Category Archives: Foreign Relations

Trump Insists ‘There was No Collusion’ Between Campaign & Russia

Donald Trump insists any suggestion of collusion between his campaign and Russia is “ridiculous” and he did not obstruct justice in firing FBI Director James Comey © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump, during a joint press conference with President Santos of Colombia, May 18, in answer to a question, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?     And also as you look back –“ dismissed it saying, “No.  No.  Next question.” 

Here’s more:

Q    Next question.  As you look back over the past six months or year, have you had any recollection where you’ve wondered if anything you have done has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges in these investigations or impeachment, as some on the left are implying?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I think it’s totally ridiculousEverybody thinks so.  And again, we have to get back to working our country properly so that we can take care of the problems that we have.  We have plenty of problems.  We’ve done a fantastic job.  We have a tremendous group of people.  Millions and millions of people out there that are looking at what you had just said, and said, “What are they doing?”

Director Comey was very unpopular with most people.  I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.  But when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision, because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side — not only the Republican side — they were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.

Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday.  That was a poor, poor performance.  So poor, in fact, that I believe — and you’d have to ask him, because I don’t like to speak for other people — but I believe that’s why the Deputy Attorney General went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.

And then, on top of that, after the Wednesday performance by Director Comey, you had a person come and have to readjust the record, which many people have never seen before, because there were misstatements made.  And I thought that was something that was terrible.

We need a great director of the FBI.  I cherish the FBI.  It’s special.  All over the world, no matter where you go, the FBI is special.  The FBI has not had that special reputation with what happened in the campaign, what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign, and even you could say — directly or indirectly — with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign. 

We’re going to have a director who is going to be outstanding.  I’ll be announcing that director very soon, and I look forward to doing it.  I think the people in the FBI will be very, very thrilled.

And just in concluding, we look forward to getting this whole situation behind us so that when we go for the jobs, we go for the strong military, when we go for all of the things that we’ve been pushing so hard and so successfully, including healthcare — because Obamacare is collapsing.  It’s dead; it’s gone.  There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have healthcare in this country.  You just look at what’s happening.  Aetna just pulled out.  Other insurance companies are pulling out.  We don’t have healthcare.  Obamacare is a fallacy.  It’s gone.  We need healthcare. 

We need to cut taxes.  We’re going to cut taxes.  Forget what I want; it will be the biggest tax cut in the history of our nation.  And that’s what I want.  It’s going to bring back companies.  It’s going to bring back jobs.  We lost so many jobs and so many companies to countries that are not so far from you, Mr. President — they’re very close to you, actually — and to many other places throughout the world.  We’re going to change that.  We’re going to have expansion.

We already do.  You look at what’s happening with Ford and with General Motors in Michigan and Ohio.  You look at the tremendous number of jobs that are being announced in so many different fields.  That’s what I’m proud of, and that’s what we want to focus our energy on.

The other is something I can only tell you:  There was no collusion.  And everybody — even my enemies have said, there is no collusion.

So we want to get back and keep on the track that we’re on.  Because the track that we’re on is record-setting, and that’s what we want to do, is we want to break very positive records.

Q    Mr. President, I’d like to get your reaction to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Russian interference in the campaign.  Was this the right move, or is this part of a “witch hunt”?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt.  And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero. 

I think it divides the country.  I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.  So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together, Jon.  And I will also say very strongly, we’ve had tremendous success.  You look at our job numbers, you look at what’s going on at the border, as we discussed before; if you look at what will be happening — you’re going to see some incredible numbers with respect to the success of General Mattis and others with the ISIS situation.  The numbers are staggering, how successful they’ve been, the military has been.

Tomorrow, as you know, I’m going to Saudi Arabia, going to Israel.  I’m going to Rome.  And we have the G7.  We have a lot of great things going on. 

So I hate to see anything that divides.  I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running this country really, really well.  We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100-some-odd days.  Tremendous progress.  And you see job numbers, you see all of the production that’s starting.  Plants starting to open again.  Haven’t been open in years.  I’m very proud of it.  That’s what I want to be focused on.  Because, believe me, there’s no collusion.  Russia is fine.  But whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.

So, thank you very much.

In Remarks to NASA Astronauts, Trump Reacts to “International Cooperation,” “Discovery” & “Science Education” By Pointing to Military Application of Space

Marchers at the March for Science pass Trump International Hotel, New York City, April 22, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Only Donald Tweeter Trump could reply to a remark about how the International Space Station is “by far, the best example of international cooperation and what we can do when we work together in the history of humanity” with a statement about the “tremendous military application in space.  We’re rebuilding our military like never before.”

Following the astronauts’ inspiration message to the thousands of students participating in the video chat with Peggy Whitson, the commander on the international space station, who just hit a milestone as the American with the most time in space, and a discussion of all the scientific and medical achievements gained from the space station, Trump said:

So well said.  And I have to say, there’s tremendous military application in space.  We’re rebuilding our military like never before.  We’re ordering equipment, and we’re going to have the strongest military that we’ve ever had, the strongest military that the world has ever seen, and there’s been no time where we need it more.  And I’m sure that every student watching wants to know, what is next for Americans in space.”

Then, after being told that a Mars mission is planned for the 2030s, Trump, again showing how clueless and uncaring he is about actual facts, says it would take place during his first term, or “at worst” his second term (apparently he intends to pull an Erdogan).

Here is the White House transcript which speaks volumes about the so-called Commander-in-Chief – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

10:00 A.M. EDT

NASA: White House, this is Mission Control, Houston.  Please call Station for a voice check.

THE PRESIDENT:  Do you hear me?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Yes, sir.  We have you loud and clear.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s what we like — great American equipment that works.  And this isn’t easy.  (Laughter.)

I want to say it’s very exciting to be here today — very, very exciting — and to speak to you live with three brave American astronauts.  These are our finest.  These are great, great Americans, great people.  Two join us from orbit aboard the International Space Station:  Commander Peggy Whitson and Colonel Jack Fischer.  And Peggy Whitson has been setting records, and we’re going to talk about that very soon.

I’m here in the Oval Office, along with my daughter Ivanka and astronaut Kate Rubins, who recently returned from space and from the Space Station.  Together, we are being joined by students all across America, thousands and thousands of students who are learning — they’re learning about space, learning about a lot of other things — and they’re watching this conversation from the classroom.  And, all over, we have astronauts and we have everybody, who are flying right now, 17,000 miles per hour.  That’s about as fast as I’ve ever heard.  I wouldn’t want to be flying 17,000 miles an hour.  But that’s what you do.

Peggy, Jack, and Kate, I know that America’s students are thrilled to hear from you.  But first, I want to say that this is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight.  Today, Commander Whitson, you have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut — 534 days and counting.  That’s an incredible record to break.  And on behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you.  That is really something.  And I’d like to know, how does it feel to have broken such a big and important record?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Well, it’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this, but it’s an honor for me basically to be representing all the folks at NASA who make this spaceflight possible and who make me setting this record feasible.  And so it’s a very exciting time to be at NASA.  We are all very much looking forward, as directed by your new NASA bill — we’re excited about the missions to Mars in the 2030s.  And so we actually, physically, have hardware on the ground that’s being built for the SLS rocket that’s going to take us there.  And, of course, the hardware being built now is going to be for the test flights that will eventually get us there.

But it’s a very exciting time, and I’m so proud of the team.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great.  And what are we learning from having you spending your time up there?  I know so much research is done; I’m getting a glimpse of some of it right here in the Oval Office.  What are we learning by being in space?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Well, I think probably the International Space Station is providing a key bridge from us living on Earth to going somewhere into deep space.  So on those Mars missions, we need to better understand how microgravity is really affecting our body, and we need to understand it in great detail.  So, many of the studies are looking at the human body.  We’re also looking at things that involve operations of a space vehicles on these long-duration missions and the technological advancements that will be required.

For instance, on a multiyear Mars mission, we’re going to need to be able to close the life support system, and that means we, right now, for instance, are taking solar power that we collect, and using it to break apart water into oxygen and hydrogen.  The oxygen, we breathe, of course.  We use the hydrogen, combine it back with the CO2 that we take out of the air, and make more water.  But water is such a precious resource up here that we also are cleaning up our urine and making it drinkable.  And it’s really not as bad as it sounds.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s good.  I’m glad to hear that.  (Laughter.)  Better you than me.  I will say, Colonel Fischer, you just arrived, and how was your trip?  Complicated?  Easy?  How did it go?

COL. FISCHER:  Oh, sir, it was awesome.  It made even my beloved F-22 feel a little bit underpowered.  I launched in a Russian vehicle with my Russian friend, Fyodor Yurchikhin, from Kazakhstan.  Got the immediate perspective change as we got to orbit, and I saw that frail, thin blue line of life around the Earth.  Six hours later, we’re docked at the station.  The next day, I install an experiment in the Japanese module that’s going to be looking at new drugs and how we can make those drugs for muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, multi-drug-resistant bacteria — all sorts of things.  A couple hours later, I watched our crewmate, Thomas Pesquet, a Frenchman, drive a Canadian robotic arm to capture a spaceship from Virginia, carrying 3.5 tons of cargo and science that’s going to keep us busy for the next few months, and dock that to the station.

Sir, it’s amazing.  Oh, and then, you know, now I’m talking to the President of the United States while hanging from a wall.  It’s amazing.  The International Space Station is, by far, the best example of international cooperation and what we can do when we work together in the history of humanity.  And I am so proud to be a part of it.  And it’s just cool.  (Laughter.)  Like, yesterday, I had — well, there you go — there’s our resident space ninja doing the gravity demonstration.  And yesterday morning, I had my coffee in floaty ball form, and, sir, it was delicious.  So, it’s awesome.

THE PRESIDENT:  Tell me, Mars — what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars?  Is there a schedule?  And when would you see that happening?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Well, I think as your bill directed, it will be approximately in the 2030s.  As I mentioned, we actually are building hardware to test the new heavy launch vehicle, and this vehicle will take us further than we’ve ever been away from this planet.  Unfortunately, spaceflight takes a lot of time and money, so getting there will require some international cooperation to get it to be a planet-wide approach in order to make it successful, just because it is a very expensive endeavor.  But it so worthwhile doing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term.  So we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, okay? 

