Category Archives: National Security

Trump Outlines ‘New’ Strategy for Afghanistan: ‘We are not nation-building.. We are killing terrorists [and extracting mineral wealth].’

Donald Trump outlines “new” strategy for Afghanistan in a speech before troops at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia on Monday, August 22. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In a speech delivered before an audience of troops at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia on Monday, August 22, Donald Trump outlined his ‘new’ strategy for Afghanistan. Most of it may have been new to Trump, but was not actually new, except in one respect: he said that “economic development” of Afghanistan would be conducted in such a way as “to help defray the cost of this war to us.”  

This is the crux of the “New Strategy” and is the reason that Trump is stepping up in Afghanistan: he has realized that there is mineral wealth in Afghanistan, and, as he said of Iraq – that the US should have taken the oil because “to the victor belongs the spoils” – he was angered that China is in Afghanistan extracting mineral resources. And that’s the basis for not disclosing how he intends to increase military presence in Afghanistan: the likelihood is Trump is making a deal with his donor and supporter, Erik Prince who leads Blackwater USA, now known as Academi, a company that provides mercenaries (and was responsible for murdering 17 Iraq civilians). I am betting he intends to “privatize” the protection of US companies taking out Afghan mineral wealth.

Secondly, Trump on the one hand calls upon NATO allies to step up, even though he has dissed them and dismissed them, insulted and attacked nuclear-armed Pakistan (you are either on the side of ‘civilization’ or ….) and called upon nuclear-armed India, Pakistan’s arch enemy, to step up, as well, under threat of economic retribution, using Trump’s singular, transactional approach to everything issue. 

He said that he would use all the tools in the tool bag, except that he has castrated the State Department, making any diplomatic solution an improbability. Because his aim is to widen military action, to refocus attention on Afghanistan (the good war), so that he can get credit as a war president. 

Claiming he was dealt a bad hand, he asserted, “I’m a problem solver.” But in this speech, outlining his “new strategy,” he takes ownership of the war in Afghanistan. 

Here are his remarks, highlighted and annotated: 

9:02 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Please be seated.

Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, members of the Cabinet, General Dunford, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, and Colonel Duggan.  Most especially, thank you to the men and women of Fort Myer and every member of the United States military at home and abroad.

We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea, as well as to those conducting the search and recovery efforts.

[Had there been this many fatal accidents-four Navy ships in collisions so far in 2017, fatal crashes of Black Hawk helicopters, soldiers killed in ill-conceived military actions – the right-wing would have been demanding Obama resign as Commander-in-Chief.]

I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia.  But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the servicemembers here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts, and to all Americans listening at home.

Since the founding of our republic, our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage, and resolve is unmatched in human history.

American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom.  Through their lives — and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality.

By following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal, and to remain one nation under God.

The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission, and one shared sense of purpose. 

They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together — and sacrifice together — in absolutely perfect cohesion.  That is because all servicemembers are brothers and sisters.  They’re all part of the same family; it’s called the American family.  They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law.  They are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust, and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other.

 

The soldier understands what we, as a nation, too often forget that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all.  When one part of America hurts, we all hurt.  And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. 

[Clearly reading telepromter speech written for him, as he did in the Charlottesville speech that he contradicted in the next day’s press conference.]

Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another.  Love for America requires love for all of its people.  When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate. 

[This from Trump who has said that transgender soldiers will no longer be allowed to serve; who has said that non-citizen soldiers will no longer be granted citizenship for their service.]

The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home.  We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.

As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas — and we will always winlet us find the courage to heal our divisions within.  Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name that, when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one. 

Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of September 11th — and nobody can ever forget that — have not been repeated on our shores.

But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight:  that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory.  Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history — 17 years.

I share the American people’s frustration.  I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. 

[This is the America First theme.]

That is why, shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.

My original instinct was to pull out — and, historically, I like following my instincts.  But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office; in other words, when you’re President of the United States.  

[Like health care, who knew Afghanistan could be complicated and that what you criticized others for their ‘ineptitude’ was in fact the best course at the time?]

So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle.  After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my Cabinet and generals, to complete our strategy.  I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.  The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory.  They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.  9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.  A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.

And, as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq.  As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies.  Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for, and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS.  The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks.  We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

[Once again: US pull out from Iraq was negotiated by George W. Bush because Iraq refused to give immunity to US soldiers.]

Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.  Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world. 

[Oh, you mean not Iraq? And yet, Afghanistan and Pakistan are not on Trump’s travel ban.]  

For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.  The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.  And that could happen.

No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions.

[“Blame Obama” meme.]

When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into:  big and intricate problems.  But, one way or another, these problems will be solved — I’m a problem solver — and, in the end, we will win.

[Actually, Obama dealt an even worse hand.] 

We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now — the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal.

We need look no further than last week’s vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women and children.  You saw it for yourself.  Horrible.

As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding, and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology.

Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next.  They are nothing but thugs, and criminals, and predators, and — that’s right — losers.  Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.

But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history.  As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways:

A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.  I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options.  We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.

Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on.  America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.  I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.

[Not new, except for Trump who as candidate had said would end US occupation and years before, had attacked Obama for not drawing down soldiers “years ago”: it is the George W. Bush “strategy”. And timetables were not arbitrary, and were adjusted based on conditions on the ground, as Obama stated when he added personnel to Afghanistan.]

Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome.

[Also not ‘new’ but also not true: Trump has dismantled the State Department’s apparatus to address these global threats diplomatically, actually shut down the Iraq and Afghanistan desk, has no experts left in State Department, and is cutting State Department budget by more than 30%.]

Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.

[Guess that’s where leadership comes in.]

America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace.  We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society.  We are not nation-building again.  We are killing terrorists.

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan.  We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.  Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.  It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.

In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner.  Our militaries have worked together against common enemies.  The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism.  We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.  We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.  But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.  No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. servicemembers and officials.  It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

[‘Civilization’ in this context means, “The West,” as in Islamists are barbarians and the West are civilized. This is throwing down the gauntlet to Pakistan, and Trump is doing it by simultaneously threatening India, Pakistan’s arch-enemy which is also a nuclear power, to confront Pakistan.]

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.  We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.  We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

[Once again, Trump’s entire hand depends on economic extortion.]

Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work, and work effectively and work quickly.

I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.  Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles.  They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.

That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.  These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms.  Retribution will be fast and powerful.

As we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field, we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq. 

[Taking credit for a campaign that was planned and began under Obama.]

Since my inauguration, we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard.

[Hardly record breaking. Need fact-check here.]

We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror.  When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force.

[Again, the attacks on financial networks were a big part of Obama’s strategy and were successful in cutting off funding.] 

Our troops will fight to win.  We will fight to win.  From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge. 

We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own.

[Are these the same NATO allies and global partners that Trump has attacked, insulted, threatened, betrayed and demanded they pay up?]

We are confident they will.  Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense, and they have done so.

[Again, Trump is taking credit for something that was already in the works before he came to power.]

In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces.  As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.

[This is the crux of the “New Strategy” and is the reason that Trump is stepping up in Afghanistan: he has realized that there is mineral wealth in Afghanistan, and, as he said of Iraq – that the US should have taken the oil because “to the victor belongs the spoils” – he was angered that China is in Afghanistan extracting mineral resources. And that’s the basis for not disclosing how he intends to increase military presence in Afghanistan: the likelihood is Trump is making a deal with his donor and supporter, Erik Prince who leads Blackwater USA, now known as Academi, a company that provides mercenaries (and was responsible for murdering 17 Iraq civilians). I am betting he intends to “privatize” the protection of US companies taking out Afghan mineral wealth.]

Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us.  The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do.  Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future.  We want them to succeed.

But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image.  Those days are now over.  Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.  We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives.  This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward. 

Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.  But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.

America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress.  However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check.  The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden.  The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results.  Our patience is not unlimited.  We will keep our eyes wide open. 

[Am I the only one who sees the contradiction of supporting Afghanistan, but only if…. Still, this wasn’t enough for Steve Bannon’s Breitbart which has condemned Trump’s Afghanistan strategy as a “blank check” and “Obama Light.”]

In abiding by the oath I took on January 20th, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests.  In this effort, we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat.  Terrorists take heed:  America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat. 

[Wow, that has terrorists everywhere quaking in their boots.] 

Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military.  And this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense.

In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed.  We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for. 

Not far from where we are gathered tonight, hundreds of thousands of America’s greatest patriots lay in eternal rest at Arlington National Cemetery.  There is more courage, sacrifice, and love in those hallowed grounds than in any other spot on the face of the Earth.

Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after September 11th, 2001.  They volunteered for a simple reason:  They loved America, and they were determined to protect her.

Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives.  We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad.  We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home, and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.

Our actions, and in the months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation.  With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace.

[What about the fallen to come? This was the appeal that George W. Bush used to prolong fighting in Iraq – that more deaths were needed to justify the deaths of 4,500 American troops in Iraq, and another 2500 in Afghanistan. When the numbers of body bags start mounting again, with nothing to show for it, what will Americans say then? And where is Congress who is Constitutionally mandated to declare war, to pay for war?]

We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.

Thank you.  May God bless our military.  And may God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END                9:27 P.M. EDT

___________

© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

Radical Idea for Defusing North Korea Crisis: Ban Nuclear Weapons

The Women’s Acapella Group “Willow” sings for peace at the Commemoration of the 72th Anniversary of the US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Here’s a radical idea for dealing with North Korea: ban all nuclear weapons.

This notion has taken on new urgency in just a matter of days, Indeed, seemingly oblivious to the calendar and history marking the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which obliterated 200,000 civilians, Trump, presiding over an opioid conference during his vacation at his Bedminster NJ golf club, raised the stakes on saber-rattling:

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.  They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.  He has been very threatening beyond a normal state.  And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Never seen before?

What Trump was reacting to was Kim Jong-un’s threat to launch “thousands-fold” revenge against the United States, after the United Nations Security Council voted 15-0 to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile programs.

“We are ready to retaliate with far bigger actions to make the U.S. pay a price for its crime against our country and people,” the official Korean Central News Agency stated, promising that North Korea would take a “stern action of justice.”

Trump’s “fire and fury” (evoking George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” threat to Saddam Hussein before launching the preemptive invasion of Iraq) response prompted Kim Jong-un to threaten to obliterate Guam.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, seeming on his own track, told Americans not to worry. I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”

That is despite Senator Lindsay Graham telling Americans not to worry because a war would be fought “over there” and others in Trump’s Administration going beyond Bush’s “preemptive war” doctrine to a “preventive war” doctrine.

The situation heated just a couple of days after the annual Hiroshima commemoration, organized by SANE Peace Action based in Great Neck, a 60-year old organization, and Long Island Peace Alternatives, formed 32 years ago, which for many years now has taken place at the Universalist Unitarian Church at Shelter Rock, Long Island, never fails to inspire a range of emotions – horror, regret, guilt, anger, activism, and hope. Hope that after 72 years, the world will come to its senses as to this existential threat.

This year’s gathering, on August 2, started off surprisingly upbeat: 122 United Nations members  had just adopted a treaty calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. But the hopefulness of that was shattered by the next sentence: Not one of the nine countries that actually possess nuclear weapons — United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — supports it, in fact boycotted the deliberations. It’s as if the wimps and wusses of the world signed a petition to stop bullies from bullying

And while during the eight years of President Obama’s administration, the US was making strong headway to reducing nuclear threats (that is the heart of the Ukraine issue, where the collapse of the “Soviet Union resulted in an enormous cache of “loose nukes” which is why the United States and west promised to protect Ukraine against incursion), he was already being thwarted by Senate Republicans who actually balked at signing the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, indeed some are rattling sabers to undo the treaty which requires Russia and the United States to reduce their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,500 from 2,200 each by next year (New York Times, A Threat to Nuclear Arms Control, July 29, 2017).

