Archive for the On Foreign Affairs Category

Heeeeare’s Donnie!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On the 2016 Presidential Election with tags , , on June 25, 2016 by playthell

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, at his Turnberry golf course, in Turnberry, Scotland, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

A Chump on the Stump

 Dumb Dangerous Donnie Cuts the Fool in Scotland

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, loves to talk about all the great lessons he learned from his daddy, but apparently old Fred Trump never told his son it is far better to be thought a fool than open your big moth and remove all doubt!   From the moment Trump’s helicopter landed at his golf resort and was met by reporters he immediately let the world know that he is clueless about world affairs.

Trump walked up to the microphone and announced that he supported the people of Scotland’s decision to “take your country back” by voting to leave the European Union.  His remarks elicited snickers of derisive laughter from the press on the scene as well as the commentators on the set of WNBC’s Morning Joe.  Their laughter was provoked by the fact that Trump evidently did not know that two thirds of the Scots had actually voted against the decision to take Britain out of the EU!  It was par for the course with Dumb Donnie.

Never able to pass up a chance to mouth off whether or not he has any idea what he is talking about, this proved to be just the beginning of a series of harebrained comments. Unlike all other major party candidates for the American presidency instead of visiting with officials of the country in an attempt to develop personal relationships, Trump concentrated on promoting his two golf courses in Britain.   Hence when he was asked what he thought about the fact that the Pound was being devalued by Britain’s exit from the EU, Trump replied that he thought it would be good for his business because the weak pound would make the United Kingdom an attractive vacation choice for American tourists.

Donnie showed not the slightest glimmer of regret for the trials of the Scottish people; instead he revealed his true colors as a New York real estate hustler – a gang of economic predators whose values rank several notches below the ethics of Barbary pirates – and began presenting a sales pitch for the luxury apartments and restaurant located on “the best par three in the world.”  He then described the state of the art sprinkler system he had installed and raphsodized about the beauty of the ocean waves crashing against the rocks.  Trump was shameless in pitching his properties and got so caught up in his sales presentation that for a moment he appeared to forget where he was; pointing to the lighthouse that contained some especially plush suites and declared: “This lighthouse is very important to Florida.”

The Donald resembled the bumbling cartoon character “Mr. Magoo,” with that goofey cap pulled down on his head, and he sounded as silly as he looked.  When asked if he thought the breakup of the EU was a good thing, he responded with a rambling anecdote about some German friends that really loved their country but was considering immigrating because of all the undesirable aliens being allowed to settle there.  Trumps answers were so off the wall that one of the reporters asked if he consulted with any foreign policy experts.  To wit Dumb Donnie said yes but they were just advisors and offered different opinions.  He went on to say that he saw no reason to meet further with foreign olicy experts, especially any who have been instrumental in formulating foreign policy in the last five years. Hence it came as no surprise that when Trump was asked to point out the members of the Scottish government in attendance he couldn’t.

Trump’s performance was so far beneath what seasoned political reporters expect from a potential president of the USA, more than one of them described it as “surreal.”  Mike Barnacle, one of the commentators witnessing this fiasco on Morning Joe, felt compelled to remark “We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that in great historical moment for Great Britain Trump choose to talk about real estate zoning laws.”  He was a complete embarrassment to educated Americans, and the idea that this clueless clown could be our next president seemed at once ludicrous….and terrifying.

The extent of his cluelessness was nowhere more convincing than when he began to explain how the vote to quit the EU was sparked by the fact that the Brits and Scots hate President Obama, and they did it just because he was against it. Yet the fact is that President Obama is widely admired in Britain and Dumb Donnie is both feared and despised.

Evidence of the contempt in which the Scots hold him could be seen in everything from newspaper editorials  – which he does not read, nor appear to have anyone reading them for him – to the Mexican Flags they were flying near his properties; to the box of golf balls with Swastikas on them presented to him by a Scottish citizen; to Scots waving a large banner reading “Dump Trump!”

The Scots were Clear in their Sentiments!
Donald Trump in Scotland Dump Trump
They want no part of “The Donald”

Donald Trump - Greatest Liar

There was nothing that Dumb Donnie said which suggested he has any idea how the European Union came into existence, what its mission is, nor its accomplishments.  Verbose airhead that he is Donnie just prattled on ad nauseum with no  hint that he was talking like a fool, to the shock and amusement of the onlookers.   Just as when he said on an earlier occasion when asked who was advising him about ISIS: “I mostly consult myself because I have a good brain.”

A pompous megalomaniac and shameless charlatan, Trump spouts nonsense as if it were divine wisdom. Watching his act conjures up memories of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini – two other charismatic demagogues who excited the passions of insecure and untutored mobs in search of a savior, and soulless amoral elites that knew better but thought they could use them as point men in their quest for power.***  History tells us how that turned out, and prudence dictates that we heed the warning of the late Harvard Philosopher George Santayana: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    ***************          

                To see Trump’s Speech and News Conference  double click on Link        

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****For a thorough discussion of the Similarities between Hitler, Mussolini and Trump my multi-media presentation on this question see: “Is Donald Trump a Uniquely American Fascist?”

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 24, 2016

The World According to Hillary

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On Israel, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on April 3, 2016 by playthell
 Hillary Clinton at Stanford
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

 Hillary Clinton Reveals her Core Beliefs on Foreign Policy

Anyone who is listening to the contenders for the Democratic and Republican candidates for president will recognize that Hillary’s expertise cannot be matched by the Republican frontrunners.  Nevertheless, some of her policies make less sense that those of Donald Trump, a loose cannon whose misbegotten election to the US presidency most thoughtful observers of international relations around the world believe would be an unmitigated disaster.