CMDR. WHITSON:  (Laughter.)  We’ll do our best.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, you will.  And I have great respect for you folks.  It’s amazing what you do.  And I just want to introduce another great one.  Kate Rubins is with us today, and she has been so impressive with research and so many other things having to do with NASA.  And, Kate, I understand you’re the first person to sequence DNA in space.  Can you tell us about that?

RUBINS:  Yeah.  So that was actually just this last summer, and it’s a real example of what we can do with technology and innovation.  We’ve got a sequencer down to the size of your cellphone, and we were actually able to fly that onboard the space station and sequence DNA.  It’s not just the technology demonstration, but we can actually use that to do things like detect microbes on the space station, look at astronaut health.  We can easily use that in Earth-based settings, too, to look for disease outbreaks and to do rural healthcare as well.

TRUMP:  That’s fantastic.  That is really great.  I saw some of the work, and it’s incredible.  You know, I’ve been dealing with politicians so much, I’m so much more impressed with these people.  You have no idea. 

Now, speaking of another impressive person — Ivanka, you’ve been very much interested in this program.  Tell us something about it.

MS. TRUMP:  Hi, Dr. Whitson.  First of all, congratulations on your incredible milestone today.  You may know that my father recently signed the Inspire Women Act to encourage female participation in STEM fields across all aerospace areas, and really with a focus on NASA.  So encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM careers is a major priority for this administration.

And today we are sitting with an amazing example of that — Dr. Rubins, and you, Dr. Whitson.  So I would love to hear from you, what was the impetus for you to get involved in the sciences?

RUBINS:  Yeah, so when I around fifteen, I actually went to a conference, and that was very inspiring for me.  It was sort of the beginning of recombinant DNA and understanding biology.  And so just that exposure to scientists and the kinds of things that you can do with science and technology innovation.

MS. TRUMP:  Amazing.  Dr. Whitson?

CMDR. WHITSON:  For me, it was actually the Apollo program was my inspiration, and that was when it became a dream to become an astronaut.  But I don’t really think it became a goal until I graduated from high school, when the first female astronauts were selected.  And seeing those role models, and with the encouragement of my parents and various mentors in college and graduate school, and when I started working at Rice, that’s what made it possible, I think, to become an astronaut.  And it took me a lot longer to become an astronaut than I ever really wanted it to take, but I do think I’m better at my job because of the journey.

MS. TRUMP:  You’re an incredible inspiration to us all.  So I would also like to ask you one more question.  I’m incredibly curious, as I’m sure all the students across the country are, to know what a day in the life in space is like.  Could you share what a typical day looks like, what the challenges are, just any special moments?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Well, a typical day, we wake up and look at the messages from the ground, because we have a huge ground team that’s working overnight to prepare changes or the details of the tests that we’re going to be performing over the course of the day.  So first thing I do is check out that, see what’s changed.

But on any given day, it can be so dramatically different.  On one day, we might be focusing on science.  On another day, we might be repairing the carbon dioxide removal system.  On another day, soon Jack and I are going to do a spacewalk.  We talked about, last Saturday, we did robotics operations.  I love the diversity of the different activities that we do.  Plus, you know, we have over 200 investigations ongoing onboard the space station, and I just think that’s a phenomenal part of the day.

Of course, there’s also just the living and, onboard the space station, it’s such a unique and novel environment.  Nothing that we’re used to on the ground.  And it’s so special to just be in zero gravity.  So Jack is the new guy here, and I think he can probably give you a better perspective on what that’s like.

COL. FISCHER:  Well, you know, everything here — my dad always said that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.  And we work really hard up here, but it’s not really work, it’s just fun.  It’s like playing fort almost, only you’re changing the world while you do it.

And then on the off time, the other morning I was working out, and on our machine that we work out on, right below it is the Cupola window.  And so when you’re on the device where you do crunches, every time you come up, you see out the window.  And it’s awesome because you kind of go, crunch, “Oh, my gosh, that’s beautiful!  I got to do that again.”  Crunch, “Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful.”  It’s awesome.  Everything we do here is fun, and it feels so great to know that we’re making a difference on the ground and for the future of humanity as well.  So it’s an incredible, incredible job.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re making a great difference, I have to say.  And this is a very exciting time for our country, and you see what’s happening with our country in terms of jobs, in terms of business, and there’s such excitement and such enthusiasm.  Many American entrepreneurs are racing into space.  I have many friends that are so excited about space.  They want to get involved in space from the standpoint of entrepreneurship and business. 

Tell us about the opportunities that could exist for the next generation of scientists and engineers.  Is that something that you think a student — because you have so many students, hundreds of thousands watching — is that something that you think that students should be focusing, or should they be thinking about other subjects?  What do you think are the opportunities for young students wanting to be involved in space?

A few of the New York City public school students pleading that the government not cut funding for science education, at the March for Science, New York City, April 22, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

COL. FISCHER:  Sir, absolutely.  I think that this is probably the most exciting in space exploration, certainly in my lifetime.  We are about to just have an explosion of activity.  There is so much involvement on the space station with commercial industries and commercial partners.  We have an entire program to manage the science.  NASA has done a wonderful job of seeding a new industry with the Commercial Crew Program and the Commercial Cargo Program so that we can build the infrastructure we need for the future exploration.

One thing I love about American entrepreneurs is, once you get them going, you better stand out of their way because they’re going to start chucking.  And we’re about to that point.  NASA is taking on that expensive, hard, complex task of going further and deeper into space with the wonderful new rocket, Space Launch System and Orion.  And then, as soon as we break open that door, this incredible infrastructure that we’ve been building is going to be right there to pick up the baton and continue into the stars.

I would say to all the students that are watching, the time to get excited is now.  If you aren’t studying science and math, you might want to think about that because our future in the stars starts now, and you can be a part of that if, like Dr. Whitson, you can find that passion and work really hard.  And we’re going to find a permanent foothold in the stars for humanity if you do that.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you.  So well said.  And I have to say, there’s tremendous military application in space.  We’re rebuilding our military like never before.  We’re ordering equipment, and we’re going to have the strongest military that we’ve ever had, the strongest military that the world has ever seen, and there’s been no time where we need it more.  And I’m sure that every student watching wants to know, what is next for Americans in space. 

I’m very proud that I just signed a bill committing NASA to the aim of sending America astronauts to Mars.  So we’ll do that.  I think we’ll do it a lot sooner than we’re even thinking.  So which one of you is ready to go to Mars?  Are you ready?  And I think you’re ready.  I know you’re ready, right?  We just discussed that.  She’d like to go to Mars very quickly.  Who’s ready to go to Mars up there?

CMDR. WHITSON:  We are absolutely ready to go to Mars.  It’s going to be a fantastic journey getting there, and very exciting times, and all of us would be happy to go.  But I want all the young people out there to recognize that the real steps are going to be taken in a few years.  And so by studying math, science, engineering, any kind of technology, you’re going to have a part in that, and that will be very exciting.

THE PRESIDENT:  I just want to thank you very much.  And, Dr. Whitson, I just — congratulations.  Amazing.  What an amazing thing that you’ve done.  Everybody here — I know you’re family — but everybody here is incredibly proud of the record you just broke.  I hope that every young American watching today finds, in your example, a reason to love space and think about space because many great things are going to come out, tremendous discoveries in medicine and so many other fields.

So thank you very much.  I want to say God bless you, God bless America.  We are very, very proud of you, and very proud of your bravery.  Thank you very much.

 

END                10:19 A.M. EDT

Obama Levels Sanctions at Russia in Response to Interfering in Election, Harassing Diplomats

Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The US has evidence that Putin was directly involved in orchestrating cyber attacks and information dissemination intended to tilt the US election toward Donald Trump’s victory. Trump has dismissed the unified analysis of more than a dozen US intelligence agencies and has indicated he would be a close ally of Putin or as Hillary Clinton put it during the campaign, “Putin’s Puppet.”© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The US has evidence that Putin was directly involved in orchestrating cyber attacks and information dissemination intended to tilt the US election toward Donald Trump’s victory. Trump has dismissed the unified analysis of more than a dozen US intelligence agencies and has indicated he would be a close ally of Putin or as Hillary Clinton put it during the campaign, “Putin’s Puppet.”© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Today, President Obama authorized a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016.  “Russia’s cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government.  These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the White House stated.

“Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election,” President Obama stated . These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.  These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year.  Such activities have consequences.  Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response.”

The President issued an executive order that expands upon his authority to respond to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners.

Using this new authority, Obama sanctioned nine entities and individuals:  the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.  In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.  The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, that the government charges were being used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes. Also, the State Department is declaring “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives who will have to leave the US within 72 hours.

Finally, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity –including the codes and IP addresses – to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.

“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” the President added. “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized. In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance. To that end, my Administration will be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections.”

As for the timeline, senior administration officials, answering journalists’ questions, stated:

“Our first priority was publicly disclosing the information – it was most important to make public what we knew – and we did that October 7. That was a unique if not unprecedented step to come out with the common view of US intelligence agencies that a foreign power was influencing our election. We also wanted to give warning directly to the Russians, in public and in private, numerous times, that we knew what they were doing and were preparing a response. We wanted them to absorb that message and have that affect their behavior. We were concerned about securing the election – and there is no evidence that the Russians tampered with the vote. The priority for our cybersecurity efforts was to make sure our election was secure. But the material that had been hacked and was being released – it was not like that genie could be put back in the bottle. We were putting this together in context with [hacked] information being shared, publicly released and reported on by the news media. We wanted to do [respond] as methodically as possible: what we could do with sanctions, with diplomats, with the Joint Analysis Report (JAR), and preparing other elements.”

They added that it takes considerable time to put together a package of sanctions – you need to have the evidence sufficient to stand up in court to justify the actions.

“Sanctions packages are time consuming – establishing the basis, then finding the target list. JAR itself is complex procedure as putting together info we can share publicly that provides the best possible guidance about what we know – and response to harassment [of our diplomats] is something focusing on for some time.”

The incoming administration, under Donald Trump, has dismissed the allegations. Trump stated that “we should just get on with our lives,” and signaled he would undo sanctions leveled against Putin, including the sanctions that were put into place after Russia annexed Crimea and engaged in hostilities intended to overthrow the Ukrainian government.

