All posts by Peter Crowley

Coherence in Trump’s Iran and North Korea Policy?

What’s at work in Donald Trump’s reneging on the Iran Deal and his cancelling/tentative rescheduling of the June Singapore summit to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un? Is there any coherence in these policies? Does his blunderous waffling on the Singapore summit reflect the spinelessness of an empty corpse that’s been infested with parasites? Or, simply put, does it reflect someone who is morbidly indecisive and gutless, and is unduly influenced by the new war-loving National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?

In a Truthout interview with Noam Chomsky, Chomsky maintains that both cancelling the summit (though its status is now up in the air) and leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) benefits Trump’s “actual constituency,” consisting of  “corporate power” and “private wealth.”

Prior to canceling the Singapore summit, Lawrence Wilkerson cited internal U.S. politics as the motivator for Trump’s “Libya model” threat against the Kim Jong-Un regime and for pulling out of the JCPOA. He argues that, since World War II, no other U.S. president has been driven so significantly by domestic politics.

These are both interesting, albeit, unsurprising conclusions. The mid-terms are coming up and Trump seems to be too lazy to go on the campaign trail for Republicans. An easier way to campaign is to manufacture news that rallies the base and, consequently, gets them to turn out in large numbers for his Republican allies…as most of Trump’s base salivates on a ‘tough’, hardline policy towards perceived foreign adversaries.

The corporate power and wealth that Chomsky cites are certainly part of the equation. The stocks of military industrial companies have soared to record highs under Trump. The perpetual threat of war drives the military industry to continuously fill new orders, thus satisfying stockholders. One slight anomaly occurred when the summit with North Korea was planned in early May; this briefly had caused military industrial stocks to plummet. Perhaps, as a response to Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s fears of a long-term peace with North Korea, Trump and his team reacted appropriately: with belligerent U.S.-South Korea military drills and warning that Kim Jong-Un’s overthrow would be something akin to the disastrous regime change of Gaddafi if the talks don’t work out. And who to help ensure military industrial stocks would rise back up, other than pro-war advocate John Bolton?

This was all after North Korea dismantled its nuclear weapons testing site. Such a major concession, prior to an important diplomatic conference, was met with antagonism from the Trump administration. Reacting to intense hostility, a North Korean government statement was issued critical of Mike Pence. And then, unsurprisingly, Trump cancelled the meeting.

We can only assume that if the Singapore conference ever happens, Trump’s complete lack of diplomatic skills will prevent the U.S. from successfully negotiating a peace agreement with North Korea. Even if the parasitic moneyed interests in Trump’s empty corpse, now dominated by neoconservatives, pushed him towards diplomacy, he lacks the ability, patience and intelligence that is necessary to broker a complex peace treaty.

Canceling the North Korea summit, reneging on the JCPOA and threatening the ‘strongest sanctions in history’ against Iran has crystalized the Trump administration’s overall strategy: provocation.

On a school bus, the bigger kid taunts and pushes the smaller one around every day. Eventually, the bullied child finds an opportunity to retaliate.

In the sphere of international relations, this equates with pushing an adversary towards first strike, whether on U.S. forces in Syria, Guam or South Korea, or a strong retaliatory strike against Israel by Iran. When this happens, the mainstream media will play along, as it usually does. Their framing will implicitly go something like: ‘Innocent’ U.S. forces in Syria were attacked or ‘irreproachable’ Israel was attacked by Iranian forces. This occurred a couple weeks ago when Iranian forces struck Israel after over 250 Israeli attacks on Iran’s forces in Syria. In short, the Trumpian goal may be to push the adversary to take ‘preemptive’ military action and, thereby, contrive justification for commencing full-scale war and regime change.

If Trump’s belligerence towards Iran and North Korea is largely theatrics for a domestic audience, then the war-potential consequence may come as a rude awakening. But, if the Trump administration has a more coherent policy of conning either North Korea or Iran into war, then it appears of Machiavellian design.

Yet, we should not really blame Niccolò Machiavelli for superpower machinations of goading smaller states into war. Not only was Machiavelli a tireless advocate for warding off the Florentine city state’s behemoth neighbors, including the Holy Roman Empire, France and Spain, from subjugation, but he sought to preserve Florence’s autonomy to develop a more democratic republic. According to German historian Friedrich Meinecke, Machiavelli’s ragione di stato or raison d’état helped implement the power of the state (which inevitability has its own problems) against the “corporate state of Ancient Régime” to change the law on behalf of the public good (p. 126-127). Ultimately, this allowed for creation of the modern state, which, in theory, holds the state to be responsible to its citizens, rather than the other way around.

It is difficult to discern to what degree there is coherence in Trump’s bellicose policies towards Iran and North Korea. Both policies serve military industrial stocks, as did April’s airstrikes on Syria – in this, there is clear consistency. However, what is not clear, is if the Trump administration is trying to goad North Korea and/or Iran into ‘preemptive’ attack, so it can justify an all-out war. For John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, it would seem that the sooner war occurs, the better. But for Trump, a war now may be too early – it may only benefit his Republican allies up for reelection in November. Meanwhile, any increased popularity Trump would gain from a war now would invariably diminish by the time he’s up for reelection. Thus, for Trump, commencing war two years later, just before the presidential election, would make far more sense. Republicans, independents and even some Democrats would rally to the flag and be more likely to vote him back into office.

This may be why we see Trump floundering, like a befuddled invertebrate, on the Singapore summit. He may have acquiesced to Bolton and Pompeo on cancelling the summit and leaving the JCPOA, but realizes that the timing is not right for the acquisition of political capital that would derive from a new war. However, as Wilkerson noted, Trump’s hostile actions play to domestic politics by firing up his base – but perhaps Trump fears that this could go too far, at least right now. Hence, the summit with Kim Jong-Un still remains up in the air.

