Donald Trump: America Unmasked

24060018Less than one week to go before this mudslinging exercise is over and I – as an American transplant, am torn between voting my conscience or casting that single ballot in an effort to shore up a sham democracy against the American Mussolini.

First, I would like to make one thing clear. I am not a Hillary hater nor do I worry about color or gender when it comes to presidency. Most importantly, I do not care one cent about email-gate nor the four Americans killed in Benghazi under Hillary Clinton’s watch. Considering the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Libyans and Afghanis killed as a result of elective interventionism, I find it obscene to lament the loss of four Americans stationed as regime change operators in Libya. Call it cost of doing business the same way we write off non-American casualties. Basta!

At the same time I am amazed that so many are horrified at Trump as if he were an anomalous specimen who sprang out of nowhere – an orange wound festering like an unsightly mutation in an otherwise healthy democracy.

Au contraire, not only is he the misplaced embodiment of the same anti-establishment rage catalyzed by neo-liberal economic failures that brought out the Bernie supporters, but also the poster child for our revered American exceptionalism which has given us militarized police at home and the planetary mandate for preemptive strikes anywhere at any time.    What’s the matter? Is it the sanitized veneer customarily delivered by Wolf Blitzer you miss, or the wooden faced white house speaker and inside the beltway suits reassuring us that we are the good guys trying to keep America safe.

From the vantage point of someone who is still resisting the “Exceptional” Kool-Aid both candidates are the byproducts of the state of our democracy and every bit the unapologetic embodiment of our American values. Hillary, the face of the reviled establishment most of us say we hate but are too fearful to change; and Trump, the shameless child of the unbridled individualism we celebrate in this country; the product of every man for himself culture that worships the pursuit of success by amassing all things material; of money and power; of empty promises that peddles the dream that you too can be rich and successful, and can own anything, including beautiful woman. And that unlike our European socialist counterparts, there is no shame in flaunting boundless opulence at the penthouse of the most prestigious address in the very heart of the Capital City that put the “C” in “Capitalism”. Isn’t that the essence of the American dream?

gaystrump

Now what exactly is Trump saying that is so shocking and repulsive? Build a wall across the border? Ship Mexicans back home? Ban Moslems from coming here? Or is it really the first time you hear that he who owns the gold commands the most pussies? Doesn’t anybody watch TV commercials anymore or do you folks simply TIVO and fast forward to the next act on the remote? How long do you think the advertising industry would last if delinked from the image of success and the promise of sex?

Simply scratch that puffed up bellicose surface of the Donald and you shall see what lies beneath the orange veneer is not that unfamiliar.

We were compartmentalizing and marginalizing each other long before Mr. Trump descended on that golden escalator? It takes just one look at our official forms to realize the systemic nature of these divisions. The red white and blue melting pot is a myth, at best we are a mosaic of hyphenated existences; a nation of a “white” dominant culture who believes itself to be the rightful owner of all things American, and a slew of hyphenated “others” – African-American, Native-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, all dutifully crossing the appropriate boxes on forms, owning our hyphenated labels, even signing petitions to create new labels where none exists, all the while struggling for equal rights, equal privilege and equal time.

The history of oppression stretches back from the gun slinging days of good guy cowboys against bad guy Indians, to the modern day systemic racism and violence against citizens of color by brutal force whether in Ferguson, Baton Rouge, NYC, Chicago, Baltimore, Charleston or elsewhere.

Since 9/11 Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense have jointly poured a staggering $39 billion into police force militarization, funding over 50,000 SWAT deployments a year, conducting combat style raids with assault weapons in our most vulnerable and underprivileged communities. Bringing violence and segregation home predates Mr. Trump whose hateful language simply mirrors policies already in place with either tacit approval of those at the helm, or very timid pushback as a result of an increasingly angry Black Lives Matter movement.

Today in the U.S. we have 2.3 million, mostly African American and Hispanic youth, caught in a largely privatized prison system, the highest rate of incarceration in the world, more than a four fold increase during the last three decades of both Republicans and Democrats and specifically as a result of policies enacted during the Clinton presidency. In light of the current trends, feigning horror at Trump’s divisive language seems disingenuous to say the least.

