Khan on Trump: ‘A person void of empathy for the people he wishes to lead cannot be trusted with that leadership’

Khizr Khan’s Democratic convention speech paying tribute to his son, Humayun Khan, a 27-year-old Army captain killed in Iraq in 2004, has reframed the presidential race through an expression of moral authority.

In December, Donald Trump pandered to the fears and prejudices of many Americans by calling for a “total ban” on Muslims entering the United States.

The Khan family, in the testimony of the father and the military service and lost life of the son, have irrefutably destroyed any semblance of legitimacy to Trump’s proposal.

There is no counter-argument Trump can effectively make and thus as a man “totally void of any decency” (as Khan observes), Trump has resorted to insulting his critics.

He has insulted both father and mother and their marriage and by extension all Muslims by suggesting that Ghazala Khan was not “allowed” to speak at the convention — Trump’s insinuation being that all Muslim women live under enforced silence.

In one respect, Trump’s response is completely true to form — he always denigrates his critics — but what is most revealing in this case is his willingness to trample on an American family who in the eyes of most Democrats and Republicans embody a widely accepted definition of patriotic citizens.

Trump wants voters to believe that as president, he would put America first, but what he has demonstrated again and again is that his vision extends no further than himself — that he is psychologically incapable of doing anything other than put Trump first.

Trump brags about his enormous success, his great wealth, and his huge popularity, but underneath all this self-aggrandizing swagger is a hollow core.

This is a man whose self-worth depends on him seeing his name emblazoned in giant letters because he is too afraid to look inside and take an honest account of how he measures as a human being.

Buried underneath Trump’s profusion of self-praise is the terror of a man in flight from his own sense of worthlessness.

This is a man who always hungers for more as he struggles to mask his own spiritual poverty.

The ugliness without, mirrors the ugliness within.

The Washington Post reports:

In response to Trump’s attack on his wife, Khan said the Republican nominee’s words were “typical of a person without a soul.”

Khan said his wife didn’t speak because she breaks down when she sees her son’s photograph — a huge one of which was projected onto a screen behind the stage at the convention.

“Emotionally and physically — she just couldn’t even stand there, and when we left, as soon as we got off camera, she just broke down. And the people inside, the staff, were holding her, consoling her. She was just totally emotionally spent. Only those parents that have lost their son or daughter could imagine the pain that such a memory causes. Especially when a tribute is being paid. I was holding myself together, because one of us had to be strong. Normally, she is the stronger one. But in the matter of Humayun, she just breaks down any time anyone mentions it.”

Khan said he asked his wife whether she wanted to address the convention.

“I asked her, ‘Do you want to say something? Thank you? We are glad?’” Khan said. “She said, ‘You know what will happen. I will sob.’ Would any mother be able to utter a word under those circumstances?”

Khan also said that he is now turning his attention to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), appealing to them to repudiate what he considers to be Trump’s divisive rhetoric. He said the matter of Trump’s candidacy has become a moral issue beyond policy or political disagreement.

“I am saying to them that this is your moral duty — and history will judge you . . . This will be a burden on their conscience for the rest of their lives,” Khan said near midnight Saturday.

Speaking of Trump’s proposed suspension of Muslim immigration, Khan said that the candidate is simply “pandering for votes.”

“This is my country too,” he said, adding that Trump “lacks understanding,” that most Muslims are victims of terrorism, not perpetrators — and they condemn it. “He lacks awareness of these issues. He doesn’t realize there are patriotic Muslim Americans in this country willing to lay their lives for this country. We are a testament to that.”

On Friday, Khizr and Ghazala Khan spoke to Lawrence O’Donnell. (In the videos below, their conversation is preceded by a short review of the highlights of other speeches delivered at the Convention.)

Khizr Khan spoke directly to Republican leaders, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan, saying: “If your candidate wins and he governs the way he has campaigned, my country, this country will have [a] constitutional crisis that has never [occurred] before in this history of this country.” Appealing to both men, Khan said: “There comes a time in the history of a nation, where an ethical, moral stance has to be taken regardless of the political cost.”

