Top 5 Ways Obama is Behind Leaks, Protests against Trump

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump did an interview with “Fox and Friends” for this morning in which he alleged that former president Barack Obama is behind the leaks that have bedeviled Trump’s White House.

The Fox agent provocateur asked Trump a leading question as to whether Obama is also behind the angry crowds of constituents who have attended some Republican town halls on issues like repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Trump replied, “No, I think he is behind it. I also think it’s just politics. That’s just the way it is. You never know what’s exactly happening behind the scenes … I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it.”

Last we saw President Obama, he was hang gliding in the Caribbean with obvious delight at getting his personal freedom back after eight thankless years in office, during which white people prevented him from doing virtually any of the good deeds for them that he had intended. Trump’s paranoid remarks would raise further questions about his sanity if a) they weren’t obviously planted by Rupert Murdoch’s mind control techniques and b) if any further questions about his sanity were necessary.

But here are the actual ways that Obama is, in a way, behind Trump’s troubles:

1. Obama is famously calm, collected, rational and deliberative. The unhinged and frenetic people who replaced him have freaked out the White House staffers who stayed on into the new administration, and impelled them to let the country know what is going on. Trump’s Rasputin and alt-NeoNazi Steve Bannon has so much of a temper on him that he’s been accused of repeated domestic abuse, and even he admits he “runs a little hot” (is he an old boiler or something?). So no one can be sure of its validity, but a White House leak feed tweeted this on Monday:

Clearly it was the unrealistic expectations raised by Obama’s character that have caused this panic and the spate of leaks.

2. People at the town halls are afraid of losing their health insurance. Obama had minded that when she was ill, his mother’s disability insurance denied her claim because, the company said, her cancer was a pre-existing condition. So the Affordable Care Act forced insurance companies to provide coverage even for preexisting conditions. Republican legislators in the back pocket of the 1% want to abolish that provision, and therefore their town halls are full of angry Republicans who have decided that they rather like the ACA. This outrage is obviously Obama’s fault for having coddled the sick in the first place.

3. Obama was extremely careful about deploying military personnel in battlefront warfare. His critics complain about the drone strikes and bombing runs he launched. Whether they are right or not, the point for Obama was that these tactics were a means to avoid putting US soldiers in harm’s way. Two weeks into his presidency, Trump appears casually to have launched a commando raid on a facility of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in southern Yemen. Some 30 civilians were killed in the raid, including 9 children, as well as a US Navy Seal. The Seal’s father is not satisfied that the raid was properly planned (Obama had ordered a study of the possibility but likely would not have signed off on such an operation). He refused to meet Trump and wants an investigation to see if the sacrifice of his son’s life was warranted. So that Obama did not typically shoot from the hip on military operations has also spoiled things for his successor.

4. There is no evidence that Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice ever once called the Russian Embassy to reassure Moscow’s diplomats that sanctions placed on Russian officials over the unilateral annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine would be lifted. Nor did Rice take $40,000 to speak in Moscow at a commemoration of a Russian-government-backed television channel. So Rice’s absence of sketchy relations with the Russian Federation, in contrast to those of disgraced former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, clearly set a standard of behavior that impressed US security personnel and caused some of them to leak Flynn’s improper actions.

5. There are all kinds of people on staff at the White House, and some of them are disturbed at the white supremacist tone set by Trump, Bannon, Miller and others. One young Muslim-American woman says she only lasted 8 days in a newly hostile work environment. By treating people of all races and creeds decently, Obama without a doubt sowed dissension in the ranks of government employees who, after Trump’s election, discovered that he wanted to fire and/or deport them.

So yes, Donald, it is Obama’s fault. Just not in the way your warped mind imagines.


Related video:

CNN: “Trump: Obama’s people possibly behind leaks”

Image of the Day: European Buddhists (?) & Zoroastrians, c. 1650

British Museum | (Safavid Era Painting) | – –

School/style: Persian School/Style term details

Culture/period: Safavid dynasty term details

Date: 1650-1700 (circa)

Production place: Made in: Iran

“Four men worshipping at a fire altar and idol shrine; detached folio from an illustrated manuscript. At left, two Zoroastrian men hold their hands out in prayer toward a fire-altar, while at right, two men in European dress worship a seated and crowned idol.”


Via British Museum

ISIL: In Iraq’s desert, mass grave horror beneath the dirt

AFP | (Video News Report) | – –

“The sinkhole that could be the largest mass grave in Iraq’s latest conflict is barely visible from the road, nothing more than a small depression behind a desert ridge near Mosul. The Islamic State group transformed the Khasfah into a “place of death”, using it as an execution site and a mass grave where they disposed of victims, according to local residents.”

AFP: “In Iraq’s desert, mass grave horror beneath the dirt”

Is Trump a bigger danger to the US or Europe?

By Joschka Fischer | (Project Syndicate) | – –

BERLIN – Little more than a month after US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, it has become clear that nothing good will come of his presidency. Unfortunately, the pessimists turned out to be realists: things really are as bad as they said they would be. Worst-case scenarios are now baseline scenarios. Any hope that the demands of office, or political and economic realities, would persuade Trump to adhere to domestic and foreign-policy norms must now be cast aside as wishful thinking.