The problem is that some of Hillary’s views on critical internationl issues are calcified relics of her history as a Cold War hawk.  She is committed to interventionist policies and says that NATO is America’s smartest investment.  For one who believes that the maintenance of NATO is a blunder of historical proportions that violates the spirit of the agreement with Russia ending the Cold War, and puts this nation in greater danger of a hot war with Russia than during the Communist era, a war which could go nuclear, the former Secretary of State sounds detached from political reality to me.

It is ironic that with her superior knowledge of foreign affairs Ms. Clinton should show less wisdom that Donald the Clown regarding the aims of US foreign policy.  For instance, Trump opposed the invasion of Iraq and correctly pointed out that the overthrow of Sadam Hussein would destabilize the region.  I had written the same thing on the eve of the invasion (See: “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq,” on this site)   Today Trump went on the record stating his views on NATO, America’s most important and costly military alliance, and to my shock, surprise and profound disappointment  Trump’s ideas were decidedly more realistic and advanced than those of Clinton’s.

While Clinton champions NATO, Trump questions its continued existence, correctly pointing out that NATO is an anachronism that has outlived its original purpose.  In a recent “on the record” interview with the Editors of the Washington Post – where he first introduced his advisors on foreign policy and national security matters – Trump had this to say regarding America’s leadership of NATO:  “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore, NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”  He also questioned the contributions of other members of the alliance “They are not doing anything,” he concludes.  On foreign policy Trump is like a broken clock that is wrong almost all the time but gets it right twice a day.

In order to point out the absurdity and danger of US commitment’s to NATO Trump had this to say regarding the conflict in the Ukraine, one of the most dangerous situations in the world: “

“Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we’re doing all of the lifting. They’re not doing anything. And I say: ‘Why is it that Germany’s not dealing with NATO on Ukraine? Why is it that other countries that are in the vicinity of Ukraine, why aren’t they dealing? Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially the third world war with Russia.’ “

A more accurate description would be to the second deployment of nuclear weapons in an international conflict, and this time it will be Dooms Day.  World wars are a phenomenon of the twentieth century, the next war between industrial nations will go nuclear and that will spell the end of the homo-sapiens species.  Although Trumps pronouncements lack elegance and are innocent of real erudition, despite their crudity some of them hit home.

His view of the Ukraine situation raises the fundamental questions that we should ask when evaluating America’s role there, a place where we could end up in an accidental war with a Russian military whose nuclear arsenal rivals our own.  And what is worse, because of our commitments to NATO we could become entangled in a military conflict with Russia should they have a military incident with Estonia!  Hence Trump is right to question both the relevance of this 20th century Cold War alliance designed to contain an enemy that has vanished from the face of the earth: The Soviet Union.

The fact that both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz quickly attacked Trump’s position on NATO, and foreign interventionism in general, testifies to the truth of the axiom “Politics make strange bedfellows.”  The truth is that, despite differences in approach, both Clinton and Cruz deeply believe in the myth of “American Exceptionalism” and they also believe the United States is the rightful leader of the world and all nations must fall in line behind us and follow our wise counsel.  They were unambiguous on this point, and therein lies the problem.  Ironically, Bernie Saunders and Donald Trump are closer in their views of the US role in the world than they are with their party counterparts Clinton and Cruz….and Kaisch too.

Trump’s skepticism about US military involvement in foreign countries is greatly influenced by the amount of American treasure expended on the security of our allies.  For instance he says of South Korea, a country where the US still maintains military bases after 60 years – a blunder the Republican chicken hawks are eager to repeat in Iraq – and has never signed a treaty ending the war we fought on the Korean Peninsula all those decades ago.  “South Korea is very rich, great industrial country,” says Trump,  “and yet we’re not reimbursed fairly for what we do.  We’re constantly sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games — we’re reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing.”

Yet despite these insights Trump often comes across as some sort of idiot savant when discussing national security issues; he is like the proverbial cow that gives a good bucket of milk then kicks it over.  For example his insane in the brain suggestion that South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear arsenals!    And his whacko plan to construct a wall on the Mexican border and coerce the Mexican government into paying for it; or his proposal to ban over a billion Muslims from the US, despite the fact that many are coming from countries America considers valued allies; or his call to attack the families of terrorists – a war crime reminicent of the Nazis!

Alas, to the horror of thoughtful people all over the globe, Trump took his animus toward Muslims to the point of utter madness in suggesting that he may nuke ISIS, and refused to take the option of firing nukes in Europe “off the table.”  Anybody who understands anything about nuclear weapons knows that they are weapons of mass genocide against civilian populations!  Hence, to even contemplate such a crime against humanity makes Trump unfit to be President – either because he is a dangerous ignoramus who does not understand the implications of what he is proposing, or he is the type of morally deformed cretin that would casually commit mass murder.  Next to this guy, and Teddy Cruz too, Hillary looks like a paragon of Solomonic wisdom…as dangerous and antiquated as some of her core beliefs are!

We need only examine her views on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as expressed in her speech before AIPAC – American Israel Public Affairs Committee – the most important organization in the all-powerful Israel Lobby, which maintains an effective strangle hold over US Middle East Policy.  Her performance was a shameful genuflection before the policies of the Israeli government, no matter how outrageous those policies appear to thoughtful principled Americans interested in a just peace in that troubled region.

Hillary Goes Nuts at AIPAC!

Hillary Clinton speaks to AIPAC

The Beleagured Palestian People are Invisible to her
 While this is what the rest of the world is witnessing
Palestinian GirlA Palestinian town reduced to rubble with the advanced weapons supplied by the US

To hear Hillary tell it only the Israeli’s have justified grievances; she showed no objectivity at all and no empathy for the plight of the beleaguered Palestinian people.  It is hard to know how to evaluate her statements.

The Real World of Palestinian Children

Palestinia boy in the sights of Israeli Soldier

Forever in the Gunsights of armed Israeli Settlers and Soldiers!

