REUTERS: Mica Rosenberg Reports On Trump’s “Under The Radar” Plan To Bar “Freedom Fighters” & “Victims Of Terrorism” From The U.S.!

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-terrorism-exceptions-idUSKBN17N13C

Mica and Yegenah Torbati report:

“Now the Trump administration is debating whether to rescind the waivers that have allowed Raj, and tens of thousands of others, to immigrate to the United States in the past decade (See graphic on waivers: tmsnrt.rs/2oPssIo). Some immigration hardliners are concerned the exemptions could allow terrorists to slip into the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump directed the secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the attorney general, to consider abolishing the waivers in an executive order in March. That directive was overshadowed by the same order’s temporary ban on all refugees and on travelers from six mostly Muslim nations.

The bans on refugees and travel were challenged in lawsuits, and their implementation has been suspended pending full hearings in court. But the waiver review was not included in the court rulings, so that part of the order remains in effect.

Rules governing the waivers have been hammered out over the last decade with both Democratic and Republican support. But in recent years they have drawn fire from some conservative lawmakers, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was a senator.

A State Department official said this week the department is working with DHS to review the waivers and is “looking at actually pulling them back in accordance with the executive order.”

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to give details on the timing of the review or its likely outcome. The Department of Justice declined to comment.

KURDS, KAREN, HMONG

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Congress expanded the definition of who could be considered a terrorist and what constituted “material support” to terrorism in rules now known as the Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds.

Those changes ensnared people like Raj who were coerced or inadvertently provided support to terrorists, as well as members of persecuted ethnic groups that supported rebel organizations, and even U.S.-allied groups fighting against authoritarian regimes.

Without an exemption, members of Kurdish groups that battled Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq, Hmong groups who fought alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam, or some Cubans who fought Fidel Castro’s regime would not be allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Under the exemptions, U.S. authorities have the discretion to grant people residency in the United States after they have passed background checks and are found to pose no threat to national security.

Congress initially passed waivers to the terrorism bars in 2007 with bipartisan support, and in the years that followed both the Bush and Obama administrations added additional groups and circumstances to the exemptions.

“PHANTOM PROBLEM”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has granted nearly 22,000 TRIG exemptions in total over the last decade, according to the latest data available, which goes through September 2016. The State Department also grants TRIG exemptions, but a spokesman could not provide data on how many.

Refugees from Myanmar are the largest single group of beneficiaries to date of TRIG exemptions granted by USCIS, with more than 6,700 waivers.

The wave of Myanmar refugees dates to 2006, when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled that thousands of members of the Karen ethnic group, then living in a camp in Thailand, could resettle in the United States, even if they had supported the political wing of an armed group that had fought the country’s military regime.

One high-profile supporter of scrapping the waivers is House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia whose staffers were instrumental in drafting Trump’s travel ban. Goodlatte told Reuters he was “pleased that the Trump Administration is reviewing the dangerous policy.”

Groups favoring stricter immigration laws have also applauded the review. Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations at NumbersUSA, called the waivers “a potential security risk.”

“I personally don’t think that a bureaucrat should be deciding how much support for terrorism is enough to be barred,” she said.

A USCIS spokeswoman, when asked if a recipient of an exemption had ever been involved in a terrorism-related case after arriving in the United States, referred Reuters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said it was a question for the State Department to answer.

“I don’t know of any cases where beneficiaries of exemptions have gotten into trouble after arriving,” the State Department official said, noting that the department does not typically track people after they arrive in the United States.

Trump’s order to review the waivers “is another example of an attempt to address a non-existent phantom problem,” said Eric Schwartz, who served in the State Department during the Obama administration.

Schwartz and immigration advocates say the waivers are granted after lengthy review and are extremely difficult to get.

“These are case-by-case exemptions for people who represent no threat to the United States but rather have been caught in the most unfortunate of circumstances,” said Schwartz.

For Raj, the initial ruling that his ransom payment supported a terrorist group led to more than two years in U.S. immigration detention, followed by more years of electronic monitoring. His waiver allowed him to bring his wife to the United States after nine years apart. She now studies nursing.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington; Additional reporting by Julia Edwards in Washington and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Editing by Sue Horton and Ross Colvin)”

*************************************

Just to illustrate the lunacy of the already over-broad definition of “terrorist,” all of our “founding fathers” would be “terrorists” under this definition.

I heard a number of so-called”terrorist cases” over my time as a trial judge at the Arlington Immigration Court. A few of the folks on the detained docket (during the years I was assigned to that docket) might have potentially been dangerous.

