Monday, August 21, 2017

Flirting with neo-Nazi fascism is dangerous


America is imploding, or so it seems. In the last couple of weeks we saw a wave of top-level hirings, firings, resignations and feuds.

And then, we also witnessed neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. First came the not-too-well publicized rally by white supremacists on the University of Virginia campus bearing torches and chanting white nationalistic – or more correctly Christian fascist - slogans. The march was a precursor to a much larger, nastier and virulent rally in Charlottesville the next day where a 32-year old woman was killed by a neo-Nazi activist.

Many analysts blame the POTUS for the violence that ensured there by waking up or giving new life to the once dormant fascist, racist and bigoted elements within the USA. Remember Trump’s hateful speeches and comments during the presidential campaign? His campaign was full of bigotry and racism, which saw its culmination with the travel bans he imposed as soon as he was sworn in as the President. His core message has been all about saving White America – a far cry from the current makeup within the USA, which has steadily been becoming very diverse.

The all-exclusive supremacist ideology anywhere, including apartheid Myanmar, in our time exploits Darwinist fearmongering about the ‘other’ race or religion. That is, unless the ‘others’ are eliminated or their growth minimized the ‘supreme’ race is in danger of extinction; it will lose its identity or (more properly) the privileged status – thus, becoming a second or third-class entity. So, here in the USA the white supremacists, like their counterparts in Europe, have been selling the fearmongering statistics that unless the influx of the outsiders – legal immigrants and illegals alike - from Asia, Africa and Latin America -  is totally stopped, they will become a minority in the USA within the next 25 years. With that change in demography they see an existential threat to their white race.

With Trump in the Oval Office the fascist, neo-Nazis see him as their avatar. Trump’s “Making America great again” echoes slogans from the fascist movements of the past. For them, it’s now or never moment to stop their ‘abandonment’ by the White House. They are emboldened to organize such neo-Nazi rallies in various parts of the USA. Already we are seeing the rise of vigilantism in the streets and subways across many American cities, and attacks and vandalism of mosques and Jewish cemeteries with the president rationalizing violence on the right. Additionally, the Department of Justice is run by a man – Jeff Sessions – known for his cavorting with the KKK in his youth. Lest we forget, the Trump administration has also cut funding for groups dedicated to spotlighting and fighting white supremacy.

When asked about Charlottesville violence, President Trump was unable to schmooze like a normal politician. As a matter of fact, he did a terrible job in condemning white supremacists shouting slogans like "blood and soil" and "Jews will not replace us." He tried to equate the behavior of those evil, divisive neo-Nazi forces in Charlottesville with those that rallied against their hateful message of racism and bigotry by insisting that there were ‘many sides’ to blame for the violence. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said.

His initial condemnation of violence “on many sides” suggested a willful ignorance of the mere fact that one side seeks the extermination and ethnic cleansing of the non-whites via genocidal violence, and are willing to use violence to achieve these goals. The other side, on the other hand, offers a principled stand against fascism, seeking to eliminate the threat of fascist violence. Equating the intent and purpose of the two groups is simply disingenuous.

Facing mounting pressure from political leaders, Trump issued a second statement, nearly 48 hours after the incident. “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminal and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said. While this was a powerful and the right message, during his press conference a day later, however, he flip-flopped and tried to downplay the role of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who participated in the rally and brought violence to the idyllic college town by saying that there were some “very fine people” mixed among them. Obviously, he tried to humanize inhumane neo-Nazi protesters by saying that “not all of those people were neo-Nazis…Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.” This framing once again revealed his deplorable blindness to a rally that was, at its core, motivated by extreme hate, as seen in the mass chants of “blood and soil” (a reference to historic Nazi rhetoric seeking to create a right to land for “indigenous” whites only), by protesters wielding torches and yelling “Jews will not replace us!”, and engaging in mass violence against counter-protesters.

Trump’s freewheeling remarks ultimately walked back the positive statement he had made a day earlier. His equivocation or failure to condemn neo-Nazism and bigotry is simply repugnant. Even some Trump supporters and Jewish Republicans have condemned the president’s spread-the-blame response and statement.

“There are no good Nazis and no good members of the [Ku Klux] Klan,” the Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement. “We join with our political and religious brethren in calling upon President Trump to provide greater moral clarity in rejecting racism, bigotry, and antisemitism,” the statement said.

But for many Jews, the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday (August 12) and Trump’s vacillating response were of a whole other order. “No one, whether Republican, independent or a Democrat … wants to see the Klan or Nazis parading down the streets of the United States, as if they’re taking over,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of Los Angeles’ Simon Wiesenthal Center, named after the famed Nazi hunter, and its Museum of Tolerance. “No one could ever compare neo-Nazis, the Klan and white supremacists to demonstrators that are demonstrating against them,” said Hier, who delivered one of several prayers at Trump’s inauguration. “To equate the two sides,” he went on, “is preposterous.”

The leading organization of Orthodox rabbis also weighed in with a statement condemning the president’s comparing white supremacist marchers to counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville. “There is no moral comparison,” said Rabbi Elazar Muskin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America. “Failure to unequivocally reject hatred and bias is a failing of moral leadership and fans the flames of intolerance and chauvinism.” The statement was particularly notable given Trump’s support among Orthodox Jews, who, unlike more secular Jews, supported the president in large numbers. (Jews constitute about 3% of the electorate.) His son-in-law Jared Kushner is a practicing Orthodox Jew.

If President Trump loved his daughter Ivanka, who had converted to Judaism before marrying Jared, one is simply bewildered to understand his rhetoric! With almost universal condemnation of his mixed messaging, Trump has since then tried to recapture moral high ground, which he never had, by condemning racism and bigotry. I wish he had come out unambiguous much earlier!

