"The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes. In other words, what you show people, day in and day out, is political... And the most politically indoctrinating thing you can do to a human being is to show him, every day, that there can be no change. " WIM WENDERS
The Somali government initially claimed everyone killed in Barire was a terrorist, but provincial officials confirmed almost immediatelyall of the victims were civilians working in the farming area, including some children. Moreover, the evidence was they were summarily executed.
Somali investigators say that local tribal elders had called for revenge after the Barire killings, and were particularly mad at the central government for spending so long denying anything happened. They say it’s possible that the Mogadishu attack, which killed over 300, was that revenge.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing as of yet, which is unusual if as officials maintain it is al-Shabaab. The truck contained explosives and was detonated remotely. It was parked near a fuel trick which also detonated.
Trump’s cascading recklessness in his Iran policy continues to put the United States, Iran, the Middle East, and indeed the world at great peril. (Image: SS&SS / Flickr)
Despite heavy competition, Trump’s latest Iran move ranks near the top of the list of the most reckless actions of this ever-so-reckless presidency. The president announced recently that he was refusing to certify Iran’s compliance with the landmark nuclear agreement it reached with the U.S. and several other world powers during the Obama administration.
This dangerous move won’t scuttle the deal entirely — at least not yet — but it undermines the strength of the international agreement and ultimately increases the threat of war. While Trump has said he’s not pulling out of the deal just now, he’s threatening to do so if Congress doesn’t pass new sanctions .
With virtually every Iran expert on the planet in agreement that Tehran is keeping its end of the nuclear deal, it’s clear that Trump’s motives are purely political. But if anything that makes his decision only more dangerous.
The Iran nuclear deal — officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — is widely recognized as one of President Obama’s most important diplomatic successes. And it’s working exactly as it was designed to do.
The UN nuclear inspection agency, the U.S. intelligence community, and every serious expert on Iran’s nuclear program from across the globe all agree that Iran is complying with the requirements of the deal. That means, among other things, that Iran’s supply of low enriched uranium is now about 1 percent of what it used to be, it has no highly enriched uranium, and its nuclear program is under tight international inspection.
In withdrawing from a deal that Iran was keeping in good faith, Trump abandoned any pretense of maintaining U.S. credibility as a reliable negotiating partner. Instead, he justified decertifying Iranian compliance with a combination of exaggerations, complaints about actions that have nothing to do with the actual terms of the deal, and outright lies.
In remarks announcing his action, Trump claimed that “the Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement — for example, they exceeded the 130 metric ton limit of heavy water.” As the Guardian pointed out, that statement was “misleading at best. On two occasions, Iran’s stockpile of heavy water flowed over the ceiling imposed by the deal, but the situation was quickly rectified and Iran’s reserve is now below the limit. Nor is heavy water a direct proliferation threat.”
He also tossed out the line, without a shred of evidence, that “many people believe Iran is dealing with North Korea.”
He lied about Iran getting “paid up front” when the deal was signed, “rather than at the end of the deal when they have shown they’ve played by the rules.” Trump implied this was a payout from the West to Iran, but didn’t mention this was Iran’s own money, long frozen by the United States and its allies. And in point of fact, those funds weren’t released until the UN nuclear inspectors had determined that Tehran was indeed complying with the rules.
Finally, Trump lied about conditions inside Iran, claiming that the deal resulted in sanctions being lifted “just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime.” Despite U.S. threats and crippling sanctions (which had far more impact on Iran’s civilian population than on the government), the Iranian regime was and remains very far from “total collapse.”
Trump also refused to acknowledge that Iran and the United States are actually fighting on the same side across the region. Washington and Tehran support the same governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. And both have deployed troops and planes to fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. (Of course, this isn’t particularly good news — both the Afghan and Iraqi governments are deeply corrupt, and the U.S. and Iran have each been responsible for war crimes in Syria — but it shows the hypocrisy in Trump’s deeply oppositional view of Iran.)
