Tag Archives: terrorism

Trump, NRA Have This to Say to Americans: You Must Be Soldiers and Martyrs on the Altar of Gun Rights

Mothers who lost their child to gun violence at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Jim Dean of Democracy for America says, “Congress has caved to the NRA after every mass shooting this decade, from Sandy Hook to San Bernardino, from Umpqua Community College in Oregon to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and so many more. They will keep doing so until we defeat them at the ballot box.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Donald Trump loves all things “biggest”. Like the charge he gets over the United States being hit by the biggest climate catastrophes in history, Trump probably took a measure of delight at the “biggest” mass murder in US history – at this writing 59 dead and 527 injured in just a few minutes at the hands of a 64-year old white male spraying bullets with a military-grade assault rifle from 32nd floor of the Mandalay Hotel on an open-air folk-music concert attended by 22,000. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

In fact, there have already been 521 mass shootings in the 477 days since the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, the last record holder, drawing no remark from Trump. But this one is one for the record books.

Trump, predictably, evoked prayer and called for flying “our great flag” at half-staff. He calls for “unity” because it means mindlessly following authority. “God lives in the hearts of those who grieve.” Sure, that will salve the loss of loved ones. And to the wounded, numbering more than 500? “I pledge to you our support from this day forward.” What does that mean, exactly, when he is doing his best to take away health care from tens of millions, when any concept of health care he advocates would remove mental illness from the list of required conditions covered under Obamacare? Who pays for the multiple surgeries and rehabilitation to save and restore victims’ lives?

Imagine the tone he would have taken if the murderer was Muslim or a terrorist or a foreigner.

Trump will do his best to deflect from this tragedy, say “this is not the time” to consider sensible gun restrictions. He will call for greater security (police state), shift responsibility onto the hotel, say that 33,000 deaths a year is the “price of freedom” and move on to tax so-called “reform” aimed at furthering the redistribution of wealth to the already ridiculously wealthy and politically powerful like the NRA. Trump, the Republicans and the NRA would have us be soldiers and martyrs, terrorized and dying on the altar of gun rights. In the same way as he never criticizes Putin, Trump will never go against the NRA.

Will he be a leader and call for sensible gun violence prevention measures that are supported by 80%  of Americans including overwhelming majorities of gun-owners and NRA members, like universal background checks? Of course not. Trump has already overturned Obama orders desperate to stem gun violence, including barring people who are deemed “mentally incapacitated” from buying a gun.

Instead, the Gun Lobby – the NRA and its gun manufacturer masters – knowing they have an dufus ally in the White House and a complicit Republican majority in Congress (even after Congressman Scalise was shot and his Republican compatriots at baseball practice fired on), are pushing to ease what little gun regulations there are, for example, opening up the floodgates to the use of silencers so that innocents can be even easier prey and police would have an even harder time locating a perpetrator. In 4 minutes, 1600 rounds fired, dozens die, hundreds face lifelong injury (and how are injuries and recovery paid for with the dismantling of health care?).

The gun lobby now is enthusiastically pushing for “Concealed Carry Reciprocity,” which would overrule any state’s gun restrictions to the weakest states laws. New York State’s tough restrictions would be nullified.

There is so much that could be done and should be done if Congress really cared to stem terrorism and tragedy and promote public health and safety: universal background checks, restoring the ban on assault weapons and mega-ammo magazines; requiring gun holders to register (after all, you have to register to vote) and universal background checks; regulating online sales and ending the gun-show loophole, banning people on the Terror Watch List from buying guns, ending Stand Your Ground. And easing access to mental health care. And while you are removing the ban suppressing pediatricians Hippocratic oath and freedom of speech to counsel parents to lock away their guns; overturning the Dickey Amendment to allow research on gun safety; requiring federal dollars for military and police weaponry be “smart guns” (like smart phones) to turn the industry around.

You can never know who will become a murderer  – how often do you hear people say, “Who would have believed”, “He was such a nice man”.

But there is one common denominator for all these tragedies: the ease with which individuals can obtain weapons of mass destruction. ISIS has already invited would-be terrorists to take advantage of lax gun laws. You can’t stop every act of terror – but it is plainly clear that incidents that involve other weapons like knives and machetes and even cars, do not have the same lethal success of assault weapons.

“Accessibility to weapons is the greatest national security threat in the US,” a security adviser tells NPR, and Nevada has some of the loosest gun laws in the US. Combine that with what we like to call a “free society.” A lone wolf is the worst nightmare of law enforcement because they are impossible to track or detect.”

The Bill of Rights does not allow for any restriction on guns? Nonsense: read the full 2nd Amendment, not just the “shall not be infringed” part and you will see that it is the ONLY amendment that has qualifications and limitations built in: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state….” If you would be an “originalist” taking the 2ndamendment literally, you would restrict gun ownership to people who are in the National Guard or military or police – those who provide for the “security of a free state” and the “common defense” – there is nothing about an individual’s unlimited right to have a gun. And if you would be a true ideological, fundamentalist “originalist” you would restrict a gun to a single-ball musket, which was the most advanced technology of the time, a time when people had to hunt their food and protect themselves from Indians and in the absence of a standing army, settlers had to defend against an invading force.

On the other hand, the Constitution provides for a government “by the people, for the people” and for voting, and the Trumpists have no problem whatsoever imposing such onerous voter registration procedures and election site restrictions that become obstacles to the right to vote. Isn’t that interesting: it’s okay to require voter registration but not gun registration. In fact, in Texas, a gun permit is acceptable ID for voting, but a college student ID is not.

You can never know who will become a murderer (how often do you hear people say, “Who would have believed”, “he was such a nice man”) – as is the case of the Las Vegas shooter, who did not seem to conform with any of the usual attributes of a mass murderer (white male, 64 years old, no political or religious agenda, well-off, in a relationship, no history of mental illness). But there is a common denominator for all these tragedies – Tucson, Orlando, San Bernardino, Columbine, Virginia Tech  – the ease with which individuals can obtain weapons of mass destruction. You can’t stop every act of terror – but it is plainly clear that incidents that involve other weapons – knives, machetes – do not have the same lethal success of assault weapons.

Consider how much of our GDP goes to security in order to protect the “freedom” of gun owners but take away the security, freedom, and the very lives of everyone else . Just look at the money we spend to safeguard our schools that could otherwise go to actually teaching. Now hotels, amusement parks, churches, shopping malls, and concert venues will also have to allocate their operating budgets. Think of the rights we allow to be trampled in order leave unrestrained the 2nd amendment: 1st amendment rights of free speech and assembly and 4th amendment right against unreasonable search and privacy. Would that they value voting rights as highly.

But as Senator Bernie Sanders reminded us, there have been more mass shootings this year than days of the year, this is just the most sensational.

“..it should be clear to all that we have got to do everything we can to stop guns from falling into the hands of people who should not have them. It is long past time for Congress to take action on gun safety to save innocent lives.”

Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, stated,  “Easy access to guns–particularly weapons designed to kill many people rapidly–repeatedly leads to tragedy and loss of life.  Rather than ‘thoughts and prayers’ from our elected officials, we need action to address this public health epidemic.”

Jim Dean, chair of Democracy For America, put it more bluntly:

“How is Congress responding to last night’s terror attack in Las Vegas? By getting ready to pass a bill to make it easier to buy silencers — a top priority for the NRA.

“Republican elected officials offer their thoughts and prayers. They lower flags to half-staff. But they will never act to stop gun violence and mass shootings, because they’re in league with the NRA.

“The NRA is unrepentant. They and their allies in Congress don’t think there’s anything wrong with what happened in Las Vegas last night. In fact, they are doubling down in support of laws that enable white men like Stephen Paddock to use guns to terrorize their families and communities.

“Congress has caved to the NRA after every mass shooting this decade, from Sandy Hook to San Bernardino, from Umpqua Community College in Oregon to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and so many more. They will keep doing so until we defeat them at the ballot box.

“The NRA and their Republican allies are not just promoting gun violence — they are promoting white supremacy and toxic masculinity.

“They refuse to acknowledge that these mass shooters are terrorists, because the people doing the shooting are mostly white men. When it’s a person of color, however, they’re quick to call them terrorists.

“The NRA’s primary agenda is to promote a culture of gun ownership among white men — often by demonizing people of color as threats. The NRA vehemently defends “stand your ground” laws that were used to let the man who killed Trayvon Martin off the hook.

“The NRA also openly enables violence against women, including by their past opposition to legislation to keep guns out of the hands of men who have threatened or committed domestic violence. Many mass shooters have a history of violent threats and acts against women. It’s part of the ‘profile’ of these shooters now.”

Gabby Giffords, who was an Arizona Congresswoman until she was shot in the head by a mass murderer only stopped when one of his guns jammed, and now heads Americans for Responsible Solutions, wrote: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this shooting, their families, and their friends. But the truth is, for those who have the power to act and to save lives, thoughts and prayers are not nearly enough.

“So today, I am praying for my former colleagues as well — that they find the courage to make progress on the issue of gun violence in America…

“Some will say that now is not the time to have this conversation, but the truth is that we cannot wait. Congress cannot delay. Now is exactly the right time to take positive action that will keep our our communities safer. The nation is counting on them.

“I also know enough from my time in Congress that action is only possible if people make their voices heard. So today, especially today, I want to ask you to do just that — to demand action from our elected leaders. Action that will save lives:

““Tell Congress: ENOUGH is ENOUGH. Pass legislation to make our communities safer from gun violence. To do nothing is not acceptable. Now is the time for action.”

“We watch, time and time again, as people describe these mass shootings as unimaginable acts of evil, but the sad fact is that this is not true. There is no other advanced nation in the world where these kinds of mass shootings happen with this kind of frequency.

“The only thing that is unimaginable is the continuous legislative inaction on this issue.

“Hopefully this time will be different, but I know that’s only possible if all of us are willing to act.”

Trump, who has already proved himself incompetent as a leader and who condones police brutality and torture and tells rallies, “Your 2nd Amendment is safe with me,” will do nothing beyond tweet his prayers and attack his critics.

Yes, this is one for the history books. The question is will it be surpassed? Thanks to the utter lack of sensible gun violence prevention, it is all too easy to do so.

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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

UN Ambassador Haley: Trump at United Nations General Assembly will be a Show of Strength by the US

Donald Trump will deliver his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning. Ambassador Haley, who said she has seen his speech, said, “I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

People around the world are holding their collective breath as to what Donald Trump will do when he comes to the United Nations for the 72nd General Assembly. Will he be like a bull in a china shop, or will he stick to the speech written for him on the teleprompter? At a press briefing at the White House September 15, the National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outlined what is supposed to happen, and the policies and positions Trump will proclaim. Here is a highlighted transcript – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I also want to begin by acknowledging the horrific attacks in Europe [London, England where an improvised explosive was set off in the underground during rush hour and in  Burgundy, France where a counterterrorism soldier was attacked].  The United States, of course, stands in solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom and France.  We will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to prevent attacks.  And, of course, the United States remains committed to defeating terrorist organizations, as well as their evil ideology.

The President has been unambiguous here, energizing our defeat-ISIS campaign, and calling on Muslim-majority nations to combat extremism and to end financing of terrorist organizations.  We will defend our people and our values against these cowardly attacks, and we will always stand with countries around the world to do the same.

