridiculous.

But there is a religious law that poses such a danger to secular and liberal traditions in the United States and that is the evangelical sharia, to which Trump running mate Mike Pence is devoted.

Pence is welcome to his own private beliefs. But he wants to impose Evangelical beliefs on all Americans.

1. Pence wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned and abortion made illegal. He holds this position because of an unprovable, unscientific belief that the human person begins at conception (not something held by traditional Christianity). Pence wants to take control of 150 million women’s bodies in the United States and to inscribe his Christian sharia on them, getting in between them and their physicians. He wants to make thousands of pregnant rape victims every year bear their rapist’s baby. He wants his theology to be a ghostly presence in every OB-GYN consultation. And he wants to do this in the teeth of settled secular law. He actually signed a law requiring burial or cremation for aborted fetuses.

2. Pence’s personal and narrow theology has to be imposed on the rest of us even at the level of foreign policy. He said at an AIPAC conference, ““Let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel.” If he had said that his Christian faith requires him to cherish the state of Argentina or Thailand or North Korea, we’d want to know why his weird doctrines should shape US foreign policy. There is in contrast no unanimity among American Muslims that the US must “cherish” any foreign state.

3. Pence pushed for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. There are no secular grounds for opposing this simple human right. He is against gay marriage because of some strange interpretation he has of some Bible verse (there isn’t anything about what we call gays in the Bible). Some conservative Muslims are against same-sex marriage on religious grounds, as well. So why is it bad if they deploy their theology for social legislation but good if Pence does it? Shouldn’t these decisions in a country with a separation of religion and state be made on rational grounds? Pence in essence wants to Establish a religion as the source of American law, which the First Amendment expressly forbids. And no, the Bible doesn’t say that marriage is between one man and one woman.

4. He signed a bill allowing people to discriminate against gays (and I guess against African-Americans or anyone else) if their religious beliefs tell them to. In other words, he is putting Evangelical sharia above the secular law, exactly what Gingrich accuses Muslims of wanting to do (but which few American Muslims would even want to). White Christian anti-civil rights groups in 1964 also argued that their religion required racial segregation, and by Pence’s logic they should be allowed to discriminate against Black people if their reading of the Bible makes that obligatory.

5. Pence opposed stem cell research done with stem cells taken from aborted fetuses, even though aborting fetuses is legal and even though stem cell therapies are extremely promising. As it happens, science has advanced to the point where stem cells can be acquired in other ways. But the point is that Pence would rather have doomed quadriplegics to permanent paralysis rather than back down from his weird theological position that blastocytes are people (which requires us to believe that miscarriages of 3-day-olds in the toilet are a form of human death; we’d all have a lot of dead siblings to mourn in such a bizarro world).

Pence and other people of faith are welcome to believe and practice as they will in the United States– that’s one of the purposes of the United States. I personally admire people of strong faith and conviction. But they are not welcome to Establish an official religion here and impose that religion’s laws on everybody; preventing that kind of thing is also one of the purposes of the United States. Muslim Americans are a tiny group and are in no position to impose anything on anyone. But Pence represents a quarter of Americans and nearly half of Republicans, and his wacky ideas could easily become law.

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: “Trump’s New VP Is Seriously Anti-LGBT And Anti-Abortion”

Defeating ISIL in Iraq will Take Sunni-Shiite Reconciliation, not Just Tanks

Sun, 17 Jul 2016 - 11:32pm

By Neil Thompson | (Informed Comment) | – –

As Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian forces squeeze its territory in the Arab world and Turkey hunts down the group’s support networks and sympathisers inside its territory, it can seem like the days of Islamic State (IS) are finally numbered after a two year reign of terror in the region.

However it is worth remembering then that the West and local actors have been here before, when the predecessor group to IS was standing on the brink of defeat in the late 2000s. Following the US withdrawal however, the chance to prevent its re-emergence by inviting the Iraqi Sunni community into the Iraqi political mainstream was missed and the Sunni jihadi group was allowed the opportunity to rebuild and remerge.

The past history of IS is a salutary reminder that after the group’s defeat this time around the devastated areas it has occupied in Syria and particularly Iraq will need to be rebuilt and re-engaged in the political process, if the violence is ever to end and these fragmented states to be rebuilt.

Ten years ago this summer the Jordanian national known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by two US laser guided bombs when the safehouse he was attending a meeting at was targeted by the US occupation forces.

Between 2003-2006 the network of Sunni Islamic extremists Zarqawi had originally founded in Afghanistan became notorious across Iraq for its cruelty and extreme sectarianism towards non-Sunni Muslims. But the death of its leader did not stop the anti-occupation insurgency in Iraq nor put an end to the group he had founded, then called Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

AQI went on to merge with other Sunni militant groups in the country and subsequently renamed itself the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), continuing a campaign of terror against Iraq’s Shi’a civilian population that helped to spark a sectarian war in Iraq.

However ISI went into a pronounced decline shortly after Zarqawi’s death under the impact of the much mythologized American ‘Surge’ which bribed former Sunni tribal allies to turn against the network and killed scores of top leaders and hundreds of its militants.

The events of 2006-8 showed how vulnerable the AQI/ISI organisation could be when concerted pressure was applied against it simultaneously from without and within the Iraqi Sunni community. However it was not the end of the road for Zarqawi’s old group quite yet; retreating to lick its wounds around Mosul, the group was gradually able to reconstitute itself as the speartip of Sunni opposition to the bigoted and dictatorial rule of former Iraqi strongman Nouri al-Maliki following the American withdrawal in 2011.

Here is the heart of the problem for Western leaders as IS falters today; though al-Maliki was deposed at the insistence of President Obama as the price of renewed American aid after the forces of IS swept up to the gates of Baghdad in 2014, both his governing chauvinistic Dawa Party and the corrupt patronage system bequeathed to Iraq by its American and British occupiers remain intact.

