Archive | December 19th, 2017

The Unlikely Industry Empowering Women in Afghanistan


By Ruchi KumarYES! Magazine

The Unlikely Industry Empowering Women in Afghanistan

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

The typical depiction of an Afghan woman looks like this: Timid and fearful, she is a victim of her extremely conservative and regressive society, unable to move around or do much without a man. But some Afghan women are busting these stereotypes, creating a niche for women to empower themselves and change the status quo.

A 36-year-old restaurant owner named Laila Haidary walks around the cafe gardens, carefully tending to the colorful foliage that grows generously around Kabul. She narrates her story of building a business in Afghanistan, a country governed by the rules of men. Overlooking the gardens is a midsize structure: a traditional Afghan house, with thick walls, large windows, and ample courtyard space, converted to a cozy restaurant with old tables and chairs and plenty of handmade rugs. The vibe is welcoming.

Haidary explains she wanted to provide a social space for artists and other young Afghans who want to interact with their culture and rich heritage. “This idea in itself had its own challenges because our extremely conservative society does not always approve of artistic expressions. Added to that, the fact it is run by a businesswoman makes many people uncomfortable,” she says.

Haidary’s cafe is among the many newer restaurants in Kabul, and around Afghanistan, that are either owned or managed by women in an otherwise male-dominated industry. Although data measuring this trend wasn’t available at the time of publishing, anecdotally, more women are entering the service industry: Within a two-block radius of my home in Kabul, I can count seven restaurants that have come up in the past year; that wasn’t the case in 2014, when I first came here.

Of course, not every woman in the industry is a business owner. A small but significant number of Afghan women are working jobs in the service sector — a profile that was unimaginable for Afghan women a decade ago and is still considered inappropriate.

“I feel like I’m breaking stereotypes every day by just being here. That makes me feel very proud of myself,” says 20-year-old Mujda Nasiri, who started working at 50/50, a local fast-food restaurant in Kabul, about a year ago. “Initially, my parents were reluctant, but now that they see how independent I have become, financially and personally, they’re happy for me,” she says, adding that she had always been fascinated by the restaurant industry.

In a deeply conservative society such as Afghanistan, women have few avenues to pursue careers. Many of the jobs available — such as manual labor, technical positions, and banking and finance — are not considered suitable for women because traditionally a woman’s priority has been with her family and, especially, their honor. Added to that are the decades of war that have left the Afghan economy enormously dependent on foreign aid, thereby increasing unemployment and competition in the markets. As the rate of unemployment peaked at 40 percent in 2015, it has been even more challenging for women to be considered for jobs in a market that tends to favor men.

However, restaurants such as 50/50, which strives to be an equal opportunity employer, hires several women in various positions. “We are trying to create an all-inclusive space for our customers, especially for women and families, who can come here without any fear of harassment. Such a place is also good for women to work at,” explains Zahir, 37, the restaurant manager at 50/50 (most Afghans traditionally go by just one name). “We also find that women employees are more professional, timely, and able to work with grace despite pressures — a right fit for this industry.”

Nasiri is one of three waitresses the restaurant hired last year, and the move was welcomed by many of their customers. “I’ve had a very good experience working here; my colleagues are like my family and are very protective of my safety,” she says, recalling an incident where a displeased customer lectured her about how inappropriate such a job was for a woman.

“But I see that there has been a change in attitudes,” Nasiri says. “I find that a lot of our customers are not only happy to see me serve them, but [are] also very encouraging of my work. This one elderly gentleman was so happy to meet a working woman, that he left me a Afs1000 [$15] tip to keep me motivated,” she says, adding that the joy of meeting new people every day is a bigger motivation than money to stay with this job.

Twenty-five-year-old Nikbhakt, a barista at a local coffee shop frequented by the many foreigners and expats in Kabul, would agree with Nasiri. “I’ve been making and serving coffee for the last four years, and the best part of my job is interacting with people from around the world,” she says. There was a time when an Afghan woman couldn’t leave the house without a mahram — a male escort who is a blood relative — let alone talk to other people. Women had few places to engage socially in the extremely conservative and patriarchal society under the Taliban regime in the late 1990s.

Parents have reason to be concerned about their working daughters. Harassment at work and in public is a common sight in Kabul and other Afghan cities. Afghan women have to fight many gender stereotypes and inequalities along with abuse if they choose to pursue a career, any career. As a result, many women prefer jobs that require less mobility because even the act of traveling to work daily can often subject women to street harassment. Added to this the rising insecurity further discourages families from allowing their daughters to go to work.

Last year, the cafe where Nikbhakt works was attacked, and she barely missed the explosion that claimed the lives of two people, including the cafe’s guard. “I was extremely depressed for a long time after that attack. My family didn’t want me to work anymore, and I didn’t want to step out of home, either,” she says. “But now I know that cutting myself from the world isn’t a solution, and decided to come back to work two months ago.”

Since no institutes offer training to work in the service sector, Afghans have to learn on the job, which can be tedious for the employers. “We’ve had to let two of our female staff go because they were unable to cope with the pressure of working in a restaurant, but that isn’t to say that women can’t work in this industry,” Zahir says. “The environment, of course, matters, and it is perhaps up to us as employers to help create working environments that allow women to work comfortably and to their full potential.”

Women customers are drawn to restaurants where women work. “Having women around the restaurant creates a comforting and calm environment that eventually attracts a wide diversity of customers,” says Haidary, who also employs several women as servers, managers, and cooks.

She started her cafe as a way to fund her other initiative: the Mother Camp, a nonprofit drug rehabilitation shelter she opened seven years ago for homeless addicts in Kabul. When the funding to the shelter started to dry up (few in Afghanistan consider donating to rehabilitating drug addicts), Haidary and her volunteers came up with the idea of establishing this cafe. Even today, most of her employees are former or recovering addicts from the Camp, which also continues to help hundreds of Afghans recover every year.

Haidary has been successful as a restaurateur, but the ride hasn’t been smooth. On the contrary, she faced several threats and intimidations, sometimes even from her own customers who would show up drunk or high on hashish to her cafe, breaking her one cardinal rule — no drugs, no alcohol.

Terrorized but not afraid, Haidary would often take these men head-on. “There was a time when she literally pounced on a large Afghan man who was a guard to a local parliamentarian,” recalls a regular customer at Taj Begum who witnessed the attack. “He had come drunk to the cafe, gotten into a brawl, and threatened to have [Haidary] shut down. When [she] protested, and had him kicked out of the cafe, he smashed her car windows.”

Despite that chaos, Haidary persisted because she wanted to be an inspiration to other women in Afghanistan. “Even when the going got tough, I didn’t quit. Not only did I need this to support Mother Camp, but I also wanted to show to our society that a woman can run a successful business,” she says.

The social change, however, will have to be gradual, and Afghan society will need more time to accept working women, especially in the service sector, as a norm. That said, women have come by leaps and bounds, having survived many wars and the brutal and patriarchal Taliban regime, during which they couldn’t even step out of their homes without male escorts. They know they’re more than just victims — they’re survivors who are overcoming odds, every day.

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Fascism’s Return and Trump’s War on Youth

Students from numerous area high schools come together in Mariachi Plaza before continuing their march to City Hall to protest the upset election of Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the race for President of the United States on November 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California, United States. The mostly Latino youth walked out of class to protest because they are afraid that their families could be split up through mass deportations of millions of immigrants, as promised by Trump during his campaign. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Students from numerous area high schools come together in Mariachi Plaza before continuing their march to City Hall to protest the upset election of Republican Donald Trump on November 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: David McNew / Getty Images)

Fascism is all too often relegated to the history books.

The word conjures up a period in which civilized societies treated democracy with contempt, engaged in acts of systemic violence, practised extermination and elimination, supported an “apocalyptic populism,” suppressed dissent, promoted a hyper-nationalism, displayed contempt for women, embraced militarism as an absolute ideal and insisted on obedience to a self-proclaimed prophet.

But the seeds that produced such fascist horrors have once again sprung to life, returning in new social and political forms.

Today, a culture of fear dominates American society, one marked by massive inequities in wealth and power that not only uphold structures of domination, but also view differences as threats, compassion as weakness and shared responsibilities — if not the common good itself — as pathology.

Fascist thought is on the rise all over the world, but its most blatant and dangerous manifestation has emerged in the Trump administration.

Fear and the ethos of mass consumerism — coupled with widespread insecurity and ignorance — now drive people into a malignant notion of security, self-inflicted cynicism and into the arms of demagogues like Trump. For too many Americans, critical thinking and hope have given way to emotional bonding and the revival of the discourse of ultra-nationalism and bigotry.

Trump: Not Hitler, but Dangerous Nonetheless

Trump is not Hitler in that he has not created concentration camps, shut down the critical media or rounded up dissidents; moreover, the United States at the current historical moment is not the Weimar Republic.

But in the Trump era, remnants of fascism exist in different shapes and forms and include a celebration of the cult of the leader, systemic racism, the embrace of a toxic macho-populism and state support for ultra-nationalism, racism and the threat of violence against critics.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

All of these elements are evident in Trump’s rhetoric and policy initiatives.