Furthermore, while they support different sides in the Syrian civil war, U.S. and Iranian military forces are often close together, and remain in constant communication to prevent any friendly fire attacks on each other. Indeed, while Trump announced new sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps for their alleged support for terrorism, he was careful not to add the IRGC to Washington’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, because that would threaten U.S. soldiers fighting near IRGC troops in Syria.
Because Trump couldn’t point to any actual violations of the terms of JCPOA by Iran, he claimed instead that Tehran “is not living up to the spirit of the deal.” He condemned Iran’s missile developments, bemoaning the deal’s “failure” to deal with them. But of course, it wasn’t a deal about missile technology — it was a deal about nuclear enrichment. That was the only way to get all sides on board, and scuttling it when Iran’s in compliance will inevitably make it more difficult to strike a deal on missiles or anything else in the future.
Rogue State Behavior
Trump’s new Iran position doesn’t end the multi-party Iran deal; it doesn’t even pull the United States out of the deal or end U.S. obligations under the deal — yet.
Instead, it tosses the decision back to Congress. The JCPOA is a multi-lateral agreement, not a treaty, and so didn’t have to be ratified by the Senate. But to prevent political problems, Obama negotiated a separate deal with Congress, which requires the president to certify every 90 days that Iran is still in compliance with the deal.
If the president refuses to do so, as Trump just did, Congress then has 60 days to decide whether or not to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. That decision would indeed violate Washington’s obligations (which included ending nuclear sanctions), and Iran and the other signatories would rightly blame the U.S. for wrecking the deal.
Trump’s “America First” actions have seriously damaged Washington’s already-dubious standing in the world. This latest move goes further, gravely weakening international cooperation, concern for civilian populations, efforts towards non-proliferation and disarmament, respect for international law, and the credibility of the United Nations, which endorsed the deal.
It’s dangerous because it tells Iran, Washington’s negotiating partners, and the world that the United States isn’t committed to the deal it signed, and is looking for a way out. It’s dangerous because it tells North Korea that they may as well not bother negotiating with Washington, because the United States can’t be counted on to abide by its agreements.
It’s dangerous because there’s already strong anti-Iran and anti-JCPOA sentiment in Congress, as well as strong outside pressure (from Israel’s supporters, among others) on legislators to follow Trump’s reckless decision with an equally reckless move of their own. If Congress imposes new nuclear sanctions on Iran, that would threaten the real collapse of the deal — unless, as has happened before, the Iranian government shows more restraint and more political maturity than its U.S. counterpart.
Abandoning the nuclear deal shows utter disdain for our negotiating partners in China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK, which together helped craft the deal, as well as for Iran itself. It also slaps the unanimous UN Security Council Resolution 2231 endorsing the deal, which reminded signatories that they were obligated under international law “to accept and carry out the Security Council’s decisions,” including by carrying out the “full implementation” of the JCPOA.
“You know, the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council. And if it’s not going to uphold a resolution, that not only it voted for but it sponsored, then the credibility of the institution that the United States considers to be very important would be at stake. Nobody else will trust any U.S. administration to engage in any long-term negotiation because the length of any commitment, the duration of any commitment from now on with any U.S. administration would be the remainder of the term of that president.”
Trump’s cascading recklessness in his Iran policy continues to put the United States, Iran, the Middle East, and indeed the world at great peril. His actions make the threat of war far more likely. And if Congress doesn’t fall into Trump’s trap, and instead rejects his demand to impose new nuclear sanctions, Trump will come face-to-face with his promise to cancel the agreement himself.
Such an act would indeed prove, to anyone not yet convinced, that the United States is a rogue state.
Relatives mourn the killing of their kin in an attack by Somali forces and supported by U.S. troops, at the Madina hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, August 25, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Feisal Omar)
New details emerged Tuesday about the possible motivations behind a bomb attack that killed more than 300 people in the Somalia capital of Mogadishu over the weekend—the deadliest such violence in the nation's history—with the information suggesting the bombing may been in direct retaliation for a raid by U.S. soldiers this summer that left 10 civilians, including children, dead.