This augurs badly for efforts at reconciliation after IS loses its twin capitals in Mosul and Raqqa because the bedrock of support for IS has always been within the Iraqi Sunni community.

While IS took advantage of the partial collapse of the Assad regime to expand into Syria, many Syrian jihadists subsequently defected to al-Qaeda’s local franchise Jabhat al-Nusra. Sunnis form the confessional majority inside Syria and while many feel marginalised by the present Alawite-dominated Assad regime, their numerical strength means the community is likely to gain political strength from any settlement at the end of Syria’s civil war.

The same cannot be said of Iraq’s once-dominant Sunnis, whose home areas have been devastated by repeated bouts of fighting and who have never regained the position they lost after the US/UK invasion in 2003. Too many Iraqi Shi’a do not trust the Sunni community and are determined to make sure it remains marginalised inside Iraqi politics.

This is a self-defeating proposition if western Iraq is neither to break away nor be the subject to massive sectarian cleansing as Baghdad was before the US Surge. It is noticeable armed opposition to Iraq’s new order escalated sharply after the failure of Sunnis to break back into the political life of Iraq in the 2010 elections and the brutal official response to subsequent protests.

In 2010 the Sunni community felt cheated when it backed the mixed community Iraqi National Movement bloc under Ayad Allawi which won a narrow plurality of seats in the Iraqi parliament, only to see the Iraqi courts promptly declare that incumbent al-Maliki had the first right to form a new government.

To form this new government Al-Maliki joined forces with hardline Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sadrist movement, whose militias had been behind much of the sectarian killings of Sunnis in Baghdad. Al-Maliki then began declaring the Iraqi National Movement supported the banned Baath party and arresting prominent Sunni politicians he accused of involvement in terrorism. Sunnis started to protest on the streets of major Iraqi cities, and when these were attacked by the security forces the protests became an armed revolt against Baghdad.

If history is not to repeat itself after the fall of IS then the door to real talks must be open to the Iraqi Sunni community. Many Sunnis would be interested in entering into a genuine political dialogue with the Iraqi central government around regional autonomy for the six Sunni Iraqi provinces, and perhaps funding for jobs, in exchange for the expulsion of any remnants of Sunni extremist groups. After all the confrontational strategy employed by these militant groups has cost Iraq’s Sunnis thousands of lives and practically destroyed important Sunni centres like Ramadi.

Following the dissolution of Islamic State’s so-called Caliphate, the movement will probably attempt to repeat the trick it pulled after the Surge and fade into the fabric of Iraq’s Sunni areas, only to return later to launch a terrorist campaign aimed at Shi’a civilian areas. The IS movement has proved adept at moving between conventional and guerrilla warfare whilst maintaining terrorist cells to strike abroad or at home if it needs to distract attention from a particular setback.

The international community should push the authorities in Baghdad hard at this point not to treat the Sunni provinces of Iraq as occupied territory and thus repeat the mistakes of the past ten years. That would just retroactively legitimise the harsh rule of IS in the areas it conquered when the objective should be to provide a better standard of government entirely after the group’s awful reign. Only reconciliation, autonomy and economic aid can now break the appeal of the political programme of extremist jihadi networks once and for all among Iraq’s Sunni youth.

Outsiders have long found it difficult to control events in Iraq’s fractious politics, and even the dominant Iraqi Shi’a community has split between nationalist and pro-Iranian groups with conflicting agendas. However the collapse of the Iraqi army in 2014 has demonstrated to Baghdad’s Shi’a leaders that they cannot control Sunni areas by force, and has reopened the door to American military influence. Furthermore whilst Shi’a ‘popular militias’ have proven good at taking back lost territory with heavy US and Iranian support they have been unable to prevent mass-casualty terrorist attacks while groups like IS operate from Sunni areas. Keeping soft targets in Shi’a areas safe will require Sunnis to cooperate in dismantling the terrorist cells that perpetuate the violence.

The point that Iraq’s civil war resumed with unprecedented ferocity after former Prime Minister Al-Maliki threw away the cobbled together settlement bequeathed to him by the US is one President Obama should remind his successors about now. Moreover whilst the US will work with the Iraqi army, Washington and the Shi’a militias try to avoid cooperating together publically. This is actually an advantage for American influence because while the Dawa Party, the main player in the ruling Shi’a coalition, controls the purse strings it lacks its own militia and must rely on the Iraqi army – a point in Washington’s favour.

The formation of the Iraqi National Movement proves that Iraqi Sunni and Shi’a political factions can work together inside Iraq’s political system, if only for reasons of self-interest. While the fight against IS is still ongoing is the time to seek out Iraqi Sunni leaders who might be willing to cooperate against the militants if it means keeping dubious Shi’a militias out of their areas. Washington should use the leverage its backing of the Iraqi army gives it with the ruling circles in Baghdad to push for Sunni forces to secure some Sunni areas as a small start to mutual reconciliation between the two communities in Iraq.

Neil Thompson is a freelance writer who has lived and travelled extensively through East Asia and the Middle East. He holds an MA in the International Relations of East Asia from Durham University, and is now based in London.

——

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: ” ISIS On The Decline”

Assassination by Robot is now US Policy

Sun, 17 Jul 2016 - 11:27pm

By Rebecca Gordon | ( Tomdispatch.com ) | – –

Think of it as the Trojan Drone, the ultimate techno-weapon of American warfare in these years, a single remotely operated plane sent to take out a single key figure. It’s a shiny video game for grown ups — a Mortal Kombat or Call of Duty where the animated enemies bleed real blood. Just like the giant wooden horse the Greeks convinced the Trojans to bring inside their gates, however, the drone carries something deadly in its belly: a new and illegal military strategy disguised as an impressive piece of technology.

