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Iran Unrest

Cartoon by Marian Kamensky

Iran's Rouhani claims victory over unrest and blames foreigners

Reuters: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday claimed victory over unrest Tehran has blamed on foreign foes after protests over fuel price rises shook the nation, and the government dismissed reports of more than 100 deaths as “speculative”.

Thousands joined pro-government demonstrations on Wednesday, state media reported, with television footage showing rallies in Rasht, Gorgan and Ardabil in the north, Hamadan in the west, and Shahryar, south of the capital Tehran.

Iranian dual nationals were among protesters arrested in the northern province of Alborz, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Quoting security sources, it said detained German, Turkish and Afghan dual nationals had been trained and funded by foreign services to take actions to destroy infrastructure and stir up civil disobedience.

These dual nationals had special equipment to be used for sabotage, it added without providing evidence or further detail.

“The Iranian people have again succeeded in an historic test and shown they will not let enemies benefit from the situation, even though they might have complaints about the country’s management,” Rouhani said in remarks carried by state broadcaster IRIB on its website.

“The spontaneous (pro-government) demonstrations which you see are the greatest sign of the power of the Iranian people.” >>>

Iran Crisis

Cartoon by Fadi Abou Hassan

Iran protests: A quest for reform turns into widespread discontent

Atlantic Council: Popular protests are flaring up in the Middle East. From Lebanon to Iraq and now Iran, they show the weakening of the social contract between the population and their government. In the Islamic Republic, the post-revolutionary social contract was born on a populist promises of justice, but decades of endemic political and economic inefficiencies wiped out the implementation of the craved edalat (social justice). Today, disenchanted Iranians are no longer claiming for “justice,” but they express dissatisfaction with the political class, without distinctions of factions and without a programmatic plan of reforms.

On November 15, protests erupted in several cities and provincial towns in Iran after President Hassan Rouhani declared the reducing of fuel subsidies and the rise of fuel prices up to 15,000 rials per liter (12 US cents) from 10,000 for the first 60 liters, and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel. Considering the high cost of living, an inflation rate of 40 percent, and broad economic uncertainty, this recent decision inflamed discontent among Iranians. Gas stations have been set ablaze and major disorder occurred in at least a dozen cities and provincial towns including Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Shiraz, Sirjan, Yazd, but also sporadically in the capital.

Far from being a massive and organized gathering, the recent protests in Iran are part of a monthly based phenomenon of loud discontent which erupt in different regions and involve mainly low-middle classes. These protests are indicating not only the actual dissatisfaction, but also how social disagreement is changing. Beyond the thorny and more current question of fuel subsidies, the recent demonstrations reveal a change in the popular claims and actions, whereas the political elite looks increasingly distant from the needs of the population. In the last decade, starting with the 2009 post-election protests known as the Green Movement, recurring moments of demonstrations took place with discontent mainly from economic difficulties. For instance, since December 2017 and during 2018, several protests erupted from different workers categories—from truck drivers to teachers, to factories workers—due to delayed pay check, job insecurity and low salaries. Having that been said, the Green Movement has been the last massive movement that openly condemned the post-revolutionary elite. Moreover, it was supported by a political faction, that is absent now.

Nowadays, the protests are confronting the whole government—as the current demonstrations show an anti-system animosity. They are characterized by apolitical tones, and no faction within the government is “spiritually” leading the discontent, which means an increasing distance between the people’s demand and structured political plans. Moreover, the people and the government have no interlocutors, which also indicates how Iranian politicians have moved away from “the streets”. Before, a specific group of the population was asking for limited openings, political participation, individual liberties, and small reforms rather than to prefer chaos. Today, the protests are less socially elitist and demand for: economic security, access to goods and services, unemployment, lack of job security, privatization policy, the high cost of living, and low salaries. Protesters are even demanding for Rouhani’s resignation.

