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Israeli rampage of destruction in Jerusalem village

Electronic Intifada - Mon, 07/22/2019 - 6:07pm

Israeli forces harass witness of cold-blooded execution.

Why is Bernie Sanders still encouraging Israel's crimes?

Electronic Intifada - Mon, 07/22/2019 - 3:31pm

Progressive leader says he will “probably not” move US embassy out of Jerusalem.

The U.S. Is Flooding the World With Guns. Congress Can Stop That.

Foreign Policy in Focus - Mon, 07/22/2019 - 11:46am

Gun exports have reached record highs under the Trump administration. (Photo: verifex / Flickr / creative commons)

When gun exporters and importers gather at a trade conference at the Trump Hotel in Washington later this month, they will confront mixed trends in their industry. 

Gun manufacturing in the United States fell sharply in the first year of the Trump presidency, by more than 27 percent — a change widely attributed to gun buyers’ confidence that Trump would maintain or expand commercial access to firearms, limiting the impulse to stock up over a short period of time. Gun imports into the United States have also dropped significantly, with pistol imports falling by over 20 percent from 2016 to 2018. 

But reduced gun production was partly compensated by a record level of U.S. gun exports to other nations, which grew by nearly 30 percent in 2017. U.S. gun companies dramatically increased their firearms exports globally — to 488,300 guns in 2017, more than in any year on record, according to a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The United States exported even more firearms in 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, and the Trump administration seeks to expand such exports even more.

Last year, the administration proposed a regulatory change to transfer the export licensing of guns to the much looser rules of the Commerce Department, which industry leaders expect will “significantly expand their opportunities,” while removing congressional oversight and severely reducing the capacity to control the end uses of exported weapons. 

The proposed rule would apply to sniper rifles, semi-automatic assault rifles, and other weapons used in warfare around the world. The change would also effectively deregulate the production of 3D-printed weapons, which are currently considered exports. 

But the proposed change was set back on July 11, when the House of Representatives approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that prohibits taking gun exports off the State Department’s U.S. Munitions List. 

The State Department Trashed Its Own Authority to Control Weapons Sales

The growth in U.S. gun sales outside the country occurred as the Trump administration’s weapons export licensing agency was understaffed and in devastating disarray, according to a State Department Inspector General report in February. 

The report found that the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, which reviews and issues licenses to export weaponry, was 28 percent understaffed. The agency also had failed to notify Congress of arms sales as required by law, scrapped a unit for training officers, failed to consult the State Department’s regional and human rights bureaus on proposed arms exports, and mistakenly approved an export license (later revoked) for more than a billion dollars of firearms to the Philippines. 

Philippines police and military forces are credibly alleged to have committed thousands of extrajudicial killings under current President Rodrigo Duterte. Yet the United States shipped more than 86,000 semiautomatic handguns to the Philippines in 2018, more than six times as many as the previous year, according to U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) records. 

Nearly all of these weapons were Glock handguns exported from Georgia, a comparison of ATF and Census Bureau data reveals. Like other European gun producers, Glock has much moved its production from Austria to the United States to take advantage of the enormous U.S. police and civilian market as well as looser export laws. 

Practically the entirety of the uptick in 2017 in foreign gun sales comes from pistols exported by New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer Inc., which more than doubled in number from 2016 to 177,414 pistols in 2017. Sig Sauer accounted for 64 percent of all pistols exported from the U.S. in 2017. 

New Hampshire pistol exports amounted to $41.8 million in 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. (Sig Sauer was virtually the only company to export pistols from New Hampshire in 2017, according to the ATF report.) The largest buyers were Thailand ($15 million), followed by United Arab Emirates (UAE, at $4.8 million), Canada, and Germany. 

Foreign Gun Sales Were Even Higher in 2018

ATF doesn’t publish detailed gun manufacturing and export data until a full year has passed, but the Census Bureau and U.S. International Trade Commission post the data monthly. Exports accounted for 6 percent of U.S. gun production in 2017, a portion that nearly doubled from 2016, when it was only 3.3 percent. The increased exports in 2018 suggest that portion has grown even more. 

And total pistol exports from New Hampshire in 2018 grew to more than $64 million, about half more than in 2017. The biggest buyers in 2018 were Thailand — which received a whopping $39.5 million worth of pistols from New Hampshire — and UAE, which purchased $5.9 million worth. The UAE is waging war in Yemen, which has led to thousands of deaths and a humanitarian catastrophe.

