Top Diplomat: US Will Crush Iran (May 21st)

Trump, Pompeo, and Iran

Current US policy toward Iran has three facets of pettiness, ignorance, and arrogance. My criticism of the leadership style of Donald Trump, the new normal of abusive language in political rhetoric, and the arrogance and ignorance of the President and his Administration is well known. The President’s petty Obamaphobia and the hypocritical interpretation of historical facts is dangerous and self-indulgent. He has surrounded himself with washed-out neocons like John Bolton and, now, I’m just waiting for the rehabilitation of Paul Wolfowitz next. And now a Tea Partier is the Secretary of State. Mike Pompeo is highly qualified for many offices, perhaps the CIA, and perhaps even the Pentagon. The leader of the State Department ought to be a Warhawk. Yet, on May 21, 2018, the top diplomat of the United States of America said that the US will “crush” Iran. Crush? Is that now the new-normal for diplomatic parlance?

I. Pettiness

  • From the White House Correspondents Dinner of 2011 to the campaign trail of Election 2016, it is apparent that the US President Donald Trump has a personal vendetta with all things Barrack Obama. No, it’s not even a policy disagreement, its personal Obamaphobia. The cornerstone of this Administration seems to be to dismantle the name Obama from the government as if the name was an interloper’s moniker on the side of a Trump Tower. Indeed, there seems to be little logic behind policy-reversals, just that the policies were ascribed to Obama… Obamacare anyone? From DACA, to Cuba, the Paris Accord and Net Neutrality, to off-shore drilling, Bears Ear, transgender bathrooms, and the Iran Agreement. Of course, an incoming president has the right and, as presidents from opposite political parties, perhaps the ideological interest in reversing policies. However, this Administration is obsessed with undoing policy at rates of speed and indifference to law more than prior administrations.
  • While questionably legal, many on both sides of the aisle were relieved with the DACA policy because it removed Congressional responsibility for a legislative fix. The Republican-led Senate brokered a deal, only to have President Trump undermine the deal at the last minute.
  • Was anyone outside Little Havana in Miami even complaining about the normalization of relations with Cuba? Then why change the policy… because it was done by Obama.
  • Climate Change? Obama, so it was “undone” even though it is legally binding under international law. Article 4 of the Paris Accord reiterates the obligations already contained in Article 4 of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which became binding law after US Senate ratification in 1992.
  • On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, the Republican-led Senate passed legislation to repeal Trump’s FCC decision by Trump’s appointees.
  • President Trump lifted the off-shore drilling ban, even though the coastal governors of both political persuasions lobbied Trump not to reverse the ban.
  • And don’t get me started about Bears Ear National Monument…
  • Even in the face of North Carolina’s gubernatorial election, Donald Trump’s Administration reversed the interpretation of Title IX regarding transgender bathrooms.

Pettiness at its finest.

II. The Hypocrisy of Selective History and the Selective Application of National-Sovereignty and International Norms

A. The Hypocrisy of Selective History

Again, each incoming presidential administration has the right to make policy changes and reprioritize both domestic and international agendas. Presidents of both political parties have had a history of engaging with rogue states and terrorist organizations. Yet, hypocritically, some presidential candidates and presidents seem to only vilify engagements by presidents of the opposite political party. From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Iran-Contra Deal, from the Reagan-Gorbachev Summits to the USS Stark cover-up, from Bush 41’s official acceptance of the Japanese apology for Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1991, to Bush’s continuation of pro-Iraq policies as NSD 26. And Clinton’s normalization of relations with Vietnam and his negotiations with the PLO in the Middle East as well as the IRA and UDA terrorist organizations in Northern Ireland.

In 2004, President George W. Bush began the process of normalizing relations with Libya. Additionally, the Bush Administration used US funds to create the Sunni Awakening militias by essentially hiring the militiamen away from the Sunni uprising militias that had been attacking the US and Shi’a forces.

The point is this: it is hypocritical and/or ignorant to denounce meeting and negotiation with rogue nations and terrorist organizations. It is a tool of diplomacy that has been used by US Presidents from both political parties. In fact, the current president seems as proud of his impending meeting with Kim Jung Un as he and others were critical of President Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro.

B. The Hypocrisy of Selective National-Sovereignty and International Norms

Again, it is important to remember that the UN Treaty is binding US law based upon Article VI of the US Constitution and the ratification of the UN Treaty by the US Senate in 1945. And Chapter VI of this binding document requires negotiation and arbitration of international disputes, not one-sided ultimatums.

US foreign policy for many decades has been a double standard, to say the least. American rhetoric often refers to the rule of law, yet the American government categorically ignored the decision in USA v. Nicaragua (1986). The more recent American use of drones as extrajudicial execution squads are as illegal internationally and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki and others, against domestic law as well.

The US government often asserts national sovereignty as a bulwark defense of US policy and unilateral actions yet labels other sovereign states who assert the same supposition as rogue-nations. Either the Americans has the right to impose a unilateral economic blockade against Cuba and Iran has the right to develop nuclear technologies, or Iran does not have the right to develop nuclear technologies and the US does not have the right to unilaterally impose economic sanctions. Both are examples of national sovereignty. Either Iran must comply with international regimes and the US must comply with international regimes as well (again, like USA v. Nicaragua), or international regimes are not compulsory on either nation-state.