But the Administration officials, pointing to “flagrant violation of norms” that have also seen in interference in our election as well as a level of harassment of US diplomats in Russia – one even being assaulted by a Russian police officer – along with malicious cyber attacks that have been leveled against critical American infrastructure and American companies. to a level that is unprecedented during in the post-Cold War era and has been developing over a period of years,” threaten national security and democratic regimes.

“There is no debate in the US administration: it is a fact that Russia interfered in our democratic election. We have established that to our satisfaction. We would never expect Russia to acknowledge what they did, don’t do it; still deny they are interfering in Ukraine. We say to journalists, look at what they say and what they do. This is a country that has intervened in sovereign country even though can see – bombed civilians, but they deny it. It is not a ‘he said/she said’ situation.  There are facts.”

“We have one president at a time. President Obama will execute the duties of his office until January 20. He’s acting on what he believes is in best interest of the United States.”

There are any number of actions that we’re taking that will [fall to next administration]. .When a new administration takes office, entirely in their judgment a to whether to continue the course we set in number of areas.

“But Russian actions have been sustained over an extended period of time, and by any definition, are against our national interest, not just the interests of this president – harassment of our diplomats is a direct threat of ability of US to conduct diplomacy. Interference with our election is a pattern we see in other western democracies, including some of our closest allies. Malicious cyber targeting of American critical infrastructure would be of concern to future administrations.

“We know from our own consultations this is of concern to American business, and we would expect future administrations to be concerned about the impact on the American economy of Russian cyber activity.  We are taking these actions because of pattern of behavior of period of time, replicated in other countries. We believe is the right approach to take.

“We’re taking these actions consistent with our assessment of what Russia has done – they have been interfering in both the American democratic process and in the conduct of American diplomacy. That should concern all Americans and members of both parties – a sustained effort to both harass our diplomatic personnel and interfere in our democratic process. We have no reason to believe that Russia’s activities will cease – they have been engaged in malicious cyber activity not just here in the United States but in other democratic countries. One reason to sustain [these] activities is that there is every reason that Russia will continue to interfere… These are executive actions. If a future president decided to allow in Russian intelligence agents, reopen those diplomatic compounds that are being used for intelligence, that compromises US national security.”

Here are the details from the White House:

Sanctioning Malicious Russian Cyber Activity

In response to the threat to U.S. national security posed by Russian interference in our elections, the President has approved an amendment to Executive Order 13964.  As originally issued in April 2015, this Executive Order created a new, targeted authority for the U.S. government to respond more effectively to the most significant of cyber threats, particularly in situations where malicious cyber actors operate beyond the reach of existing authorities.  The original Executive Order focused on cyber-enabled malicious activities that:

  • Harm or significantly compromise the provision of services by entities in a critical infrastructure sector;
  • Significantly disrupt the availability of a computer or network of computers (for example, through a distributed denial-of-service attack); or
  • Cause a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain (for example, by stealing large quantities of credit card information, trade secrets, or sensitive information).

The increasing use of cyber-enabled means to undermine democratic processes at home and abroad, as exemplified by Russia’s recent activities, has made clear that a tool explicitly targeting attempts to interfere with elections is also warranted.  As such, the President has approved amending Executive Order 13964 to authorize sanctions on those who:

  • Tamper with, alter, or cause a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.

Using this new authority, the President has sanctioned nine entities and individuals:  two Russian intelligence services (the GRU and the FSB); four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.

  • The Main Intelligence Directorate (a.k.a. Glavnoe Razvedyvatel’noe Upravlenie) (a.k.a. GRU) is involved in external collection using human intelligence officers and a variety of technical tools, and is designated for tampering, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with the 2016 U.S. election processes.
  • The Federal Security Service (a.k.a. Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti) (a.k.a FSB) assisted the GRU in conducting the activities described above.
  • The three other entities include the Special Technology Center (a.k.a. STLC, Ltd. Special Technology Center St. Petersburg) assisted the GRU in conducting signals intelligence operations; Zorsecurity (a.k.a. Esage Lab) provided the GRU with technical research and development; and the Autonomous Noncommercial Organization “Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems” (a.k.a. ANO PO KSI) provided specialized training to the GRU. 
  • Sanctioned individuals include Igor Valentinovich Korobov, the current Chief of the GRU; Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov, Deputy Chief of the GRU; Igor Olegovich Kostyukov, a First Deputy Chief of the GRU; and Vladimir Stepanovich Alexseyev, also a First Deputy Chief of the GRU.

In addition, the Department of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals,Evgeniy Bogachev and Aleksey Belan, under a pre-existing portion of the Executive Order for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.

  • Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev is designated today for having engaged in significant malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of financial information for private financial gain.  Bogachev and his cybercriminal associates are responsible for the theft of over $100 million from U.S. financial institutions, Fortune 500 firms, universities, and government agencies.
  • Aleksey Alekseyevich Belan engaged in the significant malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of personal identifiers for private financial gain.  Belan compromised the computer networks of at least three major United States-based e-commerce companies.

Responding to Russian Harassment of U.S. Personnel 

Over the past two years, harassment of our diplomatic personnel in Russia by security personnel and police has increased significantly and gone far beyond international diplomatic norms of behavior.  Other Western Embassies have reported similar concerns.  In response to this harassment, the President has authorized the following actions:

  • Today the State Department declared 35 Russian government officials from the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Russian Consulate in San Francisco “persona non grata.”  They were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status. Those individuals and their families were given 72 hours to leave the United States.
  • In addition to this action, the Department of State has provided notice that as of noon on Friday, December 30, Russian access will be denied to two Russian government-owned compounds, one in Maryland and one in New York.

Raising Awareness About Russian Malicious Cyber Activity

The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) that contains declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence services’ malicious cyber activity, to better help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.

  • The JAR includes information on computers around the world that Russian intelligence services have co-opted without the knowledge of their owners in order to conduct their malicious activity in a way that makes it difficult to trace back to Russia. In some cases, the cybersecurity community was aware of this infrastructure, in other cases, this information is newly declassified by the U.S. government.
  • The report also includes data that enables cybersecurity firms and other network defenders to identify certain malware that the Russian intelligence services use.  Network defenders can use this information to identify and block Russian malware, forcing the Russian intelligence services to re-engineer their malware.  This information is newly de-classified.
  • Finally, the JAR includes information on how Russian intelligence services typically conduct their activities.  This information can help network defenders better identify new tactics or techniques that a malicious actor might deploy or detect and disrupt an ongoing intrusion.

This information will allow network defenders to take specific steps that can often block new activity or disrupt on-going intrusions by Russian intelligence services.  DHS and FBI are encouraging security companies and private sector owners and operators to use this JAR and look back within their network traffic for signs of malicious activity. DHS and FBI are also encouraging security companies and private sector owners and operators to leverage these indicators in proactive defense efforts to block malicious cyber activity before it occurs. DHS has already added these indicators to their Automated Indicator Sharing service.

“Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges the United States faces today.  For the last eight years, this Administration has pursued a comprehensive strategy to confront these threats.  And as we have demonstrated by these actions today, we intend to continue to employ the full range of authorities and tools, including diplomatic engagement, trade policy tools, and law enforcement mechanisms, to counter the threat posed by malicious cyber actors, regardless of their country of origin, to protect the national security of the United States,” the White House stated.

______________

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

 

Clinton in Major Foreign Policy Speech, Draws Contrast with Trump as ‘Unprepared, Misguided and Tempermentally Unfit’ for Commander-in Chief

America’s newest warplane, the F35. Hillary Clinton, in a major foreign policy speech, raises questions about Donald Trump’s fitness to be Commander-in-Chief: ‘Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.’ © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
America’s newest warplane, the F35. Hillary Clinton, in a major foreign policy speech, raises questions about Donald Trump’s fitness to be Commander-in-Chief: ‘Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.’ © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In a major speech on Thursday, Hillary Clinton painted a clear picture for the American people of the choice they will face this November — a choice between steady, principled American leadership, and a dangerously uncertain future governed by an unprepared, misguided and temperamentally unfit commander-in-chief.

Here are highlights from her remarks:

On Monday, we observed Memorial Day – a day that means a great deal to San Diego, home of so many active-duty and former military and their families.  We honor the sacrifice of those who died for our country in many ways – by living our values, by making this a stronger and fairer nation, and by carrying out a smart and principled foreign policy.

That’s what I want to speak about today – the challenges we face in protecting our country, and the choice at stake in this election.

It’s a choice between a fearful America that’s less secure and less engaged with the world, and a strong, confident America that leads to keep our country safe and our economy growing.

As Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady, I had the honor of representing America abroad and helping shape our foreign policy at home.  As a candidate for President, there’s nothing I take more seriously than our national security. I’ve offered clear strategies for how to defeat ISIS, strengthen our alliances, and make sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.  And I’m going to keep America’s security at the heart of my campaign.

Because as you know so well, Americans aren’t just electing a President in November.  We’re choosing our next commander-in-chief – the person we count on to decide questions of war and peace, life and death.

And like many across our country and around the world, I believe the person the Republicans have nominated for President cannot do the job.

Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.

He is not just unprepared – he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.

This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes – because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.

We cannot put the security of our children and grandchildren in Donald Trump’s hands.  We cannot let him roll the dice with America.

This is a man who said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.

This is someone who has threatened to abandon our allies in NATO – the countries that work with us to root out terrorists abroad before they strike us at home.

He believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world, which would cause an economic catastrophe far worse than anything we experienced in 2008.

He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture and the murder of civilians who are related to suspected terrorists – even though those are war crimes.

He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or our admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials, because he has – quote –’a very good brain.’

He also said,  ​

‘I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.’​ ​

You know what? I don’t believe him.

He says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, and he has the gall to say that prisoners of war like John McCain aren’t heroes.

Exactly.

He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends – including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the Pope.

He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.

And to top it off, he believes America is weak.  An embarrassment.  He called our military a disaster.  He said we are – and I quote – a ‘third-world country.’​ ​

And he’s been saying things like that for decades.

Those are the words my friends of someone who doesn’t understand America or the world.