But, most so-called “terrorists” were basically harmless individuals who actually appeared on my non-detained docket even during the “last years” when I was handling the “non-priority docket” (which was actually the overwhelming majority of cases at Arlington).

Most were folks who had supposedly provided “material support” like giving a ride to a rebel who commandeered the respondent’s car at gun point, carrying supply bags a few miles for guerrillas under threat of death, allowing rebels to ransack the family kitchen at gunpoint (sometimes called the “taco rule”), or giving money to a dissident group that was actually being supported by the U.S. in a battle against an oppressive government” (otherwise referred to as “freedom fighters”).

Most of them had lived in the U.S. for years without incident and were stunned to find out that being a victim of terrorism or helping a dissident group that the U.S. supported could be a bar to immigration. For example, anyone assisting rebels in the fight against the Assad Government or against ISIS would be considered a “terrorist” by our definition. And, ask yourself, why would any “real” terrorist have appeared on my non-detained, non-priority docket?

Of course, as a mere Immigration Judge I could not grant the “waiver” discussed in Mica’s article. But, I was required to make essentially an “advisory holding” that “but for” the “terrorist bar” I would have granted the respondent’s application.

I am aware that some of the cases I handled were referred to USCIS by the Office of Chief Counsel (the respondent can’t initiate the waiver process on her or his own) and eventually granted. Thereafter, I “vacated” on “joint motion” the removal order I had previously entered against the respondent. The whole process seemed convoluted.

Just another example of how the xenophobes in the Trump Administration are wasting time and taxpayer money making an already bad situation even worse.

A further example of how pointless the “terrorist bar” is in it’s current form: many of the individuals covered by the bar would also be entitled to “Deferral of Removal” under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The “terrorist bar” can’t be applied to “CAT deferral.” Therefore, individuals who are denied asylum but qualify for CAT deferral can’t be removed from the country. In effect, all that the terrorist bar does in such cases is keep individuals who are no threat to the U.S. in “limbo,” rather than allowing them to regularize their immigration status.

PWS

04-21-17

 

 

SHOCKING! WAR IS HELL! — Carnage In Aleppo, Syria — “Before & After” In Pictures!

From BabaMail.com:

“We all know that war is a bitter experience that takes lives and ruins cultures, grinding them to dust. But sometimes we are desensitized to its true devastating effects, particularly in far-flung places like the Middle East. The news makes it feel as though the region has always existed in harm, and has never enjoyed stability. However, if you look at the these 14 images of Aleppo, Syria, as it was prior to the Syrian civil war breaking out, then click on them to see what it looks like today, you will suddenly feel the astonishing and heartbreaking change that has overcome what was recently a perfectly normal nation.”

See the “interactive” picture display here: http://www.ba-bamail.com/content.aspx?emailid=25443

Thanks to Nolan Rappaport for forwarding this.

PWS

04-17-17

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Urges Trump To Visit Refugee Camps!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/malala-yousafzai-donald-trump-refugee-camps_us_58ecde9fe4b0c89f91217965

Hayley Miller reports in HuffPost:

“Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has an urgent message for President Donald Trump: Visit refugee camps.

“President Trump needs to go and see refugee children,” Yousafzai said in an interview with “CBS This Morning” scheduled to air Wednesday. “He needs to go and visit the refugee camps. He needs to know what the real life is like in a refugee camp.”

***************************************

Sounds like a good plan. Perhaps he could at least send Jared!

PWS

04/13/17

 

 

 

RELIGION/POLITICS/REFUGEES: Pope Francis Puts Migrants’ Lives First — World’s Top Catholic Stands Tall Against Those Who Would Shun Most Vulnerable — Pence’s Values Might Bar Meeting With Women, But Haven’t Stopped Him From Supporting Policies That Hurt Refugees, Migrants, Transgender Children, Gays, The Sick, The Poor, The Starving, Many Women & Almost All Other Vulnerable People! Big Time Disconnect!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/how-pope-francis-is-leading-the-catholic-church-against-anti-migrant-populism/2017/04/10/d3ca5832-1966-11e7-8598-9a99da559f9e_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-more-top-stories_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.1dbd72f3d9a0

Anthony Faiola and Sarah Pulliam Bailey report in the Washington Post:

“VATICAN CITY — As politicians around the world including President Trump take an increasingly hard line on immigration, a powerful force is rallying to the side of migrants: the Roman Catholic Church led by Pope Francis.

Catholic cardinals, bishops and priests are emerging as some of the most influential opponents of immigration crackdowns backed by right-wing populists in the United States and Europe. The moves come as Francis, who has put migrants at the top of his agenda, appears to be leading by example, emphasizing his support for their rights in sermons, speeches and deeds.