Now, I want to turn to President Trump’s trip next week to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.  The President’s consistent message across all of his engagements throughout the week will emphasize three goals common to all nations who will be gathered there:  First, to promote peace.  Second, to promote prosperity.  And third, to uphold sovereignty and accountability. 

A peaceful world depends on the contributions of all nations.  We must share responsibility for international security, while each country protects the security of its own people.

Prosperity is also a shared responsibility.  The President looks forward to furthering economic cooperation, investment opportunities, and new business ties with other governments and businesses across the world.  As always, this administration’s ironclad commitment to free, fair, and reciprocal trade and access to markets will be the bedrock of our economic talks.

Sovereignty and accountability are the essential foundations of peace and prosperity.  America respects the sovereignty of other countries, expects other nations to do the same, and urges all governments to be accountable to their citizens.  That accountability is broken down in places such as Venezuela and Syria.  And we also see, today, revisionist powers who are threatening the sovereignty in the greater Middle East, Eastern and Southern Europe, and in East Asia.

Now, let me quickly run through the President’s schedule.  On Monday, the President will join senior U.N. leadership and the leaders of more than 120 other nations to discuss reforming the institution.  The President will express support for Secretary General Guterres’s reform effortsThe United Nations, of course, holds tremendous potential to realize its founding ideals, but only if it’s run more efficiently and effectively.

That day, the President will also meet with the leaders of France and Israel, two of America’s closest allies.  While their conversations will be wide-ranging, we expect that Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its violation of the sovereignty of nations across the Middle East, to be a major focus.

Monday evening, the President will host a working dinner with Latin American leaders.  He’s looking forward to discussing the crisis in Venezuela, as well as our increasingly strong economic ties, shared goals for elevating the prosperity of our peoples, and the extraordinary success of likeminded Latin American nations in recent decades.

The President’s Tuesday morning speech to the General Assembly will emphasize the need for states to promote peace and prosperity, while upholding sovereignty and accountability as indispensable foundations of international order.  He will urge all states to come together to address grave dangers that threaten us all.  If nations meet these challenges, immense opportunity lies before us. 

Later that day, the President will have lunch with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meet with this year’s General Assembly President, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia, and meet with the Emir of Qatar.  In the evening, he will host a traditional diplomatic reception.

On Wednesday, the President will meet with the leaders of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the United Kingdom, and Egypt.  He will host a working luncheon with African leaders to discuss how the United States can help African nations develop their economies, address urgent challenges, and strengthen security relationships and economic relationships between our nations. 

Finally, on Thursday, the President will meet with the leaders of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.  The latter two countries in particular have suffered direct and persistent attacks on their sovereignty in recent years.

He will also host a lunch with the leaders of South Korea and Japan.  As Kim Jong-un’s most recent missile launch demonstrates, North Korea remains one of the world’s most urgent and dangerous security problems.  It is vital that all nations work together to do our utmost to solve that problem.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Haley.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Thank you very much.  And I will tell you that next week is not going to be short on topics.  I think, first of all, we can all say it is a new day at the U.N.  The U.N. has shifted over the past several months.  It’s not just about talking, it’s about action.

The members are starting to get used to act, whether it’s Security Council resolutions, whether it’s with U.N. reform, whether it’s with peacekeeping.  We’re starting to see a lot of changes at the U.N.  They are all anxious to see what the U.S. delegation looks like next week, and I think they will be heavily impressed with the fact that we have the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and many members of the National Security Council coming to really show the U.S. strength that we have in the world.

And I think — obviously this will be the first time that the President has addressed the General Assembly.  They are all very anxious to hear what he has to say.  And I think that he will make quite an impact in terms of all of the issues that we’re dealing with.

We have three events that will be extremely important.  First, the President will highlight the U.N. reform event.  It is very, very important.  We’ve got a massive reform package being led by the Secretary General that really streamlines not just the processes, but also the budget as it goes forward, and makes the U.N. much more effective.  We basically have the President headlining a U.N. reform effort, which would really support the Secretary General.  But the impressive part is, we asked other countries to sign on to their support of reform, and 120 countries have signed on and will be in attendance.  That’s a miraculous number.

The Vice President will be doing two very important briefings.  He’s going to do one on Human Rights Council.  Now more than ever, human rights matters.  We say all the time that if the government doesn’t take care of its people, bad things will happen.  And I think we’re seeing that in multiple places, and that’s all the reason why the Human Rights Council really needs to be effective.  We have offered reform.  I think the Vice President will go in and not only support the reform, but talk about why it’s needed and the areas that are really needing to be addressed when it comes to human rights.

The second one he’s going to do is on peacekeeping.  And in the last several months, we have taken every peacekeeping mandate and changed it.  Basically, we have saved half a billion dollars in peacekeeping.  But before anyone thinks that’s a travesty, basically the way they handled peacekeeping in the past was, if there was a challenged area they would throw more troops at it.  But they didn’t see if the troops were trained or give them the equipment to do their job.  Now we’re going towards the political solution, making sure the troops are trained and armed, making sure that we’re more effective.  So it’s smarter and it cut half a billion, and in some cases we’re having to increase, and in some cases we’re having to decrease. 

So having the Vice President talk about the importance of the peacekeeping being effective is going to be very important.

And then, as I said, there are no shortage of issues, with North Korea being front and center.  Iran will be an issue.  Syria will certainly be talked about.  Terrorism efforts and how we counter that is a huge topic on what we’re dealing with.  And obviously the humanitarian issues that we face around the world.

So, with that, I think the General Assembly is going to be quite active next week, and I think the U.S. is going to be very strong next week.  And we look forward to a very good week.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Gentleman in the center.

Q    Thank you, General.  My question is about North Korea, which is perhaps the biggest foreign policy challenge for President Trump right now.  About a month ago, the President issued a threat to North Korea; he warned of “fire and fury.”  And as you know, Ambassador, at the U.N. Security Council you’ve imposed tougher sanctions on North Korea.  Both of these efforts do not seem to be changing their behavior.  Is it time for the U.S. to change its approach to North Korea?  Is that something that you’re contemplating?  And, General, if you could weigh on this well.  I appreciate it.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think what was really important with North Korea was that we try and push through as many diplomatic options as we have.  If you look at the resolutions that have passed in the last month, the two of them, they cut 30 percent of the oil.  They banned all the laborers.  They banned 90 percent of the exports.  They banned joint ventures.  We’ve basically taken and, in the words of North Korea, we have strangled their economic situation at this point.  That’s going to take a little bit of time, but it has already started to take effect.

What we are seeing is they continue to be provocative, they continue to be reckless.  And at that point, there’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here when you’ve cut 90 percent of the trade and 30 percent of the oil. 

So, having said that, I have no problem kicking it to General Mattis, because I think he has plenty of options.

Q    General, can you weigh on that too?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I’d just emphasize the point that Ambassador Haley made.  These sanctions are just now taking effect.  What’s really important is rigorous enforcement of those sanctions so that we can really let the economic actions and diplomacy progress as best we can.  But I think we ought to make clear what’s different about this approach is, is that we’re out of time, right?  As Ambassador Haley said before, we’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road.

And so for those who have said and have been commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option.  Now, it’s not what we would prefer to do, so what we have to do is call on all nations, call on everyone to do everything we can to address this global problem short of war.

So that is implementing now these significant sanctions that have just now gone into place, and it is convincing everyone to do everything that they can and that it’s in their interest to do it.

What’s different, I think, about this approach to North Korea is worth noting.  First of all, there is consensus among all key nations that denuclearization of the Peninsula is the only acceptable objective. 

     The second thing is, this is not an issue between the United States and North Korea.  This is an issue between the world and North Korea.

And the third recognition is, there is a lot that we can about it together.  And so we need time, obviously, for any strategy to work.  It is a sound approach to a very difficult problem, and we’ll see if it succeeds.

Q    Ambassador Haley, a conference call preceded your briefing here.  Jonathan Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that next week’s UNGA will be as much the world taking measure of the United States as it is the U.S. speaking to the world.  He went on to say that the UNGA, because of its very quick meetings, is sort of like speed dating from hell, and that it’s a very sophisticated dance that neither Secretary of State Tillerson or the President have a particularly strong point on.  What would you say to people who are wondering how the U.S. will do at next week’s UNGA?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think there’s a lot of interest in how the U.S. is going to do, and they’re going to find out we are going to be solid, we’re going to be strong. 

If you look at all of the meetings that the national security team has, these are important meetings.  These aren’t just wasting time.  This is going to talk about terrorism; this is going to talk about the issues in North Korea; this is going to talk about the issue in Burma and what we’re dealing with there; Venezuela — all of these issues.  No one is going to grip and grin.  The United States is going to work.

And I think with all of the challenges around the world, I think the international community is going to see that.  This is a time to be serious, and it’s a time for us to talk out these challenges and make sure there’s action that follows it.

Q    One of the big questions from some of the people outside of this room and other countries is, in addition to what we do militarily is the humanitarian effort.  And we’ve been criticized for not being involved in the humanitarian effort too much, especially by the third world.  So when you go to New York, in addition to addressing the security measures, how are you going to address the criticism about the U.S. not leading humanitarian efforts?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  We actually have led humanitarian efforts and continue to.  Human rights, in general, is very important.  That’s something we’ve been loud on, which is the fact that you have to protect human rights. 

But the humanitarian side of what we’re seeing in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; what we’re seeing with the Syrian refugees that are in Turkey and Jordan; the fact that we are trying to deal with Burma and find out ways that we can get humanitarian access in there.  Yemen is something that the United States has been working very closely with the Saudis on and the U.N. to try and make sure we get humanitarian access.

So we have been as active and vocal and leading the charge on humanitarian access in all of these areas, and we are making a difference.  I think just in Syria, we’ve had over $3 billion that we’ve given, in terms of helping that situation.  Venezuela, you saw what we did with the sanctions, but we’re making sure they get that.  Right now in Burma, we are taking that very seriously, and that’s of utmost importance that we get front and center on that one.

Q    I have a question first to General McMaster before I get to one on North Korea for you.  General, you mentioned the, obviously, terror incident overseas in London.  The President tweeted this morning that it was “sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard.”  You may have seen Prime Minister may say it was “not helpful for people to speculate.”  Did the President share information that he wasn’t supposed to?  And if not, why was he speculating?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I think what the President was communicating is that, obviously, all of our law enforcement efforts are focused on this terrorist threat for years.  Scotland Yard has been a leader, as our FBI has been a leader.

So I think if there was a terrorist attack here, God forbid, that we would say that they were in the sights of the FBI.  So I think he didn’t mean anything beyond that.

Q    I’m sorry, I’m not clear.  Meaning he was saying generally terrorists are a focus for Scotland Yard, or was he saying in this specific incident, Scotland Yard knew potentially this was coming?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I think he means generally that this kind of activity is what we’re trying to prevent.  And so these organizations that are responsible for it, whatever comes out of this investigation, that remains to be seen.  It is likely that law enforcement had been working on that problem set.

Q    And did that come up in the call with Prime Minister May?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I was not on that call this morning.

