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Far Right Groups Are Stumbling, But Their Rhetoric Is More Mainstream Than Ever

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 11:15am

Trump supporters rally on the National Mall, 2017 (Kelly Bell/Shutterstock.com)

On March 5, the prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer was scheduled to speak at Michigan State University.

The event quickly turned into a bust when only about three dozen people made it inside the building — while hundreds of Spencer supporters and anti-fascist protestors confronted each other outside, throwing rocks and punches. Local police arrested 25 people.

The next day, Spencer’s lawyer Kyle Bristow resigned and quit the white nationalist “alt- right” movement altogether, complaining about the relentless vilification of his work in the media.

The Southern Poverty Law Center previously described Bristow as the “go-to attorney for a growing cast of racists.” He’d set up the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, which he once described as “the sword and shield” of the alt- right. Now the website and Facebook page no longer exist, and there’s been no mention of any new leadership.

Less than a week later, on March 11, Spencer announced in a YouTube video that he was canceling a planned college tour amid increasing violence and low attendance. “Antifa is winning” and rallies “aren’t fun anymore,” Spencer conceded. “We felt that great feeling of winning for a long time. We are now into something that feels more like a hard struggle, and victories are not easy to come by.”

Indeed, as alt-right members seek more of a public profile, coordinated anti-fascist actions and online pushback have intensified, making it harder for them to recruit, host events, and find jobs. They’ve been forced into online echo chambers.

Two days later, the implosion continued. Matthew Heimbach, head of the white supremacist Traditional Worker Party (TWP), was charged with domestic battery for assaulting his stepfather and TWP spokesperson, Matthew Parrott. The two violently confronted each other after Parrott learned of an affair between his wife and Heimbach. Soon after the arrest, Parrot resigned from TWP and took down the website. “I’m done. I’m out,” Parrott told the Southern Poverty Law Center. “SPLC has won. Matt Parrott is out of the game. Y’all have a nice life.”

At one level, the alt-right seems to have succumbed to leadership rivalries and infighting. The Washington Post even reported recently that the movement appeared to be “imploding.”

However, division is not necessarily a sign of collapse. Indeed, such divisions are inevitable in a political movement — and could instead be a sign of intense ideological activity. Even though high-profile leaders like Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach have stumbled, white grievance and the far right ideologies that fuel it continue to be nurtured online, and have broken into the political mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic.

European Inspiration

From its inception, the American alt-right has been drawing its ideological, rhetorical, and tactical inspiration from European far-right thought and movements. And there, the trend is toward more tightly controlled, somewhat less explicitly racial branding.

Identity Evropa (IE) is a relatively new, youth-led American white nationalist group that promotes what it calls “ethnopluralism” — that is, ethnic separation — to preserve a mythologized European heritage and white identity from the perceived threat of “Islamicization” and mass migration.

After Charlottesville and under the new leadership of Patrick Casey, IE has been distancing itself from the more extreme elements of the alt-right to control their branding. IE members are now carefully vetted, events are invitation-only, and they use an “identitarian” rhetoric centered on “culture” and “identity” rather than race.

IE’s inspiration comes from the pan-European identitarian organization Generation Identity (GI). Many American far-right activists admire GI for its ability to pull off high profile publicity stunts and bring activists out onto the streets. Discussing North American identitarianism and collective learning between the U.S. and Europe, American far right activist and social media personality Brittany Pettibone told Austrian GI co-leader Martin Sellner (now also her boyfriend) in a video: “We’ve mastered the online activism and you’ve mastered the in-real life activism.”

Last summer, GI activists rented out a ship and sailed out into the Mediterranean to disrupt the work of humanitarian groups saving the lives of migrants. They received financial support and media coverage from a wide range of far-right figures and groups across the world — including former KKK leader David Duke, Canadian “alt-light” vlogger Lauren Southern, Breitbart News, and European Parliament member Nigel Farage.