If Hillary truly believes her version of the relations between Israel and the Palestinians she is a nincompoop who never should have been Secretary of State, because despite the voluminous intelligence reports available to her about the realities of the region she appears to have learned nothing alas.  On the other hand, if she does not believe this Barney and Bailey view of Israeli/Palestinian relations then she is a shameless charlatan.  Hence we are left to pick our poison: Charlatan or fool for president!

As I write Clinton is demonizing President Putin with a paranoid view of his designs on Europe  that is a relic of the Cold War era, while attacking Trump for his suggestion that the US greatly reduce its role in NATO.  Yet even a cursory interrogation into the nature of this alliance should raise a red flag for those who want to steer this country away from a policy of perpetual war – and the increasing possibility of a catastrophic war with Russia.   Alas, whatever the considerable virtues of Hillary Clinton, she is no dove in matters of war and peace.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem New York
 March 25, 2016

To Hell with The Turks!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on February 11, 2016 by playthell

Erdogan of Turkey

Recep Tyyip Erdogan: President of Turkey

Barack’s Restraint in Syria is the Right Policy

The recent outburst by Recep Erdogan, President of Turkey, accusing the US of supporting terrorists in Syria is a slap in the face of an ally whose military might alone prevented Putin from leveling part of his country, maybe even bombing major cities like Ankara or Istanbul, when he recklessly shot down a Russian fighter Jet that he claims drifted into Turkish air space while flying a combat mission over Syria.  If anybody had doubts about the extent of Erdogan’s recklessness that incident should have convinced them.  If Putin had not exercised restraint – a decision the Republican controlled Congress would have impeached president Obama over had he shown similar restraint if an American plane had been downed by Iranian fire – the US and Russian would have been at war.

By virtue of our treaty commitments as a member and dominant power in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, we would be required to come to the aid of Turkey with military force.  In such a state of hostility anything could have happened because Russia cannot successfully wage a conventional war against NATO forces, which could be deployed from the territories of countries surrounding Russia that were a part of the Soviet Union until the break-up of the USSR after the fall of the Russian Communist Party in the last decade of the 20th century.  As I have written elsewhere it was extreme folly to expand NATO – a military alliance formed to contain the expansion of the international communist movement in the post-World War II period – into Eastern Europe after the collaspe of communism.   As Professor Stephen Cohen, and other serious scholars of US-Russian relations have pointed out: It was a move that violated the spirit of the accommodation Russia made with the West ending the Cold War.

As I write the leaders on NATO are making plans to supply arms to these former Russian republics, which I view as a step towards doomsday because in any military conflict with NATO Russian will quickly introduce the nuclear deterrent by putting their weapons systems on alert.   And no knowledgeable observor doubts that the Russian nuclear arsenal is quite capable of obliterating every city in the NATO alliance within an hour!  Hence the US is doing a death dance with the devil in forming alliances with little countries whose existence has no real bearing on the national interests of the United States, countries like Turkey. These misguided and dangerous foreign policy decisions are driven by the bogus ideology of “American Exceptionalism,” which underlies the assumption that the US has a divine right, even an obligation, to shape the rest of the world in our superior image.

It is this ideology which keeps the US in a state of perpetual war by promoting the idea that American leadership of the world is essential; it is a refrain that we constantly hear from the Republicans in Congress and is a belief shared by most Americans, who are willing to squander trillions of dollars on foreign military adventures while our roads are barely traversable in many parts of the country, our bridges are falling down, our electric grid is out of date, and the water supply of an entire city is poisoned by lead from antiquated pipes and Republican budget cuts. The belief in American Exceptionalism has led us into otherwise inexplicable military alliances with third rate countries like Turkey.

After only recently taking an action that could have thrown us into a military conflict with Russia, which could plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust, Prime Minister Erdogan – a pugnacious fool who is perhaps the most admired political figure in Turkey if judged by electoral success – has now accused the Obama administration of supporting Terrorism against Turkey.  After declaring that the US was responsible for “A sea of blood” in Syria, because of its support of Kurdish forces in the YPG which the US says are the only fighters that have proved effective against ISIS; Erdogan went on the accuse the UN of double crossing them and said to Americans:

I told you many times: Are you with us or with this terrorist organization?  Is there a difference between the PKK and the PYD? Is there a difference with the YPG?  We have written proof! We tell the Americans: ‘It’s a terror group.’ But the Americans stand up and say: ‘No, we don’t see them as terror groups.’”

These comments provide irrefutable evidence that further US military involvement in Syria would be a fool’s errand, extreme folly.  The Syrian conflict is playing out in a theater built on quicksand, and in the fog of war it is hard to tell who’s who.  We have only to carefully consider President Erdogan’s statement to see that this assessment is true.  The paramount objective of the US in Syria is to overthrow the regime of Bashar al Assad and destroy the militant jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria: ISIS.  And the want to do this without putting American “boots on the ground.” This means the actual fighting must be carried out by surrogate forces.  However the problem with US policy is that it is contradictory and therefore they are working at cross purposes.

Fierce Kurdish Forces to the Rescue
Kurds PKK
PKK Fighters: Reliable Allies against ISIS

To overthrow the Assad regime and defeat ISIS is a paradoxical proposition because the other forces fighting Assad are often indistinguishable from ISIS and thus are only interested in overthrowing the Syrian government and replace it with an Islamic regime.  There may be some forces interested in replacing the dictatorial Assad regime with a liberal western style democracy, but the evidence shows that they are few and far between. President Obama understands this; that’s why he has steadfastly refused to arm any of the factions, although there are signs that his resistance is crumbling in the fact of persistent and slanderous Republican criticism.  The truth be told, the two most effective military opposition forces to ISIS are the Iranians and the Kurds.  Alas, the Iranians are unacceptable to the Republicans and the Kurds are unacceptable to Turkey.

