Instead of pursuing a constructive, humanitarian solution to immigration reform, Donald Trump purposefully undertakes the cruelest, most brutal and destructive power-play – because he can. Because he thinks this will fire up his base since they are getting wise that his tax “cut” is really a scam. And because he has dictator envy.
But while Trump moved with great urgency and speed to literally kidnap children from their parents in order to hold them for ransom to get his equally brutal and destructive immigration “reform” that would restrict even legal immigration (and $25 billion for a useless wall), his administration could care less about setting up the mechanisms to assure the children – moved hundreds and thousands of miles away – can be restored to their parents. As it is, there are parents who are being immediately deported without their children, some too young to know their own name or speak, who are lost in a system.
In fact, this plan – to use torture as a “deterrent” –under the guise of “Zero Tolerance” was hatched in the first few weeks after Trump’s inauguration, embraced by John Kelly, then Homeland Security secretary. It is also on view with the way he has unleashed deportation raids, snatching those with American spouses and children, cancelled legal status of refugees who have lived in the US for decades.
It’s remarkable to contemplate (since the administration isn’t saying) how much money is being spent on this sadistic policy – one private prison operator has a contract for $500 million – and who in the Trump orbit is pocketing the millions and millions of tax dollars.
But let’s be reminded: the reason there are so many undocumented immigrants (11 million by some accounts) and so many thousands crossing “illegally” (though just 20% from the peak) is because the Republicans have effectively shut down legal immigration and refused to take up Comprehensive Immigration reform.
If this really were about controlling illegal immigration, the Trump administration would have spent those millions staffing ports of entry, setting up immigration courts, and creating detention centers that could accommodate families. They could release parents with an ankle bracelet (as they did under Obama) so they could be tracked; 99% of immigrants turn up to their court hearings.
Other presidents appropriately tried to deal with the problem at their source: the heinous violence that has prompted these parents to flee with only what they could carry, taking their children on the most perilous 2,000-mile journey – violence the US bred with the export of MS-13 from Los Angeles. That was one of the reasons for NAFTA – to improve the living standard in Mexico through trade – and it worked to a great extent (the refugees aren’t coming from Mexico, in fact, more Mexicans are leaving than are coming). Obama, faced with an unprecedented flood of refugees seeking asylum, thousands of unaccompanied teenagers among them, attempted to improve conditions in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (along with an information campaign to discourage people from coming). Indeed, the numbers of those being apprehended at the border fell sharply, from a peak of 1.6 million in 2001, to 300,000 in 2017 – hardly an invasion, or “infestation” in the White Nationalist language that Trump spews or a “crisis” except by Trump’s own concoction. Instead, Trump has said he would cut off aid to these countries, which would only exacerbate the desperation.
Trump has no such interest in actually solving a problem, certainly not improving the lives of others. And he thinks his Zero Tolerance policy plays well to his (deplorables) base, especially since they are catching on to the Republican tax scam that redistributed $1.5 trillion from working families into the pockets of the already obscenely rich and corporations (83% going to top 1%, a mere 4% of workers receiving a bonus or pay hike because of tax cuts).
So he needs to motivate his base somehow, and is literally handing them red meat.
His fear-mongering, which mimics the propaganda campaign used by Nazis, brands immigrants as “animals,” “infestation,” “aliens” “invaders” stealing jobs and harming the economy in order to dehumanize them. In fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than “native born,” and even a study by the Trump Administration found that instead of “costing” jobs, immigrants added $63 billion to the US economy over a 10-year period (the report was suppressed because of its finding, and leaked to the New York Times two months later). And aren’t we constantly told that unemployment is at record lows?
These asylum-seekers violating laws? Actually, not. It is Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who are violating the Constitution and international law and should be prosecuted for human rights abuses. And this only adds to the ever growing list of Trump’s impeachable crimes: crimes against humanity.
Now he is insisting that these immigrants have no right to due-process to make their claim in front of an immigration judge. In fact, Trump, who first used the 800,000 DACA recipients as bargaining chips, now has upped the ante in using infants. Trump is using these children, who are suffering crippling trauma that can impact their entire lives, in order to get legislation that effectively shuts down even legal immigration. He has said so: he only wants “merit” based immigration (as in the Chinese who invest in his properties in order to purchase visas).