More recently, GI struck again. In late April, between 80 and 100 activists — including Pettibone, Southern, and Sellner — tried to block a French alpine pass used by migrants. They set up a “border” with plastic wire mesh, rented out two helicopters, and flew drones to surveil the area and rebuked migrants. “The mission was a success,” a GI spokesperson told the French newspaper Le Monde. “We successfully brought media and political attention to the pass.” In both actions, stopping migrants was less important than getting international publicity and proving their legitimacy.

Identity Evropa imitates many lower-wattage GI tactics such as banner drops, flash demonstrations, and leafleting campaigns, mostly on college and university campuses. These non-violent actions are then heavily shared online to amplify their impact and visibility. The group also focuses on fostering a sense of community among members through social meetups, hiking trips, fitness clubs, and communal activities.

Organizing Digitally

Although the recent misfortunates have befallen the most extreme and public fringes of the alt-right, the more putatively “moderate” wing continues to propagate and normalize far-right propaganda in the mainstream political discourse with impunity. Right-wing radicals and social media personalities Mike Cernovich and Alex Jones in the U.S., Paul Joseph Watson in the UK, and Lauren Southern in Canada have together over 4 million followers on YouTube alone.

The majority of American extreme right groups are now highly internationalized, and highly active on the Internet. Skillfully using multimedia opportunities and social media, they are able to reach, recruit, and mobilize a wider audience and diffuse far-right propaganda beyond national borders. The internet has given them the opportunity to scale up their activism from the local level to the transnational level, opening up new markets and broadening their audience.

The tech savvy alt-right is not short of options to thwart crackdown efforts led by tech companies and regulators. Extremist groups banned from mainstream crowdfunding platforms like PayPal, for example, have been investing in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to collect money and continue their activities free from government control. During his speech at the far-right National Front party convention in France last month, white nationalist Stephen K. Bannon, formerly Donald Trump’s chief strategist, praised cryptocurrency and block-chain technology for their liberating and empowering potential.

Penetrating the Mainstream

Neither the KKK nor white nationalists hold a monopoly on violence, racism, Islamophobia, or nativism. In fact, their bigoted beliefs have long been thriving far beyond the insular world of the far right and are firmly rooted in the broader social and political order.

In her recent book White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, American writer and academic Carol Anderson traces the legacy of white rage and structural racism in American society. She writes:

White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly almost imperceptibly. Too imperceptibly, certainly, for a nation consistently drawn to the spectacular — to what it can see. It’s not the Klan. White rage doesn’t have to wear sheets, burn crosses, or take to the streets. Working the halls of power, it can achieve its ends far more effectively, far more destructively.

In this sense, the Republican Party has become a much more powerful instrument of white rage than the alt-right. At the state level, University of Georgia Professor and Far Right in America author Cas Mudde writes, “authoritarianism and nativism run rampant among governors and legislators alike. It is almost exclusively among GOP-controlled states that strict anti-immigration and ‘anti-Sharia’ legislation was introduced. And the vast majority of Republican governors refused to accept Syrian refugees to their state, on the unfounded allegation that they would include terrorists.”

At the federal level, far-right-leaning elected officials in the House and Congress are a minority, albeit a vocal one. In the White House, however, ultra-conservatives are gaining power since problematic far rightists (like Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka) and more establishment-minded “globalists” (like Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, and H.R. McMaster) have been purged. Trump’s nomination of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, well known war hawks and Islamophobes, to key foreign policy posts suggests that this element of the Republican Party is ascendant, at least within the executive branch.

With the nomination of CIA director Pompeo as new secretary of state, “President Trump is playing right into the hands of the radical anti-Muslim movement in the U.S. and abroad,” warns the SPLC. Indeed, Pompeo has close ties with major anti-Islamic groups, such as Act For America, which has lobbied to restrict refugees settlements into the United States. Act for America awarded Pompeo its highest honor, the National Security Eagle award, in 2016.

Bolton’s background is even more problematic. He’s deeply connected with high-profile members of the so-called counter-jihadist movement, such as the president of the right-wing Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney. Bolton was also chairman of the anti-Muslim Gatestone Institute, a think tank known for publishing fearmongering articles and fake news about refugees and Islam, right up through March 2018.