This is because in the swirl of claims, counter-claims, and ancient animosities that fuel the conflicts in the region: one ally’s hero is the other’s villain. Hence while the US views the Kurdish forces as a godsend, the Turks view them as denizens of the devil.  This is because the Kurdish militants in the PKK have been fighting the Turks in a protracted struggle for independence and when they take territory they hold it with the intention of making it part of a new Kurdistan.   But this is of little concern for the US, whose paramount objective is crushing the ISIS Caliphate ruled by Caliph Ibrahim.  In a New York Times article of August 12, 2015 titled “Why Turkey is fighting the Kurds who are Fighting ISIS,” we are told:

“Kurdish fighters have been coordinating with the American military since last October. From cloaked rooms in northern Syria, members of the militia known as the Y.P.G. have relayed intelligence and coordinates for potential airstrike targets to an American operations center hundreds of miles away.The resulting strikes have in turn helped the Kurds seize a broad stretch of territory along the Turkish border from the Islamic State. “The role of the coalition jets has been essential to these victories,” said Idris Nassan, a senior Kurdish official from Kobani.”

Since 1978, when the Kurdish Workers Party – PKK- was founded, the Turkish government has attempted to suppress them by force of arms – much like the American Civil War.  According to some estimates thousands of Kurds have been slaughtered by the Turks at a cost of around 450 billion dollars. Not willing to admit the legitimacy of their claims for a national homeland as a human right, the Turks have labeled them “Terrorists.”  But since the US was born as a result of a fight with their British colonial masters many Americans, including the Obama administration, view them differently.

Without this historical perspective it is impossible to make sense of Turkish President Erdogan’s hysterical charge. Alas it is an irresolvable contradiction, we view the Kurds as valued allies in the fight to defeat ISIS, and the Turks view them as dangerous “terrorists” who are trying to dismember the unitary Turkish State.  Erdogan wants Barack to join him in defeating the nationalist goals of the Kurds, but Barack wants no part of that…and rightly so.   The French are also unsatisfied with Barack’s refusal to be drawn into extraneous fights that deter or retard the fight against ISIS, and wants him to commit more American forces to the fight.  I say the president should keep his eyes on the prize and to hell with Turkey…France too!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 11, 2016

Playing Russian Roulette with the World!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on November 24, 2015 by playthell
Russian Fighter PlaneThe Russian Fighter Shot Down by Turkey
Drifting into Nuclear War over Syria

Caliph Ibrahim is laughing his ass off!   Here the powerful and meddlesome “crusaders” from the East and West – Russians and Americans – the infidels and swine eaters that have come to destroy his Caliphate, are about to destroy each other in a tragic/comic fiasco.   In fact, looking at the issues involved it is hard to foresee a solution that will not end badly.  The only question is how badly.

The Turkish Air Force has shot down a Russian fighter plane flying combat missions over Syria; the Turks say the Russians violated their airspace but the Russians deny it.  The radar records released by the Turks is confusing; which means that even if the Russian aircraft did violate Turkish air space it was  a close call and it lasted only a few moments before the Turks shot them down.

Listening to the television talking heads, even on CNN, one gets no clue as to how dangerous the present situation is. Hence most Americans have no idea of the catastrophe that confronts us as this dangerous drama unfolds.  As I write NATO is in an emergency meeting and President Putin is meeting with his advisors formulating a response.   This is the kind of situation that I have long feared and warned against; the kind of situation that could lead to a military confrontation between the US and Russia.

Looking at the situation objectively, one could argue that this was bound to happen.  The proximity of combat forces on conflicting and sometimes confusing missions made a US/Russian confrontation inevitable. The Russians are in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government, with whom they are allied.  Hence Russian firepower is directed at all the armed opponents of the Syrian government.

This puts them at odds with the US and NATO, who is committed to overthrowing the Syrian government; which makes NATO de-facto allies of ISIS, Al Qaeda, al Nuesra, and other Islamic Zealots whom NATO has defined as their paramount enemy. Hence the idea of a moderate opposition is a dangerous fiction; any arms that the US gives to anti-Assad forces will end up in the hands of the Jihadists.

As I write the world awaits the Russian response to the Turks and  depending what they decide to do in retaliation, the security of the entire world could suddenly be at stake.  The fact that a third rate country like Turkey could plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust demonstrates in no uncertain terms the folly of the NATO alliance, where the USA is bound to join Turkey and even Estonia in any military conflict in which they are engaged.

This might have made some sense during the Soviet era when were in a Cold War with Russia and forever trying to encircle and outflank them.   But it makes no sense at all today.  Alas, the nature of the alliance means it is a relic from another era, one that endangers US national security far more than it enhances it.  As I write President Obama is making a speech at a news conference with the President of France, whom he is huddling with in an attempt to put together a strategy for destroying the ISIS Caliphate.

However his speech rings hollow against the brewing crisis over the downed Russian plane by a member of NATO.  Yet I have listened intently and there has been no mention of the growing crisis in relations between the US and Russia.   If ever there was a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees this is it!   The eradication of ISIS is a picayune matter when compared to the possibility of an armed conflict between the US and Russia.

If any country had willfully shot down an American plane there would be no question of retaliation with superior military force.  Alas, should Russia respond in the way Americans would we could end up in a war between the world’s foremost nuclear  powers and NOBODY can  say how it will end.  Alas, while the French leader blathers on about building a grand coalition against ISIS at the White House, it seems further and further away.

This point is underscored by the anemic response to a question from reporters to President Obama.  His response was woefully inadequate given the gravitas of the issue.  Instead of expressing regret for the downing of the Russian plane he chose to lecture Russians on their policy of supporting the Assad government.  I thought it was arrogant and unfeeling.  Given the fact that Russia cannot hope to prevail in a military conflict with NATO, it would not surprise me if we find ourselves on the brink of a nuclear confrontation in the following days.