Trump’s corporate brand of neoliberal fascism is highly visible in right-wing policies that favour deregulation, corporate power and the interests of the ultra-rich.

Instead of draining the corporate swamp, Trump has embraced the merging of corporate and political power, and in doing so has turned the state into a battering ram designed to serve the most powerful and wealthiest members of society.

Trump’s mode of fascism is a unique product of our times, our commercial culture, and a corporate controlled media, all of which saps the foundations of a viable democracy.

American culture is advertising-saturated and celebrity-based, and has permitted a rich self-promoter to abandon any pretense of civility, accountability or integrity in order to hype, scam and market his way to power.

Call it Fascism, American-Style. It’s returned in the shadow of neoliberalism, with its celebration of the market as the template for governing all of society and its concentration of economic and political power in relatively few hands.

Friendly With dictators

How else to explain Trump’s unapologetic support and friendly attitude toward right-wing dictators such as the self-confessed killer, Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, all of whom have a fawning attraction to Trump given he exhibits little interest in their massive human rights violations.

Trump’s fascism is also on full display in his ramping up of the police state, his relentless racist rhetoric, taunts and policies that cast Blacks, immigrants and Muslims as people unworthy of respect, compassion and dignity, and in his support for a war culture.

The latter is marked by his expansion of the US military budget, his provocations aimed at North Korea and reckless policies such as recognizing Jerusalem the capital of Israel —  widely condemned by almost all world leaders  — that destabilize the Middle East, Asia and other parts of the world.

But there are more subtle, if not under-examined, indicators that point to resurgence of fascist principles in the United States.

One of the most powerful is Trump’s war on youth.

Finance capitalism now drives politics, governance and policy in unprecedented ways. And it’s more than willing to sacrifice the future of young people for short-term political and economic gains, if not democracy itself.

In an apparent war on children, the Trump administration provides a disturbing index of a society in the midst of a deep moral and political crisis — not the least of which was the president’s support and defence of an accused serial pedophile, Roy Moore, in his unsuccessful attempt to win an Alabama Senate seat.

“Foreclosed Hope”

Too many young people today live in an era of foreclosed hope, an era in which it is difficult either to imagine a life beyond the tenets of a savage form of casino capitalism or to transcend the fear that any attempt to do so can only result in a more dreadful nightmare.

Youth today are not only plagued by the fragility and uncertainty of the present, they are, as the late Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman has argued, “the first post-war generation facing the prospect of downward mobility [in which the] plight of the outcast stretches to embrace a generation as a whole.”

American youth, especially those marginalized by race and class, are subject to the dictates of the punishing state. Not only is their behaviour being criminalized in schools and on the streets, they are also subject to repressive forms of legislation.

Several states are sponsoring legislation that would make perfectly legal forms of protest a crime that carries a huge fine, or subjects young people to possible felony charges? Increasingly, young people are viewed as a public disorder, a dream now turned into a nightmare.

The most recent example is evident in budget and tax reform bills that shift millions of dollars away from social programs vital to the health of poor youth to the pockets of the ultra-rich, who hardly need tax deductions.

As US children’s rights activist Marian Wright Adelman points out, such actions are particularly alarming and cruel at a time when “millions of America’s children today are suffering from hunger, homelessness and hopelessness.”

She adds: “Nearly 13.2 million children are poor — almost one in five. About 70 per cent of them are children of colour, who will be a majority of our children by 2020. More than 1.2 million are homeless. About 14.8 million children struggle against hunger in food insecure households.”

Cruel Mindset

The Trump administration is more than willing to pass massive tax cuts for the rich while at the same time refusing to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which supports over nine million children.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, meantime, has argued that tax cuts shouldn’t benefit the poor because they will just waste the money on booze and women.

So if you’re not rich, it’s because you’re lazy. Really? Tell that to the 10,000 people, some of them children, who may die each year as a result of losing their health insurance due to the proposed Senate tax bill.

Such a mindset, and statements like Grassley’s, are more than cruel, they represent a political and economic system that has abandoned any sense of moral and social responsibility.

In this view, children are undeserving of aid because offering such government support flies in the face of a ruthless neoliberal ideology that insists that the only responsibility of government is to aid the rich and powerful corporations.

If the poor are suffering and subject to harsh conditions, according to Grassley’s logic, it is because of a lack of character.

Another under-analyzed example of Trump’s war on youth can be seen his cancellation of the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), instituted in 2012 by former president Barack Obama.

Under the program, over 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children or teens before 2007 were allowed to live, study and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

In revoking the program, Trump enacted a policy that is both cruel and racist, given that 78 per cent of DACA residents are from Mexico. These are the same immigrants Trump once labelled rapists, drug addicts and criminals.

Trump’s contempt for the lives of young people, his support for a culture of cruelty and his appetite for destruction and civic catastrophe are more than a symptom of a society ruled almost exclusively by a market-driven survival of the fittest ethos.

“Systemic Derangement”

It is about the systemic derangement of democracy and emergence of fascist politics that celebrates the toxic pleasures of the authoritarian state with no regard for its children.

Trump is the apostle of moral blindness and unchecked corruption, and he revels in a mode of governance that merges his never-ending theatrics of self-promotion with deeply authoritarian politics.

One of the most disturbing features of Trump’s fascism is his disregard for the truth and his embrace of an infantilism that demonstrates, for young people, a lack of any viable sense of critical thought, agency and commitment to social and economic justice.

What’s more, Trump has unleashed a rancid populism and racist-fuelled ultra-nationalism that mimics older forms of fascism and creates a culture of cruelty that both disparages its children and cancels out a future that makes democracy possible for them — and therefore all of us.

At the same time, Trump has embraced a merging of corporate power and politics that is characteristic of all fascist regimes, and in doing so, he has shifted wealth and resources away from vital social programs for young people into the hands of the financial elite.

There is more at work here than regressive tax policies, there is also an attempt to disable the welfare state by eliminating its funding.

Domestic Terrorism

One result is what might be called the unleashing of a form of domestic terrorism — terrorism practised in one’s own country against one’s own people — in which young people are subject to state violence and relegated to forms of terminal exclusion, spheres of social abandonment and set adrift in a state of disorientation and despair.

Under this new resurgence of fascism, thinking is dangerous, public spheres that promote critical thought are considered pathological and youth are viewed as a threatening disoriented class, especially those marginalized by race, sexual orientation and class.

And so under Trump, the winds of fascism have accelerated into a hurricane and pose a haunting crisis for youth, the future and democracy itself.

That crisis of youth under the Trump regime is a political disaster of the first order and threatens every vital cultural and political ideal, principle, social formation and public sphere that makes a democracy possible. It’s best illustrated by Trump’s support for Moore, a homophobe, unabashed racist and an accused child predator, sexual harasser and sexual abuser.

Yes, fascism us making a comeback and is with us once again — yet Moore’s defeat in the deep-red state of Alabama to his Democratic challenger gives us reason to hope. Black voters, particularly black women, and young voters stood up to say “no more.”

Fascism requires those among us who value equity, fairness, justice and morality to defeat it. To stop fascism, it is crucial that we show that democracy is the only alternative, and that the grotesque elements of fascism will be challenged. Here’s hoping Alabama is just the beginning of such a struggle.

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Trump’s Naming of Jerusalem Capital Brings Anger and Despair: An Interview With Richard Falk


By Dan Falcone, Truthout 

Palestinians shout slogans during a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Gaza City, Gaza on December 15, 2017. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Palestinians shout slogans during a demonstration against President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in Gaza City, Gaza, on December 15, 2017. (Photo: Ali Jadallah / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

President Trump made history in naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel, as much of the world watched on with anger and despair. The moment comes as a crucial step backwards for the region’s “peace process.” In the background seemingly, Trump needs to sustain his base of support among Evangelicals and rich Jewish donors, but as for the effects, it seems that as usual, he couldn’t care less.

Liberal US Jews, such as the advocacy group J-Street, are condemning the decision and they’re right, of course, to condemn it. Theirs is a major task to bring about some respect for human rights in the US, at least at the leadership level. The move poses other challenges and questions. Will Trump move the Embassy? Does Trump have any thinking on the matter beyond his own ego? Or is this a further step toward organizing the reactionary bloc of Arab dictatorships as well as hyper-nationalist Israel? Is an alliance against Iran part of the strategy?

In this exclusive Truthout interview, former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights Richard Falk helps to elaborate on these points and more. Falk argues that “what is already evident on the basis of the decision itself is the severe damage done to the global and regional leadership reputation of the United States. As well, the authority of the United Nations has been shown to be no match for geopolitical resolve, and international law and world public opinion have been pushed aside.” Falk goes on to state that, “prospects for a diplomacy based on the equality of rights of Palestinians and Israelis have been reduced to zero, and thus no just end of the Palestinian ordeal can be foreseen.”

This interview is dedicated to the late Edward S. Herman, the author of Manufacturing Consent.

