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Posts Tagged ‘Trump

Fact-checking President Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly

A skilled public speaker often knows how to craft his or her words for the audience. But President Trump started off his speech to the U.N. General Assembly with a number of boasts lifted straight from his campaign rallies.

Not only are these claims exaggerated or false, but the first one inspired mirth and laughter from the assembled leaders and diplomats in the chamber.

That was certainly unusual, as the General Assembly room is usually silent, with barely any applause, during the speeches.

Here’s an examination of 14 key claims made by the president in his speech, listed in the order in which he made them. As is our practice, we do Not assign Pinocchio’s in roundups.

“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

This is the line that was greeted with laughter. Americans may be used to this kind of boosterism, but world leaders are not. According to The Fact Checker’s database of Trump’s false and misleading claims, Trump started saying that he had done more than any previous president when he was Not even at the six-month mark – and he has now repeated the line more than 30 times.

Trump, unlike many presidents in his first year, had signed few major pieces of legislation.

Certainly, the whirlwind of accomplishments under presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama exceed Trump’s efforts.

As of Sept. 12, his 600th day, Trump had signed 238 bills, most of which were minor.

Trump has signed two more bills and joint resolutions than Obama and 14 more than George W. Bush, but was still behind every other president since Eisenhower, according to a calculation by Josh Tauberer of GovTrack. He noted that Trump is just behind Obama in number of pages, indicating that much of the legislation Trump has signed has been about increasing government spending.

Trump later said the line “was meant to get some laughter” — which is odd, since he doesn’t play it for laughs at his rallies.

“America’s economy is booming like never before.”

This is highly dubious, but it’s another favorite talking point that Trump has uttered more than 50 times.

The president can certainly brag about the state of the economy, but he runs into trouble when he repeatedly makes a play for the history books. By just about any important measure, the economy today is Not doing as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton — and even “the drunken” Ulysses S. Grant.

“We’ve added more than 4 million new jobs, including half a million manufacturing jobs.”

Trump often inflates his totals by including nearly three months when he was not yet president. At the time of this speech, almost 3.6 million jobs had been created during his presidency, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the 19 months starting after Trump’s inauguration, the economy created 3.58 million new jobs — but that is still less than the 3.96 million created in the last 19 months of Obama’s presidency. (The White House notes that job creation under Trump has exceeded the Congressional Budget Office’s expectations for job growth at the end of Obama’s presidency.)

U.S. manufacturing employment has been increasing at a steady rate since 2010 — and the increase in Trump’s presidency has been about 350,000, not half a million, according to BLS.

“We have passed the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.”

Trump loves this line so much he has said it more than 100 times. But it’s not true. His tax cut ranks eighth when measured as a percentage of the size of the economy.

“We’ve started the construction of a major border wall.”

This is another false claim that the president keeps repeating — some 50 times.

With great fanfare in March, he toured prototypes of a concrete wall while in California. Yet the language in the appropriations bill is specific: None of the $1.57 billion appropriated for border protection may be used for those prototypes.

Moreover, the bill identified that the money for the barriers — about $1.3 billion — could be used only for items listed as “primary pedestrian levee fencing,” “primary pedestrian fencing” and “secondary fencing.” About $250 million is for secondary fencing, meaning it just backs up other fencing.

The closest thing to a wall would be the levee fencing, which is a concrete levee topped by bollard fencing. As far as we can tell, only 33 miles of new barrier — fencing on top of an existing levee in Hidalgo County, Tex., and a fence in Starr County, Tex. — would be funded under the 2018 bill. The rest of the money appears to be for replacing existing fencing or barriers — with fencing.

“We have secured record funding for our military — $700 billion this year, and $716 billion next year.”

The military budget is $700 billion in the current fiscal year. Congress this summer passed — and Trump signed — authorization for $716 billion in spending in fiscal 2019.

But Trump referred to these defense budgets as a “record,” which is wrong. The budget authority was larger in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 in nominal dollars, and outlays was higher in many years, including recently, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

A better way to measure over time is as a percentage of the economy, and Trump’s is only one-third the size of the defense budget at the height of the Vietnam War. (And what about the Iraqi invasion that lasted 8 years?)

“In June, I traveled to Singapore to meet face-to-face with North Korea’s leader, Chairman Kim Jong Un. We had highly productive conversations and meetings, and we agreed that it was in both countries’ interest to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Since that meeting, we have already seen a number of encouraging measures that few could have imagined only a short time ago.”

Trump highlights the visible fruits of his talks with North Korea, including that “nuclear testing has stopped.”

But The Washington Post reported in June that U.S. intelligence officials, citing newly obtained evidence, have concluded that North Korea does Not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile and instead is considering ways to conceal secret production facilities and the number of weapons it has.

And in July, The Post reported that U.S. spy agencies are seeing signs that North Korea is constructing new missiles at a factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

North Korea has a long history of making agreements and then not living up to them. (Exactly as Israel? And the USA?)

The document signed by Trump and Kim was remarkably vague, leaving it open to interpretation and debate, compared with previous documents signed by North Korea.

The statement said North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) committed to “work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The phrase is not defined and “towards” is rather weak.

In the past, North Korea viewed “denuclearization” to mean the United States’ removing the nuclear umbrella it provides to Japan and South Korea; there is no indication its definition has changed. (The USA has been deploying nuclear missiles on the borders of China and Russia for decades)

“The Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders. In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget grew nearly 40 percent.”

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Iran’s military expenditure increased nearly 30 percent from 2015, when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was adopted, to 2017. This increase brought Iran’s military spending back to near-2006 levels.

But as we’ve pointed out before, just looking at the raw increase or decrease in any country’s military budget misses important context. Instead, let’s consider Iran’s military expenditure as a share of overall government spending.

In 2015, it accounted for 15.4 percent of government spending. It increased 0.4 percentage point, to 15.8 percent of government spending, by 2017. According to a White House official, this spending level is expected to remain stable in 2018. That means military spending increased alongside overall government spending — not in a silo on its own.

Looking at Iran’s military expenditure as a share of GDP, there’s a similar trend. It has increased by only half a percentage point — going from 2.6 percent to 3.1 percent from 2015 to 2017. (For comparison, in 2016, military expenditure accounted for about 3.3 percent of GDP in the United States.)

“We cannot allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ and that threatens Israel with annihilation to possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on Earth.”

This is a bit in the weeds, but as we have documented, it’s not entirely clear whether Iran means to annihilate Israel, such as “wiping it off the map.”

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been consistent in speaking of his hatred of Israel, but without a military context. He has said his goal is the dissolution of Israel through a “popular referendum” that would give power to Palestinians.

“Even worse, some countries abused their openness to dump their products, subsidize their goods, target our industries and manipulate their currencies to gain unfair advantage over our country. As a result, our trade deficit ballooned to nearly $800 billion a year.”

The U.S. trade deficit in 2017 was $568 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Trump gets his $800 billion number by looking only at the deficit for trade in goods ($811 billion) even though U.S. trade in services runs a substantial surplus of $243 billion.

Moreover, Trump blames the trade deficit on the actions of other countries. But trade deficits are also affected by macroeconomic factors such as the relative strength of currencies, economic growth rates, and savings and investment rates.

“The United States lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs, nearly a quarter of all steel jobs and 60,000 factories after China joined the WTO.”

Just on Sept. 20, Trump blamed the loss of thousands of factories on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now he pegs the same phenomenon on China’s joining the World Trade Organization.

Most economists would agree that China’s industrial rise caused millions of job losses in the United States and thousands of factory closures. There’s no definitive estimate of how many of these jobs were lost or how many of these factories closed specifically because of China. The research on this question is limited, indicating that China had an outsize impact but that there were other factors at play, such as automation.

“The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness and due process.”

Trump goes too far here to claim that the International Criminal Court claims “near-universal jurisdiction” over citizens of every country.

The ICC was established by the Rome Statute, which 118 countries have ratified. The United States is not among those countries, and it has signed what are called Article 98 agreements with many countries to shield U.S. citizens from prosecution under the court.

Afghanistan is a member of the ICC, and in theory a war crimes prosecution in that country could cover possible crimes committed by U.S. forces. However, Afghanistan has also signed an Article 98 agreement with the United States. A U.S. law prohibits the government from assisting the ICC in extraditing U.S. citizens.

“OPEC and OPEC nations, are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it. Nobody should like it. We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices. Not good.

Trump blames the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries for rising oil prices, but a key factor in the recent rise in the cost of oil is his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord and the imposition of new sanctions on one of the world’s leading oil producers. Experts say U.S. sanctions could drive oil prices to above $100 a barrel, up from about $70 currently.