The Russian jet crashed into the Mountains
Turkey-Syria-Russian-warplane-downed.jpg III 
And no one knows where it would lead

When a similar question about Turkey’s downing of the Russian fighter was put to the French Prime Minister, he followed the example of President Obama; pontificating about who the Russians must target in Syria, although they have no clue who is and is not a “terrorist” among the forces fighting President Assad. The self-righteous declarations of the US and French presidents cannot fail to be insulting to the national pride of the Russians. All the pugnacious buffoons who have been calling for establishing “no fly” zones in Syria, like the Republican presidential candidates, should take note.  These are very dangerous times indeed and pugnaceous motormouth airheads can only add to the danger!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
October 24, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s A New Day in Canada!

Posted in Guest Commentators, On Foreign Affairs with tags , , on October 23, 2015 by playthell

Justin Trudeau gestures while weighing-in for a charity boxing match against Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in Ottawa March 28, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

 Justin Trudeau Newly Elected Canadian Prime Minister

Reflections on the Canadian Election

We Canadians know only too well how rarely U.S. citizens think of us. In fact, we’re pretty much convinced that you’re only mildly aware of our existence. A friend who played hockey in the States was travelling north to Canada on a bus full of U.S. players who seemed sure that they would cross the border to immediately encounter snow squalls and moose crossing the streets in major cities. We’re quaint, but honestly, living in Toronto is much like living in New York, which is one of my favorite cities.

We’ve just finished a major election which will bring sweeping change to the ethos of our whole country, and as your neighbor, I thought you might like to know what’s going on up here. Canada’s Parliament, modeled on the British form, is made up of locally elected Members from many districts across Canada. For a national election like the one we just held on the 19th of October, 2015, when you vote for a local Member of Parliament, you’re voting for the leader of his or her party, and the leader of the party that gains the most seats in the House of Commons becomes our Prime Minister for four years.

Conservatives are blue, the New Democratic Party, or NDP, are orange, and the Liberals are red. Last night, a crimson tide swept across our nation with an unprecedented number of people flocking to the polls from East to West as the day went on. Advance polls saw a 70% increase from the 2011 election. First Nations people from many tribes, who have traditionally avoided voting, showed up in car pools. Muslims, immigrants and the young people of the nation raced to their polling stations by the busload. Justin Trudeau, the Leader of the Liberal Party became our Prime Minister, utterly ousting the Conservatives. Trudeau’s Liberals, coming from third place, got 4.2 million more votes than in 2011. We were desperate for change, and I’ll tell you why….

First Nations Peoples of Canada
First Nations People
They turned out and helped drive the right-wingers from office

 For the past 10 years, our Prime Minister (Canadian code for President) Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party has led Canada down a dark road of increasing exclusion, lightly veiled homophobia, racism and passive/aggressive Islamophobia, all the while pumping out a rhetoric of fear of anyone other than whites of European descent – a rhetoric that has Canadians locking their doors.

Did you watch Bowling for Columbine? If you did, you’ll know that we’re usually more trusting than that up here. He’s infamous for muzzling journalists and scientists, for making Canada the laughing stock of international efforts to improve the environment, and for openly stating that the 1,182 First Nations women who were murdered or went missing in recent years was not a priority for him. He was too busy protecting us from evil foreigners to demand action on resolving the cases of these women; cases which had been tossed aside and neglected for years.

Stephen Harper’s Last Hurrah…

Harper

He got Smacked down by the Liberals

Harper insulted Muslims by insisting that a woman should not be allowed to wear her Niqab while being sworn in as a Canadian citizen. He openly used code phrases like “Old Stock Canadians” to assure those Old Stock Boys that his consistently divisive leadership would continue to favor them above others. He put forward laws to decrease health benefits for refugees, and the list goes on. Ralph Nader, in a guest spot last week on CBC Radio, said that he hardly recognized Canada any more – it used to be a leading country in quality of life and evolved compassion, but that he now felt embarrassed for what we had become under Harper’s regime of fear.  This is not the country I grew up in – this is a country I no longer recognize. Let me tell you why this election was so important to Canadians.

I was a little kid sitting in the back seat of the family Volkswagen, and to my father’s astonishment, I was writing an election campaign speech. I had caught “Trudeau-mania”. For the course of my young life, politics had been austere, gravely serious and mostly about men making decisions for the rest of us. And along came Trudeau. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister from 1968-1979 and from 1980-1984, is the late father of our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. We called him PET. Trudeau created a country that welcomed immigrants from all over the world with open arms. America represents itself as the famous “Melting Pot,” where people of other cultures blend in, but Canada became a “Mosaic” where other cultures, languages, customs and traditions were accepted and celebrated.

Canada was a fabric made of thousands of individual brightly-colored threads representing nations far and wide. That was our trademark – you could come here and feel welcomed, but you didn’t have to give up your culture or heritage – you could still benefit from the blessings of democracy, an advanced Medicare system and endless natural resources. PET was a breath of fresh air, bringing a forward-thinking new platform on women’s rights, equality and inclusion. PET put us on the map internationally, gaining the friendship and respect of foreign leaders. He brought us in leaps and bounds into a future of promise, where people of all races and religions worked together in harmony and felt safe. That’s the Canada he built. That’s the Canada I knew and loved. That’s the Canada Ralph Nader remembers.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau
pierre-trudeau
Pater-familias of Todays victorious Liberals

An acquaintance from Iran who fled to Canada in the 1979 Revolution, often spoke of his alarm and dismay at how complacent and indifferent he found North Americans in terms of their engagement with politics. In a world where many have to walk miles, dodge bullets and navigate devious practices in order to place a vote, I tend to agree with him. But in yesterday’s election, my faith in Canadian citizens was restored. In the final weeks of the campaign, we waited, almost in a quiet panic, to see how this election would turn out. Various groups sprung up across the country to study the trends and provide local statistics on the best way to unseat the Conservatives.

People all across the country shared social media posts and links to tell the truth about Conservative policy and approach, and thousands upon thousands realized that no commentary was needed – one needed only to post the actual decisions, laws passed, policies and quotations, to tell the story of how Harper attempted to turn trusting, open-hearted Canadians into frightened, racist and suspicious people who thought they saw a terrorist hiding at every corner. The truth spread so far that even generally indifferent Canadians became fed up with this reign of fear, and they too wanted their Canada back.