Daniel Falcone: Can you comment on how the world is reacting to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital?

Richard Falk: As foolish as the world is about many issues of public policy, there seems to be not a shred of support for Trump’s abrupt move, among foreign leaders or international public opinion, not among European liberal democracies that normally line up with the United States on policies associated with Israel/Palestine, and not even among Arab monarchs currently eager to induce Trump’s further support for an escalating confrontation with Iran.

East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory subject to international humanitarian law, and was unlawfully incorporated by legal decree into Israel’s sovereign territory.

Only in Israel, especially those supportive of the Netanyahu iron-fist approach to Palestinian issues, and among [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] enthusiasts and Christian Zionists does the provocative decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a prelude to moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem win mindless approval. Usually, Trump apologists contend that … everybody knows that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and thus, what Trump has done is nothing more than conform American policy to reality. Or some add the equally weightless argument that Israel has every right, as do all sovereign states, to locate its capital in whatever city it chooses. These arguments fall flat because East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, is Palestinian territory subject to international humanitarian law, and was unlawfully incorporated by legal decree into Israel’s sovereign territory.

At this point, the unified city of Jerusalem was declared by Israel to be the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Back in 1980, such Israeli unilateral efforts to incorporate and regulate Jerusalem as part of Israel, disregarding the international consensus on these issues, was strongly and unconditionally condemned by the [UN] Security Council in Resolution 478, which was unanimously adopted with the United States refraining from casting a veto, yet still preventing complete unanimity by abstaining.

ABC News and The Washington Post called the move “historic” and a “crucial step in the peace process.” Given that this is largely false and mere rhetoric, what is really transpiring in the background?

Trump, without acknowledgement, is supporting Netanyahu’s approach, [which] is centered upon repudiating the two-state consensus and avoids diplomatic approaches seeking any political compromise between Israel and Palestine that recognizes and implements the rights of both peoples on the basis of equality. In effect, Trump is aligning the US government with a repudiation of the Oslo framework, which depended to some degree on the United States playing the role, or at least pretending to do so, of honest broker. What Netanyahu’s behavior implies is a unilaterally imposed “solution” that denies the Palestinian quest for statehood and any fulfillment of its related right of self-determination.

If unilateralism is blocked or rendered too costly politically, then Netanyahu is prepared to live indefinitely with the present circumstances that enable indefinite territorial expansion by Israel via the settlements, while simultaneously subjugating the Palestinian people by reliance upon a variety of apartheid structures of ethnic control. Territorial expansion has relied on incremental annexation as its principal instrument, exhibiting the Israeli belief that it is winning the end game in its long struggle to frustrate legitimate Palestinian national aspirations in the homeland of the Palestinian people.

It is an extraordinary paradox that Israel seems on the verge of establishing a de facto settler colony in an historical epoch that featured the collapse of colonialism, although any conclusion about Palestinian destiny is premature, especially as the flow of history has a way of reaching its goals, however unlikely such an outcome may presently seem.

Liberal US Jews, such as the advocacy group J-Street, are condemning the decision. What are your thoughts on their position and resistance?

In my view, liberal Zionism is particularly unhappy with the Trump recognition move because it strips away the illusionary commitment to implementing the two-state formula that was the core of liberal Zionist belief that a political compromise could be diplomatically achieved. Trump’s acknowledgement of “reality” seems to accept the extremist views of Daniel Pipes and others that Israel has prevailed, that this is the time to celebrate the Israeli victory, and for the Palestinians to acknowledge defeat. Earlier American presidents have all supported a negotiated solution in which the United States serves as intermediary. With the settlement movement passing the point of no return some years ago and Israel feeling minimal recent pressure to compromise, the continued assertion of the two-state solution as the agreed goal of global policy was a classic example of a “zombie solution” in which public positions are connected with a mission that continues to be proclaimed although understood to be impossible. Such a zombie posture, however misleading, continues to be preferred by many actors, including the Palestinian Authority on one side and J-Street on the other.

The alternatives seemed more unpalatable, either acknowledging Palestinian defeat and admitting the triumph of “illiberal Zionism,” or joining with those who say that since diplomacy has failed, the Palestinians have no choice but to resume armed struggle as their last best hope for securing their fundamental rights. At least by affirming a moribund two-state solution, liberal Zionists can sustain their commitment to Israel without giving up their belief in a political compromise that allows the Jewish state of Israel to coexist with a Palestinian state.

Discuss how this shift makes it more difficult for the Palestinians to attain peace and security.

To some extent, my prior response answers part of this question. I am not sure that the Trump move makes it more difficult for Palestinians to achieve a sustainable peace on the basis of the equality of the two peoples. It is more difficult, undoubtedly, for the Palestinian Authority (PA), whose existence depends upon the repudiation of armed struggle combined with the viability of diplomacy within the Oslo framework. Their future is now more uncertain than ever.

Perhaps by reacting negatively to the Trump initiative, the PA will mobilize greater support for the nonviolent struggles on behalf of the Palestinians now being waged by Palestinian civil society and the global solidarity movement, especially in the [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] campaign, which becomes the only game in town for credible advocates of a nonviolent resolution of the conflict. What becomes more difficult is to pretend that the United States can any longer be a credible intermediary between the parties, or that Israel has any interest whatsoever in a diplomatic solution, other than possibly one that is geopolitically forced fed by some nefarious coalition, perhaps joining Saudi regional muscle to an American insistence.

Previously I’ve discussed with you the notion of the Israeli Embassy moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Will this serve as a first step to the potential moving of the embassy?

Yes, without a doubt, barring an apocalyptic backlash, the US government will begin the process of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem. The extent of backlash may be directly affected by whether Washington makes the move incrementally and in a low-profile style, or proceeds in a Trumpian flamboyant manner. It is notable, of course, that no country in the world supports recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, except as the outcome of a negotiating process in which Jerusalem also is recognized as the capital of the Palestinian people.

In effect, what Trump has done is to make one more assault upon multilateralism and the benefits of international cooperation that has underpinned world order since 1945… By rejecting the UN consensus with respect to Jerusalem, the US is not only repudiating an internationalist approach, it is also exhibiting disdain for relevant rules of international law and the authority of the UN.

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UN Special Rapporteur Says Tax Bill Will Make the US “World Champion of Extreme Inequality”


Image result for US Tax Bill CARTOON

As Congress prepares to vote on the controversial tax bill, the United Nations has issued a scathing report on poverty in the United States that found the Trump administration and Republicans are turning the US into the “world champion of extreme inequality.” Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, announced his findings after conducting a two-week fact-finding mission across the country, including visits to California, Alabama, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Alston also warned that the Republican tax bill will transfer vast amounts of wealth to the richest earners while making life harder for the 41 million Americans living in poverty. Among other startling findings in Alston’s report, the US ranks 36th in the world in terms of access to water and sanitation. We speak with Philip Alston, who is also a professor at NYU Law School.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to a scathing new report on poverty in the United States that found the Trump administration and Republicans are turning the US into the, quote, “world champion of extreme inequality.” Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, announced his findings after conducting a two-week fact-finding mission across the country, including visits to California, Alabama, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Alston also warned the Republican tax bill would transfer vast amounts of wealth to the richest earners while making life harder for the 41 million Americans living in poverty.

AMY GOODMAN: Among other startling findings in Alston’s report, the US ranks 36th in the world in terms of access to water and sanitation. Alston discussed the report’s findings Friday with independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who focused on economic inequality during his presidential campaign.

Well, for more, Philip Alston joins us here in our New York studio. He’s the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. He is also a professor at NYU Law School, New York University.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Alston. So you just came back from this tour. Congress is poised to vote on this tax bill. Your assessment and why you’re weighing in as the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty?

PHILIP ALSTON: Well, my job is to try to highlight the extent to which people — to which the civil rights of people who are living in extreme poverty are jeopardized by government policies. What I see in the United States now is not just a tax reform bill, but a very clear indication by government officials with whom I met, by the Treasury, in their analysis, that this is going to be funded in part by cuts to welfare, to Medicare, Medicaid. And so what you’ve got is a huge effort to enrich the richest and to impoverish the poorest. That is going to have very dramatic consequences.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And from what you saw, how did race and poverty overlap on this issue?

PHILIP ALSTON: There’s a very complex relationship, actually, between race and poverty. First, it is true that if you are African-American, if you’re Hispanic, your situation, in terms of poverty, is often going to be pretty bad. But there’s also a racialized discourse, where if you speak to policymakers, they will say, “Yes, we’ve got to cut back on welfare, because those black families out there are really ripping off the system.” And so what they do is to try to get some sort of race warfare going almost, that white voters think, “Yeah, I’m not going to be ripped off by the blacks and the Hispanics.” But, of course, the terrible thing is that the cuts are actually nondiscriminatory. In other words, they impact the poor whites every bit as much as the poor people of color. So, the race dimension is deeply problematic.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Benita Garner, a mother living in poverty, who’s participating in a program through a nonprofit called LIFT. She landed seasonal work with UPS, but worries what will happen when the job ends.