Facing external resistance and internal disagreements, the alt-right is having trouble unifying and mobilizing in the streets. However, it continues to be a threat online by skillfully using the Internet to spread far-right propaganda, recruit, raise money, and build transnational solidarity networks.

Carol Anderson advises her readers to pay attention to the logs and kindling, and not get blindsided by the flames. The president’s inflammatory tweets, white nationalists gathering in the streets, and the surge in hate crimes are the visible flames of a rampaging wildfire.

Sometimes, as with Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach, the flames threaten to burn themselves out. But the digital campaigns on the Internet and the mainstreaming of identitarian rhetoric are the kindling that bears closer attention.

The post Far Right Groups Are Stumbling, But Their Rhetoric Is More Mainstream Than Ever appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Juliette Legendre is a researcher for Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Data Privacy Is a Human Right. Europe Is Moving Toward Recognizing That.

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 1:46pm

TY Lim / Shutterstock

During Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the House of Representatives, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) asked the Facebook CEO bluntly if he would be willing to change the company’s business model “in the interest of protecting individual privacy.”

Zuckerberg responded, “I’m not sure what that means.”

While “privacy” may sound like a fuzzy concept, it’s not at all a new idea in either human rights law or the rules that apply to Facebook in some of its largest markets. The company has also had to defend its practices before courts and regulatory bodies that have examined the issue — which makes Zuckerberg’s answer unsettling.

And since Facebook obtains data even about people who don’t use the social network, this is an issue for all of us.

The UN’s top human rights office concluded years ago that in order to respect the right to privacy, governments should regulate how private companies — not just police and spy agencies — treat personal data. Although the human rights treaties only strictly apply to governments, there is a long-established norm that >businesses should respect rights even if a government doesn’t force them to do so — and that’s as true for Facebook as for more usual suspects such as the diamond, oil, and tobacco industries. The same UN body has specifically urged web-based companies to make sure their practices don’t facilitate inappropriate government surveillance or otherwise harm human rights.

To achieve this, companies should first recognize that simply because a user has “shared” a piece of information with a platform or others doesn’t mean he or she has lost any privacy interest in it. If one looks closely at Facebook executives’ responses to the scandal surrounding data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica’s access to users’ data, one will find repeated mentions of the idea that this was data the users themselves had shared or made public.

However, as the European Court of Human Rights has recognized, data about us can still raise privacy concerns >even if it isn’t something we’ve kept secret. And European Union law acknowledges even more explicitly that personal information we can’t — or shouldn’t have to — keep to ourselves, such as our race and religious beliefs, can still be sensitive and need protection by both governments and companies.

One reason this is important is that when a company gathers, analyzes, or shares data that can identify personal characteristics such as race, this can lead to discrimination — as the ongoing controversy over allegedly biased housing advertisements on Facebook shows.

Companies such as Facebook also create vast pools of personal data where intelligence agencies, police, hackers, and fraudsters could go fishing. This makes adherence to human rights principles essential for these companies, including when users have knowingly shared information about themselves.

Human rights courts have also recognized that nearly every step in the handling of personal data — from the initial gathering to use, retention, and sharing — can interfere with privacy. This means those actions should be limited to what is truly necessary and is proportionate to a legitimate goal.

UN experts have further stated that if data a company holds about you is wrong, you should be able to get that data corrected or deleted — and under the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this will be an even broader right. In many circumstances, the regulation will also require companies to obtain EU users’ specific and informed consent before gathering their data in the first place.

Given that Facebook’s handing of personal data has been the subject of major rights-based challenges in Europe as well as a 2011 settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission about consumer privacy, it seems highly likely that the company is aware of these human rights principles. It simply needs to be willing to act on them.

the new EU regulation, Facebook will need to do this for its millions of users in the European Union by May 25. During the hearing, Zuckerberg indicated that the company will extend those new user protections “to the world.” This was encouraging, although Zuckerberg did not fully explain the details or offer a timeline.

