Donald Trump’s wall, David Rieff’s long war, and the dangers of fear-mongering

David Cole writes: So it has come to this. In yesterday’s New York Times, David Rieff, a human rights skeptic, argued that in light of continuing terrorism across the world, Western democracies have only two choices: “either the wall Mr. Trump wants to build and the mass deportations that many right-wing European politicians have begun calling for, or a vast expansion of the national security apparatus.” The latter, he continued, “would require serious increases both in budgets and personnel and in the methods at their disposal.” It would also require sacrificing “a certain amount of our humanity,” although he did not specify which aspects of “our humanity” he would sacrifice. Absent such a “vast expansion,” Rieff maintains, the people will opt for the draconian approaches pressed by Trump and other right-wing demagogues. We must give the security forces more power if we are to deny Donald Trump power. There are no other options.

This is a remarkably dangerous argument. It comes on the heels of the Republican convention, in which Trump did all he could to fan the flames of fear, and immediately before the Democratic convention, in which Hillary Clinton will set forth her national security vision. Rieff is right that Trump’s fear-mongering cannot simply be ignored or dismissed. It demands a response. But Rieff’s solution – an unspecified but “vast” expansion of the national security state – is no different from Donald Trump’s wall. It is, on the one hand, a dramatic piece of theater, designed to make the masses think that the government is doing something. And at the same time, it is patently ill-conceived, and fails for the same reasons the wall would fail – it favors simple dramatic “solutions” over measures that address the full complexity of the issue. And most disturbingly, it concedes rather than challenges the fear-mongering, thus playing on Trump’s turf. [Continue reading…]

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Austria: The lesson of the far right

Jan-Werner Müller writes: Could Austria become the first Western European country since World War II to have a far-right president? Amid the shock over the Brexit vote, few have noted the extraordinary sequence of events that have played out in this wealthy social democracy. On May 22, Norbert Hofer of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party lost the race for the Austrian presidency by around 31,000 votes to Alexander Van der Bellen of the Green Party. On June 8, the Freedom Party contested that result, alleging several irregularities, among them the premature opening of mail ballots and the release of election data to the media too early. In fact, there was no evidence of manipulations having changed the outcome. But on July 1 Austria’s Constitutional Court nevertheless ruled that the election would have to be repeated. Thus the Freedom Party — a party that was once described as a “party of former Nazis for former Nazis” — will have a second chance at the presidency in early October.

Just why has the far right done so well in Austria in particular? The country enjoys one of the highest per capita income levels in the EU, has an extensive welfare system, and has benefited enormously from the opening to Eastern Europe since 1989 (Vienna used to be shabby compared to Berlin; now it’s the other way around). Nor has Austria, until now, suffered from the devastating terror attacks that have afflicted France and Belgium. Picking up on Pope Paul VI’s praise of Austria as an isola felice, the country’s most important post-war political figure, long-time Chancellor Bruno Kreisky (in office 1970-1983), called it an “island of the blessed.” Nonetheless, the Freedom Party has been growing in Austria for more than two decades. If there were Austrian parliamentary elections today, the far right would win. [Continue reading…]

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Europeans ask if violence is becoming fact of life

The Wall Street Journal reports: In less than two weeks, Western Europe has witnessed the calm of everyday life repeatedly shattered by high-profile, indiscriminate acts of savagery, raising the sense that violence is becoming a new normal.

After the Bastille Day massacre in Nice, then an ax attack on a German train and a shooting spree in Munich, the list of violent acts grew again on Sunday not once, but twice. One Syrian asylum-seeker allegedly hacked a woman to death with a machete in southern Germany; police said it didn’t appear connected to terrorism. Then another Syrian asylum-seeker detonated a bomb outside a concert in Ansbach, killing himself and injuring others.

The motives and circumstances of each attack were different, but the string of violence has thrown Germany — until last week, mostly untouched by the terror that has struck its neighbors — into high alert, assured France will remain in a state of emergency through year’s end and poured fuel on an already contentious debate about Europe’s migration crisis and its security.

Friday’s attack in Munich was committed by Ali David Sonboly, an 18-year-old believed to have been in psychiatric care. He had taken an interest in mass killers such as Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway exactly five years before.