This is a man who embraces torture and proudly proclaimed he would kill family members to “discourage” would-be terrorists. His internment camps and the legal limbo invented status he has created are akin to Guantanamo Bay, where there too, due-process and American values of “innocent until proven guilty” have been violated, and where torture has made those cases unresolvable, his use of child abuse, kidnapping to extort their parents into agreeing to deportation and Democrats to accept unacceptable legislation akin to Abu Ghraib.
Be reminded that Obama did have a compromises comprehensive Immigration Bill that passed the Senate in 2013, 68-32, but John Boehner blocked from a vote in the House, causing Obama to institute DACA; and that Trump, himself, in that brief interlude that suggested sanity when it was only the 800,000 DACA recipients being held hostage, said he would accept any compromise out of “love” and “compassion” but then promptly betrayed every deal agreed to and torpedoed every bill proposed.
If Trump really wanted to solve the problem, he would add, not detract, from the impossibly overworked 330 immigration judges required to meet a quota of cases (basically tipping the scales against petitioners, compromising the fairness and integrity of a case) and never get to wind down the backlog of 720,000 cases, rather than ridicule the plea to hire 5,000 more judges because, as Trump tweeted, “they are corrupt.” (That might be true for his judicial appointees, starting with Neil Gorsuch.)
There may be pernicious strategy to Trump’s politics, but yet another example of the complete ineptitude and corruption in the implementation – like Puerto Rico, like the Trump Travel Ban – scandals, violations of law and the Constitution that would have toppled any other administration and triggered impeachment.
The Trump administration had no plan and actually no real care, and had no process for reuniting the children with their parents, who received a receipt for their property but not their child, even infants who cannot speak; what is more, there are reports of children being drugged and abused while in custody.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has said, “Family separation can cause irreparable harm to children’s health, disrupting their brain architecture and affecting short- and long-term health.” He is also inflicting torturous anxiety on parents. What is more, the administration has not developed a mechanism to insure the parents are reunited with their children, let alone contact them, who are often removed hundreds or thousands of miles away, and have already begun deporting parents without their children, or even knowing where the children are.
The very secrecy built around Trump’s internment system should spur Congressional oversight, but Republicans, who spent 4 years and 11 separate investigations into Benghazi, have no appetite and no interest, making their own political calculations.
Trump has slapped that claim of “national security” on this and every other heinous policy (Travel Ban, illegal tariffs) but his policy has made the country less safe – pulling resources from detaining actual drug-smugglers and criminals, further enraging and alienating allies, and making the US toothless in condemning human rights abuses anywhere in the world, turning the US into a rogue nation. Moreover, its treatment of migrating mothers and small children are likely to be a recruitment tool for terrorists, just as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were. It’s no coincidence the US pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
But making the country safe was never the issue, just as there was no real immigration “crisis,” and certainly no actual “invasion”. Trump sees “Zero Tolerance” as a winning political issue for those who fear more than anything, as Pat Buchanan warned, the loss of White Power and White Supremacy as America evolves into a minority-majority nation.
What do they fear from an “infestation?” That “these” people or their children, will someday vote, or at least be counted in a census determining representation in Congress (that so far has worked in the favor of the Southerners, much as the 3/5 rule for slaves gave White Supremacists outsized power in Congress).
But this extortionist style of “negotiation” has worked for Trump throughout his corrupt career and will only continue, especially if it works now. What’s next? Stepped up deportation raids? Strip nationalized Americans of their citizenship? Suspend due process? Purges and loyalty oaths for federal workers? Lock up journalists? Martial law? Cancel elections? Imprison political opponents? Extra-judicial killings? Expand the Travel (Muslim) Ban? Because he can, because nobody will stop him?
Trump, in a familiar pattern of accusing others of doing the offences he actually commits, said these desperate immigrants have been prompted by lawyers to use the password “fleeing violence” to gain the rights of asylum-seekers. But the five Supreme Court conservatives, including Neil Gorsuch sitting in the seat stolen for him by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gave him the password which Trump will no doubt use liberally, to expand a travel ban, to deny asylum seekers due process, to commit the unconscionable crime of separating children from their parents: “national security.”
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 win — let 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.)
Nearly 200 Long Island activists turned out for a demonstration that took up two corners of the busy Jericho Turnpike and the Walt Whitman Boulevard in Huntington Station to show outrage at the blatant racism and violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, causing the death of a 32-year old woman and sending 19 others to hospital.
