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Posts Tagged ‘AFGHANISTAN’

BIDEN’S ENEMIES: REPUBLICANS AND THE TALIBAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 2, 2023 at 12:03 pm

On April 14, 2021, President Joseph Biden said that America would withdraw its armed forces from Afghanistan by September 11, thus ending the nearly 20-year war.

“How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” Biden said to those calling for the United States to extend the military operation. 

Apparently, for Republicans, there is no limit to the number of Americans deserving to be killed on behalf of a barbaric people. 

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) said: “No one has ever been held accountable” for the haphazard removal of American troops from Afghanistan.

The truth is: Republicans have two constituencies:

  1. The 1% richest, who can be satisfied only with tax cuts and government subsidies; and
  2. Poor and middle-class Fascists, who can be fobbed off with appeals to their hatred and prejudice.

Attacking Biden for not continuing to waste American lives and treasure on a barbarous “country” is aimed at appeasing the second group. 

House Republicans are expected to zero in on the chaotic withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. 

“Why did it go so badly? Why were Americans left behind? Why were Afghan partners we promised to protect, 100,000 of them, left to the Taliban?” Michael McCaul (R-TX) demanded.

Michael McCaul official photo.jpg

Michael McCaul

To answer his questions:

  • If Americans were left behind, they had four months—May to September—to clear out.
  • Afghans were content to let Americans fight—and die—for them.
  • When the Taliban launched its final offensive on May 1, 2021, tens of thousands of cowardly Afghan “soldiers” fled to Kabul Airport—to seek asylum in the United States. 
  • They left behind their wives, girlfriends, mothers and sisters to face slavery and brutality.
  • Withdrawals during a war usually prove chaotic, if not disastrous.

To put the consequences of America’s losses in human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times—once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

Joseph Lemm - Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

“He was just everything for our family. He was always my rock,” said his widow.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement. 

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy—that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly. 

A total of 2,456 American military personnel in Afghanistan died and 20,752 were wounded since 2001. The cost of military operations is put at $2 trillion.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

Nineteen Islamic hijackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011, American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

In December, 2001, Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora—and then escaped into Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden. Nor to stay in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan—to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

Despite the Taliban’s horrific atrocities, the United States was not obligated to squander its citizens and treasure

In pursuing that goal, the Bush and Obama administrations repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy—despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • Ditto for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the United States.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops felt about their Afghan “allies.”

According to Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic:

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person. The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps. The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].

“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong]. And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value. The only thing below them was the civilians,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

HOW DICTATORSHIP CAME TO GERMANY–AND AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2022 at 12:16 am

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator.

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.”

What Payne wrote about pro-Hitler Germans holds equally true for the supporters of Donald Trump. 

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected a man reflecting their own hate and ignorance to the Presidency.

Yet Americans had fewer excuses for turning to a Fascistic style of government than the Germans did.

Adolf Hitler joined the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in 1919—the year after World War 1 ended.

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Adolf Hitler

In 1923, he staged a coup attempt in Bavaria—which was quickly and brutally put down by police. He was arrested and sentenced to less than a year in prison.

After that, Hitler decided that winning power through violence was no longer an option. He must win it through election—or appointment.

When the 1929 Depression struck Germany, the fortunes of Hitler’s Nazi party rose as the life savings of ordinary Germans fell. Streets echoed with bloody clashes between members of Hitler’s Nazi Stormtroopers and those of the German Communist Party.

Germans desperately looked for a leader—a Fuhrer—who could somehow deliver them from the threat of financial ruin and Communist takeover.

In early 1933, members of his own cabinet persuaded aging German president, Paul von Hindenburg, that only Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor could do this.

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Paul von Hindenburg

Hindenburg was reluctant to do so. He considered Hitler a dangerous radical. But he let himself be convinced that he could “box in” and control Hitler by putting him in the Cabinet.

So, on January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor (the equivalent of Attorney General) of Germany.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died. Hitler immediately assumed the titles—and duties—of the offices of Chancellor and President. His rise to total power was complete.

It had taken him 14 years to do so.

