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Embracing Government By Anti-Reason: Are Americans Heading For The “Fǚherbunker”?

Prof. Louis René Beres

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“There is something inside all of us that yearns not for reason, but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought, but for the whisperings of the irrational.”-Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952)

In the closing days of the Third Reich, when still-surviving Germans finally realized that they had been following a murderous charlatan,[1] it was way too late for any redemptive turnaround. But why had they been so wittingly deceived in the first place? After all, prima facie, the Fuehrer’s starkly limited education and wholesale incapacity to reason had been evident from the start. Had the German people somehow been influenced by a subconscious preference for “whisperings of the irrational,” that is, for the always-pleasing simplifications of “mystery” over any “penetrating clear thought?” And if so, were these nefarious influences more than narrowly or peculiarly German defects? Were they determinably generic for all peoples and thus effectively timeless?

Today there arise various other good reasons for analytic perplexity. These questions become even more bewildering when one considers that many true believers of the Fuehrer were conspicuously well-educated and also well acquainted with established “textbook” requirements of  logic and modern science. In the end, of course, there are many additional, varied and predictable answers to factor in – including  cowardice, fear and  presumed self-interest – but most broadly coherent explanations must still correctly center on a populist loathing of complex explanations and a national surrender to “mass.”

Sometimes this source of surrender (“mass” is the term of preference embraced by Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung[2]) has been called “herd” (Friedrich Nietzsche); “horde” (Sigmund Freud) or “crowd” (Soren Kierkegaard),  but all of these terms have essentially the same referents and reveal virtually identical significations. Above all, the discernible common meaning is that an easy to accept “groupthink” makes annoyingly difficult individual thinking unnecessary, and thereby renders feelings of individual responsibility moot or beside the point.

Now we may detect all this once again in Donald Trump’s increasingly deformed and weakened United States. In this determinedly unreasoning president’s vision of resurrected American “greatness,” more conscious citizen thought is presumed to be not just extraneous, but also harmful. “I love the poorly educated” were the exact words Trump used during the 2016 campaign. Not to be ignored, these words were a near-exact replication of Joseph Goebbels’ favored National Socialist sentiment, one most famously expressed at the 1934 Nuremberg rally (“Intellect rots the brain.”). Though admittedly painful to accept, Mr. Trump’s current “know nothing” vision  endangers present-day Americans just as plainly and existentially as earlier Nazi deformations had corrupted Europe.[3]

While Germany ended with an incomparably grotesque Gotterdammerung in the spring of 1945 – an apocalyptic consummation driving both Hitler and Goebbels (with Goebbels’ entire family) to commit ritual suicide in the Fuhrenbunker –  Americans now face a  “twilight of the Gods” of their own making:  at least hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 fatalities.

In fairness, US President Trump did not cause this plague of virulent disease pandemic. Nonetheless, his endlessly injurious manipulations of “mass” have repeatedly undermined myriad and indispensable contributions of science. To wit, in the year 2020, tangible portions of the “civilized” United States began to accept medical advice from Donald Trump that fully contradicted well-established medical orthodoxy, including promoting alleged medications that have subsequently proved useless at best or pernicious at worst.  At the same time, authoritative, well-respected and capable professional scientists have been fired to make way for the next viscerally compliant batch of Trump sycophants and presidential lap dogs.

If these unprecedented affirmations of anti-Reason were not sufficiently endangering, they have been reinforced by a shameless battery of propagandistic deflections. As just one egregious example, in the middle of May 2020, Trump held a news conference to announce his successful “launch” of America’s “Space Force” and to laud its “super-duper missile.” One needn’t be a deep thinker to recognize the utter irrelevance of any such crude military initiative to US security, or the obvious public relations intent of announcing such a program at this perilous time; that is, as a convenient distractionfrom a rapidly expanding disease plague, one taking cynical advantage of ordinary Americans’ usual and well intentioned patriotism.

Let us be even more precise. The United States is not becoming Nazi Germany. That’s not the problem. But this assessment ought not to become a simple “all or nothing” comparison. Then, as now, an irreversible social and economic decline arrived more-or-less indecipherably, effectively in generally hard-to-fathom increments. While there are abundantly vital differences between then and now, between the Third Reich and Trump’s America, there are also several very disturbing forms of close resemblance. If we should wittingly choose to ignore these forms, we would also risk ending up in irremediably perilous national circumstances.

Or to continue with a useful metaphor, we would risk heading for our own separate and collective versions of the Fűherbunker.

For America in a time of plague, a single core question must consistently remain uppermost, lest we forget how we even got here, to a point where an American president could say without embarrassment and without much public reaction: “During the Revolutionary War in the United States, American military forces took control of all national airports,” or to deal with the Corona virus, we should consider an “internal body cleansing,” perhaps even widespread ingestion of certain household “disinfecting chemicals.” How shall this massively ominous American presidency  best be explained? Inter alia, we will need some purposeful answers here  before we can be rescued. In part, at least, we can learn from the pre-Nazi German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. This means that some correct answers should be sought in the paradoxical juxtaposition of American privilege with American philistinism.