BENITA GARNER: It’s scary. It’s stuff that you don’t really think about, but it’s scary. It’s just that I know it can happen. I’m like really not looking forward to the end of the month, because I’m like, ahh, you know, right now you’re getting money, but then it’s like it’s going to shut down again. So, you always have to constantly think every day, “What’s my next move?”

AMY GOODMAN: She spoke at your launch of your report. Talk about why Benita is so important.

PHILIP ALSTON: Well, because there are millions of people in exactly that position. One of the things that the current administration is pushing is that we need to get people off welfare and into work. First of all, it’s not clear that there are the jobs for people with those sort of skills. But secondly, those who do get the jobs that are available are going to end up in Benita’s situation. I spoke with a lot of Walmart employees who are working full-time, but who are still eligible for and totally dependent upon food stamps. So, working 35 hours a week at Walmart is not enough to make a living out of. And there’s a much bigger problem in the US, of course: The precariousness of employment, as we move to the gig economy and so on, means that there are going to be ever more people in Benita’s situation, where, yes, you get a job; yes, the benefits are cut; but you can’t survive.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: How does the US compare to other countries in the world? I think most Americans would be shocked. I mean, we mentioned in the lede to this piece, 36th in water quality in the world? Talk about comparing it to other major advanced — especially advanced industrial countries.

PHILIP ALSTON: Well, the United States is, of course, one of the very richest countries in the world. But all of the statistics put it almost at the bottom — doesn’t matter what it is. Whether it’s child mortality rates, whether it’s the longevity of adults, whether it’s the degree of adequacy of healthcare, the United States is very close to the bottom on all of these. What’s really surprising is that when I go to other countries, the big debate is that “We don’t have the money. We can’t afford to provide basic services to these people.” And yet, in the United States, they’ve got a trillion or a trillion and a half to give to the very rich, but they also don’t have any of the money to provide a basic lifestyle that is humane for 40 million Americans.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Alston, you were in Alabama right around the time of the December 12th special election between Doug Jones and Roy Moore. And why were you talking about poverty at that time? Why did you see it as so significant, weighing in in this election?

PHILIP ALSTON: I didn’t weigh in in the election. I was very careful not to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: No, why poverty weighs in.

PHILIP ALSTON: Oh, right. Well, I think that — I mean, one of the best quotes I got during my two-week visit was from an official in West Virginia, where voting rates are extremely low. And I said, “Why is it that no one votes in West Virginia?” And the response was: “Well, you know, when people are very poor, they lose interest. They just don’t believe there’s any point.” And, of course, one begins to wonder if that’s actually a strategy, that you make people poor enough, you make them obsessed with working out where their next meal is going to come from, they’re not going to vote, and so you can happily ignore them.

AMY GOODMAN: You talked about a massive sewage crisis in rural Alabama and also talked about meeting people there, like Pattie Mae Ansley McDonald, who told you about how her house was shot up by white neighbors when she voted in 1965 after the Voting Rights Act became law.

PHILIP ALSTON: Right. That was a very touching meeting. I was meeting with people who really are struggling to make it. But the main focus was actually on water and sanitation. What’s shocking is that in a country like India today, there’s a huge government campaign to try to get sewerage to all people, make it available. In Alabama and West Virginia, where I went, I asked state officials, “So, what’s the coverage of the official sewerage system?” “I don’t know.” “Really? So, what plans” —

AMY GOODMAN: That’s what they said to you, they didn’t know.

PHILIP ALSTON: “So, what plans do you have then for extending the coverage, albeit slowly?” “Uh, none.” “So, do you think people can live a decent life if they don’t have access to sewerage, if the sewage is pouring out into the front garden, which is what I saw in a lot of these places?” “That’s their problem. If they need it, they can buy it for themselves.” In Alabama, where the soil —

AMY GOODMAN: The authorities said.

PHILIP ALSTON: Yeah. In Alabama, where the soil is very tough, it can cost up to $30,000 to put in your own septic system.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about Puerto Rico, which is grappling with a $74 billion debt and as much as $100 billion in storm damage. The Republican tax bill includes a 20 percent excise tax on goods produced there. This is Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, originally from Puerto Rico, talking about that.

REP. NYDIA VELÁZQUEZ: Now, with the potential passage of the Republican tax scam bill, Puerto Rico faces an economic hurricane. … Under this bill, American subsidiaries operating in Puerto Rico will now face a 20 percent tax when they move their goods off the island. If this becomes law, you can expect to see more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs disappear from the island. And the government of Puerto Rico could lose one-third of its revenue.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You visited Puerto Rico during your trip. The idea that even with an unemployment rate that hovers around 16, 17 percent, depression levels, that there could be even greater unemployment as a result of this tax bill?

PHILIP ALSTON: Puerto Rico is getting what it deserves. In other words, you don’t have any votes in the Congress, you don’t get anything. There is just no willingness on the part of members of Congress to be seen to be giving anything to Puerto Rico. The result is, you’ve got extremely high levels of people on welfare, but those welfare payments significantly lower than they are on the mainland. You’ve got a whole series of measures that are being proposed, in the tax bill and elsewhere. And you’ve got the PROMESA, the fiscal oversight board, poised to really impose a draconian austerity package. So, the situation is grim. But when you don’t have democratic representation, it’s very hard to defend yourself.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times has a piece, “The Next Crisis for Puerto Rico: A Crush of Foreclosures.” And it says, “Now Puerto Rico is bracing for another blow: a housing meltdown that could far surpass the worst of the foreclosure crisis that devastated Phoenix, Las Vegas, Southern California and South Florida … If the current numbers hold, Puerto Rico is headed for a foreclosure epidemic that could rival what happened in Detroit, where abandoned homes became almost as plentiful as occupied ones.” Professor Alston?

PHILIP ALSTON: So, what you’ve got is, the very poor — and I visited a lot of areas where people have no electricity still and are living in rubble, essentially — they won’t be going anywhere. They’ll be staying in their homes. Those who are reasonably well-off will be fleeing, because they can’t make it in Puerto Rico. They don’t have the electricity. They don’t have the economic support. And so there’s no point in staying. That housing market will then be terribly uninteresting for investors and others.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about the positive side of your report, those areas that you saw communities organizing themselves and trying to deal with their problems directly?

PHILIP ALSTON: Well, I did — and particularly in Puerto Rico, it has to be said, I visited some of the cooperatives where people are really trying to reclaim the land in San Juan, trying to dredge the old canal that’s grown over. I met with a lot of people living around power plants who are very severely impacted by the daily flow of coal ash and so on. They’re really organized. They’re really focused. And that was terrific.

I think, in many other parts of the country, as well, what I saw was, you know, community health collectives in West Virginia. I saw the homeless in Skid Row in Los Angeles and so on. There is a real element of organization. But the bottom line, unfortunately, is that if you don’t have essential government services being provided, these people can’t do it on their own.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you very much for being with us. In 30 seconds, can you summarize — I mean, you’re not from this country. You’ve lived here for a long time. But you now take this different kind of tour, and you’re the special rapporteur on extreme poverty. Your thoughts on the United States after this two weeks?

PHILIP ALSTON: Well, the United States is unique. First of all, it doesn’t recognize what we call social rights at the international level — a right to healthcare, a right to housing, a right to food. The United States is unique in that, saying these are not rights.

Second, the issue with elimination of poverty always is around resources: “We don’t have the money.” The United States, again, uniquely, has the money. It could eliminate poverty overnight, if it wanted to. What we’re seeing now is the classic — it’s a political choice. Where do you want to put your money? Into the very rich or into creating a decent society, which will actually be economically more productive than just giving the money to those who already have a lot?

AMY GOODMAN: And what the tax bill does?

PHILIP ALSTON: That’s what the tax bill does, from what I’ve seen.

AMY GOODMAN: Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, a professor at New York University Law School, just completed a two-week tour examining extreme poverty and human rights in the US

When we come back, the seven banned words, according to staff at the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control. Is this true that people at the CDC, when writing up budgets, are not supposed to use words like “transgender” or “science-based” or use the word “fetus”? Stay with us.

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The US’s Wars: More of More of the Same


By Danny SjursenTomDispatch 

Image result for US's Wars CARTOON

I remember the day President Obama let me down.

It was December 1, 2009, and as soon as the young president took the podium at West Point and — calm and cool as ever — announced a new troop surge in Afghanistan, I knew. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. In that instant, George W. Bush’s wars had become Barack Obama’s.

But where Bush had seemed, however foolishly, to believe his own rhetoric about America’s glorious military mission in the world, you always sensed that Obama’s heart just wasn’t in it. He’d been steamrolled by ambitious generals who pioneered generational warfare and hawkish cabinet members like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Bush-holdover Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Then again, what choice did he have, given the way he’d run his presidential campaign on the idea that Afghanistan was a “war of necessity” and so the foil for Iraq, the “dumb war“? Now he was stuck with that landlocked, inhospitable little war, come what may. As we all know (and as I had little doubt then), it didn’t work out. Not at all.

