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Expanding the Travel Ban to Africans is an Election Ploy – posted 2/15/2020

February 15, 2020 Leave a comment

In a little-noticed move, the Trump Administration expanded its contested travel ban to six new countries. Under the new ban, nationals of Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgystan will not be able to get visas to live and work in the U.S..

Nationals of Sudan and Tanzania will not be able to participate in the diversity visa lottery program, a program that issues up to 50,000 visas a year from nations that send few immigrants to the U.S..

The ban is expected to affect more than 350 million people, close to one-quarter of the 1.2 billion people living in Africa. Nigeria alone has a population of over 190 million people. The new ban takes effect on February 22.

When Trump initiated the original travel ban in January 2017, popularly known as the Muslim ban, it is worth recalling that he said it was a temporary measure until “they figured out what the hell was going on”.

So you have to ask, why has it not been temporary and why is the list of countries expanding? Why is Nigeria on the list, which has the sixth-largest Christian population in the world?

I think it is a blatant appeal to racism and xenophobia. In an election year it is about throwing red meat to the white supremacists and run-of-the-mill racists who populate part of Trump’s base.

Have any Africans been doing anything that threatens Americans on the home front lately or even in the last ten years? The answer is “no”.

Between 1975-2016, not a single person born in Nigeria, Eritrea, Tanzania, or Sudan killed any American in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The same is also true for Myanmar.

Because of the existence of Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria, there is some impression of a possible threat. However, this threat is to the Nigerian state, not the U.S. homeland.

Part of the Trump re-election strategy is to point the finger of blame at immigrants. Needing a group Trump can demagogue about, Africans join Mexican rapists, Central American drug gangs, and caravans of refugees. Facts and honesty are of no consequence. Whatever serves scare-mongering is the agenda. Africans become part of the cavalcade of fantasy suspects who might take jobs from “real Americans”.

Trump’s version of making America great again is about keeping foreigners out, building a wall, saying, in effect, America for Americans. The pitch is a ploy to fear of the stranger, especially of the dark-skinned variety. At the same time, Trump postures as a friend of workers and as someone who can speak the language of the common people.

Trump gets to define who is an American and who is an alien. Race has long been a major factor in separating those who supposedly qualify as legitimate Americans and those who remain suspect.

This is not the first time there has been an African immigration ban. The 1924 immigration act also discriminated against immigrants from Africa. In that era, immigration restrictions based on race were celebrated. Africa’s visas were set at the minimal level of 100 a year.

In the 1920’s, immigration policy and law-making were heavily influenced by the famed eugenicist, Madison Grant, who was a racist and an anti-semite. In his book, The Passing of the Great Race, Grant argued Nordic superiority and he opposed interracial mixing. Grant was a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt and he was not an isolated voice favoring racism and xenophobia. He was mainstream, just one of many with similar views.

No longer do you hear talk of racial purity but earlier generations of immigration restrictionists supported Jim Crow segregation and the exclusion of Africans, Asians, Jews and Mexicans from eligibility for citizenship.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court gave Trump an assist when it upheld the third version of his travel ban in the case of Hawaii v. Trump. In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the President had authority, in the interests of national security, to suspend entry of any class of aliens.

Interestingly, in her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor invoked the similarity between the Muslim ban and the Japanese-American internment. Both cases featured an ill-defined threat to national security.

The Trump Administration is again using national security as the rationale for the Africa ban. They are saying that five of the countries on the list fail to comply with information-sharing requirements so that foreign nationals can be properly vetted for entry into the country.

Trump’s own words belie the national security rationale. When discussing immigration from African countries with a group of senators, Trump asked why America would want immigrants from “all these shithole countries” and said the U.S. should get more people from countries like Norway. He also said, when discussing issuance of visas from Nigeria, that once Nigerians had seen the U.S., they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

I think the African ban needs to be seen in the context of our longstanding xenophobia which has been a constant thread in American history. There have really been two competing threads since our early history. The “we are a nation of immigrants” thread which is welcoming and the racist xenophobic thread which is the opposite.

Americans have a history of being wary of almost every group of foreigners who have come to the United States. Germans, Irish, Chinese, Italians, Jews, Japanese, Mexicans, and Muslims have all been labeled threatening.

