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Total number of comments: 215 (since 2015-04-13 20:25:16)


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  • Syria After Trump's Withdrawal: Top Reasons an "Arab Force" will Fail
    • These ideas are from the Saudis and Emiratis are as nonsensical as they are disgusting. After 7+ years of sustained strife that has only been exacerbated through Saudi and Emerati lawlessness and intransigence, one begins to wonder: these rulers and tyrants are absolutely morally depraved and intellectually deficient.

  • Trump on Syria Chem Attack: Putin responsible for supporting "Animal Assad"
    • This is why we have international law: to try world leaders under a universal framework for crimes against humanity. A lot of international law was established and codified after atrocities during World War II. If the lessons of World War II mean anything to us at all, we need to strengthen and not abrogate international and human rights laws.

      Unilateral strikes against other countries that are not sanctioned by the UN Security Council are against international law.

  • Trump: "US out of Syria 'Very Soon'"-- Quip or Policy Reversal?
    • The counterfactual you suggest is one possibility out of many, and possibly extremely fanciful. Another possibility is still protacted conflict. Western governments intervened heavily in Libya (far beyond UN authorization). Libya still is a mess after this intervention. Why would Syria be any different? Druze, Christians, Alawites, and moderate Sunnis do not want Jaysh al Islam and Ahrar Al Sham governing Syria. Especially after these two extremist groups have committed pogroms against religious minorities. It's hard to see how military interventions magically make everything better. Where have we seen this to be true? Certainly not in recent history.

  • Happiness Index: From Immigrants to Health, how Trump & GOP are making America Sad (Sad)
  • How Trump is losing in Syria & why Haley is Posturing
    • These objectives are either self-contradictory or at the very least pursued in a manner that makes at the very least 2 or 3 out of 5 impossible to achieve.

      On 10/14/2017 in a column titled, "ElBaradei: Trump Propaganda on Iran Nuclear Deal like Run-up to Iraq War", you wrote:

      "Not to mention that it has come out that the US saw ISIL growing in eastern Syria and let it do so because they thought it would pressure al-Assad."

      You wrote on 05/22/17 in a post titled, "Trump on Islam: Neo-Orientalism and anti-Shiism":

      "Then they condemn Iranian intervention in Syria but don’t mention that Saudi Arabia backed the radical terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam that had genocide against Syria’s Shiites on their minds."

      The first comment means that second objective on your list to topple Assad was pursued even if that meant giving material, financial and logistical support to groups that were associated with known terrorist groups (as classified by the US Department of State). It also meant that the US did not care when Saudi and Turkish support in the form of munitions and heavy armaments ended up falling to ISIS.

      As for other contradictions, Turkey had from the outset made it clear that it did not like the US arming YPG or providing them with any support. This makes stated objectives 1 and 5 contradictory, and therefore either one or the other was impossible to achieve. Objective 2 and 5 are also contradictory in the sense that while these same rebel groups were supported in Syria by the US, they were also opposed by the US in Iraq! That is the US helped the Iraqi Army and government with expelling these rebels in Iraq, but then supported them in Syria.

      These same rebel groups have committed terrorist attacks in Jordan, which again makes points 2 and 5 contradictory.

      Observers of the Near East need to stop thinking about "winning" or "losing." The primary criteria the US should apply to its actions is whether or not it is commensurate with international and human rights laws. Clearly, stated objective two is problematic from an international law perspective. That is providing mercenaries with arms, material, and logistical support is against sections of the Geneva Conventions and entire sections of the UN Charter. The same issue arises to a lesser extent with the YPG. Regime change is also problematic from an international law perspective.

      Syria had a nascent and important protest movement that was both largely secular and democratic, but Saudi Arabia did not want to see secular and democratic movements succeed in the Near East. As such it either brutally suppressed these movements (in Bahrain) or it supported extremist groups that would all but destroy any chance of secular and democratic movements taking hold (in Syria and elsewhere).

  • Top 4 myths about Electric Cars & why they should not Discourage You
  • Pence's White Nationalist exclusion of Syrian Refugees Struck Down by Court
    • "That is, Washington bears some blame for creating Syrian refugees. Of 22 million Syrians before the war, over 300,000 are dead, nearly a million wounded, 7 million displaced from their homes to other parts of the country, and nearly 5 million forced abroad."

      The sooner we prioritize human rights and international law of illusory geopolitical gains the better we and the world will be. If they were actual geopolitical gains to be made (while I personally disagree with such a strategy), I could understand policy makers in Washington. However, after 7+ years of strife in Syria, where our policy makers have exacerbated an already disastrous situation and no real geopolitical gains have been achieved, one wonders why nobody in Washington questions their strategy.

      My feeling is that every time anyone writes about Syria, or an American official speaks about Syria, your quote should be appended directly below their comments. It's too easy to forget the human cost of this strife.

  • The Age of Total War in Syria
    • The global left believes in non partisan, non politicized, and just application of international and human rights laws.

      The American left is rightly concerned about international and human rights violations committed in its name. After all, I'm primarily accountable for my sins. The American left also advocates for real transnational governance that would prevent war criminals like Bush, Saddam, and Assad from contemplating further war crimes. If one advocated against the Iraq war on grounds of international law, which was the arguments presented on this site, then reflexively the same international law grounds apply to the American intervention in Syria, which surprisingly is missing from conversations regarding American, Saudi and Turkish interventions in Syria.

    • "It will be objected that Iraq and its American and other allies took Mosul in the same way. I’m not actually sure that the Aleppo and Mosul campaigns were identical, but two wrongs wouldn’t make a right."

      My views on my government's (the US) role in the Syria conflict are well represented in a Jeffrey D. Sachs's post titled "Ending America's Disastrous Role in Syria" that is available on this site. My government's role in Syria was extremely detrimental: (1) some of my government's efforts helped rather than hampered extremists groups that were allied with known terrorist groups, (2) our government did not follow international law when it helped these extremist groups, and (3) our government also did not put significant pressure, if any, on it's traditional allies to negotiate with it's adversaries thereby prolonging the conflict, and (4) our steadfast and refusal to acknowledge that Assad is likely to stay in power has prolonged a conflict past seven years, turning a quarter of the Syrian population into refugees and another quarter into internally displaced persons.

      Again, the two wrongs don't make a right applies to the American intervention in Syria too. Assad's war crimes did not provide American policy makers any cover under international law to act in the manner it did. My government's actions remained illegal regardless of whether or not Assad committed war crimes.

      The US government and its allies cannot be tried for the war crimes of Assad. In theory, our policy makers could be tried for the war crimes in Mosul and more broadly in Syria and Iraq. Consider the amount of ink and passion that has gone into decrying Assad for his war crimes and as a result justifying intervention in Syria that has resulted in war crimes. Imagine, instead if that a silver of that passion was spent on actually challenging war crimes that the US commits. Thankfully, our taxes do not go to Assad; unfortunately, they do go to US officials that use them to commit war crimes in Mosul and elsewhere. That's our primary responsibility as US citizens: ensuring that the taxes our policy makers use is in accordance with international law. Our secondary responsibility is advocating for real transnational governance that prevents these atrocities, and tries war criminals wherever they be: China, US, Russia, Syria, etc.

  • Jews Must Stand Up for Ahed Tamimi: Sarah Silverman
    • How does this 'context' add any relevant information regarding Ahed Tamimi's detention?

      She is a minor and detained. What do her relatives have to do with her detention?

  • Let's remember the Schoolchildren US & Russian bombs are killing, too
    • "His Aerospace Forces should not be dropping bombs on civilian areas. And yes, the US did this all the time in Iraq, and intensified it during last year’s Mosul campaign. My kindergarten teacher told us that two wrongs don’t make a right. Didn’t yours?"

      International law is not partisan, being Russian or American or Dutch or Indonesian, has nothing to do with the codes in international law. Russian war crimes in Syria are documented in Syria, including the ones mentioned in this post. When Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US provide munitions to extremist groups that are affiliated with terrorist groups this is also a war crime as detailed in the Geneva conventions. The Geneva Conventions prohibit the support of mercenaries in different countries.

      On this front, the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran are all guilty of committing war crimes, and under international law would be adjuciated as separate cases. My taxes fortunately do not fund Russian, Saudi or Iranian politicians that decide on policies that amount to war crimes. Unfortunately, my taxes do go to American politicians that decide to commit war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, or help Turkey and Saudi Arabia in supporting extremists in Iraq and Syria.

      For every American, our responsibility lies with ensuring that the our government abide by international law and regulations. As Americans, we are far less responsible for the war crimes that are committed by Russians. The way in which we are responsible is to advocate and petition for stronger transnational governance, such as the ICC, that would try war criminals for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Successive American governments have stripped transnational institutions of the little power they had to prevent war crimes. Instead, what you see is the result today.

      The two wrongs don't make a right works with regards to Syria as well: American policy makers cannot break international law and use Assad or Russia as an excuse. International law would certainly not find this a valid excuse.

  • Bahrain is even Deporting its own Citizens (Shh, don't Tell Trump)
    • Too true: and in the process countless lives in the Near East will face extreme difficulty.

      It's also extremely shortsighted. There's absolutely no gain to be had through disregarding international and human rights laws. It's not as though Bahrain can deport a 40-60% of its civilian population.

  • Turkey launches Land invasion of Syria, Calls France opposition "Terrorism"
    • Doubtful--how often have we seen occupiers willingly give up control of invaded territory in the Near East?

  • Russia accuses US of destabilizing Syria with Kurdish-Turkish Clash
    • Future generations should make Libya and Syria case studies in how external countries (Iran, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States) and the ruling authorities (Assad in particular) broke international and human rights laws and turned formally stable countries into humanitarian catastrophes. For today, these external countries need to sit and talk. None of them are going to achieve their maximal aims. Iran and Russia can't turn Syria into a colony (though what influence they have in Syria will likely be a lot given the situation). Turkey has to face the reality that the sheer number of Kurds in Syria and Iraq will enable them to act either as king makers in Iraq or extremely autonomous in their local governing environments. My country, the US, needs to come to terms with the reality that American military prowess has not given it the ability to project power across the Near East in a fashion that topples rulers without deeply negative repercussions for the civilian lives there. It also isn't in our economic and social interest to have dogs or bet on dogs in fights that are of absolutely no interest to us.

      In what capacity does giving people (local Kurds) military training help us? If the past eight years are any guide it hasn't helped us in any capacity... The best action to stabilize both countries is form negations that work to stabilize both Syria and Iraq.