If the US government can arbitrarily withdraw from international treaties such as the US Small Weapons Ban, Kyoto Protocol, the Rome Statute, NAFTA, the Paris Accord, the Iran Agreement… If the United States can withdraw from international agreements, then is there any reason for Iran to stay party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons? Iran can hardly be held in violation to an agreement that the government has withdrawn from, right? What is the incentive for Iran to stay a party to the NPT?

Yes, there is a clear, non-partisan, double standard in how the United States government interprets the concepts of national sovereignty and international law. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said that everyone has a right to their opinion, but not to their own facts. Too often in the past, the American government has interpreted the facts of international law to suit US foreign policy. Now, in the Age of Trumpism, we have ignorance and categorical lies, coupled with American’s tradition of selective history and the selective application of International norms.

III. An Ignorance of History and the Concept of Cultural Diffusion

On May 21, 2018, Mike Pompeo made his first formal comments on Iran since President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the party agreement was negotiated by the P5, the European Union, and Germany with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Seven sovereign nation-states and a non-state actor worked on the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal Framework, and now the United States is taking its proverbial ball and going home. More ignorance of international norms.

The President’s petty Obamaphobia influencing Trump’s understanding of the Iran Agreement, combined with the hypocritical ignorance of historical facts that ignores Reagan’s attempts to negotiate with the Iranian government. In addition, this self-indulgent

Candidate Trump, President-Elect Trump, and President Trump have all repeated ignorant and categorical lies, such as stating that President Obama sent millions in US currency to Iran, without either understanding or articulating that the transfer was a return of Iranian assets frozen since the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The return of those frozen assets (+interest) was part of the negotiated Framework.

Conclusion

President Trump and Neocons, like Bolton, as well as Tea Partiers, like Pompeo, seem to think that negotiation is when everyone else agrees with you. The international community has done that before, it’s called the Treaty of Versailles. And, thanks to the Treaty of Versailles, we got Hitler, Nazism, and World War II. A successful treaty is a negotiated agreement in which each side gets something and, frankly, no one is happy. That’s called diplomacy. Total warfare may work in military combat, but it always fails in international diplomacy.

Let’s go back to Pompeo’s visit to the Heritage Foundation today; in the 16th paragraph of his speech, Pompeo said that, after complying with US demands, Iran will be welcomed back into the “League of Nations.” Yup. He said the League of Nations. And please don’t tell me that it’s an expression, take a look at the text of the speech, League of Nations was capitalized. Who the heck is his speech writer? If it was meant as just an expression, who is the editor? Who released the text of the speech to the public? Did the Secretary read his speech before he arrived at the Heritage Foundation today? Did *he* notice? I dunno, should someone tell, or have told, the top diplomat of the most powerful nation-state on Earth, the United States Secretary of State, …that the League of Nations does not exist anymore? For some reason, I personally feel that he should have known that already.

And these of the people who are in charge of our diplomacy and our reputation throughout the world…

Yes, on May 21, 2018, the top diplomat of the United States of America said that the US will “crush” Iran. Crush. Yes, the new-normal for diplomatic parlance. And, in the same speech, the chief diplomat referred to the League of Nations that has been defunct for 72 years.

Yes, my criticism of Donald Trump’s leadership style is already on record. I do not appreciate the debased new-normal of abusive language in our political rhetoric, as well as the arrogance and, in my opinion, ignorance of the President and his Administration. The President’s has a petty Obamaphobic hang-up and a dangerous and self-indulgent interpretation of historical facts. The President has surrounded himself with washed-out neocons like John Bolton and Tea Partiers like Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, like Rex Tillerson, is highly qualified for many offices like the CIA and the Pentagon. But the leader of the State Department is a Warhawk who promises to “crush” Iran until it rejoins the 72-year defunct League of Nations.

The US policy toward Iran is three comprised of pettiness, ignorance, and arrogance. Apparently, one the one hand, Obama gave the cow away to Iran, but it’s the Art of the Deal to sit down with Kim Jung Un. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. No, no one knows what the future holds for Iran or North Korea, but US negotiations with the PLO and the IRA seem to have gone well. US normalization of relations with Vietnam and Libya seem to have gone fairly well too.

The fact is that the Iranians will have nuclear weapons if they want… maybe not this year, or the next, maybe not in 5 years, but you can’t stop it permanently. It’s called cultural diffusion. The British couldn’t prevent Samuel Slater from bringing the Industrial Revolution to America, nor could America stop the transfer of electronics technologies to East Asia. More to the point, the US and its allies were unable to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Russia, China, India, Pakistan, or North Korea. But few Americas fear waking up to nuclear war with the UK, France, India, or even China or Russia. So, the issue is not nuclear proliferation, its the relationship that the United States has with other nuclear power that matters most. No, the US government cannot permanently prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb forever, but the US can manage the US-Iranian relationship so that in ten years Iran is not an enemy.

Perhaps its time to let go of Zero Sum politics, the hypocritical application of international norms, and Obamaphobia? Perhaps Obama’s engagement and negotiation with the Iranians is as valid as Trump’s engagement and negotiation with the North Koreans?

