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(Un)expected President

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]hock! Disbelief! Total surprise! Those media (and politicians) who have in the preceding election campaign totally uncritically, but systematically supported Hillary Clinton, try by using such words to convince the public opinion (and themselves most probably) that the election of Donald Trump as the next American President is a total surprise (a mistake, almost). But – this is not how things really are. This is, simply, not true.

On one hand Trump seems to be a surprise to those who conducted an almost unprecedented media campaign for the former Secretary of State and for those too who allowed to be convinced (if not deceived) by this campaign, but on the other hand Trump’s victory is no surprise at all for those who tried, free of all prejudices, to analyze all elements of the election campaign and its foreseeable result. Of course one could argue about the fact that it is tragic for today’s America and its political scene, dominated by Republicans and Democrats who successfully prevent any “third candidate” to come even close to the presidential race, that in these elections we witnessed the confrontation between an excentric millionare, a somewhat dubious businessman and a figure from the reality shows and a woman directly responsible for destabilizing the whole Middle East and for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. But, there is not one single word about this from those who are “shocked” and “surprised”.

The campaign started with the firm conviction that the winner will be Hillary Clinton, former First lady, former senator from New York and former Secretary of State. Her victory was, so to say, programmed and she was treated as a favorite in everything and in every moment. This went so far (and we know it thanks to Wikileaks) that the leadership of the Democratic party torpedoed, during the primaries, the campaign of Bernie Sanders who portrayed himself as a socialist and announced a political revolution, thus becoming the most dangerous rival of Clinton. Although not young himself, Sanders and his ideas attracted young voters (some surveys conducted after the election show that in some key states, where Hilary Clinton failed, Sanders would have been victorious over Trump). But, the nomination had to go to Hillary, a favorite of financial circles who financed her campaign either directly, or in advance, paying her enormous fees for lectures in which she said things that she would never repeat in the campaign and before those whose votes she wanted to win. But, besides being a favorite of financial circles, she was a favorite of those political circles too who wanted the continuation of the policy of a “transformed” Barack Obama, a President welcomed with great hopes, who during his first term of Office took a starting position, marked by his speeches in Cairo and Prague, only to become the true successor of George W. Bush, bombing even more countries than he did and inaugurating again, after a short intermezzo, interventionism plus confrontation with Russia as undisputed cornerstones of Washington’s foreign policy.

And so Sanders was eliminated and the nomination went to Hillary Clinton, a women whose intelligence and political experience could not be denied, but who was described by the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, as a person who was eaten alive by her own ambition. On the other side there was Donald Trump, climbing towards the nomination for a presidential candidate, financing in the first stage almost entirely the campaign out of his own pocket. His success was not the result of the policy of the party’s leadership, but mostly of the votes of those who were attracted by his very often extremely rude populism, on the verge of open racism (these characteristics will gradually almost disappear during Trump’s campaign that was to follow). And he got the nomination on a very stormy Republican party’s convention, during which some delegates in protest even left.

And the arena was ready for the confrontation between a political amateur, “racist, sexist and vulgar person” with an experienced politician (although he would say that her experience was a bad one). In this moment the political-media machinery started to work “full speed”. About Trump nothing good could have been said or written, despite the fact that in his first foreign policy speeches, as a presidential candidate, some new and encouraging tones were registered, while at the same time it was not possible (or allowed), at least in the mainstream media, to either say or write anything negative about Hillary Clinton, despite the never brought to end scandal with her using an unprotected server for sending messages as Secretary of State and despite the fact that she obviously lied saying she did not erase any of the messages and that not a single one dealt with matters of national security. The curtain was up for a battle between the “evil” Trump and the “good” Hillary. In reality the curtain was up for a mud-wrestling between two candidates who were not selective at all choosing the instruments to destroy each other. And the propaganda machine continued to work full speed. After each TV confrontation public opinion surveys were published showing Hillary was “convincingly better” in comparison with her opponent (there was, as far as we know, only one exception). After that voters opinion surveys were published, all of them giving Hillary great chances to win and Trump almost none.