It is worth mentioning that subsidies on fuel as well as on other essential goods, established the basis of post-revolutionary Iran based on the equitable distribution of resources and welfare. However, several factors have made the subsidies structure unsustainable. Among them, the demographic growth (now at 82 million people), the lack of efficient political economy, combined with the pressure of US sanctions—which were re-imposed after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018. The so-called pragmatic and reformist governments of the 1990s failed to promote adequate subsidy reforms, and yet the problem remained evident and in need of solution. In 2011, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s subsidies reform sought to reduce fuel subsidies while providing monthly cash payments to poor families. It ended up alienating the subaltern and provoking drop-down collateral effects on the inflation rate and level of corruption. As Ahmadinejad’s claim was to help the poor, incumbent President Rouhani—after a long-lasting attempt to reduce subsidies inefficiency to rebalance the government spending—declared the fuel price increase will serve to further benefit the interest of those who are under pressure. This backfired quickly as people started taking to the streets.

In response to the protests, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei openly supported the government’s decision, even though he distanced himself as “a non-expert” on the subject. Khamenei also tacitly endorsed the violent repression against the “hooligans” for their “act of sabotage,” while receiving encouragement from Iranian opposition groups in the west. The internet was promptly cut-off—in order not to circulate protest images within and outside Iran—and thus far there are reportedly at least hundreds wounded, thousands arrested, and at least twenty deaths in the clashes.

This geography of discontent indicates how widespread economic and political grievances are linked to diverse social classes—such as low-income households, workers, unemployed youth—but also peripheries and major cities of the country. Still, the violent repression suggests political uncertainties. In February, the parliamentary elections could register a low turnout, a critical signal for a system that has always based its popular legitimacy on elections. Although the reduction of the upheaval is essential for the nezam (system) to maintain control over the country, the crackdown on demonstrations could further fuel the popular discontent.

Giorgia Perletta is a professor of Iranian history at the Graduate School of Economy and International Affairs (ASERI) in Milan, Italy. She is also a visiting researcher at the University of Toronto.

Iran Protests

Cartoon by DARA Jam

Iran Protesters Took Police Officers Hostage

APIran’s government spokesman is saying that violent protesters angry over higher gasoline prices took police and security personnel hostage during the unrest.

 

Ali Rabiei did not elaborate during remarks to journalists Monday, though the acknowledgment shows the level of unrest gripping Iran since Friday.

 

Rabiei says the government should soon unblock internet access across the country, and estimates attendance in demonstrations has dropped by 80% compared to the day before.

 

Security forces have deployed heavily in many cities and towns to try to put down the unrest.

 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani separately warned that those who abandon their cars in the street could face legal action. That was one way people protested gas prices rising by 50% and the imposition of tighter fuel rationing.

Corruption Fighters

Cartoon by Kevin Siers

Yovanovitch makes it clear: Trump put his personal interests above the U.S.

The Washington Post Editorial

PRESIDENT TRUMP and his defenders have been arguing, weakly, that his actions toward Ukraine, including demands for the investigation of his political opponents, were somehow consistent with U.S. national interests. There is no way to make that case about his treatment of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. In compelling testimony during the House’s impeachment inquiry on Friday, she described how the president’s firing of her was orchestrated by corrupt Ukrainian actors whom the United States had been trying to neutralize — and how that reversal damaged U.S. diplomacy around the world.

No wonder, then, that Mr. Trump, who has never offered a reason for yanking Ms. Yovanovitch, took to Twitter to abuse her, claiming that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” Beyond the absurdity of suggesting that Ms. Yovanovitch somehow brought about the troubles of Somalia or Uzbekistan, Mr. Trump was attacking a still-serving federal government employee even as she testified to his wrongdoing. Democrats were right to suggest this amounted to witness intimidation.

The truth is that Ms. Yovanovitch was having an impact in Kyiv. As other witnesses have testified, she was aggressive in pushing the Ukrainian government to fulfill its promises to tackle corruption, something it did not do. In particular, she tangled with Yuriy Lutsenko, the general prosecutor. Mr. Lutsenko responded by launching a smear campaign against her, in conjunction with two shady U.S. businessmen and Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Mr. Lutsenko won Mr. Giuliani over with false claims about Joe Biden. The businessmen, who had been seeking Ms. Yovanovitch’s ouster since 2018, got Mr. Trump’s ear by making a large contribution to a PAC supporting him.