Realism demands acceptance of a sobering truth. When the 45th president of the United States must choose between upholding the US Constitution – which limits his authority through the separation of powers – or subverting it, he will likely choose the latter. The Trump administration intends to carry out nothing less than regime change in Washington, DC.
The Year Ahead 2017 Cover Image

Sooner or later, friction between the president and the constitutional system will create a severe crisis that will rock the US to its core, and possibly leave it politically unrecognizable. Trump’s continued attacks on the judiciary and the press – indispensable institutions for ensuring executive accountability – leave no room for a different interpretation.

Even if America’s constitutional system prevails, the chaos that will ensue during Trump’s presidency could cause permanent damage. Consider what might happen were a severe terrorist attack to occur in the US during this time of turmoil. Would the US experience a slide into authoritarianism, similar to what we have been witnessing in Turkey? One certainly hopes not, but it is a real possibility.

In terms of international relations, we have so far been spared an abrupt rupture of existing alliances and related commitments. But, as long as Trump pursues his “America first” strategy of isolationism and protectionism, those alliances and commitments will remain at risk.

A constitutional crisis in the US, a paradigm shift from globalization toward protectionism, and new isolationist security policies imply significant disruption of the international order, with no alternative order in view. If things go well, persistent instability will prevail; if not, confrontation and even military conflict could become the norm.

Trump’s relationship with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, remains unclear – if not downright mysterious. This ongoing uncertainty is particularly vexing for Eastern Europe, which cannot discount the possibility that Trump and Putin will reconcile their interests and stage Yalta 2.0, dividing Europe into separate spheres of influence.

The uncertainty with respect to Russia has been compounded by curious – and persistent – background noises in the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have all offered assurances to NATO and Eastern Europe; and Trump’s Russia-friendly National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, has resigned. And yet when this much smoke surrounds an issue, it’s highly likely that something is burning.

In any case, as Trump shakes up the existing world order, Europe will bear the brunt of the shocks. After World War II, Western Europe was able to thrive because of two big American promises: military protection against the Soviet Union and free trade. The US also played a vital symbolic role as a “beacon of liberty.” But now, with all of Europe increasingly threatened by Russian revanchism, that role may already be a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, the European Union’s severe, self-inflicted wounds have evidently left it too weak to develop an alternative to its crumbling status quo. If Europe’s post-war security and economic arrangements falter or break down, as now seems likely, the foundation on which a free Europe has rested will become unsound.

In that case, the proximate cause will most likely be the second round of the French presidential election, on May 7. A victory for the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen would cause the eurozone and the EU to disintegrate. France and other EU member states will suffer grave economic damage, and a global crisis will likely ensue. If she loses, the current nationalist wave would be broken, at least temporarily, giving Europe a second chance.

That chance, if it comes, must not be wasted. The EU urgently needs to develop the means to defend itself from both internal and external threats, stabilize the eurozone, and ensure calmness and rationality in the coming Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom. Whatever else changes, the UK’s geopolitical and security interests will stay the same. Brexit will not alter the fact that cooperation is necessary for mutual defense, the fight against terrorism, and border protection.

To be sure, the EU must not accept anything that would endanger the remaining union of 27 member states. But negotiators on both sides must also take care to avoid any outcome that could poison UK-EU relations indefinitely. As experience teaches us, life goes on, even after a divorce. Our common interests will remain, and now they include managing the risks posed by America’s truculent new president.

Joschka Fischer was German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005, a term marked by Germany’s strong support for NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, followed by its opposition to the war in Iraq. Fischer entered electoral politics after participating in the anti-establishment protests of the 1960s and 1970s, and played a key role in founding Germany’s Green Party, which he led for almost two decades.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

AP: “Trump Implies Europe Not Safe to Visit”

After Mosul: Can Iraq survive without a unified National Army?

By Balsam Mustafa | (The Conversation) | – –

The operation to retake Iraq’s second city of Mosul from the so-called Islamic State [group] (IS) has entered its crucial phase. The Iraqi army, federal police, elite counter-terrorism units, and rapid response troops are operating on the ground, bolstered by discreetly embedded US special forces. The US and Iraqi air forces, meanwhile, are carrying out strikes. The Conversation

The offensive approached from the south of the city and began by seizing small villages. The army first retook the town of Abu Saif and then Ghizlani military camp. The city’s international airport soon followed.

But the assault faces tougher challenges to come. Tens of thousands of civilians remain in western Mosul, trapped in critical humanitarian conditions. Some are reportedly being used as human shields. With very narrow streets restricting the movement of vehicles, fighting could be house-to-house. And all the while, IS will be using suicide bombers, explosives deployed via drones, and a network of tunnels.

Despite the prospect of a long, tough fight, a sense of optimism is spreading. Many among the Iraqi forces and many Iraqi people now sincerely believe that the liberation of Mosul is not far away.

They have good reason to be hopeful. Fears that the effort to retake eastern Mosul would end in disaster proved unfounded, and unlike in other IS-held cities such as Ramadi, the city’s infrastructure survived the assault largely intact. After the area was declared free in late January, normal life began to return and schools, shops and restaurants reopened.