Like many other idealistic Americans, I’d bet big on Obama. The madness and futility of my own 15 months in Iraq as a scout platoon leader — you know, one of those “warriors” you’re obligated to thank endlessly for his service — had forever soured me on nation-building crusades in faraway lands. And the young, inspiring senator from Illinois seemed to have some authentic anti-war chops. Unlike Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, he was untarnished by the October 2002 Iraq War resolution vote that gave the Bush administration the right to shock and awe the hell out of Saddam Hussein. Looking back, I suppose I should have known better. Obama had only been a state senator with an essentially nonexistent record on foreign policy when he first criticized Operation Iraqi Freedom. Still, after so many years of Bush’s messianic adventures, anyone seemed preferable.

That was more than eight years ago and somehow the United States military is still slogging along in Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s more, Bush’s wars have only expanded in breadth, if not in depth, to Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Niger, among other places. Yes, ISIS as a “caliphate” has been defeated. As a now-global franchise, however, anything but, and victory — whatever that might mean at this point — couldn’t be further off as our next president, Donald Trump, approaches his one year mark in office and he and “his” military only ratchet up those wars further.

Good Instincts?

The Trump-Clinton election fiasco of 2016 was, to say the least, disturbing. And while I was no fan of Mr. Trump’s language, demeanor, or (however vague) policies, when it came to our wars he did seem to demonstrate some redeeming qualities. Running against Hillary the hawk presented him with genuine opportunities. She, after all, had been wrong about every major foreign policy decision for more than a decade. Iraq? She voted for it. Afghanistan? She wanted another “surge.” Libya? She was all in and had a fine chuckle when autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was killed.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, while visibly ill informed and anything but polished on such subjects, occasionally sounded strangely rational and ready to topple more than a few sacred cows of the foreign policy establishment. He called both the Iraq and Afghan wars “stupid,” criticized the poorly planned and executed Libyan operation that had indeed loosed chaos and weaponry from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals across North Africa, and had even questioned whether military escalation, supposedly to balance Russian moves in Eastern Europe, was necessary. Whether he really believed any of that stuff or was just being an effective attack dog by pouncing on Hillary’s grim record we may never know.

What already seems clear, however, is that Trump’s version of global strategy — to the extent that he even has one — is turning out to be yet more of more of the same. He did, of course, quickly surround himself with three generals from America’s losing wars clearly convinced that they could “surge” their way out of anything. More troublesome yet, it seems to have registered on him that military escalation, air strikes of various sorts, special operations raids, and general bellicosity all look “presidential” and so play well with the American people.

In constant need of positive reinforcement, Trump has seemed to revel in the role of war president. When he simply led a round of applause for a widow whose husband had died in a botched raid in Yemen early in his presidency, CNN commentator Van Jones typically gushed that he “just became president of the United States, period.” After he ordered the launching of a few dozen cruise missiles targeting one of Bashar al-Assad’s air bases in Syria, even Washington Post columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria lauded him for acting “presidential.” War sells, as does fear, especially in the America of 2017, a country filled with outsized fears of Islamic terrorism that no one knows how to stoke better than Donald Trump. So expect more, much more, of each next year.

A Brief Tour of Trump’s Wars

Where exactly does that leave us? Like Obama before him, and Bush before him, President Trump has opted for continuing, even escalating, America’s war for the Greater Middle East. Long gone are the critiques of “stupid” interventions. As he announced a new mini-surge in Afghanistan, he did admit that his instinct had been to end America’s longest war, but it wasn’t an instinct that stood tall in the face of his war-fighting generals.

Now, after nearly a year in office, those instincts of his seem limited to whatever his generals tell him. An ever-so-brief tour of his wars suggests — to give you a little preview of what’s to come (should Americans even care) — two things: first, that on the horizon is more of more of the same; second, that the result is likely to be, as it has largely been in these last years, some version of stalemate verging on defeat.

* Afghanistan is a true mess. Now entering its 17th year, the war in that infamous graveyard of empires has left the US military short on answers.

Afghan Security Forces (ASF), the foundation of American “strategy” there, are being killed and wounded at an unsustainable rate. And all that sacrifice — to the tune of perhaps 20,000 ASF casualties annually — has delivered precious little in the way of stability. More Afghan provinces and districts are contested or under direct Taliban control today than at any time in these years of American intervention. Corruption is still endemic in the government and the military and few rural Afghans seem to consider the regime in Kabul legitimate.

It’s all been so futile that it borders on the absurd. Without an indefinite influx of Western money, training, and logistical support, the Afghan government simply cannot hold out. Despite the efforts of hundreds of thousands of American troops and countless bureaucrats, Washington has never been able to deal with or alter the essential quandary that lies at the heart of the Afghan mission: the Taliban still counts on sanctuary in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan and so long as that’s available — and it seems it will be in perpetuity — there is no way to militarily defeat them. Besides, the Taliban harbor no discernible transnational aspirations and most al-Qaeda operatives have long since left Afghanistan’s mountains for other locales throughout the Greater Middle East.

Mr. Trump’s generals and their troops on the ground have no answers to these confounding challenges. One thing is guaranteed: 3,000, or even 50,000 more troops won’t break the stalemate, nor will loosing some of the last Vietnam-era B-52s to bomb the countryside. When I last surged into Afghanistan myself in 2011-2012, I was joined by more than 100,000 fellow Americans. It didn’t matter. We achieved about as much as this current “strategy” will: stasis.

* Iraq is rarely in the headlines anymore, except maybe as an offshoot of America’s anti-ISIS campaign in Syria. Nonetheless, with more than 5,200US troops on the ground (and don’t forget the private contractors also in-country), you’ve not heard the last of Washington’s 14-year-old campaign there. What exactly is the US charter in Iraq these days anyway? To defeat ISIS? That’s (mostly) done, in a conventional sense anyway. The so-called caliphate has fallen, though ISIS as a global brand is thriving. To stabilize the country in order to avoid ISIS 2.0 or block the growth and spread of well-armed Shia militias? Don’t count on a few thousand troops succeeding where 150,000 servicemen failed at similar tasks the last time around.

Iraq remains divided and ultimately unstable. In the north, the Kurds want autonomy, which the Shia-dominated Baghdad regime will have none of. In the north and west, Sunnis, living in the rubble of their unreconstructed cities, remain distrustful of Baghdad. (A year after its “liberation” from ISIS, for instance, significant parts of Fallujah still lack water or electricity.) Unless they are somehow integrated more equitably into the Shia-controlled political heartland, they will predictably support the next iteration of Islamist extremists.

The only real winner in the Iraq War was Iran. A mostly friendly, Shia-heavy government in Baghdad suits Tehran just fine. In fact, by toppling Saddam Hussein, the United States all but ensured that Iran would gain increased regional influence. The bottom line is that Iraq has many challenges ahead and Washington doesn’t have a hope in hell of meaningfully solving any of them.

How will Baghdad divide power between its various sects and factions? How will it demobilize and/or integrate those Shia militia units that checked ISIS’s expansion in 2014-2015 into its military or will it? How much autonomy will President Haider al-Abadi allow the Kurds?

The all but perpetual American military presence in that country seems unlikely to help with any of Iraq’s countless problems. And given that, like just about anyone else on this planet, Arabs don’t take kindly to even the most minimalist of occupations, whatever they may officially be called, expect those US troops to end up in someone’s line of fire sooner or later. (Recent history suggests that sooner is more likely.)

* When it comes to Syria, can anyone articulate a coherent strategy in the devastated ruins of that country amid a byzantine network of factions, terror groups, and the once again ascendant government and military of Bashar al-Assad? It seems like another formula for certain disaster. Somehow, Syria makes even the situation in Iraq seem simple. Perhaps 2,000 US troops are on the ground in north and southeast Syria. Getting in was the easy part, getting out may be all but impossible.

US-sponsored, mainly Kurdish forces, backed by American air power and artillery, seized ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, and helped turn the militants of the Islamic State back into a guerilla force. Now what? Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syrian President Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Iranians all loathe the Kurds and are none-too-keen to allow them any form of long-term autonomy. A tenuous stalemate has developed between Assad’s army and his foreign backers on one side and the small US force with its allied Kurdish fighters on the other. Sooner or later, however, it’s a recipe for disaster as the possibilities of “accidental” conflict abound. The Trump team, like Obama’s before them, appears to have no consistent vision for Syria’s future. Can Assad stay in power? Does the US even have a say in that question any longer? Assad, Putin, and Hezbollah appear to hold a far stronger hand in that country’s six-year civil war.

In addition to yet more destruction, division, and chaos, it’s unclear what the US stands to achieve in Syria. Nevertheless, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Pentagon recently announced that, just as in Iraq, US troops would stay in Syria after the final defeat of ISIS. On the subject, a Pentagon spokesperson was quite emphatic: “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.” In other words, the US military will remain there until when exactly? Long enough for the civil war to end and liberal democracy to burst forth in the Syrian countryside?

That country is hardly a vital national security interest of the United States and the Trump team’s plans seem as vague as they are foolish. Nonetheless, on the intervention goes and where it ends nobody knows. It’s not, however, likely to end well.