The rally was organized by Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists, in conjunction with Long Island Progressive Coalition, NY 2nd District Democrats (Republican Peter King’s district); Action Together Long Island, Get 2 Work Long Island, Suffolk Progressives. Widelec posted the event on moveon.org and the Indivisible site, where it was listed among many protests, rallies, vigils taking place throughout the metropolitan area, to give people, hungry for a way to express their horror at what befell Charlottesville, a means of expressing their outrage.
Drivers in a steady stream of cars honked in support; a few used hand gestures to express their opposition.
The gathering was also notable for a whole slew of Democratic elected officials and candidates, including New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, Assemblyman Phil Ramos 96th district, Brentwood newly elected Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino (who won her seat for State Assembly in a district that Trump won by 18 points), and Nassau County Legislator Arnie Drucker, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of Judy Jacobs, plus a potpourri of candidates for Huntington and Oyster Bay supervisor and town council.
“Impeach Twitler… Never Again,” read the hand-drawn sign held high by Erica Fladell of Bethpage. “United against hate.” “Silence is deafening and can be dangerous”. “Stop Fascism Now.” were among the other banners.
Indeed, Trump has shown more venomous outrage in tweets against political opponents, the press (“fake news”), even Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier, who quit a White House business advisory panel over President Trump’s statement blaming “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., as well as the “fire and fury” threat to North Korea that he said was not “tough enough,” than he does against the White Supremacists, KKK and neo-Nazis.
And Trump only belatedly – two days later – acknowledged the murder of Heather Heyer, giving no mention at all to the other 19 victims, while expressing sympathy for two state troopers killed in a helicopter crash and reaffirming his campaign pledge to “restore law and order.”
Indeed, his first statement was a kind of disclaimer of responsibility for these groups who have not just come out of shadows and fringes, but have been emboldened even validated by his ascension.
The protesters who have taken to the streets in hundreds of rallies around the country, took exemption to his statement, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” as hollow by adding “on many sides, on many sides,” as if to equivocate the level of responsibility and source of violence.
And in a classic Trumpism of denying all responsibility, he added, “it has been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time.”
The protesters though, saw it differently.
“The hoods are off. They don’t feel the need to cover their faces,” one woman declared. “White nationalism is a political position to have now.”
Indeed, in Charlottesville, former KKK leader David Duke, said, “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”
The chant on Jericho Turnpike went up:
“No Trump. No KKK
No Fascist USA”
Trump “doesn’t even denounce or condemn these hate groups..but will appoint White Supremacists [like Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, who has ties to a neo-Nazi organization in Hungary] to his administration. That’s why we’re here,” declared Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder of NY 2nd District Democrats, to challenge Republican Peter King, who has been staunchly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim under the guise of national security.
“Some of us are here because our father fought a war against Nazism,” said Virginia McNulty of Plainview. He would be horrified.”
Indeed, though Administration toadies tried to proclaim that Trump had, in fact, denounced racist violence, neo-Nazis took aid and comfort in his remarks, hailing his statement as an endorsement.
“He didn’t attack us,” The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, exulted in response to Trump’s statement on Saturday: “Refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
I come up with my own chant:
“No Fear. No Hate
No American Fascist State”
Great Neck Vigil
Later, I joined another gathering, this time in the Old Village of Great Neck, in front of the US Post Office.
People came from as far as Levittown, West Hempstead, Whitestone to the Old Village of Great Neck to register their horror and outrage at the blatant show of force by White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis that led to the death of a 32-year old woman in Charlottesville, Virginia. With just a few hours notice, dozens came to demonstrate their somber support of the founding principles and values of America.
The vigil was organized by Karen Ashkenase and David Zielenziger who posted on moveon.org and indivisible sites.
“We are standing in solidarity with Charlottesville. Join us. Bring a candle. We honor the dead, hope for recovery for the injured and demand Trump explicitly condemn alt-Right extremism and violence!”
With just a few hours notice, the vigil had drawn almost 3 dozen who came from as far as Levittown, Bellerose, West Hempstead and Whitestone.
“We wanted Great Neck to hold a vigil… to protest this outrage, killing, violence and Trump,” said David Zielenziger.
He was incensed after Trump failed to denounce White Supremacists, the KKK and the Neo-Nazis who flooded into Charlottesville, even holding a flaming torch march through the University of Virginia campus, to protest taking down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
He specifically wanted a demonstration in the Old Village (as opposed to the more trafficked areas like Great Neck Plaza) because the Village of Great Neck, along with Kings Point and Saddle Rock on the Peninsula, voted for Trump in significant majorities.