The Munich attack would be an exception in a year when Islamic State has either directed or inspired most of the terror attacks in Europe. The extremist group — which investigators say orchestrated the massacres in Paris and Brussels and inspired the truck attack in Nice — has promoted a particularly brutal form of terrorism: indiscriminate targets in civilian life, with the goal of killing as many people as possible.

That separates today’s violence from terror attacks in the 1970s and 1980s, when militant groups such as The Red Brigades in Italy, the Irish Republican Army, the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and the Basque separatist group ETA in Spain killed hundreds of people to advance their political goals.

Now the violence is an end in itself, said Raffaello Pantucci, a security expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank in London.

“When they used to hijack a plane, the idea was to swap passengers for some of their imprisoned comrades,” said Mr. Pantucci. “Now, you make a statement through the number of people you kill.”

Experts note that there is a difference between terrorism and mass killings carried out by unstable individuals but say images of one high-profile attack can foment others.

Pathological would-be killers absorb the violence and aggression of these events, potentially driving them to attempt larger acts of violence, says Brice De Ruyver, a professor of criminology at University of Ghent in Belgium. [Continue reading…]

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Kabul bombing adds new layers of agony for Afghanistan’s Hazaras

The New York Times reports: One after another, the bodies arrived on the steep hill in western Kabul.

For much of Sunday afternoon, an excavator was flattening the dusty area as men with shovels and pickaxes dug graves — four rows of 20 or so, packed so close that if the dead could stretch out their arms, they would touch those next to them.

In the hours that followed, nearly two dozen of the at least 80 protesters killed in a bombing claimed by the Islamic State on Saturday were buried here, in overlapping ceremonies that blurred into one large scene of public mourning. As the final prayer for one body lowered into a grave was being recited, dirt was shoveled onto another body at the next.

“Oh, brothers, slow! Slow!” one mourner at the grave of Muhammad Hassan, a 25-year-old construction worker killed in the bombing, urged the men piling dirt over the next grave. Dust covered the white turban of the mullah who crouched over Mr. Hassan’s headstone, reading from a little book of prayer.

The attack on peaceful protesters in Kabul — who were mostly from the Hazara ethnic minority — stirred an international outcry, in part because it was the first time that the Islamic State’s leadership in Syria had claimed responsibility for such a deadly strike in Afghanistan.

But some here voiced skepticism that the terrorist group, whose fighters in Afghanistan are concentrated in the east, was behind it. The detail hardly seemed to matter to others, who see the bombing as another in a long procession of attacks born of a chaotic and unending war. Many of the mourners burying their dead on the hill, or continuing their protest near a convention center, bitterly accused the Afghan government of failing to protect its people no matter the threat. [Continue reading…]

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Boris Johnson rebuked for blaming Munich shooting on terrorists

The Guardian reports: The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was urged to avoid passing politically sensitive judgments on world events until he was in full possession of the facts after he prematurely blamed Islamist terrorists for the killings in Munich on Friday.

Johnson made his remarks before the identity of the killer – an 18-year-old German citizen of Iranian descent who was obsessed with mass slaughter – had been known.

Although early reports of the attack, in which Ali Sonboly shot nine people dead before killing himself, suggested a gang of three people might be on the loose in Munich in a terror attack reminiscent of the killings in Paris, no definitive information was available and the authorities had not identified a motive for the killings.

Speaking about the attack on Friday while in New York, Johnson told the press that that the “global sickness” of terrorism needed to be tackled at its source in the Middle East.

“If, as seems very likely, this is another terrorist incident, then I think it proves once again that we have a global phenomenon and a global sickness that we have to tackle both at the source – in the areas where the cancer is being incubated in the Middle East – and also of course around the world.”

He added: “We have to ask ourselves, what is going on? How is the switch being thrown in the minds of these people?”

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, told the Guardian: “Just days into his new role, Boris demonstrates again why it was a huge gamble appointing him. The off-the-cuff remark may suit Have I Got News for You, but it doesn’t the tragedy in Munich. In future, Boris needs to hold his tongue until he is in full possession of the facts. There is too much as stake.” [Continue reading…]

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Did the Russians leak DNC emails to help Trump?