Thus the stage was set for the final act – the ritual execution of the candidate who refused to accept that everything was over, until he himself comes to the conclusion that it is over – despite his sometimes openly racist statements and their public echo (mainly abroad) and despite his sexual scandals (real or fabricated, most probably both). But, and this is obvious now, Trump was not acting without knowing what he was doing. Repeatedly invoking the silent majority, he played on the card of the Americans (and there are not only a few of them) abandoned by the society and those who feared they could experience the same destiny. It might be a paradox, but it is true: in the eyes of these people the blonde billionar appeared as some sort of a Robin Hood. In him they saw their last straw. He promised to bring back the factories that fled to “cheap countries”, he announced big projects for modernizing the infrastructure, he spoke about opening new working possibilities and “making America great again”. Former Secretary of State could not respond to this with her cheap slogan about America being great “because it is good” (most probably her staunchest supporters were afraid that someone could ask people from Libya or Syria what they think about both America and her being good). Above all she made both a strategic and tactical mistake: she did not want to deal with Trump as an unworthy opponent; instead of him she choose as her opponent the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, degrading Trump to his mere puppet. Consequently her speeches were more and more anti-Russian intoned and cold war colored, so that Trump with his announcement of talks and deals with Russia (especially in the fight against global terrorism) started to sound moderate and common sense driven (to those who wanted to hear and understand, naturally).

The day of the decision came. And it was, as it was. And we have today President-elect Donald Trump, elected with a convincing majority (of electoral votes, popular votes are not decisive, due to the specific American system of electing the President).His first speech after Hillary Clinton conceded in a phone call to him was well calibrated, low key, but not without substance, it was the address of a statesman. The pledge that he will ban all Muslims from entering the USA disappeared from his web page. And while he is preparing to take over in direct talks with the current President who was obviously forced to join the anti-Trump hysteria, proclaiming him totally unfit for the highest position in the state, some media who all of a sudden see clear, or the Russian media, who never openly sided with Trump, but never demonized him either, have fun exposing politicians form the West with their statement before the US elections and after. Just one example, the British foreign minister, Boris Johnson. Before the elections he boasted how he avoids certain streets in New York, out of fear he might bump into Donald Trump. And after the elections he is “looking forward to work with President Trump’s administration”.

It seems realistic to expect that Trump will disappoint both the European extreme rightists (who are overwhelmed by his victory), as well as liberals (not necessarily of left orientation) who are despairing and exchanging messages of condolences. Trump is without any doubt a conservative, but he comes not out of the same nest as the European neo-fascists who are more and more aggressive with every day passing; he played without any scruples the lowest instincts of the voters to get as many votes as possible, but his domestic policy will most probably be similar to those of Nixon and Reagan. These were, one must admit, not the best times for liberals, but neither were they put before committees for investigating anti-American activities, nor were they forbidden to work. In the field of foreign policy Trump will enter the path of calming down the relations with Russia (that are almost on the boiling point), which is still his “magnum crimen” in the eyes of some European politicians, prisoners of the past; he will enter the path of strengthening (but with Russia and not against it) the fight against global terrorism. Otherwise he will orient America towards itself, putting it in a semi-isolation and giving the US an active role on the international scene only when American interests are in question (and not necessarily interests of the Wall Street). To many he might appear as dangerous, simply because he is an unknown. Potentially he is really dangerous if he insists on denying the global warming and transforms this into American policy. But it seems to us prematurely and simply not serious to judge him today completely negative only because he avoided (in accordance with the law) to pay for years the federal tax and because of his sexual escapades (does anybody still remembers Bill Clinton, the Oval Office and Monica Levinsky?). Equally not serious is to state that his election victory is “a surprise” and “totally unexpected”. This author published in July this year an article under the title “President Trump?”, stating as follows: “The rich businessman whose biggest advantage is that he owes nothing to anybody, because he is until now more or less financing his campaign out of his pocket, presented a mixture of populism, demagogic approach, sounding phrases and pure politics.” Further: “Repeating constantly that he will bring back the sense of security to every American, he openly pledged his support to homosexual community, promising to protect it from any kind of violence (and thanked – as a Republican – the audience for applauding him after this). And he made sure that among his supporters there were representatives of other races (such as ‘Koreans for Trump’).” And finally: “Trump’s first big political speech shows that the battle for the white House will be waged between two at least equal rivals; Trump will without any doubt repeat the slogan used in his speech on the Convention: She says: ‘Everything will stay as it is.’ And I say: ‘Nothing will remain as it is.’ And with some sarcasm, but not without effect: ‘She is asking her supporters to say that they are with her. And I am telling you and the whole of America: I am with you, I will be your voice, I will be your champion.’” Published in July 2016.