“For the community to do nothing, was outrageous.”
The Great Neck Peninsula had recently formed a new progressive action group, North Shore Action.
“Even the skin-heads came from immigrants, and if they don’t realize we’re a country of immigrants – that we’re all here together… I won’t let [Trump’ divide us,” said Joseph Varon of West Hempstead, holding a poster of the Statue of Liberty and a portion of Emma Lazarus’ poem that is at its base, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The message of the vigil, he added, is that “even though disheartened, we need to act locally, write letters, come to demonstrations, and vote. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
“This can happen openly because of an environment the Trump administration has established: condoning anti-Semitism, bigotry. The environment he created,” said Shelley Sherman of Great Neck.
Compare the protests at Ferguson, Missouri last summer after an unarmed Black man, Michael Brown, was gunned down by police, where a militarized police force came with tanks and tear gas to suppress Black protesters, while self-proclaimed vigilantes patrolled with assault rifles, she noted. In Charlottesville, the White Supremacists came with assault weapons strapped to their bodies, with helmets and shields and home-made pepper spray, and flaming torches.
“The Trump Administration created an environment that has enabled people to say, ‘Heil.’” Indeed, after Trump won election, Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader, at a Washington DC conference led the crowd in “Hail Trump” cheers and Nazi salute.
Three generations of Emru women came from Levittown to protest: Christina Emru, a 70-year old grandmother; granddaughter Sofia, 8 years old, and Dara, her daughter.
They each brought hand-written signs. Christina’s read, “I can’t believe I’m 70 years odl and I’m still fighting the same hate and racism from the 1950s.”
“The hate, the fact that all of this hatred is made acceptable, when it’s not,” exclaimed Julie Eigenberg of Great Neck. “they are making it acceptable for people to treat each other badly, that they can march through UVA with flaming torches. That’s not free speech. It’s intimidation.”
“I’m fearful it will take so long to undue the damage to our culture,” said Debra Michlewitz of Bay Terrace. “
The next day, Trump came out with a speech clearly crafted for him in which he
“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans,” he said rather begrudgingly, as if in a hostage video. He has expressed no condolence for the 32 year old woman who was killed, nor any concern for the 19 mowed down by James Alex Fields, Jr., of Ohio.
His words were clearly scripted for him – the phrases, let alone the themes, are alien to the way he actually speaks. They were certainly not from his heart, let alone his mind. And they probably were accompanied by a furtive wink-and-nod. His peeps know his true heart.
Eight-year old Sofia’s efforts were not in vain, though. What the protests, did was put Trump and the Republicans on notice, forcing Trump to make this declaration and even forcing Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions to take a stand to prosecute Heather Heyer’s murderer.
While defending Trump’s comments following the car-ramming attack in Charlottesville which took Heather Heyer’s life (he knows better than to cross his leader), Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised the Department of Justice would take “vigorous action” to defend the rights of Americans to protest bigotry.
“Well [Trump] made a very strong statement that directly contradicted the ideology of hatred, violence, bigotry, racism, white supremacy — those things must be condemned in this country,” Sessions said on the TODAY show on Monday. “They’re totally unacceptable, and you can be sure that this Department of Justice, in his administration, is going to take the most vigorous action to protect the right of people, like Heather Heyer, to protest against racism and bigotry.”
The White House just issued this statement on the American Embassy in Israel:
“While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance. President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
It doesn’t matter that Trump’s preposterously named “A New Foundation for American Greatness” budget is “dead on arrival” according to even staunch Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn. Much of it is the long-time wet dream of Paul Ryan and Republicans whose singular ambition has been to destroy the New Deal, Square Deal, Great Society. They would eliminate the minimum wage, child labor laws, food and product safety, Clean Air & Water protections, Social Security and Medicare and most notably Medicaid, sell off national parks and monuments to mining and oil and gas industrialists. And this is before taking into account tax “reform” that would take $2 trillion out of the national budget to put into the pockets of the wealthiest and corporations, so they have even more extra pocket change to spend on political campaigns.
Indeed, the Trump budget is everything that the Republicans have been dying to do, but didn’t dare. But Trump doesn’t care. He has shown that it really isn’t hard atall to cut the budget when you really don’t care what the numbers represent,when you have no clue and no interest.