Q    Ambassador, to you, on North Korea.  Obviously there’s more U.N. Security Council action that could be taken.  Are you at all hopeful that there is any chance for a full oil embargo as this administration had wanted?  Or at what point — President Trump himself said this was a small step, the last U.N. Security Council vote.  I think disagreeing with you, but Secretary Tillerson agreed with him that it seemed to have been a small step.  So at what point does this administration take a bigger step and, for example, put tougher sanctions on China in order to put pressure on North Korea?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well I think, first of all, let’s talk about what a big sanctions resolution this was.  The first one was a billion dollars.  The second one was $1.3 billion, not counting the 30 percent decrease in oil.  We did a 55 — and just imagine if this happened to the United States — a 55 percent reduction in diesel and oil.  Overall ban of natural gas, overall ban of any substitutes; overall ban of textiles; stopping the labor program, which we call as modern-day slavery; stopping all joint ventures so foreign investment goes in there.

We have cut off now 90 percent of trade going into North Korea, and they are saying that this was strangling.  So whether some believe it’s big or small, I think what the President is saying is this is just the beginning of what we can do.

So it’s going to be — by the time we get going on this, if we have to go further, this is going to look small compared to what we do.

But no, it was a massive sanctions bill, and I think the fact that we had a 15-0 record and you have China onboard and Russia onboard, I think that’s very important.  We’ve cut 30 percent of the oil.  Is there more you can do?  There’s always more you can do, but then you get into the humanitarian aspect of it, which is at what point are you going and actually hurting down to the people of North Korea.  But we will always explore all options that we have. 

Yes, in the red.

Q   Thank you, Ambassador.  You said that Syria is going to be on the agenda.  As you know, today Turkey, Russia, and Iran agreed to deploy 1,500 monitors in the Idlib province.  Does that leave the U.S. behind?  And what exactly the focus will be when you talk about Syria at the U.N. next week?

And, General, if I can, you said that the meeting between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu will talk about Iran.  How much of the peace process with the Palestinians will take place in that meeting?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think the efforts in Syria have been remarkable — both Syria and Iraq.  To see how we have really bulldozed through ISIS in the way that we have shows how strong the U.S. had been in partnership with them, but I think we’re also looking at post-ISIS — what does that look like?  And I can tell you, Iran is not going to be in charge, and Iran is not going to have any sort of leadership in that situation to where they could do more harm.  

But Syria is always going to be a topic.  I think we continue to be strong in making sure there’s no chemical weapons and making sure that we’re looking at the humanitarian situation.  But the U.S. is a very strong partner in the resolution for Syria and will continue to be until we know that everything is stable.

Q    (Inaudible) that does not include the U.S.?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well, I think we’re not going to be satisfied until we see a solid and stable Syria, and that is not with Assad in place.  But what we are going to do is continue to be very effective and be a part of that process so that we get to a resolution.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Yeah, I’ll just say that, of course the President will talk about the prospects for lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, among a broad range of regional issues, with really all of the leaders he’s meeting during the week.

Q    Ambassador, two quick questions.  The first one is, the fact that president Putin and President Xi Jinping won’t be there, will it have an impact on the what the outcome of whatever you’ll discuss on Syria and North Korea?

And, General, you’ve been insisting a lot on the respect of sovereignty.  Wouldn’t an investment in a peacekeeping mission be part of getting involved and having a stronger impact on this?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I do think that it’s still going to be strong and have an impact because you’ve got two very strong foreign ministers from Russia and China that are going to be there.  And the idea that we’re going to be talking about Syria and North Korea, and Iran, and all of those other things, I think it will be serious discussions.

And I think the fact that President Xi and President Putin couldn’t be there is not going to change the effect of the talks that we have next week.

Q    Are you disappointed that they’re not going to show up?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  That’s their choice to not show up.

GENERAL MCMASTER:  I would just add on to say the U.N. General Assembly is not a substitute for bilateral relationships with any nations.  And as you know, the President has been working very closely, especially with President Xi, on this common problem and this world problem of North Korea.

So those discussions will continue, and it will continue in the context of multilateral engagements but also in context of our bilateral relationship with China.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Back in the back.

Q    Thank you, Madam Ambassador, General.  A question regarding etiquette.  In the past, Presidents have copiously avoided certain world leaders.  A decade ago, President Bush avoiding President Ahmadinejad when he was at the opening of the U.N.  Will the President speak to President Maduro at all when he is there?

GENERAL MCMASTER:  Yeah, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll speak with President Maduro.  As you know, the United States designated President Maduro after he victimized his own people, denied them their rights under his own constitution.  And I think as the President has made clear, he’s willing to talk at some point in the future, but it would have to be after rights are restored to the Venezuelan people.

Q    Thank you, Madam Ambassador.  Two questions.  One, what is the future of India and the United Nations membership and Security Council?  Because when Prime Minister Modi visited the White House he brought up this issue with President Trump.

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Well, I think that Security Council reform is still being talked about, and I know that it’s something that India wants.  Many other countries want it as well.  So we’ll have to wait and see.

Q    Do you have any indications right now that sanctions will work towards North Korea?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  You have to look at how much has been cut off.  They’ve already started to feel it, but they’re getting ready to feel 90 percent of their exports going away; 30 percent of their oil.  Imagine what that would do to the United States if it was there.

And if you look at what — I was looking at what North Korea was saying.  They said it was a full-scale economic blockade, suffocating its state and its people.  This is dramatic.  This is something — and not only is it dramatic, but you’re looking at — Peru has dropped ties.  Thailand has dropped ties.  We’re seeing so many just kind of get rid of either the ambassadors or the trade that they’re doing.  There is no way that North Korea doesn’t feel this.

Now, how they choose to respond, this is totally in their hands on how they respond.

One more question.  I’ll let you pick who gets the last question.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Appreciate it.  So I was wondering — we talked a little bit about the President, the speech that he’ll deliver on Tuesday.  But I’m wondering if you could talk in any more detail now — and I’m sure we’ll get more detail later — will he be sending direct messages about Iran and North Korea in that speech?  Are there any more specific themes?

And also, Ambassador Haley, I wanted to ask you: On the question of U.N. funding, I know reform is probably an important part of this question, but as a candidate, President Trump was — then-candidate Trump was somewhat skeptical about the reach and the import of the U.N., the point of it long term.  As President I’m sure he’s learned more.  Is the U.S. committed both to fulfilling its financial obligations?  And where does it stand on terms of its voluntary funding for the U.N. going forward?  Would you talk a little bit about that?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  Right.  To start off with the speech that the President gives, I think you can see it for yourself.  I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.

Q    So it’s written, and you’ve seen it?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I have seen it, yes.  And then the second part of it is, the U.N. — when I originally spoke with the President, what I said is, we’ll see what we can make of it.  And that’s the thing is, we’re creating an opportunity.  We’re making the most of it.  We’re moving foreign policy.  We’re changing the way peacekeeping is done.  We’re really bringing up human rights.  And more importantly, what I appreciate is they stopped focusing on the commas and the periods, and we’re actually acting.  We’re actually seeing strong things happens. 

And so I think the President has always believed there’s great potential in the United Nations, but I think now the world is seeing it — that it is actually changing, and it’s actually becoming more effective.

Q    Will he firmly articulate his intention to continue traditional U.S. funding at full levels?

AMBASSADOR HALEY:  I think you’ll have to wait and see.  Thank you very much.

Q    Sarah, a follow-up on something that Ambassador Haley said.  She mentioned that she would feel comfortable kicking this issue to Secretary Mattis.  Should Americans be concerned about the possibility of war?  And how much time are you willing to give China to implement the resolutions in the U.N. Security Council agreement?

PRESS SECRETARY SARAH SANDERS:  As we’ve said many times before, we’re not going to broadcast, and I’m not going to lay out a timetable on what that would look like.  We’re continuing to keep all options on the table.  We’re going to push forward with a plan right now.

And again, as both General McMaster and Ambassador Haley stated, we are working on putting that pressure on North Korea to reach that ultimate goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.  That’s what we’re focused on.  We’re going to go keep pushing forward on that front.  But at the same time, we’re going to keep all our options on the table as we do that.

Q    What will the President say to the leaders that he meets next week who are eager for talks with North Korea?  I know that the President has opposed that.  How will he address that with the Europeans and others who are in favor of it?

SANDERS:  I’m certainly not going to get ahead of any conversations that the President is going to have.  As always, we’ll provide readouts and background of those conversations.  But I think the President will be very clear that putting extreme pressure on North Korea is very important.

______

© 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

 

United Nations 72nd General Assembly to Tackle Immigration, Nuclear Weapons Ban, Climate Change, Terrorism, Inequality

Miroslav Lajčák (center), President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, opens the session saying this will be a year of many firsts. He is flanked by Secretary-General António Guterres (left) and Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The incoming president of the United Nations General Assembly opened the 72nd Session declaring that priorities for the body was to come up with a global framework to address immigration, a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and further implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Miroslav Lajčák, a career diplomat from Slovakia, in his first address as President of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, said his tenure would be a “year of firsts” – the negotiation of the first intergovernmental compact on migration and the signing of the first agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons – and called upon Member States to come together to help people striving for peace and a decent life.

Apart from being a year of “firsts”, he said, it would also a year of follow-up on maintaining the momentum in implementing and financing the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring continued work on the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, banging the gavel at the official opening, says priorities include devising a global framework to address migration, a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and further implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Commitments from yesterday must become actions now,” he told the assembly. He added that the United Nations must be allowed to work “in a way as never before. The UN today is very different from [when it was established] in 1945 – reforming, evolving.

The work of the United Nations could often be complex, he said, but emphasized that the organization was created, first and foremost, for the people.

“The UN was created for people,” Lajčák told the assembled diplomats. “The people who need the UN the most are not sitting in this hall today. They are not involved in the negotiation of resolutions. They do not take the floor at high-level events. It is one of the tasks of the General Assembly to make sure that their voices can still be heard.”

Priorities for UN action, he said, are different “region by region, person to person. If you live where there are rising sea levels, climate change is your priority; if you are in fear of terrorism, counterterrorism is your priority, if you are suffering because of your beliefs, then human rights are your priority. I want to work to represent all of these viewpoints,” he said, saying he would seek “balance.”

Opening of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In his opening remarks in which he welcomed the President of the General Assembly, Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the serious threats facing the world, “from the nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cybercrime.  Hurricanes and floods around the world remind us that extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and severe, due to climate change,” as well as the challenges posed by “irregular migration.”

“No country can meet these tests alone.  But, if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course.  And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important,” he stated.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, outlining challenges including the nuclear peril, cybercrime, terrorism, climate change, inequality, declared “No country can meet these tests alone. But, if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course. And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“People around the world are rightly demanding change and looking for governments and institutions to deliver,” he said. “We all agree that the United Nations must do even more to adapt and deliver. That is the aim of the reform proposals that this Assembly will consider.”

He added that one key change within and beyond the UN must be the empowerment of women and girls around the world, and highlighted his own roadmap for achieving gender parity.

He called for more female candidates to fill vacancies within the Organization, because gender parity would improve outcomes at the United Nations.

At a press availability immediately following the official opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, Lajčák answered a skeptical reporter’s question about immigration assertively: “It is not true there is no global framework,” he said. “We are in reactive mode. We need to respond globally – global governance….because in reality, immigration is here to stay.”