* Yemen, Niger, Somalia, Libya, and various other smaller conflicts round out the exhausting list of what are now Trump’s wars. US troops still occasionally die in those places, which few Americans could find on a map. Even hawkish wonks like Senator Lindsey Graham seem unclear about how many troops the US has in Africa. Fear not, however, Senator Graham assures us that Americans should expect “more, not less” intervention on that continent in the years to come and, given what we’re learning about the Pentagon’s latest plans for places like Somalia suggests that he couldn’t be more accurate and that the American version of what retired general and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus has termed (in relation to Afghanistan) “generational” warfare is now spreading from the Greater Middle East to Africa.

Washington’s efforts in Yemen and North Africa have been and continue to be nothing if not counterproductive. In Yemen, the United States is complicit in the Saudi blockading and terror bombing of the poorest Arab state and a resultant famine and cholera outbreak that could affect millions, especially children. This campaign isn’t winning America any friends on the “Arab street” and only seems to have empowered al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In Africa, from Nigeria to Somalia, infusions of US troops have not measurably improved regional stability. Quite the opposite, despite the protestations of US Africa Command. In fact, there are now more radical Islamist groups than ever before and terrorist attacks have all but exploded on that continent.

All these wars, once Obama’s, are now Trump’s. The only differences, it seems, are of form rather than substance. Unlike Obama, Trump delegatestroop-level decisions to his secretary of defense and the generals. Furthermore, when it comes to what the public can know, there appears to be even less transparency about the exact number of soldiers being deployed across the Middle East and North Africa than had previously been the case. And that seems to suit most Americans just fine. A warrior caste of professionals fights the country’s various undeclared wars, taxes remain low, and little is asked of the populace.

Call me a pessimist but I have no doubt that the United States is in for at least three more years of perpetual war — and it probably won’t end there either. There’s no silver bullet for such conflicts, so the military won’t be able to end them in any reasonably easy way or it would have done so years ago. And that’s assuming that far worse in the way of war isn’t in store for us in the Koreas or Iran.

Trump will not be impeached. He may even win a second term. Crazier things have happened, like, well, his election in 2016. And even if he were gone, America’s wars like the Pentagon’s budget have proven remarkably bipartisan affairs. As the Obama years make clear, don’t count on a Democratic president to end them.

Children born after 9/11 will vote in 2020. In that sense, at least, General Petraeus is right. These wars truly are generational.

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UN Security Council Passes Resolution Challenging Jerusalem Declaration; US Vetoes

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By Celine Hagbard | IMEMC 

Fourteen of the fifteen nations in the United Nations Security Council voted Monday reaffirming the status of the city of Jerusalem as unresolved, and challenging the U.S. administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The U.S., which has veto power in the Council, vetoed the resolution.

Following the U.S. veto of the resolution, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tweeted, “Thank you, Ambassador Haley. On Hanukkah, you spoke like a Maccabi. You lit a candle of truth. You dispel the darkness. One defeated the many. Truth defeated lies. Thank you, President Trump.”

The veto on Monday’s vote marked the first time that the U.S. has used its veto power since Donald Trump took power in the country.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said following the vote, “We [veto this resolution] with no joy, but we do it with no reluctance. The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us; it should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.”

But critics have pointed out that the U.S. administration’s move claiming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is outside of the U.S. government’s jurisdiction, and is undermining the sovereignty and self-determination of the Palestinian people by denying their existence and right to the holy city.

Ambassador Haley also called the UN Security Council Resolution an insult.

The UN Security Council resolution was introduced by the Egyptian delegation to the Council, and was widely supported by nations around the world.

The UN Mideast Envoy Nickolay Mladenov spoke in favor of the resolution, citing Israel’s decade-old ‘E1 Plan’ to encircle the city of Jerusalem with colonial settlements, thereby cutting off the West Bank from the city and expanding the Israeli state in direct violation of international law and signed agreements.

According to Mladenov, since Trump made his declaration on December 6th, “some 1,200 units in the occupied West Bank were approved for construction, approximately 460 of them in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, in addition to the new settlement of Amihai, a new neighborhood in Kochav Yaakov, and a new site near Alon Shvut. The construction of infrastructure in Givat Hamatos…would solidify the ring of settlements isolating East Jerusalem from the southern West Bank.” Also in the past 12 days since Trump’s statement, “Israeli authorities demolished or seized 61 structures, 110 people, including 61 children were displaced and the livelihoods of over 1,000 people were affected.”

He pointed out that Israel has engaged in massive settlement growth on stolen Palestinian land, violence against civilian populations, and incitement against Palestinians, and noted that, “in 2017, there were 109 shooting, stabbing, ramming and bombing attacks conducted [by Palestinians against Israelis], compared to 223 in 2016. In 2017, 72 Palestinians and 15 Israelis were killed, while in 2016 there were 109 and 13, respectively.

The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations criticized the Security Council resolution, saying, “members of the Security Council can vote another hundred times to criticize our presence in Jerusalem, but history won’t change. While the Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah that symbolizes the eternal connection to Jerusalem, there are people who think that they can rewrite history. It’s time for all countries to recognize that Jerusalem always was and always will be the capital of the Jewish people and the capital of Israel.”

But the statement by the Israeli ambassador did not acknowledge that the Security Council was not criticizing Jewish presence in the city of Jerusalem, but was instead challenging a unilateral action by the state of Israel, backed by the United States, to take over territory through the use of military force and expand Israel’s (never declared) borders while pushing out, killing and denying the presence of the indigenous Palestinian population. … Full article

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Pentagon weighs regional players in Afghanistan

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The Pentagon’s latest 6-monthly report on the Afghan situation to the US Congress conveys the picture of ‘work in progress’ in regard of President Trump’s new strategy. It exudes an air of optimism. The 100-page report reiterates that the US is determined to bludgeon the Taliban into submission and make them crawl to the negotiating table.

The Pentagon’s assessment of the role of various regional powers, although the unclassified portions, provides food for thought. For a start, the report refrains from any overt criticism of Pakistan’s role. There are references to Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan but no allegation that the insurgents are getting Pakistani support. An indirect reference appears where the report takes note that “certain extremist groups—such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network—retain freedom of movement in Pakistan.” On the other hand, the report also acknowledges that Pakistani military operations have “disrupted some militant sanctuaries.”

Secondly, the Pentagon underscores that the military-to-military leadership with Pakistan “remains critical to the success of our mutual interests in the region.” But to move forward in regional cooperation, “we must see fundamental changes in the way Pakistan deals with terrorist safe-havens.” The US intends to deploy “a range of tools to expand cooperation with Pakistan in areas where our interests converge and to take unilateral steps in areas of divergence.” Curiously, the latter part regarding “unilateral steps” has been left unexplained.

Interestingly, the report acknowledges that there are sanctuaries on Afghan soil for terrorist groups that create violence in Pakistan and walks a fine line as regards the “mutual security interests” of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It scrupulously refrains from apportioning blame. This is difficult to understand. Does the Pentagon mean that the Afghan government pursues certain policies over which the US has no control? Or, is it that there are rogue elements within the Afghan state structure?

Among regional actors, Pentagon comes down heavily on Russia’s role. Moscow’s intentions have been shown to be hostile, aimed at undermining the US’ influence in the region by “engaging with the Taliban and putting pressure on Central Asian neighbors to deny support to US and NATO efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.” But there is no allegation in the report that Russia is helping the Taliban with arms supplies.

Indeed, the chances are very remote that US and Russia would cooperate in the war effort in Afghanistan. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov disclosed last week that the US is forcing Afghan army to get rid of Kalashnikov rifles, which the military is trained to handle, with a view to eliminate Russia as a partner in any significant way. The Pentagon report claims that Afghan-Russian relations are under strain due to Moscow’s “acknowledgment of communication with the Taliban and support of the Taliban’s call” for US and NATO’s withdrawal.

In comparison, when it comes to China, the Pentagon wears kid gloves. Amazingly, the report says, “China’s low, but increasing levels of military, economic and political engagement in Afghanistan are driven by domestic security concerns… and China’s increasing desire to protect its regional economic investments.” China is seen as a benign presence. China’s involvement with the Quadrilateral Consultative Group is singled out and there is a hint at China’s potential to influence Pakistani policies.

Evidently, the US keeps in view that a need might arise for the Northern Distribution Network to be activated via the Central Asian region if push comes to shove in the relations with Pakistan.

The portion on Iran is highly nuanced. The report says in as many words that “Iran and the United States share certain interests” in Afghanistan and although Tehran on the whole seeks to “limit US influence and presence” in Afghanistan, particularly in western Afghanistan, it “could explore ways to leverage Iran’s interests in support of US and Afghan objectives in the areas of counternarcotics, economic development and counterterrorism.” The report shows understanding that “Iran’s ultimate goal is a stable Afghanistan where Shi’a communities are safe, economic interests are protected and the US military presence is reduced.”