With regard to borders and walls, Trump is recycling old material. 2.5 million undocumented immigrants were deported just in the last eight years earning Obama the title “deporter-in-chief”; this represents a 23% increase in summary deportations compared to the Bush era – a trend that Mr. Trump would no doubt approve, but can take no credit for. Incidentally, despite the collective ridicule we heap on the idea of a wall on our southern border, this is a gentle reminder that Democrats and Republicans alike, have supported, even subsidized the Israeli Wall along the occupied West Bank without any qualms. Every American administration, Red or Blue, and Hillary Clinton in particular, has defended Israeli aggression each time Palestinians have shown even the slightest resistance to an immoral and brutal occupation. So – enough about the Wall. Hypocrisy has its limits.

As for the Muslim ban; after an illegal invasion of Iraq and blatant culpability in upending the Middle East as a result of two gulf wars, a 13 year U.S. lead embargo and years of occupation which generated 4 million displaced Iraqis; according to UNHCR, by 2007, U.S. had only taken in a mere 6,000 of these unfortunate souls; and each year after that, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the admission rates were limited to no more than a few hundred Iraqis.

And in Syria, in spite of our direct funding, aiding and complicity in a proxy war that devastated the country leading to millions fleeing American made weapons whether at the hands of ISIS, Al Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, FSA or others; less than 2,000 Syrians have so far been admitted and only after 18-24 months of arduous vetting. Apparently as Americans we demand unfettered access everywhere, but even the most unfortunate victims of our actions around the world have to suffer at least an additional two years before being considered. From over 4.5 million refugees reported by Amnesty International, the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC states that only 10,000 Syrians have been proposed for admission to the U.S. – not exactly a full ban — but come on! trump

So, come November 8th, do vote. Consider all the options and vote for the candidate of your choice. But most important, no matter who you pick, don’t write off Trump as an inexplicable phenomenon from nowhere. The violence, the bullying, the sexism, racism, virtually every part of him that disgusts you represents a part of America, albeit without the window dressing we are accustomed to. The America where violence and sex are the main drivers, from our multi billion dollar film industry to the corporate stock markets. The America where our kids train competitively to shoot make-believe bad guys on video games, then grow up to hunt down real ones as drone operators. The America where owning a gun is a right, but health care a privilege; where the war on terror has blurred the lines between communities and war zones, and turned potential friends to feared terrorists. The America where even the Noble Peace Prize winning president is barred from apologizing when he travels to Hiroshima on the anniversary of the only atomic bombs ever dropped on humanity, yet is outraged when a boat flying its flag is detained when it veers into Iranian waters.

Come November 8th, do vote. Vote Hillary, if you believe it is time to shatter that glass ceiling, no matter who the female, or if you believe that she might deliver a few incremental changes after she has paid back her real constituents, the ones who delivered her the Whitehouse. Truth of the matter is that she probably will, if the political costs are not too high. But it would be a sad day if after the millions who demanded a revolution, the hopeful Bernie supporters, as well as the deluded Trump supporters, that we end up shoring up the same corrupt establishment which has given us this crisis.

It would be ironic, if after the dust settles we realize instead of recognizing Trumpism as a symptom of all that is wrong with our political system, we further entrench it, taking refuge in its safeness, seeking comfort in the illusion of stability. Because we did not have the courage to imagine something different.

I can almost hear Hillary now: “Come back to mommy. I told you it was scary out there.”

beafraid

9/11 …we shall not forget

by: Firouzeh Afsharnia

Another 9/11 anniversary has come and gone.   Flags were hoisted, solemn words of remembrance were uttered, pictures of the fallen were hung on virtual and real walls; and the words….”…we shall not forget” were heard over and over, even as the war on terror rages on and the White House makes a case for an imminent strike against Syria that could most certainly bring about willful death to others.