There is no reason for anyone to be a second-class citizen when it comes to data privacy. The company should establish these protections worldwide by the May GDPR deadline, or explain why it can’t and set an expeditious timeline.

The new European requirements will not be a magic bullet, and may not provide a model for solving every problem related to protecting people’s data. But they do embrace some useful ideas about user empowerment that members of Congress were right to raise during the hearing.

They also show that strong rights protections in this area are possible. Both Facebook and Congress should make sure that possibility becomes a reality for users in the United States.

The post Data Privacy Is a Human Right. Europe Is Moving Toward Recognizing That. appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Sarah St.Vincent is a researcher on U.S. national security, surveillance, and domestic law enforcement at Human Rights Watch.

An Emerging Russia-Turkey-Iran Alliance Could Reshape the Middle East

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 12:18pm

opeth91 / Shutterstock

An unusual triple alliance is emerging from the Syrian war — one that could alter the balance of power in the Middle East, unhinge the NATO alliance, and complicate the Trump administration’s designs on Iran.

It might also lead to yet another double cross of one of the region’s largest ethnic groups, the Kurds.

However, the “troika alliance” — Turkey, Russia, and Iran — consists of three countries that don’t much like one another, have different goals, and whose policies are driven by a combination of geo-global goals and internal politics.

In short, “fragile and complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

How the triad might be affected by the joint U.S., French, and British attack on Syria is unclear, but in the long run the alliance will likely survive the uptick of hostilities.

Consolidating Erdogan’s Grip

Common ground was what came out of the April 4 meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meeting in Ankara, the parties pledged to support the “territorial integrity” of Syria, find a diplomatic end to the war, and to begin a reconstruction of a Syria devastated by seven years of war. While Russia and Turkey explicitly backed the UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, Iran was quiet on that issue, preferring a regional solution without “foreign plans.”

“Common ground,” however, doesn’t mean the members of the “troika” are on the same page.

Turkey’s interests are both internal and external. The Turkish Army is currently conducting two military operations in northern Syria, Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield, aimed at driving the mainly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) out of land that borders Turkey. But those operations are also deeply entwined with domestic Turkish politics.

Erdogan’s internal support has been eroded by a number of factors: exhaustion with the ongoing state of emergency imposed following the 2016 attempted coup, a shaky economy, and a precipitous fall in the value of the Turkish lira.

Rather than waiting for 2019, Erdogan called a snap election last week, and beating up on the Kurds is always popular with right-wing Turkish nationalists. Erdogan needs all the votes he can get to implement his newly minted executive presidency that will give him virtually one-man rule.

Driving a Wedge in NATO

To be part of the alliance, however, Erdogan has had to modify his goal of getting rid of Syrian President Bashar Assad and to agree — at this point, anyhow — to eventually withdraw from areas in northern Syria seized by the Turkish Army. Russia and Iran have called for turning over the regions conquered by the Turks to the Syrian Army.

Moscow’s goals are to keep a foothold in the Middle East with its only base, Tartus, and to aid its long-time ally, Syria. The Russians aren’t deeply committed to Assad personally, but they want a friendly government in Damascus. They also want to destroy al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, which have caused Moscow considerable trouble in the Caucasus.

Russia also wouldn’t mind driving a wedge between Ankara and NATO. After the U.S., Turkey has NATO’s second largest army. NATO broke a 1989 agreement not to recruit former members of the Russian-dominated Warsaw Pact into NATO as a quid pro quo for the Soviets withdrawing from Eastern Europe. Since the Yugoslav War in 1999, the alliance has marched right up to the borders of Russia. (The 2008 war with Georgia and 2014 seizure of the Crimea were largely a reaction to what Moscow sees as an encirclement strategy by its adversaries.)

Turkey has been at odds with its NATO allies around a dispute between Greece and Cyprus over sea-based oil and gas resources, and it recently charged two Greek soldiers who violated the Turkish border with espionage. Erdogan is also angry that European Union countries refuse to extradite Turkish soldiers and civilians who he claims helped engineer the 2016 coup against him. While most NATO countries condemned Moscow for the recent attack on two Russians in Britain, the Turks pointedly did not.