  • Trump Admin Commits to Forever War in Syria against Iran
    • Given that none of our policies have borne positive fruit, we need to seriously reassess just what is the point? We've spent so much money and the return on our supposed investment is negative. For too long we've harbored delusional notions that in another year or two our policies in the Near East will prove successful. It hasn't.

      China is investing heavily in Pakistan, Africa, and South East Asian countries. The return on their investments certainly won't be negative. If anything, the short-term and long-term results on their investments will be tremendous.

      It just doesn't make any sense. Let's be smart. We need to give up on policies that have no theoretical basis for working, are against international and human rights laws, and have time and time again proven detrimental to our economic and social interests. (Not to mention the harm that has come of our foreign policies in the Near East to the actual people living there).

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  • What Africa taught the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • MLK would be deeply averse to the militarism the US has displayed in the Near East, if his deeply held anti-war sentiments with regards to Vietnam are properly addressed.

      link to

  • Nearly a year after Trump bombed Syria, al-Assad and Russia extend control
    • "It would be better if there were a negotiated end to the war in which the regime felt that it had to make some concessions with regard to its Stalinist one party state form of rule. The Syrian government tortured 10,000 prisoners to death and documented it with photographs that leaked. It is a horrible regime and guilty of crimes against humanity. That it should come back full force from the popular challenge mounted to its Draconian rule is unfortunate."

      Our government, the US government, engaged in precursors to the war crimes that al-Assad inflicted upon his own people. The Bush administration practiced extraordinary rendition in which individuals were tortured in Syria. Such practices continued under the Obama administration (thankfully, with less frequency). If human rights mean anything at all to us, then the human rights abuses that are inflicted using our taxes are of primary importance.

  • Iran's Khamenei blames Early English Learning for Unrest, Bans Classes
    • I agree that learning multiple languages is important. Studies show that learning multiple languages may reduce the risk of some forms of dementia. Therefore, not only are there economic and social benefits of learning multiple languages as you highlight, but there are likely also health benefits. It is a shame that Iran is moving learning English till high school, because you suggest learning a language becomes difficult as one ages.

      If a country is going to invest in a multi-lingual curricula, they need to ensure that one language doesn't dominate the other in teaching time. In many countries, too often English ends up winning out in school, and that has a cost. As you mention, knowing a language opens up a whole new world. If people don't use that window, they'll forget. I don't think I'll ever forget the languages I've learned, but with fewer and fewer opportunities to practice them that window to a new world appears to get smaller and smaller with time.

  • Trump Engineered Saudi Soft Coup, attack on Qatar, to Save Self
    • You wrote on 05/22/17 in a post titled, "Trump on Islam: Neo-Orientalism and anti-Shiism":

      "Then they condemn Iranian intervention in Syria but don’t mention that Saudi Arabia backed the radical terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam that had genocide against Syria’s Shiites on their minds."

      That is a true statement. This group has committed pogroms against Shias, Yazidis, Sunnis and other Syrians that do not support them. Saudi support of this group amounts to a war crime.

      I agree with your second point that the Saudi royal family is not al-Qaeda. Mohammad bin Salman is a war criminal whose crimes are highlighted in my earlier comment.

    • Except they really aren't in the historical sense. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab did not want to be associated with Sunnism. He styled himself as a reformer of Islam, and rejected all of the four schools of law in Sunnism. Wahhabis today might like to say that they are Sunni, but if one examines their history, they are extraordinarily inimical to Sunnis.

      Saudi-funded madrassas teach deeply problematic dogma.

    • "I have argued that it is inaccurate to associate the Saudi state with terrorism, since it was at daggers drawn with al-Qaeda. The argument that it spreads terrorism indirectly by spreading its intolerant and bigoted interpretation of Wahhabi Islam is also hard to prove, since most acts of terrorism in the Middle East have not been carried out by Wahhabis but by Sunnis."

      Saudi Arabia through it's financial, material, political and logistical support of Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam is the life-line of these two terrorist organizations. Both of these groups would be severely curtailed and would not be able to carry out their operations in Syria and Iraq if Saudi Arabia never supported them the first place. Both of these groups have used violence on civilians to achieve political objectives, and therefore meet the definition of terrorist groups.

      The bigger problem is the war crimes that Saudi Arabia has on it's record and perpetuates not only without impunity but with support from many countries in the OECD. One of the biggest challenges that humanity has faced in the 21st century is that of war crimes. Saudi bombardment of Yemen to the point where there is a mass cholera outbreak, large number of civilian casualties, little potable water, mass starvation and infant stunting is a war crime. Saudi actions in Iraq and Syria also amount to war crimes. Saudi Arabia's practice of gender apartheid is also in violation of the universal declaration of human rights.

      Saudi actions worldwide and domestically break numerous statutes in International and human rights laws. While these specific acts of lawbreaking do not amount to terrorism, their effects and consequences are extraordinarily severe.

  • Trump's disastrous Year in the Middle East: Syria
    • "The Obama administration needs to be blamed for the shortcomings of Timber Sycamore – however the abrupt stoppage of support to the rebels to the extent of handing Putin and Assad an undeserved victory in Syria."

      Support can come in many ways: vocal support of the democratic aims of the citizenry and strengthening International law are likely to be the most effective. If support involves providing armaments and munitions to rebels, are such actions truly in support of the Syrian people? Many of the rebels likely fit the definition of mercenaries laid out by the Geneva convention, and as such providing them weapons is in contravention of international law. As you note, many of those rebel groups that were provided munitions and armaments used child soldiers. One also has to question the purpose of these munitions and armaments. These guns end up being pointed at the Syrian and Iraqi citizenry, and only end up extending a conflict that can only be resolved through sustained negotiations. Is arming rebel groups really going to help ordinary Syrians and Iraqis more effective in negotiating future civil rights from autocratic governing authorities? We have not seen other examples where arming rebel groups has supported democratic or civil rights advocates.

      Assad and Russia have both committed war crimes in Syria. The United States is not responsible for these war crimes; the only capacity in which one could argue that the US bears limited responsibility is through not establishing the requisite and enforceable laws of international governance that would prevent such actions. The war crimes in Syria and Iraq that the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are responsible is precisely arming and supporting Ahrar al Sham and Jaysh al Islam, as well as other terrorist groups.

      For Syrians and Iraqis (as well as every human on this planet), it is fortunate that Timber Sycamore has come to a close.

    • "As it happened, the Pentagon under Ash Carter, Obama’s secretary of defense, had worked up a plan to defeat ISIL and to deprive them of their caliphate by giving close air support to the Syrian leftist Kurds of the northeast."

      You wrote on October 17th 2017 that: "Not to mention that it has come out that the US saw ISIL growing in eastern Syria and let it do so because they thought it would pressure al-Assad. So who was complicit with terrorism in Syria?"

      You later wrote that former Secretary of State was the source of your conclusions. The Obama administration's plans and actions in Syria were in contravention of international and human rights laws. The material and logistical support of extremist groups in Syria has costed Syrians and Iraqis many innocents.

      "It was a one-time intervention, followed by … nothing."

      What? We should have further strikes on Syria, and fund further extremist groups in Syria to further destabilize the region? No! The people of the Near East and sensible people here in the US are done with this warmongering. Instead, strengthen international and human rights law to prosecute all war crimes, including the war crimes of al-Assad and Saudi Arabia. Give the ICC to prosecute everyone, including non-signatories Rome Statute. That would of course mean that our leaders too would have to be tried for their war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in numerous other places under the same governing mechanism.

      "The 2011 youth revolt in Syria was turned by the al-Assad regime into a civil war. The regime deliberately used heavy weapons to target peaceful, civilian protesters, in hopes of making them militant so that they could be denounced to the outside world as terrorists. While outside money played a role in radicalization, most of that preexisted the outside money and was homegrown."

      Yes, Al-Assad is a war criminal, and Russia supported many of his war crimes. Simultaneously, ordinary Syrians did not want anything to do with ISIS, Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, and the other numerous murderous groups in Syria and Iraq. They detest these groups as much as the regime of al-Assad. Many of these extremist and terrorist groups received funding and support from Turkey and Saudi Arabia (with support from our government in Washington). Without this support, none of these extremist groups would have been able to overrun entire sections Iraq and Syria. The financial and material support of these extremist groups is precisely what killed the Arab Spring.

      Trump's domestic and foreign policies are catastrophic: costly for our planet, costly for ordinary humans, and costly in terms of fulfilling the promises of our constitution.

  • Saudi Blockade depriving Yemen Civilians of Food, Hospitals--UN should Sanction Riyadh (HRW)
    • The article notes:

      “UN Security Council members, particularly the United States, United Kingdom, France, and other coalition allies, have shielded Saudi Arabia from serious international scrutiny even though the Saudi-led coalition has committed numerous atrocities in Yemen,” Ross said. “The Security Council urgently needs to act against coalition leaders who have added to Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe or share in the blame.”

      It's not just that the United States, United Kingdom, and France have shielded Saudi Arabia from repercussions at the United Nations; it's that these countries have actively supported Saudi Arabia as it bombs Yemen with fueling missions, logistical and material support.

      Yes, Saudi Arabia needs to be sanctioned for it's war crimes. Simultaneously, the United States and it's allies cannot absolve themselves from their complicity and support of these war crimes.

  • Saudi Crown Prince splashed $450 mn on Jesus painting
    • Better that MBS spends his ill-gotten gains on art than armaments and munitions to further illegally bomb Yemen to the point of humanitarian catastrophe.

  • Split in Rebel Yemeni coalition, as Saleh turns on Houthis, seeks peace with Saudis
    • (ctd) The only good guys are the unfortunate civilians that have suffered multiple indignities of war crimes and human rights violations.

    • I also at times have the same response. The sheer amount of carnage is difficult to comprehend, and while some sides are demonstrably worse than others, there are virtually no good guys.

  • MbS a la Trump: "Making Saudi Arabia Great Again"!
    • Agreed on the intolerance part... All of these two-bit dictators with deeply inflated egos are saying just that. They (Sisi, MbS, Abdullah) all insist of the need for moderate Islam. Yet, all their actions are deeply intolerant not just of non-Muslims but really anyone that is not royalty.

    • That made me chuckle: it's a good phrase.

    • Likely very true--it's unfortunate that they likely only reinforce each other's stupidity and delusional mindset.

    • It's not about them being nomadic clans. The royal family in Saudi Arabia is hardly nomadic (have they ever traveled anywhere on a caravan for business?), or really even being out of the 6th century (the latest generation in the royal family are educated in the best Western universities--a whole good it does them, given that they haven't learned much).

      It's that they believe erroneously that acting in such a way will enable them to steer the Near East according to their fanciful desires. It's completely delusional, but it's the same delusion that led the neoconservatives to invade Iraq.