12 years have passed since the day the world grieved with us, held up candles in silent mourning across the globe and stood with us in solidarity, friend and foe alike, condemning the attacks as a crime against all humanity, against all that we hold dear, just and decent.   How did we transform such abundance of good will to a lecture on the importance of international law, merits of peaceful dialogue and a plea to “…return to the path of civilized settlement”  — by an autocratic, human rights usurping ex-KGB agent no less?

The past decades have been marked by periods of unspeakable violence.   Two world wars, genocides, protracted armed conflicts, man made and natural disasters have lead to unprecedented human devastation leaving us all with tales of human tragedy and injustice we shall not forget; and yet it seems we have done little but transform these events into more tragedy.

The first World War, the war to end all wars, ended in the defeat and humiliation of the Germans at the Versailles convention leading to the rise of nationalism and the Nazi mobilization which destroyed Europe and incinerated millions based on misguided principals of Aryan exceptionalism.

The allied armies emerged victorious over the evils of fascist tyranny only to install the Cold War order across Asia, Africa and Latin America, arming and funding client states which tortured and maimed their own citizens, waging proxy wars ostensibly to uphold “righteous” causes, though not before dropping two atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The fall of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War, far from ushering in a new era of peace and cooperation, unleashed decades of repressed grievances and flooded the world with arms and ammunition, the majority of which were traded by the same guarantors of global peace who sit on the Security Council.

As the African continent grapples with hacked bodies, rape, massacre and death of millions from Mali and Sudan to the Congo, CAR and beyond, the Arab spring has turned to cold ashen winter, the budding promise of democracy chocked under the dictatorial armies of the past regimes and the ruthless fundamentalism which has emerged after decades of political and economic injustice and metastasized through the endless war on terror.

This week – as we marked the anniversary of 9/11 to commemorate the fallen, we are engaged in yet another open ended threat to bolster our credibility as if the past 12 years of heavy handed, expanded militarism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and beyond have not made it amply clear that the U.S. is credible in the single minded pursuit of its own brand of exceptionalism which lectures, demands and strikes at will all the while immunizing itself against accountability to International institutions like the ICC, as well as to its own citizens if they threaten to blow the whistle.

This week the main drivers of the attack on Syria – Israel, U.S.  hawks, and humanitarian interventionists alike, continue to make their case invoking human tragedies past and present …reminders of what we must not forget.

Israel will lobby through the powerful AIPAC, pushing for a strike while evoking images of gassed victims in the Holocaust, even as they hold millions of Palestinians under open-ended occupation in ghetto like existence, and work toward ever more crippling sanctions against 75 million Iranians.

Obama’s close circle of liberal advisors like Samantha Power and Susan Rice will push for intervention conjuring memories of the Rwandan genocide while they turn a blind eye to the current support of that same government for the looting and pillaging rebels in Eastern Congo.

The Rwandan state, a poster child for the interventionists and a symbol of what the world must not forget; having defeated the Hutu genociders, for its part has steadily taken up authoritarian measures, stripping human rights, repressing political opposition as enemies of state, sponsoring assassinations of dissidents abroad; and has enshrined “genocide denial” as a crime punishable by imprisonment.

This week pictures of the 1400 dead lying on the cold floor in Syria will be brandished in our living rooms reminding us of all that we must not forget, while images of those killed by drones, missiles and bombs in Afghanistan and Yemen are filtered out.

This week we continue to make our case, reliving the trauma of 9/11 to give us the mandate to pursue justice and national interests whenever and wherever, to create new traumas.

On this anniversary of 9/11, I mourn all those who died innocent and in vain, whether in Syria, New York, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Yemen, or in concentration camps across Europe, with the hopes that we finally stop living traumas of the past — instead focus on preventing new ones.

Syria: Buy Long! Sell Short!