In 2017, Congress was notified of two licenses for exporting 9mm pistols to Thailand valued at $93.9 million, as well as $48.6 million for five export licenses in various types of firearms to UAE. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. exported more than 72 million bullets (valued at $125 million) to Afghanistan in 2018, far more than any other country, and more than eight times the dollar value of bullets exported to Afghanistan in 2017. Most of the ammunition was exported to Afghanistan from Kentucky and Indiana, Census Bureau data shows.

Four of the top ten recipients of ammunition last year were countries with relatively low levels of violence (Canada, Australia, Germany, and UK). But Israel received more than $26 million worth of bullets, while the Philippines received more than $14 million in ammo (most of it exported from Missouri). 

Policy Options

Democrats in the House of Representatives have proposed legislation to stem gun violence, including proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Such measures would have significant impacts in Mexico, where criminal organizations rely heavily on such weaponry, which can be purchased easily in the United States and trafficked over the border.

But it is crucial that the House Democratic majority also consider action to control and reduce the explosive growth of weapons exports to countries all over the world. The NDAA amendment approved by the House to prohibit the transfer of gun export licensing to the Commerce Department is an important step. 

In May, more than 100 organizations called on Congress to stop the regulatory change, even proposing to prohibit the change through an NDAA amendment. The House amendment is part of the 1,200-plus-page military spending bill that will go to conference to be reconciled with the Senate version of the NDAA, which did not address gun export rules. The bill then goes to the White House for the president’s signature. 

More is required. Congress should hold hearings on the devastating atrocities committed with these weapons and fund (and require) the State Department to adequately control weapons export licenses. Organizations working to reduce gun violence should expand their sights to stopping violence from U.S. guns exported beyond our militarized borders. The lives of people all over the world hang in the balance.

The post The U.S. Is Flooding the World With Guns. Congress Can Stop That. appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

John Lindsay-Poland coordinates the project to Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico of Global Exchange.

A Major Diplomatic Defeat for Duterte — And His Allies in Beijing

Foreign Policy in Focus - Mon, 07/22/2019 - 10:44am

Under Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Philippines and China have forged a special relationship that has supplanted the old close bilateral ties between Manila and Washington. (Photo: D-Stalney / Flickr / creative commons)

A vote In the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) instructing its High Commissioner to “prepare a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines” has triggered an earthquake whose aftershocks continue to rock the Philippines weeks after the event. 

The resolution sponsored by Iceland, which passed with 18 votes affirmative and 14 negative, reduced Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to spouting utter nonsense, with his claim that Iceland filed the resolution because “they have nothing to eat in Iceland but ice.”

Triggered by global concern about the more than 20,000 deaths over three years claimed by Duterte’s “war on drugs,” the vote was the Philippines’ worst diplomatic defeat ever.

But it was not only the Philippines that was placed, kicking and screaming, in the spotlight. The vote also revealed the limits of the diplomatic clout of China, the Philippines’ main backer in the UNHRC and other international fora. Under Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Philippines and China have forged a special relationship that has supplanted the old close bilateral ties between Manila and Washington.

China Can’t Deliver

The optics, for one, were pretty bad: Iceland, one of the world’s smallest countries, had, in David versus Goliath fashion, drubbed the world’s largest. To governments across the board, the vote showed that Chinese diplomacy was, to use Mao Zedong’s words, a “paper tiger.”

The Duterte administration had invested a lot in China’s diplomatic support. In fact, one of the key elements in the quid pro quo for the Philippine government’s acquiescence in China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea, where Beijing has been encroaching on maritime formations and zones belonging to the Philippines, was China’s speaking out against human rights initiatives against Duterte in international fora such as the UNHRC. 

The UNHRC vote was the first great test of Duterte’s diplomatic investment in China, and it proved disastrous: China simply could not deliver the votes. 

The votes that could have spelled a victory for the Beijing-Manila axis were in the “abstain” column, and one can glean the significance of the Chinese defeat from the fact that had China been able to get four of its close allies who ended up abstaining to shift their votes to the “no” column, Iceland’s resolution would have been defeated.