Just the thoughts of a Babbling Professor…

My name is Tom Keefe, and, remember, Today’s Tomorrow’s Yesterday!

Thanks for Listening!

 

A Royal Wedding

What is it about royal weddings? Is it the guest list? The wedding dress?  The pomp and circumstance?  Is it a renewal of childhood dreams and fantasies? I mean, what little kid doesn’t have dreams of being a prince or a princess? But not too many American’s get this excited about dynastical marriages in the other 30 monarchies of the world…

Is it because the new Duchess of Sussex is an American who married a prince? I think that’s certainly part of it, though Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles far outshone the marriage of American actress Grace Kelley’s marriage to the Prince Rainier III of Monaco, or when Lisa Halaby of Washington, DC, married the absolute monarch King Hussein of Jordan just four years before Princess Di’s marriage to an heir to a Constitutional Monarchy.

Oh, is it because the US and UK have such a shared history? After all, it was Harry’s 7th great-grandfather that used to rule what is now the United States, right?

  • George III
  • Louisiana Territory: Napoleon (or Charles III of Spain?)
  • Mexican Cession: Charles IV of Spain (or his brother Ferdinand, or the installed Joseph Bonaparte?)
  • Alaska: Alexander II
  • Hawaii: Queen Liliuokalani
  • Virgin Islands: Christian X of Denmark?

Oh, it must be the language then, right? That the British Royal Family speaks the same language as most Americans? That we can follow the ceremonies and the lives of these fabled few with lucky births instant fame and fortune? After all, not many of us know the members of the royal families, so why are we so many excited? Are we even this excited about weddings that we actually get invited to?

So, iit’snot really the idea of a royal wedding, it may or not be the commonality of language, I suspect that some of it may be the Anglo-American historical bias in the understanding of US history. And, speaking of history, Bishop Michael Curry reminded us of the sociological and historical significance of the dynastical marriage as well.

But at the end of the day, a young commoner married her prince. As I said earlier, what little kid doesn’t have dreams of being a prince or a princess? Megan Markle had a beautiful wedding; it was a beautiful wedding ceremony to watch. It was nice to put aside partisanship and to share common human experiences such as dreams of castles and crowns, as well as weddings and family celebrations.

So why id so many Americans watch the wedding in the early hours of the day? Why do so many Americans follow the British royal family? Because, I suspect, the British have maintained something that we have lost in the United States. The British have a common Head of State that transcends partisanship and ideology. The Brits leave that ugliness to the Head of Government and Parliament; but the royal family is a symbol of a national identity that American lacks. Perhaps the closest parallel the US has is the manner and regard with which we treat our former presidents. America has no royal family in Washington, no common head of a common religion, no agreed specific common cultural icon. So, from across the pond, we gaze upon a family that symbolizes a nation, a history, and an ideal. A family whose public events and speeches are about commonality not controversy, ideals not ideology, and values not vilification.

A wedding can be a magical moment, like a first date, or an inauguration. But marriages, relationships, and governance take work. Hard work. The wedding is over now, and soon the honeymoon will be too, It is time to focus on the next step, and bring some of that magic back into our everyday existence, with a little bit of hard work, focusing on what unites us as families, peoples and as humans.

May 14, 1948 & May 14, 2018

Why Trump was right to move the US Embassy:

Each sovereign nation-state has the right to determine its own capital. The Israeli government has declared Jerusalem to be its capital, therefore the US Embassy should be in Jerusalem.

Why Trump was wrong to move the US Embassy:

Israel’s legal authority of both West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem are questionable.

Historical Context

In 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne recognized British authority for the Mandate for Palestine. This was a result of the defeat of the Central Powers (specifically the Ottoman Empire) in World War I, and the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire as a functioning nation-state. Thus, the legal jurisdiction of Israel-Palestine belonged to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a mandate under the League of Nations and international law.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations (the successor regime to the League of Nations) adopted the Plan as Resolution 181(II), which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and an international authority for the city of Jerusalem. This UN Partition Plan for Palestine recommended a partition of Mandatory Palestine at the end of the British Mandate. The resolution also recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency accepted the proposal with reservations, but the Arab Commission argued that partition violated the principals of national self-determination in the UN Charter which granted people the right to decide their own destiny.

Almost immediately after adoption of the Resolution by the General Assembly, a low-level civil war broke out and violence occurred by both religious groups. Adding to the complexity of the situation, post-World War II emigration of European Jews to the British Mandate for Palestine continued, which altered the population ratios in the Mandate.

On May 14, 1948, Jewish leaders in the Mandate for Palestine issued the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in defiance of the United Nation as Resolution 181(II) which set the stage for the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (or the First Arab–Israeli War) between the State of Israel and a military coalition of Arab states and forming the second stage of the 1948 Palestine war. In the war, Israeli forces soundly defeated the Arab coalition and took complete control of West Jerusalem. As a result of the war, the State of Israel controlled both the area that the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 had recommended for the proposed Jewish state as well as almost 60% of the area of Arab state proposed by the 1948 Partition Plan, including Jaffa, Galilee, and some parts of the Negev Tel Aviv–Jerusalem road. Transjordan, today known as Jordan, took control of East Jerusalem as well as what was left of the British Mandate, and the Egyptian military took control of the Gaza Strip. At that point in history, at the Jericho Conference of 1948, Egypt and Transjordan could have created a Palestinian state out of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the rump Mandate, but no state was created. However, because the Israeli control of Jerusalem was a military conquest and violation of UN Resolution 181, the US Embassy was built in Tel Aviv, not West Jerusalem.

