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TBR News October 4, 2016

Oct 04 2016

 

 

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C.  October 4, 2016: “We are out of the office until October 6.-ed

WikiLeaks’ Assange signals release of documents before U.S. election

October 4, 2016

by Andrea Shalal

Reuters

BERLIN- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Tuesday the group would publish about one million documents related to the U.S. election and three governments in coming weeks, but denied the release was aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton.

Assange, speaking via a video link, said the documents would be released before the end of the year, starting with an initial batch in the coming week.

Assange, 45, who remains at the Ecuadoran embassy in London where he sought refuge in 2012 to avoid possible extradition to Sweden, said the election material was “significant” and would come out before the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

He criticized Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, for demonizing his WikiLeaks group’s work after a spate of releases related to the Democratic National Committee before the Democratic political convention this summer.

Assange said her campaign had falsely suggested that accessing WikiLeaks data would expose users to malicious software.

But he denied the release of documents relating to the U.S. election was specifically aimed at damaging Clinton, saying he had been misquoted.

“The material that WikiLeaks is going to publish before the end of the year is of … a very significant moment in different directions, affecting three powerful organizations in three different states as well as … the U.S election process,” he said via a video link at an event marking the group’s 10th anniversary.

He said the material would focus on war, weapons, oil, mass surveillance, the technology giant Google and the U.S. election, but declined to give any details.

“There has been a misquoting of me and Wikileaks publications … (suggesting) we intend to harm Hillary Clinton or I intend to harm Hillary Clinton or that I don’t like Hillary Clinton. All those are false,” he said.

Assange had told Fox News in an interview conducted by satellite in August that the group would release significant information related to Clinton’s campaign.

Assange also signaled changes in the way WikiLeaks is organized and funded, saying the group would soon open itself to membership. He said the group was looking to expand its media ties beyond the 100 outlets it already works with.

He told journalists gathered at a Berlin theater that the group’s work would continue, even if he had to resign in the future, and he appealed to supporters to fund its work. He also held up copies of several forthcoming books.

Assange and his attorney said Britain’s vote to leave the European Union could complicate his situation by limiting his ability to appeal to the European Court of Justice or the Council of Europe, a European human rights body.

Asked how he felt after four years in the embassy, he said “pale” and joked he would be a good candidate for medical study since he was otherwise healthy but had not seen the sun in over four years.

Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning about allegations that he committed rape in 2010. He denies the charges, and says he fears subsequent extradition to the United States, where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is underway.

In 2010, WikiLeaks released more than 90,000 secret documents on the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by almost 400,000 U.S. military reports detailing operations in Iraq. Those disclosures were followed by the release of millions of diplomatic cables dating back to 1973.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Richard Balmforth)

Assange: WikiLeaks will publish all US election docs by Nov. 8

October 4, 2016

RT

WikiLeaks will release documents on the US presidential elections before November 8, the group’s founder, Julian Assange, said in an eagerly anticipated address via videolink at the Volksbuhne Theater in Berlin to mark WikiLeaks’ 10th anniversary.

WikiLeaks hopes to be publishing documents “every week for the next 10 weeks,” Assange said.

Assange also promised to publish about a million documents related to at least three governments before the end of 2016, saying that the organization is evolving and planning to expand its collaboration with media outlets beyond the 100 it is already working with.

Assange hinted at some changes in WikiLeaks’ funding and organization.

He also denied that any of WikiLeaks’ publications are aimed at damaging the image of US presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, saying that some of his statements in this regard had been misquoted.

“WikiLeaks has released 10 million documents over 10 years. That’s 10 billion words, averaging 3,000 docs a day,” said the WikiLeaks founder.

According to Assange, the documents released or to be released by the organization “are revealing, but also the government/state reactions to the releases are revealing also.”

Assange also promised to release documents on war, oil, Google, and mass surveillance.

He called on his followers to join the newly-founded WikiLeaks Task Force in order to “help defend WikiLeaks against attacks.”