I am learning how to dabble in stocks.  I, like so many others have now put a small amount on that magic ticker TESLA, follow the daily news tidbits on my iPhone and stare at the numbers as they crawl up and down to determine whether I should buy or sell!   Just yesterday I made $300 and some change while sitting right there at the corner Starbucks sipping my latte!  What a country! I marveled at the miracle of capitalism as I scooped up the virtual dollars into my virtual savings account; then reported my success to my virtual friends on Facebook while dodging random ads on fat melting diets and overstock handbags on my wall.  As I scrolled down I glanced through the multitude of outraged posts and commentaries about the Miley Cyrus video.

Shock and disgust was the general reaction, followed by collective lament on the current downward spiral of pop culture, although admittedly, the outraged crowd must have themselves spent the time to read and watch through the entirety of Ms. Miley’s spectacle before taking precious time to comment.  That’s just that many more clicks on the link.  I suppose it’s a good thing.  After all that’s how success is measured. The number of clicks adds up to traffic, to advertising revenue, higher stock prices, all in all generally healthier economy.  Not that much more different from my own mindless stock trading.  I opened the lid to my Latte and sucked off the last of the foam. Starbucks!  I wondered if I owned any of that stock in my investment portfolio.

In a predictable shift in the eternally Attention-Deficit-Disordered media, this week the news was singularly focused on Syria so much so that one might be tempted to believe that Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and beyond are now oases of peace and tranquility and if we just dropped a few bombs on our new target we could tick that box as yet another job well done in our continuing supremacist adventurism abroad.  The news channels did of course make room for the usual stuff – the armed four year old in a small town kinder garden; the teacher who gets 30 days for raping his 14 year old student who later kills herself; the dog that saved a cat’s life in New Zealand; and the California wild fires — hardly headline news this time of year. The saving grace of course is that Iran gets a breather from occupying the number one slot on the U.S. pariah list.  Although we are reminded of that turbaned looming threat if Bashar al-Assad stays in power.

This week a whole industry of think tanks, journalists, activists and talking heads work overtime analyzing and writing what-if scenarios around reasons to strike or not to strike.  They argue the constitutionality of such an act.  The founding fathers apparently vested the authority to declare war with the congress, and only in the case of present and imminent danger to this country; telling the president in no uncertain terms not to draw ultimatum lines; red or otherwise.

Furthermore, International law requires a U.N. mandate, highly unlikely considering the lack of regional support and the fact that China and Russia sit pretty on the Security Council holding a Veto card. Besides, the inspectors haven’t even ruled on their findings, not that a little thing like the U.N. weapons inspectors report would get in the way of a Western strike when civilian lives are on the line –  lives not labeled as collateral damage by the West that is.  In any case the U.S. has declared the inspections largely irrelevant. “Too late” they say, as if worried that the results could point to the Free Syria Army trying to drag the Americans in.

As a matter of fact the objectives of conducting a strike seem hazy even to Henry Kissinger who these days looks more like Tweety Bird among the modern day hawks of the post 9/11 world.  Taking Assad out he argues, would only fracture the country further and help the Jihadists.  The last time the U.S. intervened in Iraq, they did the Iranians a favor by taking out their archenemy; as for that surgical strike in Libya – it set off a steady stream of rebels into neighboring Mali which ignited a civil war splitting the generally stable West African country in two.

Yet the leaders of the free world say they must to do something.

“Syria gas attack is a moral obscenity” Secretary of State John Kerry went on record. He lectured about a “moral compass” and said our sense of “basic humanity” has been offended.

By the way, I was really amused to hear the hawkish FOX channel in their predictably knee-jerk anti-Democrat stance, oppose any intervention.  Yes; in this crazy world, the democrats have become such war mongers that Hannity has to loop back 180 degrees sounding semi rational if he wants to keep up his ratings as Obama’s number one enemy.  Who knows, maybe FOX will become the new MSNBC, leaving the latter to re-strategize as the liberal voice of reason.  I suppose that just means you and I must hedge our bets on both FOX and General Electric.   You did know that General Electric owns NBC News, right!?

Speaking of hedging, Investors Business Daily says dropping bombs stimulates the economy and that “… investors should note that the Aerospace/Defense industry group surged forward in IBD’s ranking.”   In fact, they said, a military action might ease the effects of the federal budget sequestration.   That’s really great news; don’t you think?