The sense of recovery extends well beyond the city. Social media campaigns by young Iraqi activists have defied sectarian barriers and called for national unity. A campaign to donate books for the University of Mosul’s central library – home to valuable publications and rare manuscripts before it was destroyed by IS – has drawn support from across Iraq.

These are very encouraging signs. But even if Mosul is quickly and fully retaken without being part-destroyed in the process, Iraq has a steep hill to climb.

The challenge ahead

Iraq’s political elite is seriously divided and there is uncertainty about how or whether the country can take on the massive challenges of a post-IS era. Infrastructure largely obliterated during the fight against IS must be rebuilt – without this the return of displaced people to their territories cannot be granted.

Political, military and social challenges all complicate the situation. A full-blown victory in Mosul will be a major turning point for Iraq’s security forces and its people, but it will not make a dent in the country’s deeper problems.

The biggest challenges are nationwide – not just in the liberated areas. Establishing real security means not just holding territory, but rebuilding trust between Baghdad, provincial authorities and local communities. As things stand, poor security and law enforcement have left dangerous vacuums across the country which are filled variously by militias and tribal legal systems.

The priority should be to establish an independent national military institution, representative of all Iraqis and able to enforce the law. But Iraq is still busy dealing with the legacy of the US-led invasion of 2003 and the ensuing “reconstruction” of the national system, which bequeathed a dysfunctional electoral system and a sometimes barely functional national army.

The main obstacle to clearing up the mess is the multi-level corruption installed by the post-invasion political elite. The country’s leaders have successfully enriched themselves, but they’ve failed to come up with a clear vision of what the Iraqi people need and how to give it to them – and they’ve also failed to stand up against regional and international interventions. This venality and incompetence has come at a heavy price – many Iraqis have died or lost loved ones, and millions more endure various kinds of hardship and suffering to this day.

The liberation of Mosul could be a turning point, but the opportunity must be seized by Iraqis themselves, not least intellectuals, academics, and influential groups and individuals in civil society. They must unite to force meaningful change at the very top of all Iraq’s beleaguered institutions, whether political, military, economic, judicial or educational. Social media campaigns and shows of solidarity during hard times are a good start, but it’s time for more concrete action.

After all, IS is but one symptom of a prolonged political and civic failure. If the fundamental pathology is not treated, Iraq will remain stuck in its cycle of corruption, oppression, division and conflict.

Balsam Mustafa, PhD Candidate in Modern Languages & Politics, University of Birmingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

France24: ” Iraq: Army forces push deeper into west Mosul”

Trump Official detained, nearly Deported French Holocaust Scholar

TeleSur | – –

“My situation was nothing compared to some of the people I saw who couldn’t be defended as I was,” Rousso said on Twitter.

Henry Rousso, a French historian and a prominent scholar on the Holocaust, said he was detained for more than 10 hours by federal border agents at a Houston airport and was almost deported for being an “illegal” immigrant before his lawyers and an official at the school he was visiting intervened on his behalf.

“I have been detained 10 hours at Houston International Airport about to be deported. The officer who arrested me was ‘inexperienced’,” Henry Rousso wrote on Twitter Saturday.

Rousso has given dozens of speeches over the years at several prominent U.S. universities as well as the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and was a visiting professor at Texas A&M in 2007, according to his online profile.

“On the other side of the Atlantic, one now has to face complete arbitrariness and incompetence,” Rousso told the Huffington Post Sunday, adding that “the United States aren’t quite the United States anymore.”

He told the online outlet that he was interrogated by border officials after they were not satisfied by his tourist visa or the invitation from Texas A&M University. He was subjected to a formal questioning which included his taking an oath and giving fingerprints as well as a standard body search to which he objected.

There were “questions about my father, my mother, my family situation, with the same questions asked dozens of times: who employs me, where I live et cetera,” Rousso was quoted as saying in the Huffington Post article.

He was then told that his paperwork was not in order and that he would be put on a plane back to Paris 20 hours later. However, he was asked if he wanted to contact his embassy and he said yes.

He was able to get in touch with lawyers as well as the head of the university he was visiting who managed to convince the federal airport agents to let him enter the United States.

As they let him through, the police said that the official who stopped him was “inexperienced” and was unaware that activities connected to teaching and research could be carried out with an ordinary tourist visa.

“My situation was nothing compared to some of the people I saw who couldn’t be defended as I was,” Rousso said on Twitter, thanking the people who supported him. The Jewish-French scholar speculated that the officer was suspicious of him because he was born in Egypt.

The news comes just weeks after President Donald Trump’s travel ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries — which did not include Egypt — was suspended by a federal judge following major protests against what many called a “Muslim ban.”

Via TeleSur


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Newsy: ” French historian detained by US Customs”

Would Trump let Oscar Winner Mahershala Ali back into the Country?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Mahershala Ali, 43, last night won an Oscar for best supporting actor, in Moonlight . The film treats themes of sexual repression, gayness, and the plague of drug dealing and addiction. Moonlight, of course, also won Best Picture, after a historic error in which the winner was initially incorrectly announced as Lalaland.