And in an earlier interview with UN News, Lajčák said, “The most important thing for me is to understand that what we do here is meant to improve the lives of people on this plane. We are not here because of ourselves and we are not here because of fighting over the text of resolutions. But these resolutions serve concrete purposes. So, let us not forget for a minute that we have to focus on people, on their lives and on their concerns. Second, to be representative, as we are or wish to be, we have to be open, we have to communicate with our partners, with the young generations, with media, with civic activists, and NGOs, and with the business community, so that we are really reflecting the hopes, needs and expectations of the world’s public.”

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at a press availability about migration: “We need to respond globally – global governance….because in reality, immigration is here to stay.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons

Despite a campaign to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons such as were used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki going back to the very beginning of the United Nations the General Assembly, the UN this year for the first time is taking up an agreement to prohibit the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

On July 7, 2017, 122 nations agreed (one voted against) – notably, the nine nations including the United States that already have nuclear weapons boycotted the proceedings. On September 20, a formal treaty will be presented for signature by the nations. . Fifty countries must sign and ratify the treaty for it to enter into force.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents the total repudiation of nuclear deterrence by most of the states that don’t possess or rely on nuclear weapons,” United for Peace and Justice, UFPJ, stated. “But the US and the eight other nuclear-armed states boycotted the negotiations, along with Japan, Australia, South Korea and all but one of the 28 NATO member states (The Netherlands) – all countries under the US nuclear umbrella. In a joint statement following the vote, the US, France and the United Kingdom declared: “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to [the Treaty].” Meanwhile, nuclear tensions have risen to levels not seen for decades.

“While the Ban Treaty negotiations were taking place in the United Nations, two floors up in the same building, in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the United States was threatening military action against North Korea, in response to its July 4 missile test.

“We must keep both realities – the promise of the Ban Treaty and growing dangers of nuclear war – fully in mind as we develop strategies to accomplish the urgent goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

From its founding, in 1945, the United Nations has called for a ban on nuclear weapons; but this year for the first time, the UN is taking up an agreement to prohibit the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has once against declared September 26 an International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

“Achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the United Nations.  It was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946. After general and complete disarmament first came onto the General Assembly’s agenda in 1959, nuclear disarmament has remained the most important and urgent objective of the United Nations in this field.  Since 1975, it has been a prominent theme of the review conferences of States parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1978, the General Assembly’s first Special Session on disarmament reaffirmed that effective measures for nuclear disarmament have the highest priority. And it has been supported by every United Nations Secretary-General,” the UN stated.

“Yet today, some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernize their nuclear arsenals. More than half of the world’s population still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of nuclear alliances. As of 2016, while there have been major reductions in deployed nuclear weapons since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear warhead has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty, bilateral or multilateral, and no nuclear disarmament negotiations are underway.  Meanwhile, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence persists as an element in the security policies of all possessor states and their nuclear allies. This is so—despite growing concerns worldwide over the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of even a single nuclear weapon, let alone a regional or global nuclear war.

“These facts provide the foundation for the General Assembly’s designation of 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This Day provides an occasion for the world community to reaffirm its commitment to global nuclear disarmament as a high priority. It also provides an opportunity to educate the public—and their leaders—about the real benefits of eliminating such weapons, and the social and economic costs of perpetuating them. Commemorating this Day at the United Nations is especially important, given its universal membership and its long experience in grappling with nuclear disarmament issues. It is the right place to address one of humanity’s greatest challenges, achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

________

© 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

 

In Advance of Abbas Visit to White House, 36 Congressmembers Call on Secretary of State to Address Palestinian Authority’s Payments to Convicted Terrorists

Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY 22) and Congressman Thomas Suozzi (NY 3 ) joined together to call on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to address official payments made by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, May 3, when he will meet with Donald Trump in the White House. The letter, signed by 36 Members of Congress, also urges the administration to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is discouraged from continuing this practice in the future.

The Palestinian Authority has a long record of providing financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have engaged in acts of terrorism. Begun in the 1990s, the practice continues today.  Under current law, Palestinians convicted of an act of terrorism are given monetary compensation as well as employment upon release.

“It is extremely unsettling that the Palestinian Authority continues to provide financial support to convicted terrorists. These policies promote acts of terrorism in the region and must be immediately addressedAdditionally, it is highly concerning that payments to terrorists and their families increase with the length of the sentence, which has the potential of encouraging particularly brutal acts of terrorism,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney.  “As the largest providers of aid to the Palestinians, the United States must lead the way in ensuring that the Palestinian Authority ends this practice and that peace is brought to the region, especially since innocent Americans have died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.”

“The Palestinian Authority cannot incentivize terror. Terrorists and their families cannot be paid for killing innocent people. Longstanding U.S. policy is committed to a two-state solution, but this dangerous practice pushes us further away from that goal. The United States must put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end this dangerous and unconscionable practice, which only encourages more acts of terror,” said Congressman Thomas Suozzi.

The United States provides aid to the Palestinians to assist with a wide range of needs. However, since 2015, Congress has joined together to reduce U.S. aid on a 1-to-1 ratio for every dollar that the Palestinian Authority uses for official payments to convicted terrorists. Despite the reduction, these payments to terrorists have continued. The letter urges Secretary Tillerson to use all means at his disposal to address this ongoing issue and the Palestinian Authority’s reluctance to put an end to this program.

Read the full text of the letter below.

May 2, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20520-0099

 

Dear Secretary Tillerson,

We write today to bring an issue of bipartisan concern to your attention. For more than three decades, the Palestinian Authority has provided monetary awards and other incentives to those who have committed acts of terrorism in the region. We fear that this financial support encourages violence and serves as a clear impediment to a truly durable peace. As such, we encourage you to address this issue when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Washington in early May.

Since the early 1990’s, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has provided financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism. In 2016, programs providing compensation to terrorists and their families were funded at approximately $300 million. These payments are officially sanctioned by the PA and create a perverse and troubling incentive for individual acts of terrorism. For example, under current PA law, a Palestinian who was convicted of an act of terror and given a 10-year sentence would receive $130,000 over ten years. In addition to such compensation, individuals who are incarcerated also receive a guarantee of employment following their release from prison, creating yet another incentive for terrorism.

Policies which have the potential to encourage violence in the region are simply unacceptable and given that American citizens have died in previous acts of terrorism, this is an issue of grave concern to us. For example, on November 19, 2015, 18-year old Ezra Schwartz, an American boy from Sharon, Massachusetts, was murdered by a Palestinian in an attack that left him and two others dead. The individual charged with his murder was sentenced to four life sentences, making him eligible to receive $3,000 a month. Sadly, since payments are based on the length of individual sentences, convicted terrorists receive more money for acts of terrorism that are even more brutal.

The United States is the largest provider of aid to Palestinians. This aid serves a variety of purposes, including to help meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people. Since 2015, members of Congress have come together on a bipartisan basis in an attempt to use this aid as leverage to deter the PA from providing such payments to terrorists and their families. In each year since 2015, annual appropriations have provided for a 1-to-1 reduction in U.S. aid for every dollar that the PA provides to terrorists. It is clear, however, that this troubling policy continues and that this change alone in current law has not been sufficient to deter the continuation of the PA’s program.

As a result, we strongly urge you to ensure that this issue is raised with President Mahmoud Abbas during his upcoming visit to the White House and to continue using all other means at your disposal to address the PA’s reluctance to abandon this program altogether. As members of Congress, we are committed to the long-standing policy of the United States to see a durable peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, resulting in two states; a Jewish, democratic state living in peace and security next to a peaceful Palestinian state. So long as the PA continues to compensate and thereby incentivize terrorist activity, we find it difficult to see how the necessary conditions for a lasting peace can be established.

We thank you for your consideration of this important issue and stand ready to assist you in bringing about a sustainable resolution to our concerns.

Sincerely,

  1. Rep. Claudia Tenney
  2. Rep. Thomas Suozzi
  3. Rep. Peter J. Roskam
  4. Rep. Trent Franks
  5. Rep. Jackie Walorski
  6. Rep. Doug LaMalfa
  7. Rep. Randy Weber
  8. Rep. Tom McClintock
  9. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
  10. Rep. Grace Meng
  11. Rep. Lee Zeldin
  12. Rep. Ted Poe
  13. Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E
  14. Rep. Mia Love
  15. Rep. Paul Cook
  16. Rep. Mike Gallagher
  17. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis
  18. Rep. Thomas J. Rooney
  19. Rep. Peter King
  20. Rep. Todd Rokita
  21. Rep. Don Bacon
  22. Rep. Paul Mitchell
  23. Rep. Patrick Meehan
  24. Rep. Steve Russell
  25. Rep. Andy Biggs
  26. Rep. Ryan Costello
  27. Rep. David Cicilline
  28. Rep. Drew Ferguson
  29. Rep. Josh Gottheimer
  30. Rep. Jim Banks
  31. Rep. Jack Bergman
  32. Rep. Ted Deutch
  33. Rep. Lois Frankel
  34. Rep. Nita M. Lowey
  35. Rep. Bradley S. Schneider
  36. Rep. Pete Olson

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

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.)

Starkest Contrast Between Clinton, Trump Comes in Plans to Defeat ISIS, Radical Jihadism

Hillary Clinton, at the Commander-in-Chief Forum aboard the USS Intrepid, managed to get out the broad outlines of her detailed, nuanced plan to defeat ISIS and Radical Jihadism, despite being cut off by moderator Matt Lauer © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton, at the Commander-in-Chief Forum aboard the USS Intrepid, managed to get out the broad outlines of her detailed, nuanced plan to defeat ISIS and Radical Jihadism, despite being cut off by moderator Matt Lauer © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The stark contrast between the two major candidates for President could not be sharper as in their proposals to defeat ISIS and the scourge of terrorism. And it is probably the singular issue – shorthand – which stands in for the rest: a detailed, nuanced policy borne of first-hand experience and due diligence, and an off-the-cuff hyperbolic non sequitur. In essence, a plan versus no plan at all.

The outlines were presented during the Commander in Chief Forum where – despite moderator Matt Lauer’s best effort to cut off Clinton from her response, she stated:

“We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counterterrorism goal. And we’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS. We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military. They’ve taken back Ramadi, Fallujah. They’ve got to hold them. They’ve got to now get into Mosul.

“We’re going to work to make sure that they have the support — they have special forces, as you know, they have enablers, they have surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance help.

“They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we’re not putting ground troops into Syria. We’re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops. So those are the kinds of decisions we have to make on a case-by-case basis.

“And, remember, when I became secretary of state, we had 200,000 troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’m very grateful that we have brought home the vast majority of those. We have a residual force, as you know, in Afghanistan. We have built up several thousands of the folks that I’ve talked about who are assisting in the fight against ISIS.

“But it is in our national security interest to defeat ISIS. And I intend to make that happen.

“And as part of it, we’re going after Baghdadi, the leader, because it will help us focus our attention, just like going after bin Laden helped us focus our attention in the fight against Al Qaida in the Afghanistan- Pakistan theater.”

