TBR News September 20, 2017

Sep 20 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 20, 2017:

” 1. Only in America……can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

  1. Only in America……are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
  2. Only in America……do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
  3. Only in America……do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke.
  4. Only in America……do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.
  5. Only in America……do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
  6. Only in America……do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won’t miss a call from someone we didn’t want to talk to in the first place.
  7. Only in America……do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
  8. Only in America……do we use the word ‘politics’ to describe the process so well: ‘Poli’ in Latin meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures’.
  9. Only in America……do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.”


Table of Contents

  • Hurricane Maria takes aim at Puerto Rico
  • Melting Arctic ice cap falls to well below average
  • An American Oligarch’s Dirty Tale of Corruption
  • Turkey, Opposing Kurdish Independence, Warns of Global Conflict if Iraq or Syria Break Up
  • At Harvard, Chelsea Manning Lost Her Fellowship. At Fordham,
  • Former CIA Torture Proponent Kept His.
  • We’re at the end of white Christian America. What will that mean?
  • Bin Laden Alive and Dead
  • Islamic State on the Ropes: Two Paths Cross in the Ruins of Raqqa


Hurricane Maria takes aim at Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria, the second megastorm to hit the Caribbean this month, has made landfall in Puerto Rico after pummeling the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe. Several people are dead and thousands are without power.

September 20, 2017


Hurricane Maria hit the coastal town of Yabucoa in southeastern Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami reported.

“This is going to be an extremely violent phenomenon,” Governor Ricardo Rossello said. “We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history.”

Forecasters said the storm was packing winds of 250 kilometers per hour (155 miles per hour) and was expected to thrash the island, which is home to over 3.4 million people, for 12 to 24 hours. Winds of 185 kilometers per hour (115 miles per hour) were predicted in Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan for up to three hours.

Trees were uprooted and roofs went flying as the storm advanced, leaving nearly 900,000 of the island’s 3.4 million inhabitants without power. More than 4,400 people were in shelters by late Tuesday, Governor Rosello said.

US President Donald Trump offered his support for the US territory on Twitter: “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help!”

Dominica incommunicado

The storm’s eye passed over St. Croix in the Virgin Islands overnight, bringing hours of hurricane force winds. Hundreds of islanders left their homes and fled to shelters. The small island was also battered by Hurricane Irma just two weeks ago.

Maria also roared across Dominica earlier on Tuesday, causing widespread damage and knocking out virtually all communication towers.

Speaking from New York, Dominica’s Consul General, Barbara Dailey, said she had lost contact with the island at around 4 a.m. Eastern Time (0800 UTC). The latest news she had received from officials in Dominica was that around 70 percent of homes had lost their roofs, including her own.

“I lost everything,” she told The Associated Press news agency. “As a Category 5 it would be naive not to expect any [injuries] but I don’t know how many.”

Dominica’s internet service appeared to have gone completely offline by midday on Tuesday, according to Akamai Technologies, a company that tracks the status of the internet around the world.

The Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica also reported a widespread loss of communication and internet access, while relatives of students reported that they had lost all contact with their loved ones by Monday evening, as Hurricane Maria was bearing down on the island.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a number of dramatic Facebook posts on Monday night as Maria blew over the island before power was cut off.

“The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Skerrit posted, before describing how he could hear the sound of steel roofs being torn off houses, including his own. In his last message, he made an appeal for international aid, writing: “We will need help, my friends, we will need help of all kinds.”

Martinique and Guadeloupe: 40 percent of homes without power

North of Dominica, Hurricane Maria also hit the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe hard.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on Tuesday that at least 80,000 households in Guadeloupe and 70,000 in Martinique had been left without power – just under half of all homes across the two islands. However, it appeared the two French islands did not suffer heavy damage.

Maria claimed its first victim in Guadeloupe, where one person was killed and another two were reported missing. Three people were wounded in Martinique, including one seriously, according to Collomb.

The storm comes barely two weeks after Hurricane Irma pounded the Caribbean and Florida, killing around 60 people and leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.


Melting Arctic ice cap falls to well below average

  • This summer’s minimum is the eighth lowest on record
  • Shrinking ice cap increasingly linked to extreme weather events around the world, say scientists

September 20, 2017

by Damian Carrington and agencies

The Guardian

The Arctic ice cap melted to hundreds of thousands of square miles below average this summer, according to data released late on Tuesday.

Climate change is pushing temperatures up most rapidly in the polar regions and left the extent of Arctic sea ice at 1.79m sq miles at the end of the summer melt season.

This is the time when it reaches its lowest area for the year, before starting to grow again as winter approaches. The 2017 minimum was 610,000 sqmiles below the 1981-2010 average and the eighth lowest year in the 38-year satellite record.

Scientists from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said the rate of ice loss this summer had been slowed by cool mid-summer weather over the central Arctic Ocean. The record minimum came in 2012, when the ice area fell to 483,000 square miles below the 2017 extent.

Ted Scambos at NSIDC said the Arctic sea ice had set a record for the smallest winter extent earlier in 2017 and was on track to be close to the 2012 record minimum until July. But a cloudy and cooler than normal August slowed the melting.

“Weather patterns in August saved the day,” Scambos said. The fast shrinking Arctic ice cap is increasingly thought to have major impacts on extreme weather patterns much further south, due to its influence on the jet stream. Floods, heatwaves and severe winters in Europe, Asia and North America have all been linked to the Arctic meltdown. “It’s bound to have an impact on global climate,” Scambos said.

The 2017 sea ice level fits with an overall steady decline over the decades, but one that varies from year to year, Scambos said. “It’s not going to be a staircase heading down to zero every year,” he said. “[But] the Arctic will continue to evolve towards less ice. There’s no dodging that.”

Rod Downie, head of polar programmes at WWF, said: “From space, the loss of Arctic sea ice is the clearest and most visible sign of climate change, and human beings are responsible for most of it. We are engineering our planet and its climate.”

“That’s not good for the people of the Arctic who depend upon sea ice for their traditional way of life and for people across the world who depend on a stable climate,” he said. The Arctic could be virtually free of ice in summer within people’s lifetimes, he warned, and called for more action on climate change by reducing carbon emissions.


An American Oligarch’s Dirty Tale of Corruption

by F. William Engdahl

Rarely does the world get a true look inside the corrupt world of Western oligarchs and the brazen manipulations they use to enhance their fortunes at the expense of the public good. The following comes from correspondence of the Hungarian-born billionaire, now naturalized American speculator, George Soros. The hacker group CyberBerkut has published online letters allegedly written by Soros that reveal him not only as puppet master of the US-backed Ukraine regime. They also reveal his machinations with the US Government and the officials of the European Union in a scheme where, if he succeeds, he could win billions in the plunder of Ukraine assets. All, of course, would be at the expense of Ukrainian citizens and of EU taxpayers.