Ali has been an important figure in American popular culture, having most recently played “Cottonmouth” Stokes in “Luke Cage” (part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, streaming on Netflix) and having appeared as Boggs in “The Hunger Games” films and as Remy Danton in “House of Cards.”

Ali was born Eric Gilmore in Oakland, CA. His mother, Willicia, who raised him in Cleveland, OH, at some point became an ordained Christian minister. He gained another name, Mahershalalhashbaz, from Isaiah 8:3. This is the symbolic name that God ordained that the prophet Isaiah give to his second son, meaning “quickly seize the spoils, quickly seize the spoils.” God was thereby warning that within months of the child’s birth, the Neo-Assyrian Empire would take Damascus and Samaria. This is the single longest name in the Bible and around 2010 he shortened it. Ironically, many Americans will assume that it is an Arabic Muslim name because it is exotic-sounding, but it is not. It is biblical and Hebrew.

In 2000, when he was in his mid-twenties, Gilmore converted to the Ahmadiyya branch of Islam and took the last name Ali (a reference to the first cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad). The late jazz legend Yusef Lateef was also an Ahmadi, a group that began in India and Pakistan and which many Sunni and Shiite Muslims do not recognize as Muslims. But since Ahmadis see themselves as Muslims, that is the way I shall speak of them.

Ali is the first Muslim to win an Oscar since the Academy Awards began in 1929.

Ali had earlier won a Screen Actors Guild Award as best supporting actor for his role of Juan in “Moonlight.” In his acceptance speech, he subtly referred to the pressure the Trump administration is putting on American Muslims:

“I think what I have learned from working on Moonlight, you see what happens in persecution. What I was so grateful about and having the opportunity was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community, and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was OK. And accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that.

““We kind of get caught up in the minutiae and the details that make us all different. I think there’s two ways of seeing that. There’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique, and then there’s the opportunity to go to war about it. And to say that that person is different than me and I don’t like you, so let’s battle.

“My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. You put things to the side, and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. And that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.”

SAG Awards: “Mahershala Ali Acceptance Speech | 23rd SAG Awards”

In this speech, interestingly enough, Ali used the stigma still all too often associated with gayness as a proxy for the stigma attached in the US to being Muslim in the era of Trump, and pointed to his own multi-religious family as a model for multi-religious America.

As for the question I ask in the title of this essay, you will object that Trump’s Muslim ban only affects non-US citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

But as it was implemented by apparently fanatical ICE agents, the ban also had an impact on US citizens, as President Bannon almost certainly intended that it should.

Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of the late renowned boxer, was allegedly illegally detained at the Ft. Lauderdale airport by ICE agents for several hours after he spoke in Jamaica for Black History Month.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Chris Mancini, Muhammad Ali Jr.’s attorney, asserted that his client was kept at the airport for almost two hours and that agents asked him over and over again, “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?”

After he affirmed that he is a Muslim, the officials continued to interrogate him about his religion and his place of birth (Philadelphia). He is a US citizen by birth and holds an American passport.

If white people in America didn’t want African-American Muslims here, they shouldn’t have kidnapped millions of Africans, some 20% of them Muslims, and brought them here as slaves.

So the answer is that Muslim-ness is being othered by the Trump cronies, and American Muslims are being coded as somehow foreign– even though persons of Muslim heritage have been in North America for hundreds of years (long before the Drumpfs got here in the 1880s). And, yes, it is entirely possible that Mahershala Ali could be treated as Muhammad Ali, Jr., was.

Although Mahershala Ali is the first Muslim actor actually to win an academy award, prominent Muslims have long associated with Hollywood and have won Golden Globes and other awards. Omar Sharif, an Egyptian of Christian Syrian heritage who converted to Islam, was nominated for an Academy Award as supporting actor in David Lean’s 1962 “Lawrence of Arabia.” He was also celebrated for his roles in “Dr. Zhivago” and “Funny Girl.” I pointed out that he was never forced to play a terrorist. IMDB has a listing of younger Muslim talent in Hollywood, who are already making their mark.

The five directors nominated for best foreign film, one of them an Iranian, issued a joint statement in protest of the Trump Muslim ban, saying, “We believe there is no best country, best gender, best religion or best color. . .”

And, as noted, Mahershala Ali spoke of the great opportunity of playing an individual “who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community, and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was OK. And accept him.”

He said, “I hope that we do a better job of that.” Me too.

Turkey’s Coup aftermath and Human Rights: A Feminist Perspective

By Banu Gökarıksel | ( Duke University Blog ) | – –

Feminist critiques of political power reveal the central function of gender, sexuality, and difference in maintaining that power. Yet, in current events, a feminist geopolitics is rarely considered and has been absent from analysis of the 2016 coup attempt and its aftermath in Turkey. Much more than tallying the number of women who participated in protesting against the coup, a feminist approach reveals the ways in which the coup attempt (and responses to it) in Turkey relied on the exercise of masculine discursive and material power. Violence was both engineered by a powerful institution, the Turkish military, as well as opposed by the political power of the AKP backed by other state institutions such as the police and gendarme. Both coup plotters and their opponents played a significant role in constructing and symbolizing normative masculinity and heterosexuality. The eruption of violence reinforced the hegemonic relationship between the military, the state, and the nation.