As Ms. Yovanovitch put it, “individuals, who apparently felt stymied by our efforts to promote stated U.S. policy against corruption . . . were able to successfully conduct a campaign of disinformation against a sitting ambassador, using unofficial back channels. . . . They shared baseless allegations with the president and convinced him to remove his ambassador, despite the fact that the State Department fully understood that the allegations were false and the sources highly suspect.”

The consequences of this extend far beyond the humiliation of a distinguished diplomat who had served for 33 years. “Such conduct undermines the U.S., exposes our friends and widens the playing field for autocrats like President Putin,” Ms. Yovanovitch said. “Our Ukraine policy has been thrown into disarray, and shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want.” Moreover, she said, the State Department has been degraded by the failure of its leadership — that would be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — “to push back as foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our Ukraine policy.”

Republicans tried to argue that Ms. Yovanovitch’s story had nothing to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign to have Ukraine launch political investigations. But Mr. Giuliani clearly saw Ms. Yovanovitch as an obstacle to his effort to orchestrate a probe of Mr. Biden. They suggested that, because Ms. Yovanovitch now has an academic fellowship, she had suffered no great harm. In reality, as she described it, attacks on her and other dedicated public servants are “leading to a crisis in the State Department as the policy process is visibly unraveling, leadership vacancies go unfilled, and senior and mid-level officers ponder an uncertain future and head for the doors.”

“How could our system fail like this?” the ambassador asked. “How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?” The answer lies with a president who put his personal interests — and those of corrupt Ukrainians — above those of the United States.

Wise Men vs. the wise guys

Cartoon by Andy Marlette

It’s the Wise Men vs. the wise guys in Trump’s America

The Washington Post: Geography, Napoleon is reputed to have remarked, is destiny, and this axiom came to our minds this week as we watched two very different but neighboring universes collide before the House Intelligence Committee. The ramrod-straight William B. Taylor Jr. and the bow-tied George Kent, two diplomats from the largely WASP ethos of the post-World War II foreign policy establishment, one headquartered at places such as the Council on Foreign Relations’ imposing Harold Pratt House at 68th Street and Park Avenue, found themselves bearing noble witness amid an impeachment imbroglio that may be best understood by an appreciation of the wilder mores of midtown Manhattan.

Only a few blocks away from the portrait-lined walls and genteel cocktails of the Council lies the real center of gravity in the politics of 2019: the gilded Trump Tower, built on the fluid morals and cutthroat deal-making of New York real estate. The Tower sits cheek-by-jowl (the image is chosen purposely) with the Grand Havana Room, a cigar club frequented by Rudy Giuliani, atop a Fifth Avenue building owned by the family of Jared Kushner. Walk a bit farther south — you don’t even need a Town Car — and you reach Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., home of Fox News and the New York Post.

To Trump supporters, the testimony Wednesday was the “deep state” surfacing briefly from the depths of white papers, institutional knowledge and a facility with U.S. military and diplomatic history. (Kent’s evocation of von Steuben and Lafayette was straight out of a Ward Just novel.)

To Trump’s critics and defenders of constitutional norms, the Republican narrative that the president’s threats to deny security assistance to Ukraine was just the kind of thing tough guys do (and, after getting caught, he didn’t do it!), suggested that tabloid hyperbole, Fox News arcana and New York hardball had replaced the real world. From the Long Telegram to Twitter, and from Averell Harriman to Sean Hannity: To borrow a phrase of Henry Adams, himself a scion of presidents, the current moment disproves Darwin.

The story of upended conventions and of a president who careens between self-parody and serious lawlessness is by now familiar, as old as the Age of Trump itself. The distinction is that the impeachment hearings have given us perhaps the clearest example yet of the triumph of political demimonde wise guys such as Trump, Giuliani and the Rogers Stone and Ailes over the latter-day Robert Lovetts and Dean Achesons. And it’s not just Wise Men, of course: Jeane Kirkpatrick, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice hailed from the establishment world, as do Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill.