Now come Africans and Burmese. Trump’’s xenophobic and racist pitch is in keeping with our historic worst impulses. It should be remembered that the Rohingya Muslim people have been facing the possibility of genocide. Myanmar security forces have been carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against them. Now is a bad time to be closing the immigration door. On a smaller scale, it is reminiscent of past errors when we kept out victims of genocide.

One day, as with the Japanese-American internment, the current effort to use immigration policy to further a racial agenda will again be found to be unconstitutional. It is tragic to see a bad pattern in American history repeating.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Abortion is not like slavery or the Holocaust – posted 2/1/2020

February 2, 2020 1 comment

Probably readers saw the recent story about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, comparing the abortion rights debate to the struggle to end slavery. As a partisan of the anti-choice side, DeVos compared the choice to have an abortion with the choice to own slaves.

Speaking at the Colorado Christian University on January 22, Secretary DeVos said:

“Lincoln contended with the pro-choice arguments of his day. They suggested that a state’s choice to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it. Well, President Lincoln reminded those pro-choicers that a vast portion of the American people do not look upon that matter as being this very little thing. They look upon it as a vast moral evil.”

DeVos is certainly not the first to make this argument. The anti-abortion movement has long seen itself as fighting for the rights of a voiceless, marginalized group. I recall Ben Carson, when he ran for President, comparing abortion to slavery. He had compared women who have abortions to slavemasters.

It is routine to see Roe v Wade compared to Dred Scott, the Supreme Court decision that upheld slavery.

Also, the anti-abortion movement has often compared abortion to the Holocaust. For example, just this last year, Alabama’s newly-passed abortion ban explicitly compared abortion to the Holocaust.

While political movements often use historical analogies, the comparison of abortion with slavery and the Holocaust is a non-starter. And it is not just the obvious difficulty of comparing the experience of an unborn child to that of a slave or a Holocaust victim.

Slavery was, in part, a slave-breeding industry. Slaveowners saw their laborers as breeding stock. Slaveowners expected their female slaves to produce marketable children. More slaves equaled more money for the slaveowners.

Slavery was all about reproductive coercion. As Imani Gandy has written:

“If you think about it, the claim that abortion is like slavery is exactly backwards. I’m not a fan of comparing anything to slavery that is not slavery, but I’m fairly certain that we can all agree that slaveowners systematically forced Black women to give birth.”

Those comparing slavery and abortion are not looking at what actually happened during slavery. The historians Ned and Constance Sublette show that breeding was an obsession for Southern men of property. Slavery was a license for libertine behavior and sexual violence against slaves was a norm. The Sublettes write:

“The girl who tried to refuse being bred might be beaten, and in the end, the girl who wasn’t a “good breeder” could expect to be sold South, which was commonly understood to be the worst thing that could happen. There she would work among strangers under an overseer’s lash in the cotton fields, or finish her life after a few years on one of Louisiana’s sugar plantations.”

Home remedies for contraception and abortion were a form of resistance for Black women who were subject to rape and sexual violence by slaveowners. Slaveowners wanted babies for profit. The more babies produced, the more money made. Selling slaves was a big part of the profitability of slavery.

The anti-abortion movement misses how preventing birth and avoiding bringing children into a horrible world was the real opposition to slavery. Black women knew their children would be forced to live as chattel.

More generally, the anti-abortion movement trivializes and devalues the harm of slavery. Slavery went on for centuries and its residual effects still shape our world. It was a permanent, lifelong condition, not temporary, like pregnancy. The harm alleged by the anti-abortion movement about women who have abortions is a nullity. It is speculation about potential life, not lived life. There is an incongruity in comparing the historical experience of slaves to an unknown.

I think that same thing is true for comparisons with the Holocaust. The death of six million Jewish people (and millions more if you count all the victims) who were living their lives is vastly different than concepts about lives the might have been but never were.

The Holocaust was about extermination of Jews because of a vicious hatred, anti-semitism. Even if opponents of abortion intensely dislike the choice made by women who decide to have abortions, abortion is about a personal, individual choice made by a woman in consultation with her doctor.

There are many different reasons why a woman might choose to have an abortion. It could be because of an inability to care for a child, danger to the health of the mother or health issues with the fetus. It could also be because the woman was a victim of rape or incest. In none of these circumstances is the choice about hatred.