Feminist critique reveals that under President Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership, the AKP government has taken increasingly repressive and alarmingly authoritarian measures against minorities, women, and girls, and has galvanized a populist nationalist masculinity that Erdoğan himself embodies. The crowds of civilian men, police officers, and anti-coup soldiers who fought against the putschists, sometimes without any weapons, also legitimate and embolden a nationalist masculinity built on religious and social conservatism and populism.

The stepping up of its war against the Kurds is part of the government’s attempt to reestablish its nationalist and patriarchal power. Despite the magnitude of horror and human cost of this war, it could be thought in connection to a regulation for the chemical castration of sex offenders and the ‘rape’ bill proposal introduced in November 2016 (that would have absolved rapists who marry their victims under 18 years of age from any criminal punishment but met with huge demonstrations and did not secure enough votes to pass). Without attending to the bolstering of this masculinist power in the streets and in government, analysts miss a crucial dimension of how a political environment of fear and intimidation has been legitimated and how violence and militarization have recast Turkish subjects.

The coup attempt on 15 July 2016 was unexpected but not entirely surprising given Turkey’s history. What was surprising was what happened afterwards. Following Erdoğan’s call to defend democracy over a FaceTime call broadcast live on television and constant prayer calls from minarets, people in huge numbers poured out to the streets, breaking the curfew. Although some women were present, the overwhelming majority were men. The civilian men joined the police and anti-coup soldiers to fight against the putchists. Waving Turkish flags and shouting “Ya Allah, Bismillah, Allahuekber”, they attacked soldiers and tanks.

By the following morning it was clear that the coup attempt had failed. 241 people were killed and more than two thousand were injured during the coup. Crowds came out to occupy public squares to celebrate the defeat of the putschists in ‘democracy vigil’s that continued for weeks. The people who attended these democracy vigils did not seem to fully support democratic ideals and norms, asking for the immediate hanging of all the putschists and declaring unconditional loyalty to Erdoğan’s leadership.

The Turkish government’s reaction to the coup attempt has also been to the detriment of an already deteriorating democratic environment in which freedoms and rights of most citizens, mostly importantly of women and minorities have been increasingly restricted. Initiating a familiar re-militarization of society, the AKP government quickly and violently acted to restore its masculinist power, repressing any expression of difference from its normative Turkish citizenship. It declared a state of emergency which persists and strengthened its grip on power through arrests, purges, travel bans, and property seizures. The initial targets expanded from coup plotters, supporters, and anyone associated with Fethullah Gülen’s hizmet movement, which the government alleges masterminded the coup, to all critics of government policies, especially its war against the Kurds. Hundreds have been detained or arrested; thousands have been fired from their jobs or forced to resign; over one hundred media outlets have been closed down since July. Academics who signed a peace petition, journalists who wrote anything critical of the government continue to become targets as late as February 2017.

The coup attempt and the AKP’s response to it are manifestations of masculinist political power. The aggressive, violent masculinities that the coup attempt and its aftermath bolstered constitute the architecture of a security state. Political power is never gender-neutral but works through gendered and sexual production of bodies that belong and that do not, that need protection and that are threats, and through the gendered and sexual construction of borders and territory. A feminist critique provides insights into the production of an environment of increasing consolidation of masculinist power, rhetoric of national unity, violence, and militarism. But it also shows the possibilities for building solidarities and working towards a different future built on pluralism, non-violence, and peace.

Read the Special Forum: Feminist Perspectives on the 2016 Coup Attempt and its Aftermath in Turkey here.

Banu Gökarıksel is co-editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies. The most recent issue of the journal, volume 13 and issue 1, features a special forum on Feminist Perspectives on the 2016 Coup Attempt and its Aftermath in Turkey.

Via Duke University Blog

Reprinted with the permission of the author.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Ruptly TV: “Turkey: Arrests at Ankara University as thousands of state employees dismissed”

Trumpocalypse: How the U.S. Invaded, Occupied, and Remade Itself

By Tom Engelhardt | ( | – –

It’s been epic! A cast of thousands! (Hundreds? Tens?) A spectacular production that, five weeks after opening on every screen of any sort in America (and possibly the world), shows no sign of ending. What a hit it’s been! It’s driving people back to newspapers (online, if not in print) and ensuring that our everyday companions, the 24/7 cable news shows, never lack for “breaking news” or audiences. It’s a smash in both the Hollywood and car accident sense of the term, a phenomenon the likes of which we’ve simply never experienced. Think of Nero fiddling while Rome burned and the cameras rolled. It’s proved, in every way, to be a giant leak. A faucet. A spigot. An absolute flood of non-news, quarter-news, half-news, crazed news, fake news, and over-the-top actual news.