Justin Trudeau Courts Muslim Vote

Trudeau meets with muslims

Building a winning Liberal Coalition

 The Liberal Party sent out volunteers in droves, and during the 78-day campaign, I was telephoned at least once a week by Liberal Party members looking to answer any questions, make sure I would vote and offer me a ride to the polling station. They were out on the streets in droves, knocking on doors and giving solid, clear answers to peoples’ questions. My experience in my own riding of Etobicoke South / Lakeshore left me deeply impressed with the integrity and hard-working team of local Liberal Candidate James Maloney, who won the riding. A casualty of the landslide vote in favor of the Liberal Party was the New Democratic Party, which lost many good Members of Parliament to the strategic vote.

In areas where a Liberal win was likely, staunch NDP members abandoned their representatives – the lesser evil if it meant ousting the Conservative Party, which was the goal of so many Canadians.  I was moved. It was like going to church last night, watching the Conservative blue disappear in a sea of Liberal red. I marveled at the well-oiled machine composed of dedicated Canadians who loved their country enough to work together as one to reclaim it from the reactionary conservatives.

Justin Trudeau, our new Prime Minister, is only 43 years old, and the campaign television ads used to try and diminish Trudeau said, “He’s just not ready.” But they were dead wrong. There was much negative speculation about how this very young man would handle the first debate, but the morning after, the pundits and journalists were singing his praises, impressed and inspired by his strength, knowledge, confidence and political savvy. During the weeks of the campaign, his opponents often suggested that Trudeau would run out of steam, not being used to the rigors of the road. Again, they were dead wrong. Justin’s energy and vitality increased as he continued to rise to every occasion. He was in good physical, mental and emotional condition and he remained consistent.

Justin Trudeau makes his Case

Justin Trudeau makes his case

And the Canadian people put the reins of power in his hands

Here’s the thing – Trudeau has not been mindlessly spouting some party line. He grew up immersed in the kind of belief system and world view of which the Liberal Party is so proud – a world view that is inclusive and positive and that welcomes the stranger and embraces the ‘other’ – a belief system that chooses to challenge the increasing gap between the rich and the poor – an outlook that values the hard-working middle class and resists favoring corporate giants at the expense of the ordinary person. Young Trudeau has already made some statements that are commanding our attention. He wants to focus on the important environmental issues which the Conservative government put on the shelf. He promises that he will name an equal number of men and women as Cabinet Ministers. Already, there are 26% more female representatives in the House of Commons than in the previous House.

Indigenous people who have been ignored and side-lined have hope that they will be included in infra-structure improvements that will finally bring them clean water and a trustworthy safety net. The list goes on, but the point is this: Canada lived through an increasingly negative decade wherein our progressive identity was insidiously being eroded, and we finally woke up.

Our new leader has a heart, and we can sense that he genuinely cares about the average Canadian.  It’s in his DNA to have compassion. He got it from his parents. As he joined his supporters for his speech, with his beautiful wife, Sophie on his arm, they chanted his name in ecstatic joy. And he promised to give Canada back to the Canadians who love it and serve it. He restored hope to an increasingly cynical nation.  He closed with a reminder that the Conservative Party members are not our enemies, but rather, they are our neighbors, and he urged us to work together to make Canada stronger. And there it is – there’s the big difference we worked so hard to bring back.

So why should you, my dear American neighbors, care about this Canadian election? First, you should probably know about the unprecedented shift that has taken place in a country that is attached to you for thousands of miles along your northern border. And second, you too have a major election coming. You too have an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues that are most important to you. What kind of a country do you want to be? What is it that other nations say about you? Is that okay with you? Would you like it to be something else?

I’m no politician – I’m not even a journalist. I’m a divorced Anglican (Episcopalian) Priest, a proud mother of two young adult women, and – yes, I have to own it – a sort of middle-aged hippie. I have always believed, like Jesus, Gandhi and Mohammed, that the sign of a truly good country is how well it cares for its most vulnerable citizens and brings justice to all people. I want to remind you of the dynamic power of one; because the action of the one, when added to the actions of many, becomes an immensely powerful force for change. We did it – we changed the whole ethos of our country, and you can too.

 

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Reverend Susanne McKim
Tronto, Canada
October 20, 2015

 

 

 

On the “Deconfliction” Policy in Syria

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on October 3, 2015 by playthell
Kerry and Larov at deconfliction meeting
 Kerry and Foreign and Sergi Lavrov trying to avoid disaster

A Clear and Present Danger!

The gravity of the situation in Syria – where the US and Russia both have armed forces operating, with drones and planes flying around dropping bombs all over the place – was clearly reflected in the faces of John Kerry and Sergei Lovrov as they announced their policy of “deconfliction” in Syria at the United Nations.  Tasked with devising a policy designed to prevent an accidental clash between the US and Russian military forces deployed in Syria – the consequences of which are too frightening to contemplate, except for those religious fanatics who believe they are going to ascend to heaven when the earth goes up in the flames of nuclear holocaust – the American Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister have given us “deconfliction,” a new word coinage of uncertain intent conjured up to explain a hastily drafted policy.

However what is all too clear is that the two top foreign policy officials of the world’s greatest military powers felt the situation in Syria is so serious that taking measures to prevent an accidental conflict between their countries cannot be postponed or confused by employing provocative language, or inciting tensions with jingoistic posturing.  Hence when they called for an immediate meeting of Russian and American military commanders in Syria, to work out the details of a strategy to implement the newly minted policy of “deconfliction,” I let out a sigh of relief.   I view this move as evidence that the Obama Administration has finally accepted reality in Syria.

