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Mexico, Cuba, and Trump’s Increasing Preference for Punishment Over Diplomacy

In his approach to the carrot-versus-stick equation that is central to statecraft, Donald Trump always opts for the stick. Apparently unaware of, or unconcerned with, the advantages offered by the canny use of public diplomacy, coercive tactics have become a main feature of his Presidency. On the international stage, Trump has used rhetorical bluster, unleashed financial sanctions, and threatened military action against adversaries such as Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, and has deployed withering tariffs to initiate an ongoing trade war with China. It is not only against nations with which the White House has ideological differences that Trump has chosen such an approach; he has also made rumblings about slapping tariffs on imports from long-standing American allies, including Canada, France, and Germany.

The weaker the country, the more bullying Trump’s behavior. In March, for instance, in a bid to pressure the nations from which much of the current surge of migrants is arriving, he announced cuts to U.S. humanitarian aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. On May 30th, he moved to punish Mexico over immigration, as well. He peremptorily announced, via a pair of tweets, that he had decided to tax all Mexican imports with a five-per-cent tariff, beginning June 10th, “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied, at which time the Tariffs will be removed.” His idea was that the tariff would rise by five per cent at the beginning of every month until it reached twenty-five per cent—the same rate he has levied against China.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/mexico-cuba-and-trumps-increasing-preference-for-punishment-over-diplomacy

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Posted by on June 12, 2019 in South America

 

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Is Donald Trump a fascist? Well, he’s not Mussolini or Hitler just yet – but he’s not far off

Is Donald Trump a fascist? The question is usually posed as an insult rather than as a serious inquiry. A common response is that “he is not as bad as Hitler”, but this rather dodges the issue. Hitler was one hideous exponent of fascism, which comes in different flavours but he was by no means the only one.

The answer is that fascist leaders and fascism in the 1920s and 1930s were similar in many respects to Trump and Trumpism. But they had additional toxic characteristics, born out of a different era and a historic experience different from the United States.

What are the most important features of fascism? They include ultra-nationalism and authoritarianism; the demonisation and persecution of minorities; a cult of the leader; a demagogic appeal to the “ignored” masses and against a “treacherous” establishment; contempt for parliamentary institutions; disregard for the law while standing on a law and order platform; control of the media and the crushing of criticism; slogans promising everything to everybody; a promotion of force as a means to an end leading to violence, militarism and war.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trump-fascism-populism-authoritarianism-hitler-mussolini-a8949496.html

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2019 in North America

 

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While the world watches Donald Trump, it’s missing what’s really going on with US foreign policy

Our leaders know how to bang the war drums and, by and large, we go along with them. The US threatens Iran with war – so will Iran close the Strait of Hormuz and attack American warships in the Gulf? Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rockets fall on Golan – so does an Arab-Israeli conflict loom closer than at any time since the 1973 conflict? Jared Kushner plans to reveal Trump’s “deal of the century” for peace in the Middle East – but is it dead in the water?

Meanwhile the real stories get pushed down the page – or “to the back of the book”, as we journalists used to say.

Take Donald Trump’s desire to furnish Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with billions of dollars of extra weapons so that they can increase the ferocity of their war in Yemen against the Houthis – whose support from Iran, such as it is, prompts much of the international abuse against the Islamic Republic. French intelligence officers in Washington have apparently discovered that this is no routine request from Riyadh but a desperate appeal to Washington, because so promiscuous has been the Saudis’ use of US munitions against Houthi rebels (and civilians, hospitals, aid centres, schools and wedding parties) that they are running out of bombs, guided and unguided missiles, drone parts and other “precision” arms to be used on one of the poorest countries in the world.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trump-saudi-arabia-us-air-strikes-jordan-yemen-afghanistan-bolton-a8946726.html

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2019 in Middle East, North America, Asia

 

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The US Military Is Preparing for a New War

The recent White House decision to speed the deployment of an aircraft-carrier battle group and other military assets to the Persian Gulf has led many in Washington and elsewhere to assume that the United States is gearing up for war with Iran. As in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, US officials have cited suspect intelligence data to justify elaborate war preparations. On May 13th, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan even presented top White House officials with plans to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East for possible future combat with Iran and its proxies. Later reports indicated that the Pentagon might be making plans to send even more soldiers than that.

Hawks in the White House, led by National Security Adviser John Bolton, see a war aimed at eliminating Iran’s clerical leadership as a potentially big win for Washington. Many top officials in the US military, however, see the matter quite differently—as potentially a giant step backward into exactly the kind of low-tech ground war they’ve been unsuccessfully enmeshed in across the Greater Middle East and northern Africa for years and would prefer to leave behind.

https://www.thenation.com/article/us-military-is-preparing-for-new-wars-china-russia/

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in North America

 

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America’s persecution of Julian Assange has everything to do with Yemen

I was in Kabul a decade ago when WikiLeaks released a massive tranche of US government documents about the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. On the day of the release, I was arranging by phone to meet an American official for an unattributable briefing. I told him in the course of our conversation what I had just learned from the news wires.

He was intensely interested and asked me what was known about the degree of classification of the files. When I told him, he said in a relieved tone: “No real secrets, then.”