And you know exactly what — and whom — I’m talking about.  No need to explain.  I mean, you tell me: What doesn’t it have?  Its lead actor is the closest we’ve come in our nation’s capital to an action figure.  Think of him as the Mar-a-Lego version of Batman and the Joker rolled into one, a president who, as he told us at a news conference recently, is “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life” and the “least racist person” as well.  As report after report indicates, he attacks, lashes out, mocks, tweets, pummels, charges, and complains, showering calumny on others even as he praises his achievements without surcease.  Think of him as the towering inferno of twenty-first-century American politics or a modern Godzilla eternally emerging from New York harbor.

As for his supporting cast? Islamophobes, Iranophobes, white nationalists; bevies of billionaires and multimillionaires; a resurgent stock market gone wild; the complete fossil fuel industry and every crackpot climate change “skeptic” in town; a press spokesman immortalized by Saturday Night Live whose afternoon briefings are already beating the soap opera General Hospital in the ratings; a White House counselor whose expertise is in “alternative facts”; a national security adviser who (with a tenure of 24 days) seemed to sum up the concept of “insecurity”; a White House chief of staff and liaison with the Republicans in Congress who’s already being sized up for extinction, as well as a couple of appointees who were “dismissed” or even frog-marched out of their offices and jobs for having criticized The Donald and not fessed up… honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up, or rather only Trump himself can do so.  And by the way, just so you know, based on the last weeks of “news” I could keep this paragraph going more or less forever without even breaking into a sweat.

Among so many subjects I haven’t even mentioned, including Melania and former wife Ivana — is it even possible that she could become the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic? — there are, of course, the Trump kids and their businesses and the instantly broken promises on (such an old-fashioned phrase) their conflicts of interest and the conflicts about those conflicts and the presidential tweets, threats, and bluster that have gone with them, not to speak of the issue of for-pay access to the new president.  And how about Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner (another walking conflict of you-know-what), who reputedly had a role in the appointment of the new ambassador to Israel, a New York bankruptcy lawyer known for raising millions of dollars to fund a West Bank Jewish settlement and for calling supporters of the liberal Jewish group J Street “far worse than kapos” (Jews who aided the Nazis in their concentration camps). Kushner has now been ordained America’s ultimate peacemaker in the Middle East.  And don’t forget that sons Donald and Eric are already saving memorabilia for the future Trump presidential library, a concept that should take your breath away.  (Just imagine a library with those giant golden letters over its entrance to honor a man who proudly doesn’t read books and, as with presidential executive orders and possibly even volumes he’s “written,” signs off on things he’s barely bothered to check out.)

And speaking of Rome (remember Nero fiddling?), have you noticed that these days all news roads lead back to… well, Donald Trump?  Take my word for it: nothing happens in our world any longer that doesn’t relate to him and his people (or, by definition, it simply didn’t happen).  Since he rode that Trump Tower escalator into the presidential race in June 2015, his greatest skill has, without any doubt, been his ability to suck up all the media air in any room, whether that “room” is the Oval Office, Washington, or the world at large.  He speaks at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, amid angry outbursts on leaks from the intelligence community and attacks on “the dishonest media” for essentially firing his national security adviser, he suddenly turns his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and says, “So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”  And the world as we’ve known it in the Middle East is suddenly turned upside down and inside out.


In its way, even 20 months after it began, it’s all still so remarkable and new, and if it isn’t like being in the path of a tornado, you tell me what it’s like.  So no one should be surprised at just how difficult it is to step outside the storm of this never-ending moment, to find some — any — vantage point offering the slightest perspective on the Trumpaclysm that’s hit our world.

Still, odd as it may seem under the circumstances, Trump’s presidency came from somewhere, developed out of something.  To think of it (as many of those resisting Trump now seem inclined to do) as uniquely new, the presidential version of a virgin birth, is to defy both history and reality.

Donald Trump, whatever else he may be, is most distinctly a creature of history.  He’s unimaginable without it.  This, in turn, means that the radical nature of his new presidency should serve as a reminder of just how radical the 15 years after 9/11 actually were in shaping American life, politics, and governance.  In that sense, to generalize (if you’ll excuse the pun), his presidency already offers a strikingly vivid and accurate portrait of the America we’ve been living in for some years now, even if we’d prefer to pretend otherwise.

After all, it’s clearly a government of, by, and evidently for the billionaires and the generals, which pretty much sums up where we’ve been heading for the last decade and a half anyway.  Let’s start with those generals.  In the 15 years before Trump entered the Oval Office, Washington became a permanent war capital; war, a permanent feature of our American world; and the military, the most admired institution of American life, the one in which we have the most confidence among an otherwise fading crew, including the presidency, the Supreme Court, public schools, banks, television news, newspapers, big business, and Congress (in that descending order).

Support for that military in the form of staggering sums of taxpayer dollars (which are about to soar yet again) is one of the few things congressional Democrats and Republicans can still agree on.  The military-industrial complex rides ever higher (despite Trumpian tweets about the price of F-35s); police across the country have been armed like so many military forces, while the technology of war on America’s distant battlefields — from Stingrays to MRAPs to military surveillance drones — has come home big time, and we’ve been SWATified.