And they’re the words of someone who would lead us in the wrong direction. Because if you really believe America is weak – with our military, our values, our capabilities that no other country comes close to matching – then you don’t know America.

And you certainly don’t deserve to lead it.

That’s why – even if I weren’t in this race – I’d be doing everything I could to make sure Donald Trump never becomes President – because I believe he will take our country down a truly dangerous path.

Unlike him, I have some experience with the tough calls and the hard work of statecraft. I wrestled with the Chinese over a climate deal in Copenhagen, brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, negotiated the reduction of nuclear weapons with Russia, twisted arms to bring the world together in global sanctions against Iran, and stood up for the rights of women, religious minorities and LGBT people around the world.

And I have, I have sat in the Situation Room and advised the President on some of the toughest choices he faced.

So I’m not new to this work.  And I’m proud to run on my record, because I think the choice before the American people in this election is clear.

I believe in strong alliances; clarity in dealing with our rivals; and a rock-solid commitment to the values that have always made America great.  And I believe with all my heart that America is an exceptional country – that we’re still, in Lincoln’s words, the last, best hope of earth.  We are not a country that cowers behind walls.  We lead with purpose, and we prevail.

And if America doesn’t lead, we leave a vacuum – and that will either cause chaos, or other countries will rush in to fill the void.  Then they’ll be the ones making the decisions about your lives and jobs and safety – and trust me, the choices they make will not be to our benefit.

That is not an outcome we can live with.

As I see it, there are some important things our next President must do to secure American leadership and keep us safe and our economy growing in the years ahead.  These are all areas in which Donald Trump and I profoundly disagree.  And they are all critical to our future.

First, we need to be strong at home.

That means investing in our infrastructure, education and innovation – the fundamentals of a strong economy.  We need to reduce income inequality, because our country can’t lead effectively when so many are struggling to provide the basics for their families.  And we need to break down the barriers that hold Americans back, including barriers of bigotry and discrimination.

Compare that with what Trump wants to do.  His economic plans would add more than $30 trillion – that’s trillion with a ‘t’ – $30 trillion to our national debt over the next 20 yearsHe has no ideas on education.  No ideas on innovation.  He has a lot of ideas about who to blame, but no clue about what to do.

None of what Donald Trump is offering will make America stronger at home.  And that would make us weaker in the world.

Second, we need to stick with our allies.

America’s network of allies is part of what makes us exceptional.  And our allies deliver for us every day.

Our armed forces fight terrorists together; our diplomats work side by side.  Allies provide staging areas for our military, so we can respond quickly to events on the other side of the world.  And they share intelligence that helps us identify and defuse potential threats.

Take the threat posed by North Korea – perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator who wants to develop long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon to the United States.

When I was Secretary of State, we worked closely with our allies Japan and South Korea to respond to this threat, including by creating a missile defense system that stands ready to shoot down a North Korean warhead, should its leaders ever be reckless enough to launch one at us.  The technology is ours.  Key parts of it are located on Japanese ships.  All three countries contributed to it.  And this month, all three of our militaries will run a joint drill to test it.

That’s the power of allies.

And it’s the legacy of American troops who fought and died to secure those bonds, because they knew we were safer with friends and partners.

Now Moscow and Beijing are deeply envious of our alliances around the world, because they have nothing to match them.  They’d love for us to elect a President who would jeopardize that source of strength.  If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin.  We cannot let that happen.

That’s why it is no small thing when he talks about leaving NATO, or says he’ll stay neutral on Israel’s security.

It’s no small thing when he calls Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. We’re lucky to have two friendly neighbors on our land borders.  Why would he want to make one of them an enemy?

And it’s no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons, and said this about a war between Japan and North Korea – and I quote –​ ​

‘If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.’

I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war.

Yes, our friends need to contribute their fair share. I made that point long before Donald Trump came onto the scene – and a number of them have increased their defense spending.  The real debate here is whether we keep these alliances strong or cut them off.  What he says would weaken our country.

Third, we need to embrace all the tools of American power, especially diplomacy and development, to be on the frontlines solving problems before they threaten us at home.

Diplomacy is often the only way to avoid a conflict that could end up exacting a much greater cost.  It takes patience, persistence and an eye on the long game – but it’s worth it.

Take the nuclear agreement with Iran. When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb. Some called for military action.  But that could have ignited a broader war that could have mired our troops in another Middle Eastern conflict.

President Obama chose a different path.  And I got to work leading the effort to impose crippling global sanctions.  We brought Iran to the table.  We began talks. And eventually, we reached an agreement that should block every path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

Now we must enforce that deal vigorously. And as I’ve said many times before, our approach must be ‘distrust and verify.’​ ​

The world must understand that the United States will act decisively if necessary, including with military action, to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  In particular, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.  They’re our closest ally in the region, and we have a moral obligation to defend them.

But there is no question that the world and the United States, we are safer now than we were before this agreement.  And we accomplished it without firing a single shot, dropping a single bomb or putting a single American soldier in harm’s way.

Donald Trump says we shouldn’t have done the deal.  We should have walked away.  But that would have meant no more global sanctions, and Iran resuming their nuclear program and the world blaming us.  So then what?  War?  Telling the world, good luck, you deal with Iran?

Of course Trump doesn’t have answers to those questions.  Donald Trump doesn’t know the first thing about Iran or its nuclear program.  Ask him.  It’ll become very clear, very quickly.

There’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf-course deal.

But it doesn’t work like that in world affairs. Just like being interviewed on the same episode of “60 Minutes” as Putin was, is not the same thing as actually dealing with Putin.

So the stakes in global statecraft are infinitely higher and more complex than in the world of luxury hotels. We all know the tools Donald Trump brings to the table – bragging, mocking, composing nasty tweets – I’m willing to bet he’s writing a few right now.

But those tools won’t do the trick. Rather than solving global crises, he would create new ones.

He has no sense of what it takes to deal with multiple countries with competing interests and reaching a solution that everyone can get behind. In fact, he is downright contemptuous of that work. And that means he’s much more likely to end up leading us into conflict.

Fourth, we need to be firm but wise with our rivals.

Countries like Russia and China often work against us. Beijing dumps cheap steel in our markets. That hurts American workers. Moscow has taken aggressive military action in Ukraine, right on NATO’s doorstep. Now I’ve gone toe-to-toe with Russia and China, and many other different leaders around the world. So I know we have to be able to both stand our ground when we must, and find common ground when we can.

That’s how I could work with Russia to conclude the New START treaty to reduce nuclear stockpiles, and with China to increase pressure on North Korea. It’s how our diplomats negotiated the landmark agreement on climate change, which Trump now wants to rip up.

The key was never forgetting who we were dealing with – not friends or allies, but countries that share some common interests with us amid many disagreements.

Donald doesn’t see the complexity.  He wants to start a trade war with ChinaAnd I understand a lot of Americans have concerns about our trade agreements – I do too.  But a trade war is something very different. We went down that road in the 1930s. It made the Great Depression longer and more painful. Combine that with his comments about defaulting on our debt, and it’s not hard to see how a Trump presidency could lead to a global economic crisis.

And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald’s bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America. He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.  

He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea – something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie. And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A.

Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.

I just wonder how anyone could be so wrong about who America’s real friends are. Because it matters. If you don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with, men like Putin will eat your lunch.

Fifth, we need a real plan for confronting terrorists.

As we saw six months ago in San Bernardino, the threat is real and urgent. Over the past year, I’ve laid out my plans for defeating ISIS.

We need to take out their strongholds in Iraq and Syria by intensifying the air campaign and stepping up our support for Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground. We need to keep pursuing diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war and close Iraq’s sectarian divide, because those conflicts are keeping ISIS alive.  We need to lash up with our allies, and ensure our intelligence services are working hand-in-hand to dismantle the global network that supplies money, arms, propaganda and fighters to the terrorists. We need to win the battle in cyberspace.

And of course we need to strengthen our defenses here at home.

That – in a nutshell – is my plan for defeating ISIS.

What’s Trump’s?  Well he won’t say. He is literally keeping it a secret. The secret, of course, is he has no idea what he’d do to stop ISIS.

Just look at the few things he’s actually said on the subject.

He’s actually said – and I quote –’maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS.​’  

Oh, okay – let a terrorist group have control of a major country in the Middle East.

Then he said we should send tens of thousands of American ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS.

He also refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties.

It’s clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. So we can’t be certain which of these things he would do. But we can be certain that he’s capable of doing any or all of them. Letting ISIS run wild. Launching a nuclear attack. Starting a ground war. These are all distinct possibilities with Donald Trump in charge.

And through all his loose talk, there’s one constant theme: demonizing Muslims and playing right into the hands of ISIS’. His proposal to ban 1.5 billion Muslims from even coming to our country doesn’t just violate the religious freedom our country was founded on.  It’s also a huge propaganda victory for ISIS.  And it alienates the very countries we need to actually help us in this fight.

A Trump Presidency would embolden ISIS. We cannot take that risk.

This isn’t reality television – this is actual reality.

And defeating global terrorist networks and protecting the homeland 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.

And one more thing. A President has a sacred responsibility to send our troops into battle only if we absolutely must, and only with a clear and well-thought-out strategy. Our troops give their all. They deserve a commander-in-chief who knows that.

I’ve worked side-by-side with admirals and generals, and visited our troops in theaters of war.  I’ve fought for better health care for our National Guard, better services for our veterans, and more support for our Gold Star families. We cannot put the lives of our young men and women in uniform in Donald Trump’s hands.

Sixth, we need to stay true to our values.

Trump says over and over again, ​ ​

‘The world is laughing at us.’​ ​

He’s been saying this for decades, he didn’t just start this year. He bought full-page ads in newspapers across the country back in 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President, saying that America lacked a backbone and the world was – you guessed it – laughing at us. He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now – and you’ve got to wonder why somebody who fundamentally has so little confidence in America, and has felt that way for at least 30 years, wants to be our President.

The truth is, there’s not a country in the world that can rival us. It’s not just that we have the greatest military, or that our economy is larger, more durable, more entrepreneurial than any in the world. It’s also that Americans work harder, dream bigger – and we never, ever stop trying to make our country and world a better place.