The pro-migrant drive risks dividing Catholics — many of whom in the United States voted for Trump. Some observers say it is also inserting the church into politics in a manner recalling the heady days of Pope John Paul II, who stared down communism and declared his opposition to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Vatican is standing in open opposition to politicians like Trump not just on immigration but also on other issues, including climate-change policy.

But the focal point is clearly migrant rights.
In the United States, individual bishops, especially those appointed by Francis, have sharply criticized Trump’s migrant policies since his election. They include Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who last month co-led a rally in support of a Mexican man fighting deportation. Tobin has decried Trump’s executive orders on immigration, calling them the “opposite of what it means to be an American.”

In Los Angeles, Archbishop José H. Gomez, the first Mexican American vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which leads the U.S. church, described migrant rights as the bishops’ most important issue. He has delivered blistering critiques of Trump’s policies, and instructed his clerics to distribute cards in English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese informing migrants of their rights in 300 parishes .
Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, one of Francis’s closest allies in the U.S. church, has issued orders that if federal immigration authorities should attempt to enter churches without a warrant in search of migrants, priests should turn them away and call the archdiocese’s lawyers. Catholic school principals were given the same instructions by the archdiocese, which Cupich said was an attempt to respond in a way that was firm “but not extreme.”

He said Francis has helped bishops shape their response.

“The pope makes it a lot easier for me to be a bishop because he’s very clear in his teaching, and [on] this one in particular, he’s trying to awaken the conscience of the citizens of the world,” Cupich said.

Francis has long been an advocate of migrants — kicking off his papacy in 2013 with a trip to an Italian island used as a waypoint for migrants desperate to enter Europe. In a highly public spat early last year, Francis and Trump exchanged barbs — with Francis declaring that anyone who wants to build walls “is not Christian.”

. . . .

Those who have the pope’s ear say Francis is seeking to counter anti-migrant policies by appealing directly to voters.

“I don’t think the pope is challenging [the politicians]. I think he is challenging their supporters, both those who actively support them and those who passively allow their policies to happen,” said the Rev. Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Vatican’s new Section for Refugees and Migrants, which opened in January, just before Trump took office. Czerny reports directly to the pope — a sign of the importance of the new office.

“Mr. Trump or Ms. Le Pen are not the root of the problem,” Czerny continued. “The root of the problem is the fear, selfishness and shortsightedness that motivate people to support them.”

. . . .

He [William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore] added that previous popes have taken similar positions as Francis on immigration. But, Lori added, Francis is “perhaps more dramatic.” His trips, such as his 2016 visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, also connected his stance on migrants to politics.
“The poor is the hallmark of his papacy,” Lori said. “It will affect our priorities and it should.”

*******************************************

Meanwhile, Carla Gardina Pestana writes about “Arrogant Christians in the White House” in HuffPost:

“Mike Pence, the fundamentalist Christian whose views are so extreme that he cannot be alone with a woman other than his wife, and Donald Trump, who brags about sexually assaulting women and famously stumbled over an attempt to quote a biblical passage while on the campaign trail, seem to hold wildly divergent religious views. Yet both adhere to variations of Christianity inflected with arrogance. Together they represent two troubling trends in American Christianity, trends which appear to prove all the complaints secular liberals ever leveled against Christians.

Pence adheres to biblical literalism. Put simply, this view asserts that the Bible is a transparent document, one that prescribes specific behavioral guidelines. Glossing over the fact that the Bible is a complex text built of ancient fragments brought together by human hands, that it does not speak directly to many modern issues, and that even on its own terms it encompasses numerous contradictions, these Christians confidently declare that the Bible provides clear guidance for every Christian. Literalists arrived at this position only relatively late in Christian history, in response to various challenges from many quarters, including biblical scholarship, advances in science, and a rise in unbelief. Cutting through the complexities and the need to make choices, literalists declared all choice to be false and all discussion to be error. It was a comforting if simplistic and authoritarian solution to the problem of uncertainty.

Its arrogance lies in the hubris of those who believe that only their chosen answers are correct. Its potential to harm others comes when adherents gain political power and force their mandates on nonbelievers. One of the many dangers emanating out of the Trump White House is the power of Pence to impose not his religion but the behaviors his religion dictates onto the rest of us. Women’s rights and gender equality are on Pence’s hit list.

