Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion 2017-09-24T14:49:59Z WordPress Juan Cole <![CDATA[“Those People:” Trump plays to White nat’lism from N. Korea to NFL]]> 2017-09-24T14:49:59Z 2017-09-24T07:25:00Z By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump’s dreary tweetstorm on Saturday was intended to gain him popularity with white supremacists and the covert racists on the right of the Republican Party, through beating up on uppity black athletes and impudent yellow peril Orientals. He ended up saying,

That is, the president of the United States casually threatened to commit genocide against an entire people, on the same medium where people celebrate the exploits of their cats.

At home, Trump told a white crowd that it hurts the game of football “when people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem.”

He actually said “those people.”

Trump figures it bolsters his popularity with white Christians, his key demographic, if he is seen to be feuding with black athletes of the NBA and NFL, and if he is seen threatening genocide against North Korea.

The natural order of things, he is saying, is a hierarchy with rich white American Christians on top, and then middle class white Christians elevated above all but their own rich. All other “races” and social classes come at the bottom. And if they themselves decline to recognize this pecking order, they must be put down with taunts.

Hence his crack at Venezuela that its problem is that socialism has been implemented there. Brown people governing themselves and declining the rule of white billionaires is unnatural and leads to chaos. That the white billionaires and their barracuda capitalism could destroy a country, like Iraq, is hushed up.

When he isn’t engaged in a taunting contest with Kim Jong Un, he goes after African-American sports figures:

Curry had said he declined to come to Trump’s white house, which after all encouraged the “very fine people” like those who beat up a young Black man in Charlottesville.

Trump cannot stand being upstaged, so after the invitee withdrew, Trump fired him.

Then LeBron James weighed in:

That was a great day for Trump. The politics of racial division were on full display. He even got a tweet in against Iran’s ballistic missile program, complaining that Iran can hit Israel and that the Iran deal was bad for the US. He neglected to mention that the Joint Plan of Collective Action or JCPOA, the Iran deal, did not address the issue of Iran’s missile program, only its nuclear enrichment activities. He also neglected to mention that Israel has the best military in the mideast and has stockpiled hundreds of nuclear warheads, whereas Iran barely has an air force and no longer even has a nuclear enrichment program, much less a bomb.

The point was that Iranians are brown people acting uppity toward the white hyperpower and its Mideast client. They thus parallel the N. Koreans.

As for 3.4 million US citizens in Puerto Rico, who are without electricity and will be for months, who desperately need aid, they have not been on Trumps mind, as far as you could tell. The US is ruining Puerto Rico by keeping it as not a state but not part of the US, either. Its people can come to the mainland freely, and so it has lost hundreds of thousands of the young, the energetic, the adequately wealthy to move. The poor and the old were left behind. Now a hurricane given extra power by the carbon dioxide emissions of the mainland has devastated the island. But Trump cannot be bothered to tweet out so much as well wishes (he did give one brief speech).

Trump goes after everyone but the white supremacists and Vladimir Putin. Why?


Related video:

Steph Curry comments on LeBron James’ critical tweet about President Donald Trump | ESPN

Juan Cole <![CDATA[New Customized Muslim Banned planned by Trump]]> 2017-09-24T05:39:51Z 2017-09-24T05:39:51Z TeleSur | – –

The original measures tried to prohibited travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban is expected to be altered to tailor it to several specific countries deemed not to comply with the Department of Homeland Security regulations.

Reports from Washington say the new restrictions would replace the ban on entry for citizens of six Muslim-majority nations.

8 or 9 countries are expected to be targeted.

The original measures, implemented in January, tried to prohibited travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S.

Demonstrations against the ban took place across the country.

On February 9 the San Francisco court of appeals overturned the order.

The administration then implemented a new travel ban on March 6 limiting the number of refugees who could enter the country from 110,000 to 50,000, and keeping nearly all of the original restrictions.

This second decree was halted by two district court judges, but in June the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to come into effect for 90 days.

It is due to expire on Sunday.

Trump was given the new recommendations by Elaine Duke, the acting Homeland Security Secretary.