So it really matters that Donald Trump says things that go against our deepest-held values.  It matters when he says he’ll order our military to murder the families of suspected terrorists.  During the raid to kill bin Laden, when every second counted, our SEALs took the time to move the women and children in the compound to safety. Donald Trump may not get it, but that’s what honor looks like.

And it also matters when he makes fun of disabled people, calls women pigs,
proposes banning an entire religion from our country, or plays coy with white supremacists.  America stands up to countries that treat women like animals, or people of different races, religions or ethnicities as less human.

What happens to the moral example we set – for the world and for our own children – if our President engages in bigotry?

And by the way, Mr. Trump – every time you insult American Muslims or Mexican immigrants, remember that plenty of Muslims and immigrants serve and fight in our armed forces.

Donald Trump, Donald Trump could learn something from them.

That brings me to the final point I want to make today – the temperament it takes
to be Commander-in-Chief.

Every President faces hard choices every day, with imperfect information and conflicting imperatives.  That’s the job.

A revolution threatens to topple a government in a key region, an adversary reaches out for the first time in years – what do you do?

Making the right call takes a cool head and respect for the facts.  It takes a willingness to listen to other people’s points of view with a truly open mind.  It also takes humility – knowing you don’t know everything – because if you’re convinced you’re always right, you’ll never ask yourself the hard questions.

I remember being in the Situation Room with President Obama, debating the potential Bin Laden operation. The President’s advisors were divided.  The intelligence was compelling but far from definitive. The risks of failure were daunting. The stakes were significant for our battle against al Qaeda and our relationship with Pakistan.  Most of all, the lives of those brave SEALs and helicopter pilots hung in the balance.

It was a decision only the President could make. And when he did, it was as crisp and courageous a display of leadership as I’ve ever seen.

Now imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Situation Room, making life-or-death decisions on behalf of the United States.  Imagine him deciding whether to send your spouses or children into battle.  Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.

Do we want him making those calls – someone thin-skinned and quick to anger, who lashes out at the smallest criticism?  Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?

I have a lot of faith that the American people will make the right decision.  This is a country with a deep reservoir of common sense and national pride.  We’re all counting on that.

Because making Donald Trump our commander-in-chief would be a historic mistake. It would undo so much of the work that Republicans and Democrats alike have done over many decades to make America stronger and more secure. It would set back our standing in the world more than anything in recent memory. And it would fuel an ugly narrative about who we are – that we’re fearful, not confident; that we want to let others determine our future for us, instead of shaping our own destiny.

That’s not the America I know and love.

So yes, we have a lot of work to do to keep our country secure. And we need to do better by American families and American workers – and we will. But don’t let anyone tell you that America isn’t great.  Donald Trump’s got America all wrong. We are a big-hearted, fair-minded country.

There is no challenge we can’t meet, no goal we can’t achieve when we each do our part and come together as one nation.

Every lesson from our history teaches us that we are stronger together. We remember that every Memorial Day.

This election is a choice between two very different visions of America.

One that’s angry, afraid, and based on the idea that America is fundamentally weak and in decline.

The other is hopeful, generous, and confident in the knowledge that America is great – just like we always have been.

Let’s resolve that we can be greater still. That is what I believe in my heart.

I went to 112 countries as your Secretary of State.  And I never lost my sense of pride at seeing our blue-and-white plane lit up on some far-off runway, with ‘The United States of America’  emblazoned on the side.  That plane – those words – our country represents something special, not just to us, to the world.  It represents freedom and hope and opportunity.

I love this country and I know you do too. It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve America and I’m going to do everything I can to protect our nation, and make sure we don’t lose sight of how strong we really are.

Obama in Hiroshima: ‘The start of our own moral awakening’

 

President Obama with President Abe of Japan at the Peace Memorial, Hiroshima (White House pool)
President Obama with President Abe of Japan at the Peace Memorial, Hiroshima (White House pool)

President Obama, the first sitting American President to visit Hiroshima, japan, the site of the world’s only use of an atomic weapon, struck just the right tone in a speech thoughtfully, and carefully constructed to inspire reconciliation, rather than apologize for a decision made in a different time and context. And he made it about the future, the task and the challenge ahead in face of mankind’s scientific and technological know-how to destroy all humanity. The man who won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009, who struggled to extract the US from two wars, who worked to secure loose nukes and negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran has nonetheless been stymied in his goal to reduce the nuclear menace. Here is the text of his remarks, highlighted, strangely idealistic and realistic at the same time:

 

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima, Japan

 

5:45 P.M. JST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.  A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima?  We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not so distant past.  We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 in Japanese men, women and children; thousands of Koreans; a dozen Americans held prisoner.  Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.

It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart. Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man.  Our early ancestors, having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood, used these tools not just for hunting, but against their own kind.  On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold; compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal.  Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated.  And at each juncture, innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.

The World War that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations.  Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art.  Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth.  And yet, the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes; an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.  In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die — men, women, children no different than us, shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death.

There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war — memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism; graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity.  Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction; how the very spark that marks us as a species — our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.

How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth.  How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.  Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.  Nations arise, telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats, but those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.

Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds; to cure disease and understand the cosmos.  But those same discoveries can be turned into ever-more efficient killing machines.

The wars of the modern age teach this truth.  Hiroshima teaches this truth.  Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us.  The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution, as well.

That is why we come to this place.  We stand here, in the middle of this city, and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell.  We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see.  We listen to a silent cry.  We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war, and the wars that came before, and the wars that would follow.

Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering, but we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.  Someday the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness.  But the memory of the morning of August 6th, 1945 must never fade.  That memory allows us to fight complacency.  It fuels our moral imagination.  It allows us to change.

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope.  The United States and Japan forged not only an alliance, but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war.  The nations of Europe built a Union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy.  Oppressed peoples and nations won liberation.  An international community established institutions and treaties that worked to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back, and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

Still, every act of aggression between nations; every act of terror and corruption and cruelty and oppression that we see around the world shows our work is never done. We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations –- and the alliances that we’ve formed -– must possess the means to defend ourselves.  But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.

We may not realize this goal in my lifetime.  But persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe.  We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles.  We can stop the spread to new nations, and secure deadly materials from fanatics.

And yet that is not enough.  For we see around the world today how even the crudest rifles and barrel bombs can serve up violence on a terrible scale.  We must change our mindset about war itself –- to prevent conflict through diplomacy, and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun; to see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition; to define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build.

And perhaps above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race.  For this, too, is what makes our species unique.  We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past.  We can learn.  We can choose. We can tell our children a different story –- one that describes a common humanity; one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.

We see these stories in the hibakusha –- the woman who forgave a pilot who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb, because she recognized that what she really hated was war itself; the man who sought out families of Americans killed here, because he believed their loss was equal to his own.

My own nation’s story began with simple words:  All men are created equal, and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens.

But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for; an ideal that extends across continents, and across oceans.  The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious; the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family -– that is the story that we all must tell.

That is why we come to Hiroshima.  So that we might think of people we love — the first smile from our children in the morning; the gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table; the comforting embrace of a parent –- we can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here seventy-one years ago.  Those who died -– they are like us.  Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life, and not eliminating it.

When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here.  But today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace.  What a precious thing that is.  It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child.  That is the future we can choose -– a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.  (Applause.)

 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate US-Israel Relations

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues. 

Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14. 

Of all the issues raised during the Brooklyn debate, the only one of particular importance to the New York primary voters raised concerned US-Israel Relations. It also inspired surprising reaction from the audience. 

US-Israel Relations 

BLITZER: Senator, let’s talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel’s response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life.” (APPLAUSE) What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?  

SANDERS: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate. (APPLAUSE)

“But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.

“Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

“So what is not to say — to say that right now in Gaza, right now in Gaza unemployment is s somewhere around 40%. You got a log of that area continues, it hasn’t been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I to an approach that works in the Middle East.”  (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

BLITZER: Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinians attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, end its disproportionate responses?

CLINTON: I negotiated the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with (APPLAUSE) President Abbas of the Palestinian authority based in Ramallah, I did it with the then Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet. I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages. (APPLAUSE)

“They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.

“So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself. [She said with increasing assertiveness.] (APPLAUSE)

“That does not mean — that does not mean that you don’t take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there’s always second guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and…” 

BLITZER: … Thank you…

CLINTON: … just let me finish. The rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

“…of course there have to be precautions taken but even the most independent analyst will say the way that Hamas places its weapons, the way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it is terrible. (AUDIENCE REACTION)

“I’m not saying it’s anything other than terrible…remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people.  And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza.

“So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.”  

Sanders then attacked Clinton for not “discussing the needs of the Palestinian people,” in her speech to AIPAC, the American-Jewish organization that lobbies on behalf of Israel.

CLINTON: Well, if I — I want to add, you know, again describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it. And I have been involved, both as first lady with my husband’s efforts, as a senator supporting the efforts that even the Bush administration was undertaking, and as secretary of state for President Obama, I’m the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.

“There were only four of us in the room, Netanyahu, Abbas, George Mitchell, and me. Three long meetings. And I was absolutely focused on what was fair and right for the Palestinians.

“I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.” (APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: There comes a time — there comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

CLINTON: If you are from whatever perspective trying to seek peace, trying to create the conditions for peace when there is a terrorist group embedded in Gaza that does not want to see you exist, that is a very difficult challenge. 

Sanders Strategist Weighs In

In the spin room after the debate, Sanders’ campaign strategist Tad Devine was asked whether Sanders’ comments about Israel could get him into trouble in New York?

Bernie Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Bernie Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The thing about Bernie Sanders is he doesn’t give answers to seek political advantage. He says what he believes. And I think he believes sincerely – and this is from someone who is Jewish, someone who spent 6 months on a kibbutz in Israel, who has a number of family members there –  he believes the best way forward for peace is the one he described tonight. I would just suggest that the answers he gives not just on that issue, but a number of issues, are not given for political calculation but are given because  this is what he believes.”

Next: Universal Health Care, Free College, Supreme Court

 

See also:

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Qualifications, Credibility 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Gun Violence & Criminal Justice

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Climate Change, Energy & Environment

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate National Security & Foreign Policy

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

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate National Security & Foreign Policy

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues. 

Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14. 