Trump’s religion, although very different, is similarly alarming. Unsurprisingly Trump accepts a religious viewpoint that tells him he is uniquely awesome. Whatever he has—however he acquired it—God wants him to enjoy to the fullest. Although traditional Christian social practice mandates that believers exercise humility, charity and other virtues that put others before self, Trump’s faith rejects all curbs on self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement. This religious position, known as Prosperity Theology, is newer than Pence’s literalism. It preaches that God wants the rich to be not only rich but selfish. Its attraction to a man like Trump—born to wealth, selfishly guided by his own desires, endlessly demanding that others adore him but never judge him—is transparent.

. . . .

Pence’s arrogance leads him to believe that he knows exactly what God wants us all to do and that he ought to force that on us if he has the power to do so. Trump’s faith simply endorses his own self-regard, elevating his personal whims to God’s desires. The political marriage of the two men is obviously one of expedience, given the great disparities in their beliefs and goals. Yet between them, they can do a great deal of damage. Arrogant self-righteousness and egotistical self-regard together wield power over the rest of us.

Little wonder that the pope has been modeling Christian humility and singing the praises of Christian charity, or that the supporters of these two find his lessons in what it means to be a Christian so infuriating.”

Read the complete article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/arrogant-christians-in-the-white-house_us_58e94a6fe4b06f8c18beec89?

***********************************

Also, Allen Clifton writing in Forward Progressives quotes the views of Pastor John Pavlovitz taking Trump and the GOP to task for hypocricy on Syrian refugees, a point that has been noted several times previously in this blog: 

“There are many things concerning Donald Trump that completely baffle me, but the fact that he’s strongly and enthusiastically supported by a party that comically portrays itself as representatives for “the Christian moral majority” is right near the top of my list. Of all the major candidates who ran for president from either party, Trump was, without a doubt, the least Christian of any of them. I haven’t viewed Republicans as actual Christians for years, but Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP cemented the fact that there’s nothing Christian about the Republican Party.
A great example of what I’m talking about is Trump and the GOP’s take on refusing to accept Syrian refugees. Innocent, desperate people, many of whom are women and children, fleeing a war-torn country hoping to escape a brutal dictator who, once again, just used chemical weapons against his own people. Not only have Trump and his fellow Republicans blatantly vilified these poor people as a means of pandering to the bigotry that fuels their party, but they continually lied about the process refugees must endure before ever stepping foot on U.S. soil.
If you listen to Trump talk about the vetting process, he essentially said we never had one — which is an outright lie. Every refugee allowed into the United States endures a rigorous process that usually takes between 18-24 months to complete and these refugees never know where they’re actually going to end up. So it’s not as if some “undercover terrorist” can pose as a refugee, say they want to go to America, and they’re here in two weeks.
Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that Trump and the GOP have gone out of their way to demonize these poor people for political purposes.

That made it rather nauseating to watch Trump claim that the images of the victims of the most recent chemical weapons attack launched by Assad are what “moved” him to take action by ordering last week’s airstrike. Nothing like selling yourself as the party of “Christian values,” while vilifying and rejecting refugees, then claiming that the images of victims of a horrific chemical attack “moved you” — not to do everything you can to help people who need it — but to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase that was up-and-running within a few hours of the attack.

I’m sorry, but you can’t claim you’re “moved” by the sickening images of what’s going on in Syria when your administration’s policy is to reject helping thousands of refugees desperately trying to flee the carnage that’s plagued that nation for over six years now.

That’s also along the lines of what North Carolina Pastor John Pavlovitz said in a recent blog post:
‘This is the human collateral damage of what Donald Trump’s been selling for 16 months now. It is the cost in actual vibrant, beautiful lives, of the kind of incendiary rhetoric and alternative facts and Fox News truths that you’ve been fine with up until now. This is what you bought and paid for. Maybe not something this sadistic or explicitly grotesque, but the heart is the same: contempt for life that looks different and a desire to rid yourself of it.
I want to believe that you’re truly outraged, but honestly your resume is less than convincing.
Honestly, you didn’t seem all that broken up when Muslim families were handcuffed in airports a couple of months ago, or when mosques were being defaced, or when many of us were pleading the case for families fleeing exactlythe kind of monstrous atrocities you were apparently so moved by this week—and getting told to eat our bleeding hearts out by MAGA hat-wearing trolls. You weren’t all that concerned when your President told terrified, exhausted refugees to leave and go home—twice.'”

*****************************************

Matthew 25:

44And they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ 46And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”…

PWS

04-11-17

 

HISTORY: GEORGE WILL: War Is Hell On The Home Front Too — World War I Unleashed Deadly Nationalism, Xenophobia, & Racism In America, All In The Guise Of False “Patriotism” — Set The Stage For Even Worse Things To Follow!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-world-war-i-unleashed-in-america/2017/04/07/4a8412b4-1b07-11e7-855e-4824bbb5d748_story.html?utm_term=.e64d2fbd91cf

“Woodrow Wilson imposed and incited extraordinary repressions: “There are citizens of the United States . . . born under other flags . . . who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life. . . . Such creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy must be crushed out. . . . They are infinitely malignant, and the hand of our power should close over them.”