When we met later in my hotel I asked him why he was so dismissive of the revelations that were causing such uproar in the world.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/julian-assange-us-authorities-wikileaks-secrets-yemen-iran-saudi-arabia-a8938786.html

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in Middle East

 

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The final punishment of Julian Assange reminds journalists their job is to uncover what the state keeps hidden

I’m getting a bit tired of the US Espionage Act. For that matter, I’ve been pretty weary of the Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning saga for a long time. No one wants to talk about their personalities because no one seems to like them very much – even those who have benefited journalistically from their revelations.

From the start, I’ve been worried about the effect of Wikileaks, not on the brutal western governments whose activities it has disclosed in shocking detail (especially in the Middle East) but on the practice of journalism. When we scribes were served up this Wikileaks pottage, we jumped in, paddled around and splashed the walls of reporting with our cries of horror. And we forgot that real investigative journalism was about the dogged pursuit of truth through one’s own sources rather than upsetting a bowl of secrets in front of readers, secrets which Assange and co – rather than us – had chosen to make public.

Why was it, I do recall asking myself almost 10 years ago, that we could read the indiscretions of so many Arabs or Americans but so few Israelis? Just who was mixing the soup we were supposed to eat? What had been left out of the gruel?

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/julian-assange-trial-wikileaks-us-security-services-state-secrets-robert-fisk-a8936296.html

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2019 in North America

 

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Charging Julian Assange Under the Espionage Act Is an Attack on the First Amendment

It’s a sad day in America when the most appropriate thing to say is the line often misattributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” When basic rights are under attack from the government, the arguments that are called for are neither original nor subtle. On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that it was charging the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act, for his connection to the leak of some seven hundred and fifty thousand confidential military and diplomatic documents, in 2010. The indictment of Assange is an offensive on the First Amendment that is as banal as it is blunt.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/charging-julian-assange-under-the-espionage-act-is-an-attack-on-the-first-amendment

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2019 in North America, Uncategorized

 

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The Criminalization of Women’s Bodies Is All About Conservative Male Power

Let’s start by acknowledging that women are not things. Before we talk, like we have to, about what the attacks on abortion access mean for this anxious, awful political era, let’s establish as a ground rule that women are not vessels, or incubators, or an undifferentiated natural resource. Women are human beings whose human rights matter.

This week, 25 white men in Alabama decided otherwise. In a sadistic nationwide legislative binge against women’s basic reproductive rights. Draconian new anti-abortion measures have also won wide margins of approval in Georgia, Ohio, and Missouri. This has been coming for a long time. It’s all part of a strategic  frontal assault on women’s right to choose, a deliberate ploy to overturn  the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling upholding abortion access as a constitutional right in the United States. These laws are not about whether a fetus is a person. They are about enshrining maximalist control over the sexual autonomy of women as a foundational principle of conservative rule. They are about owning women. They are about women as things.

https://newrepublic.com/article/153942/criminalization-womens-bodies-conservative-male-power

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2019 in North America, Uncategorized

 

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Alabama’s Abortion Ban Is Tyranny of the Minority

The government of Alabama just decided that providing an abortion to a 12-year-old girl who was raped by her father is a more serious crime than raping a 12-year-old girl.

On Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey enacted the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States. Under its provisions, performing an abortion on someone who has been pregnant for more than six weeks is a Class A felony, carrying a minimum sentence of ten years in prison, no matter how said person became pregnant. Statutory rape and incest, meanwhile, remain Class C felonies — carrying a minimum prison sentence of just over one year.

Although some putatively “moderate” Republicans like Marco Rubio believe that the state should coerce victims of rape and incest into incubating their abusers’ fetuses, the vast majority of Americans do not. A 2018 Gallup poll found that 77 percent of voters felt abortion should be legal in such circumstances during the first trimester of pregnancy (while 52 percent said it should remains so in the last three months of a pregnancy). Even Pat Robertson — the Christian-fundamentalist televangelist who blamed “the gays” for 9/11 — said this week that Alabama’s abortion ban had “gone too far.

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/05/alabama-abortion-ban-heartbeat-law-rape-incest-polls-republicans.html

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2019 in North America, Uncategorized

 

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Shocked by the rise of the right? Then you weren’t paying attention

The morning after both Donald Trump’s victory and the Brexit referendum, when a mood of paralysing shock and grief overcame progressives and liberals on both sides of the Atlantic, the two most common refrains I heard were: “I don’t recognise my country any more,” and “I feel like I’ve woken up in a different country.” This period of collective disorientation was promptly joined by oppositional activity, if not activism. People who had never marched before took to the streets; those who had not donated before gave; people who had not been paying attention became engaged. Many continue.

Almost three years later the Brexit party, led by Nigel Farage, is predicted to top the poll in European parliament elections in which the far right will make significant advances across the continent; Theresa May’s imminent downfall could hand the premiership to Boris Johnson; Trump’s re-election in 2020 is a distinct possibility, with Democratic strategists this week predicting only a narrow electoral college victory against him. “Democrats do not walk into the 2020 election with the same enthusiasm advantage they had in the 2018 election,” said Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, the largest Democratic political action committee.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/24/country-racist-elections-liberals-anti-racism-movement

 
 

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