Instead, the Republican Congress is considering whether the US should develop a new ground-launched cruise missile and withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty banning missiles with a range of up to about 3,000 miles.

President Obama, the first sitting American President to visit Hiroshima, Japan, the site of the world’s only use of an atomic weapon, here with Japan Prime Minister Abe in 2016, struck just the right tone in a speech thoughtfully, and carefully constructed to inspire reconciliation, rather than apologize for a decision made in a different time and context. And he made it about the future, the task and the challenge ahead in face of mankind’s scientific and technological know-how to destroy all humanity. The man who won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009, who struggled to extract the US from two wars, who worked to secure loose nukes and negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran was nonetheless stymied in his goal to reduce the nuclear menace. (White House Pool photo)

What success Obama had to reduce the threat of a nuclear holocaust – most dramatically, the historic Iran Nuclear Agreement – and on so many other things, Obama was under-appreciated and his efforts kind of matter-of-factly taken for granted, even dismissed, and Trump has vowed to pull out, just as he has said the US would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Trump’s entire focus – his federal budget, his foreign policy, domestic policy – is actually to dismantle the mechanisms of diplomacy and global cooperation (The State Department announced it is removing “promoting Democracy” from its mission statement, has already dismissed human rights as a priority in favor of deals making, is shutting down the Global Engagement Center aimed at countering propaganda which would destabilize democracy, and is generally cutting the State Department’s budget by one-third, and Trump is really, really unhappy with the campaign in Afghanistan because China is capitalizing on its mineral wealth and US companies are not), in favor of militancy, including seeking $1 TRILLION to spend on a new generation of nuclear weapons which will only reignite a nuclear arms race, on top of over $600 billion in new military spending (how interesting that Republicans believe there is no benefit to “throw money” at education or health care, but perfectly okay to throw money that isn’t even requested at the already bloated defense budget). The Trump Doctrine boils down to “To the victor belongs the spoils.”

Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”: “It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world. We must get rid of nuclear weapons, stop illegal wars, illegal occupation and sincerely work for peaceful coexistence by promoting dialogue among communities, ending poverty and racism and holding governments responsible.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

While diplomacy is hard, complicated, nuanced and requires mental acuity, sending soldiers into war is easy.

Trump loves shiny new things and pumping up the military, focusing on militancy which is under his total control as the nominal Commander-in-Chief, is what his narcissism needs. And increasingly, as we see him throwing out red-meat “policy” to shore up his base, it is very likely that he will ultimately fall back to the Bush/Cheney/Rove tactic to secure his power and his presidency: war, preceded by a Pearl-Harbor rallying incident, 9/11. North Korea mounting a nuclear strike against Seattle, that would do the trick.

Which brings us to North Korea. No one with any brain or conscience believes that there is any military solution that would not be catastrophic. Trying to strong-arm Kim Jong-un into giving up his nuclear weapons is fantastical, especially when Kim believes (with good reason) that the only reason his country hasn’t been invaded and his regime toppled is because of his nuclear power.

Even with the Trump Administration’s “success” at getting the United Nations Security Council to vote unanimously (that means China and Russia which are bolstering North Korea) to impose new sanctions on North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is like a robot mouthing a policy that demands North Korea stop its weapons testing before the US will agree to any talks.

What does that mean, exactly? Stop for a week, a month, a year? What would qualify?

Talks are key – after all, what would the alternative be? Sanctions tend not to work with despots with total control over life and death of their subjects.

But what would the talks be about? More threats? What would be the incentive?

And what is patently clear is that any demand that begins and ends with “give up nuclear weapons program” will be a nonstarter. Kim Jong-un has seen what has happened to other tyrants who do not command such weapons or who give up their weapons, like Libya’s Omar Qaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. And he sees how despite Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program in order to have economic sanctions lifted, the Trump Administration is working to re-impose economic sanctions, despite the administration’s report acknowledging that Iran has been in compliance with the agreement. What lesson should Kim Jong-on draw?

Instead of laying the groundwork for a diplomatic solution (the State Department has barely any personnel: no Ambassador to South Korea, no under-Secretary for Asian Affairs), Trump seems to want to provoke ever more aggressive actions which would then justify a military response which he thinks will rally mindless adherence and give an excuse to permanently silence any opposition.

Trump fawns over Vladimir Putin and other dictators at the “Commander in Chief” military policy forum during the 2016 presidential campaign and shows complete ignorance of nuclear weapons. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump is a guy who flippantly said during the 2016 presidential campaign he might use nuclear weapons and questioned why we would make them if we wouldn’t use them, who suggested that other countries like Saudi Arabia and South Korea and Japan get their own nuclear weapons because they should fund their own defense without the United States incurring the expense, who had no clue what the “nuclear triad” was and apparently, no idea whatsoever of the terrifying consequence of using nuclear bombs. (See” 9 terrifying things Donald Trump has publicly said about nuclear weapons).

(The question I would have is whether the American military establishment would refuse to obey Trump’s order.)

So here’s a radical idea: moving toward eliminating nuclear weapons altogether is the solution. If the nine nations that have nuclear weapons agree to dispose of them, that could be the solution.

Otherwise, we are likely headed toward a nuclear confrontation in which there will be no winners, only losers.

At the end of the evening, there was a call to action: Call or visit your Congressmembers to urge them to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.

“It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world,” said Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”:. We must get rid of nuclear weapons, stop illegal wars, illegal occupation and sincerely work for peaceful coexistence by promoting dialogue among communities, ending poverty and racism and holding governments responsible.”

The concept behind the nuclear arsenals is the fear of mutually assured destruction will cause any rational leader to pull back from using them. But as Ira Helfand of Leeds MA wrote the New York Times, “Yet we know of more than a dozen instances when nuclear-armed countries began the process of launching their nuclear weapons, usually in the mistaken belief that their adversaries had already done so — more than a dozen times when deterrence failed. And we are told that North Korea must not obtain a nuclear capability because it cannot reliably be deterred. It is time to abandon this failed policy and to pursue the real security of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

In fact, one instance of how close the world came to nuclear holocaust was documented in an amazing, frightening and inspiring film, “The Man Who Saved the World,” about Stanislov Petrov, a Soviet soldier commanding a nuclear bunker who single-handedly averted a nuclear world war in September 1983 by refusing to launch missiles when all his radar and computer systems showed an attack underway by the United States. Petrov defied his orders and protocol and refused to launch knowing that even if the US strike was real and would kill 100 million Russians in an instant, the strike he would order would kill 100 million Americans in the next instant and a billion more people around the planet subsequently.

Indeed, the threats to the continued habitability of the planet and its 7 billion resident souls are not just from a lunatic renegade like Kim Jong-un.

Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, at the Commemoration of the 72nd Anniversary of the US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, the statement by the US, UK and France: ‘The time isn’t right.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

At the end of the evening, Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. issued a call to action: urge your Congressmembers to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.

“It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, was the statement by the US, UK and France: ’While we share your vision of getting rid of nuclear weapons, the time isn’t right. This treaty not the best tactic – we will never sign this treaty, never eliminate nuclear weapons.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now,” she said.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump, to Save Presidency, Expand Powers, Sets Himself on Path to be War President

Memorial Day Parade, Long Island, NY. Where are the parades for the peacemakers? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This weekend we properly honor the millions who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation since the Revolutionary War, which established us as a free and independent nation founded upon “We the People” as its governing principle.

But where are the parades for the peacemakers who just as equally keep us free, independent, who are the shield to our values and our way of life? Where are the parades for the diplomats, the professors and teachers, the scientists and researchers, the doctors and nurses and social workers?

Donald Trump, on his first overseas trip, has expressly shown his values, as epitomized in the $110 billion military deal he signed with Saudi Arabia, embracing Saudi Arabia as an ally in the fight against ISIS but ignoring Saudis’ role in 9/11 and in funding the schools that breed anti-Israel and jihadist ideology and terrorism. And it is clear in how in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he fomented hostility against Iran even as the Iranians overwhelmingly reelected President Rouhani, a moderate who has shifted even further away from the hard-liners in pursuing better alliances with the West.

Trump doesn’t care because he needs an enemy to march against, to battle against. That is his unifying principle, he thinks, to gain position for Israel among the Sunni-majority nations, and resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict – not with diplomacy but with militancy.

(How fitting that Trump was welcomed to Saudi Arabia with a traditional dance of the Najd region, that is typically performed to celebrate victory in war. Trump was in the middle of the melee, along with his top aides Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon and photographers and videographers captured him swaying to the drumbeat-fueled chanting.)

Trump’s budget just released by henchman, OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, shows his priorities and his values: 10% increase ($54 billion) to the military (to $603 billion), slashing an equal amount from domestic programs (to $462 billion) – accomplished by slashing health care spending and defunding Planned Parenthood, slashing Food Stamps and Meals on Wheels and Public Broadcasting, student loans, Social Security disability program, environmental programs altogether, and significantly rebalancing the budget already bloated in favor of the defense industry. (The United States already spend more on Defense than the next 7 countries combined, a list that includes Russia and China.)

It is not just the domestic programs that go toward everyday Americans that are cut, it is also dramatically slashing diplomacy in favor of war.

Trump’s budget calls for nearly 30% cut in allocations for the State Department (from $38.8 billion to $27.7 billion), which was already so pressed for funding, it had trouble paying for the level of security that might have prevented the Benghazi tragedy. And, oh yes, dramatically cutting foreign aid, including cruelly expanding the Global Gag Rule from denying aid not just to family planning services that don’t explicitly censure abortion, but ALL global health assistance programs including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria and global health security.

Trump (and the Republicans because this is really Paul Ryan’s budget) would cut programs for health, climate change and environment that counter famine, drought and flooding, foreign aid and diplomacy. This would do nothing to address the underlying issues that lead to violent conflict, but rather add gasoline to the fire of seething discontent, both abroad and at home.

And that’s because Trump craves to be a War President. He sees that War Presidents can enact martial law, erase personal liberties, suspend habeus corpus, promote torture as an instrument of national security, suspend a free press. He can be the unquestioned, unchallenged, adored autocrat.

Why didn’t he condemn Turkey President Erdogan’s goons for beating up American protesters in Washington DC? Because he is smacking to do the same thing, to have an excuse to crack down on free speech, free press, free assembly.

For Trump, military power is the path to unfettered domestic control. After all, the hot-war in Iraq (as opposed to the less flashy missions to route out the Taliban who were shielding Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan) worked so well for Bush/Cheney to get their tax cuts. Indeed, Trump is close to reigniting that war, by sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan.

Trump has installed generals in traditionally civilian roles in charge of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, while installing the most inept, inexperienced, corrupt to head agencies most directly involved in domestic programs (housing, environment, interior, health and human services, education, commerce).

Recently, when he was in a well-publicized video chat with NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, in response to a statement of the importance of international cooperation to achieve such milestones as a Mars mission, Trump, without missing a beat, remarked on the “military applications of space.” Who does that?

He showed his predilection when, on Day 1, he told the CIA “we may have a second chance at getting at Iraq’s oil” because, you know, he learned  when he was a boy that “to the victor belongs the spoils.” He also complained that the US doesn’t win wars anymore.

His intense interest in spending on costly military hardware is telling because, barring Trump instigating a new hot war, the next war will be fought in cyberspace, and the battlefield will be the electric grid, the financial networks and the utility plant. Our main enemy now consists of some tens of thousands of militant terrorists, including lone wolves recruited over the internet and under the spell of radical ideology, who could pop up anywhere with a home-made bomb in a backpack, a machete, or a truck to ram into a crowd of pedestrians, but won’t be defeated by sending in bombers or brigades.

Nonetheless, Trump wants to explode the domestic budget – cutting billions from programs which benefit everyday Americans – to pay for military hardware.