 

 

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Khizr Khan’s loss: A grieving father of a soldier struggles to understand

On March 22, 2005, the Washington Post reported: Khizr Khan is a lawyer by training and demeanor, an articulate man, a careful and methodical thinker who is trying at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday to make sense of the fact that his 27-year-old son is gone forever.

It’s a workday, so he finds someplace quiet, an empty conference room on the 13th floor of the office building where he works near the White House. He shuts the door, sits at a big empty table, picks up a pen.

He and his wife would talk often to their three boys about why they decided to come to the United States, he began. It was the 1970s, and Pakistan was under military rule. They came to Silver Spring to have more freedom and opportunity.

“It sounds cliche,” said Khan, 54, “but that is the story.”

His son was always reading books about Thomas Jefferson; that part of his passion was certainly his father’s doing. When the boys were small, Khan would take them to the Jefferson Memorial. He’d have them stand there and read the chiseled, curving words about swearing hostility against tyrannies over the minds of men.

But Humayun had a serious-minded disposition all his own, even as a little boy. He was the middle one, the comforter, the one the cousins would run to when they were being picked on. He gave swimming lessons to disabled children in high school. He had a sense of responsibility that his father cannot quite account for, other than to say that’s just the way he was.

“We always depended on his balanced approach to things,” Khan said, fidgeting with the pen.

It was not exactly surprising, he continued, that Humayun quoted Jefferson in his admissions essay for the University of Virginia, a line about freedom requiring vigilance. It was a bit surprising, though, when he signed up for ROTC and told his dad that after graduation in 2000, he wanted to join the Army. [Continue reading…]

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Trump gets rescued by firefighters — then insults firefighters

On Friday night, Donald Trump along with nine other people got trapped in an elevator at The Mining Exchange Hotel in Colorado Springs. It wasn’t long before firefighters came to the rescue. The Washington Post reports:

“The firefighters were able to secure the elevator, open the top elevator hatch, lower a ladder into the elevator, which allowed all individuals to self-evacuate, including Mr. Trump, onto the second-floor lobby area,” fire department spokesman Steven Wilch told Colorado station KRDO in a Saturday report. Trump was over an hour late to his event at the University of Colorado campus located in solidly conservative Colorado Springs — but he made it.

If you think that’s the sort of thing that might prompt him to mention the fire department in his remarks at that event, as you may have heard Friday, you’re right! “We have a fire marshal that said we can’t allow more people,” Trump said, as the crowd booed. “….The reason they can’t let them in is because they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Fire Marshal Brett Lacey, the candidate said, was “probably a Democrat, probably a guy that doesn’t get it.”

Trump went on. “Hey, maybe they’re a Hillary person. Could that be possible? Probably,” he said, calling the restriction a “disgraceful situation.”

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How to counter the Putin playbook

Michael A. McFaul writes: A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it seemed that only democracies promoted their values abroad. Today, autocracies have entered the arena again, exporting their ideas and methods — even to the United States.

Everywhere, autocrats are pushing back against democrats, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is the de facto leader of this global movement.

Since returning to the Kremlin in 2012, Mr. Putin has consolidated his hold on power in Russia. With renewed vigor, he’s weakened civil society, undermined independent media, suppressed any opposition and scared off big business from supporting government critics. And he made the United States and its senior officials unwitting elements of his malign strategy.

While I was the United States ambassador to Russia, Mr. Putin accused President Obama’s administration of seeking to foment revolution against him — as, allegedly, we had done in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring. Russia’s state-controlled media portrayed Russian protesters as traitors, puppets of the United States, who took money and orders from Washington. Mr. Putin took special offense to Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, claiming her criticism of the fairness of the 2011 Russian parliamentary election was a “signal” to Russian demonstrators.

While chastising us for supposedly meddling in his internal affairs, Mr. Putin expanded his campaign to weaken democracy abroad. Kremlin-aligned media like the TV station RT have championed his policies internationally, while challenging the legitimacy of democratic leaders, including our own president. Around the world, but especially in Europe, the Russian government supports — by both rhetorical and financial means — political parties and organizations with illiberal, nationalist agendas. Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its intervention in eastern Ukraine in support of separatists, as well as the invasion of Georgia in 2008, were violent efforts to destabilize new democracies. [Continue reading…]

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Greenland lost a staggering 1 trillion tons of ice in just four years

The Washington Post reports: It’s no news that Greenland is in serious trouble — but now, new research has helped quantify just how bad its problems are. A satellite study, published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, suggests that the Greenland ice sheet lost a whopping 1 trillion tons of ice between the years 2011 and 2014 alone. And a big portion of it came from just five glaciers, about which scientists now have more cause to worry than ever.