 For such a seemingly self-contradictory fusion,  Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term, one that he hoped would eventually become universal.

This  creatively elucidating German word was Bildungsphilister. When expressed in its most lucid and coherent English translation, it means “educated Philistine.”[4] To a significant and verifiable extent, this term underscores both the rise of German Nazism in the 1930s and the rise of populist support for then candidate Donald J. Trump in 2016.[5]

 Naturally, there is much more. In all linguistically delicate maters, carefully-crafted language and  “penetrating clear thought” are required. Accordingly, Bildungsphilister is a word that could shine some additional needed light upon Donald Trump’s uninterrupted support among so many of America’s presumptively well-educated and visibly well-to-do.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had several-times commented: “I love the poorly-educated,” but – in the end – a substantial fraction of his actual voter support arrived from the not-so-poorly-educated. It had been very much the same story back in Germany in 1933. We can ignore this portentous commonality only at our own existential risk.

Always, anti-Reason is an existential threat, but never more menacing than during an active disease pandemic. And always, however we may find it discomfiting, truth is exculpatory. Incontestably, even by definition, uncomfortable truths are upsetting and bewildering, but they remain truths nonetheless. Apropos of this plainly unassailable conclusion, any ascertainable distance between “I love the poorly educated” and “Intellect rots the brain” is not nearly as substantial as might first appear.

In essence, and plausibly also in consequence, they mean exactly the same thing.

There remain markedly meaningful distinctions between German National Socialism and the current US presidential administration, most significantly in leadership intent, but these distinctions generally express more of a difference in magnitude than in pertinent demographic aspects. At one obvious level, a great many American citizens (tens of millions) remain wholly willing to abide a president who not only avoids reading anything, but who announces his indifference to learning with fully limitless pride. For a president who consistently claims that corona virus testing and contact tracing are “overrated,” and who simultaneously announces mindless and incoherent threats of starting a new Cold War with China, “I love the poorly educated” should become an easily recognizable mantra.

We may recall too that for negotiating successfully with North Korea,[6] President Trump had openly advised “attitude, not preparation.”[7]At any normal or Reason-based level of policy assessment, this advice was openly caricatural. But Trump’s once-unimaginable comment was not actually intended as satire. Not at all.

The dissembling policy problem with President Donald Trump is not just a matter of bad manners, occasional foolishness or gratuitous incivility. More than anything else, it is the quality of a far-reaching derangement and incapacity, a particularly lethal fusion that recently led Donald Trump to “punish” the World Health Organization for imaginary wrongdoings, and at the very same moment that such perverse withholding of funds could only further impair critical worldwide Covid19 responses.[8] Now, substantially more “penetrating clear thought” is desperately needed to understand this country’s manifold Trump-era declensions,[9] including its seemingly endless violations of authoritative international law.[10]

 Do many (or any) Americans actively object to a president who has never even glanced at the US Constitution, the very same allegedly revered document he so solemnly swore “to uphold, protect and defend?” Is it reasonable or persuasive to “uphold protect and defend” a document that has never even been read? Is it reasonable or persuasive for “We the people….” not to be troubled by such a vast intellectual and ethical disjuncture? How long shall we endure profoundly lawless presidential behaviors concerning almost every manner of public responsibility and public service?

While Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort are rewarded by this president for placing loyalty to “Fűehrer“above justice, tens of millions of poor Americans now being forced to work without proper  disease protections can only make desperate personal plans to “sleep in the dust.”[11]

There is more. Key questions about pertinent historical analogies should not be skirted, obfuscated or ridiculed any longer. How, then, has the United States managed to arrive at such a portentous and dismal place in history? What have been the relevant failures (both particular and aggregated) of American education, most notably failures in our once-vaunted universities? It’s an unsettling but sensible two-part question, especially as the Trump presidency assiduously transforms a “merely” self-deceiving country into one that represents a finely-lacquered collective corpse.  

 Once upon a time in western philosophy (a genre obviously unfamiliar to absolutely anyone in the White House[12]), Plato revealed high leadership expectations for his “philosopher-king.”  Yet, even though we should no longer reasonably expect anything like a philosopher-king in the White House, we are still entitled to a man or woman president who reads and thinks seriously.

 Even in Trump’s grievously demeaned United States, true learning deserves its historic pride of place. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra warns prophetically: “One should never seek the `higher man’ at the marketplace.” But the suffocating worlds of business and commerce were precisely where a proudly “know nothing” segment of American society first championed belligerent impresario Donald J. Trump.

What else could we have possibly expected?