Why? Because for Trump, the $ is Almighty. Spending money on clean energy and sustainability is an investment toward a better future; spending money on bombs has to be constantly replenished. I wonder how much that spending will come back to him as profit – he already profited on the stocks he owned when he spent $80 million on the 59 Tomahawk missiles exploded in the staged attack on a Syrian air base which actually did not harm the base or the planes. It will definitely profit him, though, as a payoff to his donors.

In theater when you show a gun in the first act, it will absolutely be used by the third act. But let’s examine why: this gives Trump the big shiny, flashy, muscular objects that feed his narcissism. But also, it expands his virtually unlimited power as Commander-in-Chief (a function he has already proved completely inept at), while domestic programs are much more controlled by Congress. But by expanding the military in the way he intends, he continues to show that his “vision” is based on the world of the 1950s and 1960s. Hence his renewed interest in expanding, not reducing nuclear weapons.

Trump is upping US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where is the outrage over the service members and civilians and allies (like the Russian soldiers) who have been lost in flawed, failed missions orchestrated by the most inept Commander-in-Chief this country has ever had, who casually gives a “go” for a raid over dinner, without consultation or consideration of the ramifications? Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were in office, there would be mobs with pitchforks flooding the streets, demanding resignation or impeachment.

The real worry is that he will use North Korea as his means to become a War President, just as Bush/Cheney used fictional WMD, conflated with 9/11, to invade Iraq. Unfortunately for Trump, South Korea has just elected a “sunshine” president who favors engagement with North Korea, which may result in Kim Jong-un tamping down his own saber-rattling.

But Trump’s saber-rattling against Iran will only bolster North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons because they see what happens when an autocrat gives them up or doesn’t have them: Libya. Ukraine. Iraq. Iran. If he were truly interested in diplomacy, he would realize that.

He’s not interested in diplomacy or human rights or for that matter, American values.

Asked about his failure to extract human rights reforms as a condition for the $110 billion sale of armaments ($350 billion over 10 years), Trump said, “We have to defeat these forces of evil [Islamic radical terrorism]. Only then can you create the conditions to really allow human rights to flourish.”

“The glaring absence of human rights from Trump’s agenda will only embolden further violations in a region where governments flout the rights of their own people in the name of the fight against terror, and violate international humanitarian law in conflicts fueled on large part by US arms transfers,” said Amnesty International.

Trump’s reaction to the Saudi deal? “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs”

And in remarks with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Trump said , “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.”

Trump is the Arms-Dealer-In-Chief.

Trump also is content to brush aside human rights in negotiating new trade deals.

“Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His ‘America First’ approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States,” Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times (April 4, 2017).

Trump’s only value is that The $ is Almighty, greenbacked by military might.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

OMB Mulvaney: Budget Deal Averting Govt Shutdown Proves Trump’s Leadership (While Trump Heaps Praise on Dictators, Calls for End to Filibuster)

200,000 in the Peoples Climate March encircled the White House on April 29 calling for a transition from fossil fuel to clean energy. OMB Director Mike Mulvaney is proud that the budget deal denies Democrats a “win” of tax credits for renewable energy © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It was very important to the Trump Administration to dampen any victory dance the Democrats might be doing in terms of the budget deal that forestalled a government shutdown. Demonstrating so clearly that it the aim is to insure widening partisanship and hostility, this morning, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a briefing call to clarify what is in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.

The budget deal averting a government shutdown proves Trump’s leadership, Mulvaney said. Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Trump said a government shutdown in September would be a good thing to “end the mess” that is Congress, unless the Republicans end the filibuster that gives the minority party any say whatsoever.

This comes as Trump heaps praise and admiration on autocrats, dictators and plutocrats, like cheering Erdogan’s sweeping powers won in a tainted referendum in Turkey; North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, who, Trump said, he admired for consolidating his power at the young age of 26 or 27 (by assassinating his relatives), Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for some 10,000 extrajudicial killings, and of course Vlad Putin, who he admires as a strong leader (who has assassinated opponents and journalists).

Trump’s answer?

Meanwhile, it was very important to Trump that Democrats not be shown as winning anything in the budget deal that averted a shutdown.

“Democrats are trying to take a win,” Mulvaney said in the briefing call. “The American people won and the president negotiated that victory for them. They know the truth of what’s in the bill. They know the deal the president cut. Some are scared to death knowing what’s in the bill.”

The briefing lasted but a few minutes because the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight couldn’t manage shutting off patriotic music – starting with Stars & Stripes Forever and moving to “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” like the soundtrack to a July 4 fireworks show, that grew in volume and overwhelmed the call.

Mulvaney didn’t want to take many questions anyway, but during the 10 minute ramble, made sure everyone knew that the budget deal was a big win for the President, and a defeat for Democrats who wanted a government shutdown in order to show Trump couldn’t lead. The deal denied the Dems that.

Most importantly, he noted, the deal broke the parity deal that Obama had brokered when Republicans threatened to shut down government over the budget: that every dollar increase or cut in defense had to be matched with a dollar increase for domestic programs.

This deal allocates $4 to $5 for defense versus every $1 increase for domestic programs – in all, $21 billion more for defense. Mulvaney is very proud of that.

Also, $1.522 billion more for the Department of Homeland Security, for border security, on top of $18.5 billion, “the largest overall increase in DHS in last 10 years.”

As for the wall – because Democrats are hailing the fact that not a dollar in the budget is allocated to build the wall that Mexico was going to pay for.

What can/cannot be done, Mulvaney said, would be shown during a 1:30 press briefing, but suggested that the money the administration has gotten out of the budget, will go toward the border, whether a real or virtual wall, “in terms of the boundary between the US and Mexico.

“We’re looking at tremendous increases in technology along the border, maintenance, replacing gates and bridges – part of reason Obama administration had difficulty, the infrastructure not there – will move immediately.”

And what was spent on domestic programs – like preserving health care for miners – were on Trump’s list anyway.

And school choice – the budget provides for three years authorization.

“More money for defense, border security, education – the same things as we introduced in March – those were priorities of incoming administration,” he boasted.

Mulvaney is very proud of what the Democrats didn’t get, like not getting renewed tax credits for renewable energy – wind and solar. He’s very proud.

He deflected Democrats’ victory dance over saving funding for Planned Parenthood, noting that Trump “already signed an Executive Order allowing states not to fund clinics that deal with abortion, and defunded Planned Parenthood as part of the health care bill. Make no mistake, this administration is committed to pro-life – at every turn we fight the pro-life battle. This budget agreement stays true to that.”

He’s proud that there is no Obamacare bailout in the budget agreement.

“Democrats are claiming they got that. It’s not in the bill. Nothing in this bill obligates us to make any Obamacare payments. We’ve had several talks with folks on the hill [about defunding Obamacare] – there are no commitments in this bill.”

He’s also very proud that there is no new money for Puerto Rico. Democrats, he said, “wanted a bunch to bail out Puerto Rico.” The only money for Puerto Rico are the unexpended funds from the previous bill.  “There is no new money for Puerto Rico, no bailout, no additions to the deficit.

And Democrats “failed miserably to turn back Second Amendment protections,” he crowed.

“What Democrats didn’t get – what many of them, many of their base – they wanted a shutdown, to make this president look like he couldn’t govern, didn’t know what he is doing, and he beat them at the highest level,” he said with a spiteful tone. “They wanted to make him seem not reasonable. Government is functioning. He is proving he can bring this town together – lead in a sound fashion. That scares many. It’s why they are overreacting and claiming victory.

“Democrats can take credit, but they didn’t get a penny for any one of their pet projects.”

Despite what Mulvaney said about how avoiding a government shutdown demonstrated Trump’s leadership, Trump earlier that morning had opined that a government shutdown in September would be a good thing, to fix what he called a “mess” in Congress, and also called for the Senate to end the filibuster so that the Republicans could sweep their agenda through.

In two successive tweets, Trump stated, “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We…. either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump’s ‘America First, A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again’ is Window into Warped Vision, Values

Donald Trump shows how he intends to monetize “America First” plan by shifting resources from foreign aid, diplomacy, climate action and public education into military hardware and a border wall, reflecting “hard power, not soft power,” says OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, who says he built the budget blueprint straight out of Trump’s campaign speeches. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The budget blueprint to fund the federal government being proposed by the Trump Administration was created straight from Donald Trump’s campaign speeches, and would reflect “hard power, not soft power,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a press briefing to which a limited number of reporters were able to listen in by phone but not participate in asking questions.

The budget increases defense spending by $54 billion (10%), and lavishes spending on border patrol and building a wall, while slashing the budgets of the State Department by 28% and Environmental Protection Agency by 31% (eliminating 3000 jobs), and cutting out altogether funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and spending on the arts and humanities, as well as Meals on Wheels and $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program that supported affordable housing.

While it is unlikely that this budget proposal will actually get passed – any responsible Congressman or Senator will decry the cuts to programs that benefit their communities and constituents, while weakening the United States influence in global geopolitics, it reveals so starkly Trump’s values and priorities and fleshes out what his vision of “Make America Great Again” really means. And, as the New York Times noted, “In Trump’s Plan, Some Parts of America Are More First than Others.”

These are Mulvaney’s comments:

“This is an America First Budget. I wrote it using the President’s own words. I went through his speeches, articles, talked to him. I wanted to know his policies and turned into numbers. He is an America’s First candidate, this is an America First budget – more money on defense, $54 B; more for security at then border; for enforcing the laws on the books; for private and public school choice.

“I wanted to do that without adding to the  $488 budget deficit – so there are dollar for dollar decreases.

“Because we punched up $54 billion for defense, we will cut $54 billion elsewhere. This  accomplishes his priorities without adding to the deficit.

“The reductions are where you would expect from a president who ran on America First: the State Department. EPA. Many agencies, as he tries to frame government by efficiencies, will go after programs.

“If he said it on the campaign, it’s in the budget.

“We worked closely with the Defense department – that it funds their needs, but in a responsible fashion in terms of what they could spend this year. Defense [General Mattis] said this is what is needed this year, and they could spend effectively. We are not throwing money after problem. This was done in a responsible fashion.

“As for reductions: there are dramatic reductions in the State Department – that is not a commentary on the president’s policy on the State Department, but what’s in their budget:

“Foreign aid line items happen to fall within State department function. We are spending less overseas and more at home. When implemented, we will reduce foreign aid – but if the item had been in the Department of Education, you  would see the cut there, if impacting Energy, you  would see it  there. More items [slated to be cut] fall under the State Department, which will see a fairly significant, 28% reduction.”

Asked about how this budget does not lower the budget deficit or the national debt, he acknowledged that there will still be a budget deficit.

“The commentary on deficits is that he wanted to accomplish all these things – defense, immigration, law enforcement, without adding to the deficit. Previous administrations had priorities and borrowed.

About the cuts to EPA, Mulvaney said, “We absolutely believe – as in the State Department – the core functions of EPA can be satisfied with this budget” even with cuts of one-third the budget and 3000 jobs.

“Ordinarily, a president’s budget says you will take this budget and make cuts there. We’ve given tremendous amount of flexibility within agencies. I can’t say about job reductions, that will be up to [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt.

“The actual budget blueprint which will hit the highlights – funding for agency, bullet points as to where to bump up or lower spending. You won’t see a spread sheet line by line – it will be up to agencies to implement.

Part of 2017 supplemental Trump is seeking, Mulvaney said, includes “$30 billion for defense and the border, including $1.5 billion for the wall this year. There are proposed reductions for 2017 also. More spending for defense, border enforcement, reductions elsewhere, money for the wall.”