Then, Clinton was asked, with just about a minute left of her time, how she would deal with “terror attacks on our soil,” either directed by ISIS or inspired by ISIS, and “Would your message as the next president of the United States or potential next president be to Americans that we simply are living in the reality that those attacks will happen? And can you guarantee people that after four years of a Clinton presidency, they will be safer on the streets of San Bernardino or Boston than they are today?”

Clinton responds, “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that that’s the result. I’m not going to, you know, promise something that I think most thinking Americans know is going to be a huge challenge, and here’s why. We’ve got to have an intelligence surge. We’ve got to get a lot more cooperation out of Europe, out of the Middle East. We have to do a better job of not only collecting and analyzing the intelligence we do have, but distributing it much more quickly down the ladder to state and local law enforcement.

“We also have to do a better job combating ISIS online, where they recruit, where they radicalize. And I don’t think we’re doing as much as we can. We need to work with Silicon Valley. We need to work with our experts in our government. We have got to disrupt, we have got to take them on in the arena of ideas that, unfortunately, pollute and capture the minds of vulnerable people. So we need to wage this war against ISIS from the air, on the ground, and online, in cyberspace.

“And here at home, for goodness’s sakes, we have to finally pass a law prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy a gun in the United States of America. So we’ve got work to do. I know we can do that work. I’m meeting with a group of terror experts, counterterrorism experts.

“But I want to just say one additional thing… Matt Olsen, the former director of the National Center on Counterterrorism, has a great article out today saying the last thing we need to do is to play into the hands of ISIS. Going after American Muslims, defaming a Gold Star family, the family of Captain Khan, making it more difficult for us to have a coalition with Muslim majority nations that is not going to help us to succeed in defeating ISIS and protecting our American homeland.”

In contrast, Donald Trump denigrated the generals, suggested he would install his own generals and demand a plan within 30 days which may or may not be as good as his secret plan which he will not detail because it is better to be “unpredictable.” He suggested that ISIS would not exist at all if Obama had only seized Iraq’s oil reserves – “To the victor belong the spoils” – which actually would be a war crime and a violation of international and US law. And instead of saying what he would do (beyond convening a new pack of generals to come up with a plan), he only could attack Obama and Clinton. He also suggested that he was “shocked” after his classified briefing, that the briefers indicated that Obama had rejected their advice (something that would never have happened since briefers don’t give policy advice), and that if he were president, Osama bin Ladin would have been killed before the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Here are Trump’s remarks:

“Sure. I mean, part of the problem that we’ve had is we go in, we defeat somebody, and then we don’t know what we’re doing after that. We lose it, like as an example, you look at Iraq, what happened, how badly that was handled. And then when President Obama took over, likewise, it was a disaster. It was actually somewhat stable. I don’t think could ever be very stable to where we should have never gone into in the first place.

“But he came in. He said when we go out — and he took everybody out. And really, ISIS was formed. This was a terrible decision. And frankly, we never even got a shot. And if you really look at the aftermath of Iraq, Iran is going to be taking over Iraq. They’ve been doing it. And it’s not a pretty picture.

“The — and I think you know — because you’ve been watching me I think for a long time — I’ve always said, shouldn’t be there, but if we’re going to get out, take the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS, because ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil.”

Lauer asks, “How were we going to take the oil? How were we going to do that?”

Trump replies, “Just we would leave a certain group behind and you would take various sections where they have the oil. They have — people don’t know this about Iraq, but they have among the largest oil reserves in the world, in the entire world.

“And we’re the only ones, we go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then, Matt, what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said: Take the oil.

“One of the benefits we would have had if we took the oil is ISIS would not have been able to take oil and use that oil to fuel themselves.”

Donald Trump, Republican candidate for President, on how he would defeat ISIS: “I have a plan. But I want to be — I don’t want to — look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is...And let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan and the generals’ plan, or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Donald Trump, Republican candidate for President, on how he would defeat ISIS: “I have a plan. But I want to be — I don’t want to — look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is…And let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan and the generals’ plan, or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Lauer then asks about Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS. “When we’ve met in the past and we’ve talked, you say things like I’m going to bomb the expletive out of them very quickly. And when people like me press you for details like that gentleman just said on what your plan is, you very often say, I’m not going to give you the details because I want to be unpredictable.”

“Absolutely. The word is unpredictable,” Trump interjects.

When Lauer asks whether Trump’s “secret plan” to defeat ISIS he has been “hiding this whole time” is actually “to convene my top generals and they will have 30 days to submit a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS,” Trump replies. “No. But when I do come up with a plan that I like and that perhaps agrees with mine, or maybe doesn’t — I may love what the generals come back with. I will convene…

“I have a plan. But I want to be — I don’t want to — look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.

“And let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan and the generals’ plan, or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan, Matt, I’m not going to call you up and say, “Matt, we have a great plan.” This is what Obama does. “We’re going to leave Iraq on a certain day.”

Lauer presses, “But you’re going to convene a panel of generals, and you’ve already said you know more about ISIS than those generals do.”

Trump replies. “Well, they’ll probably be different generals, to be honest with you.”

Hillary for America campaign followed up with a reminder of the detailed plan Hillary Clinton introduced months ago: 

“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,” Hillary for America campaign said in a statement. “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.

Hillary Clinton has laid out a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS and keep American 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 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.

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.

And third, we need to harden our defenses at home, including by launching an intelligence surge to ensure law enforcement has the information they need to detect and disrupt plots, working with Silicon Valley to shut down terrorist propaganda 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.

“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.”

They also took note that various pundits have praised Clinton’s plan:

  • New York Times’ David Brooks: “This week we had a chance to watch Hillary Clinton respond in real time to a complex foreign policy challenge. On Thursday, six days after the Paris attacks, she gave a comprehensive antiterrorism speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. The speech was very impressive. While other candidates are content to issue vague calls to get tough on terror, Clinton offered a multilayered but coherent framework, not only dealing with ISIS but also putting that threat within the crosscutting conflicts that are inflaming the Middle East.… [Clinton] is thoughtful and instructive on both the big picture and the right way forward.”
  • CNN: “Michael Desch, an expert in international security at Notre Dame University, said that Clinton’s speech was polished and showed her to be ‘head and shoulders’ above Republican candidates on framing an anti-ISIS strategy.”
  • US News & World Report’s Dave Catanese: “A strong performance delivered with the poise of an incumbent president”
  • Politico’s Roger Simon: “Hillary gives one of her best speeches ever on world terror. So presidential, they practically played ‘Hail to the Chief.’”
  • Defense One’s Kevin Baron: “[Clinton’s speech is the] Most comprehensive and detailed Mideast/Isis plans I’ve heard from any US leader so far, of late”
  • Quartz: “…talking about how to actually tackle Islamist extremism is complicated and politically fraught. It’s easier to play to fears about outsiders than to develop a substantive program. At least one US politician has given some thought to an idea about what to do: Presidential contender and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered a speech today (Nov. 19) outlining her plan to battle the nexus of Islamist ideology that ISIL has created in the Middle East’s failed states… It’s a cohesive approach…”
  • New York Times’ David Brooks: “This week we had a chance to watch Hillary Clinton respond in real time to a complex foreign policy challenge. On Thursday, six days after the Paris attacks, she gave a comprehensive antiterrorism speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. The speech was very impressive. While other candidates are content to issue vague calls to get tough on terror, Clinton offered a multilayered but coherent framework, not only dealing with ISIS but also putting that threat within the crosscutting conflicts that are inflaming the Middle East.… [Clinton] is thoughtful and instructive on both the big picture and the right way forward.”
  • CNN: “Michael Desch, an expert in international security at Notre Dame University, said that Clinton’s speech was polished and showed her to be ‘head and shoulders’ above Republican candidates on framing an anti-ISIS strategy.”
  • US News & World Report’s Dave Catanese: “A strong performance delivered with the poise of an incumbent president”
  • Politico’s Roger Simon: “Hillary gives one of her best speeches ever on world terror. So presidential, they practically played ‘Hail to the Chief.’”
  • Defense One’s Kevin Baron: “[Clinton’s speech is the] Most comprehensive and detailed Mideast/Isis plans I’ve heard from any US leader so far, of late”
  • Quartz: “…talking about how to actually tackle Islamist extremism is complicated and politically fraught. It’s easier to play to fears about outsiders than to develop a substantive program. At least one US politician has given some thought to an idea about what to do: Presidential contender and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered a speech today (Nov. 19) outlining her plan to battle the nexus of Islamist ideology that ISIL has created in the Middle East’s failed states… It’s a cohesive approach…”

Former CIA Chief, Major General, Govt Official Contrast Clinton Counterterrorism Strategy with Republicans

Hillary Clinton campaigning for president. Clinton has offered a detailed strategy for defeating terrorism while attacking Republican opponents saying,“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”  © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton campaigning for president. Clinton has offered a detailed strategy for defeating terrorism while attacking Republican opponents saying,“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and candidate for president, declared  “Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”

Today, Hillary for America held a press call to contrast the differences in the former Secretary of State’s approach to that of GOP hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in counterterrorism and offer a strong argument that Clinton brings the skills, experience and judgment to be president and commander-in-chief. The call featured former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, Major General Tony Taguba (ret.), and former senior U.S. government official Rand Beers built upon the address Clinton delivered yesterday at Stanford University, in which she detailed her strategy to defeat ISIS and terrorism. The officials addressed more broadly the challenges the nation faces, arguing that Clinton brings the experience and steady leadership that will be vital, in contrast to  the dangerous rhetoric and plans being peddled by the leading Republican presidential candidates.

“We are living at a time in the 21st century when the United States is facing an unprecedented number of threats and challenges in the world – serious flash points that threaten the security of the US – including a growing threat from ISIS-aligned terrorists who have proved a capability to strike at heart of Western Europe and who are a clear and present danger,” stated former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta.

“In addition, there are failed states such as in Yemen, breeding grounds for extremists. The regime in Iran which in spite of the nuclear agreement, continue to test missiles with “death to Israel’ painted on the side, which violate the ban. Iranians use cyberattacks to go after infrastructure. There is an unpredictable leader in North Korea, renewed challenges from Putin’s Russia, China’s territorial claims in South China Sea. And no question, we need to worry about battlefields of the future: cyberattacks that can be used by nation-states and terrorists to virtually cripple our country.

“To confront these challenges, US must provide strong leadership and must have a commander-in-chief with experience,  judgment, steady hand to keep us safe. The most qualified person to assume the duties and provide the necessary world leadership on Day 1 is Hillary Clinton. Her speech at Stanford [ about countering ISIS and terrorism],  which built on 5 previous speeches, outlined key objectives: intensify the military campaign against ISIS in Syria; go after their people, territory, infrastructure in Iraq. Keys to defeating ISIS include go after their leadership (announced today, ISIS’ #2 commander was killed, which is encouraging because we have to decimate ISIS leadership and remove them from territory, from Mosul to Rakka.

“We need a surge in intelligence and law enforcement to penetrate before there is an attack – beefing up intel is absolutely critical. We need to attack the global financial networks, recruitments networks. Lastly, we need to counter the narrative that brings new individuals to their cause.

“We don’t yet know the scope of network that carried out Brussels attacks, but American network, in close coordination with allies in Europe, NATO and the Mideast will be critical in the long term to defeat ISIS.