In this section, the candidates debate national security and foreign policy: 

National Security & Foreign Policy

Secretary Clinton, President Obama says the worst mistake in office that he made over these past seven and a half years was not preparing for Libya after Moammar Qadafi was removed. You were his secretary of State. Aren’t you also responsible for that?

CLINTON: Well, let me say I think we did a great deal to help the Libyan people after Qadafi’s demise. And here’s what we did.

“We helped them hold two successful elections, something that is not easy, which they did very well because they had a pent up desire to try to chart their own future after 42 years of dictatorship. I was very proud of that. 

“We got rid of the chemical weapons stockpile that Qadafi had, getting it out of Libya, getting it away from militias or terrorist groups. 

“We also worked to help them set up their government. We sent a lot of American experts there. We offered to help them secure their borders, to train a new military. 

“They, at the end, when it came to security issues, Wolf, did not want troops from any other country, not just us, European or other countries, in Libya. 

“And so we were caught in a very difficult position. They could not provide security on their own, which we could see and we told them that, but they didn’t want to have others helping to provide that security. 

“And the result has been a clash between different parts of the country, terrorists taking up some locations in the country. 

“And we can’t walk away from that. We need to be working with European and Arab partners with the United Nations in order to continue to try to support them.

“The Libyan people deserve a chance at democracy and self- government. And I, as president, will keep trying to give that to them.”

SANDERS: …For President Obama, this was a pretty tough call, like a 51-49 call, do you overthrow Qadafi, who, of course, was a horrific dictator?

“The New York Times told us it was Secretary Clinton who led the effect for that regime change. And this is the same type of mentality that supported the war in Iraq. Qadafi, Saddam Hussein are brutal, brutal murdering thugs. No debate about that.

“But what we have got to do and what the president was saying is we didn’t think thoroughly about what happens the day after you get rid of these dictators.

“Regime change often has unintended consequences in Iraq and in Libya right now, where ISIS has a very dangerous foothold. And I think if you studied the whole history of American involvement in regime change, you see that quite often.”

CLINTON: — I would just point out that there was a vote in the Senate as to whether or not the United States should support the efforts by the Libyan people to protect themselves against the threats, the genocidal threats coming from Gadhafi, and whether we should go to the United Nations to seek Security Council support.

“Senator Sanders voted for that, and that’s exactly what we did.” 

SANDERS: No. (CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: We went to the United Nations — yes, he did. We went to the United Nations Security Council. We got support from the Security Council. And we then supported the efforts of our European and Arab allies and partners.

“This was a request made to our government by the Europeans and by the Arabs because of their great fear of what chaos in Syria would do to them. And if you want to know what chaos does, not just to the people inside but the people on the borders, look at Syria.

“Nobody stood up to Assad and removed him, and we have had a far greater disaster in Syria than we are currently dealing with right now in Libya.” (APPLAUSE) (CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: What you are talking about is what I think was what they call the unanimous consent, you know what that is, where basically, do we support Libya moving to democracy?

“Well, you know what, I surely have always supported Libya moving to democracy. But please do not confuse that with your active effort for regime change without contemplating what happened the day after. Totally different issue.”

CLINTON: There was also in that a reference to the Security Council, and I know you’re not shy when you oppose something, Senator. So, yes, it was unanimous. That’s exactly right, including you.  

“And what we did was to try to provide support for our European and Arab allies and partners. The decision was the president’s. Did I do the due diligence? Did I talk to everybody I could talk to? Did I visit every capital and then report back to the president? Yes, I did. That’s what a secretary of state does.  

“But at the end of the day, those are the decisions that are made by the president to in any way use American military power. And the president made that decision. And, yes, we did try without success because of the Libyans’ obstruction to our efforts, but we did try and we will continue to try to help the Libyan people.”

SANDERS: If you listen, you know — two points. Number one, yes, 100-0 in the Senate voted for democracy in Libya and I would vote for that again. But that is very different from getting actively involved to overthrow and bring about regime change without fully understanding what the consequence of that regime change would be.

“Second of all, I know you keep referring to Barack Obama all night here, but you in Syria, you in Syria talked about a no-fly zone, which the president certainly does not support, nor do I support because, A, it will cost an enormous sum of money, second of all, it runs the risk of getting us sucked into perpetual warfare in that region.

“Thirdly, when we talk about Syria right now, no debate, like Gadhafi, like Saddam Hussein, Assad is another brutal murdering dictator, but right now our fight is to destroy ISIS first, and to get rid of Assad second.”

CLINTON: Well, I think Senator Sanders has just reinforced my point. Yes, when I was secretary of state I did urge, along with the Department of Defense and the CIA that we seek out, vet, and train, and arm Syrian opposition figures so that they could defend themselves against Assad.  

“The president said no. Now, that’s how it works. People who work for the president make recommendations and then the president makes the decision. So I think it’s only fair to look at where we are in Syria today. 

“And, yes, I do still support a no-fly zone because I think we need to put in safe havens for those poor Syrians who are fleeing both Assad and ISIS and have some place that they can be safe.” 

BASH: Senator Sanders, in 1997, you said this about NATO, you said, quote: “It is not the time to continue wasting tens of billions of dollars helping to defend Europe, let alone assuming more than our share of any cost associated with expanding NATO.”Do you still feel that way?

SANDERS: Well, what I believe, if my memory is correct here, we spend about 75 percent of the entire cost of the military aspect of NATO. Given the fact that France has a very good health care system and free public education, college education for their people, the U.K. has a good National Health Service and they also provide fairly reasonable higher education, you know what, yeah, I do believe that the countries of Europe should pick up more of the burden for their defense. Yes, I do. (APPLAUSE)

BASH: And just following up, Senator Sanders, Donald Trump also argues that NATO is unfair economically to the U.S. because America pays a disproportionate share. So how is what you say about NATO and your proposal different than his? 

SANDERS: Well, you got to ask — you got to ask Trump. All I can tell you is, with a huge deficit, with 47 million people living in poverty, with our inner cities collapsing, yeah, I do think countries like Germany and U.K. and France and European countries whose economy, or at least its standard of living and health care and education, they’re doing pretty well.

“So I would not be embarrassed as president of the United States to stay to our European allies, you know what, the United States of America cannot just support your economies. You’ve got to put up your own fair share of the defense burden. Nothing wrong with that.” (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I support our continuing involvement in NATO. And it is important to ask for our NATO allies to pay more of the cost. There is a requirement that they should be doing so, and I believe that needs to be enforced. 

“But there’s a larger question here. NATO has been the most successful military alliance in probably human history. It has bound together across the Atlantic countries that are democracies, that have many of the same values and interests, and now we need to modernize it and move it into the 21st century to serve as that head of our defense operations in Europe when it comes to terrorism and other threats that we face. So yes, of course they should be paying more, but that doesn’t mean if they don’t we leave, because I don’t think that’s in America’s interests.” 

BASH: To that point, there are 28 countries in the alliance, and the United States gives more money to NATO’s budget than 21 of those countries combined. If they don’t agree to pay more, as you suggested, then what would you do as commander-in-chief? 

CLINTON: I will stay in NATO. I will stay in NATO, and we will continue to look for missions and other kinds of programs that they will support. Remember, NATO was with us in Afghanistan. Most of the member countries also lost soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. They came to our rallying defense after 9/11. That meant a lot.

“And, yes, we have to work out the financial aspects of it, but let’s not forget what’s really happening. With Russia being more aggressive, making all kinds of intimidating moves toward the Baltic countries, we’ve seen what they’ve done in Eastern Ukraine, we know how they want to rewrite the map of Europe, it is not in our interests. Think of how much it would cost if Russia’s aggression were not deterred because NATO was there on the front lines making it clear they could not move forward.” (APPLAUSE)

Next: US-Israel Relations 

See also:

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Qualifications, Credibility 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Gun Violence & Criminal Justice

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Climate Change, Energy & Environment

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

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

Obama Speech to Cuban People is Affirmation of Democracy and Virtue of Reconciliation

By Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ugly Americans.

Donald Trump. Ted Cruz. Their arrogance is nauseating. And dangerous. These are the people calling to expand the use of torture, that the United States is somehow above international law and norms. These are the people who proclaim “American Exceptionalism” and deny that the United States ever did anything wrong, or that as a country, we have yet to achieve the fullness of our potential or promise. Slavery? Indian ethnic cleansing and genocide? Not even a footnote in their minds. Neither one has a clue of what makes America “exceptional.”

But President Obama does, and said as much during his historic and courageous visit to Cuba, overcoming more than 50 years of hostility.

Instead of cheering for Obama’s historic visit to Cuba – which along with his visit to Argentina, his leadership on the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Agreement and the Syria Ceasefire (at least, the attempt), do more to keep Americans safe than the calls to keep the extra-legal Guantanamo Bay prison open , expand the use of torture, send in police to surveil Muslim American neighborhoods do more to keep America safe – they condemn his visit as coddling dictators. Yet Obama was able to meet with dissidents and give an utterly breathtaking, inspiring speech about the benefits of opening society to speech, assembly and voting. And he did it right in front of Raul Castro, challenging, even daring the Castro regime to . He acknowledged that the United States is not perfect, but that Democracy affords the best means of working toward a more perfect society where each is equal under the law.

“The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution — America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world — those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy.  Not because American democracy is perfect, but precisely because we’re not.  And we — like every country — need the space that democracy gives us to change.  It gives individuals the capacity to be catalysts to think in new ways, and to reimagine how our society should be, and to make them better,” President Obama said in a speech to the people of Cuba at the Gran Teatro de la Habana, Havana Cuba, on March 22, 2016.

President Obama during his historic visit to Cuba (Pool photo).
President Obama during his historic visit to Cuba (Pool photo).

Here are highlights from his speech:

Before I begin, please indulge me.  I want to comment on the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Brussels.  The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium.  We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people.  We will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally, Belgium, in bringing to justice those who are responsible.  And this is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality, or race, or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.  We can — and will — defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world…

 

Havana is only 90 miles from Florida, but to get here we had to travel a great distance — over barriers of history and ideology; barriers of pain and separation.  The blue waters beneath Air Force One once carried American battleships to this island — to liberate, but also to exert control over Cuba.  Those waters also carried generations of Cuban revolutionaries to the United States, where they built support for their cause.  And that short distance has been crossed by hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles — on planes and makeshift rafts — who came to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity, sometimes leaving behind everything they owned and every person that they loved.