The moment of decision between the Wise Men and the wise guys on Wednesday was subtle but nevertheless clear. It came when Rep. Michael R. Turner, a Republican, noted that diplomats such as Taylor and Kent “deal in words of understanding. Words of beliefs and feelings, because in your profession, that’s what you work with to try to pull together policy.” Theirs, the lawmaker was implying, was almost a touchingly naive way of life in which one trusted what one was told, assumed the fundamental truthfulness of, say, a presidentially appointed ambassador, and believed that a president himself meant what he said.

No longer: The midtown game of wheeling and dealing, often done over a cigar at the Grand Havana or perhaps an overpriced steak at 21, has now gone global as the denizens of Trump’s neighborhood run shadow foreign policy ops seeking 2020 election help and good paydays.

Had any other president, Taylor was asked, linked official aid in the American interest to private or political benefit? With a stoicism and brevity that would’ve made George Marshall quietly proud, Taylor replied, “No.”

To be sure, the establishment has been far from perfect, its fall from preeminence more than partly self-inflicted. Elite education and conventional expertise don’t guarantee good results, and America has been shaped by the battle between the privileged and the populist since long before Andrew Jackson. More recently, there was Vietnam writ large, and intelligence failures like Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Grass-stained ideals of fair play learned on the playing fields of Groton could seem like forlorn hopes on the streets Basra or Baghdad. And the semi-aristocrats of places like Pratt House and the Century Association had a way of turning up their noses at the lesser mortals of Trump’s bridge-and-tunnel crowd.

Alger Hiss once inflamed a young congressman named Richard Nixon when he turned to Nixon, who was about to ask some probing questions about Hiss’s ties to the Kremlin, and sneered, “My law school was Harvard. Yours, I believe, was Whittier?” (Actually, it was Duke.) No wonder Nixon could sell himself as a man of the people when Hiss turned out to be a communist spy.

Such establishment condescension also fueled the rise of Joe McCarthy and of McCarthy’s chief counsel, Roy Cohn, who served as lawyer and mentor in the 1970s and ’80s to a young developer from Queens who was looking to make it big in Manhattan. And Donald Trump never forgot a thing Cohn taught him. (One particularly relevant lesson today: Confronted with a tough case to argue, Cohn would say that he didn’t need to know what the law was — just who the judge was.)

In midtown Manhattan, Trump learned to dominate the news — in his rise, that meant the New York Post, with its screaming, one-sourced stories, an early harbinger of the presidential Twitter strategy. He learned the power of TV. And he learned that tough guys — or “killers,” in a favorite approbation of Trump’s — like Ailes, who presided over this stew of often-abusive power, money and misinformation, were the kinds of guys he could count on.

For one thing was certain: The Wise Men of 68th Street or the United Nations or any of the traditional institutions of expertise weren’t his guys. The question America now faces in impeachment and, should Trump prevail, in the 2020 election, is whose New York will serve us best in the long run — the wise guys’ or the Wise Men’s?

Jon Meacham is the author, most recently, of “The Soul of America.” Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas co-authored “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made” in 1986.

Gaza & Israel

Cartoon by Emad Hajjaj

End the Blockade, Aid Gaza's Economy 

Lead editorial

Haaretz: For two days now, Israelis have been caught in an absurd trap; they have seen that the Gaza Strip has come to envelop Israel just as much as Israel envelops the Gaza Strip. Not only were many of them forced to stay home from school and work, and constantly feared a rocket strike, they also had to worry that Hamas would join in the conflict alongside Islamic Jihad and the clash would become an all-out war between Gaza and Israel.