No one should, however, misconstrue where Trump’s heart is.  It is with the fascists. Thus, he had no  qualms about the alleged virtues of their cause when he compared Southern Confederate General Robert E. Lee to George Washington, and lamented the tearing down of “our beautiful statues and monuments” that iconize slavery, segregation, and white supremacy. Trump wondered “where does it stop?” with regard to pulling down the statues, a clear wink to the fascist right he continues to court.

The admiration for neo-Nazi fascism is nothing new in the USA. These admirers are not and were never aliens; they come from all facets of the American society, as it’s the case today and as it was back then during the heydays of the Third Reich.  

On the night of February 20, 1939, some 20,000 Nazi sympathizers gathered at a “Pro-America Rally” inside Madison Square Garden in New York City proclaiming that George Washington was the “first fascist” and mocking FDR - the man who was then president as “Franklin D. Rosenfeld.” They characterized his New Deal as a “Jew Deal.”

That day, some 80,000 anti-fascist protesters gathered outside the hall. Some fought with police while trying to get inside the Garden to shut down the Nazi event. History shows that those anti-Nazi protesters were on the right side of history.

I am glad that there are many such activists throughout the USA. It was no accident that when thirty White Supremacists rallied in Boston last Saturday, August 19, there were thousands of Bostonians – whites and nonwhites alike - that showed up to protest their message of hatred. Only after 90 minutes the neo-Nazis had to pack up and leave.

Fascism is a cancerous ideology and must be fought to save humanity – irrespective of whether it is showing its ugly face in Suu Kyi’s Myanmar or Trump’s America. Sadly though, most Americans are poorly educated about their country’s past. Most of them are unaware that in the 1930s, thousands of Adolph Hitler’s American admirers were politically active throughout the country. They are unaware of the Silver Legion of America, an anti-Semitic, white supremacist group that ran William Dudley Pelley for president on a third-party ticket in 1936.

While a sympathizer to fascism and white supremacy may not find faults with white-robed Ku Klux Klan members marching down the American streets (with or without the hoods) chanting their hateful slogans, but such events create anxiety amongst American Blacks.

It was quite natural, therefore, for men of conscious to condemn Trump’s equivocation. One after another many members of President Trump’s advisory boards have resigned. Thanks to Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck & Company – one of the biggest drug-makers in the USA, to start the process by resigning from the American Manufacturing Council (AMC). [Nearly ten years ago, I had the privilege of meeting him while he was the President of the manufacturing division, and I was the Director of Center of Excellence within the research division of Merck.]

As white nationalists, the American fascists, clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia while the POTUS Trump was equivocating sending mixed messages, Ken decided to act. If Mr. Trump could not condemn the hate groups, Ken Frazier – the son of a janitor and grandson of a man born into slavery - could not support him. As the only Afro-American CEO in the group, Ken resigned from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, one of several advisory groups Trump formed in an effort to forge alliances with big businesses. His decision required guts, and thanks God that he had plenty of such, which motivated many other members to resign from Trump’s advisory groups.

Mr. Trump – who had hitherto tried to sell himself as a darling amongst the business executives who could make ‘America great’ again – had no option but to disband two CEO councils after a slew of major business leaders quit last week to protest what they said was the president’s failure to sufficiently condemn the neo-Nazi and other racist groups in Charlottesville clashes.

The fallout is not limited to the AMC alone. Even within Trump’s Christian evangelical base that voted overwhelmingly (80%) for him during the presidential election, New York City mega-church pastor A.R. Bernard has stepped down. Carl Icahn, Trump’s advisor on Regulatory Affairs has also stepped down last Friday.

Last Friday, all 17 members of the White House advisory commission on the arts and humanities, including several from Hollywood, resigned en masse to protest President Trump's divisive comments on the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va. "Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville," the arts group wrote in a letter to Trump. "The false equivalencies you push cannot stand." "Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values," they wrote. "Your values are not American values."

The collapse of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities marks the latest break between the Trump White House and the arts community, which had widely embraced President Obama, and marks his further isolation. The committee was created in 1982 under President Reagan and acts as an advisory panel on cultural issues. It is among dozens of mostly ceremonial White House panels that advise the president on business, education and other issues. It draws from Hollywood, Broadway and the broader arts and entertainment community. First Lady Melania Trump is the honorary chairwoman.

The committee works with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, along with other federal partners and the private sector.

These resignations and counter-protests against white supremacist rallies speak volumes about what is wrong with Trump presidency. No wonder his job approval rate has sunk below 30%.

Shake-ups within the White House is nothing new. But perhaps never in the last four decades have we seen so many high-level shuffles in such a short time as we saw in the last four weeks. Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist, has stepped out of the White House. He has been a very polarizing figure in the Trump inner circle, accused often of being a White House leaker and in bad terms with Jared Kushner, Trump’s trusted advisor and even the new Chief-of-staff John Kelly. Bannon was an influential voice inside the White House, feeding and encouraging Trump's (white) nationalist and populist instincts.

In the process, Bannon reaped an infamous reputation as a puppet master pulling the strings in the Oval Office, with pop culture portrayals ranging from the moniker "President Bannon" to his depiction as the grim reaper on "Saturday Night Live." Those portrayals -- coupled with a Time Magazine cover that declared him "the great manipulator" -- often angered Trump, who chafes at being outshined.

Since his inclusion as a powerful advisor to the president, there have been repeated calls to fire him – even from the GOP, which never died down. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Bannon's departure, but claimed the decision for him to leave was mutual.

"We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency," Bannon told The Weekly Standard after his departure from the White House. He still has his buddies like Gorka and Miller within the White House.

As hinted above, the dark forces have tried to control American society since the country’s inception. Racists, anti-Semites, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigots have always been there. Sometimes they have been on the fringes; other times, they have held power in many states and in Congress. The reason new manifestations of these dreadful ideologies need to be resisted is that they are never completely defeated, and, if not opposed, they can gain in popularity and power.

