Trump’s political genius is centered around his manic style. He issues one outrageous statement after another, so that the media and critics can only begin to respond to each before it gets eclipsed by the next one, with the net effect that nothing ever gets fully processed. If elected president, he’ll probably do the same thing. Hey, it worked for George W. Bush!
After a hard-fought primary campaign, Bernie Sanders capitulated and endorsed his rival Hillary Clinton for the presidency. In the final analysis, Clinton gave up little more than lip service to Bernie’s agenda of a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition at public universities, and universal healthcare. To the contrary, Clinton is now moving to the right, considering a general as vice president and asking the platform committee not to oppose the TPP free trade agreement.
George Stephanopoulos, ABC News: “You’re increasingly being compared to Hitler. Does that give you any pause at all?”
Donald Trump: “Because what I’m doing is no different than what FDR [did]. FDR’s solution for Germans, Italians, Japanese many years ago. This is a president who was highly respected by all. He did the same thing — if you look at what he was doing it was far worse.”
When it comes down to core values, you can never make an exception.
This week shows why.
After Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called for a ban against Muslims to enter the United States — all Muslims, including businesspeople, college students, athletes, performers, even U.S. citizens currently living abroad — corporate media and the experts in their contact lists called the idea outlandish.
Primarily, they said it was crazy because it is unprecedented.
For example, NYU law professor Nancy Morawetz told The New York Times: “This is just so antithetical to the history of the United States. I cannot recall any historical precedent for denying immigration based on religion.”
True, there hasn’t been a religious test for admission to the U.S. But in a broader sense, Trump’s idea continues a long tradition of using immigration rules as expressions of American racism and intolerance.
There have been plenty of blanket bans motivated by bigotry. The Chinese Exclusion Act comes to mind. The Immigration Act of 1924 banned all immigration to the U.S. by Asians and Arabs. People with HIV-AIDS weren’t allowed to visit the U.S. from 1987 to 2009.
In each case, supporters of blanket exclusions argued that their extraordinary measures were “temporary” (that’s what Trump says) responses to unusual threats, such as the 19th century “yellow peril.” (Asians with “special powers,” Americans were told, were going to crush white culture.) Now we understand that the threats were trivial or nonexistent, that these responses were outlandishly reactionary. At the time, however, idiots and opportunists exploited the masses’ fear and ignorance to whip up paranoia — which set some terrible precedents we’re living with today.
Trump’s no-Muslims-need-apply plan is being criticized harshly. Rightly so, though no one asks the obvious question: If this is about border security, wouldn’t a real Islamic terrorist lie when asked about his religious affiliation, or claim to have renounced Islam, while applying for a visa? After all, some of the 9/11 hijackers were clean-shaven, drank alcohol and hung out in topless bars.
If anything, criticism of Trump has been too muted. Not one single Republican presidential candidate or major GOP official has said he or she would not support Trump should he win the Republican nomination. Believe you me, they’ll all fall in line if The Donald becomes The Man running against Hillary or Bernie.
Such weaselry is part of the way these things usually go. First there’s some sort of shock. Then a demagogue enters the scene who frames the shock as part of a crisis, followed by overreaction (we must give up some freedoms to stay safe) based on “exceptional times” because “everything has changed. Ultimately sanity returns, thanks to the passage of time, the cooling of passions and moving on to other concerns. This is a pattern we’ve seen before and we will surely see again — mainly because previous overreactions, many of them never renounced, serve as a perfect justification for new crimes against humanity.
“Look at what FDR did many years ago,” Trump said by way of justification, “and he’s one of the most respected presidents.”
So, sadly, true.
During World War II Franklin Roosevelt issued presidential proclamations that allowed officials to declare people of German, Italian and Japanese ancestry to be “enemy aliens” who could be detained without trial. Even though there is no evidence that any Japanese-American ever committed a disloyal act during the war, FDR ordered the internal deportation of tens of thousands from the Pacific Coast to concentration camps. Many lost their homes and their businesses. (Trump hasn’t decided whether he’d create Muslim concentration camps beyond the existing facilities at Guantánamo and overseas.)
There are two problems with FDR’s assault on the basic legal principle that we are innocent until proven guilty: his actions themselves, and the failure of our political and legal culture to repudiate him and what he did.
Had they been reversed and retroactively annulled, the FDR actions cited so approvingly by Trump would nevertheless stand as historical precedent. When something Really Bad happens — a sneak attack on your naval base, planes crashing into buildings, a couple going berserk and shooting up their workplace — all bets are off, including the Constitution.