 In the United States, a society where almost no one takes erudition seriously, we are all ultimately measured by one singularly atrocious standard. We are what we buy.[13] Accordingly, the tens of millions of Americans being shunted aside by the White House as presumptively extraneous to their political “success” are less highly valued (much less) than those who have managed to attain egoistically the conspicuous rewards of “everyone for himself.”[14]

There is still more, much more. This American president is not “merely” a marginal or misguided figure. Quite literally, he is the diametric opposite of both Plato’s philosopher-king and Nietzsche’s “higher-man.” Unambiguously, and at its moral and analytic core, the Trump administration now exhibits a tortuously wretched inversion of what might once have been ennobling in the United States. Even more worrisome, we Americans are rapidly stumbling backwards, always backwards,  during an unprecedented viral pandemic, further and further, visibly, unsteadily, not in any measurably decipherable increments, but in giant or distressing quantum leaps of various self-reinforcing mortal harms.

In essence, these are historically familiar leaps of unforgivable cowardice, especially as evident in certain narrowly-partisan sectors of the Congress and federal government. How else shall we differentiate a now completely submissive attorney general or vice president or secretary of the treasury or secretary of human services or Senate Majority Leader from their manifestly hideous forbears in Munich or Berlin? Are they really all that different? Are they really any more upset by the prospective but possibly preventable deaths of several hundred thousand Americans from Pandemic disease than were Nazi officials Goebbels or Speer about then-suffering German families and workers?

A positive answer here would demand considerable leaps of permissible formal logic.

Among so many palpable deficits, America’s current president still does not begin to understand that US history warrants some serious re-examination. How many Americans have ever paused to remember that the Founding Fathers who framed the second amendment were not expecting or imagining automatic weapons? How many citizens ever bothered to learn that the early American Republic was the religious heir of John Calvin and the philosophical descendant of both John Locke and Thomas Hobbes? How many “successful” US lawyers have even ever heard of William Blackstone, the extraordinary English jurist whose learned Commentaries formed the indispensable common law underpinnings of America’s current legal system?

Literally and comprehensively, Blackstone is the unchallenged   foundation of American law and jurisprudence.[15]

Does anyone reasonably believe that Donald Trump has even ever heard of Blackstone? Is there a single Trump lawyer (personal or institutional) who could conceivably know (let alone read) about the seminal Blackstone’s unparalleled juristic contributions? If there were such a person, he would understand, ipso facto, what is so utterly defiled (and defiling) in this president’s Department of Justice.

It is therefore, a silly question.

There is more. Human beings are the creators of their machines, not the other way round. Still, there exists today an implicit and grotesque reciprocity between creator and creation, an elaborate and potentially lethal pantomime between the users and the used. Nowhere is this prospective lethality more apparent than among the self-deluded but endlessly loyal supporters of US President Donald Trump. They  follow him faithfully only because the wider American society had first been allowed to become an intellectual desert, and because they are most comfortable amid such reassuringly barren wastes.

Soon, we  must inquire, will they also, like Third Reich Propaganda  Minister Joseph Goebbels and his entire family, follow him dutifully and unquestionably into the “Fűherbunker?”

Epilogue

In an 1897 essay titled “On Being Human,” Woodrow Wilson inquired tellingly about the “authenticity “of Americans. “Is it even open to us to choose to be genuine?” he asked. This US and (earlier) Princeton University president had answered “yes,” but contingently, only if citizens would first refuse to cheer the “herds” or “hordes” or “crowds” of mass society. Otherwise, as Wilson had already understood, our entire society would be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty death of broken machinery, more hideous even than the biological decomposition of individual disease-ravaged persons.

In every society, as Emerson and other American Transcendentalists had already recognized, the scrupulous care of each individualhuman “soul” is most important. Looking ahead, there can likely still be a “better”American soul[16] (and thereby an improved American politics),  but not before we can first acknowledge a prior obligation. This antecedent and unalterable requirement is a far-reaching national responsibility to overcome the barriers of  a “know nothing” culture or –  remembering German philosopher Karl Jaspers’ apt warning – “whisperings of the irrational.”

Though overwhelmingly lethal all by itself, the current Trump government of anti-Reason is as much a dreadful symptom of much deeper menacing  harms. Similar to any other complex matrix of virulent pathologies, the proper ordering of “therapeutics” will ultimately require this government to accomplish more than just a cosmetic excision of visible disease symptoms. In the end, to protect us all from a future that would be finalized in the Fűherbunker, Americans must finally learn to favor Reason and Science over stock phrases, shallow clichés, banal presidential phrases and barbarously empty witticisms.


[1] In this connection, notes Sigmund Freud: “Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great roles art all times in the history of mankind, and not merely when the accident of birth had bequeathed them sovereignty. Usually, they have wreaked havoc.”