What the three hacked documents reveal is a degree of behind-the-scene manipulation of the most minute details of the Kiev regime by the New York billionaire.

In the longest memo, dated March 15, 2015 and marked “Confidential” Soros outlines a detailed map of actions for the Ukraine regime. Titled, “A short and medium term comprehensive strategy for the new Ukraine,” the memo from Soros calls for steps to “restore the fighting capacity of Ukraine without violating the Minsk agreement.” To do the restoring, Soros blithely notes that “General Wesley Clark, Polish General Skrzypczak and a few specialists under the auspices of the Atlantic Council [emphasis added—f.w.e.] will advise President Poroshenko how to restore the fighting capacity of Ukraine without violating the Minsk agreement.”

Soros also calls for supplying lethal arms to Ukraine and secretly training Ukrainian army personnel in Romania to avoid direct NATO presence in Ukraine. The Atlantic Council is a leading Washington pro-NATO think tank.

Notably, Wesley Clark is also a business associate of Soros in BNK Petroleum which does business in Poland.

Clark, some might recall, was the mentally-unstable NATO General in charge of the 1999 bombing of Serbia who ordered NATO soldiers to fire on Russian soldiers guarding the Pristina International Airport. The Russians were there as a part of an agreed joint NATO–Russia peacekeeping operation supposed to police Kosovo. The British Commander, General Mike Jackson refused Clark, retorting, “I’m not going to start the Third World War for you.” Now Clark apparently decided to come out of retirement for the chance to go at Russia directly.

Naked asset grab

In his March 2015 memo Soros further writes that Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s “first priority must be to regain control of financial markets,” which he assures Poroshenko that Soros would be ready to assist in: “I am ready to call Jack Lew of the US Treasury to sound him out about the swap agreement.”

He also calls on the EU to give Ukraine an annual aid sum of €11 billion via a special EU borrowing facility. Soros proposes in effect using the EU’s “AAA” top credit rating to provide a risk insurance for investment into Ukraine.

Whose risk would the EU insure?

Soros details, “I am prepared to invest up to €1 billion in Ukrainian businesses. This is likely to attract the interest of the investment community. As stated above, Ukraine must become an attractive investment destination.” Not to leave any doubt, Soros continues, “The investments will be for-profit but I will pledge to contribute the profits to my foundations. This should allay suspicions that I am advocating policies in search of personal gain. “

For anyone familiar with the history of the Soros Open Society Foundations in Eastern Europe and around the world since the late 1980’s, will know that his supposedly philanthropic “democracy-building” projects in Poland, Russia, or Ukraine in the 1990’s allowed Soros the businessman to literally plunder the former communist countries using Harvard University’s “shock therapy” messiah, and Soros associate, Jeffrey Sachs, to convince the post-Soviet governments to privatize and open to a “free market” at once, rather than gradually.

The example of Soros in Liberia is instructive for understanding the seemingly seamless interplay between Soros the shrewd businessman and Soros the philanthropist. In West Africa George Soros backed a former Open Society employee of his, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, giving her international publicity and through his influence, even arranging a Nobel Peace Prize for her in 2011, insuring her election as president. Before her presidency she had been well-indoctrinated into the Western free market game, studying economics at Harvard and working for the US-controlled World Bank in Washington and the Rockefeller Citibank in Nairobi. Before becoming Liberia’s President, she worked for Soros directly as chair of his Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

Once in office, President Sirleaf opened the doors for Soros to take over major Liberian gold and base metals assets along with his partner, Nathaniel Rothschild. One of her first acts as President was to also invite the Pentagon’s new Africa Command, AFRICOM, into Liberia whose purpose as a Liberian investigation revealed, was to “protect George Soros and Rothschild mining operations in West Africa rather than champion stability and human rights.”

Naftogaz the target

The Soros memo makes clear he has his eyes on the Ukrainian state gas and energy monopoly, Naftogaz. He writes, “The centerpiece of economic reforms will be the reorganization of Naftogaz and the introduction of market pricing for all forms of energy, replacing hidden subsidies…”

In an earlier letter Soros wrote in December 2014 to both President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, Soros openly called for his Shock Therapy: “I want to appeal to you to unite behind the reformers in your government and give your wholehearted support to a radical, ‘big bang’ type of approach. That is to say, administrative controls would be removed and the economy would move to market prices rapidly rather than gradually…Naftogaz needs to be reorganized with a big bang replacing the hidden subsidies…”

Splitting Naftogaz into separate companies could allow Soros to take control of one of the new branches and essentially privatize its profits. He already suggested that he indirectly brought in US consulting company, McKinsey, to advise Naftogaz on the privatization “big bang.”

The Puppet-Master?

The totality of what is revealed in the three hacked documents show that Soros is effectively the puppet-master pulling most of the strings in Kiev. Soros Foundation’s Ukraine branch, International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) has been involved in Ukraine since 1989. His IRF doled out more than $100 million to Ukrainian NGOs two years before the fall of the Soviet Union, creating the preconditions for Ukraine’s independence from Russia in 1991. Soros also admitted to financing the 2013-2014 Maidan Square protests that brought the current government into power.

Soros’ foundations were also deeply involved in the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought the corrupt but pro-NATO Viktor Yushchenko into power with his American wife who had been in the US State Department. In 2004 just weeks after Soros’ International Renaissance Foundation had succeeded in getting Viktor Yushchenko as President of Ukraine, Michael McFaul wrote an OpEd for the Washington Post. McFaul, a specialist in organizing color revolutions, who later became US Ambassador to Russia, revealed:

Did Americans meddle in the internal affairs of Ukraine? Yes. The American agents of influence would prefer different language to describe their activities — democratic assistance, democracy promotion, civil society support, etc. — but their work, however labeled, seeks to influence political change in Ukraine. The U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy and a few other foundations sponsored certain U.S. organizations, including Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the Solidarity Center, the Eurasia Foundation, Internews and several others to provide small grants and technical assistance to Ukrainian civil society. The European Union, individual European countries and the Soros-funded International Renaissance Foundation did the same.