    • "I worry that MBS’s latest moves are part of a broader plan to encourage Israel to attack Lebanon."

      How vile can someone be? It's not enough that he wrecked Syria, Iraq and Yemen; now, it's Lebanon's turn. It's as though there's tick that latched itself to MBS's backside and pains him whenever he sees ordinary residents of the Near East carrying out their ordinary lives.

  • The Saudi-US war on Yemen is killing 130 Children a Day & Other Bleak Statistics
    • The US could suspend refueling missions of Saudi military flights. That would almost certainly slow down the pace of Saudi onslaught. The US is actively supporting Saudi operations in Yemen. We could stop any tactical, technical, logistical and material support of Saudi actions in Yemen. If an American-built Saudi plane were to need fixing, that's it--we're not fixing it. If the US were to decide to cease supporting Saudi actions in Yemen, Saudi actions in Yemen would have to come to a close.

      We could also cease selling any munitions, arms or defense technology to Saudi Arabia.

    • Saudi Arabia's actions are in contravention of international and human rights laws. Bombing civilian areas is against international law, and so is bombing areas with cluster munitions. The blockade is also against international law.

      Saudi Arabia does not believe much of international law, which really should make them a rogue nation. Much of Saudi Arabia's actions are also against Islamic law, which they state is the country's sole mode of governance. Islamic law forbids harming civilians, which Saudi Arabia routinely disobeys in Yemen and elsewhere. It also does not allow Saudi Arabia to blockade Yemen. Under Islamic law, civilians must be allowed safe passage away from the war-zone: a blockade prevents such actions. As such, Saudi Arabia is acting in contravention of not just international and human rights law, but also Islamic law.

      Thank you for this important post. Our government should provide support to transnational agreements and protocols that would stop such actions from taking place. Otherwise, civilians in these countries will continue to suffer the these indignities imposed upon them by barbaric elites, who know that they will never have to pay for their crimes in courts.

  • Is Saudi King Salman about to be pushed aside by Son?
    • Few, if any, individuals on our planet are as destructive as MbS. On his own, he channeled state funds from Saudi Arabia to finance and support extremist groups in Iraq and Syria that ethnically cleansed basically anyone, including moderate Sunnis, Shias, Yazidis, Allawis, and Christians, that didn't follow their extremist/terrorist positions.

      The destruction of Yemen is grotesque: the largest public health disaster of this decade (if not much, much longer). One feels sorry for ordinary Saudis. In this regard, Americans probably have a lot in common with ordinary Saudis: both are lead by incompetent and simultaneously destructive leaders that are bringing great harm not only to their own populace, but also the rest of humanity. In the case of US, Trump was elected by a faulty electoral process, and in comparison, MbS simply gets to do whatever he wants as a matter of birthright (no matter how incompetent and idiotic he proves himself to be). In the case of Tump, one can can only hope that someone else is elected in three years time. Alas, in the case of Saudi Arabia, there's no political mechanism for MbS departure from the holding political power. He might stick around forever. What a nightmare.

  • US-Led Bombings in Iraq Killed 31 Times More Civilians Than Reported: NYT
    • Every time a commentator calls for US intervention against other countries, we should remember these stories. Humans are too forgetful of the harm they inflict upon others. The devastation that the US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan inflicted upon the Iraqi and Afghani civilians should be enough reason for us to re-evaluate our foolish and harmful impulses to intervene in other countries.

      If we care about humanity, there is a lot we can do: (1) make antiretroviral care for HIV patients more affordable in the developed world (pay for it if necessary), (2) give power to the international criminal court to prosecute war criminals (including Western leaders that act in contravention of article 2.4 of the UN charter), and (3) stop selling munitions and arms to governments that commit human and international rights abuses (better yet--stop selling munitions and arms to other countries altogether). Intervention is almost never about caring about other humans; it's almost always about some, at times illusory, gain for the elite.

  • Saudi Arabia urged to end Yemen blockade: Fear of Unprecedented Famine, Disease
    • The victims in Yemen elicit no attention in our media. Even print media has provided extremely little coverage of the public health catastrophe that Yemen is facing. This needs to change in order for our elected officials to reconsider their silent support of this disastrous war.

  • Elbaradei: Trump Propaganda on Iran Nuclear Deal like Run-up to Iraq War
    • That is unfortunate.

    • "Not to mention that it has come out that the US saw ISIL growing in eastern Syria and let it do so because they thought it would pressure al-Assad. "

      I have not had a chance to follow the news as carefully as in the past. Could you please provide your source for this information?

  • Saudi Arabia wants to improve Image; Here's How
    • The situation is strange though. Every now and again, Wahhabi issue statements demonizing Shias. If Saudi Arabia considers them to be heretics, how is it possible for Iranians and Shias from other countries to attend Hajj and Umrah? Not to mention the 15% of Saudi Arabia that is also Shia.

    • Iranian war crimes in Syria cannot provide cover for Saudi war crimes in Syria. If these war crimes were brought to the ICC, such an argument could not be brought before the court. Iranian war crimes are judicially a separate issue.

      15 years ago, Saudi Arabia was just as regressive from a legal perspective with regards to women's rights. Domestically, they were every bit as regressive to their migrant population. With regards to foreign policy, today Saudi Arabia supports terrorist outfits, namely Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, that have committed pogroms in Syria and Iraq.

      Even if one suggests 15 years ago, Saudi Arabia was not fully deserving of their bad rap, today, they are fully deserving of strong condemnation. Today, they are likely one of the most regressive regimes on our planet.

    • "I am sympathetic to Saudi feelings that they get an unfair rap."

      For their war crimes in Yemen alone, one could argue that the Saudi regime is worthy of extremely severe criticism that would negate any argument of the Saudi regime presents about an unfairly tarnished image. Few states on our planet are engaging in their level of belligerence that results in the deaths of a large number of innocents. Obviously, one can distinguish between Saudi civilians and the Saudi government. Many Saudi civilians likely support their regimes policies in Yemen, Syria and domestically, and many likely do not. As the Saudi regime is an absolute monarchy, there is no mechanism for Saudi civilians to express their disapproval.

      Let us recap your seven points. In points 1 and 2, the Saudi government is committing war crimes, and is abetted by our government (United States). Point 3 also is problematic from an international law perspective: members of the WTO are prohibited from unilaterally imposing sanctions and blockades of other members. Point 4: with regards to a stand-off with Iran, it appears MbS is walking back some of his earlier belligerent rhetoric, and appears to want to negotiate with Iran to stop the ongoing Saudi-created mess in Yemen and Syria. It's about time too--at this stage, they are only hurting themselves and everyone else in the Near East. All of their policies with regards to Iran are extremely costly and foolish. If they were actually gaining anything from their belligerence against Iran, one could perhaps understand their actions. They aren't gaining anything. Point 5: They are again acting in contravention of international law. The Universal Declaration of Human rights has a section on freedom of religion. Point 6: Just sheer idiocy (shared of course with the Trump administration)... Point 7: This is extremely important. It is a form of gender apartheid, and is against international law. They are perhaps the only geographic entity to inflict gender apartheid on its citizenry.

      The only three criticisms that are not featured in this extensive list of criticisms against the Saudi regime are (1) the brutal oppression of minorities (Bedouin, Sufis, and Shias), (2) the brutal oppression of overseas workers (largely from the sub-continent), and (3) the Saudi form of governance (absolute monarchy).

  • Bannon & Trump lost Long ago: White Christians not a Majority in US
    • "The white middle class decline can NOT be fixed by any elected person, so electing some one to fix the unfixable is just crazy."

      You've gone full small government-type GOP (or at the very least give that impression). Sanders policies of income redistribution in the form of raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, making tertiary institutions tuition-free, reducing the the burden of student, would have all supported middle class families. While these policies perhaps would not have completely stopped the slow erosion of the economic clout of ordinary Americans, it would have certainly been more beneficial to ordinary Americans in comparison to any of the policies of Clinton or Trump.

      "They voted with their emotions for a delusional dream."

      They have very little say in Congress or any of the institutions that shape their lives. If we believe in democracy, then every four years they have the opportunity to voice their disapproval. They did voice their disapproval, and no matter how delusional their choice might be, all of us have to deal with the results.

      "Trump will FAIL to fix the problem, just as Bernie or Clinton would have."

      Trump will only exacerbate the problem. Clinton would have ignored it. Sanders would pursue policies that would have benefited the American middle class.

      "The things that are causing the decline of the middle class, especially the non-college middle class, can not be changed:"

      You ignore the most important cause: the 1% of American elite that simply do not care for the other 99% of the country and will do everything to ensure that the other 99% have no economic opportunities.

      All of Europe faces the same struggles with globalization. Yet, their middle class has not been decimated in the same capacity as ours. Social and economic policies in the Scandinavian countries have protected the middle class. We could do the same.

      It's also not as doomsday as you depict. With these technologies their will be new ways humans will contribute to our economies. Yes, artificial intelligence will replace many traditional jobs that required human input, but new jobs will require human ingenuity and thinking.

    • The gerrymandering is definitely real as you highlight and so is voter suppression as you rightly highlight.

      Still--Obama in his first presidential victory represented a break from the establishment. Trump, as distasteful as he is, also represented a break from mainstream Republican dogma--the dude's policies (or lack thereof) are just completely whack and really can't be described. Bill Clinton when he ran for President ran as someone that didn't follow Democratic orthodoxy. American voters appear to simply want to choose the candidate that represents (to them!) a sharp break from longstanding political dogma (whether democratic or republican).

    • Yet, you'll also find plenty of people in the South, who could have voted for Sanders over Trump in the general election, but couldn't vote for Clinton over Trump in the general election. While I've found their reasoning specious, it's what they believed made sense to them. It was faulty thinking, but many were generally dissatisfied with Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and weren't willing to take a new chance another Clinton. The prospect of either a new Trump administration or a Sanders administration presented (in their thinking) a new possibility of a break from the gradual decline of the loss of economic clout of the American middle class. Of course, to anyone with a modicum of reasoning, would realize that Trump would only hasten the erosion of the clout of the American middle class. Sanders could have stopped the erosion.

    • "It was a good run. It is over."

      Except we still have 3+ years of Donald Trump. As you highlight the countries demographics are changing, but it's this wishful thinking that the changing demographics will automatically result in Democratic wins that is so particularly damaging. The last election cycle demonstrates this perfectly. Here was a man that was extremely misogynistic, racist, utterly debased, and yet won the electoral college. He won a majority of white women voters.

      The Democrats need to move quickly to the Warren and Sanders left, otherwise they risk permanent second-party status.