Confederate statues and monuments are symbols of slavery, racism and bigotry. They cannot be brushed away as part of American history. There is a very real danger in the Trump administration’s toying with fascism via threats to criminalize journalists, his support for physical assault against leftist protesters, and his providing of cover to violent right-wing militants in Charlottesville. Considering Trump’s latent fascist tendencies, the emergence of a full-blown fascist state is something we can no longer afford to ignore.

As recently noted by Professor Anthony DiMaggio of Lehigh University, the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of far-right militia members across the country, and more than 900 individual groups. If the rise of armed insurrections by Cliven and Ammon Bundy and their supporters, in addition to the dozens of acts of right-wing terrorism that have occurred in recent years have not jolted our mind, let the events in Charlottesville be a sufficient wakeup call that the far right is willing to use extreme methods to pursue their political goals.

We can defeat such dark forces by educating each other about the harms of their evil agenda. Ours may be a slow process and a long march, but is essential to save our humanity. I am sure if Americans know about harms of exclusivist white supremacy they would be less inclined to fall for it. Surely, we cannot afford any politician flirting with the dark forces and their toxic ideology no matter how it is packaged.

Persecution of the Oppressed Rohingya Continues in Suu Kyi's Myanmar

Suu Kyi's government is using persecution of the Rohingyas as a weapon towards terrorizing them and forcing their exodus out of their ancestral land in northern Arakan of Myanmar. Here below is a report from RVision.

By RVision TV | 19th August 2017
Buthidaung: Burmese authorities arrested 13 innocent Rohingyas and tortured 8 more Rohingyas in the Ulapay village of Townrowa in Buthidaung on the 18th August 2017, reports a victim.
 
In the incident above, they arrested many Rohingyas from the village and tortured them severely. After torturing inhumanely they freed 8 Rohingyas in critically injured condition and are in need of immediate treatment.
Later they took 13 innocent Rohingyas with them as arrestees and are incommunicado. They are identified to be:
  1. Badiullah S/O Rashid Ahmed
  2. Mv salaamat ullah S/O Badiuzzamaan
  3. Md Amin S/O Tasmidullah
  4. Baasir Ahmed
  5. Kamal Bashir
  6. Emaan hussin S/O Har Rashed
  7. Hairulamin S/O Hussin Ahmad
  8. Hafiz Hassan S/O Abu
  9. Amir rashid S/O Zul Ahmed
  10. Aziullah S/O Shona Mia
  11. Hashimullah S/O Shona Mia
  12. Hafiz Ebrahim S/O Shonamia
  13. Zakaria S/O Ula Mia
In another incidence of raid today (19th August 2017), 80 BGP along with Military besieged the villages of Naribil since 6:00 AM, where they conducted illegal checks on every Rohingya houses and inquired every local Rohingyas.
Later they accused innocent Rohingyas of being connected with the armed group in the region. Adding on the terrific situation a local reported that BGP and military have been threatening us and one of the BGP personal shouted on us by saying that ” You people have been feeding the rebels in the region and we are well aware of it”.
Daily raids have been became a routine on Rohingya villages, where Rohingyas are living in extreme terrified situation in an area which have been under curfews and restricted from long long ago.