It’s the latest story in a long series of increasingly worrisome studies on ice loss in Greenland. Research already suggests that the ice sheet has lost at least 9 trillion tons of ice in the past century and that the rate of loss has increased over time. Climate scientists are keeping a close eye on the region because of its potentially huge contributions to future sea-level rise (around 20 feet if the whole thing were to melt) — not to mention the damage it’s already done. Ice loss from Greenland may have contributed as much as a full inch of sea-level rise in the last 100 years and up to 10 percent of all the sea-level rise that’s been documented since the 1990s.

The new study takes a detailed look at ice loss in Greenland between 2011 and 2014 using measurements from the CryoSat-2, an environmental research satellite launched by the European Space Agency in 2010. It relied on a type of measurement known as altimetry — basically, measuring how the surface of Greenland’s altitude changed over time in response to ice gains or losses. [Continue reading…]

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Anger has come to saturate our politics and culture — philosophy can show a way out

trump-purge

Martha C Nussbaum writes: There’s no emotion we ought to think harder and more clearly about than anger. Anger greets most of us every day – in our personal relationships, in the workplace, on the highway, on airline trips – and, often, in our political lives as well. Anger is both poisonous and popular. Even when people acknowledge its destructive tendencies, they still so often cling to it, seeing it as a strong emotion, connected to self-respect and manliness (or, for women, to the vindication of equality). If you react to insults and wrongs without anger you’ll be seen as spineless and downtrodden. When people wrong you, says conventional wisdom, you should use justified rage to put them in their place, exact a penalty. We could call this football politics, but we’d have to acknowledge right away that athletes, whatever their rhetoric, have to be disciplined people who know how to transcend anger in pursuit of a team goal.

If we think closely about anger, we can begin to see why it is a stupid way to run one’s life. A good place to begin is Aristotle’s definition: not perfect, but useful, and a starting point for a long Western tradition of reflection. Aristotle says that anger is a response to a significant damage to something or someone one cares about, and a damage that the angry person believes to have been wrongfully inflicted. He adds that although anger is painful, it also contains within itself a hope for payback. So: significant damage, pertaining to one’s own values or circle of cares, and wrongfulness. All this seems both true and uncontroversial. More controversial, perhaps, is his idea (in which, however, all Western philosophers who write about anger concur) that the angry person wants some type of payback, and that this is a conceptual part of what anger is. In other words, if you don’t want some type of payback, your emotion is something else (grief, perhaps), but not really anger. [Continue reading…]

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The Saudi bombardment of Yemen — worse than Russia’s assault on Syria — has been lucrative for the West

The Economist: Ninety years ago Britain’s planes bombed unruly tribes in the Arabian peninsula to firm up the rule of Abdel Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of the Saudi state. Times have changed but little since then. Together with America and France, Britain is now supplying, arming and servicing hundreds of Saudi planes engaged in the aerial bombardment of Yemen.

Though it has attracted little public attention or parliamentary oversight, the scale of the campaign currently surpasses Russia’s in Syria, analysts monitoring both conflicts note. With their governments’ approval, Western arms companies provide the intelligence, logistical support and air-to-air refuelling to fly far more daily sorties than Russia can muster.

There are differences. Russian pilots fly combat missions in Syria; Western pilots do not fly combat missions on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Nor are their governments formal members of the battling coalition. Their presence, including in Riyadh’s operations room, and their precision-guided weaponry, should ensure that the rules of war that protect civilians are upheld, insist Western officials. But several field studies question this. Air strikes were responsible for more than half the thousands of civilian deaths in the 16-month campaign, Amnesty International reported in May. It found evidence that British cluster bombs had been used. Together with other watchdogs, including the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, it has documented the use of Western weaponry to hit scores of Yemeni markets, medical centres, warehouses, factories and mosques. One analyst alleges that the use of its weapons amounts to Western complicity in war crimes.