There are a number of interesting revelations that will be coming out. We believe that our work is informing the public and ensuring that they can get access to this information so that they can understand the world around, including their leaders,” Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks editor and Assange’s adviser, told RT.

WikiLeaks is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Tuesday. The project, which aims to expose government and corporate secrets, has evolved from an obscure citizen journalism site to a global phenomenon headed by an embassy-harbored fugitive.

Among WikiLeaks’ releases have been documents detailing American military equipment deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and operational procedures for dealing with terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

German prosecutors drop investigation into comedian Jan Böhmermann for ‘poem’ insulting Erdogan

German prosecutors have found insufficient evidence to charge comedian Jan Böhmermann for his televised poem insulting Turkey’s president. Böhmermann was responding to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s lust for libel litigation.

October 4, 2016

DW

German prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a controversial investigation into German comedian Jan Böhmermann for reading a poem insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying there was insufficient evidence to charge the comedian.

The Turkish government filed charges in April against the “Neo Magazin Royale” host after he read a lewd poem on the ZDFneo TV channel. The poem was a mixture of genuine criticism of Turkish policy – for instance towards Kurds – and lewd allegations about Erdogan personally, including saying he had sex with goats and engaged in sodomy.

The poem led to a diplomatic spat between Berlin and Ankara.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed authorities to launch an investigation into Böhmermann, citing paragraph 103 of Germany’s penal code, an archaic law which protects foreign heads of state from insult.

In order for the investigation to move forward permission from the German government was required, prompting an outpouring of criticism on Merkel for restricting free speech and kow-towing to Turkey.

Prosecutors in Mainz said in a statement on Tuesday that “criminal activity could not be proven with sufficient certainty.” It also found that there was insufficient evidence to charge those involved in the production or broadcast of the poem.

The prosecutors’ statement paraphrased Böhmermann’s own defense of the show, broadcast in March. He had said that the song was a clearly an “exaggerated portrayal” of the Turkish president, and that “any listener should immediately recognize … that it was a joke or a piece of nonsense.” Böhmermann had cited the “lacking seriousness” and “the absence of a serious connection to the personal honor” of Erdogan within his poem.

“This stance is supported by the objectively verifiable circumstances, namely the content of the piece, its origins, and the manner of the delivery,” prosecutors concluded.

Böhmermann’s poem was in response to Turkey summoning the German ambassador over a less lewd song criticizing Erdogan on another satirical show.

Ahead of delivering the poem, Böhmermann said that it was designed to demonstrate to Erdogan the difference between justifiable criticism and unsubstantiated insults that might test Germany’s defamation laws.

Erdogan opened nearly 2,000 cases in Turkey against people who had allegedly insulted him before announcing an amnesty for cases within Turkey this July.

The case led to a growing chorus of calls for the archaic law about insulting foreign heads of state to be abolished, a process now being explored in Germany’s houses of parliament.

Erdogan’s purge as it goes deeper into Syria in controversial mission

President Erdogan blames US-based celeric Fethullah Gulen for the attempted coup – with Mr Gulen’s brother the latest to face arrest

October 4, 2016

by Kim Sengupta

The Independent/UK

Istanbul-They were praised as great heroes, true defenders of Turkey’s sovereignty and honour: but the two pilots who shot down a Russian warplane last November are now lingering in prison, accused of being part of the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The arrests of the two men have received little international attention, but it is a useful indicator of the fast changing dynamics in Turkey. The country’s deputy prime minister, Mehmet Simsek, has claimed that as well as bringing down the Russian jet, the two F-16 pilots may also have taken part in the bombing of the parliament in Ankara – one of the most iconic acts of the turbulent night, and one that led people, fearing that the military was trying to crush civil power,  on to the streets in their thousands.

Tying the two pilots to the coup fits into the government’s narrative that downing of the Russian Su-24 was part of a scheme of Fethullah Gulen to destabilise the country by dragging it into conflict. That is the version of events put out by Ankara as it tries to repair relations with Moscow.  The arrests continue: Kutbettin Gulen, exiled cleric’s brother, was arrested in Gaziemir, in Izmir province, on Sunday and questioned about “membership of an armed terror group.”