Ultimately, a search for full coherence and intelligent life in Trump’s foreign policy may simply be an act of futility. Instead, Trump’s Iran and North Korea policy is reminiscent of a scene from the 1990 movie Ghost. In this scene, various spirits struggle within Whoopi Goldberg’s psychic character ‘Old Mae Brown’ to gain control of the character’s body and will.

In Trump’s case, his reality tv star empty corpse is where moneyed interests fight it out. Inevitably, the result will be antithetical to the public good. And, consequently, war with Iran and/or North Korea looms as a future likelihood.

Black [In]Justice in March: Michael Bennett’s Felony Charge and the Killing of Stephon Clark

It’s been a trying second half of March for black men facing the U.S. justice system.

On March 18th, 22-year old father of two was killed by police in his grandmother’s yard, after police responded to a vandalism complaint. As further information unraveled, including the police’s mutingof their body camera following the shooting and an autopsy report that found Clark had been mostly shot in the back,protests have swelled. A second event that has not garnered as much media attention has also come to light: the felonycharge against political activist and professional football player Michael Bennett, for allegedly injuring an elderly woman. All evidence seems to suggest that this is an unabashed effort to undermine the political activist through legal recourse.

Mainstream media headlines have depicted Bennett’s putative crime with great alarm. Google’s top three results for an “arrest of Michael Bennett” searchon March 31, 2018 yield the headlines: “Eagles’ Michael Bennett indicted for felony charge” (CBS Sports); “Michael Bennett indicted for injury of the elderly” (Sports Illustrated); and “Michael Bennett faces arrest for allegedly injuring elderly woman” (NY Post). When this news broke on March 23rd, the search results were even more disturbing, with the phrase “Michael Bennett indicted for injuring elderly paraplegic woman” often used.

Such headlines inevitably raise eyebrows – a social justice activist, famous athlete and children’s book author abusing a disabled elderly woman? Did a wealthy, philanthropic athlete who developed The Bennett Foundation to fight childhood obesity, suddenly decide to beat up old people?

Looking further into the stories on Bennett’s felony charge, the jarring, eye-catching headlines quickly diminish.

Bennett was attending the 2018 Superbowl in Houston. After the game ended, he, like hundreds of others in the stadium, went onto the field. When security tried to block his access, he allegedly “shoved” them aside, and continued to the field. If this allegation were true, anyone who has ever watched a major sporting event knows: fans will swarm the field, to relish in their team’s victory glow, if only briefly. One can only imagine that if the city of Houston were to prosecute everyone who breached security after the Superbowl, they would flood the courts.

Supposedly, one of the security guards was injured with a “back strain,” caused by Michael Bennett’s “shove.” It so happened that this injury occurred to an older, paraplegic woman who worked as a security guard in the stadium. So, not only did Bennett supposedly commit assault – but, it was against an older, disabled woman. One can hardly think of a better way to trump up charges to try to discredithim.

Houston police chief Art Acevedo had a fun time with it though, it would seem. Forgetting the presumption of innocence reserved for the accused, he declared Bennett “morally bankrupt” after the charges were issued. Surely Acevedo was expressing his attitude toward Bennett as an activist leader who kneeled during the NFL’s pregame national anthems, than one accused of supposedly “shoving” his way into the stadium, as innumerable other fans had done.

 

Recently the Seattle Seahawks had traded Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike the Houston police chief, the Eagles seem to have a better grasp of the U.S. legal norms, insisting that Bennett is innocent until proven guilty. It’s of no coincidence that another one of the most vocal activists in the NFL and Black Lives Matter supporter, Colin Kaepernick, has not been re-signed. Who knows how long the Eagles will honor Bennett’s contract if public opinion turns completely sour on him.

The ease that the specious felony charges were issued against Bennett for allegedly ‘shoving’ stands in stark contrast to the justice system’s treatment of police who murder young black men. Rarely do district attorneys indict police offices for killing unarmed civilians and, even more rarely, are they convicted. From 2005-2017, black men are 3 timesmore likely to die at the hands of the police than white men. With roughly 1,000 police shootingsoccurring each year, only 80 police officers have been charged during this 12-year period, with merely 35 police officers convicted.

 

Racial bias was also well at work in the tragic case of Stephon Clark.

But, inevitably, there will be arguments to counter this, such as: the video of the shooting of Stephon Clark shows a dimly lit backyard in which police had to exercise their best judgment. What else could the police do in this situation to protect themselves? Also, as supporters of police shootings will undoubtedly point out – one of the officers that shot Clark was also black.

Each of these rationales should be deconstructed to understand the contemporary nature U.S. law enforcement and the country’s racial power structure.

Police have become increasingly militarized since Nixon’s War on Drugs and have often tended to adopt a zero-tolerance, ‘broken windows’ policy towards petty crime. In fact, Sacramento police were responding to a complaint that someone was literally breaking car windows (literally, ‘broken windows’ policing) on the night Clark was shot.

This begs the questions: are helicopters and a manhunt a proportional response to vandalizing car windows? Perhaps more importantly, should police assume that a petty criminal is armed to the teeth and ready fire at them?

According to Radley Balko, police tend to act with disproportionate arms and force when they believe a suspect is less dangerous. Meanwhile, police act more cautiously, with less show of force, when there is a more significant danger to their own lives. This can be seen in SWAT teams’ exercising of supreme force during drug raids, while tip-toeing around the recent white Austin bomber, who killed and maimed multiple people – and posed a serious threat to public security.

And, of course, too, police are more likely to shoot a young black man than someone who is white. Yet one of the cops that shot Stephon Clark was black, police shooting apologists will remind us.