Soros shapes ‘New Ukraine’

Today the CyberBerkut hacked papers show that Soros’ IRF money is behind creation of a National Reform Council, a body organized by presidential decree from Poroshenko which allows the Ukrainian president to push bills through Ukraine’s legislature. Soros writes, “The framework for bringing the various branches of government together has also emerged. The National Reform Council (NRC) brings together the presidential administration, the cabinet of ministers, the Rada and its committees and civil society. The International Renaissance Foundation which is the Ukrainian branch of the Soros Foundations was the sole financial supporter of the NRC until now…”

Soros’ NRC in effect is the vehicle to allow the President to override parliamentary debate to push through “reforms,” with the declared first priority being privatization of Naftogaz and raising gas prices drastically to Ukrainian industry and households, something the bankrupt country can hardly afford.

In his letter to Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, Soros hints that he played a key role in selection of three key non-Ukrainian ministers—Natalia Jaresko, an American ex- State Department official as Finance Minister; Aivras Abromavicius of Lithuania as Economics Minister, and a health minister from Georgia. Soros in his December 2014 letter, referring to his proposal for a “big bank” privatization of Naftogaz and price rise, states, “You are fortunate to have appointed three ‘new Ukrainian’ ministers and several natives (sic) who are committed to this approach.”

Elsewhere Soros speaks about de facto creating the impression within the EU that the current government of Yatsenyuk is finally cleaning out the notorious corruption that has dominated every Kiev regime since 1991. Creating that temporary reform illusion, he remarks, will convince the EU to cough up the €11 billion annual investment insurance fund. His March 2015 paper says that, “It is essential for the government to produce a visible demonstration (sic) during the next three months in order to change the widely prevailing image of Ukraine as an utterly corrupt country.” That he states will open the EU to make the €11 billion insurance guarantee investment fund.

While saying that it is important to show Ukraine as a country that is not corrupt, Soros reveals he has little concern when transparency and proper procedures block his agenda. Talking about his proposals to reform Ukraine’s constitution to enable privatizations and other Soros-friendly moves, he complains, “The process has been slowed down by the insistence of the newly elected Rada on proper procedures and total transparency.”

Soros suggests that he intends to create this “visible demonstration” through his initiatives, such as using the Soros-funded National Reform Council, a body organized by presidential decree which allows the Ukrainian president to push bills through Ukraine’s legislature.

George Soros is also using his new European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank to lobby his Ukraine strategy, with his council members such as Alexander Graf Lambsdorff or Joschka Fischer or Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, not to mention former ECB head, Jean-Claude Trichet no doubt laying a subtle role.

George Soros, now 84, was born in Hungary as a Jew, George Sorosz. Soros once boasted in a TV interview that he posed during the war as a gentile with forged papers, assisting the Horthy government to seize property of other Hungarian Jews who were being shipped to the Nazi death camps. Soros told the TV moderator, “There was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was–well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in markets–that if I weren’t there–of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would.”

This is the same morality apparently behind Soros’ activities in Ukraine today. It seems again to matter not to him that the Ukrainian government he helped bring to power in February 2014 US coup d’etat is riddled with explicit anti-semites and self-proclaimed neo-Nazis from the Svoboda Party and Pravy Sektor. George Soros is clearly a devotee of “public-private-partnership.” Only here the public gets fleeced to enrich private investors like Mr. Soros and friends. Cynically, Soros signs his Ukraine strategy memo, “George Soros–A self-appointed advocate of the new Ukraine, March 12, 2015.”


Turkey, Opposing Kurdish Independence, Warns of Global Conflict if Iraq or Syria Break Up

In a show of force, Turkey began a military drill without warning, aiming its weapons at Kurdish-run northern Iraq

September 19, 2017


Turkey escalated its opposition to a Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq on Tuesday, training tank guns and rocket launchers across the southern border and saying the break-up of its neighbors could lead to global conflict.

Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said in Ankara next Monday’s vote posed a major risk and Turkey would take “every step” needed to thwart any similar steps in its mainly Kurdish southeast.

Iraqi Kurdish authorities have defied growing international pressure to call off the vote, which Iraq’s neighbors fear will fuel unrest among their own Kurdish populations. Western allies say it could detract from the fight against Islamic State.

“A change that will mean the violation of Iraq’s territorial integrity poses a major risk for Turkey,” Canikli said. “The disruption of Syria and Iraq’s territorial integrity will ignite a bigger, global conflict with an unseen end.”

Kurds in north Syria, like those in Iraq, have capitalized on the turmoil in both countries to consolidate a degree of autonomy. Washington has supported Syrian Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State, despite Turkish protests.

Turkish troops dug in on the southern border on Tuesday and turned their weapons toward Kurdish-run northern Iraq.

Tanks and rocket launchers mounted on armored vehicles faced the Iraqi frontier, about 2 km (one mile) away. Mechanical diggers tore up agricultural fields for the army to set up positions in the flat, dry farmlands.

The military drill, launched without warning on Monday, is due to last until Sept. 26, Turkish military sources said, a day after the planned referendum.

A Reuters reporter saw armored vehicles carrying heavy weaponry and soldiers taking positions in specially dug areas, their weapons directed across the border. A generator and satellite dish could be seen at one location.

The show of force reflects the scale of concern in Turkey, which has the largest Kurdish population in the region, that the vote could embolden the outlawed Kurdish PKK which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.

The Turkish air force has frequently struck against PKK units operating from the mountains of northern Iraq and limited detachments of Turkish infantry have made forays across the frontier in the past.

Turkey also sees itself as protector of Iraq’s ethnic Turkmen minority, with particular concern about Kirkuk where Kurds have extended their control since seizing the oil city when Islamic State overwhelmed Iraqi forces in 2014.

Police deployed overnight in Kirkuk to prevent any outbreak of ethnic violence, residents said.

Lira weakens

The standoff has hit the Turkish lira, which weakened beyond 3.5 to the dollar on Tuesday for the first time in four weeks.

“The increasing tension before the referendum in northern Iraq continues to effect lira negatively,” Kapital FX Research Assistant Manager Enver Erkan said.

Cross-border trade, however, appeared to continue. Despite the nearby military maneuvers a kilometer-long line of traffic, mostly trucks and cargo, queued to enter Iraq at the Habour border gate.

Turkey’s strong economic ties to the Kurdish Regional Government will weigh on any response from Ankara. The KRG pumps hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day through Turkey and has approved plans for Russian oil major Rosneft to invest in pipelines to export gas to Turkey and Europe.

The military exercises came as Turkey, the central government in Baghdad and their shared neighbor Iran all stepped up protests and warnings about the independence referendum in the semi-autonomous Kurdish northern Iraq.

The United States and other Western countries have also voiced concerns and asked Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani to call off the vote, citing fears the referendum could distract attention from the fight against Islamic State militants.

Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ordered Barzani to suspend the vote and approved Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s demand to consider “the breakaway of any region or province from Iraq as unconstitutional”, his office said on Monday.

Turkey has brought forward to Friday a cabinet meeting and a session of its national security council to consider possible action.



At Harvard, Chelsea Manning Lost Her Fellowship. At Fordham, a Former CIA Torture Proponent Kept His.

September 20 2017

by Eoin Higgins

The Intercept

It took less than 48 hours for Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government to revoke its fellowship invitation to whistleblower Chelsea Manning. The announcement that Manning would be a visiting fellow at the school’s Institute of Politics had been met with resistance from current and former denizens of the national security state — a former CIA director resigned his position as a fellow, and President Donald Trump’s CIA Director Mike Pompeo withdrew from a planned speech at the school.

About 200 miles south of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an inverse but much quieter debate unfolded after a top CIA veteran was named to an elite university fellowship. This much, however, resembled the row at Harvard: The security state is poised to win out in this showdown, too.

On September 4, former CIA Director John Brennan began a two-year stint as a “distinguished fellow for global security” at Fordham University’s Center on National Security at Fordham Law, in New York. Brennan, a 1977 Fordham graduate, will participate in discussions at the school, make himself available to students during office hours, and sit in on classes in advance of teaching his own in the future.

Some in the Fordham community — including faculty and alumni who were involved in activism against awarding Brennan a 2012 honorary doctorate of humane letters from the school — believe naming the former top spy to a fellowship sends the wrong message, especially given Brennan’s record of support for controversial policies.

“By making him a fellow, Fordham is clearly endorsing the human rights violations committed under Brennan by the CIA through illegal torture and missile strikes,” said Sapphira Lurie, who graduated from Fordham this year. “Brennan’s status as a public figure is a result of severe violations of human rights.” Lurie noted that the administration has, in the past, distanced itself from Brennan’s actions at the CIA, but questioned whether his record outside of the CIA merited accolades from the university: “Why else would they be giving him an honorary degree and a position as a fellow?”

Brennan’s tenure as head of the CIA and, more broadly, his 25 years at the agency saw their share of controversies. The Obama era was marked by Brennan’s efforts to concentrate the drone assassination program in the executive branch and, in particular, the CIA. During the George W. Bush era, Brennan went along with the CIA’s institutional propensity for endorsing the use of “enhanced interrogation,” or torture. Brennan’s support of the practices was a point of contention during his confirmation hearings for CIA director in 2013. Brennan denied any involvement and ducked responsibility: “I did not take steps to stop the CIA’s use of those techniques,” he said. “I was not in the chain of command of that program.”

The 2014 publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture generated more controversy. The Brennan-led CIA hacked into Senate staffers’ computers as the report was put together; a subsequent investigation suggested that the some of the agents responsible for the hack did so under Brennan’s orders.

The ordeal led Fordham Faculty Against Torture, a group formed during the 2013-2014 school year, to convince the Fordham board of trustees to revoke Brennan’s 2012 honorary degree. (Disclosure: I attended graduate school at Fordham.)

Fordham Faculty Against Torture wanted to “respond to the egregious error our university made by granting an honorary degree to John Brennan,” citing his role at the CIA when agents tortured terrorism suspects and his subsequent defenses of the policies, according to the group’s website.

“FFAT organized a campaign of education, of academic talks, of discussion, and of protest, along with presenting a petition signed by the faculty at Fordham, to rescind the degree,” David Myers, a history professor, said in an email, adding that over 100 of the more than 500 full-time faculty members signed the petition. Other petitions on iPetitions and Change.org garnered over 1,000 signatures in total.

Brennan’s appointment as a fellow is stirring up emotions from the fight over his honorary degree. The fellowship announcement sparked a “mixture of fury and indignation tempered by profound disappointment,” said sociology professor Jeanne Flavin. Flavin, who was a member of Fordham Faculty Against Torture, also expressed a sense of cynicism over the decision.

Fordham Faculty Against Torture’s activism culminated in a board vote on whether to revoke the honor bestowed on Brennan years earlier. The board decided unanimously to keep the award on the books, but Fordham President Rev. Joseph McShane told activists in an email that they should “not for a minute believe that honoring John Brennan is the same as honoring the institution for which he works, nor its checkered history.”

Gunar Olsen, a 2017 graduate who was a student activist with Fordham Faculty Against Torture, told The Intercept that the 2012 honor was offensive because of what it represents. “Awarding an honorary degree to someone contributes nothing of substantive value to a school,” said Olsen. “But it does indicate where a school administration’s politics lie.” Olsen pointed out that an honorary degree awarded to Bill Cosby was rescinded in 2015.

Olsen said Brennan’s fellowship, which was announced in a school-wide email from Provost Stephen Freedman on September 4, demonstrated the school’s priorities. “If Fordham appointed Brennan because he is a Fordham graduate, Fordham could have also appointed veteran CIA officer Ray McGovern, who’s done some great work after leaving government,” said Olsen, naming the CIA veteran turned progressive activist. “He would be a great contribution to law students’ educational experience. But Fordham won’t do that, because McGovern doesn’t have the prestige that Brennan does, because McGovern consistently challenges the national security establishment in Washington.”

School officials, meanwhile, are defending the decision. “Director Brennan has a tremendous amount to offer,” said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security, who made the decision to award the fellowship along with the school’s leadership. “His insights, culled from his experience and knowledge will be valuable here at Fordham and in the larger public national security conversation as well.”

Louie Dean Valencia-García, a Fordham Ph.D. who lectured at Harvard last year and is now an assistant professor of digital history at Texas State University, drew a distinction between Brennan’s honorary degree and the fellowship. “A fellowship is not an honorary degree,” Valencia-García said. “When Brennan received the degree, it was bestowed on him.” Not so for the fellowship, which Valencia-García described as an agreement between Brennan and the school, in which Fordham is making a commitment to fund Brennan’s work.

And that, for Valencia-García, raises two important questions: What kind of work will Brennan do at the school? And what kind of commitment is Fordham making to Brennan and his goals? Greenberg told The Intercept that Brennan’s compensation was “minimal.”

Some of the anti-Brennan activists see an opportunity for Fordham in Chelsea Manning’s summary dismissal from Harvard. “I think one of the few things that could get me to reconsider my position on Brennan’s fellowship would be Fordham extending an invitation to Chelsea Manning,” said Flavin, the professor. “A comparable fellowship, at minimum, should be extended to her.”

Having already lost one battle over Brennan, however, many of the Fordham activists aren’t holding out much hope for Brennan’s fellowship to be rescinded, nor for Manning to be extended her own.