This danger still exists. A fragile balance of deterrence exists between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and any upsetting of this balance has the potential to deteriorate into a protracted and pointless war. The Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces certainly demonstrated impressive capabilities in locating and killing Baha Abu al-Ata and his wife in a “surgical” operation, but the high economic cost and toll on morale brought on by this action only underscores the question of what exactly is gained by targeted killings. It has been clear for decades that assassinating terrorist leaders and commanders does not affect their organizations’ ability to strike at Israel, nor does it alter their policies. These are not cells that are dependent upon a single commander and will fall apart if that person is eliminated.

But in the absence of a policy aimed at finding a practical and agreed-upon solution with the Palestinians, the government is offering its citizens false substitutes such as targeted assassinations, collective economic punishment, draconian restrictions on movement and empty bluster about military power. The political leadership, the IDF and the Shin Bet themselves probably have little faith in the usefulness of any of these measures. The IDF has long stated quite clearly that there is no military solution to the Gaza problem. The Shin Bet has supported and continues to support easing of the blockade, and even the prime minister recognizes the need for at least an economic solution that will reduce the potential threat from Gaza, and was persuaded to allow an influx of millions of dollars to Gaza to enable Hamas to guarantee workers’ salaries and aid to needy families.

Hamas’s restraint, so far, from joining in the violent response from Islamic Jihad to the death of Abu al-Ata can be ascribed in large part to pragmatic considerations, chiefly its desire to preserve its standing as the group that can provide for the local population’s needs. This policy and Hamas’s consent to the cease-fire conditions formulated in Cairo, manifested in part by the prevention of rocket fire into Israel, shows that the equation of “economics in return for quiet” can work.

Israel, which has learned to distinguish between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and is avoiding hitting Hamas targets this time, must expand the understandings and agreements with Hamas, give it the economic tools to run the Gaza Strip and lift the blockade that paradoxically ends up strengthening the most extremist movements. The present government has shown that it is incapable of this. Until it is replaced, Israelis will go on living between one rocket barrage and another.

Trump Kabab

Cartoon by Milt Priggee

Trump impeachment hearings today will echo through the ages

CNN: The gravity and drama of the first televised impeachment hearings into Donald Trump's presidency on Wednesday will imprint themselves on history and reverberate far from Washington.

The most crucial stage of the Ukraine investigation so far has profound implications beyond the political and personal reputation of Trump and the question of whether he abused his power by seeking political favors from a foreign power.

His fate will have sweeping consequences for the future understanding of powers vested within the presidency itself. The hearings will test whether the ancient machinery of US governance can effectively investigate a President who ignores the charges against him and fogs fact in defining a new post-truth political era. And notwithstanding Trump's current Republican firewall, the hearings will begin to decide whether a presidency that has rocked America and the world will reach its full natural term.

The fact that there is an impeachment process at all -- and a debate over whether the President is so corrupt he should be ousted between elections -- is in itself something of a national tragedy. There's a reason why Gerald Ford called the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974 before he was formally impeached, a "long national nightmare."

The next few months will scar America for years to come. As the Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson impeachments did before it, this process will reflect and intensify the ideological civil war that is tearing at national unity and threatening the nation's forward momentum.

Democratic leaders, who long resisted demands from their party's liberal activists to impeach Trump, are taking a considerable risk by embarking on this momentous constitutional road. Given the explosive revelations about Trump's conduct in Ukraine however, they may have had little political choice.

In all likelihood, Republican senators will not vote to convict and oust Trump, opening the possibility of a political backlash. It's just not clear yet whether Democrats or the GOP would come off worse. Trump is likely to view an eventual escape from censure as a validation of his unrestrained behavior and a license to continue to test constitutional customs.

"I've always thought that the strongest argument for impeachment was also the strongest argument against it, which is, if you don't impeach a president who commits conduct of this kind, what does that say to the next president about what they can do and to the next Congress?" House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in an interview with National Public Radio on Tuesday.

"At the same time, if you do impeach, but the President is acquitted, what does that say to the next president? The next Congress? There's no good or simple answer," he said.

Yet for all the bitterness and uncertainty that it stirs, the impeachment process is also a reaffirmation and test of the democratic codes of self-government first set down in Philadelphia nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago.