“The United States is the world’s largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid.”

Trump is using raw dollars here, but that’s misleading. It is more appropriate to look at the dollars given as a percentage of the size of a country’s economy.

For instance, the United States gave $35.3 billion in 2017, compared with $24.7 billion for Germany and $18 billion for Britain, according to preliminary data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But as a percentage of gross national income, the United States ranks near the bottom of industrialized countries, providing just 0.18 percent of GNI.

That’s far below the U.N. target of 0.7 percent. In fact, just four countries — Sweden (1.01 percent), Luxembourg (1 percent), Norway (0.99 percent) and Denmark (0.72 percent) — exceeded that target. Britain met it, and Germany, at 0.66 percent, was close.

I am confused. What Trump and Macron (of France) are planning to ruin Syria

Apparently, Trump and Macron want to strike Syria very badly n account that chemical weapons were used in Al Ghouta. Russia vetoed the USA tailor-made alternative to investigate the accusation in Syria and the USA vetoed Russia alternative.

All parties on the field (Syrians and Russians) are saying “No chemical weapons were used”, even the Islamist factions didn’t mention such an event, though chemical weapons were discovered in their tunnels, dug by their prisoners in the last 4 years.

Syria invited the specialized UN organization on chemical weapons to come and investigate on the field and a team has already arrived.

Russia warned USA and France that its reaction will be prompt if the strike injure any Russian in Syria.

Trump cancelled his Latin America tour to personally control the situation of the strike.

The colonial powers have the habit of setting up all kinds of Red Lines when it suit them to other militarily “weaker nations”. Red Lines are Not meant to be applied to the colonial powers, ever. They do sometimes sign on treaties but refrain to ratify them, like the International penal court, or any of their citizens being prosecuted by other nations, especially in matter of crimes against humanity. Or eliminating weapons prohibited by the UN.

Chemical weapons were first used by the colonial powers starting in WWI by Germany. The USA used chemical weapons extensively on Korea and China in the 50’s, then Orange defoliating gases and napalm in Viet Nam… France supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons and were heavily used during Iran/Iraq war that lasted 8 years  (1980-88).

I am confused. First question: Were chemical weapons been used in Al Ghouta? Yes or No? I was not in the battle field, and neither were you. How to you interpret whatever you got in information?  What are your rationals for lack of facts? What can we do with any secret intelligence pieces that we are denied knowledge?

I am confused. Second question: If chemical weapons were used, why it took place when the battle of Al Ghouta was over and all Islamic factions and their families relocated by buses to Edlib and Jarablos?

I am confused. Third question: The colonial powers repeatedly disseminated the plausibility of usage of chemical weapons in Al Ghouta before the re-conquest started. The battle finished and no news of usage of chemical weapons were announced until the last couple of days when the war was over.

I am confused. Fourth question: We all felt that the colonial powers expected the Islamic factions to use the chemical weapons they were supplied with, against either the Syrian army or the civilians inside Al Ghouta to provide excuses for the powers to intervene. Nothing happened. Had the colonial power failed to coordinate their strikes before the battle and now, as they are ready, they need to vent their frustrations from the failed 2013 threat?

I am confused. Fifth question: Why the White Helmets working with Islamic factions and trained to fabricate videos persist on taking video of children, and only children? If chemical weapons were used, the most probable injured parties should be the fighters huddled inside their tunnels in order to vent them out. Why No videos of these supposedly gassed terrorists were not taken for the common people to watch? Since 2013, many of these cruel videos were taken in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq… and displayed as happening in Syria.

I am confused. Sixth question: Why USA and France persist on attacking and striking the Syrian people under any excuse? Is it because their plans failed and they need some kind of revenge? And this latest determination to strike, is it a tactics to let the totally unconvinced world community believe that chemical weapons were indeed used?

Note: My conjecture is that Trump and Macron are finally convinced that whatever plans they had in Syria has failed, and need a face-saving strike before they retire their military operations in this hellish Syria and focus on trade row with China and their multiple domestic problems

The Lone Ranger: Massive strong catalyst for upheaval

Note: You may read part one: City of All Evils https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/on-jerusalem-symbolic-center-of-all-evils/

Trump must demand that Israel conduct a referendum with this question: “Do you agree for Jerusalem to become the Official and Formal Capital of Israel? ” I bet Israel government Won’t Dare run this referendum.

Unilaterally and in a single declaration, Trump smashed 4 decades of a strategy to creating an imaginary enemy between the Sunnis-Shias divide.  The people, in a flash, re-adjusted their direction toward their Existential enemy: Zionism/USA establishment

Israel government wants to still believe the Palestinians are stupid: They allowed for the first time Palestinian youths to enter the Grand Mosque. They assume that the Palestinians will believe that no more constraints on movements will be imposed once Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel.

The day Trump declared his statement on Jerusalem, unilaterally, Israel declared it will be build 14,000 more units in Jerusalem for the settlers.

In a single day, Israel forces killed 3 and injured 1,100 Palestinian youths with live bullets. Most of them were hospitalized with concentrated and poisonous gas canisters in 10 Palestinian cities and villages.

A great event: Lebanon Parliament met for deputies to express their opinions on the Jerusalem crisis: this is a message for all States to convene their parliaments and let the representatives of their people to share their positions.

The Palestinians in Lebanon refugee camps are starting to side with Hezbollah strategy: Zionism/USA establishment are the Existential enemies

That’s what is called a strong and major Catalyst: Trump in a single declaration awakened the majority of the “Arabic” people, and in a flash, to their existential enemy: Zionism/USA establishment

Israel mindless traditional apartheid tactics of militarily confronting Palestinian mass civil disobedience is backfiring: After over 1,100 Palestinians injured with live bullets within 24 hours, escalation is quickly transforming into missile launching from Gaza and readiness of Palestinian factions into military confrontation.

Unless Trump retracts on his declaration, events are escalating into an all out war from various sides: Gaza, West bank, Lebanon and most probably Jordan.

This Lone Ranger of Trump will quickly find himself isolated and impotent to weight in in any cease fire or share in any deal in the Middle-East.

Israel is about to pay the heaviest of prices for exiting this clownish Trump and his close family circle.

Although Saudi Kingdom was let into this decision 2 weeks ago, it didn’t measure the enormousness of this blunder. Not only they officially condemned this declaration, they feel totally helpless to mitigate this declaration in the face of the massive uprising in the “Arabic” and Islamic world. Monday, the Arab Summit will meet in Cairo: This time around, Saudi Kingdom will shut up and let the condemnation fuse.

States are coming forth and convoking US ambassadors to lambaste them and decry the outrageous declaration that goes counter to the UN resolutions and world community position.

This Wednesday, the Islamic Summit will meet in Turkey to condemn this infamous declaration. Erdogan has already condemned Israel as a violent terrorist State that occupies other people lands

The head of parliaments will meet on Thursday to send a strong message to Trump of the representatives of the people

The US is warning its citizens Not to exhibit themselves in 12 countries and soon, many of its embassies will be vacated until events cool down.

This Pence, smug Vice-President, is to tour the region to meet Islamic high clerics in Egypt, Palestine… They all declined to meet with him. What the hell is he to tell them anyway.

This Not 1948 or 1967. Events won’t be the blank kinds.

Note: Again, read the previous article City of All Evils https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/on-jerusalem-symbolic-center-of-all-evils/

A DEADLY DELUSION: WERE SYRIA’S REBELS EVER GOING TO DEFEAT THE JIHADISTS?

AUGUST 10, 2017

President Donald Trump’s decision last month to shutter America’s covert program to arm and train Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad was likely inevitable, and in any case overdue.

The program was premised on applying proxy military pressure to realize an unworkable political outcome – a negotiated resolution that removed Assad. And particularly in its late stages, it was feeding al-Qaeda-type jihadists who had infiltrated and co-opted large sections of the opposition.

The end of America’s “massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad” — in Trump’s own words — has sparked sharp debate over whether the move will benefit jihadists in al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

It will not. But the decision has also provoked a second, derivative argument over whether and how much Syria’s rebels were ever willing and able, historically, to stand up to the jihadists who hijacked Syria’s revolutionary insurgency.

This debate has policy implications — at least counterfactual ones — insofar as U.S.-backed rebels were apparently meant to out-compete and counterbalance jihadists. With a few exceptions, they proved unable to do so. (No exceptions so far)

As Syria’s war dragged on, America’s other policy priorities in the war were gradually subsumed by “counter-terrorism” — a shorthand term for the defeat of the jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Arguments for backing the array of nationalist and Islamist rebel factions collectively termed the “Free Syrian Army” were increasingly recast in those interests-based terms.