Brennan’s presence at the school will raise an important choice for Fordham, said Jeannine Hill Fletcher, a professor of theology, who was a founding member of the activist group against the CIA director’s honorary degree. “The question is: Do we want a study of national security, which will focus on national security and enhance our sense of common humanity,” said Fletcher, “or continue to eclipse our sense of shared humanity?”

Correction: September 20 15, 2017, 12:15 p.m.

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that more than 500 Fordham faculty members signed a petition opposing an honorary degree. More than 100 of the 500 total full-time faculty members signed on.


We’re at the end of white Christian America. What will that mean?

After accounting for eight out of 10 Americans in 1976, white Christians are now a minority, a study has found. The political implications could be profound

September 20, 2017

by Jason Wilson

The Guardian

America is a Christian nation: this much has always been a political axiom, especially for conservatives. Even someone as godless and immoral as the 45th president feels the need to pay lip service to the idea. On the Christian Broadcasting Network last year, he summarized his own theological position with the phrase: “God is the ultimate.”

And in the conservative mind, American Christianity has long been hitched to whiteness. The right learned, over the second half of the 20th century, to talk about this connection using abstractions like “Judeo-Christian values”, alongside coded racial talk, to let voters know which side they were on.

But change is afoot, and US demographics are morphing with potentially far-reaching consequences. Last week, in a report entitled America’s Changing Religious Identity, the nonpartisan research organization Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) concluded that white Christians were now a minority in the US population.

Soon, white people as a whole will be, too.

The survey is no ordinary one. It was based on a huge sample of 101,000 Americans from all 50 states, and concluded that just 43% of the population were white Christians. To put that in perspective, in 1976, eight in 10 Americans were identified as such, and a full 55% were white Protestants. Even as recently as 1996, white Christians were two-thirds of the population.

White Christianity was always rooted in the nation’s history, demographics and culture. Among North America’s earliest and most revered white settlers were Puritan Protestants.

As well as expecting the return of Christ, they sought to mould a pious community which embodied their goals of moral and ecclesiastical purity. They also nurtured a lurid demonology, and hunted and burned supposed witches in their midst. These tendencies – to millennialism, theocracy and scapegoating – have frequently recurred in America’s white Christian culture.

Successive waves of religious revival, beginning in the 18th century, shaped the nation’s politics and its sense of itself. In the 1730s, the preacher Jonathan Edwards sought not only the personal conversion of his listeners, but to bring about Christ’s reign on Earth through an increased influence in the colonies.

As the religious scholar Dale T Irvin writes: “By the time of the American revolution, Edwards’s followers had begun to secularize this vision of a righteous nation that was charged with a redemptive mission in the world”.

This faith informed the 19th-century doctrine of manifest destiny, which held that the spread of white settlement over the entire continent was not only inevitable, but just. The dispossession of native peoples, and the nation’s eventual dominance of the hemisphere, was carried out under an imprimatur with Christian roots.

In the late 20th century, another religious revival fed directly into the successes of conservative politics. Preachers like Billy Graham and Jimmy Swaggart – in spectacular revival meetings and increasingly on television – attracted millions of white converts to churches which emphasized literalist interpretations of the Bible, strict moral teachings and apocalyptic expectations.

In the south, the explosion of evangelical churches coincided with a wave of racial reaction in the wake of the civil rights movement. After being a Democratic stronghold, the south became solidly Republican beginning in the early 1970s. The Republican “southern strategy” used race as a wedge issue to attract white votes in the wake of the civil rights movement, but it also proffered a socially conservative message that gelled with the values of the emerging Christian Right.

In succeeding decades, Republicans have used this mix to help elect presidents, put a lock on Congress, and extend their dominance over the majority of the nation’s statehouses. Leaders of the Christian right became figures of national influence, and especially in the Bush years, public policy was directed to benefit them.

The author of The End of White Christian America, Robert P Jones, says it is “remarkable how fast” the trend is moving. In 2008, white Christians were still 50% of the population, so that “there’s been an 11-point shift since Barack Obama’s election”.

According to Jones, there are two big reasons for this shift.

One is “the disaffiliation of young people in particular from Christian churches”. That is, especially among the young, there are proportionally fewer Christians. If trends continue, that means that there will be fewer and fewer Christians.

While two-thirds of seniors are white Christians, only around a quarter of people 18-29 are. To varying degrees, this has affected almost every Christian denomination – and nearly four in 10 young Americans have no religious affiliation at all.

The “youngest” faiths in America – those with the largest proportion of young adherents – are non-Christian: Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. This reflects the second big driver of white Christian decline: both America and its family of faiths are becoming less white.

The big picture is the steady erosion of America’s white majority. Due mostly to Asian and Hispanic immigration, and the consolidation of already established immigrant populations, white people will be a minority by 2042. This will be true of under-18s as soon as 2023. According to Pew’s projections, in the century between 1965 and 2065, white people will have gone from 85% of the population to 46%.

Perhaps inevitably, this is being reflected in a more diverse religious landscape.

Martin Luther King Jr once lamented: “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.” Even now, historically black denominations exist on parallel tracks with almost exclusively white churches, with little or no changes to their racial makeup.

But other churches are beginning to reflect the country’s increasing diversity. The Catholic church provides a stark illustration.

In the 1980s, white people outnumbered non-white people in Catholic churches by a 10-to-one margin. Now, thanks mostly to a large number of Hispanic parishioners, and the apostasy of young white people, Jones says that the church is “almost reaching parity”, and “in many areas of the country the church is majority Latino”.

From the colonial period onward, explains John Turner, “the vast majority of white settlers would have considered themselves Protestant”.

While the most ingrained narratives of North American history depict it as a haven for minority sects, this varied considerably by colony. “People talk about the US as a Christian nation, but a better description would be a white Protestant nation that often made life uncomfortable for other groups,” says Turner.

He points to anti-Catholic nativism in the 19th century, which was driven by a belief that “the world is divided between Christ and anti-Christ, with Catholics on the other side of the divide”.

This frequently led to violence. In 1834, a mob burned an Ursuline convent near Boston. On 6 August 1855, known afterwards as “Blood Monday”, 22 people died when another mob attacked an Irish Catholic neighborhood.

In 1854 the American party – also known as the “Know Nothings” – won 42 congressional seats on a populist, anti-Catholic platform. Two years later, their presidential candidate, Millard Fillmore, got a fifth of the vote.

Another example of Protestants making life uncomfortable for others was the persecution of America’s own Mormon church, founded in 1830. In the 19th century, Turner says, “many Protestant Americans rejected the idea that Mormonism was really a religion at all”.