His Committee on Public Information churned out domestic propaganda instructing the public how to detect pro-German sympathies. A 22-year-old Justice Department official named J. Edgar Hoover administered a program that photographed, fingerprinted and interrogated 500,000 suspects. Local newspapers published the names of people who were not buying war bonds or otherwise supporting the war. People were fired or ostracized for insufficient enthusiasm. The Espionage Act of 1917 made it a crime to “collect, record, publish or communicate” information useful to the enemy.
In Illinois, Robert Prager, a German American coal miner suspected of spying, was stripped, marched through the streets and hanged. The Post deplored such “excesses” but applauded the “healthful and wholesome awakening in the interior part of the country.”

Josef Hofer and his two brothers were South Dakota Hutterites whose faith forbade any involvement in war, including wearing a military uniform. They were arrested in March 1918, and a week after the armistice they were sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Arriving at the military prison around midnight, they stood naked for hours in a 17-degree November night. Then they were suspended naked from the bars of their cells, their feet barely touching the ground, refusing to wear the uniforms left in their cells. Fed only bread and water, after two weeks David Hofer was allowed to telegraph Josef’s wife, telling her that her husband was dying. He died the morning after she arrived. Prison guards mocked his corpse by dressing it in a uniform.”

************************************

I have to admit that the experience of the Trump Administration is making me look at George Will, whom I had previously related to on few topics than baseball, in a new, more appreciative, light.

I continue to be amazed at how many folks seem to delight in the idea of their country going to war. Of course, the overwhelming number of celebrants are those who don’t actually fight the wars.

But, it’s still going on! Donald Trump has been bumbling through the first hundred days of his Presidency. But, finally, in contradiction to his recent statements, his campaign promises, and his cutting America’s already inadequate humanitarian response to vulnerable Syrian refugees, he lobs some missiles at a Syrian airbase.

The result, of course, was militarily insignificant, particularly since we warned the Russians (who presumably warned their  Syrian clients) in advance. Syrian (or Russian) bombers took off from the same airbase the next day to hit the same Syrian cities, only this time being careful to kill civilians with “conventional” weapons rather than gas. Are civilians hit with conventional bombs really less dead than those killed in gas attacks?

Trump couldn’t begin to tell you what his strategy is or what he sees as the “endgame” in Syria. Yet, the next morning, many (not all) of his critics were congratulating him for finally doing something “Presidential.” I guess it doesn’t get much more “Presidential” than ordering a missile attack.

Back to World War I. It started for no apparent reason, and there were no discernible principles or values at stake. It was a product of weak leaders, irrational nationalism, a gullible public, and imbecilic generals on all sides. In the end, it not only killed and maimed millions, but set the stage for Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, large scale genocide, and the absolute horror of World War II.

Although the U.S. has fought some smaller wars since World War II, we haven’t really “won” any of them (except for fairly insignificant skirmishes like Grenada and Kuwait). But, that hasn’t stopped folks from thinking that the next one will be the “best war ever,” and Presidents from believing that dropping bombs and sending missiles will make them look like brave, courageous, and wise leaders — in other words, “Presidential.”

PWS

04-09-17

 

 

SYRIAN REFUGEE HYPOCRISY: I’m Not The Only One To Notice The Moral Disconnect In Shooting Missiles While Ignoring The Plight Of Millions Of Vulnerable Syrian Civilian Refugees, Many Children!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-syria-humanitarian-refugees_us_58e6fd6ee4b051b9a9da3d6e

Akbar Shahid Ahmed writes in HuffPost:

“WASHINGTON ― As President Donald Trump on Thursday night announced a military strike on Syria because of his deep concern for “beautiful babies” and other civilians killed in a chemical weapons attack this week, two legal battles continued over his efforts to keep Syrian children and their families out of the United States.

The president’s first ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries is being litigated in a federal court in Seattle. His second attempted Muslim ban remains blocked by a federal judge in Hawaii, with an appeals court scheduled to hear the case in May.

Both executive orders halted the entry of refugees, and targeted Syrians in particular. The language of the orders echoed Trump’s campaign talk about the humanitarian crisis facing more than 20 million people from that country. In September, the then-candidate said denying U.S. entry to Syrian refugees is “a matter of terrorism” and “a matter of quality of life.”