Investigators believe the attack on Saturday may in part have been motivated by a desire for revenge for the botched US-led operation in August.
Al-Shabaab has not claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack but a member of the cell detained by security forces has told interrogators the group was responsible, one security official told the Guardian.
Following the raid, in which three children aged between six and 10 died, local tribal elders called for revenge against the Somali government and its allies.
Not only was the bomber from the specific community targeted by the raid, but the investigation is also uncovering a series of other links to the town where it took place.
While the Somali government at the time apologized for what they described as a "case of mistaken identity" and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said it was "conducting an assessment" of the joint raid, local villagers called it nothing but a "massacre" of innocent farmers and young boys:
"These local farmers were attacked by foreign troops while looking after their crops," the deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region, Ali Nur Mohamed, told reporters in the wake of the killings. "The troops could have arrested them, because they were unarmed, but instead shot them one by one mercilessly."
Critics of the U.S. military presence in Africa, and in Somalia specifically, have long argued that the so-called "war on terror"—as it has elsewhere in the world—is actually making the problem of terrorism worse, not better.
According to a comprehensive United Nations study published last month, evidence showsthat in "a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa."
Of more than 500 former members of militant organisations interviewed for the report, the Guardiannoted, 71 percent pointed to "government action," including "killing of a family member or friend" or "arrest of a family member or friend" as the incident that prompted them to join a group.
"State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerator of recruitment, rather than the reverse," the UN report stated.
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimated that since 2004, at least 300 people have been killed in Somalia as a result of at least 42 confirmed U.S. drone strikes.
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By most evenings, I feel old fashioned, not as an act of complaint but out of a sense of irrelevance. As I watch Narendra Modi and Donald Trump enact a farce called politics and teach students who think history began 10 years ago, I wonder if there is a knowledge society. I sometimes feel we are a philistine era, where ideas do not count. What I miss is the conviviality of debate, the sense that ideas create a community, that there is a sense of the critical and the classical, that life, like ideas, can be playful.
When I tell my students about fascism and Stalinism, teach them about the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, talk about how to read a book, they laugh and shrug me off. Knowledge is no longer critical for them. They only survive on information. They have no sense of history or even the craft of conversation. They play with the rudraksh called mobile phone because they avoid face to face conversation.
I have heard grandparents complain that their grandchildren do not talk to them anymore. A conversation across generations seems impossible. Wisdom is an outdated recipe in the age of downloaded knowledge. It is the irrelevance of older generations that worries me.
Yet it is strange that we call ourselves an information society when this generation knows so little. They look blankly when you talk about the Holocaust, the Partition and shrug it off as “before me”. I can understand they do not want the burden of the past, but what is worse is that they have no sense of it. When I tell my students languages are dying, they ask why do you need so many languages. A language is not a way of dreaming.
The suspicion of ideas is not a disease of Trump and Modi alone. It runs through our society where dissent is seen as suspicion. Photo: Reuters/file
It is treated as functional like a piece of plumbing. Even the literate among them cannot write five lines. A paragraph seems a remote possibility when e-mail takes over. Writing a love letter or reading a novel is a pleasure they have rarely experienced. They prefer Blade Runner to Dostoevsky and prefer a TV serial to a novel. When you tell them about classics, they wonder what it is all about. In fact, I remember one of them tell me, “We could not read novels because we were too busy preparing for entrance exams.”
This is a generation where a Modi makes sense because he treats knowledge functionally. For him and this generation, the modern university is a mere place for certification, a degree giving factory. The syllabus is not sacred and ideas are not something you grow into. He talks about “skilling” as if it is something different from learning. No government has a greater contempt for the university than the BJP and yet it pretends to be up to date.