This country has, in other words, been militarized in all sorts of ways, both obvious and less so, in a fashion that Americans once might not have imagined possible.  In the process, declaring and making war has increasingly become — the Constitution be damned — the sole preoccupation of the White House without significant reference to Congress.  Meanwhile, thanks to the drone assassination program run directly out of the Oval Office, the president, in these years, has become an assassin-in-chief as well as commander-in-chief.

Under the circumstances, no one should have been surprised when Donald Trump turned to the very generals he criticized in the election campaign, men who fought 15 years of losing wars that they bitterly feel should have been won.  In his government, they have, of course, now taken over — a historic first — what had largely been the civilian posts of secretary of defense, secretary of homeland security, national security adviser, and National Security Council chief of staff.  Think of it as a junta light and little more than the next logical step in the further militarization of this country.

It’s striking, for instance, that when the president finally fired his national security adviser, 24 days into his presidency, all but one of the other figures that he reportedly considered for a post often occupied by a civilian were retired generals (and an admiral), or in the case of the person he actually tapped to be his second national security adviser, a still-active Army general.  This reflects a distinct American reality of the twenty-first century that The Donald has simply absorbed like the human sponge he is.  As a result, America’s permanent wars, all relative disasters of one sort or another, will now be overseen by men who were, for the last decade and a half, deeply implicated in them.  It’s a formula for further disaster, of course, but no matter.

Other future Trumpian steps — like the possible mobilization of the National Guard, more than half a century after guardsmen helped desegregate the University of Alabama, to carry out the mass deportation of illegal immigrants — will undoubtedly be in the same mold (though the administration has denied that such a mobilization is under serious consideration yet).  In short, we now live in an America of the generals and that would be the case even if Donald Trump had never been elected president.

Add in one more factor of our moment: we have the first signs that members of the military high command may no longer feel completely bound by the classic American prohibition from taking any part in politics.  General Raymond “Tony” Thomas, head of the elite U.S. Special Operations Command, speaking recently at a conference, essentially warned the president that we are “at war” and that chaos in the White House is not good for the warriors.  That’s as close as we’ve come in our time to direct public military criticism of the White House.

The Ascendancy of the Billionaires

As for those billionaires, let’s start this way: a billionaire is now president of the United States, something that, until this country was transformed into a 1% society with 1% politics, would have been inconceivable.  (The closest we came in modern times was Nelson Rockefeller as vice president, and he was appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1974, not elected.)  In addition, never have there been so many billionaires and multimillionaires in a cabinet — and that, in turn, was only possible because there are now so staggeringly many billionaires and multimillionaires in this country to choose from.  In 1987, there were 41 billionaires in the United States; in 2015, 536.  What else do you need to know about the intervening years, which featured growing inequality and the worst economic meltdown since 1929 that only helped strengthen the new version of the American system?

In swift order in these years, we moved from billionaires funding the political system (after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision opened the financial floodgates) to actually heading and running the government.  As a result, count on a country even friendlier to the already fantastically wealthy — thanks in part to whatever Trump-style “tax cuts” are put in place — and so the possible establishment of a new “era of dynastic wealth.”  From the crew of rich dismantlers and destroyers Donald Trump has appointed to his cabinet, expect, among other things, that the privatization of the U.S. government — a process until now largely focused on melding warrior corporations with various parts of the national security state — will proceed apace in the rest of the governing apparatus.

We were, in other words, already living in a different America before November 8, 2016.  Donald Trump has merely shoved that reality directly in all our faces.  And keep in mind that if it weren’t for the one-percentification of this country and the surge of automation (as well as globalization) that destroyed so many jobs and only helped inequality flourish, white working class Americans in particular would not have felt so left behind in the heartland of their own country or so ready to send such an explosive figure into the White House as a visible form of screw-you-style protest.

Finally, consider one other hallmark of the first month of the Trump presidency: the “feud” between the new president and the intelligence sector of the national security state.  In these post-9/11 years, that state within a state — sometimes referred to by its critics as the “deep state,” though given the secrecy that envelops it, “dark state” might be a more accurate term — grew by leaps and bounds.  In that period, for instance, the U.S. gained a second Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security with its own security-industrial complex, while the intelligence agencies, all 17 of them, expanded in just about every way imaginable.  In those years, they gained a previously inconceivable kind of clout, as well as the ability to essentially listen in on and monitor the communications of just about anyone on the planet (including Americans).  Fed copiously by taxpayer dollars, swollen by hundreds of thousands of private contractors from warrior corporations, largely free of the controlling hand of either Congress or the courts, and operating under the kind of blanket secrecy that left most Americans in the dark about its activities (except when whistle-blowers revealed its workings), the national security state gained an ascendancy in Washington as the de facto fourth branch of government.

Now, key people within its shadowy precincts find Donald Trump, the president who is in so many ways a product of the same processes that elevated them, not to their liking — even less so once he compared their activities to those of the Nazi era — and they seem to have gone to war with him and his administration via a remarkable stream of leaks of damaging information, especially about now-departed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.  As Amanda Taub and Max Fisher of the New York Times wrote, “For concerned government officials, leaks may have become one of the few remaining means by which to influence not just Mr. Flynn’s policy initiatives but the threat he seemed to pose to their place in democracy.”