Since his inauguration, Trump has repeatedly spread lies about refugee-related problems in Sweden. And his administration has tried to mislead the public on the number of refugees being investigated on terror charges. The Washington Post rated Trump’s talking point on the issue “highly misleading” last month.

After a U.S. intelligence analysis suggested that Syrian President Bashar Assad used the banned chemical weapon sarin in an attack on an opposition-held village on Tuesday, Trump spoke multiple times about children and other civilians who were affected.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack,” Trump said after launching the strike Thursday night. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

The White House confirmed after the attack that Trump has not altered his position on refugees. National Security Adviser James McMaster said the refugee issue “wasn’t discussed as any part of the deliberations” for the strikes, according to a White House pool report.

The hypocrisy did not go unnoticed.

. . . .

“More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, when Assad attacked peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule.

“In many cases, children caught up in this crisis have fared the worst, losing family members or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling behind in school,” the nonprofit World Vision wrote in a post on March 15, the sixth anniversary of the civil war. “Children affected by the Syrian refugee crisis are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited.”

Trump’s strike in itself is unlikely to have any serious impact on civilian suffering. A one-off U.S. show of force may help the president and his team feel they’re taken action. But the Assad regime’s assault on Syria’s people will likely continue, perhaps after some small break.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested this would be the case Thursday night, telling reporters not to expect a change in U.S. policy toward directly trying to force Assad out.

“If Trump just wants Assad to stop using [chemical weapons] but does nothing about sieges, torture & mass executions, then Assad will likely say ‘deal,’” Kristyan Benedict, campaigns manager for Amnesty International UK, tweeted. “Stopping Assad’s chemical attacks has value for sure but [chemical weapons] are just one tool the regime use to terrorize civilians & maintain their power.”

The hypocrisy also was noted in  a NY Times Op-Ed by Anthony J. Blinken on the need for an effective diplomatic follow-up to the military response:

“Here at home, Mr. Trump must speak directly to the American people about the country’s mission and its objectives, thoroughly brief Congress and seek its support, and make clear the legal basis for United States actions. And while he’s at it, he should reopen the door he has tried to slam shut on Syrian refugees. The president’s human reaction to the suffering of those gassed by the Assad regime should extend to all the victims of Syria’s civil war, including those fleeing its violence.”

Read Blinken’s entire op-ed here: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/after-the-missiles-we-need-smart-diplomacy.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170407&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0&referer=

****************************************

Sorry, but I wouldn’t expect any real humanitarian or moral leadership out of this Administration. It’s really all about muscle, authority, acting tough, showing up the Obama Administration, throwing bones to the military, and shoring up shaky support among GOP hawks in Congress who have been itching to start another un-winnable war in the Middle East for years. Oh yeah, and it changed the subject from the Russia investigation, internal war in the West Wing, failed health care, and more attacks by this Administration on America’s environment, health, safety, privacy, and civil rights.

I also wouldn’t let new NSC head Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster off the hook here. Yes, he did America and the world a huge service by getting alt-right nationalist Steve Bannon off the NSC and perhaps shaking his standing in the West Wing. And, he undoubtedly brings a much needed voice of military and national security expertise to the table. The idea of Gen. Mike Flynn, a proven liar and flake, and Bannon being given any part in America’s national security apparatus is scary beyond belief.

But, McMaster’s failure to “connect the dots” between military policy and the intertwined ongoing civilian humanitarian refugee crisis in Syria is simply inexcusable. And, by publicly turning our back on Syrian refugees we actually signal that our talk of humanitarian concerns in Syria is merely a “smokescreen.”

We have, and will continue to, show little concern for the real human victims of the Syrian war. This signals to both Assad and Russia that our only real interest is maintaining politically visible “red lines.” As long as Assad sticks to “conventional means” of murdering, maiming, terrorizing and displacing Syrian civilians we will continue to turn our back on the suffering of refugees.

Both knowledge of and actual hands on field work in the area of refugees and humanitarian relief should be a job requirement for any military officer promoted to the rank of General or its equivalent in other branches of service. War, at the end of the day, is about only one thing: people. And, there is no such thing as a war that doesn’t produce both civilian deaths and refugees.

PWS

04-07-17

 

 

 

SYRIA/HUMAN RIGHTS: Firing Missiles To Solve A Humanitarian Crisis, While Ignoring The Plight Of Syrian Refugees Makes Little Sense — But It Does Serve To Undermine U.S. Moral Leadership — By Turning His Back On Syrians Who Could Be Saved, Trump Made The Situation Worse!