“[In this strategy], there is a clear contrast between Sec. Clinton’s approach which is serious, comprehensive and tough, to those proposals that are being proposed Republican candidates.

“The choice for president is the most important decision the American people will make, largely because the next president will be commander in chief and have the ability to decide between war and peace

“What we are hearing from the Republican side are dangerous, irresponsible proposals that will put our national security at risk, further divide us from the very allies we need to win war against ISIS.

“Trump’s plan is to torture people, bomb families, walk away from NATO, build walls around Muslims, keep Muslims out of the country. These are not serious proposals,  they are political slogans, not strategies for dealing with this threat. Reckless and won’t work.

“Ted Cruz’ recommendation that police officers infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods is hard to understand, sounds like violation of 4th amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, and further antagonizes those who we need on our side.

Both [Republican] candidates offer  shoot-from-the-hip slogans that demonstrate a stunning lack of knowledge about security and our values.

“Thomas Jefferson believed a president’s first duty was to protect the nation. We need a president who will protect the nation, take the fight to terrorists in smart, effective way. I believe Secretary Clinton understands her first duty as president will be to protect the American people.”

Former Senior U.S. Government Official Rand Beers, who spent 42 years in government in counter insurgency, counter terrorism, counter narcotics, said, “I have deep concern with the remarks from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. I find the statements that Cruz is making about increased surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods is completely wrong headed . He thinks he’s found a solution for catching terrorists? His is a strategy that will create more terrorists.

“We know from the array of information about terrorist individuals who have been captured and brought to trial in this country that in each and every instance, there is some behavior that is noticed by a family member or friend or someone in religious community that is in fact a precursor of mobilization toward violence. What we need to do is create environment where those individuals will come forward, know who to come to. – law enforcement community and community leaders. Putting more enforcement, fomenting more reactions by the rest of America to the Muslim community is counter-productive. Our Muslim Americans are part of our critical line of defense, and need to be part of strategy.

“As a country, we are capable of keeping our people safe and living up to our values at the same time.

“What we are hearing from this election from the Republican opposition is simply appalling – banning Muslims, cordoning them off will simply not result in a successful strategy. Sec. Clinton understands this, has spoken out. Her comments make very clear that all these solutions proposed by other side will make matters worse.

“I have sat with Sec. Clinton in the Situation Room discussing counter-terrorism issues, and seen the steady, knowledgeable hand of a person who has studied these issues. Without a doubt, she is  the best candidate for president of US.”

Major General Tony Taguba (ret.), who led the investigations into torture by US personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, addressed his horror over the topic of torture once again entering the conversation. “It took this country almost 12 years, before the Senate Select Committee found use of torture is not very effective, and actually is counter productive. It led Senators McCain and Feinstein to co-sponsor landmark anti-torture legislation that reinforced the ban on torture, including waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques, that Republican candidates are [now] saying is a tool.

“We cannot go back in time where we clearly violated our own laws, the Constitution, international laws – and broadcast throughout the world, especially to our enemies that a candidate, a future Commander-in-Chief  is more than happy, if not condone, torture and waterboarding in violation of our law and international law. It puts more of our troops, our nation in danger. I believe that Sec. Clinton’s approach of having a steady, measured hand in leadership – not use torture – but the strategy she has indicated is the way to fight terrorism…”

Asked what responsibility President Obama and Secretary Clinton might have for the “perils we see in the world,” Panetta said, ““These threats have developed over these last number of years, terrorism has metastasized. You can’t lay blame on any person. You have to confront the threat. We’ve been dealing with threat from North Korea for 60 years – you can’t lay that at anyone’s feet. Challenge from Russia, China. Look at the threats out there, everybody has to accept some responsibility but more importantly, accept the responsibility for having to deal with that. We need a president, a commander in chief, who can build relationships with other countries to confront these threats. These are not just threats against security of US, all are threats against the world.” The next commander in chief, he said, needs to be somebody who can build alliances to confront this very threat. “The only person is Sec. Clinton.”

Are Obama and Clinton responsible for the rise of terrorism? Panetta said, “Whether Boko Haram, al Shabaab, ISIS, Al Qaeda….. Terrorism has developed in those countries because of the conditions present in those countries – that kind of terrorism is something we need to confront not just on the military battlefield, but the root causes of what creates that kind of attraction to terrorism. One area we haven’t been as effective is how we go after the narrative, the root causes in the world that contribute to development of terrorism. That is something Clinton has said is important to defeat ISIS.”

Asked to comment on candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to combat terrorism, Beers said, “Sen. Sanders has a very distinct focus on the economy and a limited focus and perspective on international issues. Sec. Clinton has given a number of foreign policy speeches, specifically on terrorism, and has responded immediately in that arena to the major attacks that have occurred. Sen. Sanders does not have that background. Is more focused on the economy, and that is clearest indication – Sen. Clinton is the most capable candidate in terms of addressing the full range of issues, but particularly, the national security issues that face this country.”

Asked whether there is any validity to the claim that the rhetoric coming from Cruz and Trump is troubling to world leaders, Panetta said, “Almost everywhere I go, responsible leaders express deep concerns about the kind of rhetoric that they are hearing in campaigns from Trump and Cruz and it deeply concerns them that that kind of rhetoric is divisive and hurts our ability to develop the kinds of alliances we absolutely need in order to confront a dangerous enemy. I know the candidates sometimes think they are just talking to their voters in this country, but that is the worst mistake they can make, because the rhetoric they are using is damaging the US abroad, creating concerns about where this country is going in the future.”

See also:

HILLARY CLINTON: ‘DEFEAT ISIS THROUGH PRINCIPLED AMERICAN LEADERSHIP’

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News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Hillary Clinton: ‘Defeat ISIS Through Principled American Leadership’

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for president, here at a NYC rally, laid out a detailed strategy to defeat ISIS © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for president, here at a NYC rally, laid out a detailed strategy to defeat ISIS © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”

That small section from Hillary Clinton’s speech at Stanford University is getting a lot of play, but the former Secretary of State Democratic presidential candidate laid out an incredibly detailed, rational vision for defeating ISIS and terrorism  “through principled American leadership.”

The speech came in the wake of the terror attacks at the Brussels international airport and a metro station, reigniting American fears in a way that attacks in Turkey and in other parts of the world never seem to do.

In her speech, she refers to “radical jihadist terrorists<” rather than the term preferred by the Republican candidates, “Radical Islamists” – as if semantics  like “War on Terror” or “War on Drugs” or “political correctness” are the cause of the problem or the solution.

Instead, she detailed her strategy for defeating ISIS and the indispensable role of steady American leadership, of reinforcing our alliances, and of doing what actually works. Indeed, many point to the isolation, alienation and discrimination of the Muslim community in Brussels, with unemployment at 40%, as a reason why Belgium has sent some 1500 radicalized people to become trained by ISIS (some 400 have returned), while on a per capita basis, the US, with its well assimilated Muslim community, has had only a handful radicalized (indeed, there are more White Supremacists than radical jihadists).

Her speech was a rebuke to those who have responded to the terrorist attacks in Brussels exactly as its perpetrators would hope, trafficking in bigotry and bluster, and capitalizing on voters’ fears.

With an unequivocal rejection of such fear-mongering, she declared Americans “will not turn on each other, turn on our allies, or turn away from our principles.”

Here are highlights from her remarks on March 23, 2016:

“Yesterday’s attack in Brussels was the latest brutal reminder that our fight against ISIS and radical jihadist terrorism is far from finished.  More than 30 innocent people are dead — men and women hurrying to catch a plane or waiting for a train or meeting a loved one.  Hundreds more are wounded, including three Mormon missionaries from Utah, a U.S. Air Force Officer, his wife and four children, and other Americans.

“It’s understandable that Americans here at home are worried.  The threat we face from terrorism is real, it’s urgent, and it knows no boundaries.  Even as Brussels grieves, the memories of Paris and San Bernardino are painfully fresh as well.  On Saturday, a bombing in Istanbul killed four people, including two U.S.-Israeli dual citizens.  Many other places have been targeted by terrorists in the past year alone.  Hotels in West Africa.  Beaches in Tunisia.  A market in Lebanon.  A Russian passenger jet in the Sinai.

“ISIS is attempting a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities.  It beheads civilians. It enslaves, tortures, and rapes women and girls.   

“Walls will not protect us from this threat.  We cannot contain ISIS – we must defeat ISIS.

This will be one of the most important challenges facing the next President who takes office on January 20.  Our new Commander-in-Chief will walk into the Oval Office and find a world of hard choices and complex problems.  That president  will sit down at that desk and start making decisions that will affect the lives and livelihoods of every American and people around the world.  So the stakes could not be higher.

“Today, I want to emphasize three points:  First, we face an adversary that is constantly adapting and operating across multiple theaters, so our response must be just as nimble and far-reaching.  Second, to defeat this transnational threat, we need to reinforce the alliances that have been core pillars of American power for decades.  And third, we need to rely on what actually works, not bluster that alienates our partners and doesn’t make us any safer.

“Let’s begin by being clear about what we are facing: ISIS controls a shrinking but still sizeable territory in Iraq and Syria.  It leads a far-flung network that includes affiliates across the Middle East and North Africa, and cells in Europe, Asia, and even here in North America.  It’s also part of a broader ideological movement that includes other terrorist groups.  We need to do battle on all these fronts.

“Last year, in speeches in New York and Minneapolis, I laid out a three-part plan to defeat ISIS in the Middle East, around the world, and here at home.  Recent events have only reinforced the urgency of this mission.

“First, we do have to take out ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria.  We should intensify the coalition air campaign against its fighters, leaders, and infrastructure, step up support for local Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground, and coalition efforts to protect civilians.  And pursue a diplomatic strategy aimed at achieving political resolutions to Syria’s civil war and Iraq’s sectarian divide.

Second, we must dismantle the global network of terror that supplies money, arms, propaganda, and fighters.   This means targeted efforts to deal with ISIS affiliates from Libya to Afghanistan.  It means going after the key enablers who facilitate illicit financial transactions and help jihadists arrange travel, forge documents, and evade detection.  And it means waging online battles with extremists to discredit their ideology, expose their lies, and counter their appeals to potential recruits in the West and around the world.

[If Republicans really were serious about defeating ISIS versus making President Obama look bad – -perhaps even inviting a terror attack here which they believe will bolster their ability to win back the White House – the Senate would have already confirmed the appointment of Adam Szubin’s as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, the post in charge of tracking down and stopping the funds going to terrorist organizations.]

Third, we must harden our defenses and build our resilience here at home.  We need to counter each step in the process that can lead to an attack, deterring would-be terrorists and discovering and disrupting plots before they’re carried out.

“Our enemies are constantly adapting, so we have to do the same.  For example, Brussels demonstrated clearly we need to take a harder look at security protocols at airports and other sensitive so called “soft sites,” especially areas outside guarded perimeters.

“To do all this, we need an intelligence surge, and so do our allies.

“We also have to stay ahead of the curve technologically.  That does mean working with the brightest minds here in Silicon Valley to more effectively track and analyze ISIS’s social media posts and map jihadist networks online.  When other candidates talk about building walls around America, I want to ask them: How high does the wall have to be to keep the Internet out?