[2] Says Jung in The Undiscovered Self (1957): “The mass crushes out the insight and reflection  that are still possible with the individual, and this necessarily leads to doctrinaire and authoritarian tyranny if ever the constitutional State should succumb to a fit of weakness.”

[3] Consider, for example, the stunning Goebbels-Trump commonality concerning approval of street violence. Said the Nazi Propaganda Minister: “Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street.” Much more recently, and in an almost identical vein, Donald Trump declared: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very  bad.”  See, by this writer: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/louis-beres-trump-violence/#

[4] The first language of the Swiss-born author, Professor Louis René Beres, was German. This is his own straightforward translation.

[5] Also appropriate here is the nineteenth century description offered by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in The Sickness Unto Death: “Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs….Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility….it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.”

[6] “I don’t think I have to prepare very much,” said Donald Trump before  his Singapore Summit with Kim Jung Un on June 11, 2018, “It’s all about attitude.”

[7] “The mass-man,” says philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gassett in The Revolt of the Masses (1930), “has no attention to spare for reasoning; he learns only in his own flesh.” This is exactly how President Trump “learns.” When asked on April 10, 2020 how he would create metrics for determining when the country could be safely “opened up again,” he pointed to his head, and exclaimed: “This is my only metric.” Always, this crudely primal method of understanding represents “in his own flesh” reasoning, his disjointed calculations spawned by raw instinct and revealed with demeaning frivolity.

[8] In stark contrast, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of WHO, spoke modestly, intelligently and purposefully: “COVID-19 does not discriminate between rich nations and poor, large nations and small. It does not discriminate between nationalities, ethnicities, or ideologies. Neither do we,” he said. “This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat, a dangerous enemy. When we’re divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.”

[9] Regarding US President Donald Trump’s persistent and often egregious crimes involving the law of war and the law of human rights (e.g., Syria; Afghanistan; Iraq; Mexican refugees, etc.), criminal responsibility of leaders under international law is not necessarily limited to direct personal action nor is it exculpable by official position. On this peremptory principle of “command responsibility,” or respondeat superior, see: In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1945); The High Command Case (The Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb), 12 Law Reports of Trials Of War Criminals 1 (United Nations War Crimes Commission Comp., 1949); see Parks, Command Responsibility For War Crimes, 62 MIL.L. REV. 1 (1973); O’Brien, The Law Of War, Command Responsibility And Vietnam, 60 GEO. L.J. 605 (1972); U.S. Dept. Of The Army, Army Subject Schedule No. 27 – 1 (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Hague Convention No. IV of 1907), 10 (1970). The direct individual responsibility of leaders is also unambiguous in view of the London Agreement, which denies defendants the protection of the act of state defense. See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS, Aug. 8, 1945, 59 Stat. 1544, E.A.S. No. 472, 82 U.N.T.S. 279, art. 7.

[10] Though wholly disregarded by President Trump, international law is an inherent part of United States law and jurisprudence. In the words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900))  See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).Moreover, the specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[11] One should also think here of the country’s indigenous peoples, especially “tribes” such as the Navajo Nation. These vulnerable peoples are suffering disproportionate harms from this pandemic, harms that are effectively considered tolerable or even reasonable by US President Donald Trump.

[12] In this connection, Americans should also be reminded of the total absence of any cultural life or life of the arts going on in the Trump White House. Together with Trump’s endless attacks on a ‘life of the mind,” this demeaning absence points toward the very worst imaginable case of Nietzsche’s Bildungsphilister or “educated Philistine.” See, by this author, at Yale Global: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/trumps-america-anti-intellectual-and-proud-it

[13] “The rich man glories in his riches,” says Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), “because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world….At the thought of this, his heart seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account, than for all the other advantages it procures him.”

[14] “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who  have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself,'” says Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man (1955), “is false and against nature.”

[15] Significantly, in this connection, Blackstone emphasized the importance of global cooperation between nations: “Each state is expected to aid and enforce the law of nations as part of the common law,” says Blackstone in  his Commentaries on the Law of England (1765) “by inflicting an adequate punishment upon the offenses against that universal law.” Similarly, says Emmerich de Vattel, in his prior and classic The Law of Nations (1758),  “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”

[16] Sigmund Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. In essence, he most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this country’s “shallow optimism” and to its corollary commitment to a dreadfully crude form of materialism. America, thought Freud, was very “lacking in soul.” See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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What do Donald Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani imams have in common?

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Authors: James M. Dorsey and Tehmina Qureshi*

US President Donald J. Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani religious scholars may have more in common than either would want to admit: a belief that congregation is an essential pillar of prayer irrespective of public health concerns.

Mr. Trump, however, may wish that he had the kind of less polarized and/or more compliant audience that Pakistani clerics address.

Scores of religious leaders and groups in the United States have sought to protect their communities by advocating virtual rather than physical congregation at the time of a pandemic in which the coronavirus has yet to be brought under control.