However anyone who watched President Vladimir Putin of Russia on CBS’ Sixty Minutes last Sunday heard him present a coherent policy on Syria that recognizes the political and religious conflicts in the region – which are often the same thing – and explicate the dire consequences of following the ill-conceived, unrealistic, policy of the American government.  Putin correctly recognized that the very existence of ISIS is the result of the epic failures of past US decisions in the Middle East – like the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Sadam Hussein.  And he astutely warns that present US policy based on the overthrow of the Assad regime will lead to an even worse disaster.

Vladimir Putin interviewed by Charlie Rose
Putin

Putin’s policy is to support the existing Syrian government against the insurgent forces because they are controlled by Islamic Jihadists, many of whom support ISIS, the dreaded enemy that both the US and Russia have vowed to wipe out. And while he exempts the “Free Syrian Army” from the “terrorist” list he does not know how many Jihadist are within their ranks ut would support negotiations between them and the Syrian government once the Jihadist have been defeated. The Russian President’s analysis on Sixty Minutes was cogent and fully takes the facts on the ground into consideration.  The most important fact is that everywhere strong secular leaders have been overthrown the Islamic forces come to power because there is no countervailing force to resist them.   Arming these anti-government insurgents is clearly folly because the arms inevitably end up in the hands of the Jihadists.  Hence this cure is demonstrably worse than the disease.

The most striking revelation provided by Putin’s interview is that the Russians have clearly defined objectives in Syria: shoring up the Assad government while assisting in the fight against the anti-government insurgents.  By comparison the US has no clear policy and thus our strategy is in disarray.  The US is committed to the overthrow of the Assad government but has no idea who will replace it.  Calls from the Republican right to arm some factions demonstrates that they have learned nothing from our recent history in the region.

Virtually all of the arms that were used against American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq were manufactured and delivered to the region by the US government.  That is the plain fact of the matter.  It goes without saying – but I must say it so that my remarks will not be seized upon by conspiracy theorist and add to the confusion – when the US armed these insurgent groups they considered them allies against Communist influence in the region.  Some clueless policy wonks came up with the silly idea that because Americans were Christians, “People of the Book” and “Children of Abraham” like them this gave us a leg up over the communists with the Islamic fundamentalist.

They took our weapons, killed the Marxists, then turned them against us, our clients like the Saudi Royal family, the Egyptian government and their religious rivals like the Shia..  The result is the Taliban, al Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS, and only Allah seems to know what’s next.  Hence to arm ANY faction in Syria would be criminal folly that will only add to the tragic waste of American blood and treasure in the region.  And unless the US and Russian governments can coordinate their military efforts in Syria the result could be make the conflict with ISIS look like a play pen fight.  And as of this writing the principle of “deconfliction” appears to be the best way out of this perilous imbroglio.

Joining forces with Russia and Iran is without a doubt the best approach to defeating ISIS. Alas, when we hear the howls rising from Congress, driven by the demands of the Israel Lobby, the major influence in shaping US policy in the region, there is little likelihood that such a sensible policy will be pursued.   If the Republican right considers cutting deals with President Obama to govern the US as a betrayal of their constituents, they will surely view any alliance the President makes with Russia and Iran an act of treason! And it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they attempted to impeach him for it!  After all, some have called for his impeachment for exercising his executive authority to foil Republican attempts to prevent him from governing effectively.

In this sense President Putin is far better positioned to play an effective role in the war against ISIS than President Obama, who is reduced by a Congress controlled by the Grand Obstructionist Party to spouting pious platitudes about the oppressiveness of the Assad regime even as we remain close allies with the Saudi Royal family – a murderous desert monarchy that promotes medieval religious practices enforced by modern police state tactics, again employing weapons supplied by the US.

I know this analysis will sound distasteful to many Americans – especially the avowed “American Exceptionalists” in the Republican Party.  But these are grave matters that involve the survival of modern civilization and even life itself on this planet. Hence it is both a sin and a shame to sacrifice honest analysis for self-serving fables; to reject truth in favor of national pride.  It is axiomatic that the first casualty of war is truth.  However we are not at war yet…at least not a hot one that involves the use of armed forces. And all parties must do everything in their power to keep the peace….because any military conflict between tihe US and Russia will involve NATO and the Russians will be forced to go on  nuclear alert and that could lead to doomsday!

With American and Russian War Planes firing Missiles
World War III could accidently break out in Syria!

It is precisely because the present situation in Syrian, where American and Russian forces are operating in a theater of war, is so dangerous that a policy of de-confliction is imperative.  We need to emphasize the objectives we hold in common and compromise where we disagree.  This is no picayune task, but failure to resolve the antagonisms between the US, Russia and Iran in Syria represents a clear and present danger to all mankind.

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Watch President Putin on Sixty Minutes
https://youtu.be/r8k2pWbCjrwn 
Watch Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov
https://youtu.be/n2ZBOYDyMcg

US Employing Wrong Strategy Against ISIS

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 6, 2015 by playthell
Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi-Al-Qaeda-Iraq-ISIS-400x330
ISIS Leader Caliph Ibrahim: The Sword of Allah

On Repeating the Mistakes of History

American foreign policy and diplomacy seems to have lost its way. While we spend thousands of hours in league with other nations negotiating a treaty to prevent Iran from acquiring a single primitive atomic bomb – which the US Senate is threatening to reject – a US led NATO is engaging in activities in Eastern Europe that could accidently lead to a nuclear war that would destroy all life on this planet in an hour!  And our search for an effective strategy against ISIS, a clear and present menace to much of the world, has proved an exercise in futility characterized by a series of fool’s errands alas.  In fact, all the evidence suggests that US policy makers have learned nothing from the disastrous adventure in Iraq under George Bush.