The White House has not confirmed the tailored measures, but said in a statement: “The Trump administration will ensure we only admit those who can be properly vetted and will not pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

Via TeleSur


VOA: “Trump Travel Ban Among Factors Affecting US Tourism Industry”

contributors <![CDATA[Rohingya crisis: this is what genocide looks like]]> 2017-09-24T04:42:39Z 2017-09-24T04:42:39Z By Alicia de la Cour Venning | (The Conversation) | – –

The world is witnessing a state-orchestrated humanitarian catastrophe on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. The latest UN figures show a staggering 370,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since August 25. An unknown number have perished. Around 26,000 non-Muslims have also been displaced.

This is just the latest crisis to confront the Rohingya in recent years. In October 2016, over 80,000 Rohingya fled violence which the UN said very likely amounted to crimes against humanity. In 2015, thousands were stranded on boats on the Andaman sea, described as “floating coffins”. Their lives inside Myanmar were so desperate that they gambled with dangerous human trafficking networks. Many drowned, died of starvation, or ended up in death camps on the Thai-Malaysian border.

The Rohingya have long endured a bare and tenuous life. The World Food Programme has documented high levels of extreme food insecurity: an estimated 80,500 Rohingya children under five require treatment for acute malnutrition. Since October 2016, critical life-saving humanitarian activities have been severely restricted.

The Myanmar state has historically adopted strategies of “othering” the Rohingya, dehumanising them as “illegal Bengalis”. The Rohingya have been isolated from society, forced into squalid open-air prisons, confined to villages, and denied livelihood opportunities. They have been harassed though disenfranchisement and violent intimidation. They suffer from destitution, malnutrition, starvation, and severe physical and mental illness as a result of restrictions on movement, education, marriage, childbirth, and the ever-present threat of violence and extortion.

This is what genocide looks like, just prior to the mass killing phase.

The dark descent

Modern genocide is a form of social engineering, and often a long-term process. It begins not with mass murder, but with the dehumanisation, isolation, and systematic weakening of a target group. Conceptualising genocide in this way enables us to identify the genocidal process while in motion, and to intervene before it’s too late.

The destruction of members of a target group depends upon either the complicity or participation of the local population. An exclusionary ideology, designed to elicit support for the systematic removal of the “other”, is therefore central to the genocidal process. Exclusionary ideologies enable perpetrators to cope with the destruction of the stigmatised community, providing a psychological justification for their removal. By creating internal enemies, the natural human aversion towards murder is eroded.

Propaganda, agitation, and incitement deeply indoctrinate future perpetrators, paving the way for mass murder. In the early stages of the Rwandan genocide, radio propaganda encouraged fear and hatred of the Tutsis, labelling them as “cockroaches”, “snakes” and “devils who ate the vital organs of Hutus”. In an eerie echo, Myanmar’s state media has insinuated Muslims are like “detestable human fleas”; prominent nationalist monk Wirathu has said: “Muslims are like the African carp … They breed quickly and they are very violent and they eat their own kind.”

As well as making it easier for neighbours, business partners and even friends to kill one another, labelling the target group an “enemy of the state” also reinforces popular support for the military and a nationalistic agenda. On September 1, Myanmar’s defence commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, declared that “entire government institutions and people must defend the country with strong patriotism”, going on to describe the “Bengali problem” as a longstanding “unfinished job, despite the efforts of the previous governments to solve it”. “We openly declare that absolutely, our country has no Rohingya race,” he said.

This demonising rhetoric not only makes eliminating the Rohingya psychologically acceptable, but frames it as a matter of protecting national interests: land, race, and religion. Adopting a narrative of Rohingya “terrorism” relieves the state of responsibility for the long-running structural grievances among the Rakhine community which animate local hostility against the Rohingya, and also ensures the military retains popular support for its indiscriminate violence against the entire Rohingya population. One Rakhine politician in 2016 claimed that “all Bengali villages are like military strongholds”.

Warnings that decades of discrimination and oppression against the Rohingya could lead to armed resistance in the region have become a reality. The pervasive persecution of the Rohingya is directly linked to the origins of the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army – but instead of tracking down and prosecuting those responsible for recent attacks, the military has instead launched a campaign of collective violence against the Rohingya, systematically razing entire villages to the ground and killing civilians.

Harrassed and terrorised

Genocide scholars document a range of strategies of physical and psychological destruction which take place prior to mass killings. Physical destruction involves overcrowding, malnutrition, epidemics, lack of health care, torture, and sporadic killings; psychological destruction involves humiliation, abuse, harassment or killing of family members, and attempts to undermine solidarity through collective punishment.

These forms of harassment and terror tactics are often deployed to force members of the out-group to leave, rather than killing them outright. One year before Bosnia’s Srebrenica massacre, a Republika Srpska Army report referenced a “crucial task” to be executed: “the expulsion of Muslims from the Srebrenica enclave”. “The enemy’s life has to be made unbearable and their temporary stay in the enclave impossible so that they leave en masse as soon as possible, realising that they cannot survive there,” it read.

And yet conceptual difficulties with the legal definition of genocide, together with historical precedent, apparently mean that we need to wait for mass killings and a court ruling before we can call this form of structural violence what it is: genocide. Aung San Suu Kyi and the Kofi Annan Commission act as shields for brutal “clearance operations”. Western diplomats, unwilling to take a firm stance, hide behind a broken international system, arguing that it’s the UN’s responsibility to take action – knowing full well that any such action would be vetoed by China and Russia.

The Myanmar government knows it can count on China in particular, which is keen to maintain its business interests and limit Western influence over a neighbour. On September 6, Myanmar’s national security adviser, Thaung Tun, told journalists “we are negotiating with some friendly countries not to take it to the security council. China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia, so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward”.

The ConversationAll the while, Rohingya villages continue to burn, many of their inhabitants murdered. More than half the Rohingya population of northern Rakhine has been forcibly displaced. Those who manage to escape the terror continue to stream across the border into Bangladesh – desperate, starving, injured, and traumatised.

Alicia de la Cour Venning, ‎Research Associate, International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London

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


Related video added by Juan Cole:

VICE: We Spoke To Rohingya Muslims Fleeing Ethnic Cleansing In Myanmar (HBO)

contributors <![CDATA[Fix Healthcare: Require Congress to have the same Plan we Do]]> 2017-09-24T04:44:55Z 2017-09-24T04:19:19Z By Jim Hightower | ( | – –

Until they deliver for the whole public, the public owes them nothing.

Want good quality, lower-cost health care for your family. And — what the heck, let’s think big here — for every man, woman, and child in our society?

Here’s how we can finally get Congress to pass such a program.

Step One: Take away every dime of the multimillion-dollar government subsidy that members of Congress get to cover their platinum-level health insurance. Let them have to live with the same exorbitantly expensive, dysfunctional, and (let’s admit it) sick system of medical profiteering they’ve thrust on us.

Eliminate all of their special treatments, including shutting down their “Office of the Attending Physician” — a little-known spot of pure, 100 percent socialized medicine conveniently located in our US Capitol to provide government-paid doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others who give immediate, on-the-spot attention to these special ones.

Khalil Bendib /

Well, you might say, they still won’t feel the pain. They’re 1-percenters, pulling down $174,000 a year each from us taxpayers, meaning they can afford to buy decent health insurance.

Ah, but here comes Step Two: Put all of our congressional goof-offs on pay-for-performance salaries.

Why pay them a flat rate whether they produce or not?

For example, American babies are one-third more likely to die in their first year of life than babies in Poland, which provides universal health insurance for all of its people.

So, every year that the U.S. Congress fails to provide health coverage for every American family, the members should get their pay docked by a third. Pay them only when they deliver for the people.

When Congress finally assures good health care for all of us, then its members would get the same coverage. But until they deliver for the whole public, the public owes them nothing.


Juan Cole <![CDATA[Failing dam in Puerto Rico, endangering 70,000, a reminder that Climate Denialism Kills]]> 2017-09-23T06:55:50Z 2017-09-23T06:53:01Z By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Related video added by Juan Cole:

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

Juan Cole <![CDATA[As Muslims rally for the Rohingya, what About the Rest of Us?]]> 2017-09-23T05:27:45Z 2017-09-23T05:27:45Z By John Feffer | ( Foreign Policy in Focus ) | – –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Religion Plus Nationalism

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

The Rohingya would beg to differ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of R2P

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

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

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

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

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

But sovereignty doesn’t help the stateless.

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

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

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


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

Via Foreign Policy in Focus


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

contributors <![CDATA[US will Ease Restrictions on Drones, Expand Usage]]> 2017-09-23T05:11:53Z 2017-09-23T05:11:53Z TeleSur | – –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via TeleSur


Related video added by Juan Cole:

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

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Betsy DeVos and “Real” Rape]]> 2017-09-22T18:32:49Z 2017-09-23T04:24:51Z By Gail Ukockis | (Informed Comment) | – –

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

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

            “What happened next?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Related video added by Juan Cole:

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