Sunday, October 15, 2023

"The aim was to assassinate any chance for peace"

For days now I've wanted to write something about the events in Israel. But I knew that the first thing I needed to do was listen and learn. As I did so, I got mired in the complexities of the situation and fearful about the consequences. Nevertheless, I'd like to share a few thoughts.

More than anything else, the image above captured my sentiments. That is because my sympathies lie with the people of Israel and Gaza, not their leaders - both of whom have shared a similar goal. Let's start with Hamas.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to the interview Christiane Amanpour conducted with Yuval Noah Harari.

At about the 2:00 mark, he begins to explain why this attack from Hamas is different. He noted that they targeted civilians and wanted people to see the atrocities. Why? "It was psychological warfare not only to spread terror, but to sow seeds of hatred that will ensure this terrible conflict will go on for generations...Hamas, since its foundation, never accepted the existence of Israel and never accepted any attempt at peace. The aim was not just to destroy Jewish communities, but to assassinate any chance for peace."

Negotiations towards some kind of peace between Israel and the Palestinians have always been premised on the idea of a "two-state solution" - something that Netanyahu rejected. That led him to align himself with Hamas.
For years, the various governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu took an approach that divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — bringing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees while making moves that propped up the Hamas terror group.

The idea was to prevent Abbas — or anyone else in the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank government — from advancing toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

I highly recommend reading a piece by Zach Beauchamp titled "Benjamin Netanyahu Failed Israel" that outlines the Prime Minister's approach. 

...Netanyahu has intentionally propped up Hamas rule in Gaza — seeing Palestinian extremism as a bulwark against a two-state solution to the conflict.

“Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas,” the prime minister reportedly said at a 2019 meeting of his Likud party. “This is part of our strategy — to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank.”

For those skeptical that this was actually Netanyahu's plan, at least one of his confidants said it publicly. 

Because qualifiers in these kinds complex situations are important, I agree with how Beauchamp ended his piece.
To be clear: I am not...saying that Netanyahu, in place of Hamas, bears moral responsibility for Hamas’s horrifying atrocities against civilians.

What I am saying is that Netanyahu’s policy...is a terrible one. It is both morally indefensible and strategically counterproductive. It is no concession to Hamas, nor legitimation of its violence, to recognize this reality.

What we CAN say is that Hamas and Netanyahu shared a similar goal: to assassinate any chance for peace. Now we seem headed for war, with neither side having an actual end-game in sight. 

God help us!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Newsweek says Biden is to blame for rise in violent extremism

Less that two weeks after Donald Trump suggested that General Mark Milley (former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) should be executed, Newsweek published an article titled "Donald Trump Followers Targeted by FBI as 2024 Election Nears." Here's the point they're trying to make:

The revelations that some Trump supporters are being specifically targeted by the FBI fits with accusations from among them that the Bureau has them in its sights and is the political tool of a repressive deep state in Washington, D.C., bent on preserving the hold of the political establishment at the cost of democracy.

In the end, they suggest that President Biden into blame for the rise in violent extremism.

The senior intelligence official who works at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Biden's rhetoric on domestic terrorism could goad his opponents into taking more extreme action—particularly those who have now lost their faith in elections or believe the system is rigged against them.

"So we have the president increasing his own inflammatory rhetoric which leads Donald Trump and the Republicans to do the same, which influences the news media, which influences the rhetoric," he said.
Just in case you haven't heard, in the run-up to the 2020 election, Newsweek took "a marked radical right turn" and is now dedicated to supporting so-called "National Conservatives." As such, they've become part of the right wing news echo chamber. So it's no surprise that the piece cited above has been picked up by The Federalist, Red State, Laura Ingraham, and many other right wing publications.

Weeding through the entire Newsweek article it becomes clear that the data they are reporting doesn't support the narrative they're trying to sell (ie, "the FBI's data shows a dip in the number of investigations since the slew of January 6 cases ended"). 

But the focus has been on the fact that in October 2022, the FBI created a new sub-category of "anti-government, anti-authority violent extremists," which they defined as: "individuals motivated by a desire to commit violence against those with a real or perceived association with a specific political party or faction of a specific political party."

So the FBI included violent extremists who target people because of their political party. But Newsweek and the other right wing publications turned that into the FBI is targeting Trump supporters for their politics. Do you see what they did there? 

The truth is that we have a Republican presidential candidate who in recent months has suggested that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs should be executed, warned of death and destruction if he's charged with a crime, declared that the FBI, Department of Justice, and Democratic Party collectively comprised a “cancer” that was killing the country, suggested that shoplifters should be shot, and promised to investigate news organizations for their "country threatening treason." 

As a result of this kind of rhetoric, the New York Times reported that since the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago for classified documents last August, threats against federal law-enforcement employees and their families have increased by 300 percent. And let's not forget that it was Trump supporters who, at his direction, stormed the Capitol on January 6th amid cries of "Hang Mike Pence."

But according to Newsweek, it is Biden's warning about the danger of violent extremism that is to blame and the FBI is "weaponizing" the government by targeting Trump supporters merely for their politics. 

I remember the days when I'd see these kinds of lies and assumed that eventually the truth would become clear - proving that the purveyors of propaganda were wrong. But the gulf between right wingers and reality is so enormous now that I've had to accept that a day of reckoning isn't going to come. All I can do is hold fast to the truth and work to ensure that enough of us are doing so to defeat the liars in the long run.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

What members of the Trump administration are saying about their former boss

John Kelly, who was Donald Trump's chief of staff, recently weighed in on his former boss with what might be the most damning statement a member of a former administration has ever issued about a president. I'm going to quote the whole thing because it covers a lot of bases.

A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.

A person who is not truthful regarding his position on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women. A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason – in expectation that someone will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.

There is nothing more that can be said. God help us.

Of course, as a former General in the Marine Corps, Kelly is particularly disgusted with Trump's contempt for the military. In expressing that, he confirmed several reports that had been dismissed by the former guy and right wing media. So yes, a President of the United States called fallen soldiers "suckers" and "losers" - refusing to visit their graves in France.

But even more damning is that Kelly described Trump as someone who "has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about." He concluded his remarks by saying that the former president "has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law."

Coming from Trump's former chief of staff, these are not partisan critiques. They're from someone who spent countless hours with the president and obviously has nothing but contempt for the man. 

Kelly isn't the first member of the Trump administration to criticize his former boss in this manner. Cassidy Hutchinson, who was an aide to former chief of staff Mark Meadows, recently said, "I think Donald Trump is the most grave threat that we will face…to our democracy in our lifetime and potentially in American history."

Former secretary of defense, Mark Esper, said that Trump is “unfit for office. … He puts himself before country. His actions are all about him and not about the country. And then, of course, I believe he has integrity and character issues as well.”

Another former secretary of defense, James Mattis, wrote in 2020 that "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership."

John Bolton, who served as National Security Advisor, called Trump a "danger for the Republic," and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to him as a "f*cking moron."

It might be possible to dismiss one or even two of these critiques as having something to do with sour grapes. But the chorus from former members of the Trump administration is pretty resounding. These people spent a lot of time "up close and personal" with the president and they're warning the American public about the danger their former boss poses to the country. 

Many of us have known this about Trump since he first announced his run for the presidency years ago. But this is the guy a majority of Republicans still support as their nominee for 2024. Frankly, that boggles my mind when the sirens warning us about him aren't simply blaring loudly. They're coming from inside the previous administration. 

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