  • Have we Won yet? Was ISIL a flash in the Pan?
    • Bahrain is majority Shia. Not that such things should matter.

      Within the Fertile Crescent, one has Lebanon, Iraq and Kuwait with large Shia populations. Outside, the Fertile Crescent, there is also Yemen. Ten percent of the population of Saudi Arabia is not a small number... It's 2-3+ million people.

      None of this should matter--and to many ordinary middle easterners it largely doesn't... Unfortunately, the ruling elite in Saudi Arabia do not appear to share the same opinions as ordinary middle easterners. Part of the reason why the insurgency in Syria and Iraq is dying down is that Saudi elite and MbS have come to realize they are gaining no return for their investment in financing extremist groups in Syria and Iraq; consequently, it appears they are stopping their financing of these extremist groups. It's about time--6+ years of strife in Iraq and Syria, a quarter of the Syrian population turned into IDPs, another quarter turned into refugees, countless dead or orphaned, and Saudi Arabia has achieved nothing.

  • Trump flip-flops on Afghanistan, opts for Years-long Quagmire
    • " the Afghan people does not have any thing to do with this ordeal."

      Afghanis didn't want anything to do with the Taliban. Just like the Syrians want nothing to do with Jaysh al-Islam and Nusrah Front and other extremist groups. Unfortunately, the Taliban and precursors to AQ received financing and munitions support from Saudi Arabia, which trumps the will of Afghanis. In the same capacity, ordinary Syrians are sick of both the Baathist government and extremist groups that overrun sections of Syria, but Saudi Arabia supports these extremist groups to the hilt.

    • "Trump’s determination not to do nation-building differs little from the actual US policy of the past 16 years, which is to put much more money into bombs than into the country’s economic development. Since lack of development is a big driver of the failed state and of guerrilla violence, giving it up won’t be helpful."

      This paragraph is illogical. How can you give up something that was never there in the first place? That's the only conclusion I can draw from the writing. The first sentence suggests nation-building was hardly or never pursued by the past two administrations, the second sentence suggests that Trump is giving it up.

      Given that we have not pursued nation-building in any Near East country in any meaningful capacity (besides the empty words), why should we expect our elected leaders to engage in nation-building in the Near East sometime in the near future. They don't invest in the most basic nation-building activities at home: just what makes us think that they'll invest in nation-building in countries in the Near East.

      What the people of the Near East want is to get on with their lives without having the threat of invasion by global hegemons.

  • Trump Pledged to Carpet Bomb ISIL, but Little Lebanon is Taking them On
    • As it should be, we can provide support to the people of the Near East as reliable trading partners and uphold international law through strengthening transnational institutions like the UN or ICC. What we shouldn't do is what we have done over the past two decades (and longer): topple and destabilize governments in the Near East at the whim of few elites in Washington. The result is too costly for us and especially for everyone in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan.

  • Why don't People think Trump's Denunciation sincere? B/c he Ran on Racism
    • It's always amazed me that those with the least tend to be the most generous, and those with the most tend to be the most miserly.

      Your point though is well spotted, as well as the previous comment that Trump appears to have never apologized.

  • Bannon must go, but after that, Protesters should listen to Bernie
    • uff... This election cycle pageantry is too much. It's always surprising to me the new heights of deceit and vitriol that we achieve each successive election cycle on largely superficial campaigns.

      Public financing of elections would put a dent in this nonsense.

    • Right on!

      Considering that most of the G8 is socialist at the very least with regards to health care, it is the converse that is lacking empirical evidence. Our elites are too blinded. I am curious to how much longer the "center" as dictated by monied elites will hold. It took a cosmetic hit in the last presidential election cycle, when it became clear that the electorate will vote against the center regardless of the outcome. Despite the large public disapproval and protest against the current economic policies, by and large the social and economic fabric that skews wealth transfers to the elite will be further strengthened at least for the next three years, if not for much longer. The question becomes just how much further can the American people be forced to accept in terms of economic and social injustice. They already are forced to accept too much.

      Do our elites really wish to take the risk of further shaping large public anger that could give way to social and economic upheaval, which in turn effect their wealth? Instead, they could just fund a modicum of social safety nets in terms of health care and education that provides for a less riskier gamble. Substitute the wasteful spending on foreign interventions in the Near East for domestic spending on health care and education, and you'll be at least a quarter of the way there in terms of making a more stable society.

  • Trump hands Putin gift, cancels Support for Syrian Rebels
    • While I agree completely, the spirit of the UN charter has been now completely eviscerated by the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and the intervention in Libya. Article 2 of the UN charter establishes the general spirit of what you are suggesting, but, unfortunately, people have reinterpreted the remaining portions of the UN charter in such egregious ways as to render Article 2 moot.

      Specifically, Article 51 (self-defense clause) has been reinterpreted in such awful ways to allow for completely disproportionate use of force against sovereign states, when the argument for self-defense is not even there. The point is that even if one is begrudgingly forced to accept this completely bogus argument that Saudi Arabia and Turkey have the right to self-defense through Article 51, they are still prohibited from arming rebel groups in Syria. So, if one believes water boarding is illegal through the Geneva Conventions, then one is forced to admit that arming these rebel groups was likewise illegal (under any circumstances): there is absolutely no ambiguity on the matter.

    • The Geneva Conventions have a subsection on mercenaries. It is debatable whether some of the rebels would meet the definition of mercenaries, but others that were a part of these groups would meet the very stringent definition of a mercenary as detailed in the Geneva Convention. Consequently, support for these groups is illegal as per Geneva Conventions.

  • Is Trump Sign or Cause of US Imperial Meltdown?
    • And where did he get support to develop the chemical weapons that was actually used to genocide the Kurds at Anfal and Iranians? (Of course, but these chemical weapons wouldn't be used--it's just the Russian tanks). When he actually gassed the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war, which country provided cover for him at the UN?

      Again, this is not meant as an irritant... Just to acknowledge, our government provided the means and cover for these war crimes and crimes against humanity to take place.

    • @Juan Cole Saddam could not have genocided the Kurds had Western governments not supplied him with the armaments and war-time technology in the first place. I don't see my criticism of US foreign policy as anti-Americanism, despite your claim.

      I'm American as anyone else. I hope that we do things differently in the future: I hope that we simply not pursue policies that debilitate the people of the Near East (or that have also not benefited us in any capacity; if anything much of what we have done in the Near East has cost us severely). I also have no illusions about Russia. Russia's war on Afghanistan was catastrophic. Russia bombing of Syria is a war crime; just like American bombing of Syria. Our taxes do not pay for Russian bombing or foreign policy; it does pay for all our actions in the Near East.

      We did very little in the way of treating HIV patients worldwide or curbing HIV transmission globally. When we finally started funding prevention efforts, it was far too late: millions already dead. Again, what I write isn't to act as an irritant: it's just a reminder to oneself that it could have been different.

    • WW2 is nearing 72 years old. Not sure how many recent examples of American hard power can claim to provide cover for our disastrous interventions in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc.

      The effect of American power in the last two decades has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster for the people of the Near East and elsewhere. I am not sure why it is so difficult for people to come to terms with the sheer amount of harm we have inflicted upon the people of the Near East. It is not as though the evidence is not there: (1) the war death statistics are ghastly, (2) the sheer scale of war crimes and blatant disregard for international law, and (3) the dehumanization and deliberate economic deprivation (through sanctions) of people from the Near East and elsewhere.

      If one is going to speak about balance in such a setting, at the very least the victims of American power deserve a paragraph considering the extent of their suffering. We could have done a lot for the world with our power, including strengthening international law and transnational governance to combat climate change, human trafficking, and crimes against humanity. How many times did we do this in the last three decades?

    • "However unwittingly, Trump is ensuring the accelerated collapse of American global hegemony."

      Even when we acknowledge American hegemony, the ones that are at the receiving end of such hegemony are entirely erased. The death and destruction that we caused in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan is difficult to capture in words. Yet, when we write about American hegemony, it's as though it is a beneficial and salubrious outcome. We could have used our power to improve transnational institutions: so that they would reflect our humanitarian interests. Instead, we did the exact opposite, and insisted that we had the sole right to destroy countries.

  • Iraqi Gov't declares "mighty Triumph" over ISIL in Mosul, as Sunni Press decries Casualties
    • "In the Sunni Arab world, sympathy with civilian victims of the Iraqi government campaign was apparent. Iraq Shiites also regretted the loss of civilian life, but typically blamed Daesh for it."

      Syria and Iraq will need to concentrate on reconciliation efforts between the various religious, sectarian and ethnic minorities. While the losses are different in severity and numbers between the various groups, they have all lost a great deal. These groups will need to look inward and consider alternative policies and decisions. Most, if not all, Syrians and Iraqis (Sunni, Shia and Christian) want nothing to do with Daesh, Nusrah Front, Jaysh al-Islam, or Ahrar al-Sham. Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham received financing and support from Saudi and Turkey. An ideal future would put a stopper on Saudi funding of extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

      In order for reconciliation to begin and be successful, Iraq and Syria will need to put the carnage behind them. Ireland, South Africa, and Sri Lanka all went through protracted strife in the past, and it was only once the carnage stopped that the various groups were able to sit down and concentrate on a fairer and just future that partially addressed the past injustice. The same can only happen in Iraq and Syria, if we insist that support of Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham will not be tolerated. The alternative is what you see today: continued protracted strife in which the homes, livelihood, and lives of Syrians and Iraqis are destroyed. One begins to wonder after 6+ years of continued strife just what will be left of these countries and its people.

  • UN: Saudi Bloc attempt to close Al Jazeera is attack on Freedom of Expression
    • Under the law they are very different. The US constitution guarantees freedom of speech, which protects print media. The bar for libel is extremely high under US courts: one has to demonstrate that that the writer or speaker knew that the information that she was promulgating was false at the time of dissemination.

      Which international law statute suggests as you write: "another country to close its own media a part of an ultimatum of war"?

      I find it hard to believe that such law exists in the UN charter or associated frameworks for international governance: it might be possible, but you should point out which statue makes your case.

    • @Kim Rose Which legislature? Would to be difficult to see how such legislature would be able to hold up against the first amendment.

  • Russo-US dog fights over Syria?
    • "And, Russia announced that it would possibly shoot down any US air craft operating in western Syria.

      Those are about the most dangerous words I’ve heard in decades, since the era of the Cuban missile crisis or the dark Cold War film Fail Safe (1965) ."