But they were never annulled, much less reviled. So they also stand as legal precedent.
As Trump says, FDR is considered one of our finest presidents. The New Deal and winning World War II are what we remember. The internment camps, which affected only people with yellow skin, are a minor footnote in history classes. The message is clear: No one cares. If we thought the camps were really so wrong, Roosevelt would stand with Nixon and George W. Bush among our worst leaders, the same way Woodrow Wilson’s accomplishments in World War I and with the League of Nations are now being eclipsed by his racism.
And he should. Send just one kid to a camp, as FDR did to thousands, and yeah, that really does erase the Social Security Act.
The United States has never fully renounced those concentration camps for Japanese-Americans. Forty-three years after the end of World War II, Congress finally issued an apology but only paid token $20,000 payments to each surviving victim. (40,000 of the 120,000 prisoners had died.) No one was compensated for lost property. It’s still a fairly obscure chapter in history; I’d be surprised if 10% of Americans know it happened.
Disgustingly, the legal underpinnings of Roosevelt’s actions remain in full effect, namely the 1944 Supreme Court ruling in favor of the government in Korematsu v. United States. Fear of espionage and sabotage — though completely unsubstantiated — outweighed the right to due process of Japanese-Americans, said a 6-3 majority.
As a rule Americans prefer “to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” as Obama said in 2009 about Bush-era torture. The trouble is, the future winds up looking a lot like the past unless that past is truly dead and buried.
Use waterboarding, as U.S. troops occupying the Philippines did with impunity against Filipino independence fighters, and it comes back after 9/11. (No Marines were ever prosecuted for using this form of torture, but the U.S. did execute Japanese soldiers who waterboarded American POWs during World War II. Since Obama refused to prosecute CIA waterboarders, we can be sure it will happen again.)
Allow the president to fight a war without a formal declaration of war, “exceptionally” violating the Constitution as Congress did in 1950 with Korea, and a future president will do the same in Vietnam. And Panama. And Iraq. And Bosnia. And Afghanistan. And Iraq again.
And now Syria.
Because America never drives a stake through the darkest heart of its history, like the Korematsu decision, “exceptions” become precedents that keep coming back.
Several of George W. Bush’s memos calling for the suspension of the ancient right of habeas corpus cited Korematsu in order to justify holding Muslim POWs without charges or access to an attorney at Gitmo. In 2004, the Bush Administration used the precedent to fight a challenge by Gitmo detainees — prisoners who have been languishing under both Bush and Obama. (The Military Commissions Act of 2006 ended habeas corpus, the 800-year-old right to a court trial, for American citizens.)
As recently as 2014, Justice Antonin Scalia said the ruling remained in effect. It was, he said, “wrong, but it could happen again in wartime.”
Or, under a President Trump, in peacetime.
Just this once.
Because this time is different.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net and SkewedNews.net, is the author of “Snowden,” about the NSA whistleblower. His new book “Bernie” about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, comes out January 12 and is available for pre-order. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Breathess stories about Muslims fighting extremism by promoting moderation in their home countries have become so commonplace, and so cheesy, that they’re a clichÃ©. It’s especially bad since they look like sellouts merely by being praised by Americans! What if Americans went on Arab television channels for analogous, equal ridiculous, self-promotional opportunities?
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
They slash innocent people’s throats. They hew off heads. They rape children, sell women into slavery and vandalize ancient museum pieces. Why would anyone want to join ISIS?
That’s the big question Americans and people in other Western countries are asking — because thousands of their citizens, many of them well-educated and reportedly of sound mind and body, are doing just that.
Unfortunately, mainstream media outlets seem unwilling and/or unable to explain the attraction of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Even when the topic is broached, as it was recently on syndicated talk host Diane Rehm’s NPR radio show, so-called experts can’t or won’t answer the question, instead repeating the usual ISIS-is-incomprehensibly-evil memes we’ve already heard a zillion times.
“I think one characteristic that we see from ISIS is that they pursue every avenue. They have a specific recruitment for women, they have specific recruitment for different countries, different languages. They’re really unusually large for a terror group ,” Jessica Stern told Rehm.
Others say ISIS recruits are thrill-seekers or alienated youths searching for meaning in otherwise empty lives, as The International Business Times argued recently.