Fast forwarding to the Six-Day War of June 1967: On June 7, 1967, Israel captured the Old City of East Jerusalem. Again, because the West Bank and East Jerusalem were a military conquest, not a diplomatic agreement, neither US President Lyndon Johnson nor did his eight successors relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

International Law

Since World War I, territorial expansion by military victory has been unrecognized by international law. Period. That’s it really. It’s as simple as that. Since World War I, territorial expansion by military victory has been unrecognized by international law. For example:

  • The German invasion of Poland, etc.? Wrong.
  • The Japanese invasion of East Asian territories? Wrong.
  • North Korea’s invasion of South Korea? Wrong.
  • Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara? Wrong.
  • Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait? Wrong.
  • Russian conquest of Crimea? Wrong

What makes the Israeli conquest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem any different?

Nothing under international law, that’s for sure, though I have heard this argument, that Israel was attacked, Israel did not initiate the war, so that makes it different; Essentially, the argument goes that it’s the Arabs fault because they started the war. If one has siblings, then we are all aware of the goading that can go on before conflict. Regardless, however, there is no legal basis for that argument, no international legal caveat that says if you get attacked, you can conquer the world legally…and, finally, it may be worth pointing out that the belligerents in the 1967 War were the nation-states of Jordan and the Arab Republic of Egypt Syria, and not the Palestinian people.

Which only leaves this argument to justify the Israeli occupation and annexation of the West Bank: God. Well, specifically, the Torah. Yes, the Jewish holy texts record that God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites. Unfortunately for Israel’s case before the international community, religious texts are not exactly admissible in international proceedings. After all, would the international community accept the words of Shiva or Krishna as binding legal documents? Do Israeli Jews accept the Qur’an’s legal weight? In fact, didn’t the Allied Commander for the Pacific Theater in WWII, Douglas MacArthur, didn’t MacArthur demand that the head of the Shinto faith, Emperor Hirohito, publicly change/alter/denounce the dogma of that religious tradition that the Emperor was the descendant of the Sun Goddess?

It seems that accepting Jewish scripture as an international legal document is playing favorites with world religion. The repatriation of European Jews was a decision made from guilt and cultural prejudice. The decision was made in wanton disregard for the existing Arab population in the British Mandate of Palestine, like European disregard for indigenous populations around the world. The decision is also a complete rejection for the principals of self-determination and territorial integrity spelled out in the Treaty of Versailles. International law cannot, ought not, to be henpecked.

So, am I saying that the State of Israel does not have a right to exist? Am I being anti-Semitic?

No, categorically, no. That is not what I’m saying. In the first place, there is a difference between de juro and de facto. For example, when the convention of delegates that was assembled in Philadelphia 1787 was charged with revising the Articles of Confederation, not replacing the US government; the Articles themselves states that the Articles could only be altered unanimously, but only 12 of the 13 states participated in the Constitutional Convention. So, what, we’re now going to abolish the US Government? No, of course not.

Yes, Israel came into being in 1948 in a dubious legal situation. But there is an equally important point to be made that, throughout history, Stateless People have been persecuted. Today, the Rohingya, as well as the Roma/Gypsies, the Kurds, and others, and yes, the Jewish people themselves. Kicked out of their historical homeland in 70 CE by the Roman Empire, the Jews were stateless people for almost 1900 years… and now, because of the creation of a Jewish Homeland, the Palestinian people have no homeland. I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I was taught that “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right.”

And, if that point doesn’t seem to have merit, let’s try an analogy. If the Native Americans rose up from every reservation and from all corners of the current United States, if Native Americans took up arms and waged war against the European-American population of the United States, would that be legitimate? After all, like the Jewish people, this land was Native American first. Again, there seems to be an inherent bias in how many Americans perceive the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

Zero-Sum versus Positive Sum

In addition, too many Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians view the situation as a Zero-Sum Game. In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game a situation in which each participant(s) gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participant(s). That’s not the only option. The falsity and limitation of Zero-Sum thinking is pointed out by the Nash Equilibrium, and perhaps more importantly, by Positive-Sum thinking.

One of the falsehoods in the general discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is the binary belief in Identity Politics. No, not all Israelis are opposed to the Two-State Solution; many Israelis recognize the dehumanizing conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And no, not all Palestinians are supporters of violence who deny the right of Israel to exist. Remember Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish murderer, not a Palestinian terrorist. If it seems that Palestinians are more angry and expressive of their feelings, ask yourself who was more angry and expressive in the American Civil Rights movement.

Conclusion

The United States has often neglected its potential as an arbiter for peace in the world, but not always. The American-brokered Good Friday Agreement is an example of US leadership in the world. Peace can happen when Americans recognize the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to self-determination. Peace can happen when settlements on the West Bank are not being constructed at the same time supposed negotiations occur. Peace can happen when the United States spends as much financial aid for Palestinian schools, hospitals, and police-training, as it sends in military hardware to Israel.