The technical advances embodied in drone technology distract us from a more fundamental change in military strategy. However it is achieved — whether through conventional air strikes, cruise missiles fired from ships, or by drone — the United States has now embraced extrajudicial executions on foreign soil. Successive administrations have implemented this momentous change with little public discussion. And most of the discussion we’ve had has focused more on the new instrument (drone technology) than on its purpose (assassination). It’s a case of the means justifying the end. The drones work so well that it must be all right to kill people with them.

The Rise of the Drones

The Bush administration launched the assassination program in October 2001 in Afghanistan, expanded it in 2002 to Yemen, and went from there. Under Obama, with an actual White House “kill list,” the use of drones has again expanded, this time nine-fold, with growing numbers of attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, as well as in the Afghan, Iraqi, and Syrian war zones.

There’s an obvious appeal to a technology that allows pilots for the CIA, Joint Special Operations Command, or the Air Force to sit safely in front of video screens in Nevada or elsewhere in the U.S., while killing people half a world away. This is especially true for a president running a global war with a public that does not easily accept American casualties and a Congress that prefers not to be responsible for war and peace decision-making. Drone assassinations have allowed President Obama to spread the “war on terror” to ever more places (even as he quietly retired that phrase), without U.S. casualties or congressional oversight and approval.

One problem has, however, dogged the drone program from the beginning: just like conventional air strikes, remotely targeted missiles and bombs tend to kill the wrong people. Over the last seven years, the count of civilians killed by drones has been mounting. Actual figures are hard to come by, although a number of nongovernmental organizations and journalists have done a good job of collating information from a variety of sources and offering reasonable estimates.

Analysis from all these sources suggests that there are at least three reasons why civilians die in such attacks.

1. The intelligence information on the individual targeted is often wrong. He isn’t where they think he is, or he isn’t even who they think he is. For example, in 2014 a British human rights organization, Reprieve, compiled data on drone strikes that targeted specific individuals in Yemen and Pakistan. According to the Guardian, Reprieve’s work

“indicates that even when operators target specific individuals — the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls ‘targeted killing’ — they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November [2014].”

Some of these men were reported in the media as killed multiple times. Even if they didn’t die in the first, second, and in some cases third attempts, other people certainly did. Reprieve also reports one particularly egregious case of mistaken identity:

“Someone with the same name as a terror suspect on the Obama administration’s ‘kill list’ was killed on the third attempt by U.S. drones. His brother was captured, interrogated, and encouraged to ‘tell the Americans what they want to hear’: that they had in fact killed the right person.”

2. There isn’t even a named target. The CIA has long based drone assassination targeting for many missions not on direct intelligence about a particular individual, but on what it calls the “signature” of possible terrorist activity (that is, the behavior or look of people below). Such “signature strikes” target unidentified individuals based on some suspicious activity, usually picked up through drone surveillance. Such a “signature” can be as ill defined as “a gathering of men, teenaged to middle-aged, traveling in convoys or carrying weapons” in countries where many men may be armed. Unfortunately, while such a gathering may indeed indicate some kind of military activity, it may also describe a rural wedding in, say, Yemen, involving driving in convoy from the groom’s town to the bride’s, accompanied sometimes by celebratory gunfire.

Not everyone in the government is convinced that signature strikes are a good idea. In 2012, the New York Times reported this joke at the State Department: “When the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp.”

The fact that signature strikes continue to this day suggests that Secretary of State John Kerry was not entirely truthful when, in 2013, he said at a BBC forum: “The only people that we fire a drone at are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level after a great deal of vetting that takes a long period of time. We don’t just fire a drone at somebody and think they’re a terrorist.”

3. They were in the way, and so became “collateral damage.” This is the term military theorists regularly use to describe human beings or civilian infrastructure unavoidably destroyed in an attack on a legitimate military target. Of course, a drone operator’s understanding of the term “unavoidable” may be different from that of a woman who has just lost three of her four sons as they were returning home from shopping for supplies to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

In addition, drone strikes don’t just kill people, including women and children; they also destroy buildings and other property. For example, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that, in Pakistan, more than 60% of all strikes target domestic buildings — people’s houses. In other words, “collateral damage” often refers to the destruction of the homes of any survivors of a drone attack.

Not surprisingly, people don’t like living in terror of deadly missiles screaming out of a clear blue sky. Many observers have argued that terrorist organizations have used widespread fear and anger over drone attacks as a recruiting tool. Al-Qaeda and ISIS appear to offer Pakistanis, Yemenis, and others an alternative to simply waiting for an attack they can’t prevent. The CIA itself recognized the counterproductive potential of drone killings, which they call “HVT [High Value Target] operations.” A leaked July 2009 CIA report on “Best Practices in Counter-Insurgency” outlines the issues:

“Potential negative effects of HVT operations include increasing the level of insurgent support, causing a government to neglect other aspects of its counterinsurgency strategy, altering insurgent strategy or organization in ways that favor the insurgents, strengthening an armed group’s bond with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or deescalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

So there are long-term strategic problems with targeted killings by drone. In addition, drones may help spread and intensify terror movements and insurgencies, rather than destroying them or their leaderships. Often, as Andrew Cockburn has made clear in his book Kill Chain, the successors to leaders assassinated by drone turn out to be younger, more effective, and more brutal.

There is, however, another problem with this sort of warfare. Such killings — at least when they take place outside a declared war zone — are almost certainly illegal; that is, they are murders, plain and simple.

Targeted Killing Is Murder

In my household we have a rule: we’re not allowed to kill something just because we’re afraid of it. This has saved the lives of countless spiders and other creatures sporting (in my view at least) too many legs.