One of the key abstainers was Brazil. Brazil is a very close ally of China, being one of the pillars of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) formation that has challenged the international hegemony of the West. What makes the Chinese failure to get Brazil to shift its vote to the “no” column even more curious is that Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has expressed contempt for human rights and glorified dictatorship.

Another key abstainer was Pakistan. Pakistan is, without a doubt, China’s closest ally in Asia. As China’s proxy against India and its main link to the Islamic world, Pakistan has been the recipient of billions of dollars of military aid, economic aid, and infrastructure loans from Beijing over the years. Yet, despite heavy lobbying, China was unable to move Pakistan to vote no.

Africa is one continent where Chinese economic diplomacy has outmaneuvered the West, and in Africa, few countries have received more aid and investment than the chaotic Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Over $9 billion has been invested by China in mining and infrastructure projects. Moreover, its leaders have been accused of committing or tolerating human rights violations, and its current prime minister was a protégé of the notorious dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. The DRC should have been a cakewalk for Beijing, but it wasn’t.

A fourth close Chinese ally who abstained was South Africa. Like Brazil, South Africa is one of China’s partners in the anti-western BRICS and has been showered with Chinese aid and investment over the years. Two-way trade has reached over $60 billion, and Chinese investment in South Africa now comes to $13 billion. A nudge from Beijing should have sufficed to push South Africa to the “no” column.

On the face of it, China could have easily swung the votes of Brazil, Pakistan, the Congo, and South Africa. What caused these countries to resist Chinese pressure and abstain? 

It could not have been lack of effort, since China is known for its careful and determined work in promoting its cause and those of its allies on the diplomatic front. One likely explanation is that being officially recorded as having tolerated widespread extra-judicial executions carried out in a genocidal campaign was simply a bridge too far for these governments — one that not even pressure from a close ally like China could convince them to cross.

The Victors

The vote produced not only losers but winners. Among them was the United Nations, which maintained its reputation as a court of last resort for the victims of human rights abuses despite attacks on it for allegedly “interfering in the internal affairs” of its member countries from the likes of Xi Jinping and Duterte.

Another winner was the Philippine human rights community, which had indefatigably lobbied the UNHRC for action on the Philippines over the last three years.

Yet another winner is the persecuted Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, who has been imprisoned on trumped-up charges by Duterte owing to her denunciations of the president’s extra-judicial executions of drug users and dealers. From her cell, she has become a powerful voice for human rights on the international scene despite the ban on her receiving foreign visitors imposed by the Duterte administration. 

After the vote, de Lima underscored the significance of the UNHRC’s action: “The UNHRC Resolution is a welcome step — a jumpstart, indeed — in our people’s search for accountability for the ongoing mass murder and other gross human rights violations in the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte. If effectively implemented, the UNHRC Resolution can help in decisively shattering the ‘consensus of silence and conspiracy of fear’ among the Filipinos domestically, and in shifting the political narrative abroad.”

If there is any dark cloud marring the victory for human rights, it is likely to be the consequences for de Lima. The vengeful Duterte is likely to blame de Lima for his defeat, and he will make her life more miserable as a result. The unbowed senator, however, has already said several times that she is fighting for a cause greater than her own liberty.


The post A Major Diplomatic Defeat for Duterte — And His Allies in Beijing appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Walden Bello, a former member of the House of Representatives, is the author of the book Counterrevolution: The Global Rise of the Far Right (2019) .

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Hamas rejects official’s anti-Jewish comments.

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What Sanctions Mean for My Iranian-American Family

Foreign Policy in Focus - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 3:15pm

Economic sanctions are a form of warfare on people who are just trying to make ends meet. (Shutterstock)

“What’s wrong?” I asked my mother, as I saw her broken expression. She was on the phone, speaking with my grandparents in Iran. “A terrible thing has happened,” she replied.

My grandparent’s home in Tehran had been broken into. The thieves took everything they could carry — my grandmother’s jewelry, my uncle’s prized watch collection, his wedding band, and some cash. Perhaps the only thing left untouched was the grand, ornate Persian rug in their living room.

My grandfather had left the house for 10 minutes for afternoon prayers at the mosque. Now, he swears to never leave his home unattended again. He takes turns leaving the house with my grandmother, both in constant dread of another break-in.

Across Iran, such burglaries seem to be increasing as ordinary Iranian people face increased hardship from U.S.-imposed sanctions.

As a dual citizen, I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, but I’ve been traveling to Iran regularly ever since I was four months old.