The Trump Budget is built on “Trumponomics, as Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Mulvaney proudly exclaimed, “It’s a taxpayer-first budget, going line by line through the budget, trying to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are paying for those lines….What Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3 percent economic growth in this country again..And by the way, we do not believe that that is something fanciful.”
Indeed, this is a “tough love” approach to force malingerers off things like food stamps – it’s not non-living wages paid by companies pocketing record profits that keep workers below the poverty line that’s the problem.
“Getting people back to work. Create an environment where people more comfortable staying at …We no longer measure compassion by the number of programs or number of people on programs. We measure success by how many get off programs and have success in lives.”
But the figures don’t actually add up.
Economists from across the spectrum say that the math that underlies the main selling point for Trump’s budget, that it will “balance the budget” in 10 years, is a crock. It doesn’t take into account the $1 trillion or so in tax cuts that will go entirely to the wealthiest and to corporations that Trump sketched out; it assumes a 3% rate of annual economic growth, which would mean 50% more economic activity, which everyone says is beyond pie-in-the-sky; and it actually double-counts $2 trillion, prompting headlines like this one from Slate, “Donald Trump’s budget is based on a hilarious accounting fraud” and “The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump’s budget “ from Vox.
Health care a right, not a privilege? Trump’s budget projects a 28.3% DROP in spending for health services, $2 trillion less spending, over a 10-year period – despite the aging and increase in population. This includes a 27% decrease in spending for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (imagine another Ebola, Zika or Swine Flu outbreak); 25% drop in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (even as Trumpcare will no longer include mental health or addiction), 25% less spending for research and training, including 25% cut for the National Institutes of Health (no interest in finding therapies or cures for Zika, Alzheimers or “orphan” diseases that wouldn’t be profitable enough for Big Pharma); 40% cut for the Food & Drug Administration (let Big Pharma do what they will); 15% drop in food safety and inspection; 17% cut to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 16% cut in already strapped Occupation and Mine Safety and Health spending even as he overturned regulations.
$1.4 trillion gap in infrastructure spending to repair decaying roads, bridges airports? Trump would cut Transportation spending by 25% cut (65% cut to National Infrastructure Investments; 50% cut to air transportation which is already woefully in need of upgrades); 28% cut to Education, Training, Employment and Social Services.
His cuts to environmental protection – on top of slashing regulations that give communities a fighting chance to protect their air, water and public health – amount to Hague Tribunal level of war criminality for what he will do to the planet, let alone our communities. The allocation is cut 27.1% – $132 billion worth – including a 34% cut in Pollution control and abatement, 42% cut in Regulatory, enforcement and research programs, 37% cut in Hazardous substance superfund ($330 million less in 2018).
Trump would end funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—“saving” over $100 million in 2018. He cuts out $129 million in funding for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement. He cuts out $233 million in 2018 for the EPA’s Research & Development (ie. climate change science). It eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, $347 million worth in 2018; and ends funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay, amounting to $427 million in 2018.
Trump would cut General Science, Space & Technology spending by 14.7%, including 18.9% cut to General Science and basic research.
International Affairs would be cut nearly in half, including 26% cut in spending for Global Health programs; 74% cut in Refugee programs; 66% percent cut in International Disaster Assistance, 83% cut in “other” development and humanitarian assistance.”
Setting aside for a moment that Trump and his billionaire friends don’t actually pay their fare share of taxes, nor do many profitable American companies which have stashed $2 trillion in offshore accounts, the Republicans’ approach is what Hillary Clinton correctly observed, “trickle down economics on steroids.” It didn’t work with Reagan or George W. Bush. And this is even worse.
No matter: the extremity of Trump’s proposed budget, the callousness of it, will give cover to Ryan and the House Republicans and make anything they do seem “moderate”, even “compassionate.” So they cut Medicaid by $600 billion instead of $866 billion and call it a “win” for the little people; they cut the State Department by 20% instead of 30% and pat themselves on the head; they cut the EPA by 25% instead of 31%.
Here’s what Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) wrote: “Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says that Donald Trump’s new budget is ‘right on the target.’ That’s all you need to know about just how devastating Trump’s budget will be for working families in Massachusetts and across this country.