Early Mormon history was marked by a series of violent attacks by non-Mormons, and subsequent escapes to new gathering places.

This repeated ostracism and violence led eventually to their overland trek to the Great Salt Lake, far from their often murderous Protestant antagonists, where they founded Utah.

From the 1890s and especially during the Great Depression, Jews were the victims of both ambient antisemitic sentiments and violent hate crimes, especially in the cities of the north-east.

The story of American Protestantism has not been all about persecution, of course. Protestant clergy and lay people have played a part in progressive struggles – from abolition, to the civil rights movement, to manning the barricades in Charlottesville. Many mainstream denominations have a decidedly liberal cast on social and economic issues.

Politicized white Christian identity remains a potent force on the right. Jones points out that the Republican party’s base has remained “overwhelmingly white and Christian”, with their decline inside the GOP tent much less dramatic than in the nation as a whole: their share of the Republican voting coalition declined only slightly over the past decade, from 81% in 2006 to 73% now.

Republican policies and priorities continue to reflect this influence. In the platform adopted at the nomination of Donald Trump, the party affirmed commitments to anti-abortion measures (including the defunding of Planned Parenthood), condemned the supreme court’s decision to allow same-sex marriage, and promised to “bar government discrimination” against individuals and businesses who refused service to same-sex couples.

Trump himself has issued an executive order that prevents the enforcement of the so-called “Johnson amendments”, which stop organizations with tax-exempt status from engaging in partisan political campaigning. These measures have limited the political advocacy of churches on the Christian right, and Trump’s move (which he overstated as a repeal) is a reward to evangelicals.

Even Trump’s promises of a wall and an immigration crackdown reflect the values of white evangelicals, who among all faith groups are the most hostile to immigration.

White Christians are wedded to the GOP; Hawley remarks that “white Christians remain the base of the GOP, and I would expect them to remain so”.

In a two-party system, the overwhelming whiteness of the Republican party has seen Democrats “following the trends, and becoming more diverse”. Democrats are heavily favored by black and Hispanic Americans, including Hispanic Catholics, by young people, and by the growing number of religiously unaffiliated Americans.

For years, these trends have produced optimism among Democrats – their coalition appears to resemble America’s future, whereas the Republicans appear mired in the past, with a shrinking base. Even Republicans have been growing alarmed: the famous “autopsy” document produced by Reince Priebus’s RNC in the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat urged the party to reach out to Latinos with, among other things, meaningful immigration reform.

A glance at the present, however, shows Republicans in charge of Congress, the presidency, and a majority of statehouses, and Trump looking to implement the stridently anti-immigrant, Christian right-friendly platform he was elected on.

Turner says that in the short term, changing demography will not necessarily guarantee election results: “For a long time people have been saying that the marriage of Republican politics to white Christians was a losing game, but it wasn’t last year.”

And it bears saying that nothing guarantees that Latinos, African Americans, or other non-white groups in America will remain loyal Democrats. White Christianity is not an immutable category. After all, white Catholics and Mormons – formerly the targets of Protestant persecution – have themselves become a part of the white Christian coalition.

Last week John Judis, previously a leading advocate of “demography is destiny” predictions about an emerging Democratic majority, recanted, remarking: “Whiteness is not a genetic category, after all; it is a social and political construct that relies on perception and prejudice. A century ago, Irish, Italians, and Jews were not seen as white.

Jones, though, thinks that even if the trends aren’t decisive in the short term, “sooner or later these demographic realities will show up” in national elections. He adds: “We need to remember how close the 2016 election was.”

He says “there is a lag”, but by 2024 the changes will have become electorally decisive, and for Republicans the problem will increasingly be that “when one part of your base is so large and vocal, it becomes hard to pivot”.

Republicans’ white Christian base in large part wants to slow immigration or even halt it altogether – but it may be that that ship has sailed.

If Republicans cannot change, they may find that the country has changed around them.


Bin Laden Alive and Dead

September 20, 2017

by Christian Jürs


On September 23, 2006, the French newspaper L’Est Républicain quoted a report from the French secret service (Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure, DGSE) stating that Osama bin Laden had died in Pakistan on 23 August 2006, after contracting a case of typhoid fever that paralyzed his lower limbs. Saudi security services first heard of bin Laden’s death on 4 September 2006.

The Osama death was reported by the Saudi Arabian secret service to its government, which in turn quickly reported it to the French secret service. It is to be noted, however, that since his death, bin Ladin has released a number of tape recorded interviews that somehow seemed to have strongly supported the Bush administration’s continued terrorization of the American public. These tapes had been made by a CIA-owned firm in Texas.

Any educated Arabic person will tell you that while the language is technically correct, it is badly flawed in that no Arab would use such phrases in his speech. This is not particularly surprising because the CIA is not known for either its intelligence, subtlety or creative ability.

Osama  bin Laden, a Saudi, was employed by the CIA to organize and combat Russian military units in Afghanistan. When that conflict was ended, bin Laden began to attack American interests and was then the subject of CIA displeasure. They did use his faked image to release what they considered timely warnings about pending attacks. The purpose of this was to generate concern in Washington and permit the CIA to get more needed money and influence.

The Saudis, in collaboration with American intelligence units, have been directly responsible for more destruction and deaths that the armies of Genghis Kahn.


Islamic State on the Ropes: Two Paths Cross in the Ruins of Raqqa

When Islamic State conquered Raqqa in 2014, Fadi al-Hadi fled to Germany while Nadja Ramadan abandoned her life near Frankfurt to marry an Islamist in the IS stronghold. Now that the city is about to get liberated, the two are trying to retrace their steps.

September 20, 2017

by Christoph Reuter


Everywhere in the sun-drenched villages and towns of northern Syria, in the camps and the ruins where they have been living for months, or even years, the refugees from Raqqa are eagerly awaiting the chance to return. They gush about evenings spent in the “Casino,” as they call the bars along the banks of the Euphrates. They speak longingly of their homes and their gardens, as though they had once lived in the Garden of Eden. It’s a lot of longing for a relatively unspectacular place.

Two brothers have brought grapes from their garden in al-Meshlab, the first Raqqa neighborhood to be liberated, all the way to Tal Abyad, located 100 kilometers away. “We can’t return yet, but we were able to check if the house is still standing,” one of them explains. The grapes taste like — grapes. But they are served as though they were a rare delicacy.

Since June 6, Kurdish-controlled troops of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), together with heavy air support from the United States, have been attacking Raqqa, the unofficial capital of the Islamic State in Syria. In early September, the advancing force announced that it had taken complete control of the Old Town and now held 65 percent of the city’s territory. It would only take just a few more weeks until Raqqa is completely liberated, they said.