      The longer the strife in Syria continues, the longer we allow for these type of possibilities to occur. With each successive day, we increase the risk of unconstrained conflicts to occur. Syrians and Iraqis have suffered enormously, but beyond them the this strife has been largely contained. The talks in Astana to reach a peaceful resolution need to come into effect. Russia, Iran, and Turkey signed an agreement on May 4th to create four de-escalation zones in Syria. The US needs to ensure that Saudi Arabia follows these talks and abides to the will of the international community. The strife in Syria has gone on for too long. If we don't make these deals to end the strife in Syria, we risk to lose too much. We'll have lost the ability to steer a resolution to 6+ years of continual strife in Syria, further consolidating the fact that a great deal of the Levant is no longer in the US sphere of influence.

  • London Mosque attack: Did Trump's Tweets embolden Bigots?
    • My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this attack. I also can't help but wonder is it just the Trump tweets that make individuals seek reprisal attacks against Muslims or people that appear Muslim. I think Trump's rhetoric and tweets have played a huge role in making some individuals assault Muslims. A seventeen year old girl was killed in Sterling, Virginia in what is likely to be a hate-crime.

      Apparently, the perpetrator of the Finsbury Mosque attack was a father of four. I wonder what will this mean to the family that this man was from: they will have lost someone who brings some income home at least for some time.

      When Trump demonizes Muslims, I don't think he realizes that his words actually carries weight. The result is that he maligns an entire set of 1.1 billion or so people as sub-human and therefore not worthy of the same set of human rights as everyone else.

      I agree that the way forward is through nonviolence and compassion. We (United States) should also re-examine the amount of weapons and armaments that we sell to countries: particularly those that commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, or funnel these arms to extremist groups. Unhinged extremists can only do so much damage to the world if they do not have access to weapons and armaments. Unfortunately, when they do have access to weapons, the result is mass-shootings and carnage.

  • Obama's last Victory: Syrian Democratic Forces hold Parts of ISIL Capital
    • This entire episode is deeply unfortunate. I've been called many things in high school, but a war criminal... That's a first. Wish instead it were the content of my comments that were criticized.

    • @jay a metaphor requires similarity between objects of comparison to be effective. The comparison in a metaphor is obviously not literal, but some semblance of similarity is required. So, my question, unlike your retort, makes sense. Just where in my speech is there any similarity to al-assad? I've repeatedly called him a way criminal that needs to be tried.

    • Also, just what exactly in my post makes me Mr. Al-Assad?

    • "It is Obama’s policy toward Daesh that is now finally bearing fruit. That policy may have been slower than desirable (certainly for the sake of Paris and Brussels). But it was eminently practical, and is now finally being implemented."

      There is an element of partisan triumphalism here. Daesh, Nusrah Front, Jaysh al Islam, and similar terrorist groups have inflicted a great deal of harm to Syrians and Iraqis. While it is true that Obama's support of the SDP helped end Daesh's phony caliphate, it wasn't the only cause of their demise. As you note, the SDP worked in coordination with other groups that were fighting against Daesh. Is Obama's support pivotal in stopping Daesh? Likely... Yet, it is not the sole cause as it is presented in this post.

      Obama's support of Saudi and Turkish foreign policy in Syria enabled extremist groups to overrun entire sections of Syria and Iraq. These two countries, Syria and Iraq, will take a long time to recover from all the carnage that they have faced and will continue to face. If one is going to give Obama credit for supporting the SDP, then one has to simultaneously acknowledge the US support that was given to extremist groups that have inflicted an egregious amount of harm to Syrians and Iraqis.

      "That policy may have been slower than desirable (certainly for the sake of Paris and Brussels)."

      Umm... Yes, Paris and Brussels have suffered tremendously. Syrians and Iraqis have too. They too do not want Daesh and like-minded terrorist groups to carry out terrorist actions against them. Like Parisians and Belgians, Iraqis and Syrians would also like to just get on with their lives without the threat of terrorism.

  • UK hung Parliament: Is Trumpism pushing Europe Left?
    • Corbyn received extremely negative press coverage even from traditionally sources on the left. The Blairite wing of the the Labour party never accepted that the country wanted him to steer the Labour party, and were constantly plotting to end his leadership. Despite this extreme disadvantage, his campaign reversed the losses of seats due to Blair and his minions. If Corbyn is successful, he will steer Labour back to it's socialist roots and hopefully even become Prime Minister.

      His pledge to scrap university tuition fees were reminiscent of Sander's pledge. These two campaigns demonstrate that the left can only win (in recent elections) if they stay true to socialist ideals and not dilute their principles with Blairite or Clintonian elitist tendencies. It's easy to dismiss university tuition policies as less important than other economic or foreign policies, but to most families it's likely to be an extremely important matter. Not many families can afford to be saddled with the extreme debt necessitated through university tuition. It's also unjust to saddle individuals with such extreme debt even before they begin to earn an income. Much of Europe has tuition-free universities, including France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Austria. We'll have to get there too here in the US: government financed tertiary education, campaign finance reform, and a single-payer health care system.

  • Anger and youth fan flames of terror – not race and religion
    • Just how many countries in the Near East need to be completely destabilized before we quit using the refrain that this is a fault of "Western inaction." The only action that residents in the Near East want from the West is to be left alone, or cease supporting Saudi Arabia in their destabilizing policies in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Residents in the Near East don't like the Saudi strategy of funding extremist groups or bombing Yemen to smithereens.

      But, all of this would be fantastically solved, if we magically just created a military apparatus in Libya (after supporting Saudi Arabia in funding the most extremist groups that are now awash in heavy armaments and overrun entire sections of the country). What fantasy!

    • So, given that no administration, Republican or Democratic, has successfully engaged in rebuilding in any capacity, despite all the money that has been poured down these military adventures, shouldn't we desist from the fantasy that a reasonable American government will take seasoned advisers to rebuild the military apparatus in these countries. We no longer spend money at home on projects that desperately need funding, and instead pretend that we will spend money on fantastical projects overseas. All we need to do is stop Saudi Arabia and Turkey from supporting extremist groups. If we are going to continue to insist that we can successfully rebuild the military in the Near East, then we should at least be able to provide a recent example of where we have effectively done so. Just how much money have we spent destroying lives in the Near East.

    • "Of course, we can still see the terrible effects of the 2003 Iraq war, but the escalation of events in Libya, Syria and Yemen, resulting in humanitarian crises not seen since World War II has, in part, been brought about by Western (in)action. The absence of any sound plan following the toppling of the Ghaddafi regime created space for militias to gain power and commit violence across Libya."

      We've heard this same refrain again and again in so many different contexts of inaction, but the evidence is lacking. In Iraq, we had plans for nation building, including re-building the Iraqi military apparatus. Yet, we see the result today: the Iraqi military is not very effective. Given how much resources we have poured into Iraq, just how would Libya turn out differently with regards to nation building. Who exactly would fund these repeated mistakes.

      The phrase "escalation of events" is a euphemism: it belies what has actually happened. Turkey and Saudi Arabia funneled heavy armaments to terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, and the result is what you see today. The same holds true in Libya, where Saudi Arabia funneled heavy armaments and financial supports to extremist groups.

      The action that the United States and allies took was deliberate: it supported Saudi Arabia and Turkey in funding extremist groups, including terrorist groups. The actions we take in the Near East are extremely destabilizing.

  • The Other Terrorism: Toxic CO2 Gas Promoted by Trump Budget, Shell
    • "Terrorism is properly defined as non-state actors using violence against civilians to achieve a political purpose. Some argue that this definition lets states off the hook to easily, and that there is state terrorism as well. International law, however, puts those actions under the rubric of “war crimes” or crimes against humanity. Me, I think state terrorism is a useful conception, though legally speaking it probably is synonymous with the latter two terms."

      The only reason why it would let states off the hook (for something that isn't even defined) is that we have eroded international law to such a degree that war crimes and crimes against humanity do not matter anymore (they should of course). In comparison, for the past decade, it appears the only crime that actually matters to the media or for which larger states will actually punish smaller states is the crime of terrorism (and that too on the proviso that the smaller state does not agree with the larger state's geopolitical will). If the less powerful state agrees to everything the more powerful state dictates (eg Saudi Arabia and United States), then it can do whatever it likes.

      It's important to note that some of the most important crimes are war crimes or crimes against humanity. It's when we deliberately obfuscate the definition of terrorism that we enlarge it's importance: terrorism has hurt a great number of people (in the Near East and globally), but it's not the only mechanism through which humanity has suffered. A great deal of the most awful crimes in history aren't terrorism, but crimes against humanity.

  • Trump on Islam: Neo-Orientalism and anti-Shi'ism
    • apologies for the tone of this post... Been too cantankerous lately: for no good reason.

    • "Then they condemn Iranian intervention in Syria but don’t mention that Saudi Arabia backed the radical terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam that had genocide against Syria’s Shiites on their minds."

      This is the first time I've seen IC refer to Jaysh al-Islam as a terrorist group. Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, and other terrorist groups supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have already carried out pogroms against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. It's not that they have "genocide on their minds," but they have actually emptied entire sections of Syria and Iraq through their carnage.

  • Trump in Absolute Monarchy during Iran's Election
    • I am aware that KSA purchases weapons many fold the price that the United States sells to other countries, which makes the purchases all the more insipid. KSA must be the only country in the world that would willingly purchase 110 billion USD of weapons that they are unable to use or don't even amount to much. This is precisely the problem with the ruling elite in KSA: they believe there isn't a problem that money cannot fix. Unfortunately, the world is moving beyond petro-carbons, and no amount of money is going to reshape the Near East (much less the world at large) according to their aspirations.

    • That ordinary Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia might be just like any other citizens in other countries has nothing to do with how the state of Saudi Arabia acts with regards to spreading terrorism. It is a completely ancillary fact.

      That the United States has committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan is incontrovertible. Does this make every American a war criminal? Of course not: that's stupid. It just means that our government has committed war crimes, which many Americans would admit with great shame. In the same capacity, ordinary Saudi's might be just ordinary like every other ordinary human, but their state pursues policies that support terrorism (ie support of Jaysh al-Islam and other extremist groups) in the Near East.

    • "It suborned liberal Syrian revolutionaries into a fanatical Salafism (the Jaysh al-Islam) that threatened Alawite Shiites and other Syrian minorities and preached against democracy. "

      Jaysh al-Islam is a terrorist group. John Kerry admitted as much, but our state department did not like to formally put the group on terrorist groups. When xenophobia fulfills it's stated ambitions of xenophobia and actually ethnically cleanses parts of Syria and Iraq of Alawites, Shias, Christians, and Yazidis, it's more than fair to call such actions terrorism. Zahran Alloush called for the ethnic cleansing of Shias and Allawites from Syria. These actions are continuously supported from Saudi Arabia.