 

Politico reports: Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook suggested Sunday that internal DNC emails leaked this week were an effort from the Russians to help Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually of helping Donald Trump,” Mook said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I don’t think it’s coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention.” [Continue reading…]

Indeed. It was on June 14 that the Washington Post reported on the Russian hacking of the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, so Wikileaks appears to have opted for what they regarded, or were advised, to be the most strategic moment to go public.

The only plausible rationale for leaking right now is to undermine the Clinton campaign and thereby boost the Trump campaign, as Mook claims.

But why would Russia want to hack the DNC? Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, who has reported in detail on the hacking breadcrumbs that lead back to Putin, wrote in June:

First of all, it would make sense just from an intelligence collection standpoint. That’s what spies do. But in this election cycle, there’s another reason: the Russian government would like to have Donald Trump as president.

“Look, the coming elections is of high priority for Russia as many people close to the Kremlin believe that Trump could help to lift the sanctions and ease the tensions between Russia and the US,” Andrei Soldatov, an independent journalist who has written extensively about Russia’s surveillance powers, told Motherboard in an email.

And hacking the DNC and embarrassing Hillary Clinton would help with that.

In coverage of the presidential campaign by Putin’s English-language propaganda outlet, RT, Russia’s preference for Trump has been evident for months. Back in May, Michael Crowley wrote:

In its early days, RT mostly offered a Kremlin-friendly diet of international coverage, feeding the Obama-bashing, America-in-decline narrative with C-list commentators who couldn’t get an airing elsewhere on cable TV. But that was before Donald Trump — whose unlikely mutual admiration for Russia’s strongman president has been one of the stranger subplots of this American political season.

The blustery billionaire has praised Putin as a strong leader, spoken of closer ties with Moscow and mused about whether NATO is obsolete. At the foreign policy speech Trump delivered in Washington on April 27, the Russian ambassador to the United States was sitting in the front row. As Trump has risen, RT has gotten much more interested in the U.S. presidential campaign. Tune in to Ed Schultz and his colleagues these days and you’ll find a presidential race featuring Hillary Clinton as a malevolent warmonger, Bernie Sanders as an insurgent hero — and Donald Trump as a foreign policy savant.

A network that up until now has found little to celebrate about America has finally settled on a candidate it can believe in. Vladimir Putin’s TV channel isn’t just covering the 2016 campaign: Increasingly, it’s choosing sides.

In early June in an ITV interview, Julian Assange was asked bluntly: “Would you prefer Trump to be president?” He didn’t respond directly, but instead innumerated the many reasons he fears a Clinton presidency.

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Bernie Sanders: DNC emails ‘outrageous’ but ‘not a shock’

 

NPR reports: Amid furor over an email leak that revealed a bias against Bernie Sanders inside the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is out as chair of the convention.

In an email to NPR, the office of Rep. Marcia Fudge said she “has been named permanent chair of the Democratic National Convention.”

The emails, which were released by WikiLeaks just days before the party’s convention launches in Philadelphia, appear to show top DNC officials trading ideas on how to hurt Sanders at the polls.

In one email out of the 200,000 leaked, the committee’s Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall appears to float an idea to question Sanders’ Jewish faith.

In an interview with CNN, Sanders, once again, called on Schultz to resign.

“It goes without saying the function of the DNC,” Sanders said, “is to represent all of the candidates to be fair and even-minded.”

Sanders also called the emails an “outrage” and “sad” but also that they “do not come as “a great shock.” He believes that the DNC was “at opposition to our campaign” all along, he said Sunday morning. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump reminds me of Vladimir Putin — and that is terrifying

Garry Kasparov writes: Donald Trump’s dark and frightening speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday had pundits and historians making comparisons ranging from George Wallace in the 1960s to Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. As suitable as those comparisons may be, the chill that ran down my spine was not because of Trump’s echoes of old newsreel footage. Instead, I saw an Americanized version of the brutally effective propaganda of fear and hatred that Vladimir Putin blankets Russia with today.