Unlike abortion, which is about an individual choice compelled by circumstances, the Holocaust was a state-enforced series of genocidal policies designed to eradicate groups of people. The moving party was the German Nazi government enforcing and institutionalizing mass murder based on hate.

As a Jewish person, I find the appropriation of the Holocaust by the anti-abortion movement offensive. As with slavery, there is a difference between real life suffering and an intellectual construction. I would note that Jewish law allows abortion, believing that life starts at birth and that a mother’s life should never be sacrificed to save a fetus.

It is also hard for me to forget the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian by an anti-abortion fanatic. Dr. Slepian was an abortion provider in Buffalo, New York. He also happened to be Jewish. Dr. Slepian was shot in the back through a window in his kitchen after he returned from Friday night services.

There is something terribly wrong with invoking the Holocaust to strip women of their fundamental right to bodily autonomy.

DeVos was also wrong that a “vast portion of the American people” considered slavery wrong before the Civil War. Abolitionists did not gain much support until the 1840’s and 1850’s and even then they were still a minority. When Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, Southern whites and most Northerners still supported slavery and white supremacy and saw Black people as inferior.

While I understand why the anti-abortion movement would want to align with great moral movements, abortion is nothing like slavery or the Holocaust. Those analogies fail.

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Assassination is a legal and moral abyss – posted 1/19/2020

January 19, 2020 Leave a comment

President Donald Trump’s disrespect for the law has never been on greater display than in the state-sponsored murder of Qassim Soleimani. Soleimani was a high ranking official of the Iranian government. He was de facto the second highest ranking official of Iran.

The U.S. military killed Soleimani in a drone strike carried out on January 3.

While not an exact comparison, Soleimani held a position in Iran equivalent to Vice President Mike Pence or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was not a rogue terrorist or even someone like Osama Bin Laden. While he had plenty of blood on his hands, that does not change the fact Soleimani, as an Iranian military commander, was a high-level state actor.

You might not know it from much of the media coverage of the event but political assassinations like the hit on Soleimani are against the law. There is a legal ban on assassinations.

The ban on assassinations goes back to the 1970’s. In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed an Executive Order banning “political assassinations”. This came in the aftermath of the Church Committee investigation which revealed the the CIA had attempted to kill a number of foreign leaders, including Fidel Castro.

President Carter strengthened the assassination ban in his own Executive Order by extending it to include “persons employed by or acting on behalf of the United States”.

In 1981, President Reagan issued a new Executive Order which remains the law of the land today. Executive Order 12333 states:

“No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

In addition to the Executive Orders, assassination runs afoul of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the federal constitution and well-established international law including the 1907 Hague Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Unfortunately, since the 1990’s there has been a long pattern of skirting the assassination ban when targets have been classified as under the umbrella of terrorism. This has gone on with both Republicans and Democrats. The U.S. Congress has never legislated the issue of assassination. The journalist James Risen explains the evolution this way:

“”…the reform-minded 1970’s now seem quaint in a nation whose greatest military innovation in the 21st century has been the targeted killing of individuals by remote control.”

Risen writes that the explosion of technology – new aviation, missile guidance and surveillance monitoring – has been an irresistible lure for both parties’ political leaders. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have developed kill lists. They can always count on compliant government lawyers who issue secret legal opinions that justify their killings. This has been true with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama and Trump.

I think Obama pioneered the way for Trump with his drone-based killings of individuals deemed a threat to national security.

Under current law, Trump had no right to order the killing of one of the highest-ranking military leaders of a foreign state with which the U.S. was not at war. While Trump had campaigned on an attitude of belligerence toward Iran and opposition to the nuclear deal made by Obama, as a matter of international law, the United States has not been engaged in an ongoing armed conflict with Iran.

There is no justification for assassinating foreign officials, including Soleimani. Regardless of his changing litany of self-justifying reasons, Trump’s ordered-murder was an aggressive act of war. Imagine if Iran had assassinated Vice-President Pence. I think it is fair to say the reaction would have been extreme. The murder of Soleimani was extremely provocative unless your goal is to get into a war.

There was initially some effort made by Trump Administration officials to say that Soleimani’s killing prevented imminent attack on American interests. In his most recent explanations for the murder, Trump himself undermined the idea that Soleimani posed an imminent threat to U.S. interests or embassies.