Whatever your view on arachnids, should it really be permissible to kill people simply because we are afraid of them? After all, that’s what these drone assassinations are — extrajudicial executions of people someone believes we should be afraid of. It is easier to see an illegal execution for what it is when the killer is not separated from the target by thousands of miles and a video screen.  Drone technology is really a Trojan Horse, a distracting, glitzy means of smuggling an illegal and immoral tactic into the heart of U.S. foreign relations.

Not all killing is illegal, of course. There are situations in which both international and U.S. laws permit killing. One of these is self-defense; another is war. However, a “war” waged against a tactic (terrorism), or even more vaguely, against an emotion (terror) is only metaphorically a war. Under international law, real wars, in which it is legal to kill the enemy, involve sustained combat between organized military forces.

Outside of the fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now possibly Syria (where Congress has arguably never even declared war), the “war on terror” is not a war at all. It is instead a conflict with an ever-expanding list of targets, no defined geographical boundaries, and no foreseeable endpoint. It is a campaign against any conceivable potential U.S. enemy, fought in fits and starts in many countries on several continents. It involves ongoing covert operations largely hidden from everyone except its targets. As an undertaking, it lacks the regular, sustained conflict between armies that characterizes war in the legal sense. Such operations fit another category far better: assassination, illegal at least since President Jimmy Carter’s Executive Order 12036, which stated, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

Nor is the Middle East the only region where the United States is using targeted killing outside a shooting war. The U.S. military also deploys drones in parts of Africa. In fact, President Obama’s nominee to head U.S. Africa Command, Marine Lieutenant General Thomas Waldhauser, recently told Senator Lindsay Graham that he thinks he should be free to order drone killings on his own authority.

So much for war and “war.” What about self-defense? At every stage of the “war on terror,” Washington has claimed self-defense. That was the explanation for rounding up hundreds of Muslims living in the U.S. immediately after the attacks of 9/11, torturing some of them, and holding them incommunicado for months in a Brooklyn, New York, jail. It was the excuse offered for beginning torture programs in CIA “black sites” and at Guantánamo. It was the reason the U.S. gave for invading Afghanistan, and later for invading Iraq — before, as Bush administration representatives and the president himself kept saying, “the smoking gun” of Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction turned into “a mushroom cloud” over, presumably, some American city.

And self-defense has been the Justice Department’s rationale for targeted killing as well. In a November 2011 paper prepared by that department for the White House, its author (identity unknown) outlined the necessary conditions to make a targeted killing legal:

“(1) an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States;

(2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and

(3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

That would seem to rule out most U.S. targeted killings. Few of their targets were people on the verge of a violent attack on the United States or U.S. soldiers in the field. Ah, but in the through-the-looking-glass logic of the Obama Justice Department, “imminent” turns out not to mean “imminent” in the sense that something is about to happen. As that document explains: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

It turns out that the threat from any “operational leader” is always imminent, because “with respect to al-Qaeda leaders who are continually planning attacks, the United States is likely to have only a limited window of opportunity within which to defend Americans.” In other words, once a person has been identified as an al-Qaeda or allied group “leader,” he is by definition “continually planning attacks,” always represents an imminent danger, and so is a legitimate target. Q.E.D.

In fact, few enough of these targeted killings, including the signature ones can be defended as instances of self-defense. We should call them what they really are: extrajudicial executions.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions has agreed with this view. In his 2013 report to the General Assembly, Christof Heyns noted that international human rights law guarantees a right to life. This right is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and given legal force in, among other treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party. There certainly are legal limits to the right to life, including — in countries that have the death penalty — the state’s right to execute a person after a legitimate trial. To execute someone without a trial, however, is an “extrajudicial killing” and a human rights crime.

Obama “Comes Clean”

By the middle of President Obama’s second term in office, criticism of this extrajudicial killing program, and especially of the civilian deaths involved, had mushroomed. So, in May 2013, at least 11 years after the program was launched, the president announced a shift in drone strategy, telling an audience at the National Defense University that the U.S. would engage in “targeted killings” of al-Qaeda militants only when there was a “near-certainty” that no civilians would be injured. He added that he was planning to make the drone program more transparent than it had been and to transfer most of its operations from the CIA to the Pentagon.

In the two years since, little of this has happened. Although Obama has continued the job of personally approving drone targets, the CIA still runs much of the program.

On July 1st, he did finally take a step towards providing greater transparency. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a report stating that, outside of more conventional war zones like those in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, U.S. airstrikes have killed “64 to 116 civilian bystanders and about 2,500 members of terrorist groups.” These estimates are, in fact, quite a bit lower than those supplied by the various groups that track such killings. Note as well that, legally speaking, not only the “collateral damage” victims, but all those that Americans identified as “members of terrorist groups” died via illegal, extrajudicial executions.

The document fulfills one of the requirements of a newly issued executive order, which, among other things, requires the government to release a report by May 1st of each year containing “information about the number of strikes undertaken by the U.S. Government against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities [i.e., outside genuine war zones]” for the previous calendar year.

Attached to the executive order was a “fact sheet,” which noted that one goal of the new executive order is to “set standards for other nations to follow.” How happy would the United States really be if other nations decided that they had the right to kill anyone who scares them? How would the United States react if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decided to take out a U.S. general or two, on the grounds that, since the U.S. is supporting forces that seek to depose him, those generals are (as the Fact Sheet puts it) “targetable in the exercise of national self-defense”?

Some critics of the Obama drone program have welcomed the executive order, which does include a new emphasis on protecting civilians. But the larger effect of the order is to make the practice of illegal assassination a permanent feature of U.S. policy. It assumes that we can expect an annual murder toll announcement for years to come. No future is contemplated in which the United States will not be raining death from the sky on people who cannot defend themselves. The drones will continue to fly, but the Trojan Drone’s work is complete.

Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches philosophy at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of Mainstreaming Torture and most recently of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. She can be contacted at www.mainstreamingtorture.org.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, 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 2016 Rebecca Gordon

Via Tomdispatch.com

The Turkish Coup — Real or Imagined?

Sun, 17 Jul 2016 - 11:02pm

Erdağ Göknar | (Duke Today) | – –

Durham, NC – As if it were having a Cold War flashback, Turkey experienced a surprise coup attempt by a faction of the Turkish army Friday night. Though it evoked the Turkish coups of 1960, 1971 and 1980 quite realistically, and perhaps gave Turks of the political opposition hope for change, the coup was a desperate act with little chance of success.

This was a faded figment of the military imagination, with an unnerving tinge of nostalgia for a bygone era of Turkish military involvement in the political process. And as tragic as it was, it also verged on farce.

Though the “coup” is a trope in modern Middle Eastern history, most observers would agree that it is a well-warn but outmoded tool in the Turkish political toolbox. True, Egypt’s Sisi is one recent example of the ability of military coups to persevere; however, Turkish military takeovers have lost their legitimacy, largely because of the sustained legal efforts of the ruling AKP party against former and potential perpetrators in the army.

That is, in an era of modern Islamic political enfranchisement, the events of Friday night were anachronistic. This was something of a desperate display of Kemalist bravado, a retro coup. The video of people cheering the tanks in the streets as they passed through a largely secular republican neighborhood, revealed this.  Supporters of the coup stayed at home, as they were instructed by the military.

Opponents poured into the streets after President Erdoğan, and afterward neighborhood mosques, urged them to do so in repeated announcements. Violent skirmishes continued through the night. But the pro-AKP crowds in the public squares and the streets overcame a misguided military presence. On Saturday, mosques broadcasted an ominous call to return to the streets, and city walls were tagged with the words, “death penalty” and “revenge”.

To those who claim this coup was a hoax, the evidence points to the contrary: The parliament has been bombed, the Turkish general staff headquarters were occupied, top military commanders were detained, TV stations were taken over, more than 200 are dead, more than 1000 are injured, and gruesome images continue to emerge.

To all those who say this is a “win” for President Erdoğan, we have to consider the larger tragedy that is unfolding. Social polarization and strife are at a high point.

Since the beginning of the year, Turkey has been repeatedly hit by suicide bombers, is fighting a Kurdish insurgency, has a civil war on its border and is a front for the war against ISIS. Whether the coup is real or imagined, for the president and the country, this is a losing situation. In the old days they’d say that each coup in Turkey set the country back a decade. This one promises to do that as well, even though it didn’t actually happen.

Erdağ Göknar is associate professor in and Director of the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. His research focus in the legacies of the Ottoman Empire and the Kemalist cultural revolution upon modern Turkey.

Via Duke today

—-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Financial Times: ” Turkey’s Erdogan weakened by failed coup | FT World”

Long Knives in Ankara: Victorious Erdogan begins Purge of Judiciary, Army

Sat, 16 Jul 2016 - 11:54pm

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) – –

President Tayyip Erdogan is taking advantage of the failed coup against him to purge the judiciary and security forces of anyone who is lukewarm toward or actively critical of him.

These steps are, of course, the opposite of the ones Erdogan should be taking– he should be attempting to bring the country together in unity and to re-include in the polity those he has isolated and excluded in recent years. Instead, he is scapegoating and purging.

Erdogan characterizes this purge as against the secretive and cult-like Gulen movement, one element in Turkey’s landscape of the religious Right. He blames the Gulen movement for the attempted coup, though its leader (in exile in Pennsylvania), Fethullah Gulen, denies the allegation.

Erdogan has suspended 2745 court judges suspected of ties with the Gulen movment. These judges cannot be shown to have been involved in the coup, but Erdogan’s secret police apparently suspect them of Gulen tendencies. This is a purge, not justice.

Erdogan pursued the purge in the ranks of the military, as well.

Erdogan’s pro-Muslim coalition that began coming to power in 2002 included a number of constituents on the religious Right. These were small town and rural Muslims who felt excluded by the secular elites of Ankara and Istanbul. Some were small organized groups such as the Naksibendi Sufi orders, others were vaguer circles of Muslim entrepreneurs.

One of the larger groups was the Neo-Sufi Hizmet movement. Sufi Islam centers on visits to tombs of saints in search of blessings, figurative interpretation of scripture, the “warm heart” of ecstatic worship, group chanting or dancing, search for union with God, and loyalty to the mystical leader. The Gulen movement updated Sufism for Muslim modernist purposes. In a modern society, some aspects of Neo-Sufism look a lot like a cult, including the demand for unquestioning obedience to the leader and forms of corporate solidarity.

Here is an entry on it (scroll down):

It appears that, rather on the model of Stalinist cell formation, the Gulen movement has focused on getting its members into key positions in the Turkish government, including the police, army and judiciary, and possibly the intelligence services.

Gulen is alleged to have told a gathering in 1999:

“You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centres … You must wait until such time as you have got all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institution in Turkey.”

The movement maintains that the tape was doctored, but that should be easy to prove.

They have also surreptitiously funded trips to Turkey for many in Congress.

They secretly gathered dirt on Erdogan and his associates, though the public just yawned at the revelations.