And, finally, peace will happen when Palestinians reject the politics of violence, and Israelis embrace the politics of humanitarianism.

The enemies of peace abound. They exist in the profit margins of the American military-industrial complex, and hidden corners of the Israeli government chambers; the enemies of peace exist in some of the madrasas and mosques of the West Bank and Gaza, just as much as they exist in the pulpits of many American Christian churches and some of the yeshivas of Israeli and America.

Yes, West Jerusalem is -and should be- the capital of Israel. But East Jerusalem should also be the capital of a Palestinian State as well. Opening one embassy, not two, was an expression of Zero Sum politics and an abdication of American leadership for peace in the world.

 

Historical Apologies (May 9th)

Image result for I'm sorry

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

~May 9~

On this day, May 9, 1945, hundreds of Algerian civilians were killed by French Army soldiers in the Sétif massacre. The initial outbreak of the massacre occurred on the morning of 8 May 1945, the same day that Nazi Germany surrendered in World War II. About 5,000 Muslim-Algerians paraded to Sétif in order to celebrate the victory ended in clashes between the marchers and the local French gendarmerie when the latter tried to seize banners attacking colonial rule.

In February 2005, Hubert Colin de Verdière, France’s ambassador to Algeria, formally apologized for the massacre, calling it an “inexcusable tragedy,” in what was described as “the most explicit comments by the French state on the massacre.”

~~~

Big deal, little deal, no deal? For most of you, maybe not that a big deal. How about if you are Algerian? What if you are related to one of the victims of the massacre? Hmm, that might be a bigger deal then, right?

But are apologies necessary?  Some critics seem to think that apologies are meaningless… after all, did French Ambassador Hubert Colin de Verdière kill any of those Algerians? No, of course not. I think we’ve probably all heard similar comments before: I didn’t own any slaves, why should I take any responsibility? I haven’t killed any Native Americans, why should I say sorry?

On the flipside of the argument, specifically critics of Pope John Paul II warned that his unprecedented apologies would undermine the church’s authority. Similarly, the Heritage Foundation published an article criticizing Barack Obama titled, “Barack Obama’s top 10 apologies how the president has humiliated superpower.” Wow. A crazy leftie like Obama, huh? Figures… typical liberal crybaby, right? OK. How about JPII? Is the Polish pontiff a crazy liberal too? No, but his critics have pointed at his age and health as ways to minimize his papal apologies.

~~~

How about Ronald Reagan? In August 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, apologizing to the Japanese American internees and offering $20,000 to survivors of the camps.

Later, on August 1, 1993, President Clinton sent each survivor or the camps a personal apology and, in January 1998, he gave Fred Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Korematsu was arrested for remaining in his home and not reporting to the local Assembly Center.  He was convicted of violating E.O.  9066.  The judgment was later overturned.) Many Japanese-Americans have still not received just compensation for properties taken during the internment process.

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July 17, 1995 – Barely two months after taking office, President Jacques Chirac today publicly recognized France’s responsibility for deporting thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps during WWII.

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Let’s go back to Pope John Paul II: As Pope, he officially made public apologies for over 100 of these wrongdoings, including:

  • October 31, 1992, the legal prosecution of Galileo Galilei, himself a devout Catholic, around 1633
  • August 9, 1993, Catholics’ involvement with the African slave trade.
  • May 1995, in the Czech Republic, the Church’s role in burning at the stake and the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation.
  • May 29, 1995, the injustices committed against women, the violation of women’s rights and for the historical denigration of women.
  • March 16, 1998, the inactivity and silence of many Catholics during the Holocaust
  • December 18, 1999, in Prague, for the execution of Jan Hus in 1415. When John Paul II visited Prague in 1990s, he requested experts in this matter “to define with greater clarity the position held by Jan Hus among the Church’s reformers and acknowledged that “independently of the theological convictions he defended, Hus cannot be denied integrity in his personal life and commitment to the nation’s moral education.” It was another step in building a bridge between Catholics and Protestants.
  • March 12, 2000, during a public Mass of Pardons, Pope John Paul II defied warnings from some theologians that an unprecedented apology would undermine the church’s authority, he asked for the sins of Catholics throughout the ages for violating “the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and [for showing] contempt for their cultures and religious traditions”. Specifically, he asked God to forgive the persecution of the Jews by the Catholic Church: “We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood.”
  • For the actions of the Crusader attack on Constantinople in 1204. To the Patriarch of Constantinople, he said “Some memories are especially painful, and some events of the distant past have left deep wounds in the minds and hearts of people to this day. I am thinking of the disastrous sack of the imperial city of Constantinople, which was for so long the bastion of Christianity in the East. It is tragic that the assailants, who had set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their own brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret.
  • On November 20, 2001, from a laptop in the Vatican, Pope John Paul II sent his first e-mail apologizing for the Catholic sex abuse cases, the Church-backed “Stolen Generations” of Aboriginal children in Australia, and to China for the behavior of Catholic missionaries in colonial times.