Into 2017, some were still retailing U.S.-backed rebels as “an already extremely vetted, truly indigenous, potential counter-terrorism force.” (Vetted by whom? Those Not on the ground for long terms?)

This did not comport with the historical record.

The fact of rebel cooperation with jihadists was consistently excused away as a tactical necessity, or as a function of insufficient U.S. support.

But there were only so many times U.S.-backed rebels could function as jihadists’ battlefield auxiliaries, sit and watch as jihadists liquidated other rebel factions, or prove generally unmotivated to fight jihadists before it became impossible to take them seriously as a counter-terrorism force.

(Actually, the extremist factions waited for the weapons to arrive to the “moderate” and launch an attack and take them away)

Rebels were more interested in going at the Assad regime – even if that meant fighting alongside jihadists, or under their command – than standing up to jihadists.

The factional dysfunction and personal entanglements of the rebels meant that jihadists were more central and powerful within the armed opposition than Washington and other rebel backers appreciated or acknowledged.

In the end, that not only meant that rebels were useless for counter-terrorism, but also that they couldn’t serve as a viable tool of pressure on the Assad regime or represent a realistic alternative to Assad’s rule. The whole logical edifice of U.S. support for Syria’s insurgency was wormy and rotten.

The counter-terrorism case for backing Syria’s rebels was bogus — an implausible claim by the Syrian opposition that was uncritically and irresponsibly repeated by opposition backers. Policymakers and analysts should have taken jihadist entanglement with Syria’s insurgency more seriously, much earlier. Instead, the policy debate was, for years, built on mythology and tall tales.

The Crux: January 2014 and Rebels’ Fight Against ISIL

The historical argument over the rebel fight against jihadists played out recently in an acrid Twitter back-and-forth between University of Oklahoma professor and longtime Syria expert Joshua Landis and the Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister.

The former argued rebels mostly refused to fight al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and more often fought alongside them. Lister called Landis’s arguments “misinformation” and “lies,” minimizing rebels’ ties with the Islamic State and other jihadists and pointing to their collective fight against the Islamic State in January 2014. (The jihadists had strong backing, financially, in weapons and in logistics through Turkey from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, with tacit support of the western States, particularly France and Britain and USA)

The case for the armed opposition as a counterterrorism force hinges, to a large extent, on this single episode in January 2014. Yet a more critical reading of that one event, especially in the context of rebels’ subsequent fight against the Islamic State, tends to reframe rebels’ utility as a U.S. partner against the Islamic State. Landis’s arguments are an oversimplification, in parts, and occasionally unfair. But the reality sides more with Landis than Lister.

In April 2013, ISIL’s Iraqi predecessor announced it would re-absorb its advance team in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusrah, and expand into Syria.

ISIL quickly got to work abducting opposition activistseliminating smaller, ill-reputed rebel factions, and seizing effective control of border crossings and other sources of revenue. Finally, after months of shocking, brutal provocations and escalating clashes with other rebels, open war erupted in January 2014 between rebels and ISIL in the west Aleppo countryside and then spread across the opposition-held north.

This has been spun, uncritically, into a legend of how rebels expelled ISIL from the northwest. Lister has been among those retailing a fairy-tale version of January 2014. In his 2016 paper, The Free Syrian Army: A decentralized insurgent brand, Lister acknowledges some of the complications in this episode, but nonetheless casts it in hagiographic terms:

The scale of [the opposition’s] success in forcing [ISIL] out of four provinces in 12 weeks is incomparably more significant than what the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have achieved in northeastern Syria in over two years of operations backed by U.S. air support. (Does he means Al Nusra of Al Qaeda faction?)

Yet the reality of January 2014 was substantially more complicated than Lister would have us believe. In retrospect, ISIL’s withdrawal from the northwest now seems less a rout at rebel hands than a decision by an overstretched, exposed ISIL to regroup in Syria’s desert east. From its new strongholds in the east, ISIL consolidated its forces and resurged in all directions, including into Iraq.

Though brigades in some sections of the north such as Jeish al-Mujahideen and Jamal Ma’rouf’s Syrian Revolutionaries Front launched pitched battles against ISIL in January 2014, elsewhere in the northwest, ISIL departed with a mix of local handshake deals and deliberate, tactical retreats.

Other powerful brigades — including Jabhat al-Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham — absorbed or sheltered ISIL membersand facilitated their passage to safe areas in Syria’s east. The horrific death-by-torture of Ahrar commander Hussein “Abu Rayyan” al-Suleiman at ISIL’s hands had been one of the most proximate sparks for the January fighting, but much of Ahrar still couldn’t accept the idea of fighting fellow Islamist militants.

In Raqqa, Ahrar al-Sham fighters confused by ISIL’s religious slogans left local rebels to face ISIL reinforcements alone, only for those same Ahrar fighters to be executed in the dozens at an ISIL checkpoint north of the city. In the Aleppo countryside, gullible local rebel commanders agreed to parlay with ISIL representatives to halt the bloodshed.

An ISIL negotiator set off his suicide belt in time with a car bomb, killing the local commander and more than a dozen others. Local rebel resistance folded. ISIL captured and held east Aleppo until Turkey launched its Operation Euphrates Shield intervention more than two years later.

In eastern Deir al-Zour province, Jabhat al-Nusrah and other rebels fought a fierce, losing battle from February to July 2014 as the Islamic State closed in around them. Then ISIL overran Mosul and, swollen with new weapons and materiel it had taken from the Iraqi military, turned west towards Deir al-Zour. Faced with an overwhelming ISIL force, the Deiri opposition split and collapsed. Critically — and characteristically — rebels in Syria’s west left Deir al-Zour alone to lose against ISIL.

After summer 2014, and with the exception of some stubborn Deiris who tried to claw their way back, most of Syria’s rebels gave up on the east.

To be fair, rebels in  west Syria’s were trying to fend off the Assad regime and, from 2015, hold out against an overwhelming Russian intervention. But the longer the Islamic State occupied Syria’s east, the clearer it became that western rebels were not sufficiently motivated to liberate what had been revolutionary, opposition-held areas from the Islamic State’s brutality and terror, and the less immediate and compelling the example of January 2014 became.

The whole reason the United States opportunistically struck up a tactical partnership with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — including, as Lister noted in his paper, providing U.S. air support — was because the SDF’s core Kurdish elements were motivated and able to kill the Islamic State in eastern Syria.

This set them apart in a way that Lister and other rebel boosters have yet to fully acknowledge. Helpfully, the SDF also was not infiltrated by jihadists, which meant it was possible safely deploy combat advisors and forward air controllers alongside them.

Attempts by the U.S. Department of Defense to build a similar partner force out of Syria’s Arab rebels mostly failed. The most capable rebels were already participating in the CIA’s covert arms program and committed to fighting the Assad regime rather than the Islamic State. Many of the remaining rebels available and willing to partner with the United States were refugees who had fled the battlefield.

Deir al-Zour rebels could not be recruited in more than paltry numbers or unified under a single commander. In Syria’s north, the first batch of U.S.-trained rebels to enter the country in 2015 was almost immediately torn apart by Jabhat al-Nusrah. Notably, no other rebel factions intervened to protect them – it was Kurdish-led forces that came to their defense and then sheltered them.

The second batch surrendered its U.S.-supplied weapons to Jabhat al-Nusrah. The Department of Defense counter-Islamic State program was amended to integrate small, Pentagon-trained units capable of calling in U.S. airstrikes into a larger mass of CIA-armed rebels, but even with substantial U.S. air support, rebels proved unable to do more than ping-pong back and forth across the Aleppo countryside until Turkey invaded.

Turkey’s own role inside Aleppo progressively scaled up over the course of Operation Euphrates Shield, until it had committed thousands of regular forces and taken the lead in the battle for the city of al-Bab.

Even then, American and Western officials told me, the Turkish-led capture of al-Bab went poorly enough to push U.S. planners towards alternatives in the battle for al-Raqqa. By the time rebels who had already lost in Syria’s west were appealing for a role in the battles against the Islamic State in Raqqa and Deir al-Zour in 2017, it was too late.

The Long Black Thread, Before and After the Islamic State

The politically convenient timeline for the Islamic State’s incubation inside the Syrian opposition is short. It starts with the Islamic State’s announced entry in April 2013 and ends with its rupture with Syria’s rebels in January 2014, roughly nine months. But this too is a false narrative.

The reality is that the Syrian opposition’s entanglement with the Islamic State and jihadists broadly didn’t start in April 2013, and it didn’t end in January 2014. It’s not a single, bracketed episode. Rather, it is a black thread that’s run through the opposition almost from the start until the present day.