This, of course, represented a version of whistle-blowing that, when directed at them in the pre-Trump era, they found appalling.  Like General Thomas’s comments, that flood of leaks, while discomfiting Donald Trump, also represented a potential challenge to the American political system as it once was known.  When the fiercest defenders of that system begin to be seen as being inside the intelligence community and the military you know that you’re in a different and far more perilous world.

So much of what’s now happening may seem startlingly new and overwhelming. In truth, however, it’s been in development for years, even if the specifics of a Trump presidency were not so long ago unimaginable.  In March of 2015, for instance, two months before The Donald tossed his hair into the presidential ring, in a post at TomDispatch I asked if “a new political system” was emerging in America and summed the situation up this way:

“Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state. Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.”

We’re now living in Donald Trump’s America (which I certainly didn’t either predict or imagine in March 2015); we’re living, that is, in an ever more chaotic and aberrant land run (to the extent it’s run at all) by billionaires and retired generals, and overseen by a distinctly aberrant president at war with aberrant parts of the national security state.  That, in a nutshell, is the America created in the post-9/11 years.  Put another way, the U.S. may have failed dismally in its efforts to invade, occupy, and remake Iraq in its own image, but it seems to have invaded, occupied, and remade itself with remarkable success.  And don’t blame this one on the Russians.  

No one said it better than French King Louis XV: Après moi, le Trump.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Reviews of our latest Dispatch book, John Feffer’s superb dystopian novel, Splinterlands, are just beginning to come in and they’re uniformly superb.  The Washington City Paper, citing its “brilliance,” writes, “If you’re having a hard time deciding whether to read 1984 or The Origins of Totalitarianism — or if you’ve already read them both and want something in-between — consider local author John Feffer’s Splinterlands.”  The Midwest Book Review adds, “Readers who enjoy dystopian stories that hold more than a light look at political structures and their downfall will more than appreciate the in-depth approach John Feffer takes in his novel.”  I urge you to support TomDispatch (and get a riveting late night read) by picking up a copy, or for a $100 donation ($125 if you live outside the U.S.), get your own signed, personalized copy from the author via our donation page (where numerous other books of our moment are also available) and give this site a real helping hand.  Tom]


Iran’s Oscar-Winning Director Hopes Anti-Fascist Movement Grows

TeleSur | – –

“We believe there is no best country, best gender, best religion or best color,” the directors of the five Oscar foreign films nominees wrote in a joint statement.

Thousands of people braved London’s winter drizzle on Sunday for a screening of the Oscar-nominated movie that has become a rallying point for opponents of U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.

Hours ahead of what looked set to be the most politicized Academy Awards for years, London Mayor Sadiq Khan made clear his political motivation in hosting the British premiere of the “The Salesman,” whose Iranian director is boycotting the Hollywood ceremony.

“President Trump cannot silence me,” Khan said to cheers from the crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square. “We stand in solidarity with Asghar Farhadi, one of the world’s greatest directors.”

Farhadi, who won an Oscar in 2012 for “A Separation”, won another Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards Sunday but is stayed away in protest of Trump’s attempt to ban people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

In a video message from Tehran, Farhadi thanked the “dear people of London who are gathered on this cold afternoon,” saying he was heartened by the reaction of filmmakers and artists to “the oppressive travel ban of immigrants.”

“I hope this movement will continue and spread for it has within itself the power to stand up to fascism, be victorious in the face of extremism and saying no to oppressive political powers everywhere,” Farhadi said.

Farhadi and the film’s lead actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, both said over a month ago they would not travel to Los Angeles to represent “The Salesman” because of Trump’s ban, even if that meant they would be exempt from winning.

The ban was later overturned by U.S. courts but the administration is working on a new executive travel order.

In a statement to Hollywood trade publication Variety Friday, Farhadi’s publicist said that engineer Anousheh Ansari, who was the first female space traveler, and Firouz Naderi, a former director of NASA’s Solar System Exploration program, would take Farhadi’s place at the Oscars and represent him on stage should the film win.

Ansari moved to the United States from Iran in 1984 as a teenager and made headlines as the first Iranian and first Muslim woman in space in 2006. Naderi left Iran for the United States in 1964 and worked for some 30 years in positions with the U.S. space agency.

On Friday, Farhadi and the five other directors in the running for this year’s foreign-language Oscar issued a joint statement blaming “leading politicians” for creating “divisive walls.”

The directors included Martin Zandvliet, director of Denmark’s “Land of Mine,” Hannes Holm, director of Sweden’s “A Man Called Ove,” Maren Ade, director of Germany’s “Toni Erdmann,” and Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, joint directors of Australia’s “Tanna.”

Without explicitly referring to any politician, they said, “On behalf of all nominees, we would like to express our unanimous and emphatic disapproval of the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the US and in so many other countries, in parts of the population and, mostly and unfortunately of all, among leading politicians.”

Regardless of who wins the Oscar, “we believe there is no best country, best gender, best religion or best color,” the directors added. “We want this award to stand as a symbol of unity between nations and the freedom of the arts.”

Via TeleSur


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Variety: “Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman” Best Foreign Language – Oscars 2017 – Full Backstage Interview”