An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded. — Pope John Paul II

~~~

England and Ireland:

  • June 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a statement expressing remorse for the British government’s inaction to assist the Irish during the potato famine of the late 1840s.
  • 1998, the Good Friday Agreement…
  • Jul 17, 2002 – The IRA yesterday issued an unprecedented apology to the families of those it termed “non-combatants” whom it killed during its 30-year campaign of violence in Northern Ireland.
  • Jun 15, 2010 – David Cameron has apologized on behalf of the country for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” shooting dead of 13 civilians by the Army on Bloody Sunday.

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Kansas US Senator and Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, had pushed for the resolution since 2004. Both houses of Congress approved it late last year, tucked into an appropriations bill, and President Barack Obama signed it in December. Lawmakers have described the resolution as a symbolic gesture that would help promote a renewed commitment by the federal government to the tribes. While Brownback has said the resolution was not meant to authorize or support any claim against the U.S. government, the resolution “acknowledges years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies and the breaking of covenants” by the U.S. government toward tribes and “apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect inflicted on” American Indians by U.S. citizens.

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Back to the rest of the British Commonwealth…

  • 13, 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an official apology to its indigenous people
  • June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper made a Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools.
  • May 17, 2011 – The Queen lays a wreath in Dublin for those who died fighting for Irish freedom from Britain.

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And then there’s Barack Obama as I mentioned earlier:

https://www.heritage.org/europe/report/barack-obamas-top-10-apologies-how-the-president-has-humiliated-superpower

  • Apology to the Muslim World (“We Have Not Been Perfect”) President Obama, interview with Al Arabiya, January 27, 2009, Apologized to the Summit of the Americas (“At Times We Sought to Dictate Our Terms”) President Obama, address to the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony, Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, April 17, 2009
  • Apology for the War on Terror (“We Went off Course”) President Obama, speech at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009
  • Apology before the Turkish Parliament (“Our Own Darker Periods in Our History”) Speech by President Obama to the Turkish Parliament, Ankara, Turkey, April 6, 2009. “Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future.”
  • In letter to the Afghan president, President Barack Obama “expressed our regret and apologies” over the burning of Muslim holy books at Bagram Air Field.

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Japan:

April 29, 2015: Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, during the first speech of a Japanese prime minister at a Joint session of the United States Congress, stated: “deep repentance” for Japan’s actions during World War II.

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Perhaps not unrelated… on May 27, 2016, US President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial

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Just this year, on Apr 11, 2018 – In an extraordinary letter to the bishops of Chile, published, Pope Francis apologize to abuse victims, specifically in Chile, he also invited them to Rome so that he could personally apologize.

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What is the point of all this? Well, I find it interesting that we expect other demographic groups, nation-states, religions to “come clean” and own their demographic groups. As I’ve said before, the same voices that clamor about Turkish acceptance for responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, and Turkey certainly ought to, but those same voices neglect their own demographic tribal responsibilities, such as the Native American Genocide, the enslavement of West Africans, the current Rohingya Genocide. Similarly, most criticism of apologies comes from ideological opposites.

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US President John F. Kennedy once said, “No one has a right to grade a President — not even poor James Buchanan — who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made decisions.” To paraphrase the famous cliché, Maybe we should walk a mile in our own footsteps before mocking the sideward or haltering steps of others. Conservatives like Ronald Reagan, Jacques Chirac, Sam Brownback, Stephen Harper, and perhaps Pope John Paul II and Shinzo Abe… Liberals like Clinton, Kevin Rudd, Barack Obama, perhaps Pope Francis… So maybe owning our demographic tribal responsibility isn’t a sign of weakness, or belonging to any specific ideology. Maybe it’s about maturity and leadership.

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That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

The Iran Agreement

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First of all, the “billions” that opponents of the Iranian Agreement often cite was not American money; it was the Iranian people’s own money that has been held since the hostage crisis.

Secondly, nuclear technology is a product of cultural diffusion, it can’t be permanently stopped, but what the violated agreement had done was buy both countries time to detente.

Thirdly, no one in the US wakes up worried about UK or French nukes, or really even Chinese or Russian nukes, because we have relationships. The abridged agreement had given both parties time to build a relationship that would make the weaponization of nuclear technology meaningless.

And now it’s on life support, but not gone yet, because someone’s ego was hurt in the 2011 Washington Correspondents Dinner. The master of the Art of the Deal will hopefully repackage the agreement with his name on it after getting his ego soothed by ridding the agreement of Obama’s name, and then we can continue the path of building sustainable peace.

I am also unaware of how/why the same voices denouncing the Iran Agreement are congratulating the apparent diplomatic movement with North Korea. At this point, we have words, not action. Engaging with a rival is either a good strategy or it isn’t. Either Obama and Trump are to be encouraged for engaging Iran and NoKo, or both Administrations ought to be ridiculed. To choose one engagement over another is myopic partisanship.

Of Elephants, Pornography, and Genocide