The Islamic State did not just appear from nothing in April 2013. Though it announced itself in 2013, its advance force — Jabhat al-Nusrah — and other future constituent parts were inside Syria and playing an active, leading role in the insurgency from the start of 2012.

And even after the break with the Islamic State, its jihadist derivatives continued to poison the opposition. Again and again, the opposition — and the armed opposition in particular — proved unable to recognize the jihadist threat in their own ranks until it was too late.

From Jabhat al-Nusrah’s first acknowledged operation in Syria — a January 2012 car bomb in Damascus’s al-Meidan neighborhood — and the group’s video debut later that month, it should have been clear that it was either a manifestation of al-Qaeda or something al-Qaeda-like. But as Nusrah pivoted from terrorist bombings to a vanguard role on the battlefield alongside other rebels, it was accepted, only months after its terrorist opening act, as an integral part of the opposition. Important segments of the opposition went from denying al-Qaeda was even in Syria and claiming Nusrah’s early bombings were false flag attacks to closing ranks around an obvious al-Qaeda derivative.

In July of that year, the opposition stormed Aleppo, in their boldest, most ambitious blow against the regime to date. In the aftermath, Jabhat al-Nusrah was one of the four leading Islamist factions that came together in December 2012 to establish the Aleppo Shari’ah Commission, a joint judicial-administrative body to govern the city’s rebel-held east.

When the United States designated Jabhat al-Nusrah a terrorist organization and identified it, correctly, as an alias for al-Qaeda in Iraq, leading voices in Syria’s opposition loudly refused to acknowledge reality. The then-head of the opposition’s political leadership-in-exile said the decision “had to be reconsidered.” The following Friday, opposition activists organized protests across the country under the slogan, “There Is No Terrorism in Syria Except Assad’s.”

It was only the announcement of the Islamic State in April 2013 that obliged Jabhat al-Nusrah — and everyone else — to acknowledge exactly what it was, forcing Nusrah to defensively pledge direct, public allegiance to al-Qaeda (Even then, armed opposition members argued to me, as late as 2016 and 2017, that Jabhat al-Nusrah wasn’t really al-Qaeda).

Between the April 2013 announcement of the Islamic State and the break with ISIL in January 2014, Syria’s rebels coexisted with ISIL and — though it’s true ISIL was never integrated into the mass rebellion the way Jabhat al-Nusrah was — operated alongside them on at least several fronts.

The most prominent instance of rebel-ISIL cooperation was the 2013 capture of Aleppo’s Minagh Airbase, in which an ISIL suicide bomber cleared the way for a joint rebel assault. But rebels also seem to have fought alongside or in parallel with ISIL elsewhere, including in Lattakia, in the northern Damascus countryside, and against Kurdish forces across the Syrian north.

When ISIL began picking off individual half-criminal rebel factions in 2013 — in Aleppo citythe Aleppo countrysideor in Raqqa — other rebels mostly left them to die.

After ISIL was finally run out of Syria’s northwest in 2014 and concentrated in Syria’s east, the northwest became the rebellion’s center of gravity. It also became Jabhat al-Nusrah’s main power base, as the group rallied in the northwest starting in summer 2014.

And when Jabhat al-Nusrah started to eliminate nationalist rivals, not unlike ISIL had, northern rebels again sat on their hands. Northern rebels suffered from the same weaknesses and contradictions that plagued rebels nationwide. They had limited, local horizons. They were divided by faction, geography, and individual personalities. And they had problematic ideological sympathies and interpersonal ties with jihadists.

Altogether, they were incapable of mounting a collective resistance to a predatory Jabhat al-Nusrah. It is unclear how more U.S. support would have fixed that, particularly when the United States started targeting al-Qaeda external operations cells and Nusrah began targeting factions it deemed “Western tools.”

Jabhat al-Nusrah wiped out Jamal Ma’rouf’s ill-reputed Syrian Revolutionaries Front in October 2014, plus an assortment of Ma’rouf-linked factions. Other local factions, including Ahrar al-Sham, either joined in or were quietly complicit.

When CIA-backed Harakat Hazm tried to intervene to slow Nusrah’s campaign on Ma’arouf, Nusrah eliminated Hazm’s Idlib section. After escalating tensions between Nusrah and what was left of Hazm in Aleppo, Hazm defensively joined a larger Islamist faction. But Hazm kept causing problems, so its Islamist patron and other local factions decided Hazm had run its course. In February 2015, they stood aside while Nusrah snuffed it out.

Jabhat al-Nusrah was abetted in liquidating these factions by an ultra-extreme, Islamic State-leaning splinter called Jund al-Aqsa. Nusrah sheltered Jund al-Aqsa as it assassinated other rebels and — as what rebels called “[ISIL’s] Embassy in the North” — ferried would-be foreign fighters from Turkey to the Islamic State’s home base in al-Raqqa.

When Ahrar al-Sham attempted to uproot Jund in late 2016, it suffered heavy losses and accepted a face-saving settlement brokered by Jabhat al-Nusrah. In February 2017, Jabhat al-Nusrah (by then renamed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) finally moved on what was left of Jund al-Aqsa — but, even then, Nusrah “defeated” Jund by giving its fighters safe passage to Islamic State-held Raqqa.

In March 2016, Nusrah broke a locally popular Free Syrian Army faction. In January 2017, it broke several factions that agreed to attend the Astana talks co-sponsored by Turkey, forcing the remaining fragments to join Ahrar al-Sham.

And in July 2017, Nusrah broke Ahrar al-Sham, its sole remaining rival for power in Syria’s northwest. Ahrar had historically been a key ally and enabler of Jabhat al-Nusrah, and it had played a central role in bringing the same extremist foreign fighters into Syria who would later repeatedly betray it.

The dust has yet to fully settle, but it seems as if enough of Ahrar’s local subfactions stuck to their home areas — cutting deals to declare their towns neutral, or only running Nusrah out of their own sectors — that Nusrah was able to overwhelm Ahrar at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. Bab al-Hawa had been Ahrar’s stronghold and its main source of revenue and power. No longer.

The next-biggest rebel factions said they’d send a buffer force to interrupt the fighting around Bab al-Hawa, then didn’t, then blamed each other. One has already endorsed Jabhat al-Nusrah’s planned “civil administration” in the Syrian north.

CIA-backed Free Syrian Army factions played no part in the fighting between Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham, except as a tame buffer force. The CIA had encouraged them to unite to form a counterweight to Jabhat al-Nusrah months earlier. They refused, recognizing, correctly, that Nusrah would view their unification as a menace and destroy them. Instead, they formed a nonthreatening “operations room” meant solely to fight the regime.

From 2012 to 2017, all these rebels continued to coordinate with and fight alongside Jabhat al-Nusrah. And the intra-rebel power dynamic had been inverted in ways outsiders seem to have misapprehended. By some point — certainly from 2015, but probably earlier — most northern rebels were not operating alongside either Jabhat al-Nusrah or Ahrar al-Sham as autonomous peers, but rather as jihadists’ fire support and force-multiplying auxiliaries. Nusrah was also siphoning off these factions’ U.S. material support, either by taking a regular cut or crushing these factions and pillaging their weapon stocks.

Lister has claimed that “[Free Syrian Army] groups who fought [al-Qaeda] were abandoned to lose.” But there’s only so much the United States could do when fragmented, basically local rebels abandoned each other, over and over again.

Flawed, Nationwide

Syria’s northwest — which, as rebels lost more of Aleppo, became increasingly centered on Islamist- and jihadist-dominated Idlib province — has been the most extreme example nationwide of how jihadists have run roughshod over Syria’s opposition. But rebels nationwide suffered from the same flaws, only to lesser degrees. It’s those flaws that, even when they didn’t leave other rebels vulnerable to outright jihadist control, meant they also couldn’t really expunge pernicious extremist actors and tendencies.

The closest thing to an anti-jihadist success story has been the rebel southwest, where Jordan’s tight management of its northern border with Syria and of its local rebel clients seem to have kept Jabhat al-Nusrah from blossoming the way it did in Syria’s north.

“Southern Front” rebels officially renounced cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusrah in 2015, and the group has apparently been kept mostly isolated and small. It also seems to have suffered because of one particularly bloodthirsty, unlikeable Jordanian emir, now since moved elsewhere in the country.

But even in the south, Jabhat al-Nusrah has survived, protected by its members’ local clan ties and their tactical utility to other rebels as shock troops, and it has continued to play a key role on hot fronts. There have been reports that local rebels have told Nusrah to either dissolve itself or leave the south, against the backdrop of the United States and Russia imposing a “de-escalation zone” over the area, but it remains to be seen how convincing rebels are and how willing Nusrah is to be convinced.