In 2015, when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President:

  • The country was technically at war in the Middle East—but the fate of the United States was not truly threatened, as it had been during the Civil War.
  • There was no draft; if you didn’t know someone in the military, you didn’t care about the casualties taking place.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Barack Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans idolize, there had been no such scandals during the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—as there had on 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Yet—not 17 months after announcing his candidacy for President—enough Americans fervently embraced Donald Trump to give him the most powerful position in the country and the world.

Image result for images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

The message of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign had been one of hope: “Yes, We Can!”

The message of Donald Trump’s campaign reflected hatred toward everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter: “No, You Can’t!”

Older whites comprised the majority of those at Trump rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

Birthrates among non-whites were rising. By 2045, whites would make up less than 50 percent of the American population.

The 2008 election of the first black President had shocked whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Hillary Clinton.

Since Trump became President, he:

  • Allowed a deadly virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 9.2 million Americans and killing 230,000.
  • Attacked medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Urged his followers to illegally vote twice for him in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Fired an FBI director for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly and enthusiastically defended Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, America’s mortal enemy.
  • Attacked and alienated America’s oldest allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Praised Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen.
  • Shut down the United States Government, imperiling the lives of 800,000 Federal employees, to extort money from Congress for a worthless wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • “Joked” that the United States—like China—should have a “President-for-Life.”
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the people.” 
  • Used his position as President to further enrich himself, in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

On November 3, 2020, Americans decided to repudiate this despicable legacy—and reclaim their nation’s status as a democracy.

THE FALSE REALITY OF REAL ID

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 3, 2022 at 12:10 am

In 2005—four years after 9/11—Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. But then its enforcers decided that some states hadn’t complied with all of its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security. And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). 

The new IDs will contain one of five small stickers in the upper right corner to comply.  

But the final date for compliance with Real ID has been repeatedly postponed—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It current deadline is May 3, 2023.

After that, only those who have a REAL ID will be allowed to board domestic flights at TSA security checkpoints and enter certain federal buildings and properties.

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope? The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

But, as one New York traveler outlined: “To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certificate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license. A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, which gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.” 

In California, the following documents are among those accepted as proof of identity:

  • Valid U.S. passport
  • Social Security card
  • Original or certified copy of U.S. birth certificate
  • Valid Permanent Resident card
  • Utility bills (at least two from different companies) 

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Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater. It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer. 

And it makes us feel the government is keeping us safe, even when it isn’t.

Consider this: A friend of mine—whom I’ll call Jack—recently applied for a Real ID card as issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. He brought a certified copy of his birth certificate, bills from AT&T and Pacific Gas and Electric.

The birth certificate easily passed muster. But for a moment there was a problem with the bills from the utility companies: Jack had been getting his mail through a P.O. box, rather than at the apartment building where he lived.

And the “examiner” wanted to see a document with his home address on it.

Fortunately, Jack was able to fish out another bill with that on it. The “examiner” was satisfied, and Jack left the DMV assured that he would soon receive his TSA-approved Real ID card. 

So: How does showing a utility bill document prove your integrity? 

No doubt Mohammed Atta—the ringleader of the September 11, 2001 attacks—faithfully paid his utility bills, right up to the day when he highjacked American Airlines Flight 11 and crashed the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 

And, yes, a birth certificate proves you were born in the United States—but so was Timothy McVeigh, who, in 1995, blew up Oklahoma City bombing, killing 168 people.

Nor does a “school document”—which can get you a Real ID card—reveal anything about the character of the person.

Theodore Bundy attended the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington—before embarking on his career as a burglar, kidnapper, rapist and serial killer.

Another form of security theater includes checking photo IDs to enter State and Federal office buildings. 

Knowing a person’s identity is useful—if you have a reliable database system to match it against, such as the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC). 

National Crime Information Center | Earth: Final Conflict Wiki | Fandom

But if you lack this, forcing people to “show me your ID” is pointless. And that’s assuming the ID isn’t fraudulent.

But people watching the guard performing this security theater ritual assume: “The guard must know what he’s looking for. So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience. Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to Salary.com: The median annual salary for an unarmed security guard is $34,696, with a range usually between $31,004 and $39,096. 

Not exactly a salary geared to attract “the best and the brightest,” is it?

Making all of this even more infuriating: In August, 2021, at least 76,000 unvetted Afghans were admitted into the United States.

The reason: They were too cowardly to fight the Taliban.

