Category Archives: Terrorism

Syria’s devastated hospitals

In the ongoing conflict that began in March 2011, Syrian healthcare facilities are significant military targets. There have been 454 air attacks on hospitals, 91 percent of the raids were carried out by aircraft under the control of the Assad government and Russia. The rate of attacks on hospital facilities is said to be increasing. In April 2017, there were 25 attacks on health installations. Between March 2011 and February 2017, over 800 healthcare workers and hundreds patients have been killed as a result of air strikes. Although the UN Security Council has condemned attacks on medical facilities, the repulsive goal of the Assad government (and its supporting Russian air power) is to stop the delivery of medical services to the inhabitants of areas controlled by the opposition.

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About last night: What is the Trump foreign policy? (updated)

The other day I posed the question about the Trump administration’s nascent foreign policy: “Are we now going from the Realpolitik foreign policy announced just last week, as the New York Times analyzes today, For Trump, a Focus on U.S. Interests and a Disdain for Moralizing, to a return to the Bush Doctrine of unilateral military action?”

With last night’s impulsive “do something” missile strikes on a Syrian air base, we still do not have an answer. Acting on Instinct, Trump Upends His Own Foreign Policy.

The New York Times analyzes, Trump’s Far-Right Supporters Turn on Him Over Syria Strike:

Some of President Trump’s most ardent campaign supporters were among his most vocal opponents on Thursday after he ordered the missile strike against Syria, charging him with breaking his promise to keep the United States out of another conflict in the Middle East.

Prominent writers and bloggers on the far right attacked Mr. Trump. They accused him of turning against his voters by waging an attack that he had for years said would be a terrible idea. They also criticized him for launching the strike without first seeking congressional approval — something he said on Twitter in 2013 would be a “big mistake.”

The most vocal in their outrage were leaders from the small but influential white nationalist movement.

Paul Joseph Watson, an editor at the conspiracy theorist site Infowars, said on Twitter that Trump “was just another deep state/neocon puppet.” He added, “I’m officially OFF the Trump train.”

Richard Spencer, a far-right activist and white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right,” said he condemned the attack and hinted at supporting another presidential candidate in 2020: Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a Democrat. Ms. Gabbard met with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in January and on Thursday criticized the missile strike as shortsighted and reckless.

For some on the far right, particularly those who are pro-Russia, Mr. Trump’s strike crossed a [red] line.

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The Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, Azerbaijan oligarchs, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and the FCPA

The NewYorker has a deep-dive lengthy investigative report by Adam Davidson into Donald Trump’s Worst Deal: The President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (excerpts):

The building, a five-star hotel and residence called the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, has never opened, though from the road it looks ready to welcome the public.

* * *

The more time I spent in the neighborhood, the more I wondered how the hotel could have been imagined as a viable business. The development was conceived, in 2008, as a high-end apartment building. In 2012, after Donald Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, signed multiple contracts with the Azerbaijani developers behind the project, plans were made to transform the tower into an “ultra-luxury property.” . . . For an expensive hotel, the Trump Tower Baku is in an oddly unglamorous location: the underdeveloped eastern end of downtown, which is dominated by train tracks and is miles from the main business district, on the west side of the city. Across the street from the hotel is a discount shopping center; the area is filled with narrow, dingy shops and hookah bars. Other hotels nearby are low-budget options: at the AYF Palace, most rooms are forty-two dollars a night. There are no upscale restaurants or shops. Any guests of the Trump Tower Baku would likely feel marooned.

The timing of the project was also curious. By 2014, when the Trump Organization publicly announced that it was helping to turn the tower into a hotel, a construction boom in Baku had ended, and the occupancy rate for luxury hotels in the city hovered around thirty-five per cent. Jan deRoos, of Cornell University, who is an expert in hotel finance, told me that the developer of a five-star hotel typically must demonstrate that the project will maintain an average occupancy rate of at least sixty per cent for ten years.

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The gloomy conditions in Afghanistan

Democracy is said to be in decline around the world. According to a report by Freedom House, only 45% of the world’s countries are considered to be fully free and the percentage is trending downward. The volatile situation in Afghanistan is proof that a functioning democracy is a tough thing to create. The invasion by U.S. and NATO forces in December 2001 quickly drove the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies from power. After more than 15 years of nation building effort by NATO, the UN reported that almost 3,500 civilians were killed and 7,900 injured in the Afghan conflict during 2016. It was the highest number of civilian casualties since the UN began keeping records in 2009.

The American plan to replace Taliban rule with a democratically elected government ran into many problems. The flood of foreign cash that followed the demise of the Taliban regime in 2001 often undermined the new government or was wasted on uncoordinated projects. Well-meaning foreign aid agencies paid salaries 20 times higher than the Afghan civil service pay rate, many Afghan officials quit and went to work for the external agencies. As fighting the Taliban insurgency continues, NATO forces have dropped from a peak of 132,000 in 2011 to approximately 13,000 today. The U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan is estimated to have cost nearly $1 trillion between 2001 and 2014.

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Stephen Miller subs for Kellyanne Conway on the Sunday morning bobblehead shows, it does not go well

Kellyanne “alternative facts” Conway was not available this weekend for the Sunday morning bobblehead shows because she violated ethics rules by promoting Ivanka Trump’s clothing line in a Thursday morning interview with Fox News — “I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody; you can find it online” — for which she is allegedly being “counseled” (a “time out”?) Kellyanne Conway Promotes Ivanka Trump Brand, Raising Ethics Concerns:

Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Ms. Conway’s comments were ‘wrong, wrong, wrong, and there’s no excuse for it.’ Chaffetz and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, formally asked the Office of Government Ethics for an inquiry.

For a brutal takedown of Kellyanne Conway, you have got to watch Saturday Night Live’s “Fatal Attraction” parody entitled Jake Tapper. Wow!

With Kellyanne in “time out,” the Trump administration trotted out the other half of its updated version of The Daily Show’s Even Stevphen act, Steve Bannon’s counterpart Stephen Miller, who was featured in unflattering background pieces over the weekend in both the New York Times, Stephen Miller Is a ‘True Believer’ Behind Core Trump Policies, and the Washington Post. Stephen Miller: A key engineer for Trump’s ‘America first’ agenda.

I happened to catch Miller on ABC’s This Week with George “Snuffleupagus.” (He also appeared on NBC’s Meet Chuck Todd). What a raging asshole!

This guy was like a pez dispenser spewing out lie after lie with an angry attitude of “how dare you question my alternative facts!” Whenever “Snuffleupagus” pointed out he had presented no evidence to support his lies, Miller had a look on his face that said “how about I come over there and kick your ass!” This guy needs anger management.

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Trump’s Muslim Ban Executive Order Reveals an Administration Ready to Lie About Absolutely Everything

By Michael Bryan

Many have identified the reasons why Trump’s Executive Order (EO) suspending travel from seven Muslim majority counties is ineffective, illegal, and just plain stupid: it is clearly discriminatory toward Muslims, it harms our counter-terror efforts made in conjunction with those nations’s governments, it is a propaganda win for the terrorists, and there haven’t actually been any terror attacks in America by visitors from the targeted countries since 1975, among many other reasons.

But what I find most disquieting about the EO is something that I have not seen a lot of commentary on, thus far: it demonstrates that this Administration is ready and willing to take ill-considered and deleterious actions regarding national security for purely political reasons, and then blatantly lie about classified intelligence to justify it.

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