It will provide the most significant judgment yet on a riotous presidency that has already skipped past one existential scandal in the Russia election meddling scheme.

The Democratic charge that could see Trump shamed as only the third impeached President in history could hardly be more grave. He is effectively accused of committing a crime against the nation itself and the political system that guards its freedoms.

Specifically, Democrats charge Trump with conspiring with a foreign power to influence a US election, an offense many observers believe satisfies the impeachable standard of "Treason, Bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

The eventual case may encompass campaign finance offenses, the flouting of his presidential oath to uphold the law and the Constitution and allege obstruction over his withholding of witnesses and evidence. In more symbolic terms, it would validate the fears of America's founders of one of the greatest threats to their democratic experiment.

"History and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government," wrote the first President, George Washington, in his farewell address >>>

Final Defense

Cartoon by Peter Kuper

All of Trump's Defenses Against Impeachment Are Doomed

TIME: We’ve reached the part of this tired charade where even those who’ve tried to escape the obvious conclusion now know that the emperor has no clothes. The mounting evidence from career diplomats, and Trump’s own political appointees, has laid bare his self-serving ploy in Ukraine.

Many people have become numb to this Administration’s wrongdoing after almost three years of constant scandal. Some feel that no matter what Trump does, he’ll never be held accountable. Why should they invest time in today’s awful news, when it will give way in a few days or weeks without anything changing?

This is the challenge the Democrats face as they open public impeachment hearings this week. Can they get the country to pay attention? Can they produce a coherent narrative that will help people understand this most serious of Trump Administration debacles?

Trump has, per usual, thrown out a barrage of defenses, hoping something will stick. So far nothing has. Here are the key defenses he’s tried and those he’ll likely move on to next, and why they all fail.

The Defense: Trump’s July 25, 2019, call with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect.”

The Reality: Despite what Trump has claimed repeatedly, anyone who followed the president’s directive to “read the transcript”— actually a memo of the conversation that at least one witness has told Congress excluded some pertinent information — knows that even this sanitized version of the President’s call exposes the scheme to public view. Rudy Giuliani, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Trump appointees Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland and Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker worked toward the call where Trump would tell Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor” and ask for the announcement of an investigation that everyone now knows was about Joe Biden and his son. Trump was intent on extracting the favor before he would permit the purchase of American military equipment and release over $400 million in aid to Ukraine, which suffered the loss of 13,000 people in five years during the conflict with Russia, and agree to meet with Zelensky. Far from a perfect call, it was a scheme to have a foreign country intervene in our election. It was so far off the mark that when White House officials learned about it, they stashed the record of it on a highly classified server, apparently in hopes it wouldn’t come to light. You don’t have to cover up legitimate government operations.

The Defense: The whistleblower must come forward and their identity must be exposed.

The Reality: Trump has called for the whistleblower’s name to be disclosed, but whistleblowers aren’t required to come forward and there are good reasons to protect them when they choose not to. Whistleblower laws protect the identity of these anonymous truthtellers so they can expose government abuse and fraud without subjecting themselves to workplace reprisals or worse. Even Senator Chuck Grassley, a Trump ally, said the whistleblower’s identity should be protected. Whistleblowers are tipsters whose information leads to opening an investigation. If the tip is untrue, the investigation will not pan out. But if it is — and virtually everything the whistleblower in this case said has been confirmed — then they have done an enormous service to the country. Here, aid for Ukraine was released just days short of a scheduled announcement by Zelensky on opening an investigation that could have affected the course of our future election. This is precisely what our founding fathers wanted to prevent when they condemned foreign influence in our elections. If the whistleblower isn’t a firsthand witness who’ll testify at trial, the tip ends their involvement. There isn’t a requirement in criminal cases that prosecutors disclose their identity if they don’t testify. And outing the whistleblower could deter future whistleblowers from coming forward >>>

Joyce White Vance is distinguished professor of the practice of law at the University of Alabama, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst.

Veterans Day

Cartoon by Marty 2 Bulls

Documentaries tell indigenous military veterans’ ‘largely untold story’

The Spectrum: Native Americans have the highest per-capita U.S. military service rate out of any group in America.