In the meantime the “champion” became President-elect. He will take over in mid-January next year. Until then the horror of those who played (for their own interest, but wrongly) on the card of Hillary Clinton, as well as the horror of those who without any real basis believed the she is the Godgiven President f the US, will calm down. Donald Trump, the man who described himself with the words: “I know the system best. So I am the one who can fix it” – 45th President of the USA. So, why not?

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‘Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People’: Time to retire

Mohammad Ghaderi

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Again, another mass shooting, again a school, again a troubled teen, a racist, a white supremacist, a Bloods or Crips gangster, a refugee, a war veteran, a mad policeman, a terrorist from al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front or from the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Daesh) terrorist outfits … what difference does it make and again dead bodies lying on the ground in their blood. Who believes they were alive seconds ago. The story goes on and to my surprise it is having less effect than it used to have years ago. Why?

We are getting bad. We are not hurt anymore. Too much violence has made us numb.

What does the motto on the entrance of the United Nations building says? A poem by the Iranian influential poet Sa’adi, from the 13th century, the medieval period. The poem has many translations however one is this:

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.

Give it a thought, try to put it in practice, politician and statesmen in the United Nations, New York, United States. It is ludicrous that almost all of them call for end of wars, urge foe peace and tranquil but at the same time produce and sell arms.

War, violence and killing is simply unacceptable, nasty and painful in any kind and form, whether it occurs in a house, street, city, countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine or the United States of America.

U.S. teen confesses to mass shooting at Florida Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

A troubled teen with alleged ties to a white supremacist group confessed on Thursday to murdering 17 people at his former high school in Florida, as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) admitted it had received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman yet failed to stop him.

As Americans reeled from the country’s worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, the U.S. President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health — and defied calls to address gun control.

Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appearing on Thursday afternoon before a judge who ordered him held without bond.

After being read his legal rights, “Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” court documents showed.

Cruz also admitted he discarded his rifle — which he bought legally in Florida — and tactical gear in order to blend in with the crowd to flee the campus, the documents showed.

The recent mass shooting at a school in Florida is the latest reminder that the United States is a “very violent country,” a journalist in Detroit says.

After the shooting, he stopped at a Wal-Mart store and then McDonald’s, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters. He was detained 40 minutes later, after police identified him using school security camera footage.

Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

In a somber televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump vowed to make mental health a priority — after tweeting about the “many signs” the gunman was “mentally disturbed” — while avoiding any talk of gun curbs.

Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that “neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

But U.S. authorities themselves were under scrutiny, after the FBI confirmed it was alerted last September to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

In a statement, the FBI said it had carried out “database reviews and other checks” but was unable to identify the person who made the post.

Trump cites mental health, not guns, in speech on shooting

Declaring the nation united and grieving with “one heavy heart,” Trump promised on Thursday to tackle school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health” in response to the deadly shooting in Florida. He made no mention of the scourge of gun violence.

Not always a natural in the role of national comforter, Trump spoke deliberately, at one point directly addressing children who may feel “lost, alone, confused or even scared.”

“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be,” Trump said. “You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you.”

However, the ones killed were alone when they were shot in cold blood in fear and hope. The ones who lost their precious lives had many hopes and ambitions.

Now they are dead, and it could be every and each one of us, at a school, stadium, concert hall, cinema, home, Middle East, Americas… anywhere, it could be.

Such incidents are cause of sorrow and pain, I cannot explain how I felt when I saw the horrible pictures of the Florida High School shooting, just like how I felt when I saw the massacre committed by the ISIL terrorists killing cadets in Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. At the time of the attack there were between 4,000 and 11,000 unarmed cadets in the camp. ISIL terrorists singled out Shia and non-Muslim cadets from Sunni ones and murdered them.

Who arms and supports terrorist groups like ISIL? No one can be so naeive to believe that they have just popped out. I recall the U.S. President Trump as saying on his election campaign to Hillary Clinton that the U.S. created ISIL. Well done!

While Trump stressed the importance of mental health and school safety improvements, his latest budget request would slash Medicaid, the major source of federal funding for treating mental health problems, and cut school safety programs by more than a third. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

Trump’s silence on guns was noted with displeasure by many who are seeking tougher firearm restrictions. But the White House said the president wanted to keep his remarks focused on the victims.

Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favored some tighter gun regulations. But he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the National Rifle Association spent $30 million in support of his campaign.

During his brief, televised statement, Trump said he wanted to work to “create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life,” a phrase likely to resonate with his conservative base.

In contrast, former President Barack Obama tweeted out a call for “long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws.” Obama wrote: “We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job.”

In reacting to previous mass shootings, Trump has largely focused on mental health as a cause, dismissing questions about gun control. After a shooting at a Texas church in November left more than two dozen dead, the president said, “This isn’t a guns situation.”
The US has averaged one school shooting every 60 hours since the beginning of 2018, data shows.

Trump was criticized in early August for saying that both white nationalists and counter-protesters were responsible for the violent clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While Trump has offered somber responses to some tragedies, he has also drawn criticism for other reactions.

After the Orlando shootings at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead in June 2016, then-candidate Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” In the wake of a deadly terror attack in London last June, he went after Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter.

Sadiq Khan compares the US president’s rhetoric against Islam to tactics used by ISIL to inspire terror attacks in Western cities.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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On Jettisoning Failed Leaders and Mass Shootings in the U.S.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The scene is the House of Commons; the date May 7, 1940.  A simple motion to adjourn for the ten-day Whitsun recess is of little concern to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who has a comfortable 213 seat majority.  Then things take a turn.  A plan approved by the first Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to land troops in Norway and engage the Germans directly has been a disaster with huge losses, and the eventual naval evacuation of the expeditionary force — an Arctic Dardanelles planned by the same man.

Chamberlain rises to defend Churchill and the conduct of the war in what has now come to be known as the “Norway Debate”.  In the most unlikely of scenarios and with no evidence of Winston trying to put his name forward — in fact the opposite — when the tide turns against Chamberlain, within three days as more favored candidates are shed, he has become prime minister.  Such is the parliamentary system.  Margaret Thatcher is another example, toppled shortly after success at the polls.

The American system, however, puts the president beyond such reach other than through a laborious impeachment.  Analogous to the third Roman Emperor Caligula, Donald Trump, too, has no military or political experience.  Caligula made his horse a senator or some say consul; Trump has the equivalent running government departments and agencies.  Caligula declared himself a god; Trump tweeted he is a ‘stable genius.’  If Caligula’s reign ended with assassination, Trump’s will be more prosaic — just disaffected voters.

Another mass shooting this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Seventeen are dead and  many more injured.  The gunman, identified as Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 assault type rifle, a weapon far deadlier than a pistol — perhaps he watched the coverage of the Las Vegas shooting.  He was a former pupil who had been suspended from the school, and who students recalled as disturbed and scary.

President Trump in his remarks following the incident did not bring up the obvious question of why an AR-15 was so easily available for purchase.  Gun owners and the gun lobby are part of his constituency.

Following a mass shooting in April 1996 when a man armed with two semi-automatic rifles killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian government put together strict gun laws.  They were supplemented with a mandatory gun-buyback program through which 650,000 firearms were destroyed.  Did the program work?  The data tells the story more vividly:  From 1979 to 1996, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings; since 1997 it has had none.

Under his usual theme of ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’, President Trump continues to talk about finding ways to deal better with disturbed people.  The sure Australian way is to stop them acquiring guns.

Lost in the Florida school story was another shooting the same day when trigger-happy guards let loose at a National Security Agency entrance.  The forested area is a confused mass of entries and exits.  It has happened before that somebody inadvertently makes a wrong turn and panics when faced with shouting armed guards.  In this incident, bullet holes can be seen in the windshield and the three men in the car were injured.

Introducing the Gates Foundation’s annual philanthropic letter a few days ago, Bill and Melinda Gates appealed to Donald Trump to not cut foreign aid — “even a 10 percent cut could lead to 5 million deaths in the next decade”, Bill Gates warned.  Will President Trump listen?

Despite the many wonderful aspects the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, when it comes to jettisoning incompetent leaders, it is difficult to best the parliamentary system for immediacy.

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Trump’s new nuclear doctrine just rhetoric

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Recently the US President Donald Trump unveiled his new nuclear doctrine which had remained unchanged since 2010. Many experts consider Trump’s new doctrine which enjoys many ambiguities as just campaign rhetoric. To shed more light on the issue we reached out to Prof. Filip Kovacevic, University of San Francisco geopolitics.