Americans had spent 20 years training them to do just that. And as soon as the Taliban launched a major offensive, they fled to Kabul Airport—leaving their wives, girlfriends, mothers and sisters behind to face slavery and brutality.

So while cowardly Afghans—many of whom no doubt had terrorist backgrounds—didn’t have to prove themselves trustworthy, lifelong and law-abiding Americans must.

THE WORLD SEES HORROR IN UKRAINE; ISLAMICS SEE RACISM: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 14, 2022 at 12:12 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine.

To Ukrainians, it’s a matter of life-or-death.

To Americans, Europeans and Westerners generally, it’s a horrific, unfolding tragedy.

But to nonwhites—and especially Islamics—the sympathies of these nations is a sign of racism and Islamophobia. 

One reason many Westerners feel greater sympathy for Ukrainians than Arabs: Islamics have routinely blamed the West—especially Americans—for their own internal conflicts.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead from the Syrian civil war [in 2016] was more than 310,000.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Wikiwand

The Observatory blamed the West for this Islamic self-slaughter:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.”

In short: It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

And why are all these murderers eagerly slaughtering one another? Because of a Muslim religious dispute that traces back to the fourth century.

Yes, it’s Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Islamics, versus Shiite Muslims, who comprise a minority.

What Are the Differences Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims?

Shiite Muslim women 

Each group considers the other takfirs—that is, “apostates.” And, in Islam, being labeled an apostate can easily get you murdered. 

This is, in short, not a conflict that can be resolved by driving an aggressor country out of another. It will never end—because both Sunnis and Shiites believe “God is on our side” in an inner-religious war that dates back centuries. 

“We are wondering, why were Ukrainians welcome in all countries while we, Syrian refugees, are still in tents and remain under the snow, facing death, and no one is looking to us?” asked Syrian refugee Ahmad al-Hariri, who fled the war in his country for nearby Lebanon 10 years ago.

In an ideal and rational world, factors like religion, economics and race would not matter when large numbers of people are threatened by war. But this is not a rational and ideal world, and human emotions and prejudices usually play a deciding role in people’s behavior. 

People identify and feel comfortable with those who most resemble themselves. In prisons, black inmates sit with blacks; whites with with whites; Hispanics with Hispanics. 

Most Ukrainian refugees are highly-skilled and -educated Christians—meaning they will easily meld into the populations that make up most of Europe. Many of them already have relatives scattered throughout such countries as Poland, Hungary and Romania. Which means they can call on those relatives for support while settling in.

Much has been made—by nonwhites—of the fact that Ukrainians are Caucasians. This is undoubtedly one factor that leads other Caucasians to identify with their plight. But when Syrians identify with Palestinians, no doubt their own shared skin color and religion apply just as much. 

Another reason why this conflict has riveted the attention of the world: Millions believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended the Cold War.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

But Vladimir Putin has brutally notified the world that it’s on again. Europeans—and Americans—fear that Putin’s attack on Ukraine, like Adolf Hitler’s attack on Poland, is simply the first of a series of conquests to come.

In 1935, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini set out to create a second Roman Empire by invading Ethiopia. The conflict pitted poorly-armed Ethiopian forces against Italians armed with radio, bombers and even mustard gas. Even ambulances and hospitals became targets for Mussolini’s air force.

Ethiopia’s emperor, Haile Selassie, appealed in person to the League of Nations for aid in repelling the invasion. His plea was greeted by laughter from the Italian and German delegates—and ignored by the rest of the world.

The war ended in 1937 with an Italian victory.

Haile Selassie in full dress (cropped).jpg

Haile Selassie

By contrast: The Spanish Civil War proved a magnet for international commitment. The conflict pitted Fascists under General Francisco Franco against the new Spanish Republic. Adolf Hitler and Mussolini sent troops and planes to aid Franco.  

Tens of thousands of volunteers from about 50 countries poured into Spain to support the Republican cause—among them, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the United States.. Writers Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos lent their propaganda talents to the Republic.

American liberals sensed that this civil war was a testing ground for the weapons of Fascism—as it proved to be. By 1939, the superior numbers and weapons of Franco and his allies prevailed. 

When Hemingway returned to the United States he tried to warn all who would listen that a far greater war was coming: World War II.