      With regards to the second observation, I would like to see the analysis of such data (though the inclusion/exclusion criteria of what constitutes a real observation would be contentious).

    • "Trump just sold the deputy crown prince another $110 bn worth of high-tech, state of the art weapons. "

      This amounts to more than a fifth of the Saudi foreign exchange reserves. Given that that they are operating a budget deficit, such profligacy hardly makes sense. Just what exactly to they intend to do with all this weaponry. Further attack Yemen? That's not going their way. Such behavior is so extremely shortsighted. As you note, when electric cars are just as cheap as petroleum cars, the Saudi royal family will wish it didn't spend this 110 bn USD on something that it can't even use.

    • "Nor does the Saudi government deliberately spread terrorism. I don’t think they realize that in Sunni societies, their hard line Wahhabism (coded as “Salafism” outside the kingdom) is not quietist or loyalist, as Wahhabism is in Saudi Arabia. It tends to turn radical."

      They know... If for nearly six decades Saudi-funded madrassas in countries all over the Near East have produced extremism, you should pick up that your curricula is teaching extremist theology that demonizes other religious groups. It's not as though they don't keep track of their alumni, and don't realize that a significant percentage of these alumni commit atrocities all over the world. The curricula in these schools is extremely sectarian, and does a great deal of damage to the local communities.

      It's hard to also accept that Wahhabism is quietist or loyalist when applied in Saudi Arabia. The government actively punishes non-Wahhabis. Quietism is defined by acceptance of things as they are; Wahhabism remains deeply problematic even when applied in Saudi Arabia for it's local citizenry. That women are not permitted to drive is another example of Saudi intolerance.

      "Electric cars will be as cheap as gasoline cars, probably by the early 2020s, and after that oil will quickly become worthless. How will that change this screwy picture?"

      This day can't come soon enough. Iran has already demonstrated that it doesn't need to rely primarily on oil revenue to drive economic growth. It has an educated population base that is innovative and productive. One cannot say the same about Saudi Arabia. Mohammad bin Salman's 'plans' aren't going to change this problem.

  • Trump's Real sin in DC is not distinguishing between "Good" and "Bad" Dictators
    • "Saudi Arabia would be too easy a subject here."

      It is worth writing about. Let us examine the ways Saudi Arabia commits human and international rights abuses:

      (1) Saudi Arabia practices gender apartheid, and bans women from the most basic human rights, including but not limited to the (1) right to drive a car, (2) the right to self-representation in court and public offices, and (3) the right to assembly in public spaces. Of these offences, the second offence is particularly egregious. This offence is not repeated elsewhere on the planet.

      (2) Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that denies all it's citizens the most basic democratic aspirations. It denies its citizens to contest the policies and governance of the largely uneducated and venal royal family. As the royal family lives off oil revenue, it denies the most basic services to ethnic and religious minorities.

      (3) Saudi Arabia commits the most egregious war crimes and international law violations worldwide, including but not limited to it's actions in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It has funded extremist groups allied with known terrorist groups that have committed pogroms in Syria and Iraq. In Yemen, it's military has deployed clustered munitions and other heavy armaments to destroy Yemen. The result is that Yemen is food deprived and a humanitarian catastrophe.

      There are numerous other abuses that Saudi Arabia inflicts upon its citizenry and the world at large. In all of these listed cases, Saudi Arabia has enjoyed either tacit or overt support from United States and United Kingdom to enact these policies. Saudi Arabia sits upon half a trillion dollars worth of foreign exchange reserves. Instead of using this money for the betterment of its citizenry and the world at large, it pursues policies that are inimical to everyone.

  • Top 5 Ways Bill O'Reilly gave us Trump and cheapened America
    • Few individuals have caused as much harm to the American body politic as Bill O'Reilly. He pioneered Fox demagoguery. Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are all just different iterations of his shtick. All have cashed in tremendously through scapegoating ethnic and religious minorities for the legitimate economic woes of ordinary Americans. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert did us all a service in exposing the deceit and demagoguery of Bill O'Reilly. Alas, as funny and insightful as they are, these liberal antidotes were just not enough.

  • The Coming Muslim Century: Bad news for President Bannon
    • "And, a small sliver of the US left, exemplified by Bill Maher, hates Muslims almost as much as they hate Evangelicals and Republicans."

      Does Bill Maher believe in progressive taxation? Does he believe in income redistribution? He's called himself libertarian previously. I can't see how Bill Maher can fit into the tent of the left.

  • Why Population Exchange Fails: Over 100 Dead as Buses Bombed
    • Kefraya and al-Foua had been beseiged for the last 2.5 years. It is difficult to envision a short-term solution that would have enabled the residents to carry out a normal life. I agree completely that population exchanges never meet the stated goals of their ideal. The Pakistan-Indian exchange of Hindu/Sikh/Muslim exchange was catastrophic. So, many millions of lives extinguished.

      What would make these events less likely in Syria and Iraq is ensuring that Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Russia, and the United States abide by international law. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it has funded the most extreme groups in Syria: groups that either carry out the terrorist attacks on the buses, or at the very least are allied with groups that carry out these attacks on civilian buses. Al-Assad's government deserves condemnation for the war crimes it has committed in Syria. Simultaneously, the extremist groups that have operated in Syria over the past 6 years need to be condemned and blamed for the terrorism they have inflicted upon the Syrian population. This extremism is abetted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and needs to be stopped by the international community. Place an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

  • Washington's demonization of Foes jumps Shark with Sean Spicer on Hitler
    • "And we’ll never get a just world unless there is a single rule of law for all, rich states and poor states, powerful states and weak states, us and them."

      This is cannot be stressed enough. We have eroded international law to such a degree that it matters so little now. Yet, if it were equally and justly enforced on all authorities and states that commit war crimes, the world would be far better than the current anarchy of us deciding arbitrarily which dictators need to go and which dictators we like.

      "Bashar al-Assad is just a run of the mill global south war criminal. The US probably can’t do much about him given Russian and Iranian support for him."

      I have yet to hear a cogent explanation of how we and our allies would stabilize Syria post-regime change. We bombed Libya to enable the rebels to depose Qaddafi, another war criminal. It did not go well there: what makes us think that regime change will go any better in Syria? Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal, but further eroding international law through bombing the Syrian military is not the solution, but trying him under the auspices of international law is a plausible solution.

      After six plus years of strife, in which Syria has had a quarter of it's civilian population turn into refugees and another quarter turn into internally displaced persons, that the international community just cannot agree on viable mechanisms to stabilize Syria is immoral. Syrians will continue to suffer as long as we don't work with the Russians and Iranians to arrive at a diplomatic solution of the ongoing strife in Syria.

      Thank you for this post.

  • Russia: US attack on our Sovereign ally Illegal
    • At the rate at which we are going, will there be countries left in the Near East that we don't invade or attempt to change regimes. We keep telling people that our track record alone in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya should be enough to dissuade people of these interventions, but it's no use. Even supposedly liberal commentators now insist on the righteousness of bombing Syria. One begins to wonder just what evidence do people need to reassess their hawkishness.

  • Putin and the Ayatollahs: How Russia's Alliance with Iran is reshaping the Middle East
    • "Russia, on the other hand, is keen to preserve Syrian state institutions and does not support the Shiite religious proselytism of some of these military groups, such as the Hezbollah and Shia militias."

      Russia does not appear to be completely averse to Shia militias operating in Syria, and Iran knows that Syrian institutions (the government of al-Assad) needs to survive. Iran knows that it should not and cannot turn Syria into a satrapy, and Russia knows that for its interventions in Syria to be effective it needs Iranian support and coordination.

      American neoconservatives are naive or mistaken to believe that they would be able to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran on Syria. Any differences between Iran and Russia on Syria appear to be so minute or immaterial that it seems unlikely that it would make them re-evaluate their cooperation in Syria.

      In 20 years, (I hope) it's not going to be "Russian Middle-East" or "American Middle-East," but simply a series of independent, democratic states that care about the welfare of each of its citizenry and are too unimportant for American or Russian calculations.

      The ongoing strife in Syria is now more than six years old, and has turned 5 million Syrians into refugees and another 6+ million people internally displaced. This means that more than half of the 22 million Syrians are now not living in their own homes. Instead of looking to leverage the carnage in Syria for illusory geopolitical gain, our government needs to work with Russia, Iran, and Turkey to put an end to this conflict.

  • As 100,000 Rally in Yemen, Houthis Defy Trump, Saudis
    • According to the Yemeni constitution, a president that calls for foreign powers to intervene militarily in the state is committing grand treason. Saleh has called for Saudi Arabia's aggression against the state, and consequently by the Yemeni constitution forfeits the authority conferred to him by the constitution. Any legitimacy (I fail to see how he ever had it), is by now long, long gone. That said, the more important aspect is ensuring that the United States and Saudi Arabia abide by international law and not attack other countries.

  • Daesh/ISIL encouraging Loner attacks to Mask its Death Spiral
    • Yet, they've financed the some of most extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. That they continue to flood Syria with armaments gives rise to the environment where Daesh is able to take over large swaths of Syria, and terrorize the local population.

      Saudi Arabia has pursued policies that are inimical Syrians, itself, and the world at large.

  • It is Comey who should be Investigated
    • @Gary Page

      Largely--I think the debate about the emails is secondary or even immaterial to all the lies, deceit and scandal of Trump. However, I don't like it when we insist nothing was wrong about the emails. Internal State Department reviews under then Secretary of State John Kerry state that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would not have received permission to use the private servers for emails if she ever asked for permission for such an arrangement:

      link to

    • @Gary Page

      Going forward, the amended Federal Records Act makes it difficult for government officials to use private servers for emails: at the bare minimum it is required now to forward the records promptly to the official government messaging service. One can argue as you suggest that this was not the case then with former Secretary of State Clinton. If one cares about the historical record, which I hope commentators here do, then the new amendment is welcome. Prior to the amendment, the spirit of Federal Records Act was still to the effect that emails should not be culled through individuals other than the national archivists. Your comment: "However, I find it unlikely that the attorneys who did it would have intentionally violated the law as it would have put them at great risk professionally and they must have been well versed in the law before they acted..." is speculative. The entire purpose of the act is to remove doubt with regards to the authenticity of the archives. That's not possible if individuals use private servers and cull whichever records they chose.

      As I stated in the previous comment, one can take the view that no law was violated through former Secretary of State Clinton's use of a private server: a view that others might have grounds to contest. What I think any reasonable person would have to concede is that the use of a private server and not allowing national archivists to determine which records are relevant for the archives did violate the spirit of the Federal Records Act.