Turkish relations with Russia have an economic side as well. Ankara wants a natural gas pipeline from Russia, has broken ground on a $20 billion Russian nuclear reactor, and just shelled out $2.5 billion for Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system.

The Kurdish Question

The Russians don’t support Erdogan’s war on the Kurds and have lobbied for the inclusion of Kurdish delegations in negotiations over the future of Syria. But Moscow clearly gave the Turks a green light to attack the Kurdish city of Afrin last month, driving out the YPG that had liberated it from the Islamic State and Turkish-backed al-Qaeda groups. A number of Kurds charge that Moscow has betrayed them.

Will the Russians stand aside if the Turkish forces move further into Syria and attack the city of Manbij, where the Kurds are allied with U.S. and French forces? And will Erdogan’s hostility to the Kurds lead to an armed clash among three NATO members?

Such a clash seems unlikely, although the Turks have been giving flamethrower speeches over the past several weeks. “Those who cooperate with terrorists organizations [the YPG] will be targeted by Turkey,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said in a pointed reference to France’s support for the Kurds. Threatening the French is one thing, picking a fight with the U.S. military quite another.

Of course, if President Trump pulls U.S. forces out of Syria, it will be tempting for Turkey to move in. While the “troika alliance” has agreed to Syrian “sovereignty,” that won’t stop Ankara from meddling in Kurdish affairs. The Turks are already appointing governors and mayors for the areas in Syria they have occupied.

Keeping the U.S. at Bay

Iran’s major concern in Syria is maintaining a buffer between itself and the very aggressive U.S., Israeli, and Saudi alliance, which seems to be in the preliminary stages of planning a war against the second-largest country in the Middle East.

Iran is not at all the threat it’s been pumped up to be. Its military is miniscule and talk of a so-called “Shiite crescent” — Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon — is pretty much a western invention (although the term was dreamed up by the Sunni king of Jordan).

Tehran has been weakened by crippling sanctions and faces the possibility that Washington will withdraw from the nuclear accord and re-impose yet more sanctions. The appointment of National Security Adviser John Bolton, who openly calls for regime change in Iran, has to have sent a chill down the spines of the Iranians.

What Tehran needs most of all is allies who will shield it from the enmity of the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia. In this regard, Turkey and Russia could be helpful.

Iran has modified its original goals in Syria of a Shiite-dominated regime by agreeing to a “non-sectarian character” for a post-war Syria. (Erdogan has also given up on his desire for a Sunni-dominated government in Damascus.)

War and Oil

War between the U.S. or its allies and Iran would be catastrophic, an unwinnable conflict that could destabilize the Middle East even more than it is now. It would, however, drive up the price of oil, currently running at around $66 a barrel.

Saudi Arabia needs to sell its oil for at least $100 a barrel, or it will very quickly run of money. The ongoing quagmire of the Yemen war, the need to diversify the economy, and the growing clamor by young Saudis — 70 percent of the population — for jobs requires lots of money, and the current trends in oil pricing are not going to cover the bills.

War and oil make for odd bedfellows. While the Saudis are doing their best to overthrow the Assad regime and fuel the extremists fighting the Russians, Riyadh is wooing Moscow to sign on to a long-term OPEC agreement to control oil supplies. That probably won’t happen — the Russians are fine with oil at $50 to $60 a barrel — and are wary of agreements that would restrict their right to develop new oil and gas resources.

The Saudis’ jihad on the Iranians has a desperate edge to it, as well it might. The greatest threat to the kingdom has always come from within.

The rocks and shoals that can wreck alliances in the Middle East are too numerous to count, and the “troika” is riven with contradictions and conflicting interests. But the war in Syria looks as if it’s coming to some kind of resolution — and at this point Iran, Russia, and Turkey seem to be the only actors who have a script that goes beyond lobbing cruise missiles at people.

The post An Emerging Russia-Turkey-Iran Alliance Could Reshape the Middle East appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

FPIF columnist Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middlempireseries.wordpress.com. 