This is a surprisingly positive assessment at a juncture when Trump is ratcheting up anti-Iran rhetoric and Nikki Haley is firing away. Clearly, the rhetoric is meant to appease Israel and Saudi Arabia, while the Pentagon, which is steering the actual policies on the ground, just stops short of acknowledging that Iran could be a factor of stability in Afghanistan.

The most interesting thing about India, of course, is that the US appeals to Delhi to provide more assistance to Afghanistan, but limited to “economic, medical and civic support”. No surprises here.

Posted in USA, AfghanistanComments Off on Pentagon weighs regional players in Afghanistan

Claim of Iran military aid to Yemen sheer lie


Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (C) speaks to reporters following the Meeting of the PUIC Presidential Troika in the Iranian capital Tehran on December 18, 2017. (Photo by ICANA)
Press TV 

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says the Islamic Republic is not providing military assistance to Yemen and all claims to this effect are false.

Larijani made the remarks while addressing the extraordinary meeting of the Palestinian Committee of the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Member States (PUOICM) in the Iranian capital Tehran on Monday.

“We are not a country that would deny providing military assistance to anybody,” Larijani said.

He added that Iran was providing military assistance to Palestine, but had not helped Yemeni fighters in their war with Saudi Arabia in military terms, dismissing any claim to this effect as a lie.

“The Yemenis’ missiles belong to themselves and some countries cannot achieve their goals by making such claims,” the top Iranian parliamentarian said.

On Thursday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley appeared in a staged show in front of a large and charred tube that she claimed was “concrete evidence” that Iran was providing missiles to Yemeni forces fighting against Saudi Arabia’s war of aggression on their country.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition launched a war against Yemen in 2015 and has ever since been indiscriminately hitting targets in the country. Yemeni Houthi fighters have been firing missiles in retaliatory attacks against Saudi targets every now and then.

On November 4, a missile fired from Yemen targeted King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, reaching the Saudi capital for the first time.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Larijani said terrorism has tremendously grown in recent years both in quantitative and qualitative terms, emphasizing that such growth would not have been possible without the support of the US and some countries in the region.

Israel and terrorism are the two sides of the same coin and pursue similar goals, he said.

Larijani also emphasized that US-backed terrorists sought to create chaos in the Middle East and pointed to the recent announcement by the Israeli regime that it enjoyed the best conditions since Muslim countries were grappling with terrorism.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on international affairs, on Sunday dismissed as “baseless and ridiculous” the recent US claim about Iran providing missiles to Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, saying that even international experts had mocked the accusation.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has never given missiles to Yemen,” he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that the United States was complicit in Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

He added that the US had sold weapons to its allies enabling them to “kill civilians and impose famine,” in reference to Washington’s arms deal with Riyadh in its aggression against Yemen.

Posted in USA, Iran, YemenComments Off on Claim of Iran military aid to Yemen sheer lie

Republicans Push Bill to Strip Migrant Workers of Their Few Rights, Undercut US Workers


By Simon Davis-CohenTruthout 

Migrant laborers works in California's strawberry fields outside of Salinas in Monterey County on July 30, 1997. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images)

Migrant laborers work in California’s strawberry fields outside of Salinas in Monterey County on July 30, 1997. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images)

Immigration arrests have surged (up 43 percent) under Trump, but deportations have dropped. That means detentions are on the rise. Meanwhile, a creeping labor shortage is reaching fever pitch as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues its crackdown on employers.

Catalyzed by the agricultural labor shortage — which has been years in the making, thanks to low wages, new requirements that employers comply with E-Verify immigration reforms and the crackdown on non-citizens in general — significant immigration reform that could reshape the labor market is now being pushed in Congress. The bill, which is currently awaiting action after it was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in late October, proposes a massive overhaul and expansion of the federal government’s decades-old H-2A agricultural visa program. Critics say that if passed, the reform could lead to millions of virtually indentured workers.

The ability for workers to take employers to court would be hampered by the reform, which prohibits workers from bringing “civil actions for damages against their employers.”

Under the current H-2A program, which itself has produced conditions akin to modern-day slavery, employers pay for foreign workers to be transported to their farms and then send them back home (often to Mexico) once the job — such as seasonal berry-picking — is done.

This legal migration route — used by Trump at Mar-a-Lago — has exploded under his administration. The American Farm Bureau Federation, a top agriculture lobby, calculates that the number of H-2A workers for berry and apple farms spiked 43 and 30 percent respectively in 2017, compared to 2016.

A massive expansion of the program is now on the table. The proposed reform, known as the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 4092), represents a worrying coming-together of ethno-nationalist interests who advocate “legal” migration, and corporate interests eager for cheap, guaranteed labor. Non-citizens and guest workers are not the only ones who would suffer under the new program; US workers, whose wages would be massively undercut by the expansion, would also lose out.

The bill, as it passed the US House Judiciary Committee on October 25, 2017, would replace the H-2A program with an “H-2C” program that expands the program beyond agricultural work to industries like meat and poultry processing, forestry and logging, and fish farming. It would also gut what few protections and guarantees workers currently enjoy under the H-2A program. Farmworkers in the United States are already excluded from labor protections, but they can still sue their employers for low wages and workplace violations. The ability for workers to take employers to court would be hampered by the reform, which prohibits workers from bringing “civil actions for damages against their employers.” According to Catherine Crowe, an organizer with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) of the AFL-CIO, the bill “makes it even harder for farmworkers to bring claims when their rights are violated.” It also forces farmworkers to go through a mandatory mediation process before filing a lawsuit.

The proposed H-2C program threatens to establish a convoluted form of 21st century legalized indentured servitude.

This ability to sue is critical for H-2A farmworker organizing efforts. Crowe told Truthout that FLOC uses lawsuits to pressure employers to sign union contracts. In fact, it was through this tactic that FLOC was able to win a contract for H-2A workers with the North Carolina Growers Association, which contracts with about 10,000 workers and 700 growers every year, according to Crowe. This contract won workers significant protections not enjoyed under the H-2A program, including the ability to appeal to an independent labor relations board, protections against retaliation and more job security.

However, North Carolina’s Farm Act of 2017, signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in July, cuts off a key tool for worker organizing in the state by making it illegal to settle a lawsuit with a union contract. FLOC, along with Southern Poverty Law Center, the North Carolina Justice Center and others have sued North Carolina, arguing the Farm Act of 2017 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of more than 100,000 farmworkers. They’ve also filed a motion to block the implementation of the Act until the lawsuit concludes.

The proposed H-2C program threatens to establish a convoluted form of 21st century legalized indentured servitude. It would do away with H-2A program requirements for employers to provide guest workers with health insurance, housing and transportation to and from their home country, and would allow employers to deduct certain costs and the costs of tools from worker wages. For example, if an employer pays for housing or transportation, they could deduct that from worker wages. Shockingly, the bill also allows employers to deduct a flat 10 percent of workers’ wages. Workers would only be able to recoup the deducted wages once they returned to their home country, which Republicans say would “incentivize” them to go home. On top of all this, H-2C would also lower guest worker wages to the minimum wage, well below the current wage set by the Department of Labor that is meant to guarantee that guest workers not undercut US farmworker wages.

Testifying against the bill in October, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) warned of all these new burdens for workers. “These workers,” she said, “are going to be in a terrible economic situation. Reducing wages by 10 percent on top of all this would place them, I think, in a real horrendous situation.” Under the bill, guest workers would only be able to retrieve the deducted wages at a US consulate in their home country. “[This] is costly and extremely burdensome,” Jayapal said. “Moreover, some workers will be in the United States for three years, and would not receive their hard-earned wages until [they return home], years after they have earned them.”

Jayapal also scorned a provision in the bill that forces workers to prove they have complied with the program’s requirements. This, she says, “will lead to abuses. Unscrupulous employers and labor recruiters could threaten to report guest workers for violating program requirements … forcing [workers] to accept substandard wages and working conditions.”

Writing for the agricultural industry publication, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) defended the bill, saying it “ensures that the marketplace, not Washington, drives the agriculture industry. It offers workers and employers more choices in their employment arrangements, making it easier for workers to move freely throughout the marketplace, both to seek optimal working conditions and meet farmers’ fluctuating needs.”

This talking point does nothing to convince Jayapal, however, who argued the reform would hurt all workers, and could lead to indentured servitude. “There is no measure in the bill to prevent [worker] recruitment fees, or trafficking,” she said in her testimony.

Under this reform, which is coupled with a proposed national E-Verify reform that would require all US employers to vet their employees through a national electronic database, ethno nationalists get the “legal” migration paradigm they want, and large corporate employers get the guaranteed cheap workforce they’ve so long desired. Meanwhile, US workers, non-citizens and human rights pay the price.

But what if workers in the program want to go home? What if they want out? Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) is worried guest workers might be forced or coerced to stay. The bill, he said in testimony, lays “the groundwork for a system where they may be barred from leaving.”

That is not all. In an apparent coup in immigration policy, the H-2C program would allow “previously unauthorized farmworkers” who are in the country right now to enroll in the program. Thus, many may be faced with an appalling choice: Face deportation or enter the H-2C program.