Under the de-escalation agreement, southern rebels will likely have to fight the local Islamic State force that stubbornly holds the area’s valley corner and against which they have been unable to mobilize effectively.

The “Euphrates Shield” northern Aleppo countryside is mostly free of Jabhat al-Nusrah because of Nusrah’s 2015 withdrawal from the area, the presence of Turkish forces on the ground, and a geographic accident — this rebel enclave is disconnected from the Nusrah-dominated rebel northwest, and really from anything other than Turkey’s Gaziantep province. Still, there is some reason for concern.

In June, dozens were reportedly killed in intra-rebel clashes that erupted — according to one party to the infighting — after one rogue rebel sub-faction starting chanting Nusrah slogans and then opened fire on residents who objected. And rebels have struggled to deal with continuing Islamic State infiltration. Local rebels told me in interviews that Islamic State cells in this area continue to commit acts of sabotage and carry out bombings.

In the besieged East Ghouta pocket outside Damascus, dominant local Islamist faction Jeish al-Islam eliminated the Islamic State in 2014 and, in 2016, turned its fire on Jabhat al-Nusrah. But that seemed to have as much to do with local factional balancing and economic interests as with anti-jihadist religious doctrine. And the rest of the Ghouta’s factions just balanced back, as Jabhat al-Nusrah opportunistically partnered with a local Free Syrian Army faction against Jeish al-Islam.

In terms of extremist influence and relative moderates’ inability to effectively organize against jihadists, Idlib and the rebel-held northwest have been the worst. But these are not Idlib problems; they are problems with Syria’s revolutionary opposition writ large.

Policy Implosion

This accounting of when Syria’s rebels did and did not resist jihadists is by no means a complete or comprehensive one. If someone wanted to get maximally granular — to dig down to the individual or village level — it’s probably possible to produce unlimited examples of rebels’ tangled-up relationships with jihadists.

The Assad regime itself had a hand in engineering jihadist influence within the opposition. From releasing dangerous jihadist detainees early in the uprising, apparently deliberately, to dumping rebels from elsewhere in the country into jihadist-dominated Idlib, Assad seems to have done everything he could to make his opposition toxic and unpalatable.

But Syria’s rebels themselves never really proved capable of policing themselves and purging their ranks of extremists. And by the time Trump had decided to end the CIA’s covert arms program, the geographic and numerical core of the armed opposition in Syria’s northwest was unsalvageable. It was dominated by factions like Ahrar al-Sham that were problematic, ideologically confused, and incapable of being productive counter-terrorism partners, and by Jabhat al-Nusrah, which is itself a counter-terrorism problem.

That meant rebels were never a really useful implement of U.S. or allied policy. So long as the most powerful factions espoused either Islamist, sectarian-majoritarian chauvinism, or straight black-flag jihadism, rebels could not represent an alternative political vision for a diverse Syria or be used effectively to press for a negotiated end to the conflict. The opposition also could not be a reliable counterterrorism partner, and support for opposition rebels was in fact boosting jihadists militarily and materially.

The conventional wisdom that the Syrian opposition was indispensable for counter-terrorism was a product of sentimentality and addled thinking. In particular, many opposition backers fell into a sort of over-reading of sectarian identity politics. They allowed themselves to be convinced that Syria’s jihadists had to be defeated by a force that looked basically like those jihadists, drawn exclusively from a demographic community defined in jihadists’ own sectarian terms.

One report called for America to stand up “the moderate Sunni Arab resistance needed to defeat the ISIS and al-Qaeda insurgencies,” a “partner by, with, and through which to conduct a population-centric counterinsurgency.” Another set of analysts and activists argued Washington needed to support Syrian opposition “indigenous counter-terrorism forces” in the most simplistic sectarian terms: “This counter-terrorism force needs to be led by moderate Sunni Arab fighters as Syria is a majority Sunni Arab country.”

This uncomplicated sectarian logic meant recommitting to a Syrian opposition force that had demonstrated consistently that it could not challenge jihadists and that, in any case, did not have a monopoly on Sunni Arab representation in Syria. Counting on the Syrian fighting force that, besides the Islamic State itself, was most riddled with jihadists to combat jihadists did not make sense.

And when rebels repeatedly made clear that their priority was fighting the Assad regime instead of jihadists, opposition backers rewrote their own interests and objectives to suit their clients’ needs. They tied themselves up in contortive logical knots to explain how, if they wanted to defeat jihadists, first they had to give the opposition everything it wanted.

These counter-terrorism-appropriate rationales for supporting the opposition should not have been taken seriously. The idea that Free Syrian Army rebels could somehow outcompete jihadists on the battlefield, or that they had to backfill and provide fire support for jihadists just to maintain their own independent relevance, was not real.

The idea that opposition rebels, if delivered to victory or to a negotiated solution on their preferred, victorious terms, would then team with the Syrian military to eliminate their jihadist cousins and comrades-in-arms was similarly unreal. And finally, the idea that if the opposition won, jihadists would just demobilize and rejoin anything like a normal, safe society was also not real.

Take this section of Lister’s policy opus for War on the Rocks, in which he argued for a compulsory ceasefire and political transition imposed at the end of America’s superpower arsenal:

Assuming that the credible introduction of an enforcement mechanism did guarantee a more durable period of calm in Syria, the influence of extremist groups would almost certainly decline after a period of months. As that trend developed, the likelihood for tensions to develop between Syria’s mainstream opposition and extremists alongside them would rise, thereby presenting opportunities to encourage their isolation.

Over an undeterminable period of time, this process could eventually “re-sort” insurgents, whereby all those willing to abide by a continued ceasefire and engage in an eventual political process would become more and more distinguishable from those who would not. It would only be after such a process played out that external military strikes could be considered against those unsalvageable extremists more clearly delineated on the ground.

“An undeterminable period of time” is a Syrian opposition-dictated fantasy, not policy.

There were non-counter-terrorism-related reasons to like and support the Syrian opposition. But as counter-terrorism gradually crowded out America and the West’s other priorities in Syria, the interests of the opposition terminally diverged from those of their Western backers, including the United States.

I don’t blame the opposition for these sorts of rationalizations, although we shouldn’t infantilize them or deny them agency, either. They certainly bear their share of responsibility. Still, as events turned against them, these arguments were all they had left.

I am angry at outsiders who affirmed and repeated these sorts of excuses, and particularly government officials and decision-makers. These people should have known better, and they should have communicated the political realities and consequences of the opposition’s extremist links clearly to their Syrian clients. They did the Syrian opposition, and Syrians broadly, a terrible disservice.

The opposition was not, with time, learning usefully, and its backers were not obliging it to learn. When rebels took Aleppo’s eastern half in summer 2012, lazily disguised Syrian al-Qaeda and other unacceptably hard factions assumed control of its governance. When rebels took Idlib in spring 2015, openly avowed Syrian al-Qaeda and other unacceptably hard factions assumed control of its governance, again.

When rebels broke the siege of Aleppo in summer 2016, it was the same radioactive, jihadist-led coalition that blazed the path. The same patterns kept playing out, only more intense and worse, and still enabled by opposition sponsors.

In retrospect, optimism among rebel backers about the Jeish al-Fateh (Army of Conquest) coalition’s 2015 offensive in Syria’s northwest — channeled by The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, for example — seems to be where the opposition’s backers really worked themselves into peak delusion.

It is mind-boggling that anyone was bullish about the political leverage to be gained from a provincial capital’s fall to a force jointly led by Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda, which then blazed a path south into the regime’s sectarian heartlandmassacring Alawite villagersand featuring their children in hostage videos.

The “al-Fateh” in Jeish al-Fateh literally means “open.” Historically, it connotes a Muslim army’s “opening” of new, non-Muslim lands to Islam. A Sunni-supremacist, foreign fighter-laden “Jeish al-Fateh” — reinforced by U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army factions — rampaging through the minority farming villages of Hama’s Ghab Valley should have been deeply alarming. It certainly seems to have alarmed Russia, which directly and decisively intervened in Syria on behalf of the regime months later.

Opposition backers probably should have figured this out. Instead, they repeated their opposition clients’ rationalizations and superstitions, which conveniently flattered those backers’ own policy preferences and analytical misapprehensions.

The opposition’s state backers and friendly analysts did not take the problem of jihadist infiltration of the opposition seriously. And in part because they coddled the opposition instead of forcing a real, corrective reckoning, things got out of hand.

Ultimately, it fell on Trump to kill U.S. support for Syria’s opposition rebels and to state the obvious: “It turns out it’s — a lot of al-Qaida we’re giving these weapons to,” he told The Wall Street Journal last month.