According to audio obtained by CNN and the Washington Post, on January 17 Trump told his campaign donors at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Soleimani “was saying bad things about our country”. Earlier in the week, Trump tweeted “it doesn’t really matter” whether Soleimani posed an imminent threat to the United States “because of his horrible past”.

Ironically, Soleimani was widely credited with majorly contributing to the defeat of ISIS in Iraq.

In his essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote that political speech and writing are “largely the defense of the indefensible”. Orwell said political language “..is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”.

You can call it an “extrajudicial execution” or a “targeted killing” or some other euphemism but murder remains murder. It is a violation of the human right to life enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United States ratified this human rights covenant in 1992. It is a party to the covenant

Assassination can be a two way street. The murder of Soleimani sets a dangerous precedent. Other states may decide to follow our example. Reducing the taboo on assassination could produce blowback.

It is little known but Congress could have taken steps to prevent actions like the Soleimani assassination. In 2019, California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have prohibited offensive actions like the Soleimani assassination. Congress removed Khanna’s amendment from the final bill.

Along with Republicans, too many Democrats have given Trump a blank check on military action. There should be Congressional investigation into the ever-changing, shallow justifications offered by the Trump Administration to support the Soleimani assassination. They have needlessly and recklessly brought us to the brink of war.

We were misled into Vietnam and Iraq by lies. Now another administration is lying about imminent threats posed by a Middle Eastern country. We have traveled this road before and the results have not just been tragic, they have been horrifying.

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A war with Iran would be even more foolish than the war with Iraq – posted 1/9/2020

January 10, 2020 Leave a comment

On January 5, the Iraqi Parliament voted to end the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil. This vote was in response to the Trump Administration’s assassination of the Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani. About 5000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq.

The Iraqi Parliament’s request for U.S. troops to leave seems to me a marker and an opportunity to critically evaluate that war. It has been 17 years since Americans invited themselves into Iraq. I wanted to look at reasons given for why the war was fought as well as outcomes.

Iraq was the bait-and-switch war. Al Qaeda in 2001 operated out of Afghanistan but we somehow had to fight in Iraq. Everyone now knows the reasons originally given by the U.S. government to justify the Iraq war were false. Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. There was no Iraqi connection to Al Qaeda.

Still, the U.S. war in Iraq has persisted. The costs have not been insignificant. At an approximately three trillion dollar price tag, 4550 U.S. soldiers have died and 3,793 U.S. contractors. The estimate for Iraqi deaths is in the 200,000 range.

I do not see this war as an example of good intentions gone awry. It was more a crime against humanity. President George W. Bush and his colleagues used the panic created by the events of 9/11 to indulge in wishful thinking. We would be welcomed as liberators. Iraq would be a cake walk.

This was the fantasy spun by the neo-conservatives surrounding Bush. With zero understanding of Iraqi society, they believed with Saddam Hussein gone, Iraq would become a model democracy and a compliant U.S. ally.

The group of neo-conservatives surrounding Bush played a pivotal role in pushing the U.S. intervention. However, the neo-con focus was on getting to Baghdad – not on what to do once Baghdad was captured. Cluelessness competed with greed after the invasion. Who can forget the arrogance and hubris of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle and the whole collection of neo-cons who engineered the invasion. They believed their own fantasies.

Magical thinking dominated. It is easy to focus on the incompetence but Bush and his lieutenants seriously believed the war would be easy.

I find some other explanations for why the Iraqi war was fought less persuasive. Oil and its pursuit are always mentioned but I do not see it as a primary reason. I know Trump has said, “Why don’t we simply take their oil?” but since the invasion in 2003, more oil concessions have gone to Norway, France, China, and Russia. Of 11 contracts Iraq has signed, only one went to a U.S. company, Exxon Mobil.

Another explanation is that the war was fought to expand U.S. global dominance. This explanation ignores the conflict inside the U.S. foreign policy establishment at the time of the invasion. The old foreign policy establishment reflected in figures like Brent Scowcroft and James Baker opposed the war. They clung to a more realpolitick view, dubious of easy victories.

One notable outcome of the war was the emergence of ISIS which formed in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion and occupation. Without the U.S. invasion, there was no ISIS.