    • The Federal Records Act was amended in 2014 (after Clinton left office) so that any communication on a private server must be forwarded to the official electronic messaging account within 20 days. Unrelated, there is security liability. Regardless of whether or not government servers are less secure than private servers, if one keeps a private server, then one is assuming liability for the security of any classified information (even if such information is classified retrospectively). On the other hand, if it's in government servers, then the onus is on the government to ensure security of it's servers.

      The Federal Records Act and Section 1924 of Title 18 aren't just empty words or laws: they place profound restrictions on our government officials in the manner they communicate via email. Even if one genuinely believes that no laws were violated when former Secretary of State used a private server, the spirit of the law was disregarded. This disregard for the law might not mean much, when placed into context of all of Trump's lies, deceit, and scandal, but we shouldn't mitigate what was done for political expediency. Former Secretary of State Clinton acknowledges that it would have been wiser to not use a private server.

    • "There was not actually anything suspicious about a private server. As for the charge that her personal server was more at risk of being hacked than a government one, this is not true in any way that matters."

      I will know people who are very severely hurt by Trump's travel ban: people that I work with or even closer to heart. Some of Trump's policies will directly negatively effect me, and Clinton would never carry out such policies. We shouldn't mitigate the facts on the ground with regards to Clinton's private email server due to our dislike of Trump. These are two very separate issues.

      There is a lot wrong with Clinton's use private email server more than what you highlight in your post: (1) it is against the law and (2) it is not up to Clinton's team to parse through her emails and decide which ones should be sent to government archives as this tarnishes the historical record. Separately, with regards to email security, what you have stated is not sufficient to establish that private servers are just as secure as government servers. The rate of hacking in private servers like Clinton's is likely to be higher than dedicated State department servers. If not, that is all the more reason why our government officials should dedicate more resources to establish securer governmental servers instead of using their own servers which provides further disincentive for our elected officials to make our government servers secure.

      Contextualize Clinton's private email server fiasco with regards to all the lies, deceit, and scandals of Trump, but don't claim that Clinton's use of a private email server is not against the law or at the very least against the spirit of the law or that it simply doesn't matter. The Federal Records Act requires agencies to hold onto official communications: Clinton circumvented this by keeping a private server. This was wrong.

  • Does Trump's slashed Foreign Aid Budget give China the Advantage?
    • Pakistan has the sixth largest population in the world. It isn't sixth largest in land area--quite far from that. It's probably closer to number 30 or so in land area.

      China engages in projects that are extremely smart. They fund manufacturing and industrial projects worldwide, ensuring that both donor and recipient gain from the project. We largely bankroll military purchases worldwide, which amounts to a subsidy for our private defense corporations. China with much less foreign aid gains far more in terms of influence than we do.

  • Saudi throws Muslims under Bus, Sucks up to Islamophobe Trump
    • "I suppose it should come as no surprise that Prince Bin Salman, who is only 31 years old and has no military training, should be the impetus for the Saudi-led coalition campaign that has created a horrific humanitarian crisis in Yemen with no end in sight..."

      Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) approval of Trump's travel ban is of secondary importance in comparison to the carnage that MbS has unleashed on Yemen and Syria. Trump's travel ban is going to deeply hurt refugees, immigrants, and ordinary muslims. Yet, all of this hurt pales in comparison to the destruction of Yemen, where famine is now a reality due to Saudi belligerence.

      " The spread of their intolerant Wahhabi doctrine is part of the genealogy of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Yet, it seems as long as they are willing to spend billions of dollars buying American military hardware, they remain a friend."

      Wahhabi Islam has damaged many different countries, including Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria through sectarianism. Yet, this too is of secondary importance in comparison to the large scale Saudi financing and support of extremist groups allied with ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq. That our international criminal court does not appear to have the ability to bring MbS and Saudi leaders to trial for the death and destruction that they have inflicted on Yemen demonstrates how weak are transnational justice systems.

      As we move away from a petro-based global system to one where alternative energy sources are far more important, I would assume Saudi Arabia would reassess it's foreign and domestic policy. Profligate spending on unethical wars will have to go, and so will unemployment benefits that make Saudi citizenry avoid taking regular jobs. The sooner Saudi Arabia ends it's profligacy and unethical behavior the better for us and for them.

  • Wind Power Juggernaut Really doing for 100K Workers what Trump only Promised
    • "Leaders like Donald Trump who are not aboard the Renewable Energy Train are going to be left behind in the backwaters while others do the really big, earthshaking deals."

      Part of my comment might appear ageist, and I struggle to avoid that aspect. The world has moved on in more ways than one. Both Trump and Clinton--though more Trump than Clinton--were set in such fossilized thinking. Green energy is going to become an important driver of the global economy. The internet and information technology is also going is also going to be a far larger piece of the global GDP. I really cannot see how geriatric individuals who cannot write an email on a computer, much less code, will be able to serve as effective leaders in a decade or two. I keep hoping that we'll see a new type of leader (one that is truly feminist, technology savvy, green, and peace-loving) emerging every election cycle, but with the political forces so strong, my hopes might actually come to fruition.

    • Thank you for this update. The returns on wind power and other green energy sources are tremendous as you highlight in your post:

      "It is altering our world, causing upward mobility in West Texas, causing massive infrastructure cooperation among the North Sea nations, and perhaps even reshaping entire countries."

      That green energy could delay, forestall, or ideally prevent climate change should be enough incentive for investment. While government investment in green energy would have been salubrious, as you have in earlier pieces private investment at this stage in both RD and production is tremendous. The geopolitical ramifications of green energy, while secondary to climate change, are still noteworthy as you highlight.

      Green energy has the potential to snip away at the unjustified and inhumane power of dictatorial regimes in the middle east. In two to three decades, can Saudi Arabia fully finance its budget through oil? It has the potential to be a solar energy hotspot, but still they would have to tax their population to finance their budget. Taxation would lead to the Saudi citizenry demanding democratic and civil rights that would demolish or severely curtail the monarchy.

      A Saudi Arabia that invests in it's people, will be forced to obey basic human and international law. It won't be able to wantonly destroy sections of Yemen, or finance extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. The people of the greater middle east would be far better off through such a development, and so would we. This development cannot come fast enough for our climate and the future of all life on this planet. It also cannot come fast enough for the indigent of this planet whose potential to succeed is curtailed through the actions of despots and unscrupulous businessmen whose only desire is to further enlarge their near bottomless coffers.

  • How Much of Globe's Humanitarian Crisis is Fault of US?
    • Simply stating that US foreign policy for the past 16 years has been a net negative for the people of the world is not anti-American. It just acknowledges that we have done a great harm to the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries. The most patriotic Americans are those that are capable of acknowledging the harm that our country has inflicted on many other countries in the form of war, aggression, and climate change. It's actually those whose blinders make them incapable of acknowledging the continued harm we inflict on the world that do our country a profound disservice.

      The biggest counter-example to your analysis is Iraq. Our intervention there was the biggest calamity to befall the people of the middle east. Saddam was a war criminal, but those crimes are not our responsibility. What is our responsibility is the humanitarian disaster that we inflicted upon the Iraqi people (and the rest of the world too).

      " And the Syrian calamity is mostly the fault of Assad. Other intervenors include Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, the Kurds, the Saudis and god knows who else in addition to the US and Turkey. Syria was a mess and going to be a mess even if we never intervened."

      This counterfactual can be assessed. Your counterfactual analysis is extremely unsound. Had the US not green-lighted Saudi Arabia and Turkey to provide arms to extremist groups in Syria, the situation would have been far different. All of the extremist groups that got their arms from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and US would not be able to further funnel them to ISIS and Nusrah Front. Consequently, we would not have seen pogroms of ethnic and religious minorities in Syria. What has happened to the Arab Spring is a quick death at the hands of Saudi Arabia. Secular, moderate, and democratically-inclined opposition were quickly destroyed through the actions of extremist groups that got their financial and munitions from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and US. Yes, Russia and Iran have also committed crimes in Syria, but we are not responsible for those crimes. As I've said time and time again, our actions in Syria are in contravention of international and humanitarian law.

      What you also fail to write about is Yemen. Is there any support that you can provide of US actions there? The use of cluster-munitions and double-tap bombings of civilian properties are Saudi war crimes that our government supported. These war crimes happen to be defined through international law.

    • "The US pushed for the secession of South Sudan from Sudan, but then appears, typically, to have done nothing about nation-building."

      We were not effective at nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should stop intervening in these countries with the promise that we'll help rebuild them.

  • Trump Visa Denials target same countries Bush vowed to Overthrow
    • @Gary Page

      It is not called disobeying procedural niceties when George W Bush decided to decimate Iraq and Afghanistan. It is called committing war crimes (something that is defined by international law), and wiping out whole sections of Iraq and Afghanistan. The same is argument largely true in Libya and Syria, where the USA supported Saudi Arabia and Turkey to funnel arms and heavy armaments to extremist groups that went on to commit pogroms and destabilize the entire region. Funneling arms and heavy armaments to non-state actors (extremist and terrorist groups) is against international law, and happens to have deep repercussions for humans that happen to die from their fire. You might think it's a procedural nicety (international law) that could prevent these civilians from dying from those arms, but I'm pretty sure any Syrian, Iraqi, or moderately educated human doesn't see it your way.

      What you write about Rwanda largely supports my contention. The United States never even tried to prevent genocide there. It never even made the argument that it was time to assemble troops to stop the ongoing massacre. It could have--very early on called for a UN Security council meeting. It chose not to.

      I think I'm done posting here--and even largely reading posts here--it's 2017, Trump will further abrogate our constitution, and we will quibble instead about the law being relevant and important, or how Obama's actions in Syria and Libya amounted to hurting innocent lives through providing arms through Turkey and Saudi Arabia to extremist groups (in contravention of international law).

    • The Rwandan genocide was catastrophic. Our government refused to categorize the carnage there as genocide precisely because international law would have compelled them and the United Nations to act to safeguard Rwandans, which was an action they never wished to undertake. So, your stated premise is actually completely bogus. International law compelled them to act, and they chose to willfully abrogate their duty to whole sections of the UN charter.

    • " Libya is a mess but Gaddafi is gone."

      Is the implication here that removal of Gaddafi justifies the intervention to depose of him and funnel munitions to rebels? This next comment supports that interpretation.

      "I don’t personally think Obama’s actions in Libya resembled those planned by the Bush administration. The former was faced with a genuine national uprising and there is a question about whether the carnage would have been even worse if Moammar Gaddafi had been allowed to try to stay in power."