Opposition backers’ magical thinking helped lead their clients into a dead end. But those foreign opposition boosters can at least disengage and walk away, even if they’ll feel some angst about it. It’s mainly the opposition itself — the admirable parts of it, and some good people who made mistakes — who are going to pay.

Sam Heller is a fellow at The Century Foundation and a Beirut-based writer and analyst focused on Syria. Follow Sam on Twitter: @AbuJamajem.

Note1 : Since January 2017, 700,000 Syrians returned to their hometowns, mostly to Aleppo. Hezbollah kicked out Al Nusra from Lebanon eastern mountain chains and over 8,000 Syrians returned to Syria. The fighters were dispatched to Edleb, Al Nusra fiefdom in north west Syria by Turkey, the main supporter of this faction, along with Qatar.

Note 2: ISIS will be done with within a few months, But Al Nusra (backed by Turkey) will be there in north west Syria by the border.

Note 3: The US is still delaying the defeat of ISIS in Syria and obstructing the Syrian army to liberate all the eastern desert. to reach the Iraq borders.

Trump vs 21 children lawsuit

Momentum is building! Just last week the court shut down Trump’s latest attempt to kill the case. Let’s send the children to trial with a wave of support

The US lawsuit, Juliana et al v. United States, was brought by young people aged 9 to 21 and a group of powerful advocates at Our Children’s Trust.

One lawsuit could stop Trump wrecking our planet. And here’s the kicker — it’s a case brought by 21 children!

After years of battling motions to dismiss their case, a US court ruled that 21 young people suing the US government have a constitutional right to a safe climate. Now, a Federal court will hear their case against the President!

If they win, Trump will be forced to rein in the fossil fuel industry! This case could change everything.

But these are just children. They’ve got a tiny team of great attorneys but don’t have the funds to fight Trump and the oil industry’s fire with fire. So they’ve called on us for help.

Our community has a unique power to raise the funds to back them before they are due in court, and then take the fight global to other courts and countries.

These courageous children and their case could be our best chance to stop Trump’s war on our planet.

If 50,000 of us chip in just a small amount now we can support them and campaign for a safe future —

Trump just declared he is pulling out of the Paris Global Climate Deal. He and his fossil fuel buddies are doing everything they can to block climate action. But they can’t buy the judges.

US judges were the only way to stop Trump’s travel bans. Now the courts could force his hand on climate.

Legal action is already working.

Two years ago, Dutch citizens took their government to court, demanding it cut carbon pollution according to science, and they won the biggest climate case in history.

And the most exciting thing is a legal ruling has a butterfly effect — one case can create a precedent. We could not only take on Trump, we can then move all our governments from words to action, faster.

The US lawsuit, Juliana et al v. United States, was brought by young people aged 9 to 21 and a group of powerful advocates at Our Children’s Trust.

The funds are to support the best legal minds to build the case, collect evidence, make these planetary heroes famous all over the world, campaign and back legal cases worldwide to confront climate obstruction, and even just to pay so all the 21 children and their families can be in court to make their case.

2016 was the hottest year, by far, in recorded history. Our climate is delicate, unstable — the last ice age hit us in just 6 months. It may sound far fetched but these incredible children actually could hold all our futures in their hands.

Our community can do this like no one else. We changed the game with the People’s Climate Marches and fought for the Paris climate agreement that laid out the path to a 100% clean future. Now let’s rise again, to back this David vs Goliath fight, to help save the future for all our people.

With hope and determination,
Alice, Danny, Nick, Camille, Spyro and the whole team at Avaaz

More information:

The Kids Suing the Government Over Climate Change Are Our Best Hope Now (Slate)
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2016/11/the_kids_lawsuit_over_climate_change_is_our_best_hope_now.html

Meet the kids suing the US government for ruining the earth for future generations (Business Insider)
http://www.businessinsider.com/kids-suing-government-for-climate-change-2016-11?IR=T

After Obama, Trump May Face Children Suing Over Global Warming (Bloomberg)
http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-11-11/after-obama-trump-may-face-children-suing-over-global-warming

Landmark U.S. Federal Climate Lawsuit (Our Children’s Trust)
https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/us/federal-lawsuit/

Failed Matt Lauer’s Interview: Trump can Win

Beware of the Brexit referendum: The communities barely visited by journalists (the deep communities)are the ones who will eventually vote against the elite point of view.

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates.

Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists.

I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources.

Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Lauer focused a third of his questioning time on Clinton’s private email server. Her decision to follow Colin Powell’s advice is a legitimate blot on her record.

But Lauer did not move the ball forward on the question in any meaningful way:

The word judgment has been used a lot around you, Secretary Clinton, over the last year and a half. And in particular concerning your use of your personal email and server to communicate while you were secretary of state. You have said it’s a mistake.

You said you made not the best choice.

You were communicating on highly sensitive topics. Why wasn’t it more than a mistake? Why wasn’t it disqualifying, if you want to be commander-in-chief?

Lauer followed up with four more email-related questions.

The impression an uninformed or even moderately informed viewer would receive from this interview is that the email issue represents a sinister crime, perhaps completely disqualifying from office, rather than an unjustifiable but routine act of government non-transparency.

The email exchange would not by itself be so alarming except when viewed in juxtaposition with Lauer’s hapless interview of Trump.

Trump began the interview by boldly insisting, “I was totally against the war in Iraq. You can look at Esquire magazine from 2004. You can look at before that.” This is a lie.

Trump has been quoted supporting the invasion beforehand and even afterward.

Nobody has produced any evidence of Trump contradicting his support for the war before it started. His line to Lauer was transparently ridiculous – how could a 2004 interview supply evidence of having opposed a war that began in 2003?

But Lauer did not try even a single follow-up.

A  case study in journalistic failure.
nymag.com|By Jonathan Chait

Trump went on to make a series of wild and dangerous statements.

He praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong, effective, and popular leader. Lauer did press him on this point, and when he did, Trump offered the astonishing rebuttal, saying President Obama had done equivalently brutish things.

Lauer did not press Trump on his claim that the president of the United States behaves in a fundamentally similar way to a dictator who imprisons and kills political critics and journalists.

Trump likewise reiterated his belief that “to the victor go the spoils” is the proper basis for American foreign policy, specifically with regard to his long-standing lament that the United States failed to steal Iraq’s oil after the 2003 invasion. (But the US did steal the oil and even dumped enormous quantities  of crude oil in valleys that are now condemned)

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Lauer’s attempt to press Trump was the completely ineffectual technique of asking repeatedly if he is ready to serve as commander-in-chief. Lauer probably believes the answer is no, but nothing about this question would drive home Trump’s extraordinary lack of knowledge.

Instead it allowed him to performatively demonstrate his confident, alpha-male reality-show character as a prospective chief executive.

Both of these beliefs stun and appall foreign-policy experts in both parties, as readers of the Washington Post or the New York Times know.

But the average undecided voter isn’t reading those newspapers.

The average undecided voter is getting snippets of news from television personalities like Lauer, who are failing to convey the fact that the election pits a normal politician with normal political failings against an ignorant, bigoted, pathologically dishonest authoritarian.

Update: National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke writes, “Welcome to the Club.”

Cooke’s point is that my dismay at Lauer’s performance contradicts another piece I wrote four years ago, about the liberal influence of Hollywood.

“Now (Chait) believes that pop culture — which is just as shallow and dumb as it’s always been; Lauer is no anomaly — is hurting him and his party. And we can’t have that!,” sneers Cooke.

Cooke’s accusation of hypocrisy suffers from two flaws, each of them fatal.

First, my 2012 essay, which Cooke does not link, does not celebrate liberal influence, it describes it, and indeed argues the conservative critics have reason to feel resentful:

This capacity to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements, may or may not be unfair. What it is undoubtedly is a source of cultural (and hence political) power.

Liberals like to believe that our strength derives solely from the natural concordance of the people, that we represent what most Americans believe, or would believe if Not for the distorting rightward pull of Fox News and the Koch brothers and the rest.

Conservatives surely do benefit from these outposts of power, and most would rather indulge their own populist fantasies than admit it.

But they do have a point about one thing: We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.

Cooke’s notion that I have been hoisted by my own petard implies that Hollywood is my petard, rather than an institution I analyzed critically as a source of liberal propaganda.

Second, the entire focus of that essay was on Hollywood – movies primarily, but also television shows like Modern Family, Glee, and so on.

My criticism of Lauer focused on television news. Those are different things entirely. Did I think morning television or soft-focus feature news has a pronounced liberal bias? No, I don’t think that, I didn’t think that and I didn’t write that.

 

What may happen next with Brexit and Trump?

Brexit is almost done. And Trump?