An article on India by Irfan Engineer


Seventy Years of Independence: Miles and Miles to go Before we Sleep
Irfan Engineer
(Secular Perspective August 16-31, 2017)
Seventy years as an independent country is a good enough period to reflect on how we have evolved as a nation and how our polity has evolved. It will be incorrect to generalize our observations across the length and breadth of our country as India is very diverse in culture, religion, language, ethnicities and class. India lives in many time periods. While the primitive tribes in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Orissa, Bihar live in the first millennium, or even earlier, the IT professionals and CEOs of national and multinational corporations live in jet age and are part of the first world elite using latest technology, living in palaces and consuming luxuries that would shame the most powerful and eccentric of Emperors. Between the two time zones, communities occupy various time spaces. Primitive indigenous communities, feudal hierarchical cultural systems (caste and gender hierarchies, institutions of khap panchayats), communities accumulating capital in primitive modes, international finance capital, neo-liberalism and crony capitalism are all here to stay carving out their own spaces in time zones. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had warned in his speech delivered after the Constitution had been adopted – either the social inequality would consume our democracy unless democracy triumphed over social inequalities.
Freedom at midnight seventy years ago did not have the same meaning for all sections of the society.  The sethjis (economic elite and Indian capitalists) and the bhatjis (the social elite – upper caste males from the majority community) were more masters of their destiny than the SCs, the STs, bonded labourers and women, though they had made huge sacrifices for freedom. For the bonded labourers, SCs, STs and women, same bondage and life of unfreedom would continue in morning after the midnight. They just had hopes and promises of freedom.
Democracy in India has marched one step forward and two steps backward. The two big steps towards equality that benefitted a large section were partial land reforms and implementation of some recommendations of Mandal Commission Report. Land reforms were implemented half heartedly and met with a lot of resistance from the then rural elite – upper caste landlords. Some states implemented it better than others, particularly the Left Front ruled states and the states where the social justice movements were stronger, viz. in the South. The pace of implementation of land reforms in North India was slow. The tenants who worked hard, tilled the land and produced food grains and other cash crops but were themselves underfed and lived in poverty, became owners of the land they tilled. Along with green revolution, India not only became self sufficient in food grains, millions of tillers of land lived more secure and lives.
The tillers of land who now became land owners, but were excluded from political representation. The Indian Parliament and state legislatures had disproportionate numbers of upper castes. It is here that implementation of the Mandal Commission Report meant much more than merely reservations in educational institutions and Government jobs. Getting Mandal Commission Recommendations implemented required great amount of awakening among the other backward classes and organizational efforts resisting the dominance of upper caste in rural areas. Land reforms had reduced the dependence of a section of other backward classes on the upper caste and made it possible for them to resist the dominance of upper caste. Yet, it was democracy and the principal of one person one vote that was crucially necessary to win the battle of representation without violence. But for the vote that every citizen has under the Constitution, the Indian state would not have accepted the Mandal Commission Report, even if only partially, in teeth of resistance from the entrenched upper caste politicians.
Equality for Women:
Women are in better position and enjoy more equality in law than seventy years ago. However, practically, they enjoy little freedom and we have a long long way to go on the path of gender equality. Indian Parliament has strengthened the law to physically secure women. Banning Sati, child marriages, polygamy (except for the Muslim community) and dowry are a few examples. In order to secure women against domestic violence, the Parliament passed legislation. The law against sexual assaults on women has been strengthened. Women, particularly in urban pockets are better included in jobs and livelihood. For example, a very tiny number of them are employed in army, police force, as pilots, railway engine drivers, given cab driver licenses, etc. Hindu women now can inherit equal share with her brother in ancestral property. However, this is too little an achievement for seventy years of independence.
Yet we see very little change on the ground in spite of changes in law. Crime against women is increasing and women are more insecure in family as well as public spaces despite all the laws. Family and khap panchayats have tighter control over women and consider women as second class citizens born to serve men in the family, community and polity. The issue of ‘dignity’ of caste and community has become more salient in the recent times. The dignity of community / caste means tremendous pressure on women to uphold feudal traditions and play subservient roles. This also means that in conflicts between castes and communities, women’s bodies and dignity are targeted to demonstrate ‘prowess’ of the men. Women too are being mobilized in the inter-caste and communal conflicts against their own enlightened interests of gender justice. Identity centric politics brings forth stronger patriarchal regimes within the community. Muslim women still suffer the indignity of having to face instant divorce and other deprivations. Parliament has no more than 10% representation of women in the 16th Lok Sabha and yet this is the highest representation women have got.
Miles and miles to go:
The OBCs were included economically (making them owners of the land they till), socially (partly through their sanskritization of OBCs and partly through reinventing Brahmanism) and politically (Mandalization of Parliament and state legislatures). The social, political and economic inclusion of a section of OBCs has left out a large section of citizens out of the march towards equality.
A section of tenant-tillers of land were made owners, but what about those who did not have any access to land, viz. the landless and did not have access to even primary education, either because there wasn’t a school in her village, or if there was one, her parents could not afford even if there were no fees? Or if she was sent to school, there was no teacher to teach? This is the story of many adivasi villages. Dalits are discriminated within school space with high dropout rates. If there is no basic schooling, reservations in higher educational institutions do not mean anything. The OBCs whose traditional occupation was not cultivation of land like the Yadavs and Jats had very little opportunities of upward mobility. No political party has any concrete programmes to include these sections and provide them with the democratic space to march towards equality.
Centralized, non-accountable and non-transparent democracy:
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar as well as Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel wanted stronger centre to enable rapid growth and Industrialization to create jobs. Dr. Ambedkar also wanted stronger Central Government to be able to combat the strong Brahmin lobby. Babasaheb knew at the state level and within local bodies, dalits would not be able to resist the upper caste oppression. However, stronger centre has put the steel frame of bureaucracy farther and beyond the reach of the marginalized sections.
Centralization of power has benefitted the sethjis and bhatjis. Law and policy making structures and implementation mechanisms readily serves their interests, particularly that of the International financial capital and the richest Indian industrialists. The ideology of market and anti-people discourse of development are being deployed to appropriate common community resources by the state. The state then readily transfers these resources in the hands of crony capitalists who have the ability to influence decision making in the capital through their powerful lobbies. This is how adivasis have been disappropriated of their common resources like forests, water bodies, land and environment. Adivasis have suffered massive and constant displacements. Their way of life and their culture marginalized to give way ideology of growth and profits for few. The displaced adivasis have been forced out of their habitats and reduced to bonded labour or lowest paid seasonal migrant labourers.
Disappropriation of communities together with jobless growth is exacerbating the inequalities. The richest 1% Indians, according to the report of Oxfam, own 58% of India’s wealth. The growing inequality is creating army of slave labourers. While the richest enjoy vulgar luxuries, there are millions of children sleeping hungry and farmers committing suicides unable to pay their debts. Yet the government subsidizes the Industrialists by extending tax concessions to attract more and more foreign capital. The growing inequality is distorting democracy.
Gandhiji wanted democracy to benefit the most marginalized person, and decision making nearer common people. His idea of democracy was decentralization of power and transparent decision making. Gandhiji wanted power to hold the elected representatives and the bureaucrats  accountable to be in the hands of people. Some of these mechanisms came as late as about a decade ago under the UPA. The right to information and right to education are two such examples. However, both these legislations are poorly implemented and increasingly undermined. National Commission of Minorities is a toothless body doing little to ameliorate the violation of their rights. The Annual Reports which must be tabled in the Parliament are amiss. The National Human Rights Commission has only slightly more teeth – power to award compensation to the victims of abuse of Human Rights. NHRC has however played little role and ignored systematic violations of human rights of the marginalized.
There is no effective mechanism to protect the victims against police excesses in form of fake encounters, torture, malicious arrests and prosecutions. In absence of effective mechanism to lodge complaints against such abuse of power, the voice of the marginalised is suppressed. In fact there are laws which protect the power wielders like the UAPA and the AFSPA.
Media which is supposed to be watchdog of democracy and people’s rights has been corporatized and protecting the Government.
The sethji-bhatji class is spinning ideologies that would ignore the growing inequalities. Cultural entrepreneurs are essentializing culture that would embalm the new class of slaves being created by the sethji-bhatji. Aggressive patriotism is reducing citizens to instruments worshipping its army and even corrupt undemocratic and illegal actions of individual officers. Cow nationalism is imposing sethji-bhatji culture on the bahujans under the label of nationalism. Cow nationalism is reducing citizen to merely follower and bhakt of sethji-bhatji and accept whatever crumbs distributed by them as prasad with gratitude to them.
For democracy to thrive, we need active citizenship on one hand and structures and institutions that hold the power wielders accountable. The priority of nationalism has to be to educate all in order to make them thinking and active citizens, and provide equitable opportunities for the most marginalized to develop. Equal Opportunity Commission and legislations that hold bureaucrats accountable to the citizens for their actions are the agenda of democracy in the coming years.
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Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
Mumbai.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Iran Says Nikki Haley's Statement On Sanctions Is "Devoid Of Any Shred Of Truth"

To read the news, click here.