I grew up in a household that taught me to love who I am, to see the wisdom in maintaining cultural intricacies, and to relish in the socio-religious traditions that keep life going. Words cannot do justice to the feeling of affinity that envelops me every time I step into my second home in Tehran.

My mother, in efforts to ease her old parents’ anxious hearts, could only repeat tavakol be khoda, or as we like to translate it: “Your faith must be stronger than your fear.”

President Trump has sought confrontation with Iran at every opportunity. Since America’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, the U.S. has re-imposed sanctions targeting critical sectors of Iran’s economy.

Since then, oil exports have more than halved, choking the main source of funding for the country. Iranian currency has lost almost 60 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar, reaching a record low.

Meanwhile, sanctions and problems in banking transfers have made it extremely hard to buy everything from food to medicine. In the past 12 months, the cost of red meat and poultry has increased by 57 percent. Physicians are forced to prescribe less effective drugs, while patients must wait longer for operations.

During my visit last December, I witnessed the desperation with my own eyes.

Children stood, begging on the streets, tapping on my car window, trying to sell flowers and CDs. Highly educated youth sat in their homes, unable to find employment. Families withstood long lines at government-subsidized grocery stores to receive rationed meat. Patients had to self-treat their illnesses because they couldn’t purchase proper medicine.

Day after day, I sit and watch my president come up with new ways to escalate tensions, like tweeting that we’re “cocked and loaded to retaliate,” and only barely calling off a strike that would have killed 150 people — potentially starting a war without congressional approval. Or imposing new sanctions on top Iranian officials, which could close off the road to diplomacy.

Yet the absence of armed conflict doesn’t mean that over 80 million innocent people aren’t tremendously hurting already — and for no good reason. Economic sanctions are a form of warfare on people who are just trying to make ends meet.

Trump has even configured a way to suppress the normal aspirational response to escape destitute living conditions — banning Iranians entry to the most promising nation on Earth with his Muslim travel ban.

Whether it’s Cuba or Venezuela or Iran, history shows that sanctions alone have never forced a change in policy by an adversary. Iranians and Americans alike deserve diplomacy, not war — and that includes war by economic means.

Can our faith be stronger than our fear?

The post What Sanctions Mean for My Iranian-American Family appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Mina Shahinfar is a Next Leader on the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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BBC hatchet job triggers new interest in undercover Israel lobby film.

Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine

Foreign Policy in Focus - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 10:29am

Today, in the United States, a vast population of the undocumented live in constant fear of arrest and exile. (Shutterstock)

During the height of Stalin’s purges, the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich kept a packed suitcase near the door of his apartment. 

The Black Marias, the vehicle of choice for the secret police, would traditionally arrive in the middle of the night to ferry “undesirables” to interrogation cells. Shostakovich wanted to be ready at any moment for possible exile to Siberia. He was a much-celebrated figure in the Soviet Union, but Stalin had taken a dislike to his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. The Soviet dictator was like that: unpredictable.

The Soviets executed more than a half a million people in 1937-1938, while about 18 million people were imprisoned in the gulags from 1929 to 1953. Shostakovich had good reason to be fearful. In the Soviet Union in the 1930s, a significant portion of the population lived in fear of arrest, then execution or internal exile. 

Today, in the United States, a vast population of the undocumented live in constant fear of arrest and exile, not to some far-flung area of the United States but back to their countries of birth. 

Some of them, like Shostakovich, have packed their bags in advance. In East Tennessee, Alberto Librado’s 11-year-old daughter has two suitcases always ready so that she can accompany her father back to Mexico, even though she, born in the United States, could legally stay behind. The Librados and so many other families await the Black Marias of ICE.

In contrast to those who feared Stalin’s wrath, the undocumented won’t be interrogated and forced to sign incriminating confessions. Nor will they be executed. But many left their countries because of a well-justified fear of persecution or harm. Their deportation may indeed be a death sentence.

The overwhelming majority of those who died during Stalin’s reign served the Communist state faithfully. Likewise, the overwhelming majority of the undocumented have labored hard here in the United States, usually at jobs that the native-born simply don’t want — in the sweltering fields of Florida or the frigid slaughterhouses of the South and Midwest. At a time of low unemployment, their labor is needed more than ever. The state’s push to deport them seems irrational and self-defeating, just like the Soviet Communist Party’s decision to persecute its own loyal members.