[note: this essay contains a lot of links out, which are underlined. Consider them further reading or me backing up my opinions]

It seems we’re entering another of those stupid seasons humans impose on themselves at fairly regular intervals. I am sketching out here opinions based on information and they’re intended just to challenge and be part of a wider dialogue.

My background is archaeology, history and anthropology. It leads me to look at big historical patterns.

My theory is that most peoples’ perspective of history is limited to the experience communicated by their parents and grandparents, so 50–100 years. To go beyond that you have to read, study, and learn to untangle the propaganda that is inevitable in all telling of history.

In a nutshell, at university I would fail a paper if I didn’t compare at least two, if not three opposing views on a topic. Taking one telling of events as gospel doesn’t wash in the comparative analytical method of research that forms the core of British academia. (I can’t speak for other systems, but they’re definitely not all alike in this way).

So zooming out, we humans have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self imposed to some extent or another. This handy list shows all the wars over time.

Wars are actually the norm for humans, but every now and then something big comes along. I am interested in the Black Death, which devastated Europe.

Joanna Choukeir Hojeily and Jean Hakim shared a link.
medium.com/@theonlytoby/h…|By Tobias Stone

The opening of Boccaccio’s Decameron describes Florence in the grips of the Plague. It is as beyond imagination as the Somme, Hiroshima, or the Holocaust. I mean, you quite literally can’t put yourself there and imagine what it was like. For those in the midst of the Plague it must have felt like the end of the world. (How classified as war?)

But a defining feature of humans is their resilience. To us now it seems obvious that we survived the Plague, but to people at the time it must have seemed incredible that their society continued afterwards.

Indeed, many takes on the effects of the Black Death are that it had a positive impact in the long term. Well summed up here: “By targeting frail people of all ages, and killing them by the hundreds of thousands within an extremely short period of time, the Black Death might have represented a strong force of natural selection and removed the weakest individuals on a very broad scale within Europe,“  (It harvested very strong people too. Nothing to do with physical weaknesses)

…In addition, the Black Death significantly changed the social structure of some European regions. Tragic depopulation created the shortage of working people. This shortage caused wages to rise. Products prices fell too. Consequently, standards of living increased. For instance, people started to consume more food of higher quality.”

But for the people living through it, as with the World Wars, Soviet Famines, Holocaust, it must have felt inconceivable that humans could rise up from it.

The collapse of the Roman Empire, Black Death, Spanish Inquisition, Thirty Years War, War of the Roses, English Civil War… it’s a long list. Events of massive destruction from which humanity recovered and move on, often in better shape. (Not convincing a reasoning for the better shape conjecture)

At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand.

To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another. During the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme I was struck that it was a direct outcome of the assassination of an Austrian Arch Duke in Bosnia. I very much doubt anyone at the time thought the killing of a minor European royal would lead to the death of 17 million people.

My point is that this is a cycle.

It happens again, but as most people only have a 50–100 year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.

Then after the War to end all Wars, we went and had another one. Again, for a historian it was quite predictable. Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.

That was Hitler, but it was also Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, Mugabe, and so many more. Mugabe is a very good case in point. He whipped up national anger and hatred towards the land owning white minority (who happened to know how to run farms), and seized their land to redistribute to the people, in a great populist move which in the end unravelled the economy and farming industry and left the people in possession of land, but starving.

See also the famines created by the Soviet Union, and the one caused by the Chinese Communists last century in which 20–40 million people died. It seems inconceivable that people could create a situation in which tens of millions of people die without reason, but we do it again and again.

But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versailles, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again.

But as with before, most people cannot see it because:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future

2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally

3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Trump is doing this in America.

Those of us with some oversight from history can see it happening. Read this brilliant, long essay in the New York magazine to understand how Plato described all this, and it is happening just as he predicted. Trump says he will Make America Great Again, when in fact America is currently great, according to pretty well any statistics.

He is using passion, anger, and rhetoric in the same way all his predecessors did — a charismatic narcissist who feeds on the crowd to become ever stronger, creating a cult around himself. You can blame society, politicians, the media, for America getting to the point that it’s ready for Trump, but the bigger historical picture is that history generally plays out the same way each time someone like him becomes the boss.

On a wider stage, zoom out some more, Russia is a dictatorship with a charismatic leader using fear and passion to establish a cult around himself. Turkey is now there too. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia are heading that way, and across Europe more Trumps and Putins are waiting in the wings, in fact funded by Putin, waiting for the popular tide to turn their way.

(As if Russia had amassed enough financial capital to bestow on so many countries. I have the impression this article main purpose is to target Russia as the villain, and totally ignoring the main Evil in US foreign policies)

We should be asking ourselves what our Archduke Ferdinand moment will be. How will an apparently small event trigger another period of massive destruction. We see Brexit, Trump, Putin in isolation. The world does not work that way — all things are connected and affecting each other.

I have pro-Brexit friends who say ‘oh, you’re going to blame that on Brexit too??’ But they don’t realise that actually, yes, historians will trace neat lines from apparently unrelated events back to major political and social shifts like Brexit.

Brexit — a group of angry people winning a fight — easily inspires other groups of angry people to start a similar fight, empowered with the idea that they may win. That alone can trigger chain reactions.

A nuclear explosion is not caused by one atom splitting, but by the impact of the first atom that splits causing multiple other atoms near it to split, and they in turn causing multiple atoms to split. The exponential increase in atoms splitting, and their combined energy is the bomb. That is how World War One started and, ironically how World War Two ended.

An example of how Brexit could lead to a nuclear war could be this: (Oh Oh. This is going too far)

Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum. Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU. The EU, for all its many awful faults, has prevented a war in Europe for longer than ever before.

The EU is also a major force in suppressing Putin’s military ambitions. European sanctions on Russia really hit the economy, and helped temper Russia’s attacks on Ukraine (there is a reason bad guys always want a weaker European Union). Trump wins in the US. Trump becomes isolationist, which weakens NATO. He has already said he would not automatically honour NATO commitments in the face of a Russian attack on the Baltics.

With a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people. He funds far right anti-EU activists in Latvia, who then create a reason for an uprising of the Russian Latvians in the East of the country (the EU border with Russia). Russia sends ‘peace keeping forces’ and ‘aid lorries’ into Latvia, as it did in Georgia, and in Ukraine. He annexes Eastern Latvia as he did Eastern Ukraine (Crimea has the same population as Latvia, by the way).

A divided Europe, with the leaders of France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and others now pro-Russia, anti-EU, and funded by Putin, overrule calls for sanctions or a military response. NATO is slow to respond: Trump does not want America to be involved, and a large part of Europe is indifferent or blocking any action.

Russia, seeing no real resistance to their actions, move further into Latvia, and then into Eastern Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic States declare war on Russia and start to retaliate, as they have now been invaded so have no choice. Half of Europe sides with them, a few countries remain neutral, and a few side with Russia. Where does Turkey stand on this? How does ISIS respond to a new war in Europe? Who uses a nuclear weapon first? (The USA will re-use the A-bomb first again: It has the habit and the hand)

This is just one Arch Duke Ferdinand scenario. The number of possible scenarios are infinite due to the massive complexity of the many moving parts. And of course many of them lead to nothing happening.

But based on history we are due another period of destruction, and based on history all the indicators are that we are entering one. (The world had been in wars for the last 60 years: the frequency of pre-emptive wars and manufactured civil wars surpassed the number of all wars since antiquity)

It will come in ways we can’t see coming, and will spin out of control so fast people won’t be able to stop it. Historians will look back and make sense of it all and wonder how we could all have been so naïve. How could I sit in a nice café in London, writing this, without wanting to run away.

How could people read it and make sarcastic and dismissive comments about how pro-Remain people should stop whining, and how we shouldn’t blame everything on Brexit. Others will read this and sneer at me for saying America is in great shape, that Trump is a possible future Hitler (and yes, Godwin’s Law. But my comparison is to another narcissistic, charismatic leader fanning flames of hatred until things spiral out of control).

It’s easy to jump to conclusions that oppose pessimistic predictions based on the weight of history and learning. Trump won against the other Republicans in debates by countering their claims by calling them names and dismissing them. It’s an easy route but the wrong one.

Ignoring and mocking the experts , as people are doing around Brexit and Trump’s campaign, is no different to ignoring a doctor who tells you to stop smoking, and then finding later you’ve developed incurable cancer. A little thing leads to an unstoppable destruction that could have been prevented if you’d listened and thought a bit. But people smoke, and people die from it. That is the way of the human.

So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase.  (Have we ever entered a good phase?)

It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover, and move on.