Like so many people in both of our countries, my lifetime has spanned a time of isolation between us.  The Cuban Revolution took place the same year that my father came to the United States from Kenya.  The Bay of Pigs took place the year that I was born. The next year, the entire world held its breath, watching our two countries, as humanity came as close as we ever have to the horror of nuclear war.  As the decades rolled by, our governments settled into a seemingly endless confrontation, fighting battles through proxies.  In a world that remade itself time and again, one constant was the conflict between the United States and Cuba.

I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.  (Applause.)  I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.  (Applause.)

I want to be clear:  The differences between our governments over these many years are real and they are important.  I’m sure President Castro would say the same thing — I know, because I’ve heard him address those differences at length.  But before I discuss those issues, we also need to recognize how much we share.  Because in many ways, the United States and Cuba are like two brothers who’ve been estranged for many years, even as we share the same blood.

We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans.  Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa.  Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave-owners.  We’ve welcomed both immigrants who came a great distance to start new lives in the Americas….

 

For all of our differences, the Cuban and American people share common values in their own lives.  A sense of patriotism and a sense of pride — a lot of pride.  A profound love of family.  A passion for our children, a commitment to their education.  And that’s why I believe our grandchildren will look back on this period of isolation as an aberration, as just one chapter in a longer story of family and of friendship.

But we cannot, and should not, ignore the very real differences that we have — about how we organize our governments, our economies, and our societies.  Cuba has a one-party system; the United States is a multi-party democracy.  Cuba has a socialist economic model; the United States is an open market.  Cuba has emphasized the role and rights of the state; the United States is founded upon the rights of the individual. 

Despite these differences, on December 17th 2014, President Castro and I announced that the United States and Cuba would begin a process to normalize relations between our countries.  (Applause.)  Since then, we have established diplomatic relations and opened embassies.  We’ve begun initiatives to cooperate on health and agriculture, education and law enforcement.  We’ve reached agreements to restore direct flights and mail service.  We’ve expanded commercial ties, and increased the capacity of Americans to travel and do business in Cuba. 

And these changes have been welcomed, even though there are still opponents to these policies.  But still, many people on both sides of this debate have asked:  Why now?  Why now?

There is one simple answer:  What the United States was doing was not working.  We have to have the courage to acknowledge that truth.  A policy of isolation designed for the Cold War made little sense in the 21st century.  The embargo was only hurting the Cuban people instead of helping them.  And I’ve always believed in what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now” — we should not fear change, we should embrace it.  (Applause.)

That leads me to a bigger and more important reason for these changes:  Creo en el pueblo Cubano.  I believe in the Cuban people.  (Applause.)  This is not just a policy of normalizing relations with the Cuban government.  The United States of America is normalizing relations with the Cuban people.  (Applause.)

And today, I want to share with you my vision of what our future can be.  I want the Cuban people — especially the young people — to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope; not the false promise which insists that things are better than they really are, or the blind optimism that says all your problems can go away tomorrow.  Hope that is rooted in the future that you can choose and that you can shape, and that you can build for your country.  

I’m hopeful because I believe that the Cuban people are as innovative as any people in the world.

In a global economy, powered by ideas and information, a country’s greatest asset is its people.  In the United States, we have a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build: it’s called Miami.  Here in Havana, we see that same talent in cuentapropistas, cooperatives and old cars that still run.  El Cubano inventa del aire.  (Applause.)

Cuba has an extraordinary resource — a system of education which values every boy and every girl.  (Applause.)  And in recent years, the Cuban government has begun to open up to the world, and to open up more space for that talent to thrive.  In just a few years, we’ve seen how cuentapropistas can succeed while sustaining a distinctly Cuban spirit.  Being self-employed is not about becoming more like America, it’s about being yourself…

 

That’s where hope begins — with the ability to earn your own living, and to build something you can be proud of.  That’s why our policies focus on supporting Cubans, instead of hurting them.  That’s why we got rid of limits on remittances — so ordinary Cubans have more resources.  That’s why we’re encouraging travel — which will build bridges between our people, and bring more revenue to those Cuban small businesses. That’s why we’ve opened up space for commerce and exchanges — so that Americans and Cubans can work together to find cures for diseases, and create jobs, and open the door to more opportunity for the Cuban people. 

As President of the United States, I’ve called on our Congress to lift the embargo.  (Applause.)  It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people.  It’s a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba.  It’s time to lift the embargo.  But even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba.  (Applause.)  It should be easier to open a business here in Cuba.  A worker should be able to get a job directly with companies who invest here in Cuba.  Two currencies shouldn’t separate the type of salaries that Cubans can earn.  The Internet should be available across the island, so that Cubans can connect to the wider world — (applause) — and to one of the greatest engines of growth in human history.

There’s no limitation from the United States on the ability of Cuba to take these steps.  It’s up to you.  And I can tell you as a friend that sustainable prosperity in the 21st century depends upon education, health care, and environmental protection.  But it also depends on the free and open exchange of ideas.  If you can’t access information online, if you cannot be exposed to different points of view, you will not reach your full potential.  And over time, the youth will lose hope.

I know these issues are sensitive, especially coming from an American President.  Before 1959, some Americans saw Cuba as something to exploit, ignored poverty, enabled corruption.  And since 1959, we’ve been shadow-boxers in this battle of geopolitics and personalities.  I know the history, but I refuse to be trapped by it.  (Applause.)

I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity, nor the intention to impose change on Cuba.  What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people.  We will not impose our political or economic system on you.  We recognize that every country, every people, must chart its own course and shape its own model.  But having removed the shadow of history from our relationship, I must speak honestly about the things that I believe — the things that we, as Americans, believe.  As Marti said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy.”

So let me tell you what I believe.  I can’t force you to agree, but you should know what I think.  I believe that every person should be equal under the law. (Applause.)  Every child deserves the dignity that comes with education, and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads.  (Applause.)  I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear — (applause) — to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights.  (Applause.)  I believe that every person should have the freedom to practice their faith peacefully and publicly. (Applause.)  And, yes, I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections.  (Applause.)  

Not everybody agrees with me on this.  Not everybody agrees with the American people on this.  But I believe those human rights are universal.  (Applause.)  I believe they are the rights of the American people, the Cuban people, and people around the world. 

Now, there’s no secret that our governments disagree on many of these issues.  I’ve had frank conversations with President Castro.  For many years, he has pointed out the flaws in the American system — economic inequality; the death penalty; racial discrimination; wars abroad.  That’s just a sample.  He has a much longer list.  (Laughter.)  But here’s what the Cuban people need to understand:  I welcome this open debate and dialogue. It’s good.  It’s healthy.  I’m not afraid of it.

We do have too much money in American politics.  But, in America, it’s still possible for somebody like me — a child who was raised by a single mom, a child of mixed race who did not have a lot of money — to pursue and achieve the highest office in the land.  That’s what’s possible in America.  (Applause.)

We do have challenges with racial bias — in our communities, in our criminal justice system, in our society — the legacy of slavery and segregation.  But the fact that we have open debates within America’s own democracy is what allows us to get better.  In 1959, the year that my father moved to America, it was illegal for him to marry my mother, who was white, in many American states.  When I first started school, we were still struggling to desegregate schools across the American South.  But people organized; they protested; they debated these issues; they challenged government officials.  And because of those protests, and because of those debates, and because of popular mobilization, I’m able to stand here today as an African-American and as President of the United States.  That was because of the freedoms that were afforded in the United States that we were able to bring about change.  

I’m not saying this is easy.  There’s still enormous problems in our society.  But democracy is the way that we solve them.  That’s how we got health care for more of our people.  That’s how we made enormous gains in women’s rights and gay rights.  That’s how we address the inequality that concentrates so much wealth at the top of our society.  Because workers can organize and ordinary people have a voice, American democracy has given our people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and enjoy a high standard of living.  (Applause.)  

Now, there are still some tough fights.  It isn’t always pretty, the process of democracy.   It’s often frustrating.  You can see that in the election going on back home.  But just stop and consider this fact about the American campaign that’s taking place right now.  You had two Cuban Americans in the Republican Party, running against the legacy of a black man who is President, while arguing that they’re the best person to beat the Democratic nominee who will either be a woman or a Democratic Socialist.  (Laughter and applause.)  Who would have believed that back in 1959?  That’s a measure of our progress as a democracy.  (Applause.)   

So here’s my message to the Cuban government and the Cuban people:  The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution — America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world — those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy.  Not because American democracy is perfect, but precisely because we’re not.  And we — like every country — need the space that democracy gives us to change.  It gives individuals the capacity to be catalysts to think in new ways, and to reimagine how our society should be, and to make them better. 

There’s already an evolution taking place inside of Cuba, a generational change.  Many suggested that I come here and ask the people of Cuba to tear something down — but I’m appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new.  (Applause.)  El future de Cuba tiene que estar en las manos del pueblo Cubano.  (Applause.)

And to President Castro — who I appreciate being here today — I want you to know, I believe my visit here demonstrates you do not need to fear a threat from the United States.  And given your commitment to Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination, I am also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people — and their capacity to speak, and assemble, and vote for their leaders.  In fact, I’m hopeful for the future because I trust that the Cuban people will make the right decisions.

And as you do, I’m also confident that Cuba can continue to play an important role in the hemisphere and around the globe — and my hope is, is that you can do so as a partner with the United States.

We’ve played very different roles in the world.  But no one should deny the service that thousands of Cuban doctors have delivered for the poor and suffering.  (Applause.)  Last year, American health care workers — and the U.S. military — worked side-by-side with Cubans to save lives and stamp out Ebola in West Africa.  I believe that we should continue that kind of cooperation in other countries.

We’ve been on the different side of so many conflicts in the Americas.  But today, Americans and Cubans are sitting together at the negotiating table, and we are helping the Colombian people resolve a civil war that’s dragged on for decades.  (Applause.)  That kind of cooperation is good for everybody.  It gives everyone in this hemisphere hope.