The deportations that Trump has threatened did not begin with him. The Clinton administration deported more than 12 million people, the George W. Bush administration more than 10 million, and the Obama administration more than 5 million. But there was a difference. “During Obama, the overwhelming majority of enforcement actions targeted criminal aliens,” John Cohen, former acting under secretary at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, told The New York Times. Trump’s “operation apparently specifically targets families who for the most part present no risk.”

Moreover, the Trump administration has demonized the undocumented like never before. “They aren’t people,” Trump has said, “they are animals.” The administration has revived the practice of workplace raids. It has tried to roll back protection for the “dreamers,” young people who came to America as minors. It has removed “temporary protective status” for over 300,000 people from six countries.

And this week the administration announced that it will end most asylum-seeking at the border by blocking anyone who has passed through a third country — mostly Mexico — to the U.S. border. That means a big cold shoulder to anyone fleeing violence and persecution from Central America. 

The latest round of ICE raids was supposed to begin this weekend but they were scaled back because targeted communities had advanced notice thanks to media reports. But Trump will be keeping this issue in the news until Election Day 2020. The immigration issue is a sure-fire method of firing up his base. 

It also fits into his larger framing of the issue, which is a profound and malignant redefinition of “we the people.”

Forget about Minorities

Before the last G-20 meeting last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the Financial Times. His description of liberalism as “obsolete” received a lot of media coverage. But it was his itemization of liberalism’s defects that deserves greater attention.

For Putin, liberalism’s greatest failing is its emphasis on minority protections, which conflict with “the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” Those minority protections include LGBT rights, which Putin sees in conflict with “the culture, traditions, and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

Right-wing populists, because they so often represent minority constituencies like the rich or the outwardly racist, have to reconceive the “people” in order to demonstrate that they reflect the majority. Populists speak on behalf of this imagined majority when they suppress the rights of minorities, as Putin as done. They also do their best to dismantle the democratic institutions of the state that protect the interests of minorities, going after one group after another in a game of divide and rule.

The most disturbing example of this marshalling of an imagined majority against a beleaguered minority is the attack on migrants and refugees. Putin zeroes in on liberalism’s approach to non-citizens, particularly Germany’s embrace of a million desperate souls from the wars convulsing the Middle East.

“This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done,” Putin argues. “That migrants can kill, plunder, and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”

That’s of course absurd. Migrants, like everyone else, are subject to the rule of law in Germany or the United States. It’s the height of hypocrisy for Putin to make this assertion, given that he kills and plunders with impunity. But that’s what distinguishes liberalism from the Russian president’s self-proclaimed illiberalism, which puts himself above the law.

Here the symmetry between Putin and Trump becomes all too clear. Trump is not Putin’s spy. He is Putin’s student. Together they attribute all social evils to the outsider — so as to preserve an illusion that the “core population” (including, of course, themselves) is blameless. 

Trump has gone even further than Putin in his understanding of who constitutes a migrant. The president’s recent tweets that certain progressive Democrats — obviously Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) — should “go back” to the “places from which they came” are an extraordinary elevation of street insult to state-sanctioned racism. All four politicians are American citizens, and three of them were born in this country. 

And the response from Trump’s Republican supporters? “They are American citizens,” Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. “They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country. Mr. President, you’re right about their policies. You’re right about where they will take the country. Just aim higher.”

And how does Graham characterize their policies? “We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists,” Graham said. “They hate Israel, they hate our own country.” 

Graham, a fervent supporter of gun rights, knows all about “aiming higher.” He’s not talking about elevating the discourse. He’s talking about shooting to kill (politically) by using some tried-and-true bullets (anti-Communism, anti-Semitism).

All of which is to say that the Republican Party has various ways of demonizing minorities and distinguishing them from a red-blooded American majority. Putin is right: liberalism has become obsolete, at least for much of the ruling elite in the United States. 

They’re Real People

One reason that Trump and the Republican right have gotten away with their anti-immigrant sentiment is that “average Americans” don’t have much contact with the undocumented. Direct contact, that is. So much of the conveniences of modern life depend on the labor provided by the undocumented: tomatoes, chicken wings, manicured lawns, clean office spaces. 

What separates the documented and the undocumented is a wall of language, of economic stratification, of cultural segregation. This is the real wall that Trump is reinforcing every day.