$5 billion in cuts to public education
$73 billion in cuts to Social Security
$191 billion in cuts to food stamps
$610 billion in cuts to Medicaid (and that’s in addition to the $880 billion the House Republicans are slashing in their so-called “health care” bill)
“Those are just a few of the highlights. What else gets cut? Money for children’s health care, money to combat the opioid epidemic, money for medical research, money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and so much more.
“This budget is ‘right on the target’ only if the target is to sucker-punch kids, seniors, the poor and the sick. If the Republicans make good on this budget, they could deliver the final blow to America’s working families.
“We don’t build a future by ripping health care away from tens of millions of people. We don’t build a future by starving education, by letting our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, and by shutting down the big pipeline of medical and scientific research in this country.
“We build a future by making the investments in ourselves and all of our people – so the next kid can get ahead, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. We’ve done this before in our country, and we can do it again.
”Budgets aren’t just about dollars and cents. Budgets are about our values, and this budget is morally bankrupt,” Warren wrote.
Trump and the Republicans would cut out all the things that have “made America great,” and a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, not to mention the main tools for spreading democracy and human rights across the globe (through capitalist investment, which is what China and Russia are now doing).
This is the midst of an actually strong economy, near “full employment” and as we keep hearing, a record stock market.
The Trump budget is the essence of everything that Trump is doing to weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.
As we marked Memorial Day this past weekend, a New York Times book review of “The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost,” by Cathal J. Nolan, pointed out that “Generally, one side, usually the one with a smaller economy and population, becomes exhausted, and gives up. Talk about élan and audacity all you like, he counsels, but what wins wars is demography and economic strength.” That is to say, winning a war is more a matter of “hearts and minds” vs. “bombs and brigades” as we have been seeing in America’s longest wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Everything that Trump has done so far (putting aside the fact that he is an illegitimate occupier of the Oval Office by selling out to an adversary government), will weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.
Indeed, Trump, who cozied up to the Saudis while hectoring NATO allies and the G7, on his “epic” overseas trip, came back declaring “a home run”, while Germany’s Angela Merkel told Europe, “We can no longer depend on the US or UK. We are on our own.”
New York State, along with other “blue” states like California, already send way more income tax money to Washington than we get back while the “red” states, which so pride themselves in low state taxes and low wages get far more than they send. Like tenants with a legal fight against their landlord, I would propose that New Yorkers collect their federal income tax money in an escrow account, to pay for services that should be paid by the federal government, such as police and security protection (which Trump is threatening to cut to New York and other states that don’t cooperate in his roundup of undocumented individuals), environmental restoration, health care for those whose subsidies have been eliminated, public schools, infrastructure repair, food stamps and school lunch program.
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).
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!”
More than 200,000 gathered in Washington DC in sweltering heat for the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 29 – twice the number anticipated – to register opposition to Trump Administration’s actions that will set the United States back in its effort to mitigate against the dire impacts of climate change. They formed a line extending more a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue, eventually encircling the White House for a two-minute “heartbeat”.
In the United States, tens of thousands more took to the streets 370 sister marches taking place in nearly all 50 states, from the town of Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the streets of Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major American cities. Early counts estimated that more than 50,000 people took place nationwide.
Sister marches took place on Saturday across the world including in Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and more.
“The solidarity that exists between all of us is the key to having a strong, fair economy and a clean, safe environment,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director, BlueGreen Alliance, one of dozens of organizations that partnered in the Peoples Climate March. “We can tackle climate change in a way that will ensure all Americans have the opportunity to prosper with quality jobs and live in neighborhoods where they can breathe their air and drink their water. Together we will build a clean economy that leaves no one behind.”
“This march grew out of the relationship building among some of the country’s most important progressive organizations and movements,” said Paul Getsos, National Coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. “In 2014, the march was planned as a singular moment to pressure global leaders to act on climate change. There was a simple demand – act. This march was planned before the election as a strategic moment to continue to build power to move our leaders to act on climate while creating family-sustaining jobs, investing in frontline and indigenous communities and protecting workers who will be impacted by the transition to a new clean and renewable energy economy.”
As it happened, the march coincided with the 100th day of Donald Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office.
In Washington, the march topped 200,000 people at its peak, , representing a huge cross-section of geography and demographics and far outpacing the National Park Service’s permitted space for 100,000 people. The march extended for over 20 blocks down Pennsylvania and all along the south side of the National Mall, with tens of thousands more surging along the mall to push back on the Trump administration’s policies and stand up for “climate, jobs and justice.”