People see conflicts in the light of their own priorities. No two conflicts are the same—and will never be seen the same. What was true for the ones in Ethiopia and Spain remains true for the ones in Syria and Ukraine.

THE WORLD SEES HORROR IN UKRAINE; ISLAMICS SEE RACISM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 13, 2022 at 12:16 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine. 

To Ukrainians, it’s a matter of life-or-death.

To Americans, Europeans and Westerners in general, it’s a horrific, unfolding tragedy.

But to nonwhites—and especially Islamics—throughout the world, the sympathies of these nations is a sign of racism and Islamophobia. 

The day after the invasion began, CBS News senior correspondent in Kyiv Charlie D’Agata said: “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”

William Golden // CBS Logo

CBS

On social media, his comment was strongly criticized as dehumanizing non-white, non-European peoples. 

One Twitter user wrote: “Atrocities start with words and dehumanization. Atrocities unleashed upon millions in the ME, fueled by dictators labeled as reformists in the west. The racist subtext: Afghans, Iraqi & Syrian lives don’t matter, for they are deemed inferior—’uncivilized.'”

In fact, conditions in Ukraine have been relatively peaceful. Afghanistan has never actually been a nation, simply a patchwork of feuding warlords. This has been true from the time of Alexander the Great to the Taliban today. Dictators have always been the rulers of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

On February 25, Sky News broadcast a video of people in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro making Molotov cocktails, explaining how grating Styrofoam makes the incendiary device stick to vehicles better.

In the media - Positive Money

A Twitter user wrote: “If this was done by Palestinians, Afghanistan or other nations resisting occupation, it would be terrorism. And during Mandela’s anti-apartheid era, it was also dubbed terrorism. For Europeans facing similar situations, it is resistance! Western duplicity knows no bounds.”

“Terrorism” is defined as “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

Defending one’s country from attack by another country is not terrorism. In fact, from ancient times, it has been seen as the highest virtue, calling forth loyalty and courage.

Palestinians have repeatedly targeted civilians—not soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces—for death. In Afghanistan, women and children have been routinely massacred by warring factions.

There are solid reasons for fears of Islamic terrorism.

In his 2011 book, The Secrets of the FBI, Ronald Kessler notes the refusal of the Islamic community to identify known or potential terrorists within its ranks. 

The Secrets of the FBI by Ronald Kessler

Said Arthur M. Cummings, then the Bureau’s executive assistant director for national security: “I had this discussion with the director of a very prominent Muslim organization here in [Washington] D.C. And he said, ‘Why are you guys always looking at the Muslim community?’”

“I can name the homegrown cells, all of whom are Muslim, all of whom were seeking to kill Americans,” replied Cummings. “It’s not the Irish, it’s not the French, it’s not the Catholics, it’s not the Protestants. It’s the Muslims.”

On BFM TV, France’s most-watched cable news channel, journalist Philippe Corbe said: “We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing the bombing of the Syrian regime backed by Putin, we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives.”

This was heavily criticized: “This war is just revealing the western hypocrisy and racism at its peak.”

There is a difference between a Syrian dictator waging war against his own citizens, and a nuclear-armed country waging all-out war on a smaller, democratic nation. The skin color of the peoples involved has nothing to do with either action. 

“These are not the refugees we are used to… these people are Europeans,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told journalists of the Ukrainians. “These people are intelligent, they are educated people…. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists…

“In other words,” he added, “there is not a single European country now which is afraid of he current wave of refugees.”

Kiril Petkov 2021.jpg

Kiril Petkov 

President.bg, CC BY 2.5 BG <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/bg/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This was treated as racism by Islamics: “A refugee is a refugee, whether European, African or Asian,” Syrian journalist Okba Mohammad said.

In fact: By early 2021, 10 years after Syria’s civil war erupted, European Union states had taken in one million Syrian refugees and asylum seekers; Germany alone took more than half. In 2016, the European Union paid billions of euros for Turkey to continue hosting 3.7 million Syrians.

On February 6, 2016, The World Post carried this story: “Geneva III: The Stillborn Conference and the Endemic Failure of the International Community.”

The first paragraph read:       

“While approaching the fifth anniversary of the Syrian civil war on March 15 — which claimed more than 300,000 lives, approximately 700,000 wounded, 4 million fled the country, and another 6 million displaced within Syria — the international community has failed to put an end to bloodshed in this war-torn country.” 