Since Erdogan broke with Gulen a few years ago, he has been convinced that the Hizmet members are still secretly positioned in the government and plotting against him. He sees the failed coup as a reasonable grounds on which he can polish off his critics and brand them as dangerous cultists. But democracies require loyal oppositions. Erdogan needs his critics, and they should not be prosecuted or fired if they haven’t committed a criminal act.  (If someone is found to be acting criminally by posing or engaging in illegal wiretaps, then fine).   Just firing people en masse for “sympathies” is contrary to every human rights norm– it is the creation of thought crimes.  That path is a slippery one, and Turkey has already lost its footing.

——

Related video:

Euronews: “Turkey coup: mass arrests after uprising crushed, government says”

Palestinians rally for Erdogan, condemn Coup Attempt

Sat, 16 Jul 2016 - 11:31pm

Ma’an News Agency | – –

GAZA (Ma’an) — The Hamas movement organized several demonstrations in the besieged Gaza Strip Saturday morning, rejecting Friday night’s attempted military coup in Turkey and expressing “joy” at its failure, while the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority also came out in support of the Turkish government’s “triumph of democracy.”

Demonstrations started in the Khan Younis area of the southern Gaza Strip, where participants raised Turkish flags and posters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In Gaza City, a demonstration was held near al-Tayaran junction, and another in Palestine square. Another demonstration is expected to be held later Saturday afternoon in the northern parts of the besieged coastal enclave.

Among the participants of the demonstrations were leaders of the Islamic political movement including Ismail Radwan and Mahir Sabra, as well as youth participants of the Hamas-run summer camps in the area.

Radwan said demonstrations in support of Turkey and Erdogan will continue, because Turkey “stood with the Palestinians and supported their cause,” referring to last month’s rapprochement deal between Israel and Turkey. Despite the deal’s failure to end the decade-long blockade of Gaza, Hamas leaders praised Turkey for its “official and popular efforts to ease the Gaza blockade.”

Radwan continued by praising the Turkish people for “preserving the democratic choice in their country,” drawing parallels between the current Turkish government, and the Hamas government in Gaza which was democratically elected to rule the besieged coastal enclave in 2006.

The Gaza Strip has suffered from an Israeli military blockade following Hamas’ victory in general elections and the violent conflict between Fatah and Hamas that ensued, leading to Hamas taking control of the government through an armed struggle.

Israeli and Turkish diplomatic relations fell apart after Israeli forces in 2010 attacked the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara — the first Freedom Flotilla, resulting in the deaths of ten Turkish activists attempting to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip. The incident sparked international outcry and severed diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The rapprochement deal which normalized diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey allowed aid to arrive in the Gaza Strip this month via Israel’s Ashdod port as part of the brokered deal. The Turkish government has held long-term support for Hamas, while acting as a vocal critic of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

Erdogan has defended the Hamas movement in the past, stating that the group is a legitimate political party and Israel’s label of Hamas as a “terrorist group” — along with the majority of Palestinian political factions — is aimed at eroding Palestinian democracy. Turkey was also one of the first countries in the world to officially recognize an independent Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki telephoned his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Saturday, congratulating Turkey on “the triumph of democracy and the defeat of the coup plotters and their failure to convulse the stability of the Turkish republic,” according to a statement released by the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry.

According to the statement, al-Maliki said that the Palestinian people, president, and government “stand by our friends: the Turkish republic, president, people, and their democratically-elected government.”

The Turkish foreign minister responded by expressing gratitude to Palestine on behalf of the government of Turkey and the Turkish president, applauding the Palestinian leadership for their “honorable attitude.”

Via Ma’an News Agency | – –

Why we’re addicted to Fatal Oil, even when Costlier than Solar

Sat, 16 Jul 2016 - 11:29pm

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

Here’s the good news: wind power, solar power, and other renewable forms of energy are expanding far more quickly than anyone expected, ensuring that these systems will provide an ever-increasing share of our future energy supply.  According to the most recent projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, global consumption of wind, solar, hydropower, and other renewables will double between now and 2040, jumping from 64 to 131 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs).

And here’s the bad news: the consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas is also growing, making it likely that, whatever the advances of renewable energy, fossil fuels will continue to dominate the global landscape for decades to come, accelerating the pace of global warming and ensuring the intensification of climate-change catastrophes.

The rapid growth of renewable energy has given us much to cheer about.  Not so long ago, energy analysts were reporting that wind and solar systems were too costly to compete with oil, coal, and natural gas in the global marketplace.  Renewables would, it was then assumed, require pricey subsidies that might not always be available.  That was then and this is now.  Today, remarkably enough, wind and solar are already competitive with fossil fuels for many uses and in many markets.

If that wasn’t predicted, however, neither was this: despite such advances, the allure of fossil fuels hasn’t dissipated.  Individuals, governments, whole societies continue to opt for such fuels even when they gain no significant economic advantage from that choice and risk causing severe planetary harm.  Clearly, something irrational is at play.  Think of it as the fossil-fuel equivalent of an addictive inclination writ large.

The contradictory and troubling nature of the energy landscape is on clear display in the 2016 edition of the International Energy Outlook, the annual assessment of global trends released by the EIA this May.  The good news about renewables gets prominent attention in the report, which includes projections of global energy use through 2040.  “Renewables are the world’s fastest-growing energy source over the projection period,” it concludes.  Wind and solar are expected to demonstrate particular vigor in the years to come, their growth outpacing every other form of energy.  But because renewables start from such a small base — representing just 12% of all energy used in 2012 — they will continue to be overshadowed in the decades ahead, explosive growth or not.  In 2040, according to the report’s projections, fossil fuels will still have a grip on a staggering 78% of the world energy market, and — if you don’t mind getting thoroughly depressed — oil, coal, and natural gas will each still command larger shares of the market than all renewables combined.