Asked whether the administration is mindful of the “potential risk of reducing foreign aid,” Mulvaney said, “This is a hard power budget, not a soft power budget. That was done intentionally. The president very clearly wants to send message to adversaries and allies that this is a hard power president. We are moving money from soft power to hard power – that’s what adversaries, allies can expect.

“I implement the president’s policy. He decides what he wants to do.”

Since this is “an America First budget, which he campaigned on,” how does the budget fulfill his promise on the campaign trail to fix cities? How is Housing & Urban Development (HUD) affected?

“One of the other things he said was to go after waste, programs that don’t work, and a lot of those are in HUD – spent a lot in HUD without a lot to show for it. A lot of programs we cannot justify their existence for.

“But don’t discount the infrastructure program. That was done intentionally – Department of Transportation. Line item reductions. We are moving programs out of inefficient programs and hold money for efficient.

“We are moving money around in HUD. I spoke to [HUD Secretary Ben] Carson, who, if he came to president and said look, you gave me this pot of money, I want to move out of these programs and into new ones, he would have tremendous flexibility.”

As to how much money Trump intends to spend on building the wall across the southern border, he said, “We haven’t decided – haven’t settled on construction types, where to start. Funding provides for some pilot pieces, different kinds of barriers, different kinds of places, as we find most the most cost-efficient, safest, most effective border protection. $1.5 b allows us to start, $2.6 billion in 2018 – as we get to a full budget in May we will also start seeing projections out 10 years.

Asked how tax cuts factor in, Mulvaney said, “This is not a tax policy document. This is a spending budget. $1 trillion of the budget is discretionary. If we spend a discretionary dollar somewhere, we take a dollar from somewhere else. This blueprint stays within those lanes.

Asked where the $1.5 billion for the wall is coming from, he said, “We didn’t say we need $1.5 billion for the wall, so let’s reduce education. We dealt with it more holistically. We went looking for the most inefficient, wasteful, indefensible programs in other areas.”

As for federal workforce reductions, he said, “There is a great deal of discretion to [cabinet] secretaries.”

Asked whether the budget proposal assumes the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, he said, “This is ancillary to ACA. Generally no. That would be reflected in the larger budget in May.”

What about funding for curing diseases, exploring other planets?

“NASA reduced 1% – a lot of programs in there are increased in line with the president’s priorities – exploring other planets. He changed one of the missions – the moon, Saturn – I can’t remember the details. The general response is consistent: space exploration is a priority.”

“Curing disease – a young woman was at the Joint Congressional address who had an orphan disease, which means it is so rare, it doesn’t encourage free market response. Our budget preserves the ability to do that.” [The budget proposal cuts funding to the National Institutes of Health by $5.8 billion, or 20%.]

As for enforcing the Paris Agreement, the Clean Power Plan, CAFE Standards, Mulvaney said, “You can expect reductions in EPA that line up with the president’s view on global warming and efficiency. To the extent there are reductions, that would be one of the places.” 

See details from New York Times: 

Pentagon Grows, While E.P.A. and State Dept. Shrink in Trump’s Budget

See also: 

NYS Governor Cuomo Blasts Trump Budget Proposal: ‘Dangerous, Reckless, Contemptuous of American Values’

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Trump Muslim Travel Ban Will Hurt US Standing in World, National Security, Economy at Home

Trump’s Muslim ban barring travelers, students, businesspeople, immigrants, refugees from seven countries makes a mockery of all the Statue of Liberty stands for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Trump’s Muslim ban barring travelers, students, businesspeople, immigrants, refugees from seven countries makes a mockery of all the Statue of Liberty stands for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In one stroke of his pen, Trump overturned and violated foundational American principles and values enshrined in the Constitution that bars favor or disfavor for any religion, that guarantees due process of law and that every person deserves equal justice under law. His ban on travel, immigration and refugee asylum goes against American history and heritage as a nation built by immigrants, many who came as refugees fleeing war and persecution. It ignores the many instances in American history when government violated its own principles, such as its original sins, the genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Africans, going on to the Chinese Expulsion, the Japanese internment, the ramifications of turning back boatloads of Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust. Trump would like to go back to those bad ol’ days.

And he did it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Note: Trump’s statement released on Friday failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, clearly the imprint of White Nationalist Steve Bannon, Trump’s key advisor.)

Trump, through his dismissive foreign policy tweets concerning NATO, nuclear weapons, climate change, indeed his entire America First policy – reinforced by the new UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in a defiant, “You have our back or we’re taking names” threat; his trade war launched with Mexico which likely will spread to China and others, his stance to pull the US out of global climate action – will turn the US into a pariah among nations, opening the way for China to step up influence in Mexico (a Pacific nation), and Africa, and Russia in the Middle East and Eastern Europe (after all, who will stop Putin’s push to establish a new Soviet Empire?).

The immoral, unconstitutional, anti-American, and ultimately self-destructive impacts of Trump’s Muslim Ban will not make the United States safer, but rather feeds into radical Jihadists’ war cry against the Crusader West, not to mention the misery, anxiety it has imposed on thousands of immigrants and refugees who have already suffered the terror of war and the trauma of leaving homelands, sending them back into dangerous and desperate circumstance.

The callous disregard for the toll on humans because of the horrendous way the order was rolled out – making the first two weeks of the Obamacare roll out look like the 1969 moon landing – gives proof to the lie of Trump as a “businessman” rather than King of Debt who drove his businesses into the ground, while screwing the workers and contractors, and raises real terror than he will in fact run the country as he ran his businesses.

There has been superb reporting on the individuals caught in Trump’s limbo. But I want to focus on the economic and social impacts of undermining travel and tourism, reviving anti-Americanism abroad and undermining the appeal of the United States as a destination.

Trump, with an America First philosophy, says he wants to expand economy and jobs, lower the trade deficit, but his policies already are guaranteed to damage one of the nation’s most vigorous, reliable engines of economic growth, jobs and social mobility, lifting minorities and women into the middle class, not to mention international goodwill: international travel.

Indeed, tourism is part of trade. Travelers coming into the United States are an “import,” and the dollars spent here go a long way to reducing the trade deficit. How much? According to the US Travel Association, travel and tourism generates $2.1 trillion in economic output (2.7% of GDP) from domestic and international visitors (includes $927.9 billion in direct travel expenditures that spurred an additional $1.2 trillion in other industries through a ripple effect). Travel expenditures support 15 million jobs (8 million directly); account for $221.7 billion in wages, and generate $141.5 billion in tax revenues to federal, state and local governments, levels that increased significantly over the past eight years, helping to lift the nation out of the Great Recession.

Just as Trump unleashed his ban – catching up people who were already in transit, many after years of vetting, and even green card holders and legal residents who happened to be traveling outside US – I was at the Javits Center for the New York Times Travel Show, a stunning gathering of travel suppliers and representatives from around the world and people who sell travel and value travel.

I stopped at a booth of an operator who organizes trips to Iran (earlier, Iran was cited as one of the “hot” new destinations for Americans, along with Cuba). In response to Trump’s ban on all arrivals from Iran, Iran retaliated with a ban on Americans coming in (Iraq is now talking about expelling Americans, where we have some 5,000 troops, already primed to hate Americans after Trump told the CIA he would like a “second chance at getting Iraq’s Oil” after all, “to the victor belong the spoils.”).

Cuba is another destination that Americans have been flocking to since Obama normalized relations and eased travel restrictions – a way to succeed where 50 years of isolation have failed, to introduce a taste for democracy to Cubans living under a Communist dictatorship. Now that is up in the air.

“If [Trump] makes it look like Mexico is the enemy, people will stop traveling to the enemy,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group said on a “State of the Travel Industry” panel. “That would hurt us badly, but it would also hurt the United States. Most importantly, it would hurt the humanity and the morals and the principles of the United States.”

Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, a travel agency company, noted that on a trip to Mexico recently, he found Mexicans who normally take ski vacations in Aspen and Vail are going to Vancouver, Canada, instead.

The 20% tariff that Trump proposes against Mexico (which would be paid for by American consumers, not Mexico), the second largest trading partner with the US which supports 6 million US jobs,  will likely be retaliated with a tariff on American goods, making them more expensive and unaffordable for Mexicans, whose economy will likely be devastated (already the currency is taking a hit), and further destabilizing the country.

Trump’s domestic and foreign policies have a singular theme: disruption and destabilization. And he doesn’t care who is killed or how many suffer. A bully takes pleasure out of terrorizing vulnerable people.

In just his first few days occupying the Oval Office, Trump has managed to overturn the goodwill, and foment anti-Americanism. A travel insurance company actually came out with an alert to travelers to be more aware. The headline: “What to Be Aware of When Traveling in the Apocalypse; APRIL Outlines Simple Precautions for Traveling in a Post-Trump World”

“It’s not our role to influence or pass judgment on the political process in America, but regardless of personal opinions on Trump’s presidency, travel counselors recall the anti-American sentiments prevalent during the George W. Bush administration. They are therefore cognizant of shifting perceptions of Americans internationally,” explained Jason Schreier, CEO of APRIL USA.

“Vacationing is a staple of American society and one of the primary ways Americans enrich themselves culturally. World events should not deter one from traveling, but vacationers need to be aware of their vulnerabilities and protect themselves accordingly.” Sad.

The value of international tourism goes beyond economic growth, jobs and tax receipts, though these are vitally important – but in essence literally brings peoples together. American travelers are unofficial ambassadors of American values and ideas, fostering good will. In the same vein, Americans who meet people face to face, where they are no longer “others” to be feared, but rather seen as human beings more similar than different. Travelers are the first line of diplomacy, the first line or promoting peace and cooperation.

President Obama understood this, which is why he encouraged young people to study, work and travel abroad and created mechanisms to help them find opportunities to do that; why he encouraged foreign students to attend our schools, to foster people-to-people exchanges, and why he eased restrictions on travel to Cuba.

Trump’s ill-conceived and executed travel & immigration ban is heinous (the chaoic, dysfunctional way it was rolled out – without even consulting his new Defense and Homeland Security Secretaries, without instruction to Customs and Border Patrol agents, making the roll out of Obamacare look like the 1969 Moon Landing), a violation of law (due process, religious freedom) and American values and morals. And though Trump justifies it as keeping Americans safe, it is not designed to do that – none of the 7 countries that are banned have ever been connected to terrorism on US soil, while the countries that have (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan) were not part of this ban. Not to mention that his wall along the Mexico border (where hysterical rightwing conspiracy theorists have said that ISIS has infiltrated) would do nothing to block the actual war-weary refugees that welcoming Canada has taken in.

Trump excuses his callous and grotesque policy as “extr-e-e-e-me vetting.” But these refugees already go through batteries of screening – at least 18 federal agencies – in an intensive process that takes years. And through all of this, Trump has not actually said what he would add to the process to make it more secure. The fact is, none of the refugees that have come through the process set out by the Obama Administration have had anything to do with terrorism in the US. What is happening in Europe, with the flood of hundreds of thousands of refugees that flowed through the continent, has nothing to do with what is happening in the US.

Trump’s America First foreign policies (trade, climate action, weakening NATO for example) are intended to isolate the United States, to put up our own Iron Curtain, our own Bamboo Curtain so that an autocrat can keep its people in darkness, ignorance, fear and insecurity and therefore malleable and controllable, which is what dictators and autocrats like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and the Iranian Ayotollahs.

“President Trump’s travel ban on Iranians is a gift to the Islamic republic and its hard-line rulers,” writes Hadi Ghaemi, founder and executive director of the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in the Washington Post. “It will not deter terrorism on U.S. soil. Not a single terrorist involved in the 9/11 attacks or other fatal terrorist attacks in the United States since then has been of Iranian origin. Instead, Trump’s policy is a collective punishment of a diverse and changing nationality, and will ironically serve the purposes of Iran’s hard-line rulers.”