“And we also have to tackle a thorny challenge that is top-of-mind here in the Bay Area – navigating the security and civil liberties concerns surrounding the encryption of mobile devices and communications.

“Impenetrable encryption provides significant cybersecurity advantages, but may also make it harder for law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals to investigate plots and prevent future attacks.  ISIS knows this too.  At the same time, there are legitimate worries about privacy, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors – including terrorists – can exploit.

“There may be no quick or magic fix.  In the Apple case, the FBI may have found a work-around, but there will be future cases with different facts and different challenges.  So the tech community and the government have to stop seeing each other as adversaries and start working together to protect our safety and our privacy.  A National Commission on Encryption, like Senator Mark Warner and Congressman Mike McCaul are proposing, could help.  And our security professionals could use the advice and talents of technology professionals to help us figure out how we do stay ahead of the terrorists.

“Our fight against radical jihadist terrorists will be long, and there is very real risk of future attacks here at home.  But pursuing this comprehensive strategy will put us in the best position to defeat ISIS and keep our families and communities safe.  This is a very personal issue for me, having served as a Senator from New York on 9/11. Having seen the horrors that were produced by a well-planned and executed attack on our country, knowing how important it is that we do stay ahead of those who wish to do us great harm, without panic, without paranoia, but with resolve not to give in to the very behavior the terrorists are hoping to engender.

“We can’t let fear stop us from doing what’s necessary to keep us safe – nor can we let it push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe.

“For example, it would be a serious mistake to stumble into another costly ground war in the Middle East.  If we’ve learned anything from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that people and nations have to secure their own communities.  We can, I argue, must support them, but we can’t substitute for them.

“It would also be a serious mistake to begin “carpet bombing” populated areas “into oblivion.”  Proposing that doesn’t make you sound tough, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head. Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.

“To do that, we need to strengthen America’s alliances in Europe, Asia, and around the world. And that is the second point I want to emphasize.

“On 9/11, NATO treated an attack against one as an attack against all.  On September 12, headlines across Europe, most notably in Le Monde proclaimed, “We are all Americans.”  There were very few planes in the air that day – but one was a British jet carrying the UK’s top national security leaders to Washington to offer any help they could.

“Now it’s our turn to stand with Europe.  We cherish the same values and face the same adversaries – so we must share the same determination.

“This is especially true at a time when Europe faces multiple overlapping crises, from President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, to the massive influx of refugees, to continuing economic challenges, to the rise of right-wing nationalist parties.  We have made so much progress together toward the goal of a Europe that is free, whole, and at peace, and we can’t risk letting it fall apart now.

“For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have understood that America’s alliances make us stronger.  Secretary Shultz compared the slow, steady work of building diplomatic relationships to gardening.  He knew that when you cultivate effective partners, you can can harvest real rewards.

“Allies extend our reach, share intelligence, provide troops in conflicts like Afghanistan, offer bases and staging areas around the world for our military, and serve as a bulwark against competitors like Russia and China.  And by the way, both Moscow and Beijing know our global network of alliances is a significant strategic advantage they can’t match.

“NATO, in particular, is one of the best investments America has ever made.  From the Balkans to Afghanistan and beyond, NATO allies have fought alongside the United States, sharing the burdens and the sacrifices.  In the 1990s, Secretary Perry helped guide NATO’s expansion based on the alliance’s core tenets of collective defense, democracy, consensus, and cooperative security.   They became known as the “Perry Principles,” and they’re still at the heart of what makes NATO the most successful alliance in history.

“Turning our back on our alliances, or turning our alliance into a protection racket, would reverse decades of bipartisan American leadership and send a dangerous signal to friend and foe alike.  Putin already hopes to divide Europe.  If Mr. Trump gets his way, it’ll be like Christmas in the Kremlin.  It will make America less safe and the world more dangerous.

“When it comes to the struggle against ISIS, we need our allies as much as ever.  We need them to be strong and engaged, for they are increasingly on the frontlines.  London, Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Istanbul – they’ve all been hit by terrorism.  And, as we saw when a terrorist cell in Hamburg carried out the 9/11 attacks, what happens in Europe has a way of making it to America.  So it’s essential that we have strong partners who can work with us to disrupt plots and dismantle networks in their own countries before they lead to attacks in ours.

“America needs European intelligence services working hand-in-hand with our own, including where they may have better reach and expertise like in North Africa.  We need European banks to stop terrorist financing.  We need European planes flying missions over Iraq and Syria, and European special forces helping train and equip local anti-ISIS forces on the ground.

“We need European diplomats and development experts working to improve governance and reduce the appeal of extremism across the wide arc of instability that stretches from West Africa all the way to Asia.  Together, we can do more — and more urgently — to support moderate voices and stand with Tunisians, Libyans, Kurds, and others in the region who are trying to do the right thing.

“And as we should, of course, be closely consulting with Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East, we also have to extend our consultations to Arab partners as well.

“All of this will make America safer and help defeat ISIS.

“There is much we can do to support our European partners – helping them improve intelligence and law enforcement, facilitating information sharing, working more closely at every level.  There’s also more they can do to share the burden with us.  We’d like to see more European countries investing in defense and security, following the example Germany and others have set during the Obama administration.

“The most urgent task is stopping the flow of foreign fighters to and from the Middle East.  Thousands of young recruits have flocked to Syria from France, Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.  Their European passports make it easier for them to cross borders and eventually return home, radicalized and battle-hardened.  We need to know the identities of every fighter who makes that trip and start revoking passports and visas.

“Stemming this tide will require much better coordination among every country along the way.  Right now, many European nations don’t even alert each other when they turn away a suspected jihadist at the border or when a passport is stolen.  And Turkey, a NATO ally, still has more work to do to control the border where most foreign fighters cross into Syria.

“After the Paris attack, France and Belgium pledged to move forward together on reforms, but that’s difficult without the European Union.  In January, the EU announced a new integrated counterterrorism center.  But intelligence cooperation still lags and the EU keeps delaying a vote to share traveler information between member states.  It’s actually easier for the United States to get flight manifests from EU nations than it is for EU nations to get them from their own neighbors, thanks to an agreement the U.S. negotiated when I was Secretary of State.

“There also has to be a special emphasis on identifying and investing in the hot spots — the specific neighborhoods, prisons and schools, where recruitment happens in clusters, as we’ve seen in Brussels.  And it’s time to make good on the promise of establishing a new unified European Border and Coast Guard to strengthen the continent’s external borders, which are under unprecedented pressure from refugees and migrants.

“Now this is a heart-breaking crisis.  Last year, the world was horrified by the photo of a drowned toddler lying on a Turkish beach.  In the months since then, hundreds more children have died trying to reach safety.  We’ve seen Europe and Syria’s neighbors in the Middle East struggle under the weight of this challenge.  It’s too big for any one country or even continent to handle alone.  I’m glad that the EU and Turkey are now working closely together, and the United States should do whatever we can to support that.

“The only truly effective answer is to go to the source, end the conflict that is displacing all these people.  So we have to support and maintain the ceasefire in Syria.  And we should also work with our coalition partners and opposition forces on the ground to create safe areas where Syrians can remain in the country rather than fleeing toward Europe.   

“In the meantime, it would be wrong to shut our doors to orphans or to apply religious tests for people fleeing persecution.  That’s not who we are.   But of course we have to be vigilant in screening and vetting everyoneWe can’t allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and humanitarian obligations.  But we also have to be smart and vigilant about how we process people into our country: it would be doubly cruel if ISIS can not only force families from their homes and but also prevent them from ever finding new ones.

“And that brings me to my third point: In our fight against radical jihadism, we have to do what actually works.   

 

“One thing we know that does not work is offensive, inflammatory rhetoric that demonizes all Muslims.  There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families, and paying taxes in this country.  These Americans are a crucial line of defense against terrorism.  They are the most likely to recognize the warning signs of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to block it.

“Last year in Minneapolis, I met parents, teachers, imams, and others in the Somali-American community who are working with law enforcement and mental health professionals to intervene with young people at risk of being radicalized.  Efforts like that deserve more local and national support.

“Since 9/11, law enforcement has worked hard to build trustful and strong relationships with American Muslim communities.  As the Director of the FBI told Congress, anything that erodes that trust makes their job more difficult.

“We need every American community invested in this fight, not fearful and sitting on the sidelines.  So when Republican candidates like Ted Cruz call for treating American Muslims like criminals, and for racially profiling predominantly-Muslim neighborhoods, it’s wrong, it’s counter-productive, it’s dangerous.  As a spokesman for the New York Police Department pointed out last night, that kind of blanket bigotry would treat the city’s nearly 1,000 Muslim police officers as threats.  “It’s hard to imagine a more incendiary, foolish statement,” he said.

“Commissioner Bill Bratton of the NYPD was even more blunt this morning.  He said Senator Cruz “doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.” 

“Demonizing Muslims also alienates partners and undermines moderates we need around the world in the fight against ISIS.  There’s been a lot of talk from both Republicans and Democrats about the importance of building coalitions with Muslim nations.  Having actually done this, I can tell you, insulting allies and partners is not a good way to start.

“Another thing we know that does not work, based on lots of empirical evidence, is torture. Many intelligence, military and law enforcement experts have attested to this fact. It also puts our own troops and increasingly our own civilians at greater risk.

“I’m proud to have been a part of the administration that banned torture after too many years in which we had lost our way. And if I’m President, the United States will not condone or practice torture anywhere in the world.  Even when we’re up against opponents who don’t respect human life or human rights, torture is not the right choice.  As Senator John McCain has said, the high standard to which we hold ourselves “isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us.  It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.”

“America is a great nation.  And this is a time for American leadership.  Smart, strong, steady leadership.

“No other country can rally allies and partners to defeat ISIS and win the generational struggle against radical jihadist terrorism. Only the United States can mobilize common action on a global scale in defense of our people and our values.

“America doesn’t cower in fear or hide behind walls.  We lead and we succeed. 

“Throughout our history, we have stared into the face of evil and refused to blink.  Whether it was Fascism, the Cold War, and or hunting down Osama bin Laden.  And we will defeat ISIS too.  No enemy or adversary should ever underestimate the determination of the American people.

“I will never forget what it was like to arrive in Brussels for the first time as Secretary of State in March of 2009. I was on my way to NATO. NATO headquarters was buzzing.  Hundreds of young people at the European Parliament had stood and cheered, not for me, but for the idea of American leadership – for the promise of an alliance that delivered unprecedented peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

“That’s what we need to remember today.  Americans cannot and I believe will not turn on each other, turn on our allies, or turn away from our principles.

“We’re in it for the long haul.  And that means We’re going to work together.  And we’re going to prevail.

This may be another one of the long struggles we have confronted from time to time in our history; but like all the rest of those, if we can forge a bipartisan consensus, if we can bring our people to understand what this struggle means to us, if we can maintain our alliances and our partnerships, we will be successful.

“And that will benefit not only our country but the world. And that, when you boil it down is what American leadership has to be about.