The war in Yemen has certainly been lucrative. Since the bombardment began in March 2015, Saudi Arabia has spent £2.8 billion ($3.8 billion) on British arms, making it Britain’s largest arms market, according to government figures analysed by Campaign Against Arms Trade, a watchdog. America supplies even more. [Continue reading…]

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As the Saudis covered up abuses in Yemen, America stood by

Samuel Oakford writes: The United Nations has long been bullied by its most powerful members, and U.N. secretaries-general have usually been forced to grit their teeth and take it quietly. But few nations have been more publicly brazen in this practice than Saudi Arabia, and earlier this summer, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon managed to get in a dig at the Kingdom over its blackmail-style tactics. Ban openly admitted that it was only after Riyadh threatened to cut off funding to the U.N. that he bowed to its demand to remove the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, where it has launched a harsh military intervention, from a list of violators of children’s rights contained in the annex of his annual Children and Armed Conflict report. “The report describes horrors no child should have to face,” Ban told reporters. “At the same time, I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many U.N. programs.”

But the secretary-general wasn’t done. “It is unacceptable for U.N. member states to exert undue pressure,” Ban added. The removal of the Saudis from the list was also, he claimed, “pending review.”

For the United States, it was another reminder of what an uncomfortable ally the Saudi kingdom can be (as was the July release of a hitherto classified section of a 2002 report into the 9/11 attacks that suggested, among other things, that the wife of then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan gave money to the wife of a suspected 9/11 co-conspirator). No one has become more familiar with this awkwardness than the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, the erstwhile human-rights icon (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell) who has been forced to look the other way as a powerful U.S. ally does as it pleases in Yemen with political, logistical and military cover from Washington. Since news broke of Ban’s decision, I have asked Power’s office for a direct response to Saudi funding threats. Neither she nor her staff has ever replied. [Continue reading…]

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‘Young, old, conservative, liberal’: Turkey in shock over journalists’ arrest

The Observer reports: Turkish media are in a state of shock this weekend after the government arrested 17 journalists in recent days on terror charges and issued arrest warrants for dozens more, in what a press freedom group has warned is a “sweeping purge” of the sector.

Turkey had already ordered the closure of more than 100 papers, broadcasters and publishing houses as part of a crackdown after the failed 15 July coup attempt, before sending police to round up reporters, columnists, a novelist and social commentators.

The impact of those arrests was documented by US-based journalist and government critic Mahir Zeynalov, who was expelled from Turkey for his work two years ago and who took to Twitter to commemorate the work and reputations of the journalists arrested.

“Everybody was highlighting numbers and statistics, but nobody really explained who these people are,” he told the Observer. Some are personal friends, others celebrated within the profession and several are nationally famous. [Continue reading…]

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How Benjamin Netanyahu is crushing Israel’s free press

Ruth Margalit writes: In its annual report released this spring, Freedom House, an American democracy advocacy organization, downgraded Israel’s freedom of the press ranking from “free” to “partly free.” To anyone following Israeli news media over the past year and a half, this was hardly surprising. Freedom House focused primarily on the “unchecked expansion” of paid content in editorial pages, as well as on the outsize influence of Israel Hayom (“Israel Today”), a free daily newspaper owned by the American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and widely believed to promote the views of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel Hayom’s bias is well documented. A 2013 investigative report on Israeli television revealed drafts of several articles written by the paper’s journalists that had been systematically changed by the editor in chief to remove criticism of the prime minister. For a newspaper to have a political agenda is, of course, nothing new. But Israel Hayom isn’t conservative or right wing in the broad sense. Rather, the paper megaphones whatever is in the interest of the prime minister. Naftali Bennett, a far-right government minister, has said “Israel Hayom is Pravda — the mouthpiece of one man.”