Religious authorities in much of the Muslim world, Pakistan being the exception that proves the rule, have heeded government instructions and medical and public health advice.

That advice ranged from the closure of mosques to bans on social gatherings that precluded traditional iftar meals breaking the Ramadan fast and celebrations of this week’s end of the holy month to Saudi Arabia’s suspension of the umrah, the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca and possibly the haj too.

Leaving aside the question whether he has the legal power to do so, Mr. Trump vowed to overrule governors who refused to open houses of worship, noting that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had issued guidelines that included physical distancing.

The move designed to play to Mr. Trump’s Evangelist voter base received a mixed reception among American faith communities.

It appealed to those segments of the community with an unqualified belief in God’s ability and will to protect and that often are steeped in notions of Christian manhood that have deep roots in American Evangelism and were boosted by the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Towers and the Pentagon in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s recognition of prayer as an “essential” societal activity further drew a line intended to give houses of worship autonomy in an environment in which state intrusion into people’s lives has expanded greatly in a bid to fight the pandemic.

In that sense, the president was fighting a battle similar to that of Pakistani Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders who rejected a total closure of mosques but were willing to accept guidance on issues such as physical distancing.

The leaders see mosques “as spaces where you cultivate  and express a communal religious identity that is very central to…their vision of the Pakistani state,” said a Pakistani Islamic scholar.

The clerics’ determination to retain control of religious spaces was reinforced by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s flip flops that resembled Mr. Trump’s zig zags.

Mr. Khan initially sought to appeal to religious circles by meeting in the early days of the pandemic with Maulana Tariq Jameel, a leader of Tablighi Jamaat, who initially denied the contagious aspect of the virus.

Mr. Jameel reversed course and embraced physical distancing after his movement’s mass gatherings in Pakistan, Malaysia, India and Indonesia turned into super spreaders of the coronavirus.

Mr. Khan’s government further complicated issues by initially agreeing with religious leaders on a division of labour that would have empowered the clerics to advise their followers to stay at home, avoid congregational prayer and maintain physical distancing and then jumping the gun to announce the measures without coordination.

Mosques in major Pakistani cities were packed in recent days, despite religious leaders paying lip service to physical distancing, in a reflection of the degree to which ultra-conservatism has woven itself into the fabric of Pakistani society and in stark contrast to Saudi Arabia’s pre-emptive response to the health crisis.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled against government lockdowns, suggesting that the coronavirus was not a pandemic. Religious leaders have since backed away from their acceptance of physical distancing, demanding that the advice be abandoned.

Mr. Trump’s recognition of prayer as essential aligned itself with notions of concepts of religious freedom promoted by his administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the lead, that in effect serve to legitimize discrimination against minorities of various stripes.

Few doubt that Mr. Trump made his move with an eye on the US presidential election in November. Mr. Trump was embarking on a road on which mainstream ultra-conservative Pakistani clerics were also travelling.

The clerics remained silent when Ahmadis, a sect viewed as heretic by mainstream Muslims, were excluded from a national commission created by the government earlier this month to promote religious tolerance and counter persecution of minorities.

Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry barred inclusion of Ahmadis, who are among Pakistan’s most discriminated minorities, on grounds that they did not qualify as a minority and refuse to recognize the country’s constitution.

A 1974 amendment of the constitution bars Ahmadis from identifying themselves as Muslims because they do not recognize Mohammed as the last prophet.

Compared to the polarising environment that Mr. Trump operates in and likes to entrench, Pakistani clerics have it a lot easier. Except for liberals and human rights activists, few in Pakistan are willing to stand up for Ahmadi rights.

Moreover, the government shied away from imposing its will on the religious establishment during the pandemic as did the military, which built quarantine centres in various cities and helped local authorities implement a lockdown.

Pakistan lacks truly influential, more liberal religious voices in the mould of for example Reverend Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches that groups African-American denominations, the mainline church and the Greek Orthodox Church.

“We listen to communities of colour, and many of our congregations’ people are engaged in representing refugees and immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, even seniors, they’re saying, why the urgency?” Mr. DeYoung said in response to Mr. Trump’s push.

“They’re…directly affected. They’re actually afraid in many cases to go into group gatherings…We feel that we need to make our decisions based on good science and the recommendations of our health department,” the reverend added.

Mr. DeYoung was joined by his Muslim counterparts in contrast to their Pakistani brethren.

“American Muslim scholars and community leaders have already determined that mosques will not be open in the near future because of the health concerns brought on by the pandemic. That’s a determination for them to make not for the president to make,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, the largest US Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

To be sure, the United States and Pakistan are vastly different countries. Pakistan has been hard hit by the pandemic with 55,657 cases of infection to date and 1,155 deaths. Yet, that is  a far cry from the United States’ 1,613,324 cases and 96,659 deaths.