Bloomberg further reported that hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles made by Raytheon Co. could be launched against Syrian targets, followed by a second wave if “…enough destruction is not achieved”.  Satellite-guided bombs could be dropped from Lockheed Martin’s F-15 fighter jets; and Northrop Grumman’s B-2 bombers could drop as much as 40,000 pounds of bombs made by Boeing.

Army General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said attacks from outside Syrian airspace “could be used to strike hundreds of targets at a tempo of our choosing.”  The U.S. Navy’s “Destroyers” in the Mediterranean, each carry 90 Tomahawks.  “With a 1,000 pound warhead and a range of 1,000 nautical miles, a Tomahawk can inflict damage on targets across Syria without putting U.S. troops at risk.” Reported Bloomberg.

Wow!  40,000 pounds of bombs; hundreds of cruise missiles; thousand pound warheads and our boys would still be safe.  That’s just splendid! I wondered however if that might not leave behind more casualties than the 1,300 civilians just gassed.

Boeing (BA ) – Northrup (NOC ) – Lockheed Martin (LMT) – Raytheon (RTN ) – I thought as an informed investor I should check out their stocks.  All of them had doubled in price in the last 2 years.  Who needs fair trade coffee as long as there’s that long Arab Winter.

I wondered.  Is it any different to be killed by a bomb instead of chocking on Sarin gas?

I wondered about the thousands of men and women working on the assembly lines across the United States — regular folks working hard in a struggling recovery to feed their families.  Did they ever wonder where the bombs they made would be dropped?

I wondered if friends and families of the dead would find solace in the fact that they were targeted by the good guys.

I wondered whether to invest my little nest egg in Raytheon or Boeing? Would the Tomahawk cruise missiles inflict larger destruction or was the future of warfare in satellite-guided bombs.  I added the new symbols NOC, BA, LMT and RTN to my daily watch list.

I wondered about the true meaning of “moral obscenity”.   About the hypocrisy of a society that feeds the machinery of obscenity and reaps its benefits yet disconnects from its end results and shrugs off the responsibility for its fallout.   I wondered if Kerry has a right to talk on our behalf about a moral compass and basic humanity when our very economic system thrives on its continued perversion.

I wondered. Would Miley still twerk half naked if she didn’t think she would create a flood of web traffic.

I wondered.

http://news.investors.com/investing-ibd-industry-themes/082813-669052-aerospace-industry-rises-in-rankings.htm?ven=yahoocp,yahoo

http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-27/tomahawk-cruise-missiles-likely-in-u-s-strikes-on-syria.html?cmpid=yhoo

Gaza: A Fundamentalist’s Guide to Gravity

A few years ago I was traveling through Africa and found my self in a rickety cab. As I bounced up and down in the lumpy back seat, shifting spots to avoid the broken springs and whatever was festering in the exposed paddings, another passenger got in and sat in the front seat.  He was in a jovial mood and had just passed some sort of certification exam.  “I passed! I passed!” He declared.

First I thought it was a college exam, or some life changing professional achievement.   Turns out it was an HIV/AIDS test.   And if you know anything about Africa, you know the importance of such a test.  Conversation rolled from AIDS to lack of employment, poverty, state corruption, war; then the passenger sighed and said.

“You know, I really admire Ben.” The driver agreed.  “Oh yes. Ben. He is a great man.   We need somebody like him here in the Congo.”

I wondered who Ben was.  I had lived in the country for months, and not heard of anyone by that name.  “Sorry — Ben?  Who is Ben?”  I interjected from the back seat, shifting over the lumps and bumping my head violently on the ceiling as the cab cleared another pothole.

“Ben!  You don’t know Ben?  Madame!  He is very famous.  Il est Genial.”

“Ben what?  Who are you talking about?”

“Laden.”  Both men chimed. “Bin Laden!”