Moral Superiority - by Lucy Steigerwald

We’re finally in agreement – there were Nazis marching in Charlottesville last weekend. Enough with the alt- right euphemisms. Nazis were marching with Nazi symbols and Nazi chants. It’s not a stretch to dub them as what they are.
President Trump, utterly unable to schmooze like a normal politician, did a dreadful job in condemning the men shouting slogans like "blood and soil" and "Jews will not replace us." He waited more than two days, and seemed unable to scorn one of the least socially acceptable group in the United States without qualification. At one point, Trump even referred to the original protesters as "us," causing many commentators and observers to suggest that Trump was identifying as an open white supremacist. Whether you believe that was a dog-whistle to supporters, or, as I suspect, a flailing, motor-mouthed attempt to keep his far-right supporters as he was pushed into condemning Nazis running over protesters, it came off as impotent.
Condemning Nazis is the right thing to do. Three prominent figures at the Charlottesville march once expressed support for libertarianism, and are now full white nationalists. Alt-right king Richard Spencer never seemed to be a libertarian, but he had enough overlap in their circles that he’s distressing for believers in equal rights, and small (or no) government for all people.
However, a disturbing aspect of this rush to condemn Trump and his worst followers has popped up with renewed vigor since Charlottesville. Most of the mainstream Republican Party including former Gov. Jeb Bush, to Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio professed horror at the Trump campaign. Trump’s awfulness was gauche, but theirs was covered up by the "respectability" that a career in politics brings. This continues, and it’s being once again embraced by the left.
Trump is bad. Nazis are bad. This doesn’t mean that people opposed to both have clean hands.
After Trump fumbled again, people took the bold stance that condemning Nazis was good. Being against Nazis isn’t a bold stance – no matter what the president says – but doesn’t make it a bad one. It’s good to be against Nazis. Unfortunately, that stance is being defended by
  • Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who once said that US sanctions against Iraq killing up to half a million children was "worth it," and who backed the 1999 bombing of Serbia, thought that Trump’s equivocating about Nazis and counter-protesters was "not American."
  • US Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, who earnestly tweeted that "The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775." Considering that the US Army brutally stamped out native Americans for decades, was only desegregated in 1948, and has engaged in myriad wars of aggression against non-white people all over the world even then, that seems like a bit of a stretch.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has never met a potential war he didn’t support, said that Trump’s words are "dividing Americans, not healing them." Well, war is the health of the state. Tepidly scolding neo-Nazis is not the way to bring the people together – not like a war with North Korea might! Or Iran! Or anywhere! Graham is not picky.
  • Angry, Waco-condoning, drug war backing Sen. Chuck Schumer was similarly offended by Trump.
  • John Brennan, who used to be the director of the CIA, thinks Trump’s words were "a national disgrace." The CIA has run its own drone assassination program under Obama, staged numerous coups, occasionally dosed people with LSD in the name of science, and engaged in other wholesome activities.
  • Both Presidents George Bush released an official statement against hatred and racism post-Charlottesville. While they are probably sincerely opposed to overt Nazism, George H.W. Bush was once the head of the CIA, and W. invaded two countries, among his many other bloodstained decisions while president. Do we really want, or need their official PR statements against racism and hate?
The list of those attempting to distance themselves from Trump’s inability to cleanly distance himself from a racist march could go on, and it does. It should be comforting to have much of the country against the president. Unfortunately, as Trump happily bombs the Middle East, arrests peaceful immigrants, and repeatedly praises law enforcement in an entirely unqualified manner, he is still mostly hated for what he says – maybe even how he says it – instead of continuing the worst aspects of executive power, but in a sloppier, more vulgar manner.

Trump and the Nazis in Charlottesville deserve the flak they’re getting. Condemning the president and white nationalism, and the former’s hamfisted tolerance for the latter is easy – and it is also important.
But as none of the above people, nor the liberals, libertarians, even anarchist who are happily sourcing them, seem to realize that the enemy of my enemy is still not my friend. The entirety of US foreign policy over the decades proves this, and the reaction of the wretched mainstream Republican party to Trump during the 2016 proved it again and again. Panicking about a few hundred white nationalists, who had months to come together and organize, and who had to come from across the nation to fill these sad, Tikki-wielding ranks, will not benefit anything except the state.
The heroic American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is getting flak for its defense of free speech for the idiots in Charlottesville. My social media is covered with people who don’t think that Nazi speech is protected, even though American case law says otherwise. Others are hungry to make the US into Europe, in terms of making a legal category for hate speech, or are just eager to stamp white nationalists groups with the label of terrorist. Warnings that this could backfire for antiwar protests, Black Lives Matter, or good causes are dismissed as softening the threat of white power groups.
It’s easy to condemn the blatant racism of Nazi rallies. That kind of bald-faced hatred is not popular, and hasn’t been since 1946. However, the kind of warmongering and police brutality that Trump AND the above people who are so offended by him support remains popular. The more nervous Americans feel, the more they cling to institutions they trust, such as the military and the police.
Overt Nazism is blessedly rare. The inherent racism and ethnocentrism of saying each American death is a tragedy, about which something must be done, no matter how dangerously hasty and ill-thought out, but hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis is an awkward oopsy that is easily brushed away is a fundamental tenet of American, Western, and nation-state life.
The Richard Spencers of the world who occasionally profess to be against intervention are not to be trusted with the mantles of antiwar and free speech. Radical libertarians, leftists, and the doveish right have failed at these important caused too often – why would we think white nationalists would be able to keep a consistent principle beyond "white is right"?
Nazis make bad allies, no matter who else you’re fighting. However, neither do career politicians, intelligence officers, and military people make good comrades simply because they prefer subtle nationalism, to blatant white nationalism, and wish the embarrassing president would go away and stop giving away their secrets.
Do join the thousands who scorn the rally in Charlottesville, and who think Trump is a dangerous joke, just don’t fall for the deadly serious alternative that is mainstream American politics.
Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and an editor for Young Voices.