Pakistan, nonetheless, saw its number of cases quadruple during the month of Ramadan and the rate of new infections jump by 30 percent in the last week as the holy month neared its end .

Yet, when it comes to employing religion to entrench power at the cost of striking a balance between faith and science, Mr. Trump and Pakistani religious scholars share the kind of opportunism and worldview that serve their short-term interests irrespective of the cost to human life and potentially to already battered economies.

*Tehmina Qureshi is a multi-platform journalist and editorial writer at Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper.

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COVID-19’s Weakness Is Its Strength

Rich Berdan

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About 4/5ths or 80% of the deaths come from 1/5th or 20% of the Canadian population. Our seniors and those living in long-term care facilities have been held with obscure and unregulated measures to say the least. Conversely, roughly 1/5th or 20% of the deaths have come from 4/5th or 80% of the population that are younger than or senior community and perhaps some underlying health issues. While not short of devastating to families affected, it is roughly a thousand deaths in 80% of the population or about 1 in 40,000 deaths in this sizeable wedge of our communities. The mortalities equate to a relatively small number of 2.5 per deaths for every 100,000 Canadians.

In contrast, the top 5 leading causes of death in Canada per 100,000 are:

  1. Cancer: 68,000 deaths or 207.7 per 100,000
  2. Heart Disease: 50,000 deaths or 152.8 per 100,000
  3. Cerebrovascular Disease: 14,000 deaths or 42.3 per 100,000
  4. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases: 10,000 deaths or 30.0 per 100,000
  5. Accidents: 9,700 deaths or 29.5 per 100,000

In 2018 there were 4,157 suicides in Canada: making it the 9th leading cause of death behind Alzheimer’s Disease. With an economy currently on life support in some sectors, the number of suicides will likely climb higher this year as people succumb to job loss, the inability to pay their mortgage or credit loans, and bankruptcies. In the last month alone, there have been nine spouses murdered in domestic violence and likely thousands of cases of abuse and violence in family homes going unreported.

While the initial unknowns and actions around the pandemic were undoubtedly justified, Canada and the world should be better equipped to understand what is necessary to sustain a more robust economy if there is indeed a second wave of the virus. The most dangerous characteristic of COVID-19 is its weakness to kill. Unlike more deadly viruses that dispatch the host quickly and have a tapered prospect to vault to others and dies out, COVID-19 is carried by asymptomatic humans who unknowingly infect those most vulnerable to the illness.

The best solution following a crippling downturn in the market from the first wave will not be a nation-wide shutdown in the next go around. It would rather be a laser focus to take care of our seniors, specifically in our long-term care facilities, and self-isolate our most at-risk population and those with underlying medical issues. One must wonder how the leading causes of death in Canada will pop well above the number of COVID-19 related deaths with postponed cancer treatments and the like over the year.

One then must also examine whether the prolonged lockdowns and restrictions throughout the country, not to mention the crippling debt load and taxes to ensue, was the best reaction overall. It is safe to say, lives were saved through physical distancing practices, and the sacrificial deeds by individuals taking coronavirus very seriously was prudent. If only intense attention were placed on long-term care facilities during the onset, Canada would have come out relatively unscathed by the pandemic.

A full financial recovery will be painful for many, and it will likely take several years to see some semblance to a roaring economy. We do know many life savings for retirement have withered, numerous sectors in the marketplace. Such areas as automotive, travel, hospitality, and oil and gas will not bounce back any time soon, and many Canadians will never return to the jobs they once worked.

It is also apparent through this pandemic that if you have an alternative opinion, one is quickly shunned or dismissed as irresponsible if you are not a medical professional or virologist. Specifically, predicting models of death or advocating ever-changing protective measures or restrictions that shifts the goalposts almost daily.

Rule changes and lockdowns are more readily accepted when one’s income stream is uninterrupted. However, it is a far different story for those on the cusp of their business dissolving in debt or a neighbor prevented from earning a living and placed in the dire predicament in having to choose between paying their rent or buying groceries to feed the kids.

The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching today and will be far-lasting tomorrow. One thing for sure, the adversity we have all faced through the pandemic has introduced us to ourselves.

From our partner RIAC

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Americas

Will the Trump Administration Fight the Coronavirus or China?

Harley Schlanger

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on

In reviewing the excruciating pressure imposed on U.S. President Donald Trump to drop his efforts to achieve a collaborative relationship with China’s President Xi Jinping, it is useful to review the strategy outlined by former United Kingdom Ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, to manipulate him to adopt British policy initiatives. The {Daily Mail} published on July 6, 2019 leaked diplomatic cables sent by Darroch to Britain’s National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill, discussing how to maintain what he described as “our single most important bilateral relationship”, with Trump as President, given the importance of “defense and intelligence cooperation.”