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead [in 2016] was now more than 310,000.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Wikiwand

And who did the Observatory—and The World Post-–blame for this Islamic self-slaughter? 

The West, of course.

STANDING UP TO FASCISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 4, 2022 at 12:10 am

The July 29 edition of The PBS Newshour offered a clear lesson on why so many liberals are unable to cope with a weaponized—and Fascistic—Republican party.

It came during an exchange between conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart .

Judy Woodruff, moderating the weekly “Politics Friday” segment, opened: 

“Well, one of the measures that has hit a bump in the road after this deal emerged was a piece of — it’s called the PACT Act. It’s all about providing government aid to American military veterans who were exposed to toxic substances, toxic chemicals in the war in Iraq and wounded, and eventually — I mean, these are — these were veterans who came home with serious medical problems.

“This looked like it was on the way to passage. It’s now Republicans in the Senate in particular saying, wait a minute. And it’s caused a lot of reaction. Jon Stewart, the former late-night talk show host — he’s now an activist — this is what he had to say just outside the Capitol yesterday”:

Jon Stewart, Comedian/Activist: “These people thought they could finally breathe. You think their struggles end because the PACT Act passes? All it means is, they don’t have to decide between their cancer drugs and their house. Their struggle continues. These people will not give up, they will not give in and they will not relent.

Jon Stewart MFF 2016.jpg

Jon Stewart

“This is an embarrassment to the Senate, to the country, to the founders, and all that they profess to hold dear. “

Judy Woodruff: “He….used much stronger language than that in going after the Republicans, Pat Toomey and others, who are — who he says are holding this up.

“What about this argument he’s making, that, essentially, they said yes, and now they’re saying no, and it’s just….”

David Brooks: “Yes. Well, it’s — let’s say, at best, it’s a mystery. At worst, it’s mind-boggling. The mystery is, just a month ago, the vast majority of Republican senators voted for this thing. And then I think 25 or some large, significant numbers shift and now, suddenly, they’re against it. Is it payback for what Manchin — for what Manchin and Schumer did?”

Shields and Brooks on Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis and the debate | PBS NewsHour

David Brooks

And what was it that Democratic West Virginia Senator Joseph Manchin and Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer did? 

As summed up by Woodruff: “When we were last together last Friday, we all thought that the President’s budget was dead, the package with climate and health care in it. Little did we know that Joe Manchin was having these secret talks with Chuck Schumer.”

But then Manchin decided—for still-unclosed reasons—to back the Democrats’ budgetary bill. And that’s when Republicans decided that helping wounded veterans would be helping President Joseph Biden. And that’s when 25 Republicans who had previously backed the PACT Act changed their minds—and votes.

David Brooks couldn’t imagine that Republicans could be so cruel: “It — that would be mind-boggling. You have got men and women who served this country suffering from cancer and other ailments, and we’re going to take away benefits because of a legislative pique? Who does that?

“[Republican Pennsylvania United States Senator] Pat Toomey, I think, has some principal reasons having to do with budget policy and what we can afford. That’s one thing.

“But if the votes were changed because Mitch McConnell said, we need to screw somebody, that would just be appalling.”

Jonathan Caphart: “And Senator Toomey’s arcane problem was that funding was being moved from discretionary within the bill to mandatory. And he was calling it a budget gimmick.

“But you know who doesn’t care whether it’s a budget gimmick? It’s those families that Jon Stewart was talking about. It’s the….veterans who worked in those burn pits and are suffering with the ailments. It’s the families of those veterans who are sick and/or have died.”

PBS NewsHour | Brooks and Capehart on voting and gun violence legislation | Season 2021 | PBS

Jonathan Capehart

But on August 2, Republicans caved, in a vote of 86-11.

The reason: Jon Stewart kept the public pressure on. And so did more than 60 veterans groups. Many of the veterans had camped on the Senate steps, braving heat, humidity and thunderstorms. 

As a result, veterans will receive expanded lifesaving health care benefits for those exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From this Democratic liberals—and Americans generally—should draw two lessons:

Lesson #1: Republicans are evil. They will viciously hurt anyone—including those constituents (such as veterans) they claim to care about if they believe it will hurt Democrats. What they do care about is gaining—and maintaining—absolute power over Americans.