As for terror, let’s compare the number of Americans killed on American soil as overt acts of radical jihadist terrorism (as opposed to domestic terrorism, such as anti-abortion, anti-Muslims) including the Boston Marathon, San Bernadino and Orlando: there have been 15 deaths since 9/11, compared to 445,000 killed by gun violence on US soil. Toddlers are more lethal than terrorists, killing one person a week.

As for the number of foreign infiltrators, immigrants or refugees who participated in terror attacks in the US? The Washington Post reporting on a study by nonpartisan think tank New America Foundation, of 400 individuals charged with or credibly involved in jihad-inspired activity in the U.S. since 9/11 2001, 197 were U.S.-born citizens, 82 were naturalized citizens, and 44 were permanent residents; just 11 were on a non-immigrant visa, 8 were illegal immigrants, and 12 had refugee status.

Indeed, the United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are among the countries that issued travel advisories against travel to the US over concerns about epidemic gun violence, mass shootings, police violence, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes and the Zika virus.

Tina Müller, 54, of Berlin, was quoted in USA Today (“Overseas Travel Warnings about USA Mount”) saying she had no plans to visit the US anytime soon, “They need to get rid of their guns. It would solve a lot of their problems. We have racism and prejudice in Europe, but we don’t have mass shootings and violence on that level.”

Yet Trump bases an unconstitutional ban on refugees, immigrants, green card and visa holders on a slogan of “protecting the safety of Americans”. But if he cared that much for Americans’ health, welfare, national security and safety, he would be signing executive orders for sensible gun restrictions starting with “No Fly, No Buy,” and smart-guns, instead of proposing a “Guns Everywhere” policy; he would be expanding the public option instead of repealing the Affordable Care Act to save tens of thousands of premature, needless death and suffering, and spending money to create vaccines against Zika and Ebola; and he would be expanding trade instead of putting up barriers and launching trade wars, to uplift people around the world from deprivation and poverty rather than exacerbating destabilizing income inequality.

Trump has demonstrated that he intends to rule as he campaigned, by stoking fear and terror and insecurity. That may well serve another goal: keeping Americans insulated from the world so they are kept in darkness and ignorance and malleable to his policies.

That is not a recipe to “Make America Great Again,” nor keeping Americans safe. That is a recipe for widening violence and terror as well as economic insecurity. There will be a domino effect, through the global economy, just as the US mortgage crisis triggered a global meltdown, starting with retaliatory policies such as trade tariffs and travel bans.

The anti-globalism, anti-trade isolationism implicit in Trump’s populism is quite frightening. The undermining of global institutions which effectively prevented World War III – the United Nations, European Union, NATO, even the international cooperation in outer space – edges us closer to the existential apocalypse given the technological capacity in the control of a single person.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Where to Take the Fight for Climate Action in Wake of Trump Assault

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and a member of the Climate Security Working Group, speaking on “The Consequences of Climate Change: A National Security Perspective,” says the planet cannot afford 4 or 8 years of reversals on climate action if we are to avoid topping 2 degrees more. By 2065, there will be a hundred million desperate climate refugees. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and a member of the Climate Security Working Group, speaking on “The Consequences of Climate Change: A National Security Perspective,” says the planet cannot afford 4 or 8 years of reversals on climate action if we are to avoid topping 2 degrees more. By 2065, there will be a hundred million desperate climate refugees. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, laid out a rather dire forecast of “The Consequences of Climate Change: A National Security Perspective,” in remarks at a Great Neck, NY synagogue. He couldn’t help but register a bit of panic over the incoming Trump Administration and its crew of climate-deniers and Big Oilmen.

“We have gone from ecstasy before the election to despair,” he says. We can’t afford to lose ground over the next 4 or 8 years.”  That’s because once the earth heats more than 2 degrees, “it is enough to start the process to the point where it is unrecoverable. We will accelerate so fast that by the end of the 21st century, we will see dire developments.”

It was reminiscent of how George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, two Texas oil men, reversed course on President Bill Clinton’s climate action, especially when Al Gore, a foremost climate change activist, was robbed of the presidency. Trump threatens to be even more dangerous because the planet is heating up more quickly than forecast, the arctic ice sheets are melting faster than predicted, and Trump has made clear his intention to reverse course on Obama’s progress, put the brakes on transitioning from a carbon-emitting economy, and go back to promoting fossil fuel development.

Wilkerson didn’t dwell on the public health aspects of climate change, but on how drought, famine, wildfires and sea level rise making coastal and island communities and even US naval and military bases, uninhabitable, would create national security challenges. Indeed, if you thought that a few million Syrian refugees could destabilize European democracies, think what hundreds of millions of climate refugees, would mean.

“By 2065, you are talking about machine guns on the border shooting people.”

We’ve actually already seen that happen: when police snipers murdered two black men as they tried to cross the Danziger bridge to flee New Orleans flooding after Hurricane Katrina.

Superstorms like the tsunami in Indonesia, the super typhoon in the Philippines, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy that supposedly shouldn’t happen except once a century are hitting at least once every decade.

The US military is already concerned, but is unable to do anything for fear of being perceived as acting “politically.” As a result, “sea rise alone, will force the DoD to cannibalize its own budget, diverting 10 to 20% of its $600 billion budget to make its military installations resilient. “The air force at Langley already has days when jets can’t take off because the runways are flooded.”

“The military has no question at all about the climate changing and changing rapidly and that it’s changing faster” than previously projected, he said.

“The military sees the risk, wants something done. They don’t want to be the only ones who watch and then become the hammer, manning the machine guns on the border.”

Wilkerson did not offer much in the way of solution, beyond his organization, Climate Security Working Group, lobbying Congressmembers individually (he said he had a hopeful meeting with Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley). That is futile, though, because you have a Congress and a Trump Cabinet that is wholly in bed with donors from fossil fuels.

Wilkerson said he was an “optimist.” But what a difference a couple of weeks makes.

Trump has doubled down to undermine Obama’s climate action efforts and reverse the transition to clean, renewable energy, after feigning that he was “open-minded” in an interview with the “failing” New York Times, and a pretend meeting with Al Gore. Trump says he will shut down NASA’s Climate Research division, pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and reverse course on Obama’s Clean Power Plan (which his pick to lead the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is fighting to overturn in court).

Trump’s transition team has demanded the names of all Department of Energy employees and contractors who have attended climate change policy conferences; many have reported a climate of intimidation, and there is fear of a witch hunt. (The agency said it would not comply.)

He is installing Oil Men and Climate Deniers in key governmental positions. His pick for Secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, not only has oil deals with Vladimir Putin, but vigorously supports the Trans Pacific Partnership, which empowers corporations to sue localities for “lost profits” when they adopt regulations for environmental protection.

Instead of a Nobel laureate to head Energy, he is installing former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who couldn’t even remember the name of the agency when he said he would shut it down.

What’s left to be done?

Some might naively think that technology will save us, when the situation really becomes dire.

Some of the proposals call for “geoengineering” – launching shields to keep the sun’s rays from the earth to slow the warming (what about the solar energy needed to produce food and solar energy?). “This is like playing god,” Wilkerson said – an ironic statement considering the climate deniers typically are in the camp that says God wants the earth to heat. Not to mention the cost.

Indeed, by the time societies are that desperate, it will be too late to reverse the impacts.

On the other hand, the despairing realization that Planet Earth may be doomed is what is behind Elan Musk’s Mars shot (something that is being made clear in the “Mars” television series).  “He is doing it because he wants to hedge the bet (on continuation of the humanrace). But how many can pay $20 million for a seat on a rocketship?”

“To us in military, one of clearest indicators there are people who understand the depth of the problem, but doing something serious – getting off this planet. They know there is a real chance this planet may become uninhabitable.

“We have put more people on the face of earth since 1900 than the previous 5000 years, reaching a global population of 7 billion, and by the next century, there will be 3-4 billion more. That ain’t going to happen, not without dire circumstances.

I find myself rooting for other nations to treat the US, the world leader on climate action under Obama, as a pariah, especially if Trump tears up the Paris Climate Agreement, and that they slap carbon fees on US goods, and that the UN and international Court prosecute the US for actions that result in the death and unliveability of lands. They should sue for damages and reparations.

We need to fight corporations that are not making the transition to clean energy – boycott products, fight permits, cram stockholders meetings, or alternatively, divest and drive down stock prices of offending corporations and climate deniers. Sue to recover costs when pollution impacts public health or damages the environment, require new projects to be designed sustainably and address clean energy and water. Block rate hikes and actions of utilities that refuse to adopt the Clean Power Plan standards.

Launch lawsuits over pollution that impacts public health, recover costs for remediation, require new projects to address clean energy and water; block rate hikes and actions of utilities that are refusing to adopt the Clean Power Plan standards; divest and drive down the stock prices of offending corporations and climate deniers.

We need to back organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund, Earth Justice and Natural Resources Defense Council, and League of Conservation Voters.

The EDF has a good strategy: tripling the size of its legal team; ramping up investments in state-based work to modernize the electric grid and advance clean-energy policy (EDF co-authored the first ever statewide bill to limit carbon emissions in California, which has created nearly 1 million new jobs and made California the nation’s leading clean technology patent developer).

The League of Conservation Voters is funding a campaign that goes hard after every dangerous executive action, nominee, and vote in Congress, coordinating with allies in new ways so that nothing slips through the cracks; plans to bolster allies in the Senate to stand strong, use their bully pulpit, and form a “green” firewall to beat back congressional attacks that require 60 votes to pass; hold key elected officials accountable, especially in the Senate, for their votes, words and actions, and expose those who push Trump’s anti-science agenda; mobilize hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists, activating grassroots networks and standing in solidarity with allies across the progressive movement; working with states to advance solar, renewable and other sustainable solutions; and lay the groundwork for 2017 and 2018 elections, where key Governor and Senate races are already unfolding.

We need to protest, to occupy, to boycott, to sue, to conduct unrelenting shaming campaigns of companies, corporate executives, investors and politicians who put short-term personal gain over long-term havoc, and if necessary, impeach – impeach an EPA Administrator who does not abide by the Clean Air, Clean Water acts. Impeach a Secretary of Health & Human Services who does not advocate for public health. Impeach a president who violates his Constitutional oath and sets aside national security for self-enrichment.

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

For Obama, Counterterrorism Means ‘Right Makes Might – That’s How We’ll Protect Our Constitution Against all Threats, Foreign and Domestic’

President Barack Obama: “We have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Barack Obama: “We have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This speech by President Barack Obama at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida spelling out his administration’s approach to counterterrorism may well be one for the history books: a kind of place marker to where we were when Donald Trump came to power and overturned everything. People will be pining for the days when the Commander-in-Chief could give a cogent statement describing mission, success, and reaffirming American values and respect for life. – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Here is a highlighted transcript:

Good afternoon, everybody.  I was just told that was going to be the last “Hail to the Chief” on the road, and it got me kind of sentimental.  I want to first and foremost say thanks to all of you.  Just before I came here, I was able to visit with some of the men and women from MacDill Air Force Base, Central Command, our Special Operations Command to thank them for their extraordinary service.  And so to you and your families, and to the extended family of American servicemembers, let me say that our nation owes you an unbelievable debt of gratitude.  We are grateful for you, and will be praying for you over the holidays.  (Applause.)

As you know all too well, your mission — and the course of history — was changed after the 9/11 attacks.  By the time I took office, the United States had been at war for seven years.  For eight years that I’ve been in office, there has not been a day when a terrorist organization or some radicalized individual was not plotting to kill Americans.  And on January 20th, I will become the first President of the United States to serve two full terms during a time of war.  (Applause.)  Now, we did not choose this fight, but once it came to us, the world saw the measure of our resolve.