      Were some of the actions Europe and the US undertook to remove Gaddafi against international law? The UN security council resolution on Libya did not give Europe and US authority to funnel arms to extremist groups. Yet, that was conducted regardless, and is against international law. Had the Obama administration decided against any support of Saudi's support of extremist rebels in Libya and Syria, our world would have been a much better place for it. Instead, in 2017, in a post about a visa ban that will cost residents here severely, we have odd comments that support interventions whose only effect is the obvious loss of civilian lives. IC decried the Iraq war on international law grounds, stating it was illegal. Our actions in Libya and Syria are likewise illegal. Our appeals to international law cannot be selective. The multiple illegalities of our actions in Libya and Syria mirror the multiple illegalities of our interventions in Iraq. If you decry the latter, you have to decry the former.

  • Welcome to Psychopathocracy
    • Trump's muslim registry will hurt muslim's severely, and will further weaken our already eroded American civil liberties. One can talk about Trump's policies without resorting to calling him a psychopath. I'm not trained as a psychologist, and there's no way I could diagnose him as such. That said, I think it's not needed. His stated policies are so pernicious that one could just catalog them and critique them.

      There are so many pernicious policies that he espouses that it is sometimes hard to know where to begin, but regardless of which set of policies one chooses at first, any critique would be an evisceration and far superior to calling him a psychopath. One could critique the nepotism that Trump is now displaying by appointing his son-in-law Jared Kushner as Senior Advisor. Or, his appointments of former Goldman Sachs employees to financial regulating agencies. Or, his plan require muslims to register on a database, further stigmatizing them and demolishing the first amendment. This path obviates the rhetorical reply that your post is likely speculation. The sheer amount of harm that such policies would inflict on innocents would be enough for your readers to form their own opinions of Trump without calling him a psychopath.

      Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2008 democratic nomination campaign on two separate occasions mentioned that she would "obliterate" Iran in a hypothetical situation. One doesn't need to resort to calling her a psychopath in order to highlight just how pernicious is this stated policy. Or, one can very easily critique that choosing to separate herself from President Obama with her goals to more forcefully arming rebels (extremists) and implementing a no-fly zone over Syria is not good policy. None of this requires calling her a psychopath, but highlights the vast amount of human harm these policies would exact on innocents.

      This focuses the attention on where it's due: those that are victims of the stated policies. Trump could be a psychopath or narcissist for all I know, but making the focus of a post his psychopathy only further feeds what I imagine to be his narcissism, and diverts attention from the victims.

  • Preparing for the Normalization of a Neofascist White House
    • I agree that Trump's statements and cabinet picks do not auger well for our democratic ideals, and are a step towards neo-fascism (if not there already). That said, the tendency to view Trump's ideas as a complete aberration in our democratic process is also unreasonable. The slow slide to fascistic tendencies was long apparent in legislature that was passed by Bush II, and then the rise of the xenophobic tea-party. Trump is set to inherit executive powers and nearly unlimited eavesdropping capabilities from Obama that should and could have been curtailed. We just trusted Obama with these vast powers, but now that Trump is set to inherit these same unconstitutional powers, we see the error in our ways.

      It's this blind trust in our party's leader (Democratic or Republican) that makes ordinarily educated and thoughtful individuals give up their constitutional rights for party loyalty and gains. We should argue and fight for our constitutional rights and ideals. These rights and ideals were also harmed, unfortunately, during the Obama administration, but few commentators noticed or wrote about it. Trump definitely will erode our constitution even further and more precipitously, which is catastrophic...

  • Now is the time for Obama to Recognize Palestine
    • There is a problem with Kevin Drum's analysis. He may rightly dislike Hamas and the PLO, but this dislike does not justify the continued and future statelessness of the Palestinians. Nothing in his arguments abrogates the reality that Palestinians are stateless. Under international law, Israel is bound to safeguard Palestinian lives as the occupying power. It is also bound to work towards extricating itself as an occupying power. It does neither. As member countries of the United Nations, all these countries are bound by international law; human feelings of dislike or antipathy towards international actors or authorities is secondary to just application of the law.

      In this case, Kevin Drum is just plain wrong.

  • Top Five ways Jesus was not White
    • I appreciate this Christmas day message, and I think Jesus would have appreciated it too. An aspect of this that is eluded to in your post, is that if Jesus were "swarthy" or "olive-skinned" does this make him less worthy of Christian worship?

      Even more importantly, I think, Jesus would profoundly disapprove our treatment of today's refugees, homeless, orphans, or generally hapless individuals. He'd almost certainly see himself more akin with a Syrian refugee than any American Congressperson that wishes to extend a no-fly zone over Syria or fund more wars worldwide that create even more refugees.

    • I appreciate Ben Norton's writing: though the part in the post to which you link, where he suggests that Jesus would be considered communist by today's standard's is a bit wanting. It's stated without any logical or historical support. Also, who is making this claim: Ben Norton, historians, or is it a generally acknowledged argument? I don't doubt that some of Jesus's teaching could be used to favor income redistribution or other socialist ideals, but how this makes Jesus a "communist" is still a logical step away.

      The last paragraph in the post you link to is actually important: the word Jesus would use for God is the Aramaic word "Alaha," which is also the word native Arab speakers would use for God too: "Allah." So, when neoconservatives or speakers with animus against muslims use the word "Allah" in a negative or derogatory fashion, they are twisting a word Jesus himself used to supplicate. Jesus would most definitely not recognize our world as following his teachings: in word or in spirit. Hopefully, we will get there eventually.

  • Why do GOP Presidents get to go Hard Right, and Dems are just GOP Lite?
    • Apologies for harping on this while we have moved on to probably better discussions, but as you write...

      "As for the Senate, surely there are things they want from a president that they won’t get if they completely shut him out. Not to mention that Obama actually briefly had a Democratic majority and squandered it. A Republican president would have had several major pieces of legislation ready to go and given it to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and said, “Here, go pass this while we have a bare majority."

      He could have passed campaign finance reform in this time.

    • I squirm when someone tells me: "Imagine if he’d been far Left. And Black." Are people of color not allowed to state their opinions in order to be taken seriously by whites?

      He was certainly more left than former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton on foreign policy and likely even on domestic issues, though unfortunately more centrist than either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

      As a person of color and progressive, I definitely admire President Obama. I think he will look back at his time as President, and take pride in dealing with a recalcitrant Congress, but at the same time wonder, could it have been different. Could he have kept his progressive ideals as a constitutional law Professor at University of Chicago on issues where he doesn't even have to deal with Congress? Could he have gotten more in his bargains with a Republican-held Congress? I think so... For whatever reason, he chose not to.

    • After reading the first half President Obama's autobiography, "Dreams from My Father," I started to believe in President Obama's sincerity. I don't doubt that President Obama has deeply held progressive positions. It's just that as a community organizer, he probably realized that to forcefully make unwilling participants (Congress) follow your dogmatic positions, no matter how correct and valid, might end up hurting one's cause and the community.

      In the case of campaign finance reform, I have no doubt that he would like Congress to pass legislature. However, it just remained that: a wish, one that has to be temporarily, if not indefinitely, ignored in order to get re-elected... I think he could have had campaign finance reform, but he probably thought Obamacare was either more viable politically or more important.

      I agree that single-payer is better: countries that have single-payer systems have far better health metrics. Hopefully, we'll get there. I'll settle in the mean-time for Obamacare over insurance companies denying people with pre-existing health conditions.

    • Agreed: I've heard this reply whenever I state this. Yet, I always wonder that if Obama was able to get through Obamacare through Congress, had he first attempted campaign finance reform rather than Obamacare, would he have gotten it? I'd like to think he would have... One could argue that Obamacare is significantly more important than campaign finance reform, but I find such arguments difficult to accept, considering just how effectively billionaires subvert our democracy and constitution.

    • As a senator, President Obama knew part of the solution of these problems is public financing of our elections. Crowdsourcing only goes so far: I agree with you that Senator Sanders demonstrated that it is possible, but I worry just how much longer our public is willing to crowdsource when billionaires are able to so effectively drown out their voices.

      Had President Obama followed through with legislation on campaign finance reform our nation would be far better off. Obamacare is far better than what we had previously, but campaign finance reform is even more important. Had campaign finance reform been enacted, the chances of electing Trump and a billionaire-beholden congress would have been far smaller. Thereby, reducing the chance that progressive legislature, such as Obamacare, is knocked down due to the whims of our billionaires.

  • Is Bruited Sec. of State Tillerson allied with Iran & at war with Iraq?
    • "So, yes, you got it. Tillerson’s corporation is de facto an ally of Iran and would have a reason to want US sanctions on that country dropped (those sanctions were just renewed by Congress for 10 years)."

      This last paragraph is confusing: the implication is that through Exxon-Mobil's dealing with Iraqi Kurdistan, Tillerson is de-facto allied with Iran, because Iraqi Kurdistan is " is planning to take advantage of the end of international sanctions on Iran by pumping oil through Iran to get around Iraq’s objections."

      That Iraqi Kurdistan's plan will actually come to fruition is still in doubt. Even if this plan were to actually come to fruition, it still does not provide sufficient evidence that Tillerson would be allied with Iran. Does trading with Iran make one an ally of Iran? I guess IC sees it this way. The more important part that remains completely unaddressed: just what is wrong with doing business with Iran? . . .

      The rest of the world, including Europe, China, and Russia, no longer believe in such sanctions, and are probably not going to follow the US if the rip the Vienna accord.

  • More districts of East Aleppo fall to Regime & Militia Allies
    • "The crushing of the rebellion is a tragedy, since Syria has a seedy one-party state that tortures people to death and brooks no criticism."

      I largely agree with T. van Ellen. The real tragedy is not that these extremist groups will be defeated, but that ordinary civilian lives were destroyed through all this carnage. The secondary tragedy was that the entire protest movement in Syria that began with the Arab Spring mutated into something quite vile. This mutation was not homegrown. As T. van Ellen eludes to, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States were complicit in making an ordinary protest movement into an extremist movement. Had Saudi Arabia not funded the most extremist groups, the real opposition that has support of all of Syria would have been able to come to power. Instead, what you have is these extremist groups, overrunning whole sections of Syria, and ethnically cleansing large swaths of the Syrian population.

      " But the rebellion also did lose its soul on the whole, moving toward hard line fundamentalism and pledging to ethnically cleanse 2 million Alawite Shiites."

      The extremist groups have already committed genocide in parts of Syria and Iraq. The future tense in your sentence belies this reality.

  • Emails and Groping: Our Halloween Election keeps Scaring us to Death
    • I never related President Bill Clinton's actions to former Secretary of State's Hillary Clinton's campaign for President. That is an unjustified imputation on your part. There was absolutely no guilt by association.

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