Lesson #2: Trying to compromise with Republicans is not only useless but dangerous. They regard any effort at compromise as a sign of weakness. The same was true for the Nazis during the reign of Adolf Hitler (1933 – 1945).

The appeasement efforts of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to prevent World War II not only led to the destruction of Czechoslovakia but whetted Hitler’s appetite for further conquest—resulting in World War II.

In short: Standing up to Fascism saved the United States during World War II. It can do the same for the United States today.

BAD ALLIES = BAD OUTCOMES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2022 at 12:12 am

For those born after 1975, America’s departure from Afghanistan marks the first humiliating retreat from a valuable ally.

But this is wrong.

In April, 1975, the South Vietnamese Army suddenly crumbled under an all-out offensive by North Vietnamese regular army units.

The United States—which had been been supplying military assistance to Vietnam since the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower—suddenly saw its worst nightmare come to life.

It had poured more than $120 billion into the conflict in Vietnam from 1965-73. At least 58,000  United States soldiers had died there. Another 304,000 had been wounded.

Map showing the partition of French Indochina following the 1954 Geneva Conference

Vietnam during the Vietnam war

User:SnowFire, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

The last American troops had left Vietnam on March 29, 1973. President Richard Nixon claimed that he had achieved “peace with honor.” The South Vietnamese Army was supposedly now trained by Americans to defend the “country” from attack by North Vietnam. 

Then came December 13, 1974—the start of the North’s all-out offensive.

The result: South Vietnamese forces melted away.

This was hardly surprising to American veterans of the war. Among them a favorite joke had been: “There’s a new batch of South Vietnamese rifles for sale. Never fired, and only dropped once.”

By April 30, 1975, Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam, fell to the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong.

Fall of Saigon

At home, watching TV, Americans felt shame as Army helicopters hurriedly lifted off the roof of the United States embassy. Numerous South Vietnamese desperately tried to climb aboard—only to have their hands stomped on by Americans equally desperate to get out before North Vietnamese forces reached them.

Now, 46 years later, Americans were seeing Air Force planes taking off from Kabul Airport, with hordes of Afghans desperate to leave the country, racing after them.

Said President Joseph Biden: “Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history.” 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joseph Biden

Just as the South Vietnamese Army had chosen flight instead of fight, so, too, did the Afghan Army—in just 10 days.

“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” said Biden. “And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.

“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces.

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Donald Trump

“Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.

“I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”

Republicans have since tried hard to blame the resulting chaos on Biden. But in doing so they deliberately ignore the role played by his predecessor, Donald Trump, in facilitating that rout.

As Biden noted, Trump had invited the Taliban to Camp David to discuss the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.  Making this offer thoroughly disgraceful were two factors:

First: The date for this conference was on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of those attacks, was then living in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

It was the refusal of the Taliban to turn him over to American justice that led directly to the American invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001.

Second: Pointedly uninvited to this conference were any members of the Afghan government, which—officially—the United States regarded as a valuable ally. 

There is a brutal lesson here that Americans have long refused to learn: Bad allies make for bad outcomes. Those who refuse to defend themselves cannot be bribed or forced to do so by others. 

Contrast the “I have to catch a plane” cowardice of Afghan soldiers with the courage of Ukrainian soldiers—and civilians—fiercely defending their country from Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked Russian invasion. 

During the assault by Russian troops on the capital of Kiev, the Biden administration urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to evacuate to a safer location and offered to help him do so. Zelensky refused, saying: “The fight is here [in Kiev]; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

Until Presidents and Congressional leaders learn to distinguish worthwhile allies from worthless ones, Americans will continue to waste lives and treasure on the latter.

THE WORLD SEES HORROR IN UKRAINE; ISLAMICS SEE RACISM: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2022 at 12:21 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine.

To Ukrainians, it’s a matter of life-or-death.

To Americans, Europeans and Westerners in general, it’s a horrific, unfolding tragedy.

But to nonwhites—and especially Islamics—the sympathies of these nations is a sign of racism and Islamophobia. 

One reason many Westerners feel greater sympathy for Ukrainians than Arabs: Islamics have routinely blamed the West—especially Americans—for their own internal conflicts.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead from the Syrian civil war [in 2016] was more than 310,000.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Wikiwand

The Observatory blamed the West for this Islamic self-slaughter.