But sometimes that wall is breached.

Consider the following story from a recent This American Life episode, about an ICE raid on a slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tennessee — where Alberto Librado worked before he was detained — and the reaction of Trump supporter Krista Etter. 

Etter had to go to a local vigil for the parents that ICE rounded up in order to take pictures of it for the local paper. And she started to listen to the children talking at the microphone.

There was a young man. He was a teenager, 14, 15 years old, that said, he just wanted his mom to come home. He didn’t have anybody else. He just wanted his mom to come home. It just really, just shook my soul. It was — it was almost overwhelming, because there were so many children speaking. And — and, I actually kind of had to get out of there. Because I was like, it’s getting hot. And I have health issues. And I was like, I need to — I have to remove myself, you know, walk out to my car, get a breath.

You can almost hear how this new information begins to transform Etter’s thinking:

Because when I heard crack down on illegal immigration, I interpreted it as a crackdown on illegal immigrants that were criminals. If there was a drug situation, you know, violent criminals, pedophile, any kind of situation of that nature. That’s what I expected.

And I really believe I’m not the only one who did that. I don’t think anybody ever really stopped to think that they were going to go after the family man working at the meatpacking plant. That’s not what I had in mind.

I’m still a President Trump supporter. I guess, I have to hold out hope that maybe he didn’t understand he was going after the guy in the meatpacking plant. I mean, I guess he probably does.

It wasn’t just Etter whose mind was changing. The mayor of Morristown, where many of the Bean Station workers lived, calls himself a “lifelong Republican of the Reagan variety.” Gary Chesney is not the kind of mayor interested in setting up a sanctuary city. “We’ve been following the rules and guidelines here,” he told The New Yorker. “But the innocent victims were the kids whose parents were picked up. I was also proud that our locals took care of the innocent folks.” 

The mayor’s thinking is still evolving — note his distinction between the “innocent” children and the presumably “guilty” parents who have been working so hard at the nearby slaughterhouse. Still, the mayor admits: “We all get a little bit smarter as the issue gets more personal.”

The issue has never gotten personal for Trump, even though he has employed plenty of undocumented folks at his enterprises going all the way back to the start of his career. Undocumented Polish workers who built Trump Tower later sued Trump. They reported “nightmare memories of backbreaking 12-hour shifts and of being cheated with 200 other undocumented Polish immigrants out of meager wages and fringe benefits.” 

The issue has never gotten personal for Trump, even though his wife’s parents obtained American citizenship by using the same method of “chain migration” that the president has declared “must end now.”

The issue has never gotten person for Trump because he has not gotten even “a little bit smarter” about immigration. He used the undocumented to build his buildings, to construct his brand, to win the White House. It was despicable then on a local level, and it’s despicable now at a global level. 

He will stop only when enough Krista Etters see through the canard.

The post Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

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Electronic Intifada - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 2:09pm

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Yamamoto Taro: New Prospects for Progressive Politics in Japan

Foreign Policy in Focus - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 12:18pm

Yamamoto Taro (YouTube)

The Shinzo Abe administration in Japan, and its promotion of militarism and racist attacks on Koreans and Chinese, might seem impossible to displace. But a counter current in Japanese politics is gaining momentum. It and has put in motion new political players who speak with a frankness and engage in politics with a passion that has not been seen since the 1970s.

One of the most impressive of this new generation, who is currently touring Tokyo to give speeches in the lead-up to the July 21 elections, is the charismatic and committed Yamamoto Taro.

A long-time critic of the government’s denial of environmental damage resulting from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he has openly advocated on behalf of the citizens of the region who suffer from high rates of cancer. Yamamoto made headlines when he handed the previous emperor, Akihito, a letter in 2013 describing the terrible health conditions of children living around the disabled nuclear plant and the workers involved in the cleanup. Mainstream politicians attacked him for trying to use the emperor for political purposes at a public event, and many demanded that he resign and that be barred from future such events.

Yamamoto’s willingness to talk about the details of daily life for those confronted with the fallout of the nuclear disaster – in spite of the virtual media blackout on the issue – won him a small but devoted base in Japan.