Uri Avnery's latest article

For a Palestinian Federation   


I don’t know when the wheel was invented, or who invented it.
However, I have no doubt that it was invented again and again, with many happy inventors sharing the glory.
The same is true for the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation. From time to time it appears in public as a brand-new idea, with another group of inventors proudly presenting it to the public.
This just shows that you cannot suppress a good idea. It appears again and again. During the last few weeks, it has appeared in several articles, presented by new inventors.
Every time it happens, I would take off my hat, if I had one. As Europeans used to do when they met a lady or an old acquaintance.
Actually, the United Nations Partition Plan adopted by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947 (Resolution 181) already proposed a kind of confederation, though without using the term. It said that the two new states that it created – one Arab, one Jewish, with Jerusalem as a separate unit – would be united in an "economic union".
A few days later, the "war of 1948" broke out. It was a bitter and cruel war, and when it ended in early 1949, nothing of the UN resolution remained. There were still some desultory negotiations, but they petered out.
The war had created "facts on the ground" – Israel controlled vastly more territory than was allotted to it, Jordan and Egypt had taken over what was left. Palestine had ceased to exist, the very name erased from the map, with half the Palestinian people evicted from their homes.
Immediately after the war, I tried to set up a group of young Jews, Muslims and Druze to propagate the setting up of a Palestinian state next to the new State of Israel. This initiative led nowhere. In 1954, when some Palestinians in the West Bank revolted against their Jordanian masters, I published a call for the Israeli government to support the creation of a Palestinian state. It was ignored.
It was three years later that the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian federation first took on a serious form. The 1956 Israeli attack on Egypt, in collusion with France and the UK, aroused the disgust of many Israelis. In the middle of the war, I got a phone call from Nathan Yellin-Mor. He proposed that we do something about it.
Yellin-Mor had been the political leader of Lehi (alias the Stern Gang) the most extreme of the three underground organizations that fought against British rule. I was the owner and editor-in-chief of a popular news magazine.
We set up a group called Semitic Action. As a first step, we decided to compose a document. Not one of those flimsy political programs that are published today and forgotten tomorrow, but a serious plan for the total overhaul of the State of Israel. It took us more than a year.
We were some 20 people, most of them prominent in their field, and met at least once a week for our deliberations. We divided the subjects among us. The subject of peace with the Arabs fell to me.
The basis of the new creed was that we Israelis are a new nation – not outside the Jewish people but a part of it, much like Australia was a new nation within the Anglo-Saxon community. A new nation created by its geopolitical situation, climate, culture and traditions.
(This idea itself was not quite new. In the early 1940s, a handful of poets and writers, nicknamed the Canaanites, had proposed something similar, but denied any connection with the world Jewish people and also denied the existence of the Arab nation or nations.)
In our view, the new "Hebrew" nation was a part of the "Semitic Region" and therefore a natural ally of the Arab nations. (We categorically refused to call it "Middle East", an Eurocentric, imperialist term.)
In a dozen detailed paragraphs we outlined the structure of a federation that would consist of the two sovereign states of Israel and Palestine and be in charge of their joint economic and other interests. Citizens of either of the two states would travel freely in the other one, but not be allowed to settle there.
We foresaw that this federation would in due course become part of a wider confederation of all the countries of the Semitic region in Asia and Africa.
Other chapters dealt with the total separation between state and religion, free immigration, relations with the Jewish communities around the world and a social-democratic economy.
The document, called "The Hebrew Manifesto", was published before the State of Israel was ten years old.
Christopher Columbus, the man who "discovered" America, was asked how to make an egg stand up. He knocked the end of the egg on the table and lo and behold – it stood.
Since then, the "Egg of Columbus" has become proverbial in many languages, including Hebrew. The idea of a federation in Palestine is such an egg. It combines two principles: that there would be one country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and that both Israelis and Palestinians would live in their own independent state.
The "Whole of Eretz Israel" and the "Whole of Palestine" are right-wing slogans. The "Two-state Solution" belongs to the Left.
In this debate, "federation" and "confederation" are often used interchangeably. And indeed, no one quite knows the difference.
It is generally agreed that in a federation, the central authority has more powers, while in a "confederation" more powers are vested in the component units. But that is a vague distinction.
The American civil war was fought between the Southern "confederacy" which wanted to retain the rights of the component states in many fields, (with the fields tended by slaves), and the federation of the North, which wanted the central government to retain most of the important powers.
The world is full of federations and confederations. The United States, the Russian Federation, the Confederation Suisse, the United Kingdom, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (official translation: Federal Republic of Germany) and so on.
There are no two among them which resemble each other completely. States are as different from each other as human beings. Each state is the product of its geography, the special character of its peoples, its history, its wars, loves and hatreds.
Members of a federation do not have to love each other. Last week, in a bizarre way, the American civil war was fought again in a Southern city, at the foot of the statue of a Southern general. Bavarians have no great love for the "Prussians" of the north, Many Scots would love to get rid of the bloody English, as would many Quebecois from Canada. But common interests are strong, and very often they prevail.
When it is not a marriage of love, it is at least a marriage of convenience.
Technical advances and the demands of the modern economy drive the world together into larger and larger units. The much-maligned "globalization" is a global necessity. People who today wave the "Bonnie Blue Flag" or the Swastika are ridiculous.
One day in the future people will pity them as people today pity the Luddites, who smashed the machines at the beginning of the industrial era.
Back to us.
The idea of a federation or confederation of Israel/Palestine may sound simple, but it is not. There are many obstacles.
First of all, there is the vast difference in the living standards of the two peoples. It would necessitate massive help from the rich world for the Palestinians.
The historical hate between the two peoples, not since 1967, not since 1948, but right from the beginning in 1882, must be overcome. This is not the job of politicians, but of writers and poets, historians and philosophers, musicians and dancers.
This looks like a daunting mission, but I am deeply convinced that it is easier than it looks. In Israeli hospitals (doctors and nurses), in universities (professors and students), and, naturally, in joint peace demonstrations, bridges between the two peoples are already in place.
The very fact that the federation idea crops up again and again shows its necessity. The groups of activists who are bringing it up now were not yet born when we first proposed the idea – yet their message sounds new and fresh.
May their cause prosper.
Uri Avnery is a peace activist, journalist, writer, and former member of the Israeli Knesset. Read other articles by Uri, or visit Uri’s website.