Keep in mind that total energy consumption is expected to be much greater in 2040 than at present.  At that time, humanity will be using an estimated 815 quadrillion BTUs (compared to approximately 600 quadrillion today).  In other words, though fossil fuels will lose some of their market share to renewables, they will still experience striking growth in absolute terms.  Oil consumption, for example, is expected to increase by 34% from 90 million to 121 million barrels per day by 2040.  Despite all the negative publicity it’s been getting lately, coal, too, should experience substantial growth, rising from 153 to 180 quadrillion BTUs in “delivered energy” over this period.  And natural gas will be the fossil-fuel champ, with global demand for it jumping by 70%.  Put it all together and the consumption of fossil fuels is projected to increase by 177 quadrillion BTUs, or 38%, over the period the report surveys.

Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of climate science has to shudder at such projections.  After all, emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels account for approximately three-quarters of the greenhouse gases humans are putting into the atmosphere.  An increase in their consumption of such magnitude will have a corresponding impact on the greenhouse effect that is accelerating the rise in global temperatures.

At the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris last December, delegates from more than 190 countries adopted a plan aimed at preventing global warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level.  This target was chosen because most scientists believe that any warming beyond that will result in catastrophic and irreversible climate effects, including the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps (and a resulting sea-level rise of 10-20 feet).  Under the Paris Agreement, the participating nations signed onto a plan to take immediate steps to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and then move to actual reductions.  Although the agreement doesn’t specify what measures should be taken to satisfy this requirement — each country is obliged to devise its own “intended nationally determined contributions” to the overall goal — the only practical approach for most countries would be to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

As the 2016 EIA report makes eye-poppingly clear, however, the endorsers of the Paris Agreement aren’t on track to reduce their consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas.  In fact, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise by an estimated 34% between 2012 and 2040 (from 32.3 billion to 43.2 billion metric tons).  That net increase of 10.9 billion metric tons is equal to the total carbon emissions of the United States, Canada, and Europe in 2012.  If such projections prove accurate, global temperatures will rise, possibly significantly above that 2 degree mark, with the destructive effects of climate change we are already witnessing today — the fires, heat waves, floods, droughts, storms, and sea level rise — only intensifying.

Exploring the Roots of Addiction

How to explain the world’s tenacious reliance on fossil fuels, despite all that we know about their role in global warming and those lofty promises made in Paris?

To some degree, it is undoubtedly the product of built-in momentum: our existing urban, industrial, and transportation infrastructure was largely constructed around fossil fuel-powered energy systems, and it will take a long time to replace or reconfigure them for a post-carbon future.  Most of our electricity, for example, is provided by coal- and gas-fired power plants that will continue to operate for years to come.  Even with the rapid growth of renewables, coal and natural gas are projected to supply 56% of the fuel for the world’s electrical power generation in 2040 (a drop of only 5% from today).  Likewise, the overwhelming majority of cars and trucks on the road are now fueled by gasoline and diesel.  Even if the number of new ones running on electricity were to spike, it would still be many years before oil-powered vehicles lost their commanding position.  As history tells us, transitions from one form of energy to another take time.

Then there’s the problem — and what a problem it is! — of vested interests.  Energy is the largest and most lucrative business in the world, and the giant fossil fuel companies have long enjoyed a privileged and highly profitable status.  Oil corporations like Chevron and ExxonMobil, along with their state-owned counterparts like Gazprom of Russia and Saudi Aramco, are consistently ranked among the world’s most valuable enterprises.  These companies — and the governments they’re associated with — are not inclined to surrender the massive profits they generate year after year for the future wellbeing of the planet.

As a result, it’s a guarantee that they will employ any means at their disposal (including well-established, well-funded ties to friendly politicians and political parties) to slow the transition to renewables.  In the United States, for example, the politicians of coal-producing states are now at work on plans to block the Obama administration’s “clean power” drive, which might indeed lead to a sharp reduction in coal consumption.  Similarly, Exxon has recruited friendly Republican officials to impede the efforts of some state attorney generals to investigate that company’s past suppression of information on the links between fossil fuel use and climate change.  And that’s just to scratch the surface of corporate efforts to mislead the public that have included the funding of the Heartland Institute and other climate-change-denying think tanks.

Of course, nowhere is the determination to sustain fossil fuels fiercer than in the “petro-states” that rely on their production for government revenues, provide energy subsidies to their citizens, and sometimes sell their products at below-market rates to encourage their use.  According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2014 fossil fuel subsidies of various sorts added up to a staggering $493 billion worldwide — far more than those for the development of renewable forms of energy.  The G-20 group of leading industrial powers agreed in 2009 to phase out such subsidies, but a meeting of G-20 energy ministers in Beijing in June failed to adopt a timeline to complete the phase-out process, suggesting that little progress will be made when the heads of state of those countries meet in Hangzhou, China, this September.

None of this should surprise anyone, given the global economy’s institutionalized dependence on fossil fuels and the amounts of money at stake.  What it doesn’t explain, however, is the projected growth in global fossil fuel consumption.  A gradual decline, accelerating over time, would be consistent with a broad-scale but slow transition from carbon-based fuels to renewables.  That the opposite seems to be happening, that their use is actually expanding in most parts of the world, suggests that another factor is in play: addiction.

We all know that smoking tobacco, snorting cocaine, or consuming too much alcohol is bad for us, but many of us persist in doing so anyway, finding the resulting thrill, the relief, or the dulling of the pain of everyday life simply too great to resist.  In the same way, much of the world now seems to find it easier to fill up the car with the usual tankful of gasoline or flip the switch and receive electricity from coal or natural gas than to begin to shake our addiction to fossil fuels.  As in everyday life, so at a global level, the power of addiction seems regularly to trump the obvious desirability of embarking on another, far healthier path.