The day’s activities in D.C. began at sunrise with a water ceremony led by Indigenous peoples at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Participants included Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members who traveled 1,536 miles by bus from Eagle Bend, SD to attend the ceremonies.
At an opening press conference, representatives from front line communities spoke about the impact that climate change and pollution were already having on their lives and called out the Trump administration for worsening the crisis. They called for a new renewable energy economy that created good paying, union jobs, and prioritized low-income and people of color communities.
The march kicked off at 12:30 pm in front of the Newseum, which heralds the First Amendment freedoms of religion, free press, free speech, assembly and protest, and was led by young people of color from Washington, D.C. and Indigenous leaders from across the country. Tens of thousands of marchers headed up Pennsylvania Avenue in creatively named contingents, like “Protectors of Justice,” “Reshapers of Power,” and “Many Struggles, One Home.”
(The day coincided not only with Trump’s 100th day, but the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which Trump snubbed, the first sitting president to do so; Reagan missed one after he was recovering from an assassination attempt but still sent respects.)
“When our communities are most threatened by climate; the solutions we build must allow us to have control of our resources and the energy we produce in an equitable and truly democratic way,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance. “They must create meaningful work that allows people to grow and develop to their fullest capacity. They must allow us to retain culture and traditions from our ancestors and give us the freedom of self-determination we so deserve so that we can thrive. This does not come easy and it must come with resistance and visionary opposition. Our existence depends on it.”
By 2 pm, in sweltering heat for an April day (nearing 90 compared to average of 79) that seemed to validate Global Warming, organizers had succeeded in their goal of completely surrounding the White House. Marchers sat down in the streets in a silent sit-in to recognize the damage caused by the Trump administration over the last 100 days and those who are losing their lives to the climate crisis.
At the appointed time, everyone created a heartbeat, tapping out a rhythm on their chests or clapping while drummers kept the time, lasting 2 minutes.
“The heartbeat was meant to show that while march participants came from many different backgrounds and communities, their hearts beat as one. It was a heartbeat of resistance, one that began with the Women’s March and will continue through the Peoples Climate March to May Day and beyond,” the organizers said.
“Six months ago, my kids woke up to half a foot of water in our living room,” said Cherri Foytlin, director of BOLD Louisiana and spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Now, Trump wants to open up the Gulf Coast to even more offshore drilling. But we have a message for him: we are not afraid, and we will not stop fighting. With 100 and 500 year storms now coming every year, we are fighting for our lives.”
After the heartbeat, marchers rose up with a collective roar and continued down to the Washington Monument for a closing rally. Speakers at the rally celebrated the success of the day, while many marchers gathered in “Circles of Resistance,” some set up around their parachute banners, to talk about how to continue to build their movement.
As of 3:30 pm, crowds of people still remained at the Monument while marches continued to take place across the country. The Peoples Climate Movement, a coalition of over 900 organizations representing many of the major social justice, labor and environmental groups in the country, has pledged to keep the momentum going after Saturday, from supporting the May Day marches on Monday to organizing at the local level.
“Today’s actions are not for one day or one week or one year,” said Getsos. “We are a movement that is getting stronger everyday for our families, our communities and our planet. To change everything, we need everyone.”
Promising Ongoing Resistance
The march took place on the 100th day of Trump occupying the Oval Office and the irony was not lost on the marchers, who chanted, “We won’t go away. Welcome to your 100th day.”
Indeed, Trump seemed to go out of his way to stick it to those who believe climate change is an existential threat to communities, the nation and the planet.
On the eve of the climate march, the EPA announced it was scrubbing its website of any mention of climate change.
Trump has shown utter contempt for climate change, and specifically the hard-fought initiatives Obama put through to transition the economy away from global-warming exacerbating carbon emissions and put the creation of clean, renewable energy industries on a level playing field with the subsidized Fossil Fuel industry.
Trump has shown contempt for local communities, particularly targeting Native American communities, in swiftly (and proudly) restarting the Keystone XL pipeline (his banker to which he owns millions of dollars is a leading investor) and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which threatens the water supply to native community at Standing Rock.
Just before the People’s Climate March, as if to add insult to injury, his administration backed away from challenging the lawsuit – brought by EPA Scott Pruitt when he was Oklahoma Attorney General – to Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which put new restrictions on coal-fired utility plants. That was the key mechanism that Obama put forward to meet the US commitment to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.