Another outcome was the public re-emergence of torture, especially at Abu Ghraib prison. Army regulations and the Geneva Conventions were routinely violated. In 2004, photos emerged showing prisoners on leashes and bodies piled atop each other in a pyramid. Ignoring law, Trump has called for bringing back widely denounced torture techniques like waterboarding.

It is not clear that anything positive has come out of the war. The internal Sunni/Shia division remains as prominent as ever. Saddam is gone but 2.7 million Iraqis have been displaced. Over 1.5 million U.S. servicemen and women have cycled through Iraq with many multiple deployments.

The Iraq war has produced a generation of traumatized veterans. The amount of PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and major depression is incalculable. The wounds generated by IED’s are gruesome. Loss of legs, fingers, hands and arms have been common. There are also smashed genitals.

Part of the post-war picture is soldier suicide. Last September, the Department of Veteran Affairs reported that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017. That is an average of 6,000 veterans dying annually (about 20 suicides per day) and the data shows that the suicide rate is increasing. Firearms were the method of suicide in 70.7% of male veteran suicide deaths and 42.2% of female veteran suicide deaths in 2017.

Surprisingly, in spite of this disastrous history, many of the same voices that pushed for war with Iraq are now pushing for war with Iran.

Former New York Times writer Judith Miller, George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer and political operative Karl Rove have all been out there, beating the war drum. They are joined by Fox News Trump mouthpiece Sean Hannity who has suggested the U.S. should bomb Iranian oil refineries and Trump insiders like Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo. I also should mention former Trump national security advisor, John Bolton, a well-known Iran war hawk, who cheered the Soleimani assassination.

Talk about a pointless war. These warmongers must concoct pretexts for aggression. There is no justification for any war with Iran. As I recall, it is the Trump Administration which recklessly withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal that many observers believed was working. Depicting Iran as the greatest threat toward peace is nonsense.

Those with even a rudimentary knowledge of Middle East history should recall that the United States overthrew the Iranian government led by Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953 and placed the Shah in power. Iran’s 1979 revolution was a response to our imperialism. The Shah was a widely reviled dictator who was a U.S. puppet.

Here in the United States we are in desperate need of an antiwar movement. There are multiple reasons a war against Iran makes little sense. Besides the lack of rationale for such a war, Iran is a far more formidable foe than Iraq ever was. Iran has three times the number of people Iraq did in 2003 and it is about three and a half times as big.

Iran is far more fortified than Iraq ever was and its geography has been difficult for invaders. A conflict could lead to thousands or hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded. Millions of refugees would likely be seeking an escape from the war zone. The possibilities are hellish. The potential for destabilization of the whole region exists.

It is worth thinking about how ISIS emerged from the ashes of the U.S. invasion in Iraq. The aftermath of an Iran war could birth ISIS equivalents or worse. Desperation in the context of a power vacuum typically ends badly.

The experience of the Iraq war dictates heavily against any more Middle Eastern wars and especially against American involvement. The American people are again being sold lies minimizing the risks and danger of a war. It is late to be going along with more neo-con magical thinking.

I am reminded of the Vietnam Syndrome. Ever since the Vietnam war, American presidents have worried about public aversion to our overseas military adventures. We could use a rebirth of that syndrome right now.

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Happy 2020 Everyone! – posted 1/1/2020

January 1, 2020 1 comment
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The Afghanistan Papers Expose a History Of Lies – posted 12/28/2019

December 28, 2019 Leave a comment

During this primary season, foreign policy has been superficially discussed. With so many pressing domestic concerns, it is understandable. Still, foreign policy matters and the newly exposed Afghanistan Papers show why.

The American people have been systematically lied to for 18 years by our civilian and military leaders. We have been sold a false narrative of progress in Afghanistan. Even worse, our leaders have known that narrative was false but they have persisted with the lies.

The Washington Post recently reported on over 2000 pages of confidential government documents now in its possession about the war in Afghanistan. The documents include previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The Post won release of these documents, now known as the Afghanistan Papers, through a three year legal battle they fought under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents the Post exposed come from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, also known as SIGAR, a federal agency created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone. In 2014, SIGAR launched a Lessons Learned project meant to diagnose policy failures in Afghanistan. The Lessons Learned staff interviewed over 600 people with firsthand experience in the war.