The most solemn responsibility for any President is keeping the American people safe.  In carrying out that duty, I have sent men and women into harm’s way.  I’ve visited troops around the globe.  I have met our wounded warriors, and I’ve grieved with Gold Star families.  I know better than most that it is because of your service and your sacrifice that we have been able, during these eight years, to protect our homeland, to strike crippling blows against terrorist networks, and fortify our friends and our allies.  So today, I’d like to reflect on that work, and talk about the foundation that we will leave for the next administration.

I came to this office with a set of core convictions that have guided me as Commander-in-Chief.  I believe that the United States military can achieve any mission; that we are, and must remain, the strongest fighting force the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  I believe that we must never hesitate to act when necessary, including unilaterally when necessary, against any imminent threats to our people.  But I have also insisted that it is unwise and unsustainable to ask our military to build nations on the other side of the world, or resolve their internal conflicts, particularly in places where our forces become a magnet for terrorists and insurgencies.  Instead, it has been my conviction that even as we focus relentlessly on dismantling terrorist networks like al Qaeda and ISIL, we should ask allies to do their share in the fight, and we should strengthen local partners who can provide lasting security.

And these convictions guided the policies we pursued both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When I took office, the United States was focused overwhelmingly on Iraq, where nearly 150,000 American troops had spent years fighting an insurgency and helping to build a democratic government.  Meanwhile, al Qaeda had regrouped in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was actively planning attacks against our homeland.  So we brought nearly 150,000 troops home from Iraq, consistent with the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the previous administration, and we surged our efforts along with our allies in Afghanistan, which allowed us to focus on dismantling al Qaeda and give the Afghan government the opportunity to succeed.

And this focus on al Qaeda — the most dangerous threat to the United States at the time — paid dividends.  Today, by any measure, core al Qaeda — the organization that hit us on 9/11 — is a shadow of its former self.  (Applause.)  Plots directed from within Afghanistan and Pakistan have been consistently disrupted.  Its leadership has been decimated.  Dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed.  Osama bin Laden is dead.  (Applause.)  And, importantly, we have built a counterterrorism capability that can sustain this pressure against any terrorist network in South Asia that might threaten the United States of America.  That was because of the work of our outstanding servicemembers.

Moreover, that early decision to strengthen our efforts in Afghanistan allowed us to build the capacity of Afghans to secure and defend their own country.  So today, there are less than 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan.  Instead of being in the lead against the Taliban, Americans are now supporting 320,000 Afghan security forces who are defending their communities and supporting our counterterrorism efforts.

Now, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture.  The situation in Afghanistan is still tough.  War has been a part of life in Afghanistan for over 30 years, and the United States cannot eliminate the Taliban or end violence in that country.  But what we can do is deny al Qaeda a safe haven, and what we can do is support Afghans who want a better future, which is why we have worked not only with their military, but we’ve backed a unity government in Kabul.  We’ve helped Afghan girls go to school.  We’ve supported investments in health care and electricity and education.  You have made a difference in Afghanistan, and America is safer for it.  (Applause.)

Of course, the terrorist threat was never restricted to South Asia, or to Afghanistan, or Pakistan.  Even as al Qaeda has been decimated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the threat from terrorists metastasized in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.  And most dangerously, we saw the emergence of ISIL, the successor to al Qaeda in Iraq, which fights as both a terrorist network and an insurgency. 

There’s been a debate about ISIL that’s focused on whether a continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq back in 2011 could have stopped the threat of ISIL from growing.  And as a practical matter, this was not an option.  By 2011, Iraqis wanted our military presence to end, and they were unwilling to sign a new Status of Forces Agreement to protect our troops from prosecution if they were trying to defend themselves in Iraq.  

In addition, maintaining American troops in Iraq at the time could not have reversed the forces that contributed to ISIL’s rise — a government in Baghdad that pursued a sectarian agenda, a brutal dictator in Syria who lost control of large parts of the country, social media that reached a global pool of recruits, and a hollowing out of Iraq’s security forces, which were ultimately overrun in Mosul in 2014.  In fact, American troops, had they stayed there, would have lacked legal protections and faced a choice between remaining on bases or being drawn back into a sectarian conflict against the will of Iraq’s elected government or Iraq’s local populations.

But circumstances changed.  When ISIL made substantial gains first in Mosul and then in other parts of the country, then suddenly Iraqis reached out once again for help.  And in shaping our response, we refused to repeat some of the mistakes of the 2003 invasion that have helped to give rise to the organization that became ISIL in the first place.

We conditioned our help on the emergence of a new Iraqi government and prime minister that was committed to national unity, and committed to working with us.  We built an international coalition of nearly 70 nations, including some of Iraq’s neighbors.  We surged our intelligence resources so that we could better understand the enemy.  And then we took the fight to ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, not with American battalions but with local forces backed by our equipment and our advisors and, importantly, our Special Forces.  In that campaign, we have now hit ISIL with over 16,000 airstrikes.  We have equipped and trained tens of thousands of partners on the ground.

And today, the results are clear:  ISIL has lost more than half its territory.  ISIL has lost control of major population centers.  Its morale is plummeting.  Its recruitment is drying up.  Its commanders and external plotters are being taken out, and local populations are turning against it.  (Applause.)

As we speak, ISIL faces an offensive on Mosul from Iraqi troops and coalition support.  That’s the largest remaining city that it controls.  Meanwhile, in Syria, ISIL’s self-declared capital in Raqqa is being squeezed.  We have attacked ISIL’s financial lifeline, destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of oil and cash reserves.  The bottom line is we are breaking the back of ISIL.  We’re taking away its safe havens.  (Applause.)  And we’ve accomplished all this at a cost of $10 billion over two years, which is the same amount that we used to spend in one month at the height of the Iraq War.  (Applause.)

So the campaign against ISIL has been relentless.  It has been sustainable.  It has been multilateral.  And it demonstrates a shift in how we’ve taken the fight to terrorists everywhere from South Asia to the Sahel.  Instead of pushing all of the burden onto American ground troops, instead of trying to mount invasions wherever terrorists appear, we’ve built a network of partners. 

In Libya, where U.S. airpower has helped local militias dislodge a dangerous ISIL cell.  In Mali, where U.S. logistics and intelligence support helped our French allies roll back al Qaeda branches there.  In Somalia, where U.S. operations support an African Union-led force and international peacekeepers.  And in Yemen, where years of targeted strikes have degraded al Qaeda in the Peninsula.

And these offensive efforts have buttressed a global effort to make it harder for terrorist networks to breach our defenses and spread their violent ideologies.  Working with European allies who have suffered terrible attacks, we’ve strengthened intelligence-sharing and cut in half the flow of foreign fighters to ISIL.  We’ve worked with our tech sector to supports efforts to push back on terrorist messages on social media that motivate people to kill.  A recent study shows that ISIL’s propaganda has been cut in half.  We’ve launched a Global Engagement Center to empower voices that are countering ISIL’s perversion of Islam, and we’re working closely with Muslim-majority partners from the Gulf to Southeast Asia.

This is your work.  We should take great pride in the progress that we’ve made over the last eight years.  That’s the bottom line.

No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland.  (Applause.)  And it’s not because they didn’t try.  Plots have been disrupted.  Terrorists have been taken off the battlefield.  And we’ve done this even as we drew down nearly 180,000 troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today there are just 15,000.

New partnerships have been built.  We’ve respected the rule of law.  We’ve enlisted our values in this fight.  And all of this progress is due to the service of millions of Americans like you — in intelligence and in law enforcement, in homeland security, in diplomacy, in the armed services of the United States of America.  It’s thanks to you — (applause) — thanks to you.  

Now, to say that we’ve made progress is not to say that the job is done.  We know that a deadly threat persists.  We know that in some form this violent extremism will be with us for years to come.  In too many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, there has been a breakdown of order that’s been building for decades, and it’s unleashed forces that are going to take a generation to resolve.  Long-term corruption has rotted too many nation-states from within.  Governance is collapsing.  Sectarian conflicts rage.  A changing climate is increasing competition for food and water.  (Applause.)  And false prophets are peddling a vision of Islam that is irreconcilable with tolerance and modernity and basic science.  And in fact, every one of these trends is at play inside of Syria today.

And what complicates the challenge even more is the fact that for all of our necessary focus on fighting terrorists overseas, the most deadly attacks on the homeland over the last eight years have not been carried out by operatives with sophisticated networks or equipment, directed from abroad.  They’ve been carried out by homegrown and largely isolated individuals who were radicalized online.

These deranged killers can’t inflict the sort of mass casualties that we saw on 9/11, but the pain of those who lost loved ones in Boston, in San Bernardino, in Fort Hood and Orlando, that pain continues to this day.  And in some cases, it has stirred fear in our populations and threatens to change how we think about ourselves and our lives.

So while we’ve made it much more difficult — you have made it much more difficult — to carry out an attack approaching the scale of 9/11, the threat will endure.  We will not achieve the kind of clearly defined victory comparable to those that we won in previous wars against nations.  We won’t have a scene of the Emperor of Japan and Douglas MacArthur in a surrender.  And the reason we won’t have that is because technology makes it impossible to completely shield impressionable minds from violent ideologies.  And somebody who is trying to kill and willing to be killed is dangerous, particularly when we live in a country where it’s very easy for that person to buy a very powerful weapon. 

So rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs, or deploying more and more troops, or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained.

In the time remaining, let me suggest what I think should guide this approach.  First of all, a sustainable counterterrorism strategy depends on keeping the threat in perspective.  The terrorist threat is real and it is dangerous.  But these terrorists want to cast themselves as the vanguard of a new world order.  They are not.  They are thugs and they are murderers, and they should be treated that way.  (Applause.)   Fascism threatened to overrun the entire world — and we had to wage total war in response.  Communism threatened not only to overturn a world order, but threatened nuclear holocaust — so we had to build armaments and alliances to contain it.  Today’s terrorists can kill innocent people, but they don’t pose an existential threat to our nation, and we must not make the mistake of elevating them as if they do.  That does their job for them.  It makes them more important and helps them with recruitment.

A second and related point is that we cannot follow the path of previous great powers who sometimes defeated themselves through over-reach.  By protecting our homeland while drawing down the number of troops serving in harm’s way overseas, we helped save resources, but more importantly, we saved lives.  I can tell you, during the course of my eight years, that I have never shied away from sending men and women into danger where necessary.  It’s always the hardest decision I make, but it’s one that I’ve made where the security of the American people is at stake.  And I’ve seen the costs.  I’ve held the hands of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  I’ve met the caskets of the fallen at Dover.  And that’s why I make no apologies for only sending our troops into harm’s way when there is a clear mission that is achievable and when it is absolutely necessary.

Number three, we need the wisdom to see that upholding our values and adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness; in the long term, it is our greatest strength.  (Applause.)  The whole objective of these terrorists is to scare us into changing the nature of who we are and our democracy.  And the fact is, people and nations do not make good decisions when they are driven by fear.  These terrorists can never directly destroy our way of life, but we can do it for them if we lose track of who we are and the values that this nation was founded upon.  (Applause.)

And I always remind myself that as Commander-in-Chief, I must protect our people, but I also swore an oath to defend our Constitution.  And over these last eight years, we have demonstrated that staying true to our traditions as a nation of laws advances our security as well as our values.

We prohibited torture, everywhere, at all times — and that includes tactics like waterboarding.  And at no time has anybody who has worked with me told me that doing so has cost us good intelligence.  (Applause.)  When we do capture terrorists, despite all the political rhetoric about the need to strip terrorists of their rights, our interrogation teams have obtained valuable information from terrorists without resorting to torture, without operating outside the law.  Our Article III courts have delivered justice faster than military trials.  And our prisons have proven more than capable of holding the most dangerous terrorists.