Yamamoto started his career as an actor and established himself as a “talent,” a popular figure who appears on late-night talk shows to discuss current affairs and culture in a lighthearted manner. He took up the anti-nuclear issue after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor caused by the March 11, 2011 earthquake. To the detriment of his acting career, Yamamoto threw himself into activism, promoting renewable energy and working with those whose health was effected by the disaster.

He ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 2010 as an independent from the Eighth district of Tokyo. His platform included unconditional opposition to nuclear power and to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. He was successful, however, in 2013 when he ran for the House of Councilors with the support of multiple minor parties. There he established himself as one of the most assertive young politicians.

A New Party

Yamamoto broke his primary affiliation with Jiyuto (Freedom Party) in April 2019 and launched a new political coalition known as Reiwa Sinsengumi. The Reiwa Sinsengumi (Reiwa New Election Team) coalition has fielded multiple candidates for the current elections (including Yamamoto) and has taken forceful positions not found among other established opposition parties. For example, Reiwa Rinsengumi demands an immediate end to the regressive consumption tax (other opposition parties only ask that the rate not be raised), has openly opposed the construction of the Henoko Base in Okinawa, has demanded an immediate and unconditional end to nuclear power in Japan, and has proposed a 1500-yen-an-hour minimum wage.

Reiwa Sinsengumi has also been outspoken in its opposition to the broad security and terrorism laws passed in 2017 that include numerous “preventive” approaches that limit freedom of speech. Other opposition parties have moved on after the fight back in 2017 and for the most part have accepted the reality of limited freedoms in contemporary Japan.

Reiwa Sinsengumi has relied on funding from individual citizens and has a lean organization of volunteers who avoid the thick net of financial obligations that weigh down other political operations. Yamamoto held a series of open lectures around the country that helped him to amass 100 million yen for the party within one month of its founding. Reiwa Sinsengumi has also fielded unusual progressive candidates such as Yasumi Ayumi, a professor of economics at University of Tokyo.

Kawanaka Yo, a volunteer in Yamamoto’s campaign working at this Yotsuya office, spoke about her work calling up his supporters to gather funding. “I was impressed by the incredibly positive response I received from his previous donors when I called to ask for support for the current campaign,” she said. “The enthusiasm was palpable and support for the party was not a matter of old ties but of a new vision for what is possible.”

In addition to its opposition to nuclear power and the TPP, Reiwa Sinsengumi supports a guarantee that Japanese “will not go hungry.” This is a promise to provide all citizens with free education, free medicine, and free social services. This plank declares that citizens should “work to live, not live do work” and that the terrible psychological and physical abuses of overwork must end. The coalition also opposes the revision of the constitution, the use of the term of “collective security” to justify an enlarged military, and the development of nuclear weapons.

An Unusual Candidate

Yamamoto has tirelessly travelled around Tokyo giving speeches and focusing on the disadvantaged and the disabled. His speech on July 8th was particularly powerful. Yamamoto launched into his discussion in this manner:

I started my career in politics with the thought that “I want to live.” But there are so many people in this country who do not want even to live in this country these days. There are twenty thousand people a year who choose suicide. It would be 50,000 if you include all the attempted suicides. This country is clearly completely broken. What about you? Can you say with confidence that you are someone whom this society will allow to live? Do truly believe that you are something of great value in this society simply in that you are alive? If you are in trouble, do you have the confidence to call out for help?

Yamamoto combines a disarming and even humorous rhetoric in his speeches, which is combined with a logical and scientific analysis (addressing his audience as if it were capable of understanding complex issues). He also launches into trenchant critiques that go to the core of a dehumanized market economy.

Rather than rely on the traditional broad strokes of Japanese politicians, Yamamoto talks about the daily lives of ordinary Japanese who are completely ignored in the larger picture presented by the mainstream media. In his speech, Yamamoto describes a Japan made up of numerous ordinary citizens, young workers, single mothers, the disabled, and the elderly, all subject to the increasing pressures of a rapacious economic system. He does not try to pin the problems on Abe or any particular bogeyman but demands that the actual issues be addressed directly.

Yamamoto declares that the essential question is one of a profound correction of the system itself. He sets out his goal as creating a new political culture that can move beyond denial and address topics like poverty and pollution with honesty. As such, he represents a new potential in the political culture of Japan.

The post Yamamoto Taro: New Prospects for Progressive Politics in Japan appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Emanuel Pastreich is the director of the Asia Institute ( and a senior scholar at FPIF.

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