The Post began seeking the Lessons Learned interviews in 2016. SIGAR refused disclosure, saying the documents were privileged. The Post then sued SIGAR in federal court to compel the release of documents.

SIGAR has now released the transcripts from 428 of the interviews as part of the 2000 pages released. This was before a court decision which is still pending in the federal court in Washington, DC.

The Afghanistan Papers show that the United States government officials have never had a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan. Douglas Lute, a three-star Army General who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015:

“What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

There are good reasons Afghanistan has been called “the graveyard of empires” and the Learned Lesson interviews are illustrative. Our war fighting strategies were fatally flawed. Enormous sums of money were wasted trying to rebuild Afghanistan. The attempt to curtail runaway Afghan corruption failed as has the effort to build a competent Afghan army and police.

The Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani governments have been kleptocracies. The U.S. government threw vast sums of money their way and then acted surprised that corruption delegitimized their regimes. The Obama Administration essentially ignored Karzai ballot-stuffing his way to re-election in 2009.

I am not sure which regime was more corrupt, the old South Vietnamese government or our current Afghan partners, but both lacked legitimacy in the eyes of their respective masses. There was never a chance of winning hearts and minds.

All along, U.S. military commanders have struggled to articulate any clear rationale for why our troops were in Afghanistan. Craig Whitlock, a reporter from the Post put it this way:

“Was Al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadis, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll? According to the documents, the U.S. government never settled on an answer.”

It has been impossible for U.S. troops to know who was a friend and who was a foe.

The cost has been astronomical. Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of these, 2300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action. In the 18 years of the war, Neta Crawford, a professor at Brown University, calculated, with an inflation adjustment, that the Defense Department, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion.

During the 18 years of the Afghanistan War, U.S. government officials, both civilian and military, have argued the war is going well, no matter the real battlefield situation. This has been equally true under George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump. Instead of any honest accounting, we have gotten rosy pronouncements they knew were false while they hid evidence the war was unwinnable.

John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, acknowledged to the Post that the documents show “the American people have consistently been lied to”.

Since the Afghanistan Papers were published, they have been compared to the Pentagon Papers and the comparison is valid. Both expose official lying. Both wars were and are quagmires with Afghanistan an even longer quagmire than Vietnam.

The problem though, as I see it, is that critical analysis stops there. Why the repetition compulsion with war? I agree with those who see the decision to invade Afghanistan as an essentially irrational, emotional response aimed at satisfying the collective psychological need for revenge for the 9/11 attacks.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats have critically evaluated this failure. The Trump Administration had promised to extricate the U.S. from Middle Eastern wars but they remain as sucked in as Bush and Obama were. Since early 2019, the U.S. has deployed roughly 14,000 more troops to the region.  This is a reversal of Trump’s promise to extricate.  Trump is now considering sending thousands more troops to the region to. counter the alleged threat from Iran.

For a long time, there has been a mistaken tendency to see Afghanistan as the good war and Iraq as the dumb war.

At a deeper level, we should be examining the endless billions of dollars spent on military adventures built on lies. The American people have meekly submitted to this military overreach for years. The Pentagon asks, both political parties oblige. We have given a blank check to the military with no critical evaluation of results achieved.

It is hard to imagine any president or Congress standing up to the powerful vested interests of the Pentagon, the secret intelligence agencies, and the military-industrial complex. These interests have a permanent investment in perpetual war, somewhere or anywhere.

When Senator Bernie Sanders argued in 2016 that climate change was our greatest national security threat, he did not get much traction. He was laughed at. The merit of that argument is now evident. But we still shovel money at the Pentagon.

I have to laugh when I hear that Medicare for All or a Green New Deal are unaffordable. Is anyone looking at what we are spending money on?

Considering the history of lies from Vietnam to Afghanistan, a complete reorientation of foreign policy should be on the agenda. Next time, we might want to have a rationale before we intervene someplace.

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Greta Thunberg, Science Rebel – posted 12/22/2019

December 22, 2019 1 comment

No 16 year old has ever been named Time Magazine Person of the Year. It is always some older person winning that award. That is, until Greta Thunberg this year.

I watched a short video from Time explaining how they made the choice. They described Greta as “the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year”. She has been a galvanizing force, leading a worldwide movement.