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.”

In short: It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

And why are all these murderers eagerly slaughtering one another? Because of a Muslim religious dispute that traces back to the fourth century.

Yes, it’s Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Islamics, versus Shiite Muslims, who comprise a minority.

What Are the Differences Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims?

Shiite Muslim women 

Each group considers the other takfirs—that is, “apostates.” And, in Islam, being labeled an apostate can easily get you murdered. 

This is, in short, not a conflict that can be resolved by driving an aggressor country out of another. It will never end—because both Sunnis and Shiites believe “God is on our side” in an inner-religious war that dates back centuries. 

“We are wondering, why were Ukrainians welcome in all countries while we, Syrian refugees, are still in tents and remain under the snow, facing death, and no one is looking to us?” asked Syrian refugee Ahmad al-Hariri, who fled the war in his country for nearby Lebanon 10 years ago.

In an ideal and rational world, factors like religion, economics and race would not matter when large numbers of people are threatened by war. But this is not a rational and ideal world, and human emotions and prejudices usually play a deciding role in people’s behavior. 

People identify and feel comfortable with those who most resemble themselves. In prisons, black inmates sit with blacks; whites with with whites; Hispanics with fellow Hispanics. 

The vast majority of Ukrainian refugees are highly-skilled and -educated Christians—meaning they will easily meld into the populations that make up most of Europe. Many of them already have relatives scattered throughout such countries as Poland, Hungary and Romania.  Which means they can call on those relatives for support while settling in.

Much has been made—by nonwhites—of the fact that Ukrainians are Caucasians. This is undoubtedly one factor that leads other Caucasians to identify with their plight. But when Syrians identify with Palestinians, no doubt their own shared skin color and religion apply just as much. 

Another reason why this conflict has riveted the attention of the world: Millions believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended the Cold War.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

But Vladimir Putin has brutally notified the world that it’s on again. Europeans—and Americans—fear that Putin’s attack on Ukraine, like Adolf Hitler’s attack on Poland, is simply the first of a series of conquests to come.

In 1935, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini set out to create a second Roman Empire by invading Ethiopia. The conflict pitted poorly-armed Ethiopian forces against Italians armed with radio, bombers and even mustard gas. Even ambulances and hospitals became targets for Mussolini’s air force.

Ethiopia’s emperor, Haile Selassie, appealed in person to the League of Nations for aid in repelling the invasion. His plea was greeted by laughter from the Italian and German delegates—and ignored by the rest of the world.

The war ended in 1937 with an Italian victory.

Haile Selassie in full dress (cropped).jpg

Haile Selassie

By contrast: The Spanish Civil War proved a magnet for international commitment. The conflict pitted Fascists under General Francisco Franco against the new Spanish Republic. Adolf Hitler and Mussolini sent troops and planes to aid Franco.  

Tens of thousands of volunteers from about 50 countries poured into Spain to support the Republican cause—among them, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the United States.. Writers Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos lent their propaganda talents to the Republic.

American liberals sensed that this civil war was a testing ground for the weapons of Fascism—as it proved to be. By 1939, the superior numbers and weapons of Franco and his allies prevailed. 

When Hemingway returned to the United States he tried to warn all who would listen that a far greater war was coming: World War II.

People see conflicts in the light of their own priorities. No two conflicts are the same—and will never be seen the same. What was true for the ones in Ethiopia and Spain remains true for the ones in Syria and Ukraine.

THE WORLD SEES HORROR IN UKRAINE; ISLAMICS SEE RACISM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 7, 2022 at 12:10 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine. 

To Ukrainians, it’s a matter of life-or-death.

To Americans, Europeans and Westerners in general, it’s a horrific, unfolding tragedy.

But to nonwhites—and especially Islamics—throughout the world, the sympathies of these nations is a sign of racism and Islamophobia. 

The day after the invasion began, CBS News senior correspondent in Kyiv Charlie D’Agata said: “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”

William Golden // CBS Logo

CBS

On social media, his comment was strongly criticized as dehumanizing non-white, non-European peoples. 