This fact is widely unknown to the public, but WNED documentaries are highlighting the stories of indigenous people across native tribes who enlist in large numbers to fight for the government that sought to eradicate their cultures centuries ago.

On Thursday, PBS affiliate WNED hosted the first screenings of its new documentary “The Warrior Tradition,” and short film “Art, Honor & Service.” Both films document the history of indigenous people who served in the U.S. military through interviews and personal accounts. Roughly 200 viewers attended the screenings in WNED’s banquet center.

The stories in the feature-length film “The Warrior Tradition” span World War I to modern-day military conflicts.

In addition to depicting the strength of native veterans and indigenous people as a whole, “The Warrior Tradition,” created by Lawrence Hott, illustrates the hardships indigenous cultures face. The native veterans in the film share inspiring and heartbreaking tales from what they say is the “largely-untold story of Native Americans in the United States military.”

“The first thing we thought of was that this was not going to be a film about heroism. We were not going to talk about exploits,” Hott said. “It was going to be more about culture.”

After the hour-long screening of “The Warrior Tradition,” WNED screened local Onöndowa’ga:’ (Seneca)filmmaker Caleb Abrams’ short film “Art, Honor & Service.”

The film highlights Carson Waterman, an Onöndowa’ga:’ artist from the Seneca Allegany Territory who was drafted into the Vietnam War. Waterman shares his feelings on fighting for the U.S. government, despite the “forced relocation of the Allegany Senecas” in 1964 in the wake of the construction of the Kinzua Dam. Waterman says his artwork saved his life both during combat and after returning home, where it helped him manage his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Waterman’s original artwork was on display and for sale during the screenings.

Both films aim to provide visibility and validity for the hundreds of unique indigenous tribes across the country, featuring unique indigenous characters who shared their feelings about their time in the service.

“What sets [Native Americans] apart and why our service rates are so high in our native communities is because of the warrior tradition,” said D.J. Vanas, military veteran and member of the Odowa Tribe who was featured in “The Warrior Tradition.” “To us, [serving in the military] is not just a cultural perspective, but it’s also an obligation, it’s a commitment. And it also connects to our spirituality as well.”

The two films gave the veterans a medium to share their stories in a transparent way.

“My primary focus through this whole project was making sure that I was communicating Carson’s truth,” said Abrams. “I really wanted to make sure that the final product was something that reflected Carson’s experiences.”

Indigenous audience members viewed the films as informative tools for non-natives.

“I want [non-natives] to know how many veterans the Seneca Nation has throughout its history,” said Angela Kennedy, Seneca Nation member and Salamanca, New York resident. “What I really want people to get out of these films is that we’re still alive and our culture is thriving.”

“The Warrior Tradition’s” broadcast premiere is Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. on PBS. Viewers can watch “Art, Honor & Service,” along with three other short films about indigenous veterans, on PBS’ website.

NATO Brain Dead

Cartoon by Maarten Wolterink

Macron saying NATO is ‘brain dead’ may be right, but he didn’t exactly break any news here

Russia Today:  Emmanuel Macron says that NATO is “brain dead” but the epithet perhaps applies to him.

The French president has shocked allies by telling the Economist that NATO is in a “state of brain death.” He claims this is because of US and Turkish unilateralism: not only has Trump shown himself to be a NATO-skeptic, demanding that European allies pay more for American weapons, but also Turkey, with tacit US backing, has attacked the Kurds in Syria, Europe’s allies, without consulting the Europeans.

However, several things about this statement indicate that Emmanuel Macron has lost the ability to think, if by thinking we mean making sure that one does not say things which are so self-contradictory that they do not make sense.

The first thing to note about this outburst is that Macron is copying the words of his mentor, Jacques Attali, who last month said “NATO is dead.” Attali also proposed the same solution as Macron later did – the creation of an autonomous European military capacity, independent of NATO.