Friday, August 18, 2017

An appeal from Burma Task Force to call national leaders to stop final solution of the Rohingyas of Myanmar


Are they getting ready for “final solution”!

This week, the Burmese military began a massive troop build-up in Rohingya region, rapidly fanning fears of a major new “Clearance Operation” in Myanmar / Burma. The previous operation starting in October 2016 resulted in the death of 1,000 Rohingya, rape of 52% of all women surveyed by the UN, village burnings and atrocities.

A high level of concern is being expressed not only by Rohingya leaders but by international rights monitors like Yanghee Lee, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Burma.

These troubling developments take place as a Burmese coalition of 20 political parties, led by the former governing military party (USDP), called on their government to declare to the international community that there is “no Rohingya ethnicity” in Burma.  There are troubling reports that Buddhist militias are being trained and armed in the Rakhine State.
On the other hand, Bangladesh has stepped up patrols on its border with Burma, to block Rohingyas, while India this week announced to expel 40,000 Rohingyas.

Rohingya people are increasingly squeezed between two militaries intent on their erasure and displacement.

URGENT: Please Contact the Following

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Department of State, 2201 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520
Twitter: @Secy_State_US
Main Switchboard 202-647-2663
Talking Points
  • Because of the recent harsh repression and mass rape of Rohingya, the current troop build-up creates panic in Rakhine State and is counter-productive, hurting the cause of coexistence. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi must rein in her military immediately.
  • The Myanmar Parliament must not pass legal resolutions to declare that there are no Rohingya in Burma.
  • Burma must restore the citizenship  of Rohingya.
  • Bangladesh must allow all Rohingya full access to humanitarian agencies on their own soil.
  • Support the UN investigation into mass rape, killing, and other abuses. We must all demand the Government of Burma permit the UN investigation team to enter Burma.
The Rohingya are an indigenous people living in their ancestral lands.  The Rohingya are one of the most persecuted people on the planet. No people should be stateless. Instead of facing deportation, the Rohingya must have their rights fully recognized and restored, both as refugees and as citizens of Burma.

For Further Reading

Burma covers up its systematic abuse of a minority group

IN FEBRUARY, the United Nations released a report detailing the Burmese government’s human rights abuses against the long-suffering Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state — abuses that likely amounted to crimes against humanity. Burma should have responded by allowing U.N. investigators into the country and creating accountability mechanisms to prevent further violations. Instead, a government inquiry has concluded that there is “no evidence of crimes” and that “people from abroad have fabricated news claiming genocide had occurred.”
On the contrary, there is considerable evidence to suggest that systematic human rights violations have occurred in Rakhine. The Rohingya have long been denied citizenship and pushed into ghetto-like conditions. This persecution escalated last year, when Burmese security forces conducted a scorched-earth campaign in the state amid widespread reports of mass rape, torture, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings. The government has also restricted the movements of Rohingya people, imposing curfews and contributing to extreme food shortages. Nearly 90 people have died since the violence erupted last year, while an estimated 65,000 have fled Rakhine.
Burma’s response was to establish an investigative commission that lacked credibility from the outset. The 13-member committee was headed by former military leader and current Vice President Myint Swe and included no Rohingya representatives. According to reports from civil society, its investigators used sloppy research methods, browbeat villagers and ignored complaints.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Burma’s partially democratic government bears many similarities to its autocratic predecessor: It is overly sensitive to criticism, repressive toward minorities and willing to go to great lengths to protect the military. The international community should take note and renew calls to allow a U.N. fact-finding mission to visit the country. Congress should rethink the idea of expanding American military ties with Burma or, at the very least, consider imposing a vetting process and human rights benchmarks for any further military engagement. The United States has long championed democracy in Burma; the commission’s announcement proves this fight is not over yet.

Myanmar army and Rakhine’s cruelty on Rohingya fishermen in Rathedaung

The news below is from the Arakan Times:
A fisherman and his two young daughters of Thingannet village of ThinTaungPyin union of Zay Di Pyin of Rathedaung, Arakan State were inhumanely tortured by Myanmar army and Rakhine extremists while they were catching fishes in the river today, 18 August 2017.
The victim has been identified as Mohamed Tayoub (33), son of U Nur Mohamed and his two young daughters of the village.
According to our correspondent report, the victim is a fire wood seller by his profession. As he was unable to go to forest for fire wood due to fear of arrest and torture by army, he has stopped going to wood.
Since his family was about to starve, he along with his two young daughters went to the river beside his village to catch fish to sell in the market to buy food for his family with the money.
There, some army personnel went and caught him along with his two daughters while they were catching fish and took them to the ThazinMyaing Rakhine village where they were cruelly tortured to critical injury by army and Rakhine extremists.
There is no place left on their body where they did not receive injury of assault. Now their physical condition is stated to be deteriorating following inhumane torture of military and Rakhine miscreants. They have no financial ability for better treatment for their injury.
Now the Rohingya are completely cripple and can’t work for their livelihood due to attack of military and Rakhine extremists in the area for which the villagers are facing acute food crisis, says a resident.