President Trump’s suddenly discovered moral outrage over the gassing of Syrian civilians and his hasty resort to military force seems odd in light of his studied indifference, and even demonization, of millions of desperate Syrian refugees in need of resettlement in America and the West. Pelting Syria with missiles is likely to kill some innocent civilians as well as Assad supporters and Russians. But, helping Syrians in need who actually managed to flee the country would be a sure-fire way of saving the lives of civilians, many of them women and children, enriching United States, taking pressure off our allies in the region with overflowing refugee camps, and showing some moral leadership to other Western nations who are wavering in their humanitarian commitments.

Here’s a clip from HuffPost showing how UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, notwithstanding her pictures of gassed Syrian kids, had no answer for why the U.S. is failing to fulfill its humanitarian responsibility to take a fair share of Syrian refugees.

HuffPost reports:

“Earlier on Wednesday, Haley gave a fierce speech at the United Nations condemning the Syrian regime and its Russian ally.

“How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” Hayley asked at the meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Despite Hayley’s comments, it’s unclear what response the U.S. is considering in the wake of the attack. Trump said during a joint press conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Wednesday that Tuesday’s attack had changed his attitude toward the Assad regime and the country’s ongoing civil war. Just last week, the Trump administration had signaled it would no longer push for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s removal.

But neither Hayley nor Trump addressed whether Tuesday’s atrocity changed anything toward the president’s stance on Syrian refugees. Though there are already stringent requirements for refugees to enter the U.S., Trump repeatedly said during the presidential campaign that he considered Syrian refugees a terrorist threat.

After taking office in January, Trump signed an executive order on immigration that blocked admission to the U.S. for all refugees for 120 days and for Syrian refugees indefinitely, while also cutting the goal for refugee admissions this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000. The ban was later struck down in court. The implementation of a revised version of the executive order, which didn’t single out Syrian refugees but still blocked admission of all refugees for 120 days and decreased the total number of refugees to be admitted, was also halted in court.

At one point during Haley’s exchange with Van Susteren, a woman sitting in the mezzanine yelled out: “What about refugees?”

Haley went silent. Van Susteren paused, and then said, “Moving on.” The subject of refugees did not come up again.

. . . .

Haley’s talk came directly after a panel on the weaponization of medical care in Syria, in which two doctors asked those in the audience to start caring about Syrian doctors, civilians and refugees.”

*************************************

The sad fact is that the dead children in Syria are dead. Neither missiles nor recriminations about failed Obama Administration policies will bring them back to life. But, there are hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of still alive Syrian kids in refugee camps whose lives can be saved and who need our help. Sooner, rather than later.

PWS

04-06-17

BREAKING: U.S. Launches Missiles At Syria In Retaliation For Gas Attack!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-weighing-military-options-following-chemical-weapons-attack-in-syria/2017/04/06/0c59603a-1ae8-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_syria-315pm:homepage/story&utm_term=.2615d73f4be7

The Washington Post reports:

“The U.S. military launched approximately 50 cruise missiles at Syrian military targets late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago.

The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition.

The attack may put hundreds of American troops now stationed in Syria in greater danger. They are advising local forces in advance of a major assault on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital.

The decision to strike follows 48 hours of intense deliberations by U.S. officials, and represents a significant break with the previous administration’s reluctance to wade militarily into the Syrian civil war and shift any focus from the campaign against the Islamic State.”

********************************

PWS

04-06-17

WashPost: The Intentional Human Agony Of Torture In Syria!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/the-hospitals-were-slaughterhouses-a-journey-intosyrias-secret-torture-wards/2017/04/02/90ccaa6e-0d61-11e7-b2bb-417e331877d9_story.html?utm_term=.565554ff10fd

Louisa Loveluck and Zakaria Zakaria report:

“The guards went by nicknames to avoid identification. Four survivors said the most famous was known as Azrael, or the Angel of Death. They described him as a thickset man from Assad’s coastal stronghold of Latakia who carried a stick laced with razor blades. They said he selected prisoners, most of them deathly ill, for a fate he called “justice.” The detainees called it execution.
Masri recalled Azrael taking a lighter to a plastic bag and melting it drop by drop onto a prisoner’s face until he died, apparently of a heart attack. Other prisoners said he used an iron rod to smash their bedmates’ skulls.

Many died where they lay, slumped against their bedmates until morning came. For Mustafa in the winter of 2012, that meant sharing a bed until sunrise the next day with three corpses.

As the uprising outside morphed into a war, former prisoners say, their interrogators became obsessed with the notion of accomplices, torturing prisoners to extract the names of new suspects to arrest.

Documents signed by senior government and security officials acknowledged the upsurge in deaths, at times complaining that the bodies were building up.”