Jacques Attali, an ex-Marxist prophet of globalisation who was the first head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development until his lavish overspending caused him to resign in disgrace, is a very important influence on Macron. He was one of the key people to attend the dinner celebrating Macron’s victory in the first round of the presidential elections in 2017. Two years on and the youthful French president seems to have remained a faithful instrument of his master’s voice.

Second, neither man has explained why Turkey’s unilateral action in Syria is anything new. The US and Britain famously attacked Iraq in 2003: this occurred without the approval of NATO and in the teeth of opposition from France and Germany. France’s then president, Jacques Chirac, even indicated that he would veto any resolution authorizing the attack in the UN Security Council. Why was NATO not proclaimed brain dead then?
Also on rt.com NATO’s ‘free-rider problem’: Macron wants independent Europe, but ‘it’s not something he can change JUST LIKE THAT’

Third, Macron even suggested that Turkey’s failure to consult its allies was contrary to the North Atlantic Treaty. Yet the treaty creates no such obligation. Instead, it obliges NATO states to help each other only in the case of an attack against one of them. Turkey is not going to claim that Syria attacked it, so the North Atlantic Treaty does not apply.

Fourth, Macron says that Trump’s unilateralism, like Turkey’s, has killed off the alliance. But, by making these declarations, he is himself acting unilaterally. Not only did Macron not clear his statement with other NATO allies, they have rebuked him for it. Both the German chancellor and the Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg have been vehement in their statements of disagreement with him, Merkel saying that Macron’s “sweeping blow” at NATO was not her view and Stoltenberg saying that “European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity.”

Fifth, Macron said that Europe had to unite militarily to face up to the threat from Russia, a country he said had taken an authoritarian turn. Can this be the same Russia whose “authoritarian” president Macron invited to his summer residence in August, just before the G7 summit, and with which he said Europe had to build a new “architecture of security and confidence”? Surely the very definition of a brain dead alliance is the one Macron is proposing – in which even he cannot work out in his own head whether Russia is an ally or an enemy.

Sixth, Macron argues that the problem with NATO is that of the free rider. “If the regime of Bashar Assad decides to respond to Turkey, will we be obliged to defend her?” he asked. Yet this problem is not new. When Turkey shot down a Russian fighter over Syria in 2015, the first telephone call Ankara made was to NATO for help, not to Moscow to apologize or to calm things down. Was NATO not brain dead then?

Worse, the problem of the free rider – in which countries belonging to permanent military alliances have an incentive to act irresponsibly, safe in the belief that their allies will defend them – vitiates all international alliances, by definition, and not just NATO. In other words, even if one thinks that Macron is asking the right questions, he can only be giving the wrong answer by proposing a European alliance instead.

Within Europe, there are not only deep differences over who is the enemy – radical Islam for France, Russia for Poland and the Baltic states, Greece and Turkey for each other – but there is also the free rider phenomenon. Poland shamelessly uses the European Union to prosecute its anti-Russian agenda and it would also do so in any putative future European military structure. The only solution to the dilemma Macron has identified is national – the very thing he is intellectually and emotionally incapable of embracing.

Finally, it is disturbing that Macron seems to think that a few words in a newspaper interview are enough to change what is, on the face of it, an intractable situation.

NATO is not just the Washington Treaty, it is also seventy years of military and official infrastructure – a whole archipelago of US military bases across Europe plus of course the billion-dollar headquarters in Brussels with 4,000 staff. It is going to take a lot more than an interview in a newspaper to close this down and, until then, NATO – or rather US power on the European continent – will remain an unavoidable political fact.

It is not realistic to think that Germany or Poland or the Baltic States, all EU members, would agree to detach EU foreign policy from NATO. So the European solution Macron proposes is, in fact, no solution at all. His remarks simply do not make sense.

Emmanuel Macron may be right to say that NATO is brain dead but this is not news. The alliance lost its raison d’être when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991 and the Soviet threat vanished. In the intervening decades, however, we have come to understand that political brain death is a contagious disease which has now infected all European leaders including, unfortunately, the current occupant of the Elysee Palace.

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