One Twitter user wrote: “Atrocities start with words and dehumanization. Atrocities unleashed upon millions in the ME, fueled by dictators labeled as reformists in the west. The racist subtext: Afghans, Iraqi & Syrian lives don’t matter, for they are deemed inferior—’uncivilized.'”

In fact, conditions in Ukraine have been relatively peaceful. Afghanistan has never actually been a nation, simply a patchwork of feuding warlords. This has been true from the time of Alexander the Great to the Taliban today. Dictators have always been the rulers of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

On February 25, Sky News broadcast a video of people in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro making Molotov cocktails, explaining how grating Styrofoam makes the incendiary device stick to vehicles better.

In the media - Positive Money

A Twitter user wrote: “If this was done by Palestinians, Afghanistan or other nations resisting occupation, it would be terrorism. And during Mandela’s anti-apartheid era, it was also dubbed terrorism. For Europeans facing similar situations, it is resistance! Western duplicity knows no bounds.”

“Terrorism” is defined as “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

Defending one’s country from attack by another country is not terrorism. In fact, from ancient times, it has been seen as the highest virtue, calling forth loyalty and courage.

Palestinians have repeatedly targeted civilians—not soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces—for death. In Afghanistan, women and children have been routinely massacred by warring factions.

There are solid reasons for fears of Islamic terrorism.

In his 2011 book, The Secrets of the FBI, Ronald Kessler notes the refusal of the Islamic community to identify known or potential terrorists within its ranks. 

The Secrets of the FBI by Ronald Kessler

Said Arthur M. Cummings, then the Bureau’s executive assistant director for national security: “I had this discussion with the director of a very prominent Muslim organization here in [Washington] D.C. And he said, ‘Why are you guys always looking at the Muslim community?’”

“I can name the homegrown cells, all of whom are Muslim, all of whom were seeking to kill Americans,” replied Cummings. “It’s not the Irish, it’s not the French, it’s not the Catholics, it’s not the Protestants. It’s the Muslims.”

On BFM TV, France’s most-watched cable news channel, journalist Philippe Corbe said: “We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing the bombing of the Syrian regime backed by Putin, we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives.”

This was heavily criticized: “This war is just revealing the western hypocrisy and racism at its peak.”

There is a difference between a Syrian dictator waging war against his own citizens, and a nuclear-armed country waging all-out war on a smaller, democratic nation. The skin color of the peoples involved has nothing to do with either action. 

“These are not the refugees we are used to… these people are Europeans,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told journalists of the Ukrainians. “These people are intelligent, they are educated people…. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists…

“In other words,” he added, “there is not a single European country now which is afraid of he current wave of refugees.”

Kiril Petkov 2021.jpg

Kiril Petkov 

President.bg, CC BY 2.5 BG <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/bg/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This was treated as racism by Islamics: “A refugee is a refugee, whether European, African or Asian,” Syrian journalist Okba Mohammad said.

In fact: By early 2021, 10 years after Syria’s civil war erupted, European Union states had taken in one million Syrian refugees and asylum seekers; Germany alone took more than half. In 2016, the European Union paid billions of euros for Turkey to continue hosting 3.7 million Syrians.

On February 6, 2016, The World Post carried this story: “Geneva III: The Stillborn Conference and the Endemic Failure of the International Community.”

The first paragraph read:

“While approaching the fifth anniversary of the Syrian civil war on March 15 — which claimed more than 300,000 lives, approximately 700,000 wounded, 4 million fled the country, and another 6 million displaced within Syria — the international community has failed to put an end to bloodshed in this war-torn country.” 

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead [in 2016] was now more than 310,000.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Wikiwand

And who did the Observatory—and The World Post-–blame for this Islamic self-slaughter? 

The West, of course.

WARNING! DOING BUSINESS WITH MERCENARIES CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2021 at 12:05 am

The United States had been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years—and between 2001 and 2017 had spent an estimated $714 billion.

Still, there was no end in sight.

Then Erik Prince suggested a remedy: Mercenaries—via his private company, Academi.

For $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies, he claimed that he could vin a victory that had eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

Erik Prince.jpg

Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it safeguarded Paul Bremer, America’s proconsul running the occupation. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

Owing to its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

By 2018, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince lobbied President Donald Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, his company did not become the sole American military force in Afghanistan—despite his sister, Betsy Devos, being the Secretary of Education.

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich yourself.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are others who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

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