What, though, does this city — to which so many are longing to return — now look like? It takes several days before permission is granted to drive into Raqqa. Streets have been transformed into narrow paths through ravines of ruined buildings jutting into the sky, piles of rubble and the twisted wreckage of cars. Even with eyes closed, it is easy to tell that the center of Raqqa is getting closer. It stinks. At first just sporadically, but then more and more often until the stench no longer lifts. It smells like corpses in all different stages of decomposition, lying under the rubble of what were once multiple-story residential buildings.

“Forty seconds,” says Luqman Khalil, one of the SDF commanders on the city’s eastern front, with weary pride. Often, it takes no longer than that between the first report of an IS position, usually a sniper, and the impact of a shell or a bomb and the disappearance of that position. Where a building had once stood, a cloud of dust shoots into the sky, bulging upwards before thinning into a gray haze that slowly dissipates.

A Mostly Invisible Enemy

Sometimes, Khalil says, it might take two to four minutes, “but 10 at the most.” By then, one of the American jets that is constantly circling above Raqqa is close enough to destroy the target that has been identified. From one of the most advanced positions under Khalil’s command, located in the fifth floor of a building with windows covered by wool blankets, it is possible to see the shimmering inferno that was once Raqqa’s city center: a sea of ruins, gray and devoid of human life.

It is a fight against a mostly invisible enemy, but one that is militarily resourceful. “Everything is mined. They use snipers, but sometimes also suicide attackers in armed vehicles,” says Khalil. The most treacherous are Islamic State’s explosive drones, tiny aircraft that are virtually silent from a distance. They carry a few hundred grams of explosives each and are steered onto the roofs shortly after sunup. That is where the soldiers sleep when temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) transform the buildings into ovens.

Just recently, a drone killed one of them and injured five more. The result was an order that the roofs must be cleared at first light. And then, of course, there are the tunnels, says Khalil, just like everywhere in IS-controlled territory. The ground under the city is crisscrossed with them, some equipped with electricity and light — and in one, they even found a freight elevator. Many have been discovered, but not nearly all of them — which explains why IS raiding parties repeatedly turn up behind the lines, attack and then disappear.

For the moment, at least, Raqqa is hell.

For others, though, this city, with its once functional apartment blocks and single-story family homes, remains a paradise. Just a few weeks ago, a group comprised of Raqqa’s last 30 to 40 Armenians stumbled out of the combat zone, faces pale and the men sporting unkempt beards. They had refused until then to leave the city, preferring instead to pay the “jizya” — a tax non-Muslims had to pay Islamic State to be allowed to remain — and hold out. They didn’t want to leave because Raqqa, they explained, had provided refuge to their grandfathers and, especially, their grandmothers from the Turkish genocide in 1915. Arab families in the city had taken in Armenian children.

When Islamic State took control of Raqqa in 2014, a kind of ominous population exchange began. Tens of thousands of people left the city, with many of them ending up in Germany. Meanwhile, some 900 foreign fighters from Germany traveled to the region to join Islamic State, with many of them ending up in Raqqa. For them, the city was a salvation, while for others, life in the city became unbearable.

An Islamic Life

Such was the story of a German woman and two Syrians, whose paths between Raqqa and the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg crossed twice. The woman from Weinheim, just south of Frankfurt, set off to join IS at the end of June 2014 — to, as she says, finally be able to lead an Islamic life there. Meanwhile, one of the Syrians, an elementary school principal, fled Raqqa with a friend that same month to escape the clutches of IS. They ended up in Germany, one in Dortmund and the other in Meßstetten, located a two hours’ drive south of Weinheim

Then, in June 2017, the German woman decided to flee Raqqa, but she was taken into custody and interned in a refugee camp north of the city. That same month, the elementary school principal decided to leave Germany and return to Raqqa, where he rebuilt the first school in his liberated village west of the city.

The paths taken by the two are mirror images of each other: Both their travel routes and the lives they have led.

Our first meeting with the 32-year-old German woman, who headed alone to join IS in Syria three years ago, begins rather unusually: “DER SPIEGEL? You already wrote about me once, 20 years ago. Nadja Ramadan, good day!”

More than two decades ago, Nadja was kidnapped by her own father, who was Lebanese. At the time, the seven-year-old girl was living with her mother in Germany after her parents got divorced. Her father, who was serving time in a German jail for possession of drugs and other infractions, wanted to see his daughter during a prison furlough, but kidnapped her instead and took her to Lebanon. German officials had given him his passport and allowed him to leave the country.

Nadja remained in Lebanon for seven years, moving frequently with her father, and visited a Koran school for a time. On several occasions, her mother flew to Beirut and followed Nadja’s school bus in a taxi. Desperate and helpless, she knew where her daughter was but couldn’t bring her back out of Lebanon, knowing full well that the Lebanese courts consistently grant custody to fathers in such cases.

‘That Gave Me Tranquility’

Her life hasn’t been particularly nice, the daughter now says in the dreary office that the director of the refugee camp in which she is being held made available for our interview. It would have been more accurate to say that her life has been a series of horrors, one after the other.

When Nadja turned 14, her father forced her to marry a cousin who lived in Weinheim. “They threatened me, saying if I spoke or tried to run away, they would kill me. And I fell into line, had my first child and then, at 18, my second, and then a third. For a year, I suffered from anxiety and thought I was dying. I didn’t love the man and felt as if I was just acting. But my faith grew during this period. Muhammad the prophet appeared to me in a dream. I covered myself in the Islamist style and observed the prayers. That gave me tranquility.”

When she was 26, she left her husband and the three children, moving into a women’s shelter and ultimately into a home. And then she went to Raqqa. “On Facebook, I looked for and found a devout man.” He was a Turkish-German who had already joined IS in Raqqa. “He said I should come quickly and that it was possible to lead an Islamic life there.” Just one-and-a-half days after her arrival in Istanbul, she was brought across the border and then onwards to Raqqa. “It was a walk in the park,” she says. In 2014, the Turkish government still wasn’t opposed to allowing thousands of jihadis from around the world stream across Turkey to join Islamic State.

At the same time, Fadi al-Hadi, principal of the Ibn-Rushd Elementary School in Salhabiyah, fled the village, located just west of Raqqa. “Months before that, I had taken part in the final protests against IS. When they murdered a member of our group, we knew that they would kill all of us.” He escaped via Turkey, taking a boat to Greece and then continuing onward on foot. “The difficult route,” he says, “across Albania, Montenegro, through the mountains and onward to Serbia and Hungary” — over fences and through ditches. It took him two-and-a-half months, but he ultimately reached Germany.