In his cables, Darroch gave credibility to the discredited report by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, that Trump could be compromised by the “dodgy Russians…the worst cannot be ruled out”; that Trump and his administration are “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional”; and that his presidency could “crash and burn”, in a “downward spiral…that leads to disgrace and downfall.”

To sustain the cooperation with — or subservience from — the U.S. that the U.K. requires, Darroch recommends that they employ “Trump whisperers” to “flood the zone” around him: “You want as many as possible of those who Trump consults to give him the same answer. So, we need to be creative in using all the channels available to us through our relationships with his Cabinet, the White House staff and our contacts among his outside friends.”

The goal of the “Trump whisperers” from the time he took office has been to break Trump from his stated desire to improve cooperative relations with Russia’s President Putin and China’s President Xi. The Russiagate narrative, which originated with British fabrications from the GCHQ and MI6, was designed to force Trump into a hostile relationship with Russia, in order to dispel rumors he was being blackmailed by Putin. Though it has been fully discredited, and he survived the subsequent effort to remove him, by a House vote for impeachment regarding his alleged effort to withhold aid from Ukraine for political purposes, the U.S. relationship with Russia has been badly damaged, though he continues to say he wants a positive relationship with Russia. In the weeks since the Coronavirus has taken an increasingly deadly toll in the U.S., and the lock-down measures to combat the pandemic have wreaked havoc with the already-collapsing U.S. economy, the Trump Whisperers have escalated their campaign against China, pushing Trump to blame China for the public health crisis, and the related crash of the economy. Among those who have been identified as Trump Whisperers who met with Darroch are former National Security Adviser John Bolton, former Chief of Staff John Kelly, and former adviser Steve Bannon.

But the ultimate target of this campaign is not Putin and Xi — it is Donald Trump, as his presidency is viewed by leading British/City of London officials, and their U.S. allies in the Bush-Obama intelligence community and both U.S. political parties, as an existential threat to the maintenance of their bankrupt system, which is dependent on the unbroken continuity of geopolitical confrontation, and neoliberal economic policies. A review of the British role in promoting the anti-China hysteria demonstrates how the U.K. establishment is focused on moving Trump to turn against China, especially after the successful conclusion by Trump and Xi of Phase I of the trade negotiations.

“Blame China”

At the heart of the British anti-China campaign is the Henry Jackson Society (HJS). Founded by neocons with ties to the lying campaign accusing Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war — including Sir Richard Dearlove, who as MI6 head delivered the fake Iraq WMD dossier to the Bush administration — the HJS has conducted an ongoing campaign demanding concerted action by western nations against China. (Note that Dearlove was among the most aggressive defenders of Christopher Steele, when his fake dossier against Trump came under fire). Among other targets, they went after Chinese telecom innovator Huawei, insisting that any deal with Huawei opens western telecommunications to Chinese spying. Most recently, an April 5 report from HJS demanded that China must pay compensation for the spread of the Coronavirus, drafting a bill for $4 trillion to be paid to G7 nations.

This demand became a leading “talking point” of the anti-China crowd in the U.S., picked up by trade negotiator and anti-China hack Peter Navarro, who is pushing the slogan, “China lied, people died”, to claim that China owes the U.S. It is the subject of a raving article published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on April 28, titled “How to Make China Pay for COVID19”. The article was written by John Yoo and Richard Delahunty, who are notorious for authoring the infamous memo defending torture in Iraq for the Bush administration in 2002. The AEI is one of the leading promoters among U.S. think tanks of British neo-illiberal economic policies. After relentless questioning by anti-China media hawks, President Trump stated at recent press briefings that his administration is looking into getting China to pay!

One prominent “Trump whisperer”, Steve Bannon, a former adviser until he fell into disfavor, uses his “WarRoom” podcast to demand punitive actions against the Chinese government. Bannon accuses China of unleashing a “biological Chernobyl”, saying the “world must hold them [the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)] accountable,” adding provocatively that “All the dead [from the pandemic] are victims of the CCP.” Bannon’s co-host and collaborator in the WarRoom is Raheem Kassam, who previously worked for the HJS.

Another major British intervention, which has been repeated incessantly by those attacking China, was the article on April 5 in the {Sunday Times}, by Niall Ferguson, who is an outspoken apologist for the British Empire. Ferguson claims that “after it became clear that there was a full-blown epidemic spreading from Wuhan”, that the Chinese cut off all domestic travel from there, but allowed international travel to continue. This charge has morphed into the argument that China was spreading the disease deliberately to the rest of the world, and found its way into the April 30 Trump press briefing, when Trump responded to a question by saying that the U.S. is investigating whether this may have been a mistake, or deliberate!