Amazing! Here I was in a Christian country.  The Moslem population in Congo is miniscule, and yet Bin Laden represented something of a hero – a symbol of resistance to a higher injustice.

I have traveled almost ten years in Africa.  On this continent, the narrative often goes like this:  Bin Laden was a hero, Ahmadinejad should be admired for standing up to the West, Ghaddafi will be remembered for the many mosques and schools he built; and the Palestinians – well, Palestinians are the very embodiment of suffering; the equivalent of Jungian archetypes for victims of all things unjust, unfair and hypocritical; the ultimate evidence that the lectures on human rights by the masters of the world, and all that talk of democracy are nonsense. Palestinians are the very essence of pain and resistance with whom anyone from any corner of space and time can relate to and stand with in solidarity.

In Africa, most people are only too familiar with hopelessness, lack of recourse, lies, oppression and co-opted systems in which they have no part. They are also familiar with the basic reality that desperate people beget desperate actions.  And when all other options fail, in the absolute vacuum of hope, the most radical elements will emerge to reinvent their own brand of justice to right all the wrongs that cannot find recourse in alternate forums.

This week as rockets fly overhead, the headlines on the 24 hour news cycles focus on the terrorist strikes at the urban centers of Israel. Newly elected Barack Obama who has evidently forgotten that he has nothing to fear from AIPAC anymore, releases his stale clichés on Israel’s “right to defense” even as he stands with his Nobel Prize counterpart and lectures the Burmese Junta on the rights of dignity and equality for all people.  The narrative in the U.S. focuses on “terror” in Israel and the 90% Israeli support for the attacks on Gaza.   Indeed the CNN poll shows that 57% of our own citizenry are in favor of the strikes, evidence of the complete disconnect from context at the confluence of selective reporting, ideology and middle class consumerism.

That the Jerusalem post has printed an op-ed to the effect that entire communities should be flattened in Gaza, left without water, electricity and basics has not triggered outrage in this country, nor has it made a dent in the absurd notion that Gaza has had self-determination since 2005. America’s mainstream stands with Israel.  Congress stands with AIPAC. And Operation Pillar of Defense plays out as a bad sequel to Operation Cast Lead – as if the obscenity of the title in itself is not an outrage.

The casualty figures at the bottom of the TV screen in fact tell the whole story.  Day 6 of the conflict. Gaza: 107 dead; Israel: 3 dead.

Israel maintains it is only pursuing “terrorists” and the rest are unfortunate collateral losses. They even go so far as to say that casualties are results of a deliberate Hamas strategy of employing civilians as human shields, thereby disassociating the reality of the cause of the militants from its fundamental connection to the perpetual anger of a humiliated people – one, an inevitable consequence of the other  — like gravity.

Mr. president – for all the talk of not wishing to lead from behind and being a force for good; for the $1.4 trillion spent to date in pursuit of jihadists; and for the thousands sacrificed in the fight for what has been summarily dismissed as mindless terrorism, how about walking the talk of justice and focusing on the oldest grievance in the Middle East.

How can you pretend to push for human rights by upholding a six-decade Cuba policy while washing your hands from the crushing Israeli blockade of Gaza.

How can you reconcile your crippling sanctions on Iran for possible breach of NPT commitments, while vetoing any measure that would condemn Israel’s continued occupation in violation of International law.

How can you rise up in defense of Libyans and Syrians while staying mum on the continued aggression against Palestinians.

How can you rationalize your national outrage responsible for waging two wars in pursuit of one man culpable of killing 2900 Americans in 9/11, without on some level understanding the outrage against decades of Palestinian humiliation, displacement and occupation and the need to avenge it.

How can you expect to further the cause for democracy and peace if you don’t play the part of the unbiased advocate for dignity for all people.

How do you expect to hold back the wave of anger against the U.S. and the creation of a new generation of activists every time you opt to read from the “unconditional support” script, brandish the lone veto on the Security Council and value the Israeli life over that of a Palestinian.

Gravity is a fact. Those who pretend to live in a void may never fully grasp its meaning. But they are no less susceptible to its effects.