Consider the terrorists who have been captured, lawfully interrogated, and prosecuted in civilian courts.  Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square.  Dzohkar Tsarneyev, the Boston Marathon bomber.  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber.”  American juries and judges have determined that none of these people will know freedom again.  But we did it lawfully.  And the wheels of justice right now are turning for others — terrorists like Ahmed Warsame, an al-Shabaab commander, and Abu Khatalla, accused leader of the Benghazi attacks.  We can get these terrorists and stay true to who we are.

And, in fact, our success in dealing with terrorists through our justice system reinforces why it is past time to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo.  (Applause.)  This is not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of many military leaders.  During my administration, we have responsibly transferred over 175 detainees to foreign governments, with safeguards to reduce the risk of them returning to the battlefield.  And we’ve cut the population in Gitmo from 242 to 59.  The politics of fear has led Congress to prevent any detainees from being transferred to prisons in the United States — even though, as we speak, we imprison dangerous terrorists in our prisons, and we have even more dangerous criminals in all of our prisons across the country; even though our allies oftentimes will not turn over a terrorist if they think that terrorist could end up in Gitmo; even though groups like ISIL use Gitmo in their propaganda.  So we’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to keep fewer than 60 people in a detention facility in Cuba.  That’s not strength.  Until Congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history, and I will continue to do all that I can to remove this blot on our national honor.  (Applause.)

Number four, we have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists.  For example, in a dangerous world, terrorists seek out places where it’s often impossible to capture them, or to count on local governments to do so.  And that means the best option for us to get those terrorists becomes a targeted strike.  So we have taken action under my command, including with drones, to remove terrorists from the battlefield, which protects our troops and has prevented real threats to the American people.  (Applause.)

Now, under rules that I put in place and that I made public, before any strike is taken outside of a warzone, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.  And while nothing is certain in any strike, and we have acknowledged that there are tragic instances where innocents have been killed by our strikes, this is the highest standard that we can set.  Nevertheless, we still have critics who suggest that these strikes are wrong.  And I say to them, you have to weigh the alternatives.  Drone strikes allow us to deny terrorists a safe haven without airstrikes, which are less precise, or invasions that are much more likely to kill innocent civilians as well as American servicemembers.

So the actions that we’ve taken have saved lives at home and abroad.  But the point is, is that we do have to be careful to make sure that when we take actions, we’re not alienating local populations, because that will serve as recruitment for new terrorists.   

Number five, transparency and accountability serve our national security not just in times of peace, but, more importantly, in times of conflict.  And that’s why we’ve made public information about which terrorist organizations we’re fighting and why we’re fighting them.  We’ve released assessments of non-combatants killed in our operations, taken responsibility when mistakes are made.  We’ve declassified information about interrogation methods that were wrong so we learn from past mistakes.  And yesterday, I directed our government for the first time to release a full description of the legal and policy frameworks that guide our military operations around the world. 

This public information allows for a more informed public debate, and it provides a potential check on unfettered executive power.  The power of the presidency is awesome, but it is supposed to be bound by you, our citizens.  (Applause.)  But here’s the thing:  That information doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t work if the people’s representatives in Congress don’t do their jobs, if they’re not paying attention.  (Applause.)

Right now, we are waging war under authorities provided by Congress over 15 years ago — 15 years ago.  I had no gray hair 15 years ago.  (Laughter.)  Two years ago, I asked Congress, let’s update the authorization, provide us a new authorization for the war against ISIL, reflecting the changing nature of the threats, reflecting the lessons that we’ve learned from the last decade.  So far, Congress has refused to take a vote. 

Democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war.  (Applause.)  That’s not good for our military, it’s not good for our democracy.  And, by the way, part of the reason that’s dangerous is because today, with our outstanding, all-volunteer force, only one percent of the population is actually fighting.  (Applause.)  Which means that you are carrying the burden.  Which means that it is important for us to know what it is that we’re doing and have to explain what we are doing to the public, because it becomes too easy to just send one percent of the population out to do things even if they’re not well thought through.

If a threat is serious enough to require the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, then members of Congress should at least have the courage to make clear where they stand -– not on the sidelines — (applause) — not on cable TV shows, but by fulfilling their constitutional duty and authorizing the use of force against the threats that we face today.  That’s how democracies are supposed to work.

Number six, alongside our outstanding military work, we have to draw upon the strength of our diplomacy.  Terrorists would love to see us walk away from the type of work that builds international coalitions, and ends conflicts, and stops the spread of deadly weapons.  It would make life easier for them; it would be a tragic mistake for us. 

Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot.  We’ve rolled back Iran’s nuclear program.  That’s not just my assessment, that’s the assessment of Israeli intelligence, even though they were opposed to the deal.  We’ve secured nuclear materials around the globe, reducing the risk that they fall into the hands of terrorists.  We’ve eliminated Syria’s declared chemical weapons program.  All of these steps have helped keep us safe and helped keep our troops safe.  Those are the result of diplomacy.  And sustained diplomatic efforts, no matter how frustrating or difficult they sometimes appear, are going to be required to resolve the conflicts roiling the in Middle East, from Yemen, to Syria, to Israel and Palestine.  And if we don’t have strong efforts there, the more you will be called upon to clean up after the failure of diplomacy.

Similarly, any long-term strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism depends on investments that strengthen some of these fragile societies.  Our generals, our commanders understand this.  This is not charity.  It’s fundamental to our national security.  A dollar spent on development is worth a lot more than a dollar spent fighting a war.  (Applause.)

This is how we prevent conflicts from starting in the first place.  This is how we can ensure that peace is lasting — after we’ve fought.  It’s how we stop people from falling prey to extremism — because children are going to school and they can think for themselves, and families can feed themselves and aren’t desperate, and communities are not ravaged by diseases, and countries are not devastated by climate changes.

As Americans, we have to see the value of empowering civil societies so that there are outlets for people’s frustrations, and we have to support entrepreneurs who want to build businesses instead of destroying.  We have to invest in young people because the areas that are generating terrorists are typically having a huge youth bulge, which makes them more dangerous.  And there are times where we need to help refugees who have escaped the horrors of war in search of a better life.   (Applause.)  Our military recognizes that these issues of governance and human dignity and development are vital to our security.  It’s central to our plans in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.  Let’s make sure that this wisdom is reflected in our budgets, as well.

And finally, in this fight, we have to uphold the civil liberties that define us.  Terrorists want us to turn on one another.  And while defeating them requires us to draw upon the enormous capabilities of all of our government, we have make sure changes in how we address terrorists are not abused.  This is why, for example, we’ve made extensive reforms in how we gather intelligence around the world, increasing oversight, placing new restrictions on the government’s ability to retain and search and use certain communications so that people trust us, and that way they cooperate and work with us.

We don’t use our power to indiscriminately read emails or listen to phone calls just targeted at folks who might be trying to do us harm.  We use it to save lives.  And by doing so, by maintaining these civil liberties, we sustain the confidence of the American people and we get the cooperation of our allies more readily.  Protecting liberty — that’s something we do for all Americans, and not just some.  (Applause.)

We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam.  But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America’s military.  (Applause.)

If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists’ narrative.  It fuels the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill.  If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we’re not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we’ll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend.

So let my final words to you as your Commander-in-Chief be a reminder of what it is that you’re fighting for, what it is that we are fighting for.  The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom.  We’re a country that was founded so that people could practice their faiths as they choose.  The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny, or carry a special ID card, or prove that they’re not an enemy from within.  We’re a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of discrimination and arbitrary rule, here in our own country and around the world.

We’re a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it.  The universal right to speak your mind and to protest against authority, to live in a society that’s open and free, that can criticize a President without retribution — (applause) — a country where you’re judged by the content of your character rather than what you look like, or how you worship, or what your last name is, or where your family came from — that’s what separates us from tyrants and terrorists.

We are a nation that stands for the rule of law, and strengthen the laws of war.  When the Nazis were defeated, we put them on trial.  Some couldn’t understand that; it had never happened before.  But as one of the American lawyers who was at Nuremberg says, “I was trying to prove that the rule of law should govern human behavior.”  And by doing so, we broadened the scope and reach of justice around the world.  We held ourselves out as a beacon and an example for others.

We are a nation that won World Wars without grabbing the resources of those we defeated.  We helped them rebuild.  We didn’t hold on to territory, other than the cemeteries where we buried our dead.  Our Greatest Generation fought and bled and died to build an international order of laws and institutions that could preserve the peace, and extend prosperity, and promote cooperation among nations.  And for all of its imperfections, we depend on that international order to protect our own freedom.

In other words, we are a nation that at our best has been defined by hope, and not fear.  A country that went through the crucible of a Civil War to offer a new birth of freedom; that stormed the beaches of Normandy, climbed the hills of Iwo Jima; that saw ordinary people mobilize to extend the meaning of civil rights.  That’s who we are.  That’s what makes us stronger than any act of terror. 

Remember that history.  Remember what that flag stands for.  For we depend upon you — the heirs to that legacy — our men and women in uniform, and the citizens who support you, to carry forward what is best in us — that commitment to a common creed.  The confidence that right makes might, not the other way around.  (Applause.)

That’s how we can sustain this long struggle.  That’s how we’ll protect this country.  That’s how we’ll protect our Constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic.

I trust that you will fulfill that mission, as you have fulfilled all others.  It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your Commander-in-Chief.  I thank you for all that you’ve done, and all that you will do in the future.  May God bless you.  May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Trump’s Own Words Show He is Unfit to be President, Commander-in-Chief

Donald Trump has advocated giving nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan, has expressed wonder why we can’t use nuclear weapons if we have them, and has described his strategy for dealing with foreign enemies is to be “unpredictable.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Donald Trump has advocated giving nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan, has expressed wonder why we can’t use nuclear weapons if we have them, and has described his strategy for dealing with foreign enemies is to be “unpredictable.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The newly disclosed possibly “pertinent” (or possibly not) Hillary Clinton emails, which are all part of the same single issue of using a private server and have nothing to do with deliberately handing classified information to enemy forces (does anybody really understand what the issue is all about), do nothing to reverse the clear and present danger that a Donald Trump presents if he becomes the “leader” of the Free World and the most powerful person on the planet, with unique control over nuclear weapons.

To remind you of this, the Hillary for America campaign provided a handy list of what The Donald has already said and done.

The comparison with Hillary Clinton’s experience, her steady hand, her maturity, her ability to see the long view, to balance complex competing constituencies, and her willingness to listen, learn and most importantly, admit and learn from mistakes, makes it clear:

The Choice is Clear: Trump is Unfit to be President and Commander-In-Chief

Americans deserve a president who’s ready on Day One to keep us safe. As a former Secretary of State and senator, Hillary Clinton brings vast experience to the Oval Office, having dealt with the key issues facing Americans around the world for decades. Traveling nearly a million miles as America’s top diplomat, Hillary has handled issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to military readiness, from women’s rights  to climate change, and is ready to lead from day one.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has proven himself again and again to be temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief.

Beyond his lack of understanding of foreign policy and unwillingness to learn, Donald Trump is a loose cannon with dangerous views on major global issues. Trump would encourage the spread of nuclear weapons around the world, has insulted our allies and praised several authoritarian dictators.  He even encouraged a foreign government to hack Americans, and since then has refused to acknowledge the U.S. Intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government has done just that.

Americans deserve a president who understands the challenging world in which we live, not one who is too erratic and uninformed to have control of nuclear weapons.

Throughout his career, and throughout this campaign, on subject after subject, Trump has proven he is unfit to be commander-in-chief. As we begin the final week of the presidential campaign, here is a look back at Trump’s dangerous record on matters of defense and foreign policy:

NUCLEAR WEAPONS

On nuclear weapons, Donald Trump has displayed a reckless disregard for fact and fails to understand the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Simply put, he doesn’t have the temperament to be trusted with the nuclear codes.