_____________

News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

What Obama Administration is Doing to Fight ISIS

President Obama, in his final State of the Union, addressed the ISIL/terror threat saying, "But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.  Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages -- they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped.  But they do not threaten our national existence.  That is the story ISIL wants to tell.  That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.  We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.  (We just need to call them what they are -- killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed. And that’s exactly what we’re doing." © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama, in his final State of the Union, addressed the ISIL/terror threat saying, “But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages — they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That is the story ISIL wants to tell. That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don’t need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin/News & Photo Features

Clearly, the Republican candidates for President are using their own ignorance and the ignorance of most Americans concerning what the US is doing to combat ISIL and terrorism in order to sow fear that they are betting will profit them in gaining votes. 

Most significantly is the truth behind President Obama’s statement from the 2015 State of the Union and this year’s State of the Union, that the US-led coalition has stopped ISIL’s expansion and in fact, has regained 40 percent of the populated territory it once controlled in Iraq and more than 10 percent of the populated territory it once controlled in Syria. And you have to wonder what the Republican candidates would do differently. Even their own words, though filled with bravado and threats, do not really suggest doing anything more than the US is already doing: building a coalition, training and supplying fighters, striking targets including oil facilities and training camps. And the US would be more successful in cutting off their funding sources if the Republicans in Congress would confirm Obama’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department’s efforts to cut off the funding that ISIS and other terrorist organizations need to carry out attacks (Adam Szubin was nominated more than 230 days ago, see more). 

The United States has also been the leader toward a diplomatic effort to accomplish the essential political transition in Syria, and also the leading donor of humanitarian aid to Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Here is a Fact Sheet from the White House that describes what the US is doing (highlights added): 

FACT SHEET: MAINTAINING MOMENTUM IN THE FIGHT AGAINST ISIL 

Over the last year, the 65-member Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, led by the United States, has intensified the fight to liberate ISIL-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria and has made significant progress in its campaign to degrade and destroy this abhorrent terrorist group. 

As we move into 2016, President Obama and the broader Administration remain fully committed to eliminating the threat posed by ISIL and will continue to pursue a strategy that strikes ISIL at its core, degrades its networks, and constrains its prospects for expansion. We must be patient and flexible in our efforts; this is a multi-year fight and there will be challenges along the way. But we are united with our Coalition partners and are making progress together to degrade and destroy ISIL.

Background

  • In the summer of 2014 ISIL had surged into Iraq, directly threatening Baghdad and Erbil, including locations where U.S. personnel were located, and calling for the systematic destruction of the Yezidi people. We witnessed atrocities, beheadings, crucifixions, and immolations. ISIL is like no terrorist threat we have confronted before.
  • ISIL has not had any major strategic victories in Iraq or Syria since May 2015. In fact, with the Coalition supporting local partners on the ground, ISIL has lost approximately 40 percent of populated territory it once controlled in Iraq and more than 10 percent of the populated territory it once controlled in Syria. 
  • ISIL is being defeated by brave local forces in Iraq and Syria who are reclaiming and defending their villages, cities, and ultimately, their countries, with the support of the United States and our Coalition partners.  ISIL’s freedom of movement across borders has been significantly reduced and we are making progress in cutting supply lines between ISIL strongholds in ar-Raqqah and Mosul.

Military Efforts

  • U.S. and Coalition military efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL have ramped up significantly throughout 2015.

o   Seventeen Coalition members have joined the United States in deploying military personnel to assist the Iraqi government in building partner capacity and train, advise, and assist missions. To date Coalition partners have trained nearly 17,000 Iraqi security forces.

o   Twelve Coalition members have conducted over 9,500 air strikes in Iraq and Syria, including over 630 in support of the liberation of Ramadi by Iraqi Security Forces. These airstrikes have taken out over 3,450 ISIL vehicles and tanks, over 1,120 artillery and mortar positions, 1,170 oil infrastructure components to include tanker trucks, oil storage tanks, collection points, and well heads, and more than 13,500 fighting positions, checkpoints, buildings, bunkers, staging areas and barracks, including 39 training camps, in Iraq and Syria. 

o   In December 2015 alone, Coalition airstrikes killed dozens of senior ISIL leaders, including external operations planners, explosives facilitators, financial emirs, and other key positions.

o   Most recently, the ongoing progress in Ramadi illustrates an empowered Iraqi military working side-by-side with local Sunnis to retake their city.  While there is still a great deal of work to be done to secure and hold Ramadi, the Iraqi Security Force have dealt a blow to ISIL.

o   In Syria, Kurdish and Arab groups aligned against ISIL seized Kobane, Tal Abyad, al-Hawl, and the Tishreen Dam, cutting ISIL’s access to all but 98 kilometers of the Turkish border and helping to isolate ar-Raqqah.

o   Nineteen Coalition nations have provided supporting aircraft, including transport, surveillance, and aerial re-fueling capabilities.

o   We have made significant progress in degrading ISIL’s ability to benefit from energy resources. The Coalition has conducted 68 airstrikes in Operation Tidal Wave II in Syria, targeting oil infrastructure, supply lines, and hundreds of tanker trucks that transit oil directly from ISIL. These strikes have taken out key fields in Deir-ez-Zour that once accounted for more than half of ISIL’s monthly oil revenue.  Coalition strikes have reduced ISIL oil revenues by about 30 percent since November 2015.

Political, Stabilization and Humanitarian Efforts

  • The United States continues to support the Iraqi government’s progress toward effective and inclusive governance, stabilization efforts, and reconciliation.

o   Over a dozen Coalition partners have collectively contributed over $50 million to the Funding Facility for Iraq Stabilization.

o   The retaking of Tikrit in April 2015 and the successful return of 90 percent of its residents to date provided valuable lessons that will guide stabilization efforts in newly liberated areas.

o   The U.S. and our Coalition partners, working with the Iraqi government, have now retrained more than a thousand Iraqi police officers to provide security in liberated areas.

  • The United States also continues to be the largest single-country donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, providing more than $5.1 billion to date.

o   In Syria, the U.S. Government has provided more than $4.5 billion to date and USAID is providing emergency assistance to 5 million Syrians every month, including 4 million people inside Syria. USAID is also providing food assistance to Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

o   In Iraq, the U.S. Government has provided more than $603 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance for the Iraqi people including critically needed relief items, food, shelter, clean water, and medical services.

  • The United States continues to lead the international diplomatic effort to reach a negotiated political transition that removes Bashar al-Asad from power and ultimately leads to an inclusive government that is responsive to the needs of all Syrians.  The Asad regime’s continued brutality against the Syrian people drives the influx of foreign fighters who join extremists’ ranks, including ISIL.  Also, the Asad regime’s purchase of oil from ISIL and its unwillingness to target extremists have helped ISIL and other terrorist groups to flourish.

o   So long as Asad remains, foreign fighters will continue to flow into Syria.  This is why we have brought together partners in the region, Europe, Russia, and Iran to work towards a negotiated end to the conflict in Syria.

o   Members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) have agreed to a notional timeline for a political transition, which was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council in December 2015.  

Civilian Efforts to Counter ISIL

  • The United States and our Coalition partners have made progress stemming the flow of foreign fighters, and disrupting ISIL’s propaganda machine and its financial networks.

o   The Counter ISIL Coalition Working Group on Foreign Terrorist Fighters (WGFTF), co-led by the Netherlands and Turkey, is working with member countries to implement the obligations and recommendations set forth in UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178.  Today approximately 45 countries have enacted laws or amendments to create greater obstacles for traveling into Iraq and Syria, at least 35 countries have arrested foreign terrorist fighters or aspirants, and 12 countries have successfully prosecuted foreign terrorist fighters.

o   At least 50 countries plus the United Nations now contribute foreign terrorist fighter profiles to INTERPOL, a 400 percent increase over a two-year period.  Fifty-two countries are sharing foreign fighter profiles through INTERPOL’s Counterterrorism Fusion Center, and the United States has bilateral arrangements with 40 international partners for sharing terrorist travel information.

o   To counter ISIL’s online propaganda and recruitment network, the State Department has launched a Global Engagement Center to integrate and synchronize our communications against violent extremist groups, including ISIL and al-Qa’ida. This new center will shift focus on countering violent extremist messaging away from direct messaging and toward a growing emphasis on empowering and enabling partners, both government and non-government, across the globe.

o   The Counter ISIL Finance Group (CIFG), which the U.S. co-leads with Italy and Saudi Arabia, is an integrated part of the broader Coalition and made up of 30 members worldwide focused on disrupting ISIL financing.  As part of its ongoing work, the CIFG is specifically focusing on information exchange, targeting ISIL’s oil revenues, combatting the financing of ISIL affiliates, and addressing ISIL sales of antiquities, among other topics.

o   The United States chaired a special meeting of the UN Security Council with finance ministers in New York on combating ISIL finance and all forms of terrorist financing.  At this meeting, Security Council finance ministers unanimously adopted a Security Council resolution that improves the international community’s ability to disrupt ISIL financing and to counter the financing of terrorism more broadly.

Domestic Efforts

  • Since 2014, the Department of Justice and the FBI have arrested approximately 65 individuals in ISIL-related matters.
  • Domestically, since the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) last February, the United States has strengthened our efforts to prevent extremists from radicalizing and mobilizing recruits.

o   The CVE Task Force announced in January 2016 will be a permanent interagency task force hosted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with overall leadership provided by DHS and the Department of Justice, with additional staffing provided by representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Counterterrorism Center, and other supporting departments and agencies. The CVE Task Force will (1) integrate whole-of-government CVE programs and activities; (2) leverage new CVE efforts (3) conduct ongoing strategic planning; and (4) assess and evaluate CVE programs and activities.

o   The DHS Office for Community Partnerships continues to find innovative ways to support communities that seek to discourage violent extremism and undercut terrorist narratives.

  • In 2015 alone, the Treasury and State Departments sanctioned more than 30 ISIL-linked senior leaders, financiers, foreign terrorist facilitators, and organizations, helping isolate ISIL from the international financial system.
  • The U.S. government worked closely with Iraqi authorities to ensure that approximately 90 bank branches within ISIL-controlled territory in Iraq are completely cut off from the Iraqi and international financial systems.
  • Working with the Federal Reserve and the Central Bank of Iraq, we have put in place information exchanges and safeguards to deny ISIL access to U.S. banknotes.  This led to the isolation of key exchange houses within Iraq that previously had access to several million dollars.  As part of this effort, the Government of Iraq has prohibited over 100 exchange houses located in ISIL-controlled territory or associated with ISIL from accessing the currency auctions, disrupting one of ISIL’s primary means of accessing and moving its funds.

“Over the next six months we will continue to accelerate our counter-ISIL strategy across all of our lines of effort. We will work with Coalition partners to drive out ISIL from the remaining stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border it has seized; clear and stabilize the Euphrates River Valley; cut off the remaining connections between ar-Raqqah and Mosul; increase the number of Iraqi Sunnis in the fight against ISIL by integrating them into the army, local police, and tribal mobilization structures; as well as advance the stabilization of newly liberated areas, facilitating the safe, voluntary return of thousands of internally displaced persons and restoring local communities. ”

“For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology,” President Obama said during the State of the Union,. “With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons.  We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.”

But he added, “If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.  Take a vote.  Take a vote.

“But the American people should know that with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them.  If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.  Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell.  When you come after Americans, we go after you.  And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits.”

For more information on the President’s strategy to fight ISIL and the work the Global Coalition is doing, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/isil-strategy.