Trump keeps his promises — in blood

In 2015 Donald Trump said, “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

Nawar al-AwlakiHe has kept his promise. Trump’s first military raid killed Nawar al-Awlaki, the 8-year-old American-born daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, whom the US had previously killed. Calling Anwar al-Awlaki a terrorist is stretching a point; he preached violence but isn’t known to have directly engaged in terrorist acts. That was good enough for Obama to order his assassination, though, and it’s likely Trump considers him a terrorist as well. (He’d have been allowed in the US under Trump’s ban, though, since he was a US citizen.)

Are there any words left?

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Militarists bash Trump

Like a stopped clock, Trump is occasionally right. I don’t see much to disagree with in this statement:

When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat — and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it. And they see horror stories. They see events that you couldn’t see in a movie. Nobody would believe it.

The “you’re strong and you can handle it” sounds like pandering to the audience. But leave that out and what he’s saying is that war is hell and it breaks people. This idea doesn’t play well with Clinton, who’s generally more enthusiastic for wars than Trump is.
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The Bible on immigrants and war

While looking up something else, I came upon Leviticus 19:33:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.

I wonder what the religious right would be like if they actually read their Bibles. Then again, they’d keep going to Deuteronomy 20:13, so I should probably be glad on the whole:

When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves.

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New article on Secular Voices

Secular Voices has just accepted my first article, “The Biggest Victims of Muslim Fanaticism: Muslims”. Getting a good number of views will help my future chances, so pleaseMuhammad saying "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons." spread the word if you like it.

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New article: Dawn of the Surveillance State

My article, “The Dawn of the Surveillance State,” is featured today on the Foundation for Economic Education’s website. It’s about the US government’s spying on its citizens during World War I. Opposing the war or just speaking German could get you into serious trouble.

The more views the article gets, the better my chance of future sales, so please take a look if it sounds at all interesting to you.

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Mideast war, again

I don’t directly address political topics very often here, and taking this position may cost me some support in my crowdfunding campaign; but this isn’t a time to be silent. Once again, we have a US president grabbing Congress’s warmaking power for himself, promising to annihilate an enemy, stirring up fear. The result isn’t going to be different this time.

It’s hard to decide which part of his approach is most contemptible. Maybe it’s scheduling his announcement so it would be discussed on September 11, when any objection to all-out war is deemed unpatriotic. Maybe it’s his grabbing the war-making power for himself, spitting on the Constitution’s clause which reserves that power to Congress. Maybe it’s his rewriting reality to say that the Islamic State is not Islamic. Maybe it’s his disregarding international law in declaring Syria is his to attack. Maybe it’s that he doesn’t want Americans to notice that he’s become indistinguishable from Bush.

It was just a year ago that Americans of diverse political views united to stop Obama’s last attempt to launch a bombing campaign against Syria. I wrote that for once, we could laugh. I’m not laughing now. Whatever came together that time (and I still don’t fully understand it), it looks unlikely to happen again. Update: I just realized that when he called for bombing Syria last year, is was on September 10. Playing the 9/11 card twice in two years gets a bit obvious.

Perpetual war to feed perpetual growth in centralized governmental power. I can’t even think of a moderately encouraging statement to wrap this up with.

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A time to laugh

The news from Washington is rarely good, so let’s enjoy it when it is. Obama tried to personally launch a war against Syria, but public and Congressional opinion was so strongly against him that he had to back away. He’s still making threatening noises, but I doubt that they’ll amount to anything at this point. For the first time I can remember, top leaders in the US government tried to start a war, only to be answered with a resounding no.

I don’t understand all the reasons it happened. Hypocritical political game-playing in Congress certainly played a big part. So did widespread disgust at the Obama-approved massive spying on Americans. For those who paid attention, the fact that Al Qaeda is more on the rebels’ side than Assad’s made them wonder. The ineptitude of the administration’s case was a factor; Kerry’s claim that the attack would be “unbelievably small,” not rising to the level of an act of war, provoked gales of laughter.

The issue didn’t follow party lines. It was Obama, the top leadership of both parties in Congress, and the major news media against almost everybody else.

We’re already seeing attempts to spin Obama’s defeat into a brilliant diplomatic maneuver, threatening war in order to make Assad agree to a diplomatic solution. This ignores the fact that Obama clearly wasn’t going to get his authorization of war (though he claimed and still claims authority to attack Syria on his own) or international approval. Today I saw a truly idiotic tweet claiming that Obama “averted war.” We’ll probably soon be hearing that his September 10 speech was begging Congress not to go to war, just as (according to Biden) FDR got on national TV in 1929 to talk about the depression. (Update: I forgot to mention that we’ll continue to hear that it’s racist to oppose bombing Arabs. I got that bit of mud tossed at me on Twitter this morning.)