In many ways, the Freedom House report missed the real worrying shifts. Mr. Netanyahu’s attempts to control the country’s pages and airwaves go much further than Israel Hayom. For the past 18 months, in addition to his prime ministerial duties, he has served as Israel’s communications minister (as well as its foreign minister, economy minister and minister of regional cooperation). In this role, he and his aides have brazenly leveraged his power to seek favorable coverage from outlets that he once routinely described as “radically biased.” [Continue reading…]

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Clinton campaign said to be hacked, apparently by Russians

The New York Times reports: Computer systems used by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign were hacked in an attack that appears to have come from Russia’s intelligence services, a federal law enforcement official said on Friday.

The apparent breach, coming after the disclosure last month that the Democratic National Committee’s computer system had been compromised, escalates an international episode in which Clinton campaign officials have suggested that Russia might be trying to sway the outcome of the election.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign said in a statement that intruders had gained access to an analytics program used by the campaign and maintained by the national committee, but it said that it did not believe that the campaign’s own internal computer systems had been compromised.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fund-raising arm for House Democrats, also said on Friday that its systems had been hacked. Together, the databases of the national committee and the House organization contain some of the party’s most sensitive communications and voter and financial data.

Meredith Kelly, a spokeswoman for the congressional committee, said that after it discovered the breach, “we immediately took action and engaged with CrowdStrike, a leading forensic investigator, to assist us in addressing this incident.”

The attack on the congressional committee’s system appears to have come from an entity known as “Fancy Bear,” which is connected to the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence service, according to an official involved in the forensic investigation. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: Several U.S. officials said the Obama administration has avoided publicly attributing the attacks to Russia as that might undermine Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to win Russian cooperation in the war on Islamic State in Syria.

The officials said the administration fears Russian President Vladimir Putin might respond to a public move by escalating cyber attacks on U.S. targets, increasing military harassment of U.S. and allied aircraft and warships in the Baltic and Black Seas, and making more aggressive moves in Eastern Europe.

Some officials question the approach, arguing that responding more forcefully to Russia would be more effective than remaining silent.

The Obama administration announced in an April 2015 executive order that it could apply economic sanctions in response to cyber attacks. [Continue reading…]

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How vulnerable to hacking is the U.S. election cyber infrastructure?

By Richard Forno, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Following the hack of Democratic National Committee emails and reports of a new cyberattack against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, worries abound that foreign nations may be clandestinely involved in the 2016 American presidential campaign. Allegations swirl that Russia, under the direction of President Vladimir Putin, is secretly working to undermine the U.S. Democratic Party. The apparent logic is that a Donald Trump presidency would result in more pro-Russian policies. At the moment, the FBI is investigating, but no U.S. government agency has yet made a formal accusation.

The Republican nominee added unprecedented fuel to the fire by encouraging Russia to “find” and release Hillary Clinton’s missing emails from her time as secretary of state. Trump’s comments drew sharp rebuke from the media and politicians on all sides. Some suggested that by soliciting a foreign power to intervene in domestic politics, his musings bordered on criminality or treason. Trump backtracked, saying his comments were “sarcastic,” implying they’re not to be taken seriously.

Of course, the desire to interfere with another country’s internal political processes is nothing new. Global powers routinely monitor their adversaries and, when deemed necessary, will try to clandestinely undermine or influence foreign domestic politics to their own benefit. For example, the Soviet Union’s foreign intelligence service engaged in so-called “active measures” designed to influence Western opinion. Among other efforts, it spread conspiracy theories about government officials and fabricated documents intended to exploit the social tensions of the 1960s. Similarly, U.S. intelligence services have conducted their own secret activities against foreign political systems – perhaps most notably its repeated attempts to help overthrow pro-communist Fidel Castro in Cuba.

Although the Cold War is over, intelligence services around the world continue to monitor other countries’ domestic political situations. Today’s “influence operations” are generally subtle and strategic. Intelligence services clandestinely try to sway the “hearts and minds” of the target country’s population toward a certain political outcome.

What has changed, however, is the ability of individuals, governments, militaries and criminal or terrorist organizations to use internet-based tools – commonly called cyberweapons – not only to gather information but also to generate influence within a target group.

So what are some of the technical vulnerabilities faced by nations during political elections, and what’s really at stake when foreign powers meddle in domestic political processes?

[Read more…]

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