“As of right now, it’s unclear how many people who are currently in the US would qualify for the program, or how strict the program will be with respect to people’s immigration and criminal records,” Crowe told Truthout. “Most likely, the final version of the bill will outline a generic process that would later be interpreted.”

H-2A Worker Organizing Blossoms in 2017

The H-2C bill has serious implications for a rising farmworker movement that has begun to make inroads with H-2A workers. Along with FLOC’s ongoing work in North Carolina, Ohio and elsewhere, this year, Community to Community Development (C2C), a women-led group that works on farmworker, immigrant and climate justice issues in Washington State, helped 102 H-2A workers from Mexico go on strike following the death of a worker at a blueberry farm in August. Because of the lack of protections workers enjoy under the H-2A program, the farm owner was able to retaliate against the workers by threatening to send them back to Mexico and to revoke their work permits, which would bar them from participating in the H-2A program in the future.

H-2A apple-pickers in Quincy, Washington, and organizers with Community to Community Development holding up the settlement agreement workers won after going on strike in October 2017.H-2A apple pickers in Quincy, Washington, and organizers with Community to Community Development holding up the settlement agreement workers won after going on strike in October 2017. (Photo: Community to Community Development / Facebook)

Edgar Franks, an organizer with C2C, tells Truthout that after speaking with lawyers and exploring their options, the striking workers at the blueberry farm for the most part decided to go back home to Mexico. C2C and Familias Unidas por La Justicia, an independent farmworker union C2C helped form in 2013, have testified in the state capitol about the incident, and are calling on the governor to create a task force to investigate the H-2A program in the state.

Though results were mixed, the strike got national attention in Mexico. “We’re getting messages from everywhere,” Franks told Truthout.

Among those who reached out were a group of H-2A apple-pickers in Quincy, Washington, a small town on the state’s arid East Side. After reaching out to C2C, 17 workers on the apple orchard went on strike for six days in October. They agreed to go back to work after their employer agreed to rehire three workers who had been fired, allowed the workers to form a committee, paid for housing expenses and fired an abusive supervisor. The workers are now members of Familias Unidas por La Justicia.

The Quincy settlement, said Franks, “was one of the first times an employer reached an agreement directly with [H-2A] workers, because of a protest, because of worker organizers and without a union.” Franks says the employer signed the contract directly with the workers. H-2A workers in Kennewick, Washington, also “walked away from the fields weeks before harvest finished in late October,” according to The Spokesman-Review.

Also in October, seven H-2A tobacco farmworkers in Kentucky went on strike for almost a month, with the support of FLOC. They accused their employer of not paying the proper wages or travel and supply costs required under the current H-2A program. According to FLOC, the strike ended with workers being paid their stolen wages and returning home to Mexico.

“Much of the labor movement writes-off H-2A farmworkers as ‘unorganizable,'” said Franks. “But these are the conditions that farmworkers face. These are 21st century working conditions in the USA…. We see the H-2A program as a form of modern-day slavery.”

A section of Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Georgia) testimony about the proposed H-2C program is worth quoting in full:

“As far as the 10 percent incentive to leave — in other words we are going to withhold 10 percent not of your net but of your gross pay, and from that gross pay you are also going to deduct … sometimes housing, transportation, it can be food, it’s going to be health insurance. You are setting up a situation where at the end of the pay period, there’s not going to be any money owed to the worker. And in fact, the worker will owe to the company or to the [farming] association or the farmer — the worker will actually owe money. And so, with the requirement that that worker have to leave within 18 or 36 months, if their bill is not cleared up by that worker within that time, that worker could be prosecuted for theft of some type, and under the 13th Amendment where you can be penalized, you can’t be held in indentured servitude, but you certainly can be held to work off your debt. And so, this bill is opening up a drastic scenario of possibilities. I’m not saying that it will happen, but I am saying you are opening the door for bad things to happen to people who don’t have rights, who can’t go to court according to this legislation to sue, you have no voice, and they are in prime situation to be mistreated and abused. We should not be walking down this road in America in 2017.”

Some agricultural industry interests have critiqued the proposed H-2C program because they want the program to be bigger, and for it to be easier to sign up undocumented people who are already in the country. One thing is certain: As the crackdown on non-citizens continues, use of guest worker programs is exploding and organizers are gearing up for more fights in 2018.

Franks said the H-2C proposal would “damage the labor movement and human dignity. It’s like a slap in the face.” But it would not change his mentality. “These are the conditions that are happening, and we have to organize with the conditions and change them,” he said.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Republicans Push Bill to Strip Migrant Workers of Their Few Rights, Undercut US Workers

Rebranding Hate: What Poland’s Independence Day Protests Tell Us About Europe’s Rightward Shift


By Basia

Image result for POLAND extremist groups CARTOON

Last month, Poland once again made international headlines when its Independence Day demonstrations — normally a moment dedicated to celebrating the return of the country’s sovereignty —  were overwhelmed by 60,000 far-right protestors. Holding up placards with signs like “Europe will be white or uninhabited” and screaming “Pure Poland, white Poland!” as they proudly waved White Power flags, the Polish far-right were also joined by foreign representatives of other extremist groups.

According to Adrian Bartos, spokesman for the All Poland Youth, more than 500 representatives of other nationalist parties from Spain, Germany and Hungary attended the demonstration. In his interview with Business Insider, Bartos said of the foreign far-right contingent:

“They are overjoyed by it, and they don’t see the kind of mobilization we see in Poland in other European countries. I think this is happening in Poland because there is strong national identity among the inhabitants, the citizens of our country, and basically the majority see what is happening in the West.”

The events “happening in the West,” according to Bartos, include a steep rise in crime and sexual assault in Sweden and Germany, along with other countries that have accepted an influx of refugees in recent years. While the numbers of incidents continue to be inflated, they remain a rallying cry for the new European isolationist movements.

The hijacking of Independence Day by the far right even seemed to be lauded by the Polish government, with Polish Minister of the Interior Mariusz Blaszczak stating, “It was a beautiful sight… [We] are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday.”

One of the more curious slogans uttered, along with White Power chants, was “We Want God!”, part of the chorus of an old religious song that was referenced by U.S. President Donald Trump during his visit last month to Poland. According to Rafal Pankowski, a sociologist and member of the anti-extremist association Never Again:

“We know that Donald Trump is not the most religious man, and I think that most of the organisers are not very religious, either…[but] they use Christianity as a kind of identity marker, which is mostly about being anti-Islam now.”

When asked to elaborate his views, Blaszczack, the Interior Minister, glossed over the overtly nationalist insignia and extremists visible at the rally. The sentiment seemed to be shared even by protest participants who shrugged off the alarming nationalist presence.

“I’d say some people here do have extreme views, maybe even 30 percent of those marching, but 70 percent are simply walking peacefully, without shouting any fascist slogans,” participant Kamil Staszalek told the BBC.

The November demonstration was met by a peaceful counter-protest led by anarchist groups, anti-fascist organizations and LGBT rights advocates, who mustered some 2,000 participants. Lidia Domańska, a member of the Warsaw Antifascist Collective, later stated why the groups were unable to more actively intervene in the far-right demonstration. “The Independence March Association, which has huge sums of money from businessmen and right-wing politicians, has the resources to invite fascists and neo-Nazis from all over Europe,” she said.

During the course of the demonstration, police arrested 45 counter-protesters. No arrests were made among the extremist protesters, even after reports were filed about a group of nationalists who assaulted a group of women waving a “Stop Fascism” banner.

The events in Poland, however, only reflect a small part of the much larger picture that is manifesting currently in Europe. Motivated by the common enemy that is the E.U. with its openly international and pro-immigration policies, the new isolationist groups have fashioned themselves as an international political force bent on defending the ethnic identities of people on the Old Continent against an Islamic incursion.

This rebranding has gone a long way toward bolstering the popularity of far-right parties in Central Europe, giving organizations like the PVV a boost in recent polls in the Netherlands, allowing the Austrian FPOe to nearly snatch the presidency and catapulting parties like the Hungarian Jobbik and the Bulgrain United Patriots into top contender spots in coming elections. Even in Germany, where an Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) victory had been considered impossible, extreme nationalists are starting to gain traction.

At the movement’s core, the far-right is speaking to a European population that is feeling confused by the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace of international politics, let down by the disastrous and impersonal economic policies of the European Union, and in desperate need to preserve a cultural identity they feel is under attack.

Many speculate that the resurgence of the far-right could provoke Europe’s left to finally abandon its liberal approach in regard to extremism and reassure voters that more than their identity is at stake if they side with the growing fascist movements. As for the European Union, perhaps this marks the clearest moment yet for politicians to stop what they’re doing and pay real attention to the direction the continent is taking. For if the technocratic policies of Brussels are allowed to continue as they are, perhaps the Union’s days are truly numbered.

Posted in PolandComments Off on Rebranding Hate: What Poland’s Independence Day Protests Tell Us About Europe’s Rightward Shift

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