Police are integral to the white-dominated societal structure in the United States. When minorities are incorporated into this white power structure, they – like more marginalized whites – become agents and tools of this edifice. Thereby, their psychology complies with the white-dominated power structure that sees young black men as criminals. So, it doesn’t matter if a young black man is killed by a white, brown or black cop, the racially biased system is still at work, as the minority becomes an agent of this system.

 

Michael Bennett’s dubious felony charge and Stephon Clark’s murder demonstrate that Black Lives [do] Matter, because they all too often aren’t treated that way. It’s not that white or police lives don’t matter, but the latter are caked into the U.S.’s societal and legal structure. The justice system and societal norms take white and polices lives matteringas a given.

Racial bias and deference to the police explains how Bennett can be charged with felony while district attorneys fail to indict police for killing unarmed black men. Bennett’s charge is a clear attempt to take down one of the NFL’s most prominent activist leaders involved in kneeling during the national anthem. Must this be the price to pay for exercising First Amendment rights?

Is death the price to pay for being a young black man outside one’s grandmother’s house at night?

New Atheists and Islam, Take Two: A Rebuttal

Simply ‘calling it like you see it’ doesn’t cut anymore. We now know that conscious and unconscious intuitions are socially constructed by our surroundings, with cultural, religious, social biases all included.

Hence, confirmation bias is at work when new information is gathered and quickly aligns with one’s world schema. For example, a white person may come across an African American man who is paying child support and on welfare. Many whites in America may nod their heads to this, conforming what they already think they ‘know’. However, they fail to look to the majority of African American men who do not fall into this stereotype.

It’s similar situation with Michael Shermer and the new atheists. Soon after my article on the new atheists’ scathing criticism of Islam appeared on Dissident Voice, Mr. Shermer went to Twitter to counter it:

No Peter Crowley, we focus on Islam now because that is the primary source of political violence as I document in The Moral Arc … If that changes so too will our focus. It’s not an inherent bias against Islam.

To be fair to Mr. Shermer, he is of significant intelligence and his new book Heavens on Earth was a largely enjoyable read. However, there was the obligatory snarkiness towards the concept of afterlife in Islam – a tone that is absent in his writing on Judaism and Christianity within the book. For example, he writes (p. 61):

If you were single in this world you get hooked up with beautiful companions in the next, by some accounts, no fewer than seventy-two virgins, naturally. (Just in case, according to one hadith, extra sexual potency is an added bonus for those who need it, presumably a form of celestial Viagra.)

Really? Insulting Islam with a commercial product for male impotency? Seems to be a low blow that may come from a Marine Le Pen supporter.

Scholars of Islam have long disputed the hypersexualized interpretation of paradise in Islam. Albeit, to be fair, some Islamic terrorists, who rarely have much knowledge of Islamic theology, believe that virgins are awarded to them in Paradise if they die as martyrs. Yet, as scholar of religion Lesley Hazleton noted the concept of Paradise in Islam in the Koran connotes a bountiful land of plenty that would be awarded to desert peoples (the first Muslims) in afterlife. It is bereft of the hypersexuality in Westerners and Islamic terrorists’ erroneous interpretations.

Indeed, the Hadith of the Seventy-Two Houris (‘houris’, mistranslated as ‘virgins’) has been used as an inspiration during historical conflicts with non-Muslims, such as during the Crusades, but has been long deemed to be invalid according to Sunni Hadith scholars (p. 240-241). In other words, this hadith did not derive from Muhammad’s actions or words to others. Instead, it is flagrantly abused by Islamic extremists and Islamophobes alike.

In support for his anti-Islam bias, Mr. Shermer also cites a chart from the Global Terrorism Database. It shows that since the early 1990s, terrorist attacks related to Islam have spiked, including a dramatic increase after 2012, around the time when the Islamic State came into existence. Tellingly, according to this University of Maryland database, terrorist attacks related to Islam were almost non-existent prior to the 1990s.

If we think back, what significant geopolitical events occurred in the world after 1990, that may have led to an increase in ‘Islamic-related terrorist’ attacks? Can’t think of any?

Oh yeah…the stationing of American troops in the holiest land for Muslims, Saudi Arabia, which Bin Laden cited as one of the reasons for the 9/11 attacks. This was followed by the invasion of two Muslim countries, which included the complete dismantling of the Iraqi state by U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority. Soon thereafter, American, Saudi, UAE and Qatari governments supported Islamic radicals fighting against Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict, where the Islamic State burgeoned. Even Al Qaeda paled in comparison to ISIS’s brutality and anti-Shiism terrorism, highlighting the spike in terror attacks post-2012.

Anyone who extracts Islam from these geopolitical battles and group identity-based sectarian conflicts, and claims that religion is the main instigator, is either an uninformed simpleton following popular belief and/or has a clear, ‘inherent’ (as Shermer puts it) bias against Islam. Not only is the world so vastly complex that it’s impossible to simplistically pick apart single causes as the driver to convoluted social phenomenon. But, in the case with terrorist attacks related to Islam, geopolitics, intrastate conflict, anti-imperialism, group identity and state vacuums stand out starkly as their principal determinants.

Looking more closely into the Global Terrorism Database that Mr. Shermer cites, not only does it not highlight U.S. political violence directed towards its opponents, nor Saudi and Israeli state terrorism towards Yemenis and Palestinians, respectively (as we would expect). It also shows nothing of Israeli settlers’ terrorist attacks against West Bank Palestinians, which have been occurring regularly for the past several decades.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has documented these Israeli settler terrorist attacks.

A stark example recurs every year during the olive harvest. After repeated settler attacks, the military forbade Palestinian farmers from entering their own land if it lies near a settlement – instead of protecting the farmers by enforcing the law on the settlers.