While there are myriad lessons to be learned from that catastrophe, I believe the most important is to understand that the US invasion of Iraq as a response to Al Qaeda, the perpetrator of the 9/11 attack on the US, was a cold and cynical deception.   It was clear to all serious students of politics in the Islamic world that Iraq had no relationship to al Qaeda; yet Dirty Dick Cheney, Donny Rumsfeld and their henchmen among the policy wonks like Dr. Paul Wolfowitz argued that their objective was to prevent Al Qaeda from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.  Hence these incompetent ideologues invaded Iraq, when subsequent events have shown that the wisest course of action for US policy would have been to form a military alliance with Sadam Hussein against Osama bin Ladin.  This would have been a piece of cake!

In Sadam we would have found a wise, willing and ruthless ally; exactly what we needed to defeat the Jihadists in al Qaeda.  He was wise because no one had been more effective in suppressing Muslim fundamentalist militants i.e. “Jihadists” than the secular military strongmen of the Islamic world.   Abdel Gamel Nasser of Egypt, and his successors Anwar Sadat (who was assassinated by a Muslim fanatic) and Honsi  Mubarak.  Mummar Quadafi of Lybia; General Musharif in Pakistan, and Sadam Hussein in Iraq were all cut from the same mold as anti-Jihadist strongmen.

Sadam and al Qaeda were natural enemies because according to the theology of al Qaeda all Arab heads of secular states are apostates.  And the penalty for apostasy is death!    The only legitimate governments are those based on Sharia Law in their view.  Hence if al Qaeda came to power in Iraq Sadam was a dead man. Thus it was either madness, or a grand deception, guided by the advice of right-wing Republican policy wonks in The Project for a New American Century, that led George Bush to invade Iraq in response to an attack by Jihadists from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, America’s closest allies in the Middle-East.  (See: “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank” on this blog)  It would be like us getting attacked by Canadian terrorists and invading Mexico in retaliation.  As silly as it sounds, the decision to invade Iraq was not a jot or tittle smarter.

Now we are facing a far more deadly Jihadist enemy that al Qaeda, The Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and the Levant aka ISIL or ISIS.  Whereas al Qaeda is a stateless organization consisting of loosely coordinated cells spread around the world that can be activated to carry out clandestine surprise attacks, ISIL is an actual 21st century Islamic Caliphate with a government structure that is divided into civilian and military departments, a tax collection system and a sizable territorial base that is divided into provinces.  But most of all it is a base for revolutionary Islamic forces who ae pledged to cleanse the Islamic world of apostates and then spread the law of Muhammad to the entire world.

Ready to die for Islam…..
ISIS Militants II
And Kill Too!

ISIS Burns Pilot

Even Committ Mass Murders….

ISIS Mass Killings

In the Name of God!

As with al Qaeda, ISIS is first of all concerned with its enemies in the Muslim world, those who refuse to accept their version of Islam as the one true doctrine.  The question of what sacred edicts and scripture actually mean in the real world has been the cause of much bloodshed throughout history – especially among the Semitic monotheists i.e. Christians, Muslims and Jews – but with ISIS it has become a matter of life and death as it was in the medieval world.  And to make matters even more horrifying they have greatly expanded the definition as to which acts qualify as apostasy.

Originally apostasy had to do with denying the divine mission of the Prophet Muhammad or rejecting his teachings, but under ISIS’s theology it can range from selling alcohol and shaving your beard, to voting for a Muslim candidate in an election and being s Shite.  All Shiites are considered Apostates because they innovated on the original teachings of the prophets such as praying at the gravesides of departed Imams, and the public self-flagellation rituals that are central to Shiite religious practice.  For these eighteen hundred year old theological disputes Caliph Ibrahim, the absolute ruler of ISIS who holds a PhD in Sharia Law, thinks all Shiites should be put to the sword.  Hence it is perfectly acceptable to blow up their Mosques and murder them where the practice their apostasy!

Who could make better allies against ISIS than Iran: the greatest nation of Shiites in the world?  Try as I might I can conjure no rival to the Shiite Persians as allies against the Sunni Jihadists.   An August 27 article by Rick Francona – a former air-force intelligence officer and CIA operative stationed in Iraq during the Iraqi invasion of Iran, who now works as a military analyst for CNN – titled “Is your Government lying to you about ISIS?” supplies further evidence in support of my position.  After questioning “the rosy portrayal” of American successes against ISIS forces “coming out of the pentagon,” assuring us that ISIS forces are on the defensive, Col Francona tells us:

I remember the reports of the “success” of the Iraqi Army in ejecting ISIS from the city of Tikrit, when most of the actual fighting was done by Iranian-trained and led Shi’a militias. As the Pentagon assured us that ISIS was now contained, the Islamists mounted a successful assault on the city of al-Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar province, located on the Euphrates River just 65 miles from Baghdad – all the while under attack from the air. This hardly fits the definition of ‘on the defensive’”

From all observable signs and measurable activities the US is not winning the war against ISIS; they are growing more powerful as I write alas.  And the Republicans are sure to attempt to block any workable strategy.  They are to blinded by ideology, racism and Iranophobia that they propose absurd self-defeating policies and oppose strategies that could lead to success.  It would be crazy to arm the so-called “Free Syrian Army” because if we employ history as our guide it is easy to predict that those arms will end up in the hands of ISIS.

However if victory is the goal of US policy against ISIS an alliance with Iran will insure it!  President Obama’s looming success on the nuclear treaty with Iran will avert the probability of war just now,  but the Republican’s show no signs of concede defeat on Iran policy; the Coker-Cardin bill , which attempts to bar President Obama from waiving the sanctions that were imposed by Congress is their latest effort.  But because this legislation, pretentiously titled “the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act of 2015,” would violate the terms of the treaty, it has no real chance of becoming law unless the Republicans hold the Congress and elect a Republican president in 2016.

However, I believe that running on a platform of repealing the treaty and starting a war with Iran may help win the Republican primary, it will prove a milestone around the necks of Republican candidates that could well sink the Grand Obstructionist Party in the general election.  And that would be a good thing for America….and the world.

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Playthell G. Benjamin

On the Road in Cali

September 6, 2015

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