Deadly South Asia floods affect 16m people

More than 16 million people have now been affected by seasonal flooding across a swathe of South Asia, say aid officials.
The floods in Nepal, Bangladesh and India are thought to have killed about 500 people and are expected to worsen.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says it is becoming one of the worst regional humanitarian crises in years.
There are growing concerns about food shortages and disease.
Martin Faller, IFRC's deputy regional director, said more than a third of Bangladesh and Nepal were flooded, while about 11 million people across four northern Indian states were also affected.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced.
"This is fast becoming one of the most serious humanitarian crises this region has seen in many years, and urgent action is needed to meet the growing needs of millions of people affected by these devastating floods," Mr Faller said in a statement.
"Millions of people across Nepal, Bangladesh and India face severe food shortages and disease caused by polluted flood waters."
Bangladesh, where flood levels are already at a record high, is expected to be further hit as swollen Indian rivers flow down through it in the coming days.
Save the Children Director Mark Pierce said the situation there was "extremely desperate".
"The sheer volume of water is also making it really difficult to access some of the communities most in need."
Nepal's Red Cross Society said food crops there had been wiped out, as floods hit major farming and agricultural land in the south.
"We fear that this destruction will lead to severe food shortages," said Secretary General Dev Ratna Dhakhwa.
Further heavy rain has been forecast across the region in the coming days, worsening the flooding and making it harder to reach those affected.
Save The Children's India manager, Murali Kunduru, told Reuters that while the monsoon rains come annually, "this year is particularly severe".

Bannon - the messenger and executor of hatred - is out

Donald Trump fired Steve Bannon. But Bannon still won
by  Chris Cilliz


(CNN) President Donald Trump dumped chief strategist Steve Bannon on Friday, ending weeks of speculation that just such a dismissal was in the works.
The decision will be met with jubilation within the Republican establishment, who viewed Bannon with a mixture of loathing (for his assaults on them as the head of Breitbart News) and fear (for his influence over Trump.)
That joy could well turn to ashes in their mouths. (Shouts to Tyrion Lannister!) Why? Because although Bannon won't work in the White House any longer, his worldview and mindset have been adopted almost in toto by the one person whose opinion matters in this White House: Donald John Trump.
Bannon became a formal adviser to then-candidate Trump on August 17, 2016. But, his influence on Trump's thinking far pre-dates that.
The two men met via conservative activist David Bossie in 2011 when Trump was mulling the possibility of running for president in 2012.
As far back as July 2015, Trump was tweeting favorably about Bannon -- and Breitbart. "@BreitbartNews is much smarter than sleepy eyes @chucktodd @nbc http://t.co/Lb3PBlN3u0 Thanks to Steve Bannon & real reporters," Trump tweeted on July 21, 2015. Five days earlier Trump tweeted out a praiseworthy Breitbart piece written by Bannon headlined "TIME TO GET TOUGH: Trump's Blockbuster Policy Manifesto."
Remember, too, that Trump has openly admitted he lacked any set policy views prior to his decision to run for president. He had been a Democrat and an independent before announcing that he would run for president in 2016 as a Republican. His entire interaction with politics had been transactional; he wanted to curry favor with politicians, so he gave them money. It was entirely un-ideological.
Breitbart -- and Bannon in particular -- gave Trump a policy architecture on which to frame his beliefs. That's not to say that Bannon alone is responsible for Trumpism.
But it is to suggest there was a fated convergence between Bannon and Trump. At a time when Trump was looking for the words and policy proposals to shape his loosely-formed ideas, Bannon and Breitbart were there to supply them -- by the ink barrel.
Bannon didn't invent Trump. But he amplified him -- bigly.
Consider:
  • Trump's suspicion of globalism -- as evidenced by his decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate accords -- is a hallmark of Bannonism.
  • Trump's hard line on immigration -- legal and illegal? A belief long voiced by Bannon and his fellow nationalists.
  • Trump's hatred for the media? That distrust for the mainstream media was the driving force for Andrew Breitbart's decision to start a conservative news site with his name on it years ago. Here's what Bannon said about the press earlier this year: "It's going to get worse every day for the media. If you think [the press] are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken." He's also called the press "the enemy" and "the opposition party."
  • Trump's "both sides" defense of Charlottesville? Bannon has long insisted that the left is just as violent -- if not more so -- than the right. And he's also shown a willingness to push the rhetorical boundaries on race. Following the controversy over Trump's "both sides" remarks on Tuesday, Bannon told The New York Times: "Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can't get enough of it."
If there is a connective tissue to the beliefs Trump has espoused in the White House, it's a disdain for and rejection of political correctness. While that comports with Trump's natural instincts -- he has always viewed himself on the outside looking in, mocked by elites who won't accept him -- the full flowering of Trump's nationalist-tinged populism can be traced directly back to Bannon.
Trump had the seeds. Bannon watered them and made sure they got enough sun. The full bloom Trump you've seen over the last week is because of what Bannon did over the past several years -- inside and outside of Trump's inner circle.
Speaking of Trump's outer circle: Don't assume that simply because Trump has fired Bannon as his chief White House strategist that their relationship is over. Trump is someone who loves to call on all sorts of people -- inside and outside the White House -- for advice. And, as Trump supporter and former Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston noted on CNN on Friday afternoon: "Trump and Bannon believe in the same things."
Bannon may be gone from the White House. But his influence won't be disappearing any time soon.
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Our Fight Against Fascism


"“Our civilization’s” ongoing genocide against indigenous groups and the violently enforced systematic oppression of Black Americans notwithstanding, the US government – of which Trump is now Commander-in-Chief – has a storied and bloody history of assassinating foreign heads of state precisely because, democratically, a body of citizens or voters “seeking pluralism” elsewhere in the world had commenced down an antifascist political path that did not suit Washington’s interests," writes