If ISIS is America’s enemy, or at least a phenomenon it would be in our interest to weaken or destroy, it is not in our interest to dismiss its adherents as fools, lunatics or alienated losers. Underestimating your adversary plays into his hands. They’re not crazy, and they come from all walks of life: “Four decades of psychological research on who becomes a terrorist and why hasn’t yet produced any profile,” John Horgan, director of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, told The Guardian.
Before we attack the Islamic State — OK, it’s too late for that — it behooves us to understand it. Which requires understanding its appeal.
ISIS is a Nation-State.
Corporate media outlets like NPR call ISIS “the self-proclaimed Islamic State” or “self-described Islamic State” as if the predicate weakens ISIS’ legitimacy. Ridiculous! You could apply the same lame undermining modifier to any nation: the self-described United States of America, the self-proclaimed Republic of Ireland, whatever. Nations exist until they don’t; ISIS has no less de facto legitimacy than, say, Panama.
No one knows whether ISIS will survive, but it is the first serious attempt to carve out an Islamist nation-state in memory.
ISIS isn’t like Al Qaeda and its spinoff groups, or Abu Sayyaf, Al Shabab and Boko Haram (which recently pledged fealty to ISIS). Those are underground insurgent organizations. They carry out attacks against government and private targets in territory that they do not control. A closer analogy is the Taliban, whose formal name during their rule ISIS echoes: The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — but it’s not a perfect one because, since 2001, “Taliban-held” areas of Afghanistan have been partially held and transited by troops loyal to the Kabul-based central government.
ISIS is trying to build a full-fledged nation-state with all the trappings: discrete borders, coins, stamps, its own monetary system, ministries, control and expansion of infrastructure, educational curriculum, a standing army, social programs, a judiciary, and not least — a cool flag.
“This is more than just fighting,” an ISIS recruit explains on an online video. “We need the engineers, we need doctors, we need professionals … There is a role for everybody.”
ISIS’ message — join us! we aren’t thinking about building a fundamentalist Muslim society, or trying to transform an existing Muslim country, but we’re actually making one now — excites Sunni purists currently living in Western countries or in Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, whose leaders and values have been corrupted by Western and American influence. France, Germany and other countries with large populations of young Muslim immigrants have marginalized them in ghettos with high unemployment, subjecting them to racial profiling and harassment. They haven’t been made to feel at home. ISIS promises them they will be with them.
Ironically, it’s an appeal familiar to Jews who emigrate to Israel.
ISIS is a Caliphate.
Western commentators as well as some Muslim scholars scoff at ISIS’ claim to have reestablished the Islamic caliphate eliminated along with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War I. ISIS’ caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a shadowy Iraqi religious scholar turned jihadi who did time as a U.S. detainee — so what, they ask, is the basis of his legitimacy? Al-Baghdadi probably isn’t, despite his claims, a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed, which according to classical scholars is required to be named caliph.
The naysayers are missing the point. “All that the Islamic State lacks is the legitimacy derived from mutual international recognition by other states, which it never sought in the first place. It also realized that states in the Muslim world resist its declaration of the Caliphate. Its legitimacy emerges from declaring a Caliphate and a state apparatus to sustain it, thus deriving legitimacy from a small, but devoted core of Muslims around the world, willing to leave their lives behind to travel and become citizens of the new Islamic State,” says Cal State historian Ibrahim al-Marashi.
To echo Nike, this is a “just do it” thing — you’re the caliph if you say you are, and enough people believe you to back you up.
The demise of the caliphate in 1924 stripped Islam of its centuries-old central governing body. Imagine, for example, how Roman Catholicism would be affected by the end of the papacy: new sects would break off, splinterism would rule, no one would agree on what a real Catholic believes or does. The desire to reestablish cohesion — under, of course, radical Sunnism — motivates Muslim fundamentalists who, such as Osama bin Laden, have long called for its restoration.
A caliph, however, is not a pope. He is a religious, military and political leader, all wrapped up in one — and God’s representative on earth. By definition, all Muslims are required to swear allegiance to a caliph and follow his dictates, or be branded apostates, and face death.
ISIS Kills Its Enemies. A Lot.
For ISIS, violence — slave markets, ethnic cleansing, mass slaughter, even of fellow Sunni Muslims — is not merely an unpleasant but necessary tactic, but an end in and of itself.
It’s not just rule by fear, though ISIS leaders use that too, as when they execute deserters by crucifixion. Like the Hotel California, ISIS is a place you can check in but never leave.