And he instructed Interior Secretary Zinke to open up oil and gas drilling on the continental shelf – which would require reversing Obama and Bush’s creation of marine sanctuaries that protected – under the pretext of an “American First Energy Independence Policy,” which Zinke admitted would also open the way for US Oil & Gas extractors to export US supplies. Trump is literally salivating over the 1.7 billion acres protected, where Zinke said, there are “90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, 327 trillion cubic ft of undiscovered recoverable natural gas.”
Through high-handed executive orders, he has reversed regulations or ended implementation or enforcement that now will allow extraction companies to dump toxic waste into streams; he opened the way for a chemical to be used, for lead ammunition that kills birds that feed on the carcasses of animals brought down by those bullets. He doesn’t care.
And his budget promises to gut the EPA, shutting down entirely climate change research, eliminating 3000 positions.
And on the eve of the march, Pruitt’s EPA scrubbed its website of any findings connected to climate change.
“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” J.P. Freire, the agency’s associate administrator for public affairs, said in a statement. “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
The first page to be updated is a page reflecting President Trump’s Executive Order on Energy Independence, which calls for a review of the so-called Clean Power Plan. Language associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date. Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed, according to the statement from Scott Pruitt’s EPA.
According to the Washington Post, an EPA staffer stated “we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site.
At the rally beneath the Washington Monument that followed the march, an EPA employee – who had spent two decades in the Marines before working for 17 years at the EPA, said, “What this Administration is doing to us would be considered an act of war.” Indeed, the very chemical in sarin gas, which Trump used to justify bombing Syria, was just okayed by the Trump Administration.
Trump, he said, is vilifying federal workers like the EPA who work to protect the American people. “We are federal servants. We take the same oath as I took when I joined the Marine Corps. We’ve been made scapegoats.
“America is not for sale,” he said. “We will fight back.”
This past week, President Trump signed an executive order to “review” the last 21 years of large national monument designations — including Bears Ears National Monument – a huge affront to every American whose birthright Trump would sell off to satisfy corporate greed, but especially, yet another attack and violation of treaties made with Native Americans.
“Not only are national monuments an inherent part of Western culture, they hold historical significance to local Tribes and contribute to a $887 billion dollar recreation industry that employs millions of people around the country,” writes Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).
“We need to come together and fight on this. One of the most consistent marks of Trump’s presidency so far has been an outright assault on environmental protections. He could do more damage by rescinding national monument designations and selling off public lands to the highest bidder.”
Indeed, the Peoples Climate March will not be a one-off, a show of strength to a dumb and deaf Trump Administration and its complicit Congress.
Sustaining Momentum After People’s Climate March
Climate activists are looking to sustain momentum and are focusing on local actions to counter the federal dismantling of climate action initiatives.
“Across America, DFA members are mobilizing in their own communities to fight for environmental justice and resist Trump and his oil industry friends. Even after today’s marches, we still have a lot of work to do,” Robert Cruickshank, Democracy for America stated.
“Tomorrow, DFA Electoral Director Annie Weinberg will be leading a training in D.C. hosted by our friends at Climate Hawks Vote.She’ll be training climate activists on how to win elections and build a more reflective democracy.
“In fights to stop coal and oil exports, to block pipelines, and resist oil companies, it’s become clear that elections at every level of government matter. City and county governments grant crucial permits. State governments regulate emissions and help develop renewable energy sources. And the federal government plays the biggest role of all.
“Humanity was already failing to stop climate change before Trump took office. But now our climate is poised to get much, much worse. If we don’t act now, we may lose our final chance at averting a catastrophe.”
Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action is launching a new organizing strategy aimed at winning local elections.
“Our plan is simple but incredibly ambitious: lay siege to fossil fuels at the local level. Everywhere. All at once. We’ll push local lawmakers to do everything in their power to obstruct the fossil fuel industry. With Trump opening a new wave of oil and gas drilling, we know we need to stand strong locally to create the clean energy future that we need.,” writes Katy Kiefer, Director of Distributed Organizing, Food & Water Watch. “Onward to the Clean Energy Revolution.”
Other organizations, like Earth Justice, are mounting lawsuits based on the public health and environmental destruction of rolling back environmental initiatives and violating the spirit and letter of the Clean Air and Clear Water acts, as well as the Antiquities Act.