On a Fossil Fuel Bridge to Nowhere

Without acknowledging any of this, the 2016 EIA report indicates just how widespread and prevalent our fossil-fuel addiction remains.  In explaining the rising demand for oil, for example, it notes that “in the transportation sector, liquid fuels [predominantly petroleum] continue to provide most of the energy consumed.”  Even though “advances in nonliquids-based [electrical] transportation technologies are anticipated,” they will not prove sufficient “to offset the rising demand for transportation services worldwide,” and so the demand for gasoline and diesel will continue to grow.

Most of the increase in demand for petroleum-based fuels is expected to occur in the developing world, where hundreds of millions of people are entering the middle class, buying their first gas-powered cars, and about to be hooked on an energy way of life that should be, but isn’t, dying.  Oil use is expected to grow in China by 57% between 2012 and 2040, and at a faster rate (131%!) in India.  Even in the United States, however, a growing preference for sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks continues to mean higher petroleum use.  In 2016, according to Edmunds.com, a car shopping and research site, nearly 75% of the people who traded in a hybrid or electric car to a dealer replaced it with an all-gas car, typically a larger vehicle like an SUV or a pickup.

The rising demand for coal follows a depressingly similar pattern.  Although it remains a major source of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, many developing nations, especially in Asia, continue to favor it when adding electricity capacity because of its low cost and familiar technology.  Although the demand for coal in China — long the leading consumer of that fuel — is slowing, that country is still expected to increase its usage by 12% by 2035.  The big story here, however, is India: according to the EIA, its coal consumption will grow by 62% in the years surveyed, eventually making it, not the United States, the world’s second largest consumer.  Most of that extra coal will go for electricity generation, once again to satisfy an “expanding middle class using more electricity-consuming appliances.”

And then there’s the mammoth expected increase in the demand for natural gas.  According to the latest EIA projections, its consumption will rise faster than any fuel except renewables.  Given the small base from which renewables start, however, gas will experience the biggest absolute increase of any fuel, 87 quadrillion BTUs between 2012 and 2040.  (In contrast, renewables are expected to grow by 68 quadrillion and oil by 62 quadrillion BTUs during this period.)

At present, natural gas appears to enjoy an enormous advantage in the global energy marketplace.  “In the power sector, natural gas is an attractive choice for new generating plants given its moderate capital cost and attractive pricing in many regions as well as the relatively high fuel efficiency and moderate capital cost of gas-fired plants,” the EIA notes.  It is also said to benefit from its “clean” reputation (compared to coal) in generating electricity.  “As more governments begin implementing national or regional plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, natural gas may displace consumption of the more carbon-intensive coal and liquid fuels.”

Unfortunately, despite that reputation, natural gas remains a carbon-based fossil fuel, and its expanded consumption will result in a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.  In fact, the EIA claims that it will generate a larger increase in such emissions over the next quarter-century than either coal or oil — a disturbing note for those who contend that natural gas provides a “bridge” to a green energy future.

Seeking Treatment

If you were to read through the EIA’s latest report as I did, you, too, might end up depressed by humanity’s addictive need for its daily fossil fuel hit.  While the EIA’s analysts add the usual caveats, including the possibility that a more sweeping than expected follow-up climate agreement or strict enforcement of the one adopted last December could alter their projections, they detect no signs of the beginning of a determined move away from the reliance on fossil fuels.

If, indeed, addiction is a big part of the problem, any strategies undertaken to address climate change must incorporate a treatment component.  Simply saying that global warming is bad for the planet, and that prudence and morality oblige us to prevent the worst climate-related disasters, will no more suffice than would telling addicts that tobacco and hard drugs are bad for them.  Success in any global drive to avert climate catastrophe will involve tackling addictive behavior at its roots and promoting lasting changes in lifestyle.  To do that, it will be necessary to learn from the anti-drug and anti-tobacco communities about best practices, and apply them to fossil fuels.

Consider, for example, the case of anti-smoking efforts.  It was the medical community that first took up the struggle against tobacco and began by banning smoking in hospitals and other medical facilities.  This effort was later extended to public facilities — schools, government buildings, airports, and so on — until vast areas of the public sphere became smoke-free.  Anti-smoking activists also campaigned to have warning labels displayed in tobacco advertising and cigarette packaging.

Such approaches helped reduce tobacco consumption around the world and can be adapted to the anti-carbon struggle.  College campuses and town centers could, for instance, be declared car-free — a strategy already embraced by London’s newly elected mayor, Sadiq Khan.  Express lanes on major streets and highways can be reserved for hybrids, electric cars, and other alternative vehicles.  Gas station pumps and oil advertising can be made to incorporate warning signs saying something like, “Notice: consumption of this product increases your exposure to asthma, heat waves, sea level rise, and other threats to public health.”  Once such an approach began to be seriously considered, there would undoubtedly be a host of other ideas for how to begin to put limits on our fossil fuel addiction.

Such measures would have to be complemented by major moves to combat the excessive influence of the fossil fuel companies and energy states when it comes to setting both local and global policy.  In the U.S., for instance, severely restricting the scope of private donations in campaign financing, as Senator Bernie Sanders advocated in his presidential campaign, would be a way to start down this path.  Another would step up legal efforts to hold giant energy companies like ExxonMobil accountable for malfeasance in suppressing information about the links between fossil fuel combustion and global warming, just as, decades ago, anti-smoking activists tried to expose tobacco company criminality in suppressing information on the links between smoking and cancer.

Without similar efforts of every sort on a global level, one thing seems certain: the future projected by the EIA will indeed come to pass and human suffering of a previously unimaginable sort will be the order of the day.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, 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 2016 Michael T. Klare

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Core News: ” McKibben And Panelist Agree On Keeping 80 Percent Of Fossil Fuels In The Ground”