Happy birthday Mr. President! I’ll spare you my rendition of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy, after all, you’re dead.  In fact, 46 years deceased.  Regardless, happy birthday Mr. Truman.  May 8, 1884; that’s quite a long time ago.  May 8, 1884, to December 26, 1972, now that’s quite a life.  A very distinguished life, as well.  Fighting political corruption, V-E Day (on our birthday no less!), The Marshall Plan, Truman Doctrine, creation of NATO, creation of the United Nations, the integration of the military, recognition of Israel, the Berlin Airlift, the defense of Taiwan, the defense of South Korea, firing of General MacArthur, renovation of the White House, the firing of Attorney-General McGrath, and most importantly, the response to Paul Hume’s criticism of your daughter Margaret.  A very distinguished life.  I have admired you for many years, and I am very proud that we share a birthday, but there is that thing.  You know that.  It.  The decision.  The decision before Lebron James’ “The Decision.”  The one that killed 199,000 humans immediately, thousands more hibakusha from radiation sickness and cancer, and has also infected later generations with residual effects, such as anxiety and somatization.  That decision.  The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I know you think you made the best decision.  And I’m sure it was not an easy decision.  Nor do I envy that fact that you had to make that decision.  And I get it; I’ve heard all the rationalizations: punish Japan for Pearl Harbor; “They started it first;” it saved American soldiers lives; it avoided a protracted invasion; it was a prescient warning to the Soviet Union; it prevented Japan from being divided as Korea and Germany were divided; it was a necessary evil; it had to be done, after all, what choice did we have?  How about this one: we didn’t know how destructive it would be.  Well, you know what?  We should have.  And, after August 6th’s bombing of Hiroshima, we surely ought to have known.  After the bombing of Nagasaki, we knew.  Tsutomu Yamaguchi knew.  He survived both Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and later died of stomach cancer on January 4, 2010, at the age of 93.

Ask the Korean conscripted prisoners about the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Approximately 22,000 innocent Korean prisoners died in the atomic blasts. Mr. President, I know that the 9/11 Attacks happened many years after your death, but I assure you, it was a big deal.  The attacks have seared a place in our national psyche.  In denouncing the 9/11 attacks, it is often pointed out that -even if perpetrators were trying to kill Americans- more than 12% (372) of the fatalities from the victims were foreign nationals.  Three hundred and seventy-two foreign individuals died because al-Qaeda was trying to kill Americans.  And in August 1945, more than 22,000 non-Japanese died because Americans were trying to kill Japanese civilians.

I am particularly fascinated by those two terms, Mr. President.  Let’s take the second one first: Civilians; non-combatants: women, children, the elderly, teachers, policemen, excetera, excetera.  In fact, eight of those non-combatants were European prisoners-of-war (one British national, and seven Dutch nationals).  And one American soldier, Joe Kieyoomia, was captured by the Japanese Imperial forces and only survived Hiroshima because the falling wall of his cell shielded his body from the blast.  Now, I don’t want to get too Biblical on you here, because I know you’re a good Baptist man and you know your Bible.  So you already know that, in Genesis Chapter 18, God decides to not destroy the “exceedingly grave…wicked” people of Sodom and Gomorrah to save just ten righteous people; would that you could have had the same compassion, my President?

And that is just the term, “civilian.”  Honestly, I am even more concerned about the term “Japanese” when we discuss the almost quarter of a million Japanese civilians who perished in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I know that Germany had surrendered earlier that year, but I have to ask, would you have used an atomic bomb on Germany?  Would you have utterly destroyed the great cities of Berlin, Hamburg or Munich?  After all, Munich was the seat of Hitler’s early rise to power, perhaps “they deserved it too”?  I know we fire-bombed Dresden and did incalculable damage, but would we have vaporized a German city of innocent women, children and the elderly?  I feel that we would not.  I feel there is an inherent bias in the decision to bomb Japan and not Germany.  In the 1940s, a plurality of Americans were of German ancestry and most Americans were of European descent.  Europeans are Christian Caucasians, just like the power brokers in Washington, DC, were in the 1940s.

US Civil War General Sherman said it best: “War is hell.”  War is, by definition, violent and people die.  Innocent people die.  But, when you make decisions to spare the cities, civilian populations, and art work (think Albrecht Gaiswinkler and the real life Monument Men) of one racial/ethnic/religious group of people while, at the same time, not considering the human, historical, architectural and artistic heritage of another demographic group, it should start to become uncomfortable.  It should make people squirm.  It should start to raise questions.

Perhaps we shouldn’t condemn the leaders of the past.  After all, we are all products of the context and cultural biases of our time.  (For example, recently we have debated President Woodrow Wilson’s reputation and place in our history.)  Hindsight is 20/20; ex post facto logic and all that jazz.  Sparing condemnation, however, does not mean necessarily mean exoneration or impunity.  Mr. President, you gave the authorization that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings in an instant.  And you withheld that same bloodlust when it came to bombing European cities and population centers.  You discriminated your actions, at least in part, on the unique demographics of the target populations.

A few years after your decision, the United Nations (which you helped usher into existence) created a new international law known as the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  In this statute, genocide is defined as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”  (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2, 1948).

Mr. President, I know you don’t know me as well as I know you; but I have to tell you that, right now, there are people out there rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, and saying something akin to “Oh, Tom; there you go again: genocide, genocide, genocide.”  I know it, now you know it too.  I get it.  But I hope you get it too; that is, I hope you can connect the dots.  As a people, as humans, we now have this term “genocide.”  This term has a legal definition and, it says, genocide is defined as killing either in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.  You, Mr. President, killed hundreds of thousands of people that all belonged to a national/ethnic/racial/religious group that was distinct, not just from your own and the majority of our country, but also distinct from the other belligerents in Europe who were treated much differently.