The US new nuclear doctrine was published several days ago. This document had remained unchanged since 2010. What are the reasons for new changes?

According to the US military establishment, the most important reason for changes is that the world has been a more dangerous and geopolitically unstable place. What the generals are not saying, though, is that it was their own actions which are responsible for this state of affairs. The hegemonic US foreign policy, the attempt to force a neo-liberal Pax Americana on the diversity and richness of the world’s cultures and traditions, is the cause of the present world problems.

Of course, you won’t find this stated openly in the doctrine. What you will find there, in a typical manipulative fashion, are the accusations of others for the problems that the US foreign policy has caused itself. In fact, this hypocritical pattern of behavior, where you take the legitimate reactions of others to your own provocations and aggressive moves as the main cause of tensions and conflicts, goes back many decades into the past.

What is the most significant difference between the new doctrine and the previous one?

In my opinion, the most significant difference is that a lot more money will be poured into the development of nuclear weapons. This will inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race with other states and to the proliferation of nuclear weapons as more and more countries will want to acquire them. But it will bring tremendous profits to the US military-industrial complex. In fact, the Trump administration is completely under the control of this section of the US corporate oligarchy. Trump is essentially breaking down all the institutional checks and balances in the US political system and paving a way for a military dictatorship. I have no doubt that the next US president will be a military officer. This means that we are about to see more wars and more deaths around the world, including in the Middle East. Many old, frozen conflicts will be re-opened across Asia and, apparently, the US is also setting a stage for the first-time use of a low yield nuclear weapon. Let’s not forget, though, that the bombs with depleted uranium have already been extensively used in the US /NATO conflicts, starting with the attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, causing horrific public health and environmental problems for generations to come.

In new doctrine, the use of nuclear weapons is allowed in extraordinary situation. There are some ambiguities around this. What are those extraordinary situations exactly?

The fact that the US reserves the right to respond with a nuclear weapon to a non-nuclear attack is nothing new. In fact, the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though there was no nuclear threat from the Imperial Japan. However, what is new in this doctrine is that now the US considers the potential use of a nuclear weapon against a large-scale cyber-attack. This is extremely worrying, because, as is well known, it is very difficult to correctly attribute the source of a cyber-attack. This could make a false-flag attack by some rogue terrorist faction or by the inside provocateurs misinterpreted as an attack by another nuclear power and lead to the nuclear annihilation of all life on Earth.

As the US considers the first strike on Russia acceptable, it means the spirit of the cold war is governing this new doctrine. Why has the US taken this approach?

Provoked by the rapid and aggressive expansion of the US political, economic, and cultural influence in Central and Eastern Europe under the umbrella of NATO, Russia has embarked on the campaign of re-arming and strengthening its defense and security apparatus in recent years. It appears that the US thought that Russia would cave in under its demands and accept to be a third-rate power in Eurasia. However, this was a serious misunderstanding of the Russian history and tradition. Now that Russia pushes back, the US establishment does not know what else to do but to make threats. However, these are empty threats because any kind of use of nuclear weapons against Russia or against its allies within the Collective Security Treaty Organization would quickly lead to mutual destruction. The spirit of the old Cold War has returned, and it will be with us for a long time to come. Accordingly, we will see the flare-up of proxy conflicts and covert actions across the world.

How do you assess the US new doctrine toward Iran? What are the new points?

Iran is one of only four states separately mentioned in the doctrine. The others are Russia, China, and North Korea. Iran is given the least coverage because it is not seen as an immediate nuclear danger to the US .The main emphasis is on what will happen after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ends in 2031. It is stated that after this period, Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon within a year. Interestingly, there is no mention of the US getting out of the JCPOA before that time, which is in contradiction to what the US president Donald Trump has been saying recently. It appears that Trump’s statements are just campaign rhetoric intended to please some important and wealthy interest groups, but that, in reality, it will be difficult for the US to get out of the JCPOA, considering that all other signatories are still backing it. However, this is not to say that the US will not use all other means at its disposal, including its vast media and intelligence resources, to sow discord within the Iranian political elite and create an economic and political crisis in the country.

First published in our partner Mehr News Agency

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