The brutality turns off some fighters enough to prompt them to flee, but for many others, it’s a major attraction. Slaughtering Shias, secular Sunnis and non-Muslims serves a double purpose: purification and revenge. For as long as most Muslims can remember — and this goes for liberal-minded Muslims too — they have been on the receiving end of violence: Israel, created by the U.S. and European powers from stolen Palestinian land. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen and countless other Muslim nations oppressed by U.S.-backed tyrants. After 9/11: secret prisons, kidnappings, torture, drone assassinations, multiple invasions, constant bombing.
ISIS offers humiliated fighters a chance to lash out…even if swimming in the blood of a captured Yazidi woman is a poor substitute for an American drone operator, or a congressman.
It will take more than intercepting recruits on their way to Syria and arresting them, or cheesy, hollow appeals to patriotic sentimentality, to counter these powerful motivating forces.
“Born and raised in the United States, allegedly turned his back on his country and attempted to travel to Syria in order to join a terrorist organization,” said Loretta Lynch, Obama’s nominee for attorney general after the arrest of a Florida air force vet charged with trying to join the Islamic State. “An American citizen and former member of our military allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” said assistant attorney general John Carlin.
There will be more like him.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Legacy news organizations are failing for a lot of reasons, mostly brought upon by themselves, but there’s one that rarely if ever gets remarked upon: the fact that they have forgotten the definition of “news.”
As you and I know, news is stuff that happened that a significant number of people would like to know about. By definition, news is surprising.
All too often in recent decades, however, corporate media conglomerates have conflated news with press releases – in other words, informing us not about what we need or want to know, but about what they would like us to know.
A major driver of this trend is the misguided belief by press and broadcast organizations that the powers that be – politicians, government agencies and businesses – create news and thus must be coddled, and have all their official pronouncements disseminated in the form of news, lest they be denied access, which would of course put an end to their ability to do their jobs.
One symptom of this too close for comfort relationship between the fourth estate and those it is supposed to cover is the willingness of outlets like the New York Times to suppress or delay stories at the request of intelligence agencies due to so-called “national security concerns.”
The idea that reporters need access to PR flacks is nonsense. The opposite is true: publicists need journalists. A press conference is a news-free zone, a place where spin and propaganda rules. Unfortunately for them and for us — since the vast majority of reporting still originates in corporate-owned newspapers — the trend is accelerating.
Check out, for example, this excuse for a news story: “Obama condemns ‘brutal and outrageous murders.’”
According to Google, this story – about the president’s reaction to the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina – was reproduced over 78,000 times in American and foreign media outlets.
There is nothing wrong with what Obama said. To the contrary: I agree with him 100%. Most likely, so do you. So do 100% of sane Americans, which means perhaps 90% of all Americans. His reaction was the exact reaction that you would expect from anyone and, to my point, specifically from him.
In other words, a news “story” about President Obama saying that mass murder is bad (outside the context of, say, wars of choice and drone assassinations) is no story at all. It is “dog bites man.” And not a particularly interesting dog or a particularly interesting man.
You really have to question the judgment of those thousands of editors and producers who put that story out yesterday. Who, exactly, did they think that story served? Certainly not the readers or viewers or listeners. Not one of them was surprised; not one of them cared.
Every newsroom receives hundreds if not thousands of emails a day from people who want their story or product or person covered. Publishers want their books reviewed. Manufacturers want a free plug for their products. Agents want their pet musician profiled. The vast majority of them are, of course, ignored. Pertinent story: a friend who works at a major American newspaper tells me about the fax machine that no one ever checks, that runs 24 hours a day, endless press releases dumping straight into the recycled paper bin, totally pointless for all concerned. Yet I know for a fact that that same paper ran the story about Obama taking the bold risk of coming out against random mass murder. Why that story and not the others?
I’m not arguing that traditional media outlets ought to descend to Huffington Post’s SEO-optimized clickbait or BuzzFeed’s “18 ridiculously cute photos of insipid pets” listicles. But the Internet is certainly a lot better at knowing what people might actually want to read or see. Stories like the one above make that painfully obvious.
As an editor at the New York Times told me once, “the President of the United States controls the world’s largest armies and presides over the world’s largest economy. By definition, anything he says and does is news.”
They live by that attitude. They are also dying by it.
American news media outlets refused to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that provoked the slaughter of 12 people in Paris last week on the grounds that their policies forbid the depiction of imagery that intentionally mocks religion. Which opens up a great loophole for politicians in trouble.