This isn’t to say Trump plagiarized Putin verbatim. The language and tone were comparable the way that the Russian and American flags make different designs with the same red, white and blue. Nor was it merely the character of the text; Trump’s mannerisms and body language — toned down from his usual histrionics — were startlingly similar to the sneering and boastful delivery Russians know all too well after Putin’s 16 years in power.

In both cases, the intent of the speaker is to elicit the visceral emotions of fear and disgust before relieving them with a cleansing anger that overwhelms everything else. Only the leader can make the fear and disgust go away. The leader will channel your hatred and frustration and make everything better. How, exactly? Well, that’s not important right now. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump: EU was formed ‘to beat the U.S. at making money’

The Guardian reports: Donald Trump has claimed that the European Union was created to “beat the United States when it comes to making money” in an interview with NBC News.

Speaking to Chuck Todd, whom the Republican nominee has repeatedly berated as “sleepy-eyed”, Trump also said of the EU “the reason that it got together was like a consortium so that it could compete with the United States”.

The European Union was founded as the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952 in an effort to promote strong cross-border ties in Europe and avoid future wars. It has since evolved to a customs union and eventually to the transnational entity devoted to removing internal trade barriers, building a common market and a fiscal union. Its development and growth has been repeatedly supported by the United States under presidents of both parties. [Continue reading…]

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How did the media cover the Munich attack?

 

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Munich killer was troubled, but had no terrorist ties, Germany says

The New York Times reports: He had been bullied at more than one school. He played violent video games, and developed a fascination with mass shootings. He kept a copy of the German edition of “Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters,” a study by an American academic psychologist, and he was treated for psychiatric problems.

Somewhere along the way, Ali Sonboly got his hands on a 9-millimeter Glock handgun, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for it. And at 5:52 p.m. on Friday, at a McDonald’s in Munich a few miles from where he lived with his mother, father and brother, he started shooting.

Mr. Sonboly, 18, moved on to a shopping mall across the street, then to the top level of an adjacent parking garage. By the time his rampage was done, he had killed eight other young people and one middle-aged person. Then, in front of two police officers, he killed himself with his own gun, the police said. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports: A copy of a German translation of the 2009 work, by the American academic Peter Langman, was found by police in the bedroom of the gunman, identified as Ali Sonbaly.

The book examines the factors that combine to turn young people into mass murderers. It classifies 10 school killers into three groups: psychopathic, psychotic, and traumatised.

The 10 include the Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot dead 12 students and one teacher in Littleton, Colorado in April 1999; and the Virginia Tech gunman, Cho Seung-hui, who killed 32 people at the university in April 2007.

Katherine Newman, a professor of sociology at Princeton University and senior author of the book Rampage: the Social Roots of School Shootings, described Why Kids Kill as a dispassionate but clinically powerful analysis.

“It provides an interior view of the mind of rampage school-shooters that helps us understand the origins of the narcissism, paranoia, sadism, and thwarted rage that appears to motivate them … We come to understand the differences between shooters who are psychopaths and those who are schizophrenics, and why these distinctions matter,” she said. [Continue reading…]

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Why is Trump so popular with governments that claim to despise America?

Patrick Hilsman writes: Donald Trump is everything the Russian, Syrian and Iranian governments claim to despise about America. More than any US presidential candidate in modern history, he resembles a Soviet propaganda poster. Trump is a greedy, vain, Islamophobic, sexually amoral capitalist. He received a standing ovation at the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, he believes in mass violence against America’s perceived opponents, especially Muslims.

So why is Trump so popular with governments that claim to despise America?

Trump has a proven record of praising or at the very least making excuses for authoritarians, from Russian President Vladimir Putin to deposed Libyan leader Gaddafi and most recently Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Trump’s wave of authoritarian populism comes at a perfect time for strongmen like Putin, Assad, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who are circling the wagons, not against invading armies or perceived threats from abroad, but rather against creeping modernity that threatens the closed belief systems their regimes are built on.

Trump has come to embody 21st century authoritarian principals and the rejection of long standing multiculturalism, and the message is resonating with governments and organizations that ostensibly hate one another. [Continue reading…]

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