This is a regime that prefers think-tanks, experts and consultants, where policy is more important than ideas. We do not want to experiment or explore as a paisa vasool notion of knowledge takes over. The tutorial college is the great educational institution while universities are being systematically developed. Both science and the humanities are laughed at. Asking questions is unfashionable and asking unfashionable questions is anti-national. In fact, one cannot think of a more mediocre regime of ideas than the one we have today
Because a Trump and a Modi want to police ideas, they have destroyed our media. If there is one thing more supine than the university, it is the media. Newspapers are on the decline not because of technology but because they have no sense of ideas as news. The betrayal of the intellect by media is something one needs to go into. The editorial page which once evoked style is now taken over by droppings of bureaucrats who conjure policy for ideas, where a tactic is confused for a strategy. I think magazines like the Economic and Political Weekly and Seminar are today trustees of ideas that we must treasure.
They are not only custodians of memory, they are a refuge for the intellect. Today, if you wish to celebrate ideas, executives say give it to me in fifty words. They have no sense of the difference between a potted plant and a tropical forest. They think, one is a substitute for the other. In fact, what people call an “executive summary” is an illiterate’s idea of a classic.
The suspicion of ideas is not a disease of Trump and Modi alone. It runs through our society where dissent is seen as suspicion. Dissent is not just anti-national. It is seen as a form of knowledge that is not welcome. The tragedy is our society is almost “idea free” because we have stifled dissent. We thrive on a few official words like security, development, patriotism, without realising we cannot run a twenty-first century regime on a 19th century vocabulary.
Nobody seems to realise we are an outdated society, growing obsolescent on failed ideas while the West is outthinking us. Oddly, one realises the more old-fashioned one gets, the more futuristic one becomes.
The West has the universities, the libraries, the sense of how knowledge creates new possibilities, while we encourage mediocrity. We imitate superficial ideas but have no part in the real debates of knowledge. As a regime, we are desperate to be taken seriously, but we lack the knowledge base for it.
In fact, this might be our biggest tragedy, our inability to invent or respond to ideas floating across the world, where new notions of the city, the body, of philosophy are being worked out. We are consumers of bad knowledge, not producers of creative ideas and the tragedy is we are going to destroy a generation this way. It is not only the battle of left and right that is haunting us, it is the fact we have no sense of intellectual debate. It is this that the next generation will not forgive us for.
To understand the United States’ stratagem in the Pacific, and against North Korea in particular, one has to understand the fundamental changes that are under way in that region. China’s clout as an Asian superpower and as a global economic powerhouse has been growing at a rapid speed. The US’ belated "pivot to Asia" to counter China’s rise has been, thus far, quite ineffectual.
The angry diplomacy of President Donald Trump is Washington’s way to scare off North Korea’s traditional ally, China, and disrupt what has been, till now, quite a smooth Chinese economic, political and military ascendancy in Asia that has pushed against US regional influence,
especially in the East and South China Seas.
Despite the fact that China has reevaluated its once strong ties with North Korea, in recent years, it views with great alarm any military buildup by the US and its allies. A stronger US military in that region will be a direct challenge to China’s inevitable trade and political hegemony.
The US understands that its share of the world’s economic pie chart is constantly being reduced, and that China is gaining ground, and fast.
The United States’ economy is the world’s largest, but not for long. Statistics show that China is blazing the trail and will, by 2030 – or even sooner – win the coveted spot. In fact, according to an International Monetary Fund report in 2014, China is already the world’s largest economy when the method of measurement is adjusted by purchasing power.
This is not an anomaly and is not reversible, at least any time soon.
The growth rate of the US economy over the past 30 years has averaged 2.4 percent, while China soared at 9.3 percent.
Citing these numbers, Paul Ormerod, an economist and a visiting professor at University College, London, argued in a recent article that “if we project these rates forward, the Chinese economy will be as big as the American by 2024. By 2037, it will be more than twice the size.”
It is no wonder why Trump obsessively referenced "China" in his many campaigning speeches prior to his election to the White House, and why he continues to blame China for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to this day.
As a business mogul, Trump understands how real power works, and that his country’s nuclear arsenal, estimated at nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons, is simply not enough to reverse his country’s economic misfortunes.
In fact, China’s nuclear arsenal is quite minusculecompared to the US. Military power alone is not a sufficient measurement of actual power that can be translated into economic stability, sustainable wealth and financial security of a nation.
It is ironic that, while the US threatens to "totally destroy North Korea," it is the Chinese government that is using sensible language, calling for de-escalation and citing international law. Not only did fortunes change, but roles as well. China, which for many years was depicted as a rogue state, now seems like the cornerstone of stability in Asia.
Prudent US leaders, like former President Jimmy Carter understand well the need to involve China in resolving the US-North Korean standoff.
In an article in the Washington Post, Carter, 93, called for immediate and direct diplomatic engagement with North Korea that involves China as well.
He wrote on October 4, the US should “offer to send a high-level delegation to Pyongyang for peace talks or to support an international conference including North and South Korea, the United States and China, at a mutually acceptable site.”
A few days leader, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, quoted Carter’s article, and reasserted her country’s position that only a diplomatic solution could bring the crisis to an end.
In a recent tweet, Trump claimed that “Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … hasn’t worked.”
He alleged that North Korea has violated these agreements even “before the ink was dry”, finishing with the ominous warning that “only one thing will work!”, alluding to war.
Trump is a bad student of history. The ‘agreements’ he was referring to is the "Agreed Framework" of 1994, signed between President Bill Clinton and Kim Jong-il – the father of the current leader Kim Jong-un. In fact, the crisis was averted, when Pyongyang respected its side of the agreement. The US, however, reneged, argued Fred Kaplan in Slate.
“North Korea kept its side of the bargain, the United States did not,” Kaplan wrote. “No light-water reactors were provided. (South Korea and Japan were supposed to pay for the reactors; they didn’t, and the U.S. Congress didn’t step in.) Nor was any progress made on diplomatic recognition.”
It took North Korea years to react to the US and its partners’ violation of the terms of the deal.
In 2001, the US invaded and destroyed Afghanistan. In 2003, it invaded Iraq, and actively began threatening a regime change in Iran. Iraq, Iran and North Korea were already blacklisted as the “axis of evil” in George W. Bush’s infamous speech in 2002.
More military interventions followed, especially as the Middle East fell into unprecedented chaos resulting from the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Regime change, as became the case in Libya, remained the defining doctrine of US foreign policy.
This is the actual reality that terrifies North Korea. For 15 years they have been waiting for their turn on the US regime change path, and their nuclear weapons program is their only deterring strategy in the face of US military interventions. The more the North Korean leadership felt isolated regionally and internationally, the more determined it became in obtaining nuclear devices.
This is the context that Trump does not want to understand. US mainstream media, which seems to loathe Trump in every way except when he threatens war or defends Israel, is following blindly.
Current news reports of North Korea’s supposed ability to kill “90% of all Americans” within one year is the kind of ignorance and fear-mongering that has dragged the US into multiple wars, costing the economy trillions of dollars, while continuing to make bad situations far worse.
Indeed, a recent Brown University Study showed that, between 2001 and 2016, the cost of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan has cost the US $3.6 trillion.
Perhaps, a better way of fending against the rise of China is investing in the US economy instead of wasting money on protracted wars.
Newsweek magazine took on this very disturbing question, only to provide equally worrying answers.
“If combat broke out between the two countries, American commanders in the Pacific would very quickly exhaust their stockpiles of smart bombs and missiles, possibly within a week,” military sources revealed.
It will take a year for the US military to replenish their stockpile, thus leaving them with the option of “dropping crude gravity bombs on their targets, guaranteeing a longer and bloodier conflict for both sides.”
Expectedly, North Korea would strike, at will, all of the US allies in the region, starting with South Korea. Even if the conflict does not escalate to the use of nuclear weapons, the death toll from such a war “could reach 1 million.”
Both Trump and Kim Jong-un are unsavory figures, driven by fragile egos and unsound judgment. Yet, they are both in a position that, if not reigned in soon, could threaten global security and the lives of millions.
Calls for diplomatic solutions made by Carter and China must be heeded, before it is too late.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California. Visit his website: www.ramzybaroud.net.