Clearly Trump had not been briefed on the devastating blow to Ferguson’s polemic from Dr. Daniel A. Bell, Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shangdong University. Bell proved that Ferguson’s charge that international travel continued from Wuhan after January 23 was false, by examining the flight logs, which showed NO flights from Wuhan after that date. Neither the {Times}, nor Ferguson, nor whomever briefed Trump on Ferguson’s fabricated story, has come forward to acknowledge that it is a lie, and the story continues to be bandied about by anti-China politicians and the media. Among those repeating this claim is Navarro, who blustered that instead of containing the virus in Wuhan, “five million people went out from Wuhan and propagated the virus around the world.”

While there are many other instances of such lies shaping an anti-China environment, one of the more egregious ones was a report in the [Daily Telegraph] of Australia, which claims that a report was prepared by a joint intelligence team of the Five Eyes, accusing China of conducting “an assault on international transparency”, by hiding or destroying evidence of the Coronavirus. While the author of this article was subsequently featured on Fox News in the U.S., it has been noted by critics that no one from Five Eyes has taken credit for the report, nor has anyone else seen it! The same “report” also targets Trump, saying that he had been briefed in January that China had unleashed a potentially devastating pandemic, yet he did nothing to counter it. U.S. intelligence officials deny that Trump received such a briefing. The Five Eyes network, which includes the U.K., the U.S., and British Commonwealth countries Canada, Australia and New Zealand, was prominently involved in setting in motion the fake Russiagate story, with particular input from Australian official Alexander Downer.

One U.S. official, who is at the center of the War Hawk grouping in the Trump administration, who finds no British claim too extreme to repeat, is Secretary of State Pompeo, who often travels to London to coordinate this offensive. In May 2019, he spoke at a London think tank, the Center for Policy Studies, warning that China’s goal is to divide the western alliance — which in fact is what he has been doing, with his global tour attacking the Belt-and-Road Initiative, which has been gaining support among some EU countries — and attempting to cut-off cooperation with Huawei. Last January, during a stop in London, Pompeo said that “the Chinese Communist Party is the central threat of our times.” Recently, on Fox tv and in other venues, Pompeo said there is “huge evidence” that the CCP is “hiding and obfuscating” the truth about its role in spreading the Coronavirus, but that he cannot divulge that evidence! He went on to accuse the CCP of “using classic communist disinformation” in its coverup, insisting that the CCP “continues to pose a threat to the world,” and that it “now has a responsibility to tell the world how this pandemic got out of China and all across the world, causing such global economic devastation.”

As the 2020 election approaches, this line is one that Trump is being urged to employ to combat the charge that his administration was not prepared to take on the pandemic, a charge already being voiced by the campaign of Trump’s likely opponent, Joe Biden. While ignoring that the lack of preparation was due to a 40+ year dismantling of public health in the U.S., due to adherence to neoliberal austerity policy, a key campaign theme which is emerging is who is “softer” on China. A 57-page memo prepared for the National Republican Senatorial Committee advocates that, in response to Democratic attacks, the Republican response should be “Don’t Defend Trump…Attack China.” This report was prepared by a consultant, Brett O’Donnell, who has in the past worked for Fox News’ anti-China and anti-Russian loudmouth Sean Hannity, war hawk John McCain, and, in 2019, current British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

China Responds to War Hysteria, Calls for Cooperation

The leading media in China have countered this unhinged propaganda campaign sharply, warning that these allegations not only threaten a worsening of relations, but could lead to military confrontation. The British-Canadian news agency Reuters attempted to whip up war hysteria, reporting that a leaked document shows that the Chinese military is “preparing for military confrontation.” Apparently Reuters does not consider nearly non-stop naval maneuvers by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea to be war preparation, nor that the constant demands that nations in the “Indo-Pacific” region engage in joint maneuvers with the U.S. to combat Chinese “aggression” could raise legitimate concerns in China.

The Chinese media point out that one aspect of the virulent anti-China response is to take away the focus on the failure of the U.S. to adequately prepare for the pandemic. A May 5 story in {China Daily} was headlined “Pompeo’s Clown Show Spotlights U.S. Administration’s Mistakes,” was followed by a story the next day which stated that rather than blaming China for a “coverup”, the problem is that the U.S. ignored the indicators of the coming problem. “Washington should face the reality of the situation…and work with Beijing”, the editorial states, “to defeat this pathogen.” On May 7, {China Daily} issued a call for collaboration under the headline “It’s Time U.S. Focused on the Struggle Against a Real Enemy — the Virus.”

What must be presented to American citizens is that the propaganda designed to create an “enemy image” of China is run by the same networks which targeted Trump for removal by Russiagate, and is just as fabricated as that narrative, as is being demonstrated by the latest evidence coming out from the Flynn case. National security requires that immunity to the “British virus” known as the “special relationship” must be developed, through an understanding of the real intent of British meddling in U.S. policy. This is an essential component to not only effectively fight the Coronavirus and prevent the spread of future pandemics, but also to consolidate mutually beneficial strategic relationships with Russia and China.

From our partner RIAC

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