Meanwhile Mr Gulen’s continuing presence in the US also feeds into the accusation of “a hidden foreign hand” behind the attempted putsch. Relations between Ankara and Washington  are increasingly  fractious: some Turkish ministers and officials refuse to believe that the Americans did not know about the plot, especially as key parts of it involved  Incerlik air base where there is a large US presence. There are demands that Americans extradite Mr Gulen without further delay, and also acrimony between the two Nato members about Turkish military action in Syria.

The arrests also support the claim that the military was one branch of the state which had been most heavily infiltrated by the Gulenists. And, of the three services, it is the Air Force which was taken over the most. In the crackdown which followed the coup, around 35 per cent of the fighter-bomber pilots have been arrested.

All branches of the services have faced President Erdogan’s retribution . Around 180 senior officers were detained, of whom 140 are said to remain in custody. In addition 149 senior commanders — 87 Army generals, 30 Air Force generals and 32 admirals — were dismissed along with 1.099 officers of other rank and 151 non-commissioned officers.

Denuding the armed forces of such large numbers of experienced personnel has meant that joint ventures with Nato requiring ‘inter-operability’ has suffered. A more immediate issue is the problems which might arise with a Turkish mission now going ever deeper inside Syria in fighting Isis and Kurdish groups.

The extent and culpability of the Gulenists in the July plot is the subject of fierce dispute. Mr Erdogan and his Justice and Development party (AKP) are accused of colluding with the exiled cleric in a religious alliance to persecute secularists and adherents of Kemal Ataturk for years, the relationship souring only after Gulenist police officers started investigating the President’s family and associates for alleged corruption.

President Erdogan warned last week that the current three-month state of emergency could be extended over a year.  He said “This state needs time to be purged of these terrorist organisation’s extensions. Right now we’re racing against time, the matter is so deep and complicated that it looks like three months will not be enough.”

That came to pass – at least in part – on Monday with an announcement that the state of emergency, would be extended by a further three months.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after a weekly Cabinet meeting that the state of will be prolonged by another 90 days from 19 October.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has threatened a fresh round of purges. “Now it’s time to clear them out of all structures. We will uproot these traitors from anywhere, within state, business, politics,” he has said.

Mr Gulen has countered that President Erdogan may himself have been behind the putsch which was a “gift from God”, claimed the cleric, because it allowed the Turkish leader to “cleanse” the army.  A Turkish officer had admitted, he claimed, that the “ Chief of General Staff and the intelligence chief met during the night of the coup [so] they already knew everything that would happen later.”

However many Turks, including opponents of the Erdogan government, are convinced that the Gulenists had indeed infiltrate public institutions. Those who tried to expose this say they suffered as a consequence in the hands of the Cleric’s followers.

Ahmet Zeki Ucok began to look into allegations of Gulenist entryism in his role of an Air Force investigator. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 for allegedly being involved in a coup plot — a victim of retaliation, he claims, organised by Gulenists. The evidence against Mr Ucock turned out to be forged and he was freed after the schism between Mr Erdogan and Mr Gulen.

“It became impossible to act against them, almost all of the military personnel chiefs, almost all of the intelligence chiefs and 72 per cent of the military judicial staff were members of this group” said Mr Ucok. “They had the intelligence officials and military staff responsible for personnel.”

Mr Ucok claimed that a key aspect of the Gulen movement’s success was suborning the military examination system. His prosecution team had found evidence, he claimed, that “answers were stolen every year, and 70 to 80 per cent of the students got in that way. The process began in the 1980s, which means that 40,000 people may have benefited over the last decade.”

Nihat Ali Ozcan, an academic and former army officer, also maintained that the Gulenists played the long game. “If you look at the time from which they began this process, it’s about 35 years. That’s the reason there were so many of them who got to the ranks of one or two star generals, but not many three or four stars” he wanted to point out.