As Palestinians Honor Martin Luther King, America Sides with the Oppressor (Again)

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 11:36am

Shutterstock

“Where is the Palestinian Martin Luther King?”

This question — when asked — is never sincere. It is based on a cynical distortion of both Dr. King himself and the struggle of the Palestinian people. The former is painted as a domesticated, friendly preacher who sat down with political leaders and peacefully dismantled the tyranny of Jim Crow – in contrast to the wild, fanatical, and violent mobs of Gaza City, Nablus, or Hebron.

Both of these images are false. And now, as the mainstream American press inks pages of tributes to Dr. King’s legacy 50 years after his assassination, they refuse to see its continued power in the solemn, steadfast, and courageous Palestinian Great Return March, which has been met with the kind of lethal force that would make Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark proud.

Collective Complicity

When I visited Dr. King’s former home in Montgomery, Alabama, earlier this year, I was asked: “Who owned the segregated Montgomery bus company?”

After responding with a shrug, I was correctly told: “Northerners.”

One of Dr. King’s most persistent themes was that racism was an American, not just a Southern problem. We were all complicit, either in our silence, or — as King learned when met with bricks and stones in Chicago — our own ugly prejudices, which periodically bubbled up from our polite exteriors.

The same was true of the war in Vietnam. “If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned”, King’s voice boomed through New York’s Riverside Church in 1967, “part of the autopsy must read Vietnam.”

Today, many of us are saying that it reads “Palestine.”

Israel’s “friends” retort: Why single us out? What about Assad? What about the other Arab dictators?

But they miss the point. We don’t say that the Israeli occupation is the worst crime on earth today, and Dr. King didn’t say this about Jim Crow. We say that this crime is uniquely and obviously covered in our fingerprints. Our missiles, our money, our excuses, and our circuses at the United Nations.

The Palestinians don’t need me to tell them this. “Made in America” is an obvious enough clue, along with the suspiciously large number of American accents in the Israel Defense Forces.

Have some Palestinians responded with violence? That cannot be denied, neither can the horrific savagery of suicide bombings and the deliberate targeting of civilians. Surely this would rile Dr. King. Then again, King understood the desperation of oppressed people, and his understanding of Vietnamese desperation is worth remembering when we see Palestinian violence today:

“Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.”

Thousands of Kings

Anyone with a basic understanding of Palestinian history knows that creative non-violence has always featured heavily: The mass demonstrations, strikes, and protests of what we call the First Intifada; the “Freedom Flotilla” that was infamously attacked by the Israeli Navy in May 2010; or the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel.

Thousands of “Palestinian Dr. Kings” have led these movements. Some were ignored by Western media; many more are dead.

Yet they have always been vilified. The stock phrases tend to be: “They weren’t really non-violent”; “Non-violence was a cover for something more sinister”; “Their actions aren’t violent, but their ideas are”; “Although they didn’t physically attack us, they created unacceptable disruption and chaos.” This latter line has been most prominent in Israeli excuses for shooting unarmed “Return Marchers” in Gaza.

This same dismissiveness was directed at Dr. King and his allies, as Ta-Nehisi Coates reminded us in the Atlantic last year.

“Only 22 percent of all Americans approved of the Freedom Rides, and only 28 percent approved of the sit-ins,” Coates wrote. “The vast majority of Americans — 60 percent — had ‘unfavorable’ feelings about the March on Washington… in 1966, 63 percent of Americans had a negative opinion of Martin Luther King.”

To get an idea of our government’s priorities, consider that one day after the deadly Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the director of the FBI moved to install wiretaps not on the white supremacists, but on King and the civil rights leaders. Attorney General Robert Kennedy approved the wiretap request one month later (on this, see Chapter 11 of Taylor Branch’s Pillar of Fire).

The protesters, not the murderers, were apparently the real threat.

In the same way, crimes inflicted on the Gaza Return Marchers — like the sniping of unarmed demonstrators and journalists — are vaguely described as “violent clashes” by liberal news outlets like NPR and the New York Times. Headline writers in respected foreign policy magazines are dreaming up impressive contortions of the English language, telling us that what we are really witnessing is “The Non-Violent Violence of Hamas.”