  • Trump has said he “loves war.”
  • Trump has embraced a reckless “shoot first” foreign policy.
  • Trump reportedly wondered why we can’t use nuclear weapons, if we have them.
  • Trump said he wanted to be “unpredictable” with nuclear weapons.
  • Trump exhibited ignorance on whether he would adopt a “no first use” doctrine.
  • Trump would allow countries like JapanSouth Korea and Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons.
  • Trump appeared to have no idea what the nuclear triad was.
  • On the prospect of nuclear war in Asia, Trump said, “good luck, enjoy yourself folks.”
  • Trump’s rhetoric pushed dozens former nuclear launch officers to sign a letter saying Trump “should not have his finger on the button.”

U.S. MILITARY AND VETERANS

Trump has repeatedly insulted our military, our veterans and their families. He has been disrespecting our veterans for decades, continually proving he’s unqualified and temperamentally unfit to be commander-in-chief.

U.S. INTELLIGENCE

Trump has disparaged the U.S. intelligence community – not only rejecting their conclusions, but questioning their motives.

  • When asked whether he trusts U.S. intelligence, Trump said “not so much.”
  • Trump invited a foreign government to commit cyber espionage in the U.S.
  • Trump maintains that we don’t know if Russia is behind recent hacks, despite being personally briefed by Republican Representative Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
  • Trump called the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was behind that hack was “public relations, frankly” and repeatedly denied their conclusion.
  • Trump has been accused by a former acting CIA director of being “an unwitting agent of Putin.”

AMERICA’S ALLIES

For decades, America has held strong alliances across the world – including those with NATO countries. NATO has stood with the United States, for example, invoking Article 5 after 9/11 and collaborating to fight the war on terror today. But on the campaign trail, Donald Trump has outlined plans to cut off America’s allies.

  • Trump said he would be fine if NATO broke up.
  • Trump accused NATO countries of ripping off the United States, saying “either they have to pay up… or they have to get out. And if it breaks up NATO, it breaks up NATO.”
  • Trump said NATO “may be obsolete” and “doesn’t really help us.”
  • Trump said he might not defend NATO allies against Russian aggression.
  • Trump has extended his threats past NATO to countries like Japan and South Korea.

FOREIGN DICTATORS

Donald Trump seems to have an admiration for dictators from across the world. From Vladimir Putin to Saddam Hussein and beyond, Trump has repeatedly complimented foreign leaders known for their records of oppression and abuse..

  • Trump said North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un deserves “credit” for taking out his rivals and has “got to be pretty smart.”
  • Trump gave Saddam Hussein undue credit, saying “he did one thing well, he killed terrorists.”
  • Trump believes that, during the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese government showed “strength.”
  • Trump thinks Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama, “saying in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A and our president is not doing so well.” (But of course, his praise for Putin doesn’t stop there.)

FOREIGN BUSINESS ENTANGLEMENTS

Trump’s extensive foreign dealings would present significant conflicts of interest and endanger our national security. Trump refuses to disclose the full extent of his foreign business entanglements – but without knowing the details of them, how will Americans know whose interests Trump is putting first? What we do know is concerning.

  • Trump has extensive global financial dealings.
  • Trump admitted that if his business interests were threatened by another country’s government, he would retaliate with the power of the US government.
  • Trump has a record of business dealings with foreign governments – including Iran and China that we don’t know the extent of.
  • Trump has also had numerous foreign business partners we don’t know much about – including one that is allegedly linked to an international money laundering network.
  • Trump is in debt to foreign institutions for hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Trump’s foreign entanglements would pose unprecedented challenges for U.S. foreign policy and national security.

ISIS

Despite Trump’s claims that he has a “secret” plan to defeat ISIS, he has no real plan at all. And his rhetoric is dangerously playing into terrorists’ hands.

  • Trump would “ask [his] generals” – the very same generals he believes he knows more than – for a plan to defeat ISIS, since he doesn’t currently have any plan at all.
  • Trump would continue to promote Russia’s brutal bombing campaign in Syria that is targeting civilians instead of ISIS.
  • Trump has suggested he would allow Syria to become a “free zone for ISIS.”
  • Trump would ban Muslims from entering the U.S., a policy that feeds radical jihadist propaganda.
  • Trump would engage in torture in the fight against ISIS and kill the families of terrorists.

IRAN

Donald Trump’s approach to Iran is devoid of any substance. He has prefered to denigrate American leaders and spew lies when it comes to Iran — though he was willing to deal with Iran when it made him money.

NORTH KOREA

Trump doesn’t understand the threat North Korea poses. On the campaign trail, Trump has taken positions that would endanger the security of the  United States and our allies and embolden North Korea.

  • Trump would meet with Kim Jong-Un, despite his continued violations of  international obligations to abandon his nuclear and missile programs.
  • Trump would consider cutting off defense support to Japan and South Korea.
  • Trump would open to door to nuclear proliferation in the region. When asked whether it’s “fine” for Japan and South Korea to get nuclear weapons, Trump said, “Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen anyway.”
  • Trump joked about the prospect of nuclear war between Japan and North Korea, saying “good luck, enjoy yourself folks.”

RUSSIA

While Clinton has stood up to Russia, Trump panders to Putin. He has voiced support for policies and positions that align exactly with the Kremlin’s interests.

SYRIA

To date, Donald Trump has not laid out any real plans with respect to Syria or offered any indication that he takes the conflict and humanitarian disaster seriously.

  • Trump suggested Syria should be a “free zone for ISIS.”
  • Trump raised the possibility of sending 20,000 – 30,000 U.S. ground troops to Syria and Iraq.
  • Trump praised and encouraged Russia’s brutal bombing campaign in Syria, despite the climbing total civilian casualties and attacks on U.S.-backed forces.
  • Trump peddled lies about Syrian refugees.

Dueling Campaigns: Candidates Describe Their Plan to Defeat ISIS, Keep Americans Safe

 Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton clash in the second presidential debate © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton clash in the second presidential debate © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the second debate, Donald Trump answered the first question, ‘Are you both modeling positive and appropriate behaviors for today’s youth?’ by attacking Hillary Clinton and saying, “I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We are going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment. And I will tell you, I will take care of ISIS.” 

Here is what the presidential candidates offer as their plan to defeat ISIS, as provided by their respective campaigns:

Hillary Clinton Has A Plan To Defeat ISIS, Keep Americans Safe

“The threat we face from terrorism is real, urgent, and knows no boundaries. Hillary Clinton knows that ISIS cannot be contained, it must be defeated.  Doing so takes more than empty talk and a handful of slogans. It takes a real plan, real experience, and real leadership. Donald Trump lacks all three. He won’t even say what his plan to defeat ISIS is,” the Hillary for America campaign stated.

Hillary Clinton has laid out a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS and keep Americans safe at home.  She understands that it’s not enough just to take out specific groups or leaders – we must have a comprehensive strategy to win the long game against the global terrorist network and its ideology.

  • First, we need to protect our homeland, including by surging our intelligence to ensure law enforcement has the information they need to detect and disrupt plots, working with Silicon Valley to shut down terrorist propaganda and disrupt their recruitment efforts online, and keeping guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.  Hillary has also proposed establishing a “lone wolf” task force to identify and stop radicalized individuals who may or may not have contact and direction from any formal organization.
  • Second, we need to lash up with our allies to dismantle the global network that supplies money, arms, propaganda and fighters to the terrorists.  This means targeted efforts to root out ISIS hubs and affiliates and preventing terrorist organizations from establishing hubs elsewhere, choking off the networks that facilitate their growth and expansion.
  • Third, we have to take the terrorists plotting against us off the battlefield. Hillary was in the Situation Room as we set out a strategy to eliminate dozens of seniors leaders of al-Qaeda. Now, we have to do the same thing to ISIS, starting with the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And we need to take out ISIS’s strongholds in the Middle East by intensifying the coalition air campaign, supporting our partners on the ground, and pursuing diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war and close Iraq’s sectarian divide, because those conflicts are keeping ISIS alive.

As we do all of this, we cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values or allowing us to be driven by fear to embrace policies that would actually make us less safe.  Hillary knows that all communities need to be engaged in the fight against ISIS.  As the Director of the FBI told Congress recently, anything that erodes trust with Muslim-Americans makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.  American Muslims are on the front lines of efforts to combat radicalization, and we need to increase trust and cooperation with law enforcement.  Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim-American communities. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it. Hillary knows we should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them. And as we engage in this fight, we will be stronger with our allies and partners standing with us, particularly in the Muslim world, as we cannot win this fight alone.

Donald Trump’s Plan to Defeat ISIS and Make America Safe Again

Mr. Trump’s Plan To Defeat ISIS Will:

  • Work with our Arab allies and friends in the Middle East so they can lead the fight against the Islamic State
  • Aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, coordinate international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expand intelligence sharing, and engage in cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting
  • Defeat the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism, just as we did in order to win the Cold War.

New screening procedures and enforcement of our immigration laws will:

  • Temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.
  • Establish a Commission on Radical Islam to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.

Mr. Trump’s Plan To Make America Respected And Safe Again

Peace through strength will be at the center of our foreign policy. We will achieve a stable, peaceful world with less conflict and more common ground.

We will focus on advancing America’s core national interests, promote regional stability, and produce an easing of tensions in the world. We will work with Congress to fully repeal the defense sequester and submit a new budget to rebuild our depleted military.

The Trump plan will rebuild our military, enhance and improve intelligence and cyber capabilities

We will end the current strategy of nation-building and regime change.

And we will ensure our security procedures and refugee policy take into account the security of the American people.

Hillary Clinton Campaign: Trump’s ‘Secret’ Plan To Defeat ISIS Is No Plan At All

Donald Trump has consistently claimed that he has a “secret” plan to defeat ISIS. As it turns out, the secret is that Trump has no plan. Instead, foreign policy experts agree, the ideas Trump has mentioned are dangerous and wrongheaded–and his anti-Muslim rhetoric and proposals are recruiting tools for ISIS and other terror groups.

Trump spent more than a year claiming he had a secret, foolproof plan to defeat ISIS.

  • May 2015: “I know a way that would absolutely give us guaranteed victory. I’m going to say it, I guess I’ll be forced to say it at some time, but I hate to say it.”
  • June 2016: “Trump rebuffed Fox News host Greta Van Susteren’s attempts to extract the details of his ‘foolproof’ plan… ‘If I win, I don’t want the enemy to know what I’m doing. Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to tell at some point”

Turns out, there is no plan.

  • Trump: “Immediately after taking office, I will ask my generals to present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS.”
  • Politico: “But on Tuesday night, Trump suggested that he is still in need of a plan.”
  • Washington Post: “Now we know what Trump’s ‘foolproof’ and ‘absolute’ plan for defeating ISIS is — to ask the generals to come up with a plan, quickly.

And foreign policy experts agree: Trump is playing into ISIS’ hands.

  • Why Trump Is the Islamic State’s Dream Candidate: “It is deeply ironic and disturbing that the Islamic State’s dream candidate is posturing as the tough-on-terrorism candidate. If voters can’t see through Trump’s con game, terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda will receive an unprecedented helping hand from America’s next president. Imagine what a conspiracy theorist — someone like Donald Trump — would make of that.”
  • Why ISIS is Rooting for Trump: “First, Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric plays into ISIS’ narrative of a bipolar world in which the West is at war with Islam. Second, ISIS hopes that Trump will radicalize Muslims in the United States and Europe and inspire them to commit lone-wolf attacks in their home countries. Third, ISIS supporters believe that Trump would be an unstable and irrational leader whose impulsive decision-making would weaken the United States.”
  • Why ISIS Supports Donald Trump: “Trump’s anti-Muslim proposals are likely to inspire and radicalize more violent jihadists in the U.S. and Europe… By demonizing Muslims, he feeds ISIS’s narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam.”