Nadja Ramadan got married in Raqqa and became pregnant. After a while, they moved to the town of Tal Afar in Iraq, where her husband lost a leg in a bomb attack. As an invalid, he worked in the telecommunications office, she says. Her voice suddenly grows louder when the subject turns to IS terrorism and she says that she becomes irritable because everyone always asks: Did you plant bombs? Did you see any beheadings? Did you also have slaves?

An Unsettling Sentence

But she says she was actually at home nearly all of the time, cooking, reading the Koran, cleaning and watching the occasional film. She says she never would have been able to fire a weapon anyway because she is afraid of firearms. “I wanted to live quietly in an Islamic world, to serve God and raise my children.” She also had no contact with her neighbors in both Syria and Iraq. “I was always used to being alone and it didn’t bother me,” she says.

At the beginning, she says she wouldn’t even have had a problem if her husband had taken a second wife. “But then, when he lost his leg just as I was pregnant, I cared for him and was there for him. And I loved him so much that I never invited my girlfriends over to visit. I was afraid that he would marry them too. He is everything to me, my husband, my father, my friend.”

Together, the two — a young woman escaping a difficult life and a young man with just one leg — formed an odd team. “I wanted nothing to come between us! The time under IS rule was the best time of my life,” the delicate, completely veiled woman says. It is an unsettling sentence.

Fadi al-Hadi, the school principal of almost exactly the same age, ended up in Dortmund and then in Leipzig, where volunteers spent months helping him and other refugees “even though they didn’t know us at all.” He encountered Islamophobic demonstrators in Dresden and went to museums. “I wanted to know why this country works so well,” he says. He spent a lot of time traveling through Germany. One particular scene, though insignificant, is one he will never forget. “It was in Wuppertal, late one winter evening. A woman was standing at a red light. It was icy cold, the snow was ankle deep and the street was completely empty, but she was waiting for the light to turn green.”

He says he loves this devotion to the rules of a functioning society and the feeling of responsibility that underlies it. “Why isn’t our country like that?”

In Iraq, the front began closing in on IS-held territory in early 2017. But in Syria, too, the soldiers of the SDF spent months fighting their way through villages toward the Euphrates River. Nadja Ramadan and her husband returned to Raqqa in mid-May, where their second son Mohammed was born.

The storming of Salhabiyah, Fadi al-Hadi’s village west of Raqqa, came a short time later at the end of May and he found himself no longer able to concentrate on his German classes. “My home, my family was at stake! And I was supposed to learn vocabulary words. I couldn’t stand it anymore. It was clear: I had to go back!”

‘Cooperative and Moderate’

Officials at the German employment office tried to talk him out of it and his German friends were distraught. But nothing could change his mind. He applied for a Turkish visa three times, but was rejected each time. “So I flew to Greece and returned on the same migrant trail through the border river in the north. Crazy,” he says. “Everybody wanted to go the other way.” But not him. The Greek border police who intercepted him were surprised at first, but then moved by his story. They let him pass.

A few days later, he arrived in Salhabiyah. An American missile had destroyed one of the two buildings of his old school because the two last IS fighters in the village had been hiding there. A short time later, Abdullah from Meßstetten followed, Fadi al-Hadi’s friend from the first demonstrations against the dictatorship in 2011.

At the same time, Nadja Ramadan’s husband made the decision to bring his wife and children out of the city. A smuggler was to bring them through Kurdish-controlled northern Syria into Turkey. Their journey began at first light on the morning of June 19, but ended a short time later at a Kurdish checkpoint. They spent 18 days in the Kobani prison before being sent to the Ain Issa refugee camp, where they are staying in the section for IS followers, together with 12 women and 34 children, and just a single telephone between them. But they are alive.

“We have found her to be cooperative and moderate,” says Jalal Ayyaf, the camp director. “The intelligence agency also has nothing against her, otherwise they wouldn’t have brought her here in the first place.”

Nadja Ramadan would like to leave the camp and Ayyaf would also like to see her go. But how? “If someone from her family or a German agency were to come, they could take her immediately, as long as they were willing to take over responsibility for her!”

Her mother Helga has never given up hope of bringing her daughter back from Syria. But she still doesn’t know how it would be possible to get into the Kurdish region and then get back out again with her daughter, who initially entered the country illegally.

German officials have said nothing. Nadja says the officials who initially interrogated her told her: “Your country doesn’t want you. What can we do about it?”

Seventy kilometers to the south, Fadi al-Hadi and former teachers have fixed up the undestroyed part of the elementary school in Salhabiyah. They have managed to pull desks, chairs and three easy chairs for the office out of the rubble and clean them up. Each family has to buy notebooks and pens for the children.

Preordained by God

“When I arrived,” al-Hadi recalls, “IS was already gone. But the fear still sat so deeply that it was like everyone was paralyzed. They asked me: Are we allowed to just reopen the school? My predecessor, the ex-principal who was a party member, said he would wait until Bashar Assad ordered that the school be reopened. But in Germany I learned: Don’t wait! Do it! We lost three years during which there was no school here at all. Three years in which you could turn children into whatever you wanted: good people or monsters.” IS, he continues, wanted to make them into monsters, beginning with sweets, games and videos for the little ones in the hopes of luring the older ones into its training camps.

Now, lessons start at 8 a.m. every morning from Sundays to Thursdays in the only working school for miles around. Pupils from surrounding villages come as well. Only four rooms are usable and none of the seven teachers is receiving a salary. Since May, Salhabiyah has had to be completely self-reliant. There is no electricity, no water in the taps and no telephone network. Fadi al-Hadi spends his afternoons working in his family’s fields and worrying about the coming winter at the school. “We have to fix the windows, we need heating ovens and diesel, around 8,000 euros. Where should we get it? Either we get outside help or we’ll have to collect money from each family.”

In the refugee camp, Nadja Ramadan has had to sell the only memento of her husband that she had: “a small gold dinar from Islamic State that he gave me. I needed the money to buy diapers. It would be good if Germany could give me a way to return,” she says. “I want my children to be something, I want them to have a normal life. Not such a broken one like mine.” As she speaks, her two-and-a-half-year-old son Nuh is playing outside with five-year-old Abu Bakr, the son of another IS wife who is named after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State.

Meanwhile, Nadja’s one-legged husband is sitting in a Raqqa basement, unable to go forward or back. If he stays, the oncoming troops will ultimately get him. If he tries to make it to the front to surrender, his own comrades will shoot at him.

“You die only at the moment preordained by God,” his wife says.




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