The human race will be fine, changed, maybe better. But for those at the sharp end — for the thousands of Turkish teachers who just got fired, for the Turkish journalists and lawyers in prison, for the Russian dissidents in gulags, for people lying wounded in French hospitals after terrorist attacks, for those yet to fall, this will be their Somme. (What? Not a word about the million refugees? About the thousands dying in civil wars and famine?…)

What can we do? Well, again, looking back, probably not much. The liberal intellectuals are always in the minority. See Clay Shirky’s Twitter Storm on this point. The people who see that open societies, being nice to other people, not being racist, not fighting wars, is a better way to live, they generally end up losing these fights. They don’t fight dirty. They are terrible at appealing to the populace. They are less violent, so end up in prisons, camps, and graves.

(What the author is suggesting again to avoid calamities? Very confused. A pack of conjectures Not related to the subject matter)

We need to beware not to become divided (see: Labour party), we need to avoid getting lost in arguing through facts and logic, and counter the populist messages of passion and anger with our own similar messages. We need to understand and use social media. We need to harness a different fear.

Fear of another World War nearly stopped World War 2, but didn’t. We need to avoid our own echo chambers. Trump and Putin supporters don’t read the Guardian, so writing there is just reassuring our friends. We need to find a way to bridge from our closed groups to other closed groups, try to cross the ever widening social divides.

Revenge of the Simple:

How George W. Bush Gave Rise to Trump

By Matt Taibbi

To hear GOP insiders tell it, Doomsday is here. If Donald Trump scores huge on tonight and seizes control of the nomination in the Super Tuesday primaries, it will mark the beginning of the end of the Republican Party, and perhaps the presidency.

But Trump isn’t the beginning of the end. George W. Bush was.

The amazing anti-miracle of the Bush presidency is what makes today’s nightmare possible.

People forget what an extraordinary thing it was that Bush was president. Dubya wasn’t merely ignorant when compared with other politicians or other famous people. No, he would have stood out as dumb in just about any setting.

If you could somehow run simulations where Bush was repeatedly shipwrecked on a desert island with 20 other adults chosen at random, he would be the last person listened to by the group every single time.

He knew absolutely nothing about anything. He wouldn’t have been able to make fire, find water, build shelter or raise morale. It would have taken him days to get over the shock of no room service.

Bush went to the best schools but was totally ignorant of history, philosophy, science, geography, languages and the arts.

Asked by a child in South Carolina in 1999 what his favorite book had been growing up, Bush replied, “I can’t remember any specific books.”

Bush showed no interest in learning and angrily rejected the idea that a president ought to be able to think his way through problems.

As Mark Crispin Miller wrote in The Bush Dyslexicon, Bush’s main rhetorical tool was the tautology — i.e., saying the same thing, only twice.

“It’s very important for folks to understand that when there’s more trade, there’s more commerce” was a classic Bush formulation. “Our nation must come together to unite” was another.

One of my favorite tautologies was: “I understand that the unrest in the Middle East creates unrest throughout the region.”

Academics and political junkies alike giddily compiled these “Bushisms” along with others that were funny for different reasons (“I’m doing what I think what’s wrong,” for instance).

But Bush’s tautologies weren’t gaffes or verbal slips. They just represented the limits of his reasoning powers: A = A.

There are educational apps that use groups of images to teach two-year-olds to recognize that an orange is like an orange while a banana is a banana. Bush was stalled at that developmental moment. And we elected him president.

Bush’s eight years were like the reigns of a thousand overwhelmed congenital monarchs from centuries past. While the prince rode horses, romped with governesses and blew the national treasure on britches or hedge-mazes, the state was run by Svengalis and Rasputins who dealt with what Bush once derisively described as “what’s happening in the world.”

In Bush’s case he had Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove thinking out the problem of how to get re-elected, while Dick “Vice” Cheney, Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld and Andrew “Tangent Man” Card took care of the day-to-day affairs of the country (part of Card’s responsibilities involved telling Bush what was in the newspapers he refused to read).

It took hundreds of millions of dollars and huge armies of such behind-the-throne puppet-masters to twice (well, maybe twice) sell a voting majority on the delusion of George Bush, president.

Though people might quibble with the results, the scale of this as a purely political achievement was awesome and heroic, comparable to a moon landing or the splitting of the atom.

Guiding Bush the younger through eight years of public appearances was surely the greatest coaching job in history. It was like teaching a donkey to play the Waldstein Sonata. It’s breathtaking to think about now.

But one part of it backfired. Instead of using an actor like Reagan to sell policies to the public, the Svengalis behind Bush sold him as an authentic man of the people, the guy you’d want to have an O’Doul’s with.

Rove correctly guessed that a generation of watching TV and Hollywood movies left huge blocs of Americans convinced that people who read books, looked at paintings and cared about spelling were either serial killers or scheming to steal bearer bonds from the Nakatomi building. (Even knowing what a bearer bond is was villainous).

The hero in American culture, meanwhile, was always a moron with a big gun who learned everything he needed to know from cowboy movies.

The climax of pretty much every action movie from the mid-eighties on involved shotgunning the smarty-pants villain in the face before he could finish some fruity speech about whatever.

Rove sold Bush as that hero. He didn’t know anything, but dammit, he was sure about what he didn’t know.

He was John McClane, and Al Gore was Hans Gruber.

GOP flacks like Rove rallied the whole press corps around that narrative, to the point where anytime Gore tried to nail Bush down on a point of policy, pundits blasted him for being a smug know-it-all using wonk-ese to talk over our heads — as Cokie Roberts put it once, “this guy from Washington doing Washington-speak.”

This is like the scene from the increasingly prophetic Idiocracy where no one can understand Luke Wilson, a person of average intelligence rocketed 500 years into America’s idiot future, because whenever he tries to reason with people, they think he’s talking “like a fag.”

The Roves of the world used Bush’s simplicity to win the White House. Once they got there, they used the levers of power to pillage and scheme like every other gang of rapacious politicians ever. But the plan was never to make ignorance a political principle. It was just a ruse to win office.

Now the situation is the opposite.

Now GOP insiders are frantic at the prospect of an uncultured ignoramus winning the presidency. A group of major donors and GOP strategists even wrote out a memo outlining why a super PAC dedicated to stopping Trump was needed.

“We want voters to imagine Donald Trump in the Big Chair in the Oval Office, with responsibilities for worldwide confrontation at his fingertips,” they wrote. Virginia Republican congressman Scott Ringell wrote an open letter to fellow Republicans arguing that a Trump presidency would be “reckless, embarrassing and ultimately dangerous.”

Hold on. It wasn’t scary to imagine George “Is our children learning?” Bush with the “responsibilities for worldwide confrontation” at his fingertips?

It wasn’t embarrassing to have a president represent the U.S. on the diplomatic stage who called people from Kosovo “Kosovians” and people from Greece “Grecians?”

It was way worse. Compared to Bush, Donald Trump is a Rutherford or an Einstein.

 In the same shipwreck scenario, Trump would have all sorts of ideas — all wrong, but at least he’d think of something, instead of staring at the sand waiting for a hotel phone to rise out of it.

Of course, Trump’s ignorance level, considering his Wharton education, is nearly as awesome as what Bush accomplished in spite of Yale.

In fact, unlike Bush, who had the decency to not even try to understand the news, Trump reads all sorts of crazy things and believes them all.

From theories about vaccines causing autism to conspiratorial questions about the pillow on Antonin Scalia’s face to Internet legends about Americans using bullets dipped in pigs’ blood to shoot Muslims, there isn’t any absurd idea Donald Trump isn’t willing to entertain, so long as it fits in with his worldview.

But Washington is freaking out about Trump in a way they never did about Bush. Why? Because Bush was their moron, while Trump is his own moron. That’s really what it comes down to.

And all of the Beltway’s hooting and hollering about how “embarrassing” and “dangerous” Trump is will fall on deaf ears, because as gullible as Americans can be, they’re smart enough to remember being told that it was OK to vote for George Bush, a man capable of losing at tic-tac-toe.

We’re about to enter a dark period in the history of the American experiment.

The Founding Fathers never imagined an electorate raised on Toddlers and Tiaras and Temptation Island.

Remember, just a few decades ago, shows like Married With Children and Roseanne were satirical parodies. Now the audience can’t even handle that much irony. A lot of American culture is just dumb slobs cheering on other dumb slobs.

It was inevitable, once we broke the seal with Bush, that our politics would become the same thing.

Madison and Jefferson never foresaw this situation. They knew there was danger of demagoguery, but they never imagined presidential candidates exchanging “mine’s bigger than yours” jokes or doing “let’s laugh at the disabled” routines.

There’s no map in the Constitution to tell us how to get out of where we’re going. All we can do now is hold on.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/revenge-of-the-simple-how-george-w-bush-gave-rise-to-trump-20160301#ixzz42JkoWfkh
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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