**********************************

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has turned its back on Syrian refugees while downplaying human rights a consideration in foreign relations (witness today’s “cozying up” to the brutal Egyptian strongman). President Trump has also in the past spoken approvingly of torture as a method of gathering intelligence, even though it is a clear violation of U.S. and international law.

PWS

04/03/17

 

WashPost Editorial: Refugees Belong In America — Anti-Refugee Scare Tactics, Not So Much!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/refugees-are-part-of-americas-fabric-and-its-promise/2017/02/06/c10179ba-ea59-11e6-80c2-30e57e57e05d_story.html

“AS THE Trump administration fought in court to revive its temporary ban on entry by refugees as well as travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, the president persisted in perversely suggesting that the judicial branch will be responsible for any terrorist attack carried out by what he portrayed as the violent hordes clamoring to enter the country.

By conflating a dangerous fiction about immigrants with blatant disrespect for an equal branch of government, President Trump fans the xenophobic flames he did so much to ignite during the presidential campaign. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” he tweeted over the weekend, after a ruling by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart in Seattle, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush. “If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

. . . .

Even if the courts uphold its actions, it is critical that the administration not use the inevitable imperfections of any vetting process as a pretext to ban refugees for more than the 120-day period covered by the Jan. 27 order. Already, Mr. Trump has slashed the current fiscal-year target for refu­gee admissions to 50,000, from 110,000.

That’s a trickle when measured against the United States’ traditional role as a beacon to those fleeing violence and tyranny, and against global demand. The United Nations counts some 16 million refugees (excluding Palestinians); more than half are children . By far the largest number, nearly 5 million , are Syrians, who are barred indefinitely under Mr. Trump’s order.

“These are not Jeffersonian democrats,” sneered Mr. Bannon, referring to Muslim immigrants who entered Europe. In 2015, he asked, “Why even let ’em in?”

Similar remarks were made a century ago about immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe, then widely seen as unschooled, unwashed and, often, violent. No one would ask now, “Why did we even let ’em in?”

*********************************

“Not Jeffersonian democrats,” Mr. Bannon? Says who? How would you know? Where have you dealt face to face with refugees?

In my “last previous incarnation,” I dealt with refugees from a wide variety of countries on a daily basis. Most of them were folks just like you or me. The just wanted a chance to live (rather than die, be imprisoned, beaten, or otherwise tortured), work, raise their families in safety and security, and contribute to our nation. Pretty much what all of us want, in my experience.

They also had a very keen appreciation of and deep respect for what American democracy and free political and intellectual participation meant — a much clearer understanding than I have ever heard from President Trump or Steve Bannon. Someone who has been imprisoned in squalid conditions, burned with cigarette butts, beaten on the bottoms of the feet, made to walk on their knees over hot sand, or seen family members abused has a much more practical, down to earth understanding of the privilege of living in the United States than most of us who had the good fortune  (not merit, but pure good fortune) to be born here.

I wake up every morning thankful that I woke up and that I’m not a refugee (particularly in the Trump/Bannon world).

PWS

02/07/17

Here’s How Torture “Works” — Does President Trump Really Want The U.S. To Follow The Lead Of The World’s Most Brutal Dictators?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/syria-has-secretly-executed-thousands-of-political-prisoners-rights-group/2017/02/06/e4a7f56a-ecc5-11e6-a100-fdaaf400369a_story.html

The Washington Post reports:

“The majority of those executed at Sednaya were political prisoners, including many of the ordinary people who joined in the peaceful protests against Assad, the report says. Some were rebels who took up arms, and others were officers and soldiers who defected from government forces. But for the most part they were “doctors, engineers, protesters,” one former prison official is quoted as saying. “They were somehow understood to be linked to the revolution. Sednaya is the place to finish the revolutionaries. It’s the end for them.”

The report describes in chilling detail how the prisoners were taken out of their cells in batches, of up to 50 at a time, twice a week and in the middle of the night, typically on Mondays and Wednesdays.
They were given only cursory trials lasting one to three minutes at one of two military field courts that offered no semblance of judicial process, with sentences typically handed down on the basis of confessions extracted under torture. When the time came for their executions, the prisoners were handcuffed, blindfolded and led to a basement cell containing 10 stands and 10 nooses.

A former judge from the military court described the executions, saying it would often take up to 10 to 15 minutes for the prisoners to die. “Some didn’t die because they are light. For the young ones, their weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks. Two officers’ assistants were in charge of this.”

***********************************

Also submerged in  the discussion of whether torture “works” — torture is illegal under both U.S. and international law. So much for the “rule of law.”

PWS

02/07/17