For the moment, we can just laugh. If you did anything at all to oppose O’Bomber’s scheme, you’re entitled to join in the laughter. If you kept quiet or you’re promoting the whitewash to insure your Obamagoodies keep coming, you get to join too — on the receiving side. There’s always boom tomorrow, but let’s laugh while we can.

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Protests and people

There’s a group in Nashua that stands in front of the City Hall at 11 AM every Saturday to protest whatever war is current. They’ve been there since the Bush years. Yesterday I decided it would be a worthwhile gesture to stand with them, so I headed downtown. The group has dwindled down to two people. I hoped there would be a boost in numbers because of Syria, but apparently the old regulars have wandered off and they haven’t been bringing in new people. That happens with a lot of organizations.

It was still an interesting way to spend an hour. One of the two men was a liberal sort; the other described himself as libertarian-leaning. The second was also a 9/11 truther. I’ll listen to anyone’s arguments if I don’t have something better to do; even if they’re nonsense, I’ll learn something about how they think. He claimed to be a chemical engineer and to have concluded from a personal analysis of some of the debris that the towers collapsed from set explosives, not from the impact of the airplanes.

He gave me a “9/11 fact sheet card.” This didn’t mention the chemical which he talked about, and I don’t remember the name, so I can’t look up information on his argument. I have some technical knowledge on Point 7, which looks very dubious: “Tests have shown that cell-phone calls cannot be made at altitudes over 4000 to 8000 feet, as cell towers are located on the ground … No passenger could have successfully placed a call for help by cell phone from an airborne plane on 9/11, as reported.”

Now I know that cell phone use is prohibited on airplanes partially because a phone would have a line of sight to multiple towers and could put an undue burden on phone traffic. Also, I’ve played enough with shortwave radio to know that there are no hard limits on radio distance. I’ve picked up AM broadcasts from distant parts of the US. Today I learned in a web search that most if not all of the calls from Flight 93 (the one that crashed in an unpopulated area) were made from airplane phones, not cell phones. An article by a 9/11 skeptic supports this conclusion, as do other sources.

My biggest complaint about the 9/11 truthers is that they offer no coherent alternative. How could any group within the government make Bin Laden a stooge in their plan, plant explosives enough to destroy the WTC, and arrange the hijackings? Why would they bother crashing a plane in rural Pennsylvania and faking phone calls from it? I don’t doubt that there are people who’d have killed thousands for the sake of gaining power and profiting from the actions that followed, and the NSA scandal has shown how deeply dishonest our government can be, but the scenario just doesn’t make sense.

At any rate, I can say I single-handedly boosted the turnout against bombing Syria by 50%!

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The cycle of revenge

The “largest forced population transfer in human history” is one which not many people remember. I learned about it only recently, and I found more details about it in R. M. Douglas’s Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War. According to Douglas, between 12 and 14 million people designated as ethnic Germans were compelled to leave Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, sometimes under deadly conditions. The Allied powers encouraged and directed much of this relocation.

One reason this event isn’t often mentioned may be that it’s a story with no good guys. The expulsions were an act of ethnic revenge, an attack on people simply for their ancestry or language. Nonetheless, many of the ethnic Germans in eastern Europe, probably most, did support the Nazi government to varying degrees.

Another reason which Douglas mentions is the reluctance of historians to sound as if they agree with Holocaust revisionists on anything. There are people who claim that the expulsion of Germans was the full moral equivalent of the mass slaughter of Jews. Criticizing the expulsions doesn’t mean forgetting that the German government did far worse, but some scholars may be afraid of getting praise from disreputable quarters.

The events after World War II illustrate how injustice leads to revenge, revenge to injustice, and so on to cycles of retaliation. It’s worst when revenge allows serious fanatics to grab power, as Hitler did campaigning against the perceived injustices of the Versailles Treaty. When whole ethnic groups are blamed, the innocent aren’t separated from the guilty. We can see that today in some people’s reactions to the 9/11 attacks.

One of the things I find most disturbing about people is the way they’ll adopt a new position en masse without any compelling argument for it. It makes me wonder whether I can really know anything about them. Persuading them that they have a common enemy is one of the most effective ways to make them turn around that way.

Justice requires recognizing that individuals are responsible for their actions and that others don’t share the blame just because of their language, appearance, or national origin. Many people, though, are less interested in justice than in finding someone to strike out against.

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