Much later, in 1964, a WWII veteran famously said that pornography was difficult to define, but, said LTJG Stewart, “I know it when I see it.”  That Lieutenant Junior Grade officer was Potter Stewart and he went on to become an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  Mr. President, I admire much of your work, but there is that one decision that I question.  In this case, there is an elephant in the room and, as another expression would have it, your decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki has failed the Elephant Test.

Happy 132nd birthday, my birthday twin,

 

 

May 7th ~ Mass Graves in Iraq and the Rohingya

~May 7~

  On this day, May 7, 2016, UN Special Representative Ján Kubiš said more than 50 mass graves have so far been found in parts of Iraq that were previously controlled by so-called Islamic State (IS).  Ján Kubiš is a Slovak diplomat and was formerly Secretary-General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued killings, kidnapping, rape and torture of Iraqis by ISIL (IS), which may constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even genocide.”

Ján Kubiš

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Mass graves and ethnic cleansing is not new in Iraq. After the deposing of Saddam Hussein, International Experts found an estimated 300,000 victims in mass graves of Shia Muslims and ethnic Kurds killed for opposing the regime between 1983 and 1991.

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In April 2007, a bus in Mosul was hijacked, Muslims and Christians were told to get off, the remaining 23 Yazidi passengers were driven to an eastern Mosul location and murdered.

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Then ISIS/ISIL/IS came to town… Hawija, Kirkuk, Mosul… you name it….

…2014, the peak of the Yazidi Genocide. Civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar… hundred of Yazidi women were taken as slaves and over hundreds more men, women, and children were killed, some beheaded or buried alive in the foothills, as part of an effort to instill fear and to supposedly desecrate the mountain the Yazidis consider sacred.

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The mass flight and expulsion of ethnic Assyrians from Iraq…  beginning before ISIS, back during the Iraq War in 2003, but continues to this day. Leaders of Iraq’s Assyrian community estimate that over two-thirds of the Iraqi Assyrian population has fled or been internally displaced. Reports suggest that whole neighborhoods of Assyrians have cleared out in the cities of Baghdad and Basra; and that Sunni insurgent groups and militias have threatened Assyrian Christians over the years. Following the campaign of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq in August 2014, one-quarter of the remaining Iraqi Assyrians fled, finding refuge to Iraqi Kurdistan, and, ironically in Turkey…

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On February 3, 2016, the European Union recognized the persecution of Christians by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as genocide. The vote was unanimous. The United States followed suit on March 15, 2016, declaring these atrocities as genocide. The vote was unanimous. On April 20, 2016, British Parliament voted unanimously to denounce the actions as genocide. And where are those voices today as the Rohingya are murdered, assaulted, and exiled in Burma?

The ability of the predominantly Christian countries and the mostly Christian members of the US Congress’ to recognize a Christian genocide but not Muslim genocide is almost as self-serving as those perpetrating religious and ethnic violence against civilians around the world. It is a manifestation of the selective indignation, selective application of legal principals, and the inability to see all men and women as sisters and brothers.

If you’ve never read it, read Jeff Stein’s piece from October 17, 2006, in the New York Times. Still, to this day, one of the best and most disturbing journalistic articles. Willie Hulon, chief of the FBI’s national security branch, Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis, Chair of the House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, Congressman Terry Everett, Vice Chair of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. The very people who voted to invade Iraq. Don’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shi’as. Do we think they know the difference between an Assyrian-Iraqi, a Kurdish-Iraqi, a Yezidi-Iraqi, and an Arab Iraqi?

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/opinion/17stein.html

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It’s easy to blame the crimes against humanity on the sectarian violence in Iraq, but those same pointing fingers seem to avoid asking the question of who destabilized the region and who armed Saddam Hussein with all those weapons in the 1980s. Perhaps it’s time to think more about American national responsibility, than labeling other acts of violence as genocide. After all, those Americans who identified the Assyrian Genocide so correctly are woefully silent on asking what happened to the pre-Columbian Native Americans population of the United States or even, if you want to stick to a more recent century, what happened to the Armenians in 1915. The same Administration that labeled the Assyrian, Yazidi crimes against humanity as a genocide, has not called the 1915 massacres by our Turkish allies a genocide… I mean, sure, they call it a genocide on the campaign trail while pandering for votes, but Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton all seem to have genocidal amnesia once entering the Oval Office.

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Yes, on this day, May 7, 2016, UN envoy Ján Kubiš condemned the continued killings, kidnapping, rape, and torture of Iraqis which he said might constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even genocide. Would that he was wrong. Would that the ethnic and religious genocides in Iraq and around the world were limited to time and space. Sadly, humanity’s propensity to kill itself, is matched only by our ability to be blind to the blood on our own hands and deny genocide when it’s insignificant. After all, its not 2016 anymore. Its 2018, and genocide has now reared it’s evil in Burma, where are the same clamoring voices speaking out against the Rohingya Genocide now?

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That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!