We took different journeys to our support for the people of South Africa in ending apartheid.  But President Castro and I could both be there in Johannesburg to pay tribute to the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela.  (Applause.)  And in examining his life and his words, I’m sure we both realize we have more work to do to promote equality in our own countries — to reduce discrimination based on race in our own countries.  And in Cuba, we want our engagement to help lift up the Cubans who are of African descent — (applause) — who’ve proven that there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.

We’ve been a part of different blocs of nations in the hemisphere, and we will continue to have profound differences about how to promote peace, security, opportunity, and human rights.  But as we normalize our relations, I believe it can help foster a greater sense of unity in the Americas — todos somos Americanos.  (Applause.)

From the beginning of my time in office, I’ve urged the people of the Americas to leave behind the ideological battles of the past.  We are in a new era.  I know that many of the issues that I’ve talked about lack the drama of the past.  And I know that part of Cuba’s identity is its pride in being a small island nation that could stand up for its rights, and shake the world. But I also know that Cuba will always stand out because of the talent, hard work, and pride of the Cuban people.  That’s your strength.  (Applause.)  Cuba doesn’t have to be defined by being against the United States, any more than the United States should be defined by being against Cuba.  I’m hopeful for the future because of the reconciliation that’s taking place among the Cuban people.

I know that for some Cubans on the island, there may be a sense that those who left somehow supported the old order in Cuba.  I’m sure there’s a narrative that lingers here which suggests that Cuban exiles ignored the problems of pre-Revolutionary Cuba, and rejected the struggle to build a new future.  But I can tell you today that so many Cuban exiles carry a memory of painful — and sometimes violent — separation.  They love Cuba.  A part of them still considers this their true home. That’s why their passion is so strong.  That’s why their heartache is so great.  And for the Cuban American community that I’ve come to know and respect, this is not just about politics. This is about family — the memory of a home that was lost; the desire to rebuild a broken bond; the hope for a better future the hope for return and reconciliation.

For all of the politics, people are people, and Cubans are Cubans.  And I’ve come here — I’ve traveled this distance — on a bridge that was built by Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits.  I first got to know the talent and passion of the Cuban people in America.  And I know how they have suffered more than the pain of exile — they also know what it’s like to be an outsider, and to struggle, and to work harder to make sure their children can reach higher in America.

So the reconciliation of the Cuban people — the children and grandchildren of revolution, and the children and grandchildren of exile — that is fundamental to Cuba’s future.  (Applause.)…

 

Sometimes the most important changes start in small places. The tides of history can leave people in conflict and exile and poverty.  It takes time for those circumstances to change.  But the recognition of a common humanity, the reconciliation of people bound by blood and a belief in one another — that’s where progress begins.  Understanding, and listening, and forgiveness. And if the Cuban people face the future together, it will be more likely that the young people of today will be able to live with dignity and achieve their dreams right here in Cuba.

The history of the United States and Cuba encompass revolution and conflict; struggle and sacrifice; retribution and, now, reconciliation.  It is time, now, for us to leave the past behind.  It is time for us to look forward to the future together — un future de esperanza.  And it won’t be easy, and there will be setbacks.  It will take time.  But my time here in Cuba renews my hope and my confidence in what the Cuban people will do.  We can make this journey as friends, and as neighbors, and as family — together.  Si Senate puede.  Muchas gracias.  (Applause.)  

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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 on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Obama Pursuing Right Strategy Against Islamic State, as Republicans Seize on Terrorism to Fear-Monger their Way to Nomination

Republican presidential candidates are fear-mongering their way to the nomination, conflating terrorism with the refugee crisis with the immigration issue, but in the process, are willing to abandon America's founding principles. © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Republican presidential candidates are fear-mongering their way to the nomination, conflating terrorism with the refugee crisis with the immigration issue, but in the process, are willing to abandon America’s founding principles. © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin

It would be a travesty if the Republicans cash in the fear they are sowing over the Paris terror attack for a ticket to the white House, in the way the Bush/Cheney Administration milked Americans’ fear after 9/11, a terror attack that incompetence made so much worse. And yet, despite their incompetence, they rode to reelection in 2004.

Brian Lehrer on NPR remarked that Jeb Bush seems to be using the Paris attacks “to claw his way back into relevance.”

On the Monday after the terror attack, AOL broadcast the headline that 72% of Americans are fearful. Well what would you expect with nonstop reports about terrorism? It’s exactly what ISIL wanted – just as Osama bin Lad3n was thrilled beyond imagination at the reaction after 9/11. In essence, thanks to Bush/Cheney reaction, 19 terrorists brought down a nation, because they let it happen.

Already, several Republican candidates have basically called for closing borders – Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush say they would only admit Christians – effectively putting a religious test in violation of the Constitution. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Congress would withhold any funding to relocate Syrian refugees. And 27 (all but one) Republican Governors are refusing to allow any resettlement in their states, again, against the Constitution – basically a redux of what they said about the children fleeing Central American violence. It is absurd to hear the Alabama Governor justifying this stance by saying that his first priority is to keep his citizens safe, when Alabama promotes wanton gun violence, a state which ranks 4th in the nation for the highest number of incidents of and where one Alabaman is killed every 11 hours.

A doctor in a hospital in Paris talked about receiving 27 of the gunshot victims that night when the ER normally gets one. One a day? he was asked. “No, one a year. We’re not like America.”

Republicans are seizing on the fact that a passport attributed to a Syrian who came through Greece with the tens of thousands of refugees in October was left at one of the terror sites. But isn’t it interesting that this is the only terrorist found with an ID? How much logic does it take to realize that it likely was purposefully left – and very probably not the passport of the attacker at all – but was left because ISIL wants Europe and the US to cut off any safe haven for the millions that are fleeing their own terror. They want a population to terrorize. They want Muslims to be marginalized in their communities, to be able to tap the disaffected to their “cause.”

Donald Trump says he would shut down mosques. And, oh yes, points out that France has some of the strongest gun control laws. You might wonder if a President Trump, faced with terror attacks in Paris, would launch attacks against Muslims here. As for the “tough guy” pose as being all it takes to stop all the bad things in the world, Putin certainly strikes the strongman pose, and yet ISIS took down a Russian airliner. His solution? Bomb them to oblivion.

Obama answered “the broader issue of my critics… when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

“But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.”

Does anyone else see the tragic irony that the terrorism is against tolerance, the terrorists can’t stand a society that is open, diverse in ethnicity, religion and thought, but Republicans want to dispatch intolerance with intolerance?

“We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing,” President Obama said at a press conference after the G20 in Turkey. “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both….

“When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion…

“And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.”

Every society is vulnerable to a terrorist determined to kill himself – but societal institutions should not be.

On the other hand, there is nothing stopping homegrown terrorism, and not just the jihadi kind. White racists have been responsible for more acts of terror here in the homeland than self-proclaimed jihadis. Look at the attacks on Planned Parenthood centers and black churches just in the last few months.

While the Republicans don’t actually offer any constructive proposals, they are really, really obsessively upset over semantics that President Obama does not brand the entirety of Muslims as terrorists- that’s about 1 billion people around the world, including whole nations that we need as our allies in defeating ISIL such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon. Obama, instead, uses terms like “violent extremists” as the enemy.

But these violent extremists no more embody Islam than Nazis embodied Christianity. These are sociopathic thugs – gangsters – who use terror and violence in order to secure power and control. It is a 21st century Facsist regime more similar to 20th century Nazi Germany. The new recruits might be swayed by propagandist ideology and even the idealism in toppling Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad – but they are being used and when some who came to fight for what they thought was a just cause want to leave, they are summarily killed.

Hindsight is 20/20. It’s so easy to say Obama should have been more aggressive in Syria early on (give weapons to so-called moderates who turned out to be ISIL?) but at that point, the opposition was saying Assad was only weeks away from being deposed. Then, when Assad crossed the “red line” using chemical weapons against his own people, Congress failed to give Obama authorization for military strikes inside Syria (Russia stepped up and got Assad to agree to get rid of chemical weapons, without Obama needing to fire a shot). Even now, Republicans are great at hurling accusations of ‘fecklessness” and “weakness” but the real coward is a Congress that refuses to debate a new Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) agreement. And I’m sure even the Bush/Cheney neocons never imagined that after almost a decade and billions of dollars and 4000 American lives, that the Iraqi soldiers would not just cut and run, but would hand over their weapons and territory to ISIL.

For his part, Obama faced a choice – without a crystal ball, he sided with the less deadly option. ISIL changed, and even now has changed its strategy from just torturing and tormenting and terrorizing people within the Middle East, to exporting terrorism internationally – downing the Russian airliner at Sharm el Sheik, the bombings in Izmir, in Beirut and now Paris, all in short order – and Obama is adapting to the changes – essentially intensifying all the levers that can be brought to bear, including bombing, strengthening border controls, sharing more intelligence, and stepping up efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. “And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology,” Obama said.

Obama, in a press conference in Turkey after the G20 summit, sounded just the right tone, and also took on the critics who charge that his “strategy” lacked focus, that he underestimated the Islamic State.

“The strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

“And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those….

“This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

“And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.”

In fact, the single-minded focus on the Paris attacks (while ignoring other terror attacks that took place in Beirut, Izmir, Kenya), seemed to swallow up the news of an attack that killed the Jihadi John, who executed James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as France’s attacks on ISIL oil distribution. Meanwhile, even France’s stepped up bombing of ISIL as retribution for the Paris attacks does not equal the 8000 bombing attacks by US planes.

 

But Obama added that no matter to what extent ISIL is destroyed, that there are still going to be the risks of individuals flowing into  civil societies exacting mayhem on soft targets.

“There has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

“But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

“Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris…

“We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

“These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

“Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.”

But the defeat of ISIS cannot be accomplished by the US alone and as Secretary of State John Kerry noted, a coalition did not even exist a year ago, a political partnership (involving Russia and Iran) did not even exist a month ago, and now Kerry is pointing to the possibility of a cease-fire in Syria in a matter of months, and there seems to be growing acceptance of the reality that Assad has to go, and there has to be a political transition. Solving the Assad problem would rob ISIS of a key motivator to its recruitment.

“The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding,” President Obama said. “With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward – negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.”

Ever the realist, Obama added, “These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

“What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition [Obama has mobilized 65 nations], is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

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