“We had the stolen exam papers and things like that; but they also focused on getting into the personnel and medical departments, in that way they could channel promotions. They could, influence, for example, who became fighter pilots.”

Mr Ozcan says, however, that he is aware that non-Gulenists have been picked up in the roundup which followed the putsch and alleged that there has been mistreatment of prisoners. A member of his wife’s family, a 21 year old soldier, is among those arrested.

“I know he is not involved in the Gulen movement and hopefully this will be proved when the case comes to trial”, he said. “I have been to see him in prison and lots of these young guys have cuts and bruises. An F-16 hit a police station during the coup attempt and 49 policemen died. So, it could be it was angry policemen taking revenge.  We all want those guilty to be punished and those innocent to be freed.”

Turkish officials have repeatedly denied that any prisoners have been mistreated either during or after their detention.

Ceren is another one who hopes those not guilty of taking part in the coup would be freed without delay. Her 26 year old brother, an infantry lieutenant, was detained the morning after and is still being held.

The 22 year old medical student, who did not want her family name made public, continued “We were told that they carried out so many arrests as a precaution and after checks are made those without any evidence against them would be freed. We have been unofficially told that they have found no evidence against my brother. So many of them went out under orders not knowing what was going on. They were just being used, there was total confusion about what was happening, a lot of them thought they were responding to a terrorist attack.

“The authorities accept this, but they still will not release him. We do not support [the ruling] AKP we have a right to oppose them if we want to.  But no one in our family supports Fethullah Gulen : we are not a religious family. How can the government say they defended democracy against the coup and still keep innocent people in prison.

In Defense of Gary Johnson

… But Bill Weld is a different matter.

October 3, 2016

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

The Clinton smear machine, having finally noticed that Gary Johnson is cutting into what they regard as Hillary’s rightful share of the so-called “millennial” vote, has set its sights on the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate. It wasn’t supposed to be this way: the conventional wisdom was that the Libertarian ticket of Johnson and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld would split the traditionally Republican base, providing an outlet for the “Never Trump” crowd to vent their spleen.

This delighted the pro-Clinton “mainstream” media, which gave both Johnson and Weld more publicity – most of it highly favorable – than any third party ticket in memory. And these ostensible Libertarians reciprocated in kind: in an unforgettably baffling CNN “Town Hall” with Chris Cuomo, who asked the duo how they would describe Hillary Clinton in a word or a phrase, Johnson answered: “Hillary Clinton, a wonderful public servant.” Asked the same question, Weld averred:

“Old friend. Nice kid. Knew her in her 20s. We shared an office in the Nixon impeachment, real bond, lifelong. Seriously. Not kidding.”

Nope – not kidding! Even more baffling – and telling – was their evaluation of Barack Obama: Johnson opined he’s “A good guy,” while Weld praised him as “statesmen-like.”

This kind of talk presaged the kind of campaign Johnson-Weld would be running: ditching libertarianism and adopting a platform that resembles the public effusions of the Ripon Society, circa 1964, which declared at its inception that it would “fight for the middle ground.” The campaign has sought to redefine libertarianism as “centrism,” a grotesque ploy that reduced a radical ideology with a long and distinguished history to an anodyne phrase that George Romney or Nelson Rockefeller might have coined: “Fiscally conservative and socially inclusive.”

This strategy has had consequences that hardly anyone foresaw. While Johnson-Weld went out of their way not to criticize Mrs. Clinton except in the mildest possible terms – saving their venom for Donald Trump, whom Weld likened to Hitler – what everyone overlooked is that Trump was defining the race. One was either for Trump, or against him – and the Libertarians wound up splitting the anti-Trump vote.

This was exacerbated by their left-sounding campaign rhetoric, which embraced a carbon tax (Johnson later retreated), a “Fair Tax,” an explicit rejection of measures to ensure the religious liberty of Christians and others opposed to gay marriage, and a guaranteed spot for Mitt Romney in his administration. Add to this Johnson’s notoriety as a marijuana advocate