Time described her as taking climate change from behind the curtain to center stage. They also wrote that she reflects a broader generational shift in culture along with a recognition that our current crop of world leaders are failing to serve the younger generation as well as humanity as a whole.

I guess I worry about the take-away that people will have about Greta’s selection. It is not about one extraordinary young woman, even though she is extraordinary.

We are facing a climate emergency. As Greta has made clear, she is not supporting any political party, politician, or ideology. She is about communicating the science of climate change and the enormous risk of failing to act on it.

There is a remarkably large gap between Greta’s perspective and the mainstream political world. In that world, there is no emergency or any sense of urgency. The world remains ruled by climate change deniers or utterly compromised, half-hearted exponents of climate change who counsel moderation.

Even if they pay lip service to science, our world leaders seem far removed from appreciating what the science means.

Science tells us we are in a race against the clock. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, something of a gold standard among climate scientists, reported in October 2018 that we have to reduce carbon emissions by 40% in the next 12 years to have even a 50% chance of avoiding catastrophe. And yet in 2018 emissions went up from an increase of 1.6% in 2017 to an increase of 2.7%.

The catastrophe alluded to is the suffering and deaths of many millions of people. Things are far worse than is generally recognized because climate change is happening faster than was anticipated. Witness the proliferation of superstorms, extreme wildfires. polar ice and glacier melting, and coral reefs dying.

We are talking about the destruction of many nations, species, and cultures. A 2019 study warned that one million plant and animal species face extinction due to climate change. And still, the world has remained largely indifferent and non-responsive.

While Greta can be seen as some type of prophet like a modern-day Amos, Isaiah, or Jeremiah, I think that is the wrong way to look at her. She is driven by science. In no way is she a religious figure.

Her own personal evolution is interesting. She has said she first became aware of environmental issues at age 8 when her parents told her about recycling and turning off lights to save electricity. She read books and watched documentaries about species collapse and melting glaciers.

She did not understand why the adult world refused to take climate change seriously. She worried about whether she would have a future. She said:

“I overthink. Some people can just let things go, but I can’t, especially if there’s something that worries me or makes me sad. I remember when I was younger, and in school, our teachers showed us films of plastic in the ocean, starving polar bears and so on. I cried through all the movies. My classmates were concerned when they watched the films, but when it stopped, they started thinking about other things. I couldn’t do that. Those pictures were stuck in my head.”

She described herself: “I was the invisible girl in the back of the class “. Greta was quite intellectual. She studied scientific predictions about how radically the earth was likely to change by 2040, 2060 and 2080 if climate remained unaddressed.

At age 11, Greta became very depressed. She stopped talking and eating. Doctors diagnosed her with a form of autism that used to be called Asperger’s syndrome. She also received the diagnosis of selective mutism. She has been quite open about her autism. She does not view it as an illness. She calls it “her superpower”. She did acknowledge that being on the spectrum, things are very black and white for her.

Greta became famous at age 15 when she spent her school days outside the Swedish parliament holding up a sign saying “School strike for the climate”. Although alone at first, her example led to an explosion of protests, especially in Europe.

Greta got the idea of a climate strike after the school shootings at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida led young people to refuse to go to school.

In the summer of 2018 Greta experienced the record heat wave in Europe and forest fires which ravaged northern Sweden. These were confirming events.

I think her speech in September at the 2019 U.N. Climate Action Summit tremendously raised her profile. In her speech, she said,

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”.

Greta has said that the real danger now is politics that makes it look like action is happening when the reality is just creative P.R..

With the 2020 election fast approaching, many voices are counseling moderation, that the only important thing is defeating Trump. One major problem with that view is its failure to reckon with the planetary climate emergency. We need to stop the world warming. That means policies which work to eliminate human-created greenhouse gas emissions of all types as quickly as is humanly possible. Time is of the essence.

Maybe there are times when radical action becomes absolutely necessary. To quote Naomi Klein:

“The truth is that the scientific deadline for deep transformation is so short that if radical action doesn’t roll out every year for the next thirty years, we will have lost the tiny window we have to avert truly catastrophic warming.”

More than anyone, Greta Thunberg deserves credit for challenging the massive climate change denial we are up against.

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