Where Will We Stand in Fifty Years?

There are two sides, we are told. Be more moderate.

But these shrill calls for moderation are old, too. They flowed consistently and mercilessly after Dr. King “declared his independence” from the war in Vietnam.

The editors of the New York Times opined that things were “less clear-cut than he suggests”; that his comments were “facile,” “wasteful,” and “self-defeating” — even “slander.” King’s real concern, they said, should have been “the intractability of slum mores and habits,” whatever that meant. The rest of the print media — including even much of the black press —  agreed.

Now, for obvious reasons, these self-proclaimed purveyors of sober and even-handed analysis look back with embarrassment.

They were wrong and King, for all his faults, was right. Right about Vietnam and right about the “Triple Evils” of poverty, racism, and militarism that still plague America.

The thousands of Palestinian Kings are right, too. We can only hope it doesn’t take 50 years for us to see it.

The post As Palestinians Honor Martin Luther King, America Sides with the Oppressor (Again) appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Harry Blain is a PhD student in political science at the Graduate Center, CUNY (City University of New York).

There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 3:14pm

U.S. strikes over Syria, 2014 (Shutterstock)

Just after midnight on April 14, the U.S. and its allies bombed three Syrian regime targets. The reason, they said, was to punish Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons in the town of Douma.

Now, the Syrian regime’s brutality has been well documented. Maybe the allegations are true. But there’s a lot about this that’s simply fishy.

Only days before the strikes, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis admitted that the U.S. was “still assessing” whether chemical weapons were used. Veteran journalist Robert Fisk has since spoken to local doctors there who cast doubt on the claims.

There’s been no independent international investigation. In fact, the U.S. started bombing the day before international investigators were slated to arrive in Douma.

President Trump, of all people, insists there was a humanitarian imperative to skip the fact-finding. “This is about humanity,” he said. But if we look at his response to other regional catastrophes, that doesn’t even begin to add up.

For one thing, NPR reports, Trump’s all-out war on refugees, especially Muslim ones, has meant that just 11 — eleven — Syrian refugees have been admitted to the U.S. this year. We fired about 10 times that many missiles the night of the 14th alone.

Ten missiles for every refugee doesn’t strike me as terribly humanitarian. Especially when, as AirWars.org reports, U.S. coalition strikes have killed a minimum of 6,200 civilians between Syria and Iraq.

And just look at what U.S. allies are doing.

Around the same time as the fighting in Douma, Israeli soldiers were firing on nonviolent Palestinian protesters in Gaza. They killed at least 17 and injured over 1,000 in what Human Rights Watch calls a “calculated” assault on civilians.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia was dropping more bombs on Yemen. The Saudi-led war and blockade there have killed perhaps tens of thousands and put millions more at risk of starvation and disease. The UN calls Yemen the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Far from running to the ramparts, the U.S. has abetted these crimes at every stage. After the Gaza killings, the Trump administration vetoed a UN resolution affirming Palestinians’ “right to peaceful protest” and urging an investigation.

In Yemen, the U.S. is actually refueling the Saudi planes dropping the bombs. And American moguls, celebrities, and politicians — including Trump — lined up to celebrate the war’s architect, Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, throughout his tour of the U.S. this month.

Our strikes on Syria, which ran completely afoul of both U.S. and international law, aren’t about helping people. They won’t end the war, and they may not even stop future chemical attacks.

It’s more like Trump’s putting on a big show. Like he had to do it just because he tweeted he would. “These strikes are like when a fistfight breaks out on the reality show Big Brother,” writes regional expert Juan Cole.

Unlike Big Brother or Celebrity Apprentice, innocent people will die as a result. In addition to killing more Syrians, escalating now could put the U.S. into direct conflict with Russia — Syria’s nuclear-armed ally. All for an ineffectual response to an unconfirmed attack.

No wonder some senators are finally discussing reining in the president’s war-making authority. I hope they cut it down to nothing.

The post There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of Foreign Policy In Focus.