But, of course, this database echoes the U.S.’s reflexive support for Israel, which is akin to the new atheist Sam Harris’s Israel attitude. To paraphrase Harris, any Israeli war crimes can be blamed on the ‘character’ of their enemy; and, in engaging in military action, Israel practices a higher caliber of restraint than anywhere else in the world. Simply put, Harris seems to be implying that Muslims are of the special ‘character’ demanding war crimes be committed against them, by a military that shows unorthodox ‘restraint’. And Muslims are of that sort of ‘character’ who follow a religion that is putatively antithetical to peace.

Such an astounding, Orientalist defense of Israel stands in stark contrast to Israel’s desire to take over all of Palestine, so as to mirror a state from the Old Testament. To this end, it has engaged in perpetual ethnic cleansing and innumerable war crimes, including its expunging of 750,000 Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba and its more recent Gaza slaughter that killed 1,462 civilians out of a total of 2,104 Palestinian casualties. If this is ‘restraint’, then one can only wonder what unbridled military operations would look like. Armageddon?

As Michael Shermer and Sam Harris continuously prove: they don’t have too great an understanding of Islam, geopolitics or the complexity of social phenomena. Nor do they seem to comprehend how when a country is attacked, some people may fight back; or that when a state becomes a vacuum from Western intervention, political violence (‘terrorism’) ensues.

The new atheists insist that Islam is the primary culprit.

Yet, on Islam, they’re simply following an Islamophobic trend in the West that calls to mind pre-Holocaust antisemitism in Europe. Just as Jews feared for their livelihoods during the resurging anti-Semitism in interwar Europe, today Muslims fear being attacked by Islamophobic bigots in the West.

Therefore, before espousing and vehemently defending anti-Islam attitudes, new atheists should be more discerning of which of the rabble’s biases they believe in.

New Atheists and Islam

Remember our public intellectuals from times past, who fearlessly challenged the social mores and public zeitgeist of their times?

Henry David Thoreau comes to mind, who famously opposed the Mexican-American War with a night in jail, as does Voltaire’s sharp critique of Enlightenment optimism. Well, now these public minds are far and few between.

Instead, in the past few decades, the ‘intellectuals’ among us have borne witness to the new atheists, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins among them. With strut and stammer, they paint themselves as defiant, brave critics of religion and spirituality. And, indeed, they do critique all religions and new age creeds to varying degrees. However, their most scathing excoriations are reserved for Islam.

For example, Hitchens writes: “Islamic belief is…an extreme position to begin with,” in an article about defying the purported “fear” of offending Muslims.

According to Shermer, Islam is “dangerous,” citing a Global Terrorism database study, which found that “since 9/11, most terrorists are Islamic extremists [in the U.S.].” In this same article, he attributes the ‘danger’ posed by Islam to its supposedly never experiencing an Enlightenment as Jews and Christians have in the West.

Sam Harris, with his often-irrelevant analogies, insists that the problem isn’t religious fundamentalism but Islam itself, which is “not a religion of peace”.

Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins has claimed that Muslims would be happier without Islam, for then there would be no terrorism, hostility to science, homophobia, etc., etc.

These stalwart atheists claim that they’re simply advocating for a break of political correctness in denouncing Islam. However, riding the rising crest of racist Islamophobia in the West, they’re simply verifying the public’s ill-informed malice towards Muslims. Instead of offering social criticism against Westerners’ misguided beliefs about Muslims and against Islam, they offer their ‘intelligent’ and supposedly ‘moderate’ perspectives that uphold widely-held, specious stereotypes.

The new atheists’ anti-Islam arguments, masked in pseudo-philosophical dressing, are vapid, flimsy and impotent.

In his discussion with Sam Harris, the Young Turks’ Cent Uygur has accurately pointed out that Sam Harris (among other new atheists) all come from a Judeo-Christian background where extreme criticism of Islam, over and above other religions, comes natural to them.

Uygur goes on to highlight that in religious-related terrorism, such as Catholics in Northern Ireland, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and Muslims in Palestine, the question is primary political, and religion is merely a contributing factor. Similarly, Uygur suggests that global violence perpetrated by Muslims is principally geopolitical in nature, with Islam as only another part of the mix.

Concerning terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, statistics show that white men pose a greater threat than Muslims. If new atheists argue on a global scale, it is true that Islamic terrorism has been the most prevalent form of terrorism since 2001.

Many of these terrorist attacks are against other Muslims, some are directed towards U.S forces in Muslim countries and others towards Sufi and Shia sects, who are considered heretical by the more extreme Sunni fundamentalists. Some motivations can indeed be attributed to radical visions of Islam that harken back to a mythical and idealized time in Muslim history. However, the social context in which most global Islamic terrorism derives are societies in disarray, under military occupation or adversely affected by Western intervention.

And if we were to compare the violent deaths caused by U.S. military adventures, that United States feels free to undertake as unelected world leader, with Islamic terrorism – what would we find?

Since 9/11, the U.S. interventions into Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have directly resulted in 370,000 deaths and indirectly in 870,000 deaths, totaling 1.24 million deaths and 10.1 million displaced persons. Meanwhile, from 2001-2016 (the last year with data), there have been 241,808 terrorism-related deaths resulting throughout the world. A significant number have come from non-Muslim countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia and the Ukraine. Estimating that a majority of 60% were caused by Islamic extremists (as ‘majority’ was suggested in this article) would put the total Islamic terrorism deaths at 101,559 from 2001-2016. U.S. state violence eclipses Islamic terrorism deaths at 1.24 million to 101,559.

It’s certainly telling that new atheists do not critique Americans’ religious-like worship of their military that are responsible for the overwhelming majority of unnatural, violent deaths in the post-9/11 era. More importantly, they offer little criticism of U.S. foreign policy that directs the military towards such action.

When states are shattered into anarchic specters of themselves and day-to-day security is lost, there is inevitable ‘blowback’. Islamic extremist blowback has led to roughly 8 percent of the global deaths in comparison with those caused by U.S. intervention and counter-terror policies.

New atheists can demonize Islam all they want, illuminating it as the most ‘dangerous’ of religions. But perhaps they should think twice as to whether they’re acting as intellectual mouthpieces for irrational government policy and public dislike of Muslims or breaking new ground with their ‘politically incorrect’ critiques. Perhaps they should realize there’s a stark difference between political correctness and being racist, anti-Islam advocates. And, too, their ‘courage’ should be called into question: this isn’t the age of Galileo, where atheists’ lives are endangered in the West. On the contrary, they have increased their celebrity status following spouting their anti-Muslim perspectives on CNN or Fox News. Their views are celebrated because they offer false verification of the rabble’s anti-Muslim racism and xenophobia.

And to Mr. Shermer: Islam did have an ‘Enlightenment’ period. It was called the Abbasid caliphate. During this time, ethnic groups in the caliphate were treated equally, Hellenistic philosophy and medical literature were translated into Arabic, and “Muslims made more scientific discoveries during this period than in any of the whole previously recorded history (p. 54-56).

Please step out of the rabble’s world schema and stop trumpeting mainstream backwardness, as though it were a fortitudinous virtue. Step into the bones of Nietzsche, Thoreau and Voltaire, who had the intellect and intrepidity to sharply criticize their own societies.

Why be a mouthpiece for fallacious, myopic beliefs that stigmatize a vast swath of everyday people, when your putative aim is to counter these same sort of notions in your much-vaunted criticism of religion?

Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’

It’s been over a year since Donald Trump has been sworn into office. How does his campaign slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’ hold up?

Well, unsurprisingly, not too spectacular.

To start with, Making American Great Again is the antithesis of being even more beholden to the military-industrial-security complex, with a newly proposed $716 billion gift to the Pentagon. It is not inflaming tensions with a faraway dictator who has nuclear weapons. It is not bowing to another state, more than former presidential supplicants, because AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbyists have filled your pockets. It is not rescinding states’ rights on their marijuana policies. Making America Great would not be reflected in calling neo-Nazis ‘good’ people and turning one’s back on our southern territory, Puerto Rico, when it’s most in need. It is not staying mum on white supremacist terrorism, while jumping up and down at the faintest hint of Islamic terrorism. It is not being the laughing stock of the entire world (arguably even more than under the second president Bush), due to the infantile, imbecilic behavior of a toddler who escaped from its crib.

No. None of this qualifies as ‘greatness’.

If your voters continue to hold you dear, it’s unlikely because what you’ve done in office, but rather the symbol that you still represent to them. Discouraged by the status quo that outsourced their jobs and, in return, stagnated their wages, you remain a false hope that a beneficial change may still come about. Since psychical attachment and loyalty are difficult shatter, it’s hard for them to realize that you’re a complete fraud. Thus, when you’re castigated by the destabilizer of the Middle East, W. Bush, and spineless Democrats throw Russian meddling accusations at you, your adherents stand firmly by your side. Indeed, the popular opposition is a pathetically inadequate McCarthyite bunch who fetishize the new Cold War’s intensification. They love wars that you’ve exacerbated in Syria and Afghanistan, just as they supported Obama’s Syria intervention and his NATO-delivered anarchy hell in Libya.

To Make America Great, radical change is needed, from which honest politics and policy can recover. Principled statesmen are required – unlike Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan who are deluged with big money interests; but more like Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner, Ron/Rand Paul and Pat Buchanan, who actually believe in their ideals. Once the tide shifts to a new ‘radicalism’ (as it would now be radical for a politician to serve public interests), rather than today’s empty corpse through which lobbyist parasites infiltrate, a new paradigm can emerge. This will give way to vibrant discourse and the rational debate of issues, addressing genuine concerns of the American people.

Though Pat Buchanan and Bernie may have divergent views on immigration, they agree that the endless war is detrimental to democracy’s health, and their ideas are not controlled by monetary gifts.

With an end to lobbyist money, endless war and the security state – reasoned, publicly-minded debates will allow for the rudiments to indeed Make American Great.

The question remains one for us: can we shun the soulless ghouls heading the Republican and Democratic parties, while also not get suckered in by populist, billionaire hucksters who feign solidarity with the working class?

To Cheerleaders of Iran Protests: Iran is Not Our Enemy, a Sponsor of Terror or a Tyranny

Why should the American media and politicians salivate over instability and the prospect of regime change in Iranian? It’s not America’s business to dictate the future of Iran or be a dimwit cheerleader from the sidelines. Besides, actual American interests would run antithetical to an Iranian regime ouster, were we not wagged by the Israeli-Saudi tail.

But, of course, from a humanitarian perspective, the protests in Iran are more complicated.

One factor in Iranian protests is the expectation that electing Rouhani and his Nuclear Deal would reap economic benefits for the average Iranian. Due to the perpetual fear that the Nuclear Agreement may be undercut by Donald Trump over the past year, investments into Iran have not flowed in as hoped, leaving a weaker economy. Faced with austerity, government corruption and shattered expectations, a substantial number of working class Iranians have taken to the streets.

When Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu voice support for Iranian protesters, patent hypocrisy rules the roost. Trump has encouraged violence against U.S. protesters during his campaign rallies and denounced black football players for kneeling during the national anthem. Netanyahu has had Palestinian activists’ Facebook accounts deleted and oversees the IDF’s policy of detaining, injuring and occasionally killing protesters in occupied Palestine.  Their rhetoric towards Iran’s protests not merely makes explicit their (and the Saudi) long-held desire of seeing the Iranian regime fail. It may also suggest a possible behind-the-scenes CIA action, similar to the 1953 coup that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

American politicians and media should remember that protests happen everywhere. Usually, they don’t cheer them on or have masturbatory hopes for state failure – only in cases of purported enemy states, like Russia, Venezuela and Iran. When Palestinians protest, implicit in U.S. media and politicians’ attitudes is that they deserve to be brutalized by the IDF, allegedly for the sake of Israel’s security. As Kenyans protested and violence killed thousands of people in 2007, U.S. media and politicians here were insouciant. When Black Lives Matter protested in U.S. cities, armored vehicles greeted them, followed by undercover agent infiltration. But when Iran has demonstrations that last for over a week, the U.S. government and media adorn vulture masks and salivate. They care not about “democracy” in Iran but serve American misconceived interests dictated by the Israeli-Saudi tail.

But, one may think: isn’t there good reason for regime change, as Iranians live under tyranny and their government is a chief sponsor of terrorism?

First, let’s deconstruct the patently false myth that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism.

Iran assisted the U.S. at the beginning of the 2001 Afghan invasion, because the Salafi/Wahhabi-influenced Taliban and Al Qaeda view Iran as an enemy – an ‘apostate’ Shia state. Secondly, Iran has assisted the U.S. in fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria; ISIS is another radical, Wahhabi-influenced group that regard Shia as the worst kind of apostate, an enemy from within.

Thirdly, yes, Iran supports Hizbollah and Hamas; less of the latter, due to differences over the Syrian Civil War. Hizbollah remains an armed political group within Lebanon that acts as a check on Israeli aggression, and played a key role in ending of the decades-long Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Additionally, this ‘terrorist’ group has fought ISIS and al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) in Syria. Furthermore, in 2015, Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks; if Hizbollah was an ‘Islamic terrorist’ group, Nasrallah’s denunciation would be odd, indeed…Imagine an actual Islamic terrorist group like Boko Haram condemning the Hebdo attacks: it’s not going to happen. Hizbollah is not a terrorist organization, but simply opposes perceived U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Hamas, though less close with Iran in recent years, has every right to fight Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, under Geneva Protocol 1, Articles 43 and 44. While Hamas’s suicide bombings of Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada can be accurately described as terrorism, Israeli Defense Forces’ attacks on Palestinian civilians have far eclipsed any Hamas-induced civilian violence against Israelis. Since 2005, Hamas has ended suicide bombing tactics, while the IDF continues to mow down Palestinians in exorbitant numbers.

Therefore, Iran’s support of these armed political groups does qualify it as a terror sponsor, but rather a supporter of the oppressed underdog. This derives, in part, from the Shias’ devotion to Husayn ibn Ali. Husayn died after facing extreme privation at the 680 Battle of Karbala; he fought for what Shias believe was just cause against the tyrannical Umayyad Caliph Yazid I’s army.

But, isn’t Iran a despotism?

No. There really is no evidence to suggest that Iranians are not, by and large, supportive of the country’s theocratic-republican system, which mixes the theocratic rule of an ayatollah with a democratic parliamentary system. Zogby research coincides with Hooman Majd’s The Ayatollah Begs to Differ in highlighting Iranians’ desire for reform and improved economic conditions, but not for a change to the Shia republic’s system of governance.

Majd asserts that Iran’s ‘Death to America’ chant at pro-government demonstrations is hard-liner rhetoric that most Iranians want to end; it derives from hardliners’ aversion to U.S. imperialist policies in the region. Contrary to neo-conservatives’ beliefs, the slogan does not advocate for the actual death of Americans or even seek the U.S. government’s downfall.

In The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, Majd writes that there is an Iranian ambivalence toward the U.S. While Iranians generally hold a favorable attitude towards the American people, they are averse to the U.S. government’s “Haq-khordan-trampling of rights” of Iranians. This includes subverting Iranian politics throughout history and trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear energy (p. 120).

Is Iran a perfect liberal democracy – far from it. But isn’t that the case for innumerable nations, including America? However, in context, Iran remains significantly more democratic than most countries in the Middle East.

So, let’s quit cheerleading for an overthrow of Iran’s government, and allow Iranians to sort out their own grievances.

To Cheerleaders of Iran Protests

Why should the American media and politicians salivate over instability and the prospect of regime change in Iranian? It’s not America’s business to dictate the future of Iran or be a dimwit cheerleader from the sidelines. Besides, actual American interests would run antithetical to an Iranian regime ouster, were we not wagged by the Israeli-Saudi tail.
But, of course, from a humanitarian perspective, the protests in Iran are more complicated.

One factor in Iranian protests is the expectation that electing Rouhani and his Nuclear Deal would reap economic benefits for the average Iranian. Due to the perpetual fear that the Nuclear Agreement may be undercut by Donald Trump over the past year, investments into Iran have not flowed in as hoped, leaving a weaker economy. Faced with austerity, government corruption and shattered expectations, a substantial number of working class Iranians have taken to the streets.

When Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu voice support for Iranian protesters, patent hypocrisy rules the roost. Trump has encouraged violence against U.S. protesters during his campaign rallies and denounced black football players for kneeling during the national anthem. Netanyahu has had Palestinian activists’ Facebook accounts deleted and oversees the IDF’s policy of detaining, injuring and occasionally killing protesters in occupied Palestine. Their rhetoric towards Iran’s protests not merely makes explicit their (and the Saudi) long-held desire of seeing the Iranian regime fail. It may also suggest a possible behind-the-scenes CIA action, similar to the 1953 coup that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

American politicians and media should remember that protests happen everywhere. Usually, they don’t cheer them on or have masturbatory hopes for state failure – only in cases of purported enemy states, like Russia, Venezuela and Iran. When Palestinians protest, implicit in U.S. media and politicians’ attitudes is that they deserve to be brutalized by the IDF, allegedly for the sake of Israel’s security. As Kenyans protested and violence killed thousands of people in 2007, U.S. media and politicians here were insouciant. When Black Lives Matter protested in U.S. cities, armored vehicles greeted them, followed by undercover agent infiltration. But when Iran has demonstrations that last for over a week, the U.S. government and media adorn vulture masks and salivate. They care not about “democracy” in Iran but serve American misconceived interests dictated by the Israeli-Saudi tail.

But, one may think: isn’t there good reason for regime change, as Iranians live under tyranny and their government is a chief sponsor of terrorism?
First, let’s deconstruct the patently false myth that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism.

Iran assisted the U.S. at the beginning of the 2001 Afghan invasion because the Salafi/Wahhabi-influenced Taliban and Al Qaeda view Iran as an enemy – an ‘apostate’ Shia state. Secondly, Iran has assisted the U.S. in fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria; ISIS is another radical, Wahhabi-influenced group that regard Shia as the worst kind of apostate, an enemy from within.

Thirdly, yes, Iran supports Hizbollah and Hamas; less of the latter, due to differences over the Syrian Civil War. Hizbollah remains an armed political group within Lebanon that acts as a check on Israeli aggression, and played a key role in ending of the decades-long Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Additionally, this ‘terrorist’ group has fought ISIS and al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) in Syria. Furthermore, in 2015, Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks; if Hizbollah was an ‘Islamic terrorist’ group, Nasrallah’s denunciation would be odd, indeed…Imagine an actual Islamic terrorist group like Boko Haram condemning the Hebdo attacks: it’s not going to happen. Hizbollah is not a terrorist organization, but simply opposes perceived U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Hamas, though less close with Iran in recent years, has every right to fight Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, under Geneva Protocol 1, Articles 43 and 44. While Hamas’s suicide bombings of Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada can be accurately described as terrorism, Israeli Defense Forces’ attacks on Palestinian civilians have far eclipsed any Hamas-induced civilian violence against Israelis. Since 2005, Hamas has ended suicide bombing tactics, while the IDF continues to mow down Palestinians in exorbitant numbers.

Therefore, Iran’s support of these armed political groups does qualify it as a terror sponsor, but rather a supporter of the oppressed underdog. This derives, in part, from the Shias’ devotion to Husayn ibn Ali. Husayn died after facing extreme privation at the 680 Battle of Karbala; he fought for what Shias believe was just cause against the tyrannical Umayyad Caliph Yazid I’s army.

But, isn’t Iran a despotism?

No. There really is no evidence to suggest that Iranians are not, by and large, supportive of the country’s theocratic-republican system, which mixes the theocratic rule of an ayatollah with a democratic parliamentary system. Zogby research coincides with Hooman Majd’s The Ayatollah Begs to Differ in highlighting Iranians’ desire for reform and improved economic conditions, but not for a change to the Shia republic’s system of governance.

Majd asserts that Iran’s ‘Death to America’ chant at pro-government demonstrations is hard-liner rhetoric that most Iranians want to end; it derives from hardliners’ aversion to U.S. imperialist policies in the region. Contrary to neo-conservatives’ beliefs, the slogan does not advocate for the actual death of Americans or even seek the U.S. government’s downfall.

In The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, Majd writes that there is an Iranian ambivalence toward the U.S. While Iranians generally hold a favorable attitude towards the American people, they are averse to the U.S. government’s “Haq-khordan-trampling of rights” of Iranians. This includes subverting Iranian politics throughout history and trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear energy (p. 120).

Is Iran a perfect liberal democracy – far from it. But isn’t that the case for innumerable nations, including America? However, in context, Iran remains significantly more democratic than most countries in the Middle East.
So, let’s quit cheerleading for an overthrow of Iran’s government, and allow Iranians to sort out their own grievances.

The Groundhog Days of Terrorism

Each time it happens, which is now occurs more regularly than ever, our jaws drop in shock and horror.

Again, they have attacked us in the West. They have targeted our music and sports arenas, our bars and discotheques, our Christmas work parties, our towering centers of trade, our naval vessels and our very own Department of Defense. Islamic extremists have gone after who we are as human beings, our very essence and identity. Their goal is to enact sharia law in our courts and establish mosques on the ruins of our churches. Our children will be taught Arabic and learn the Qur’an, while our women will not be able to stride ‘free’ in their bikinis and mini-skirts (for the male gaze) but rather be imprisoned in their hijab, niqab and burka. Our whole way of life is under existential threat…

Such are some of the thoughts that run through a great many of Americans’ minds after such attacks.

Each time our jaw drops upon hearing of another terrorist attack on Western civilians, two things are amplified in the limbic system of our brains: fear and repugnance, along with empathy for the victims. Trepidation rises because we believe that this could happen to us at any moment that we go out into public life. Repugnance amplifies towards the Islamic extremists involved in the terror attack. Both of these basic emotions exponentially multiple in strength and solidify at a crescendo after watching repetitive media coverage of the terrorist attacks, talking heads on news programs or websites espousing their fear-driven repugnance towards both Islam and Islamic extremism and politicians condemning their attacks, postulating their myopic theories on terrorism and counter terror policies. These psychical elements coalesce into one malevolent maelstrom that has led us into continuous Groundhog Days since the Twin Towers fell – we are living the same dream over and over and much like an amnesiac patient, we don’t try to understand the causes of Islamic terrorism but have perpetually offered the same knee-jerk security responses and continued the same kind of War on Terror foreign policy, which primarily focuses on the Middle East.

Those seeking to understand terrorism are deemed weak-minded at best and terrorist-sympathizing traitors at worst. Yet if policymakers have no understanding of terrorism, as it seems more than abundantly clear, then no adequate solution to the terrorist problem currently facing Western countries, among others, can be reached. In short, the amygdale of our brain is activated with fear and repugnance and we respond before any rationality of the frontal lobe becomes involved. Resultant of our reflexive response, which is often increased bombings overseas and further marginalizing of Muslims in the West, terrorism strikes yet again and Bill Murray’s cycle reoccurs over and over.

But we must remember that terrorism is merely a framing that we have towards political violence that impacts us. From seemingly out of the blue, violence is flailed upon us, apparently without reason. To brusquely feel as though we comprehend it and to protect our self-perceived innocence, we call it ‘terrorism’. But if one were in Yemen facing Saudi Arabian bombing of civilians, it would be difficult not to conceive of these hostile actions as other than Saudi Arabian and US-backed terrorism. It would also be difficult, during the 2014 Gaza War, in which Israeli forces killed an overwhelming number of civilians, not to conceive this as Israeli and US-backed terrorism. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein and dismantling the infrastructure of Iraq would similarly be difficult not to view as terrorism by an Iraqi. Imagine if you were a civil servant or bus driver in Baghdad and a foreign army rolls in, overthrows your leader, defeats your country’s army and claims to want to establish a liberal democracy. It would be very difficult not to see this as some sort of illegal war crime, or state-terrorist action. What right does this great power have to oust one country’s government and subjugate a foreign populace? From this more neutral vantage point of terrorism as unjustified political violence wrought on civilians, we can begin to realize that Islamic terrorism against us does not arise from the clear blue yonder of nowhere.

While this kind of thinking may be condemned as moral relativism, it is hard to live in a vacuum with only so-called universal moral truths, which rests upon the tribal, collective psychology of villainizing one’s enemy. Though the villainizing one’s enemy may be universal, the dubious morality associated with it is certainly not, nor is it based on objective facts.

If one seeks absolute moral truths, then they need look no further than Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative that views all humans as ends unto themselves. Under this moral rubric, both the state violence, or terrorism, on other peoples that is not a direct act of defense or used to end heavily documented, gargantuan war crimes or genocide is wrong – for it does not treat the people within the enemy state, nor the state as a whole, as ends to themselves. Kant’s categorical imperative views state terrorism, as well as Islamic terrorism and domestic right-wing terrorism, as unassailably in the wrong.

Going back to the perception of state terrorism in the post-9/11 Muslim Arab world of the Middle East – there is a sense that Islam and Muslims are under attack. Inevitably, an attack – by definition – will tend not result in the contentment or gratefulness of the victims. Anger boils, ‘radicalism’ burgeons and the Western powers, and those seen as strong domestic and international supporters of Western powers, like the governments in Baghdad and Kabul, are hit with perpetual acts of terrorism.

Compounded with the sense that the Muslim world in the Middle East is under attack by the West, which is largely factual, is the marginalization and demonization of Muslims in the U.S. and Europe; in Europe, Muslims are particularly socially isolated. The first-generation Muslim immigrant tends to go to Europe or the U.S. to work hard, as immigrants generally do in order to survive in a new world. In their new countries, immigrants often try to assimilate as much as they can into the local society, without losing their national, cultural and religious identity. Meanwhile, most second-generation children feel socially divided, especially when their somatic features do not allow them to seamlessly blend into the countries in which they are born. In classrooms, they are more likely to be bullied and less likely to be asked to play with other children – this feeling swells and continues throughout adulthood. Yet they also feel a broken bond with their parents’ culture, religion and national identity. This sense of being lost between two cultures, while usually manifesting in a kind of contained social, cultural, national and religious ambivalence that is noticeable only to friends and family members, in rare instances, may develop into fundamentalism.

Stripped of one’s parents’ native religion and culture, and not quite integrated into the culture that they were born into, ideology saves them. An imagined pure form of Islam, often resembling extremist elements of Wahhabi ideology, may start to flourish within a small number of these second-generation immigrants. Admixing the sense that Muslims are under attack in the Middle East by Western powers with the social isolation felt throughout one’s life, in these rare occasions, can lead to the development of the Western-born Islamic terrorist. Widespread Islamophobic sentiments among the public, media and politicians, along with crimes against Muslims in the West, further improves the soil fertility for Islamic terrorism to germinate.

It helps little that the mass media highlights stories of terrorism against Western civilians while minimally, if at all, covering stories of crimes against Muslims in Western countries. Nor does the media often cover US or US-backed attacks in the Middle East, apart from all-out invasions, the overthrowing of Middle Eastern leaders or Trump’s dropping of a MOAB. We hear little of our daily interventions in Syria, Iraq and Libya, nor of former President Barack Obama’s innumerable drone attacks.

Thus, the average media viewer tends to believe that Islamic terrorism emerges out from a vacuum, often because of the religion’s putative ‘innate extremism’. Within the context of this complete comprehension void, enhanced by the media and politicians, it is not so outlandish that people hold the mythical concept that Muslims want to create sharia law in the West and fight ‘us’ because of our values and freedoms.

Unfortunately, this ignorance will not yield us bliss. Instead, it will keep powerful Western countries ensnared in the Groundhog Day of fear and repugnance, replete with perpetual state terrorism-giving and Islamic terrorism-receiving.

Peter Crowley is an independent writer and scholar with a M.S. in Conflict Resolution, Global Studies from Northeastern University. He works as Content Specialist/Production Coordinator for a prominent library science company. For fun, he plays in bluesy rock band around the Boston/NYC area.