Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion 2019-06-18T05:02:24Z https://www.juancole.com/feed/atom WordPress Juan Cole http://juancole.com <![CDATA[Alleging False Flag, Iran Speaker accuses US of Gulf of Oman Tanker Attacks]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184789 2019-06-18T04:51:50Z 2019-06-18T04:43:55Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Iran’s speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, said Monday that he believed that the United States might have staged the attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.

Larijani said that such an attempt to frame Iran would be consistent with current US policy, which is to prevent Iran from selling its petroleum abroad.

Larijani went on to say that the US had a history of mounting such pretexts for war. But he seems to have gotten mixed up between the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” that justified the Vietnam War and Pearl Harbor, which was not staged by the US. Or maybe Larijani is trying to curry favor with Japan’s right wing prime minister, ABE Shinzo (Japanese put their family names first). Or maybe he isn’t good at history. This sort of conspiracy theory projected back to WW II undermines his initial accusation.

What is true is that the United States is guilty of the same sort of thing, carried out by the Office of Foreign Asset Control of the US Treasury Department, as Iran is accused of.

Both actions, the tanker attack and the US unilateral severe sanctions, stop someone from engaging in lawful commerce.

The United States has no grounds for its financial blockade on Iranian oil. The US in 2015 signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, guaranteeing an end of economic sanctions in return for Iran mothballing 80% of its nuclear enrichment program.

Iran has been in compliance according to the UN inspectors. But the Trump administration has not. Trump breached the agreement and went around the world forcing other countries not to buy Iranian petroleum, even though Iran was in compliance with the JCPOA.

The State Department on Monday actually had the nerve to call on Iran to observe the terms of the nuclear deal, even though Trump screwed Tehran over by ratcheting up sanctions and by cowing European firms into avoiding Iran investments and trade!

Iran should keep its part of the bargain, why?

I don’t really see a big difference between setting a mine for an oil tanker and deploying OFAC against oil exports. You could say the latter is non-violent, but it isn’t really. Severe financial sanctions are inherently violent. They are interfering with Iranians having the money to buy needed medicine. They are interfering with Iran modernizing its aged commercial airliner fleet.

For instance, on Jan. 9, 2011, an Iran Air Flight, 277, with Boeing 727-286Adv equipment, crashed near Orumieh, killing 79 passengers and injuring 24. The forensics team specified old equipment as one of the reasons for the crash.

United States sanctions are killing people who are pushed down out of the middle class and cannot any longer afford medicine, but they are also just executing Iranian airline passengers right out of the sky because the Treasury Department threatens to fine anyone selling anything to Iran (there was another crash in February).

So I condemn the tanker bombings, whoever did them, as a form of terrorism. But I also condemn what Washington is pleased to call “severe sanctions” as a form of state terror.

I’d feel differently if the sanctions were imposed by the UN Security Council; but UNSC sanctions lapsed on the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015. The sanctions are not even imposed by Congress, to which the Constitution gives the power of regulating interstate commerce. Trump just woke up one morning and breached the JCPOA treaty and then had his goons go around strong-arming countries like India and China. It is arbitrary and lawless, and was always guaranteed to cause a great deal of trouble.

Sheldon Adelson, the filthy rich casino mogul who gathered up billions by taking advantage of poor people (in most casino games the House takes 20% to 30%) is said to have pushed Trump to install anti-Iran warmongers such as John Bolton in high office. The point is obviously to push the United States into a war with Iran for the sake of the colonization project of the far, far-right Likud government in Israel. Iran is one of the only countries remaining to even so much as politely object to the slow ethnic cleansing of the Occupied Palestinians, and Adelson and his pet, Binyamin Netanyahu, want to find a big goon to break Iran’s legs. They have fixed on the erratic and gullible Trump.

Trump has already put up the annual US budget deficit to $1 trillion a year with his 2018 tax scam for his super-wealthy friends. A war with Iran would double it to $2 trillion a year. Eventually the dollar will be worthless and you could get a reverse snowball effect of people dumping dollar holdings.

The Neocons are already out prowling the op-ed pages shouting “cakewalk” about an American war with Iran. It won’t be a cakewalk. It will be an enormous guerrilla war that will make ISIL look like a minor hiccough.

So Larijani’s conspiracy theory is almost certainly wrong. But the way Trump has behaved will make a lot of people, including US allies, open to the Speaker’s argument. After all, Trump mostly offers ahistorical conspiracy theories, too.

And that is a sad commentary.

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Bonus video:

Ruptly: “Iran: US likely to be behind ‘suspicious’ Gulf of Oman incident – Larijani”

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Middle East Monitor <![CDATA[As Military Junta consolidates Rule in Sudan, Masses demand Civilian Government]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184779 2019-06-18T01:21:30Z 2019-06-18T04:05:30Z By Khalil Charles | @khalilcharles | –

Historians and political scientists who have followed recent events in Sudan closely will point to the irony of the current dispute between the military and protest groups over the definition of, and demand for, civilian rule. In 1999, a well-documented split between former President Omar Al-Bashir and National Assembly Speaker Hassan Al-Turabi emerged over the same question. Turabi insisted that Bashir should resign from the military and become a civilian president; the suggestion prompted the President to put Turabi under house arrest and resulted in a split in Sudan’s Islamic movement. Turabi formed his own political party and spent the years until his death in 2016 in opposition to Bashir’s rule. The question of the right of civilians to rule in Sudan remained unresolved.

In a press conference on Thursday, Transitional Military Council (TMC) spokesman Shams Al-Din Kabashi provided a distinctly different vision of the demands for civilian rule represented by the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) and the bulk of the Sudanese people. He suggested that it was the army’s right to be in control, and the TMC had already delivered on civilian rule. “There has been a deliberate campaign to distort the term ‘medania’ [civilian rule]; under the agreement, civilians completely control the ruling legislative and ministerial council, so why are people still shouting ‘medania, medania’?” he asked.

His reaction was an indication of how the army views itself and the difficulty it has in removing itself from politics. “We are the only institution truly representative of the nation,” claimed the TMC spokesman. “We would never completely hand over power to an unelected body.” He went on to say that the army rejects any outside interference on matters of national security. Hence, the issue had nothing to do with the protest groups, and any call for an international investigation into the killing of more than 100 people on 3 June was out of the question. According to Kabashi, the army will withdraw when power is handed over to an elected government.

In a combative mood, he then catalogued a series of “insulting and spiteful” comments that the army “had to endure” at the hands of protestors; the protest sit-in, he insisted, was simply an arena to provoke and insult the military. The accusation that soldiers whose lives were lost by in the civil wars in the South and Darfur were not considered by opposition group leaders as “martyrs” seemed to hit a nerve. “They claimed that they were the real martyrs not us,” Kabashi exclaimed with some dismay.

The TMC’s reaction on Thursday was an attempt to appeal to a sense of reason and logic that has long been used to justify the presence of the military in Sudanese politics. Many people in Sudan, particularly the older generation and some diplomats that I have spoken to, refuse to believe that the country can function without a “strong military leadership”. The army itself, while claiming to be “the upholder of the Sudanese revolution”, has stated from the outset that the positions of interior and defence ministers would forever be reserved for army personnel.

Whilst it is fair to say that the military has been remarkably amenable to the wishes of the protest leaders, it is also true that it has done everything possible to maintain the status quo under the veneer of being part of the revolution in support of the Sudanese people. Two months after the removal of Al-Bashir from office, the army continues to repeat the excuse that it is responsible for the security and safety of the average citizen.

For their part, the leaders of the DFCF sensed early into the negotiations that senior army officers were not receptive to the ideas of change. “The TMC is a novice afraid of trying new things,” Khalid Omer of Sudan’s Congress Party explained to me two days before the army moved in to break up the sit-in, killing 100 peaceful protesters in the process. “It is uncertain what democratic change really means. Its people are old school with no idea what we mean when we say that we want freedom and justice.”

Such fundamental differences account for the breakdown in talks despite mediation attempts to broker a peace deal, just as they split supporters of Bashir and Turabi 20 years ago. Turabi claimed that the Sudanese people were ready for democracy and Sudan needed to become a multi-party, civilian, pluralist state. His critics interpreted his rhetoric as a personal bid for power. Today, critics of the protest group leadership see the call for civilian rule as a move to grab power, despite proclamations from the leaders to the contrary.

The DFCF assumption that civilian rule means the entire state apparatus controlled by civilians remains an alien concept in Khartoum’s corridors of power. The call for civilian rule since the army takeover on 11 April continues to fall on deaf ears. However, it now seems clear that either the military must somehow embrace the notion of complete civilian control, even over its own troops and security apparatus, or the protest groups must accept the army’s involvement in politics until the argument for “complete civilian rule” can be understood and eventually won. If neither happens, then an agreement between the two sides will remain almost impossible to achieve.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

Khalil Yusuf Charles is Deputy News Editor at the Turkish government news service TRT World.

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

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

ABC News: “Military takes control of Sudanese government”

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Aeon <![CDATA[Why the Information Arms Race is a Rat Race: Can we Secure our Elections?]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184785 2019-06-18T05:02:24Z 2019-06-18T04:02:15Z By Cailin O’Connor | –

(Aeon) – Arms races happen when two sides of a conflict escalate in a series of ever-changing moves intended to outwit the opponent. In biology, a classic comes from cheetahs and gazelles. Over time, these species have evolved for speed, each responding to the other’s adaptations.

A host of weirder examples come from the biology of sex, where males and females evolve bizarre adaptations to control reproduction, ranging from sperm plugs in bats, to cork-screw penises in ducks, to vaginas filled with deceptive dead-ends (also ducks).

One hallmark of an arms race is that, at the end, the participants are often just where they started. Sometimes, the cheetah catches its prey, and sometimes the gazelle escapes. Neither wins the race because, as one gets better, so does its opponent. And, along the way, each side expends a great deal of effort. Still, at any point, the only thing that makes sense is to keep escalating.

Arms races happen in the human world too. The term arms race, of course, comes from countries at war who literally amass ever-more sophisticated and powerful weapons. But some human arms races are more subtle.

The philosopher of science Bennett Holman has argued that the interactions between pharmaceutical companies and the regulatory bodies that seek to determine if drugs are safe and effective constitute an arms race.

Pharmaceutical companies deploy an ever-evolving set of tactics to influence medical knowledge. As regulators identify these tactics, and seek to neutralise them, pharmaceutical companies find new ways to shape research.

We might call this an informational arms race. One side attempts to mislead the public over a key issue – the safety of a drug, whether climate change is real, or whether vaccines are dangerous, for example. At the same time, the other side works to combat this misinformation campaign. (Please note, this would often be referred to as a disinformation campaign, because it is purposefully intended to mislead. I use the term misinformation in this article since it is often tricky to figure out whether something is misinformation or disinformation, and since disinformation often ends up being shared by true believers with no political motives.)

Of course, this is precisely the sort of interaction that social-media companies such as Twitter have found themselves engaged in.

As detailed in the Mueller report – but widely known before – in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election in the United States, the Russian government (via a group called the Internet Research Agency) engaged in large-scale efforts to influence voters, and to polarise the US public. In the wake of this campaign, social-media sites and research groups have scrambled to protect the US public from misinformation on social media.

Twitter, for example, has employed algorithms aimed at identifying bots and shutting down shady accounts. By their accounts, they have recently rid Twitter of 1 million such accounts per day. But when Twitter gets smarter, so do the bots. A recent report noted a new bot network on Twitter specially designed to outwit detection algorithms. (Another new trend – pernicious actors hijacking real accounts.)

What is important to recognise about such a situation is that whatever tactics are working now won’t work for long. The other side will adapt. In particular, we cannot expect to be able to put a set of detection algorithms in place and be done with it. Whatever efforts social-media sites make to root out pernicious actors will regularly become obsolete.

The same is true for our individual attempts to identify and avoid misinformation. Since the 2016 US election, ‘fake news’ has been widely discussed and analysed. And many social-media users have become more savvy about identifying sites mimicking traditional news sources. But the same users might not be as savvy, for example, about sleek conspiracy theory videos going viral on YouTube, or about deep fakes – expertly altered images and videos.

What makes this problem particularly thorny is that internet media changes at dizzying speed. When the radio was first invented, as a new form of media, it was subject to misinformation. But regulators quickly adapted, managing, for the most part, to subdue such attempts. Today, even as Facebook fights Russian meddling, WhatsApp has become host to rampant misinformation in India, leading to the deaths of 31 people in rumour-fuelled mob attacks over two years.

Participating in an informational arms race is exhausting, but sometimes there are no good alternatives. Public misinformation has serious consequences. For this reason, we should be devoting the same level of resources to fighting misinformation that interest groups are devoting to producing it. All social-media sites need dedicated teams of researchers whose full-time jobs are to hunt down and combat new kinds of misinformation attempts.

Likewise, the US government needs to take social-media misinformation seriously as a threat to public health, and to our democracy. This means devoting significant government resources to combatting it, especially since the character of an informational arms race means that there are no easy patches. It is beyond alarming that the current administration is taking a see-no-evil approach to online misinformation – ignoring pleas from the (now resigned) homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to pay attention to increasingly sophisticated Russian efforts to sway US politics. (The European Union has done much better with its East StratCom taskforce, created in 2015.)

The arms-race character of online misinformation means that we must also think of creative ways for broader social-media usership to get involved in efforts to protect public belief. Twitter, for instance, has added a bot-reporting function. This leverages the full range of abilities that humans can use to detect potential bots – abilities that can adapt as the opposition does.

Could we implement prizes or prestigious contests for independent research teams that identify new attempts at social-media misinformation? Or who come up with the best new ideas for fighting these attempts? Instead of growing victory gardens, the patriots of today can hunt down bots. We shouldn’t expect to win the informational arms race, but if we want to protect our democracy, we have to keep fighting new threats as they emerge.

Cailin O’Connor is associate professor of logic and philosophy of science, and a member of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Science at the University of California Irvine. She is the co-author of The Misinformation Age (2019) with James Owen Weatherall and her most recent book, The Origins of Unfairness, is forthcoming in 2019.

Edited by Nigel Warburton

Aeon counter – do not remove

Cailin O’Connor

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

PBS NewsHour: “Inside the Mueller report, a sophisticated Russian interference campaign”

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The Conversation <![CDATA[No African-American has won Office in Mississippi in 129 Years– Here’s Why]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184781 2019-06-18T01:31:31Z 2019-06-18T04:01:56Z By John A. Tures | –

Mississippi is home to the highest percentage of African Americans of any state in the country.

And yet, Mississippi hasn’t elected an African American candidate to statewide office since 1890.

That’s 129 years.

John Stuart Mill wrote about “the tyranny of the majority” – the idea that an electoral majority will use the political structure to impose its will on the minority population – in his essay “On Liberty” in 1859.

Mill could have used the way Mississippi chooses statewide offices as the symbol of this tyranny. Mississippi requires winners to receive more than 50% of the votes. When no one receives a majority, the Mississippi legislature, not the voters, chooses the winner.

In late May 2019, four African American Mississippians sued in federal court to end this practice, which they say was designed to keep black candidates from winning.

“The scheme has its basis in racism – an 1890 post-Reconstruction attempt to keep African Americans out of statewide office,” said former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group backing the lawsuit.

As a professor of political science who has written about African Americans seeking elected office, I’m especially interested in barriers to minority candidates running for office.

Let’s look at what happens when candidates have to win a majority of votes, or compete in large geographical areas – not just in Mississippi, but around the country.

Case study: Georgia

One interesting example is Georgia.

My co-author, Seth Golden, recently presented his research on county elections in Georgia at an undergraduate political science research symposium. His work shows that at-large districts – where all or most candidates must run city or countywide – were statistically unlikely to provide African American representation.

In 2013, Ariel Hart, Jeff Ernsthausen and David Wickert, reporters for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looked at how at-large districts affected minority representation in Georgia. They found that “more than 100 counties elect at least one commissioner at large, meaning by countywide vote. Sixty percent of voters in those at-large contests are white; 92 percent of commissioners who hold the seats are white.”

Our research updates their study, looking at minority voting and representation in several Georgia counties in 2019. Of the six from the AJC that were included in our updated analysis, only one – Rockdale County – has any African American representation on the county commission. Rockdale County has 52% African American population – a majority.

Our work and that of others shows that these at-large districts make it harder for minority groups to gain power because it takes more money and organization to win them.

The problem isn’t limited to just Mississippi, Georgia or even to the state level. Many cities and counties – including some in California – require candidates to carry a majority of the district in order to win.

Bolden’s case

Even when minorities make up nearly 40% of the electorate, an at-large district can easily produce an all-white council.

In fact, the at-large district had been the subject of a landmark Supreme Court case. In 1976, Wiley Bolden, an African American, sued Mobile, Alabama, and its at-large district system which was enacted in 1911. Bolden argued that while 36.2% of the city was black, nobody on the city commission was black, which he said was a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Though the Federal District Court and the Court of Appeals agreed with Bolden, the Supreme Court overturned their decision in City of Mobile v. Bolden. By a 6-3 margin, the justices ruled that the 15th Amendment did not give black candidates the right to be elected, and “only purposefully discriminatory denials of the freedom to vote on the basis of race demanded constitutional remedies.”

In other words, the court found that at-large districts were not necessarily unconstitutional.

The outrage was bipartisan. The NAACP lobbied Congress heavily. Republican Sen. Bob Dole led the charge to amend the Voting Rights Act to ban discriminatory laws even if the accuser could not prove the intent of a law was to discriminate against a minority group.

In the 1980s, the city of Mobile changed their election laws to more closely resemble a single member district system. Single member districts are those that elect just one representative from a particular part of a city or state. Sure enough, leaders in Mobile became more diverse after the change.

After Mobile

Yet subsequent Supreme Court cases like the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling weakened the Voting Rights Act.

In that case, the judges ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which required the federal government to sign off on electoral changes in an effort to reduce racial discrimination in several states where past problems occurred was unconstitutional. In other words, localities could maintain an at-large district or switch to one if they choose to do so.

Professors Jessica Trounstine of Princeton University and Melody E. Valdini from Portland State University found that single-member districts were better at increasing minority representation on city councils, county commissions and other local legislative bodies, especially where minorities are concentrated in those districts.

In Jones County in North Carolina, at-large districts kept the African American minority from winning a single seat for more than 20 years even though they made up 30% of the population. When the rules allowed single-member district elections in 2018, two African Americans were elected to the Jones County Commission.

Our findings support Trounstine and Valdini’s conclusions. For those single-member district counties in Georgia that the AJC researched, we found that the percentage of African American voters is a lot closer to equitable representation in local legislative bodies.

While racial gerrymandering and voter laws are being targeted for disenfranchising voters, it’s clear that at-large districts and states requiring candidates to get a majority of votes have the same effect, and will likely be the next battleground in promoting minority rights.

Back in 1859, Mill famously asked how America could live with a huge inconsistency at its heart: a proclamation of liberty for all co-existing with the institution of slavery? Slavery ended not long after, but the tyranny of the majority still takes many forms.

[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter. ]The Conversation

John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, Lagrange College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

WJTV 12 News:
“Lawsuit over Mississippi elections”

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Juan Cole http://juancole.com <![CDATA[Trump Heights on Stolen Golan an Indictment of Colonial White Privilege]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184774 2019-06-18T01:02:23Z 2019-06-17T05:48:42Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – In a publicity stunt Trumpian in its iniquity and emptiness, the government of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu put up a sign in the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, saying “Trump Heights.”

There isn’t really any settlement there yet, just a sign, just as there isn’t any reality to Trump more generally, just an empty suit.

Given that Trump is a narcissistic fraud, it is appropriate that his name be attached to the illegal Israeli theft of Syrian territory. In fact, we should just call the Occupied Palestinian Territories in general Trumpland, a fraud and form of robbery like his “university” and “steaks” and “airline.”

One of the pretexts that the Bush administration gave for invading Iraq was that they maintained Iraq had not complied with UN Security Council resolutions on disarming. We now know Iraq did destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons and mothball its feeble nuclear research, but the Bush people would not accept these assertions and said they invaded to enforce the will of the United Nations Security Council. This, even though the UNSC of 2003 declined to authorize any such thing.

A fairly stupid course with this legal premise was taught at Yale for years by one of the Bush conspirators.

Then, there was the case of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi, whom the UNSC ordered to cease trying to massacre his own people, and when he sent tanks against Misrata, the UNSC authorized the imposition on Libya of a no-fly zone.

So the UNSC is the body in the world that decides whether military action is needed and whether it is legitimate. It can impose sanctions for non-compliance with its resolutions, as it did to Iran and Iraq. It can even authorize the overthrow of a government.

So what did the United Nations Security Council say about Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights?

This is what:

    The Security Council,

    Having considered the letter of 14 December 1981 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic contained in document S/14791,

    Reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the principles of international law, and relevant Security Council resolutions,

    1. Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;

    2. Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision;

    3. Determines that all the provisions of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 continue to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since June 1967;

    4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the implementation of this resolution within two weeks and decides that in the event of non-compliance by Israel, the Security Council would meet urgently, and not later than 5 January 1982, to consider taking appropriate measures in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

So you see, “Trump Heights” is illegal in international law in just the same way as Gaddafi’s repression of his people or Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons were illegal.

The UNSC only hasn’t imposed economic sanctions on Israel over this annexation of a neighbor’s territory because the US has a veto, and exercises it on Israel’s behalf, coddling outlaw actions.

The Israelis have a cover story that they used to be shelled from the Golan in the 1960s and they have to occupy it to stop that. But it is the other way around. Ben Gurion wanted the Golan the same way he wanted southern Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula. In the mid-60s, Israeli military memoirs show that the Israelis hit the Golan in hopes that Syria would fire back, giving the Israelis a pretext for annexation. In today’s world, anyway, where Israel has the most sophisticated fighter-jets on the planet, they don’t need to occupy Syria’s Golan to keep themselves safe. In fact the 250,000 Israeli squatters they plan to send up there are more exposed and less secure than they would be in Tel Aviv, by a long shot.

Apart from all that, unilaterally annexing your neighbor’s land after conquering it militarily is *illegal* according to the UN Charter, which the US and Israel both signed. The framers put that language in the charter in hopes of preventing episodes like Mussolini’s annexation of Nice from France during WW II. Instead of being grateful to the UN for establishing a new framework of international law that allowed Jews to thrive after WW II ended, the Israeli far right has played Mussolini, assiduously attempting to undermine international law wherever it gets in the way of their rogue expansionism.

All of this sordid story is about double standards and white privilege. Other countries in the Middle East have suffered tremendously for defying the UNSC. The far right wing government of Israel can openly steal its neighbors’ land with no consequences.

And that is why Trump Heights is such a great name for the colony built on theft, since Trump’s whole life has been about being wealthy and powerful enough to escape the consequences of his crimes.

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Bonus video:

Guardian: “‘Trump Heights’: Israel names Golan Heights settlement after US president”

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Clean Energy Wire <![CDATA[Renewable Energy Employed 11 Million People last Year, 8% Growth Forecast]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184765 2019-06-17T04:19:44Z 2019-06-17T04:19:44Z (Clean Energy Wire) – Eleven million people were employed in renewable energy worldwide in 2018, most in China (4.1 million), the European Union (1.2 million) and Brazil (1.1 million), writes the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its latest annual review.

In Germany, about 291,000 people were employed in the renewable energy sector – about half in the wind industry – making it the largest renewables workforce in the EU. Overall in Europe, employment grew in liquid biofuels but declined in all other renewables industries.

Germany, the UK and Denmark are among the global leaders in the wind power industry. Most data in the report is for 2017-2018, with dates varying by country and technology, including some instances where only earlier information is available.

From solar-panel cleaners to housing-insulation specialists and wind-turbine climbers, Germany’s move to a low-carbon economy powered by renewable energy is shaping new businesses and the jobs market, but also disrupting entire industry sectors. After a boom in the early 2000s, Germany’s solar industry had suffered a severe setback after 2010 as incentives were cut and competition from panel producers in China rose.

However, falling costs also boosted investor interest in solar technology in Germany, leading eventually to a resurgence. In the wind sector, around 135,000 people were employed in jobs related to onshore wind power, more people than ever before, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total employment in renewables. Employment in offshore wind-related jobs has also been steadily increasing, amid construction of offshore turbines in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Via Clean Energy Wire

N. B. [Informed Comment]: In the US, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that wind turbine technician jobs will be the second-fastest-growing occupation through 2026…”

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Rotman Institute of Philosophy: Bipasha Baruah: Global Trends in Women’s Employment in Renewable and Clean Energy

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Yes! Magazine <![CDATA[How can Society deter Rogue Police who Shoot unarmed Black People?]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184762 2019-06-17T04:23:02Z 2019-06-17T04:07:58Z By Zenobia Jeffries Warfield | –

(Yes! Magazine) – Since the police killings of Botham Jean in Dallas and Emantic “E.J.” Bradford in Birmingham, Alabama, two months apart last fall, ongoing news coverage of unarmed Black people killed by police has mostly waned.

The street protests ended more than a year ago, but the horrific, traumatic occurrences have not.

I can’t count the number of posts I’ve scrolled past to avoid the image of an officer sitting on top of a Black child, tightly holding a plastic bag over the 12-year-old’s head. Or the number of posts screaming outrage about the officers who irresponsibly shot at a fleeing vehicle, injuring three small children. And the countless other posts of news stories about or videos of police officers harassing, assaulting, abusing, or killing a defenseless Black person.

Depending on the silo in which you exist, you’re either besieged by the terror or protected from it. I exist in the former.

And so when I saw the petition for the Hands Up Act on petiton.org, I felt a tinge of hope.

Travis Washington, its creator, says that for about two years, he’s had an idea for legislation that would hold police officers accountable for shooting innocent people. The language is pretty straightforward: “If a police officer shoots someone unarmed, they get a mandatory 15-year prison sentence.”

It would be up to legislators, the 24-year-old recent graduate school grad says, to flesh out the details, such as whether it’s the officer’s first shooting, or his or her history of misconduct, etc. He has emailed all 100 U.S. senators and heard back from two. Declining to name them, he says one was off-topic, responding with a non sequitur about crime in urban neighborhoods.

“If you’re not trying to shoot anybody unarmed, then you have nothing to worry about. It’s just that simple,” he says.

Washington, who works as a government intern in Illinois, has long considered a run for political office and had planned to wait until then to work on getting a bill passed.

But there really is no time to wait, he says. Lives are at stake.

So far this year, 390 people have been killed by police, according to a Washington Post database of police shootings. Since the newspaper began tracking that information in 2015, about 1,000 people have been killed each year by police.

Studies have found that Black people are shot by police at disproportionate rates, and unarmed victims are more likely to be Black. According to a 2018 Harvard study, Black men age 15 to 34 are nine to 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other people.

Policies that mandate trainings and body cams have not stopped the brutality. They’ve only reinforced what many already believe: Too many law enforcement officers have no respect for the lives in the Black communities they police.

What’s most troubling is that there has been little to no accountability. Since 2005, 98 police officers have been arrested, and only 35 convicted to date, according to the Police Integrity Research Group at Bowling Green State University.

Washington’s Hands Up Act would change that.

Since January, when his petition first went up, the number of signers seemed to crawl toward 10,000. In less than a week, I watched them jump from 9,892 to over 50,000. Now it’s over 150,000, increasing by the second.

So far this year, 390 people have been killed by police, according to a Washington Post database of police shootings.

Some people who signed the petition also left comments on the site: “No person should have to live in perpetual fear! Not here, not anywhere,” and “…Here’s an amazing approach to getting a handle on trigger happy law enforcement.” The Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP and College Democrats of America put their support behind the petition by encouraging their members to sign it.

Washington says he wants to collect 500,000 to 1 million petition signatures—enough, he believes, to bring awareness and get him an invitation to speak before a Congressional committee.

“My ultimate goal is to make this a federal law,” Washington says. “When I think of Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Antwon Rose, and Daniel Shaver, who was on his knees begging for his life in a hotel room, and they just shot him down….”

Simply, non-Black, Brown, and Indigenous people have no idea what it’s like to live in daily fear that an encounter with the police—a mistaken move— could bring an end to their lives, or that of a loved one.

Photo from Travis Washington.

Some argue this is the same level of fear or threat that police officers live under. But there is no equivalency. Unlike the average citizen, police are trained to deal with high-stress encounters; knowing how to act in volatile situations is part of their jobs.

Saying they’re just “doing their jobs” when they shoot unarmed people is equivalent to the tired old “(White) Boys will be boys” trope that has until recently excused toxic masculinity that manifests at best—if there’s such a thing—in stalking and harassment and at worst assault, abuse, rape, and even death, thanks to the #metoo and #timesup movements.

As the mother of a Black son, my anxiety is always heightened. I’m always bracing myself for horrible news. My celebration of his recent college graduation was not just that he made it, but that he survived encounters with campus and local police in a majority White town.

Just because mass protests aren’t erupting across the country, and we’re not seeing the stories in the nightly news, that doesn’t mean innocent people aren’t dying at the hands of callous, insensitive, and often racist police officers—every day.

It’s time the politicians we elect and send to Washington to serve us recognize the seriousness of this problem and take steps to address it. Our very lives depend on it.

Via Yes! Magazine

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

We Must Speak TV: ‘Hands Up ACT’ Proposes A 15 Year Minimum For Officers That Shoot Unarmed Citizens

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Committee on Academic Freedom <![CDATA[Turkey Must Stop Prosecuting, Imprisoning Scholars for Signing a Peace Petition (Yes)]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184758 2019-06-17T03:02:35Z 2019-06-17T04:07:54Z Committee on Academic Freedom
Middle East Studies Association of North America, Inc.

H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
President of the Republic of Turkey
T.C. Cumhurbaşkanlığı Genel Sekreterliği
06689 Çankaya, Ankara
Turkey

Dear President Erdoğan:

We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our alarm at recent developments in the prosecution of scholars who signed the declaration “We will not be a party to this crime”—commonly referred to as the “Academics for Peace Petition.” In numerous previous letters, we have criticized the broad pattern of persecution of petition signatories and other academics under your government particularly over the course of the last three years. We write now again to respectfully urge your government to desist from repressing academic freedom and freedom of expression for scholars, researchers, and both undergraduate and graduate students in Turkey. In particular, we call on your government to desist from the prosecution of petition signatories and abandon the expansive interpretation of anti-terrorism provisions—extending to many forms of peaceful advocacy—that stifles critical inquiry, scholarly research and political dissent in your country.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2500 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Since the Academics for Peace Petition was published in January 2016, 610 academics have been required to appear in court on various charges associated with being signatories of the petition. Of this group, a large number have been given suspended sentences for a duration of less than two years, including the following: 134 academics have been sentenced to 15 months in prison, 18 academics have been sentenced to 22 months and 15 days, 8 academics have been sentenced to 18 months, and 2 academics have been sentenced to 18 months and 15 days. The remainder who have been sentenced have received prison terms of longer than two years. Sentences exceeding 24 months may not be suspended under Turkish law so this latter category face the real possibility of imprisonment. Those facing such longer sentences include the following: 17 academics sentenced to 27 months, 6 academics sentenced to 28 months, 4 academics sentenced to 25 months, and 1 academic sentenced to 36 months of jail time. In our previous letters we noted that there is no clear legal basis for the variation in the length of sentences being handed down to individuals who are all similarly situated in that the charges against them stem uniquely from their having signed the same petition. Of the 192 individuals who have been given prison sentences, a total of 29 have been sentenced to more than 2 years and thus denied the possibility of a suspended sentence. In addition, 6 of those who have been sentenced declined the opportunity to have their prison terms suspended. At the moment a total of 35 academics are at imminent risk of imprisonment.

Of the 6 academics who declined to have their sentences suspended, one has now been imprisoned. Dr. Füsun Üstel is a distinguished academic who received her BA and PhD from Ankara University School of Political Sciences and has served on the teaching faculty of both Ankara University and Galatasaray University. She has written numerous articles and books on Turkish nationalism and national identity, and is an established and well-regarded scholar. Dr. Üstel became the first peace petition signatory to begin a prison sentence when she submitted herself to Eskişehir Women’s Closed Prison to serve her 15-month sentence on 8 May 2019. Her prison sentence was previously upheld on appeal by the 3rd Panel Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice on 25 February 2019. Article 107/4 of Law no. 5275 on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures states that people who are sentenced to prison “on terror charges” are required to serve three quarters of their prison terms in penal institutions. Hence, Dr. Üstel will be held in prison for 11 months before being eligible for release on probation.

Among those academics sentenced to 25 months and thus denied the possibility of suspended sentence is Ayşe Gül Altınay, Professor and Director of Gender Studies at Sabancı University, Istanbul. Altınay received her PhD from Duke University and published on militarism, memory, violence, gender and sexuality, including Women Mobilizing Memory (forthcoming, Columbia University Press, 2019). Another academic facing a 25-month sentence is Leyla Neyzi, also Professor at Sabancı University. Neyzi received her PhD from Cornell University and was the recipient of MESA’s Malcolm H. Kerr dissertation award in 1992. She has published on oral history, memory studies, youth and social movements. As is evident from these short descriptions, your government is electing to threaten with lengthy prison sentences some of the leading scholars in your country.

The arbitrariness of the court decisions that impose varying lengths of sentence on individuals being prosecuted on the same charges has been on full display this spring. In one striking example, on 27 March 2019, the İstanbul 27th Heavy Penal Court announced 15-month sentences against two academics on charges of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” pursuant to Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law. Yet the same court on the same date also sentenced academic Ali Kerem Saysel to 2 years and 6 months in prison on the same charges. Dr. Saysel, Professor of Environmental Sciences and Head of the Division of Environmental Sciences at Boğaziçi University, is an associate editor of the System Dynamics Review and is lead author for the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)’s first global assessment. In short, an academic of international renown, Saysel was given a lengthier prison sentence on what appears to be entirely arbitrary grounds. The prison sentence of Saysel was differentiated in the Court’s minutes from the other two with a notation concerning “the gravity of intent,” aggravating his sentence without offering substantiating evidence. While this lengthy sentence cannot be suspended, Saysel is currently appealing the judgment. His colleague at Boğaziçi University, Koray Çalışkan, was subsequently also given a lengthy sentence of two years and three months – this time by the 37th Istanbul Heavy Penal Court on 10 April 2019. We have written to you on prior occasions when Dr. Çalışkan faced harsh treatment by your government; we note, once again, that like others who have been singled out for heavier sentences, he is being subjected to arbitrary and unjust punishment for engaging in protected activities.

The arbitrary nature of the sentences issued in the cases against petition signatories was also evident on 20 March 2019 when the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court issued four sentences to four signatories, each of whom was on trial for the same act of signing the same petition that demanded peace. Whereas two of the signatories received 15 months and a third received 18 months, the fourth was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. While the first three sentences have been suspended, effectively placing the defendants on probation, the fourth defendant, Dr. Zeynep Yelçe, is facing imprisonment pending an appeal. The reason cited for Dr. Yelçe’s heavier sentence is, again, “the gravity of her intent.” Dr. Yelçe is a distinguished scholar; a historian of the early modern Ottoman Empire, she is the author of Ideal Kingship in the Late Medieval World: Ottoman Principles and Perceptions (2010), as well as numerous articles and chapters; she is also the translator of several books into Turkish.

Another worrisome development is that signatories who are based outside Turkey are beginning to be sentenced. Baki Tezcan, Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Davis, like other petition signatories, is charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” As we explained in our earlier letters of 17 October 2017, and 21 March 2019, the indictments issued against Peace Petition signatories contain serious errors including the outlandish claim that the petition constitutes evidence of coordination with the PKK. The outlandishness of this claim has now been acknowledged by the US Department of Justice in its response to a request issued by the 27th High Criminal Court to collect Dr. Tezcan’s testimony. The US Department of Justice wrote the following paragraph as a response to the request:

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for broad freedom of expression and, as a result, prohibits criminal prosecution of speech except in narrowly defined circumstances. As you know, the limits to this protection include situations in which the speech comprises a true threat or incites imminent violence. In this case, there has not been a sufficient showing in this regard. If there are other facts pertaining to this matter that have not been included in this request, e.g., information indicating an endangerment or objectively credible threat to Turkish lives, we will gladly consider them. However, without additional information, we will not be able to assist with the execution of this request, since we are of the view that the request implicates the above-described principles protected by our Constitution. We consider these principles to be essential interests, and Article 22 of the Treaty allows for the denial of a request where its execution would prejudice essential interests.

The Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court responded to this letter by issuing an arrest warrant for Professor Tezcan on 30 January 2019, rather than providing any tangible evidence that could actually connect him, a signatory for peace, with the PKK, thus confirming our belief that these cases are baseless.

A final troubling incident is the arrest of Associate Professor Tuna Altınel on 11 May 2019. Professor Altınel, who teaches at Lyon-1 University, was arrested per Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law because of a conference he attended in France. Altınel was taken into custody in Balıkesir where he had gone in order to inquire about a restriction imposed on his passport. He was referred to an on-call court operating on the weekend by the Prosecutor’s Office to be arrested and sent to Kepsut Type L Prison. Altınel is also a signatory of the above-mentioned Academics for Peace Petition and was charged with “propagandizing for a terrorist organization;” his trial is currently under way in Istanbul’s 29th Heavy Penal Court.

As a member state of the Council of Europe and a signatory of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Turkey is required to protect freedom of thought, expression and assembly. Turkey is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), all of which protect the rights to freedom of expression and association, which are at the heart of academic freedom. These rights are enshrined in articles 25-27 of the Turkish Constitution. We urge your government to take all necessary steps to abandon the course currently being pursued and return to earlier practices in line with ensuring that these rights are protected.

We respectfully repeat our numerous requests that your government take immediate steps to drop all criminal charges against signatories of the peace petition. We also ask that your government desist from broadening the use of antiterrorism laws in ways that criminalize the legitimate and protected activities of academics. In light of mounting international condemnation of the erosion of democratic rights and freedoms under your administration, taking steps to protect academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association would be an important step to address growing concerns about human rights in Turkey.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your positive response.

Yours sincerely,

Judith E. Tucker
MESA President
Professor, Georgetown University

Laurie Brand
Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom
Professor, University of Southern California

Middle East Studies Association
3542 N. Geronimo Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85705

520 333-2577 phone
520 207-3166 fax

caf@mesana.org
www.mesana.org

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Observatoire Turquie Contemporaine: Kader Konuk: “Challanges to Academic Freedom in the 21st Century” (Only first 20 seconds are French, then English for the talk)

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Tom Engelhardt http://tomdispatch.com/ <![CDATA[If Donald Trump is the Symptom, Then What is the Disease?]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=184754 2019-06-17T01:54:11Z 2019-06-17T04:01:13Z (Tomdispatch.com) – Don’t try to deny it! The political temperature of this country is rising fast. Call it Trump change or Trump warming, if you want, but grasp one thing: increasingly, you’re in a different land and, whatever happens to Donald Trump, the results down the line are likely to be ever less pretty. Trump change isn’t just an American phenomenon, it’s distinctly global. After all, from Australiato India, the Philippines to Hungary, Donald Trumps and their supporters keep getting elected or reelected and, according to a recent CNN poll, a majority of Americans think Trump himself will win again in 2020 (though, at the moment, battleground-state polls look grim for him).

Still, whether or not he gets a second term in the White House, he only seems like the problem, partially because no president, no politician, no one in history has ever gotten such 24/7 media coverage of every twitch, tweet, bizarre statement, falsehood, or fantasy he expresses (or even the clothes he wears). Think of it this way: we’re in a moment in which the only thing the media can’t imagine saying about Donald Trump is: “You’re fired!” And believe me, that’s just one sign of a media — and a country — with a temperature that’s anything but 98.6.

Since you-know-who is always there, always being discussed, always @(un)realdonaldtrump, it’s easy enough to imagine that everything that’s going wrong — or, if you happen to be part of his famed base, right (even if that right isn’t so damned hot for you) — is due to him. When we’re gripped by such thinking and the temperature’s rising, it hardly matters that just about everything he’s “done” actually preceded him. That includes favoring the 1%, deporting record numbers of illegal immigrants, and making war (unsuccessfully) or threatening to do so across significant parts of the planet.

Here, then, is the question of the day, the sort you’d ask about any patient with a rising temperature: If Donald Trump is only the symptom, what’s the disease?

Blowback Central

Let me say that the late Chalmers Johnson would have understood President Trump perfectly. The Donald clearly arrived on the scene as blowback — the CIA term of tradecraft Johnson first put into our everyday vocabulary — from at least two things: an American imperium gone wrong with its never-ending wars, ever-rising military budgets, and ever-expanding national security state, and a new “gilded age” in which three men (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett) have more wealth than the bottom half of society and the .01% have one of their own, a billionaire, in the Oval Office. (If you want to add a third blowback factor, try a media turned upside down by new ways of communicating and increasingly desperate to glue eyes to screens as ad revenues, budgets, and staffs shrank and the talking heads of cable news multiplied.)

Now, I don’t mean to sell Donald Trump short in any way. Give that former reality TV star credit. Unlike either Hillary Clinton or any of his Republican opponents in the 2016 election campaign, he sensed that there were voters in profusion in the American heartland who felt that things were not going well and were eager for a candidate just like the one he was ready to become. (There were, of course, other natural audiences for a disruptive, self-promoting billionaire as well, including various millionaires and billionaires ready to support him, the Russians, the Saudis… well, you know the list). His skill, however, never lay in what he could actually do (mainly, in these years, cut taxes for the wealthy, impose tariffs, and tweet his head off). It lay in his ability to catch the blowback mood of that moment in a single slogan — Make America Great Again, or MAGA — that he trademarked in November 2012, only days after Mitt Romney lost his bid for the presidency to Barack Obama.

Yes, four years later in the 2016 election, others began to notice the impact of that slogan. You couldn’t miss the multiplying MAGA hats, after all. Hillary Clinton’s advisers even briefly came up with the lamest response imaginable to it: Make America Whole Again, or MAWA. But what few at the time really noted was the crucial word in that phrase: “again.” Politically speaking, that single blowback word might then have been the most daring in the English language. In 2016, Donald Trump functionally said what no other candidate or politician of any significance in America dared to say: that the United States was no longer the greatest, most indispensable, most exceptionable nation or superpower or hyper-power ever to exist on Planet Earth.

That represented a groundbreaking recognition of reality. At the time, it didn’t matter whether you were Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Marco Rubio, you had to acknowledge some version of that formula of exceptionalism. Trump didn’t and, believe me, that rang a bell in the American heartland, where lots of people had felt, however indirectly, the blowback from all those years of taxpayer-funded fruitless war, while not benefitting from infrastructure building or much of anything else. They experienced blowback from a country in which new billionaires were constantly being created, while the financial distance between CEO salaries and those of workers grew exponentially vaster by the year, and the financing of the political system became a 1% affair.

With that slogan, The Donald caught the spirit of a moment in which both imperial and economic decline, however unacknowledged by the Washington political elite, had indeed begun. In the process, as I wrote at that time, he crossed a psychologically taboo line and became America’s first declinist candidate for president. MAGA captured a feeling already at large that tomorrow would be worse than today, which was already worse than yesterday. As it turned out, it mattered not at all that the billionaire conman spouting that trademarked phrase had long been part of the problem, not the solution.

He caught the essence of the moment, in other words, but certainly didn’t faintly cause it in the years when he financed Trump Tower, watched his five Atlantic City casinos go bankrupt, and hosted The Apprentice. In that election campaign, he captured a previously forbidden reality of the twenty-first century. For example, I was already writing this in June 2016, five months before he was elected president:

“In its halcyon days, Washington could overthrow governments, install Shahs or other rulers, do more or less what it wanted across significant parts of the globe and reap rewards, while (as in the case of Iran) not paying any price, blowback-style, for decades, if at all. That was imperial power in the blaze of the noonday sun. These days, in case you hadn’t noticed, blowback for our imperial actions seems to arrive as if by high-speed rail (of which by the way, the greatest power on the planet has yet to build a single mile, if you want a quick measure of decline).

“Despite having a more massive, technologically advanced, and better funded military than any other power or even group of powers on the planet, in the last decade and a half of constant war across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, the U.S. has won nothing, nada, zilch. Its unending wars have, in fact, led nowhere in a world growing more chaotic by the second.”

Mind you, three years later the United States remains a staggeringly powerful imperial force, with hundreds of military bases still scattered across the globe, while its economic clout — its corporations control about half the planet’s wealth — similarly remains beyond compare. Yet, even in 2016, it shouldn’t have been hard to see that the American Century was indeed ending well before its 100 years were up. It shouldn’t have been hard to grasp, as Donald Trump intuitively did, that this country, however powerful, was already both a declining empire — thank you, George W. Bush for invading Iraq! Mission Accomplished! — and a declining economic system (both of which still looked great indeed, if you happened to be profiting from them). That intuition and that slogan gave Trump his moment in… well, dare I call it “the afternoon sun”? They made him president.

MTPGA

In a sense, all of this should have been expectable enough. Despite the oddity of Donald Trump himself, there was little new in it, even for the imperial power that its enthusiasts once thought stood at “the end of history.” You don’t need to look far, after all, for evidence of the decline of empires. You don’t even have to think back to the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, almost three decades ago in what now seems like the Stone Age. (Admittedly, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a brilliant imagineer, has brought back a facsimile of the old Soviet Union, even if, in reality, Russia is now a rickety, fraying petro-state.)

Just take a glance across the Atlantic at Great Britain at this moment. And imagine that three-quarters of a century ago, that modest-sized island nation still controlled all of India, colonies across the planet, and an impressive military and colonial service. Go back even further and you’ll find yourself in a time when it was the true superpower of planet Earth. What a force it was — industrially, militarily, colonially — until, of course, it wasn’t.

If you happen to be looking for imperial lessons, you could perhaps say that some empires end not with a bang but with a Brexit. Despite all the pomp and circumstance (tweeting and insults) during the visit of the Trump royal family (Donald, Melania, Ivanka, Jared, Donald Jr., Eric, and Tiffany) to the British royals, led by a queen who, at 93, can remember better days, here’s something hard to deny: with Brexit (no matter how it turns out), the Earth’s former superpower has landed in the sub-basement of history. Great Britain? Obviously that adjective has to change.

In the meantime, across the planet, China, another once great imperial power, perhaps the greatest in the long history of this planet, is clearly on the rise again from another kind of sub-basement. That, in turn, is deeply worrying the leadership, civilian and military, of the planet’s “lone superpower.” Its president, in response, is wielding his weapon of choice — tariffs — while the U.S. military prepares for an almost unimaginable future war with that upstart nation, possibly starting in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, the still-dominant power on the planet is, however incrementally, heading down. It’s nowhere near that sub-basement, of course — anything but. It’s still a rich, immensely powerful land. Its unsuccessful wars, however, go on without surcease, the political temperature rises, and democratic institutions continue to fray — all of which began well before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office and, in fact, helped ensure that he would make it there in the first place.

And yet none of this, not even imperial decline itself, quite captures the “disease” of which The Donald is now such an obvious symptom. After all, while the rise and fall of imperial powers has been an essential part of history, the planetary context for that process is now changing in an unprecedented way. And that’s not just because, since the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, growing numbers of countries have come to possess the power to take the planet down in a cataclysm of fire and ice (as in nuclear winter). It’s also because history, as we’ve known it, including the rise and fall of empires, is now, in a sense, melting away.

Trump change, the rising political temperature stirred by the growing populist right, is taking place in the context of (and, worse yet, aiding and abetting) record global temperatures, the melting of ice across the planet, the rise of sea levels and the future drowning of coastlines (and cities), the creation of yet more refugees, the increasing fierceness of fires and droughts, and the intensification of storms. In the midst of it all, an almost unimaginable wave of extinctions is occurring, with a possible million plant and animal species, some crucial to human existence, already on the verge of departure.

Never before in history has the rise and decline of imperial powers taken place in the context of the decline of the planet itself. Try, for instance, to imagine what a “risen” China will look like in an age in which one of its most populous regions, the north China plain, may by century’s end be next to uninhabitable, given the killing heat waves of the future.

In the context of both Trump change and climate change, we’re obviously still awaiting our true transformative president, the one who is not a symptom of decline, but a factor in trying to right this country and the Earth before it’s too late. You know, the one who will take as his or her slogan, MTPGA (Make The Planet Great Again).

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs TomDispatch.com and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2019 Tom Engelhardt

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

ABC News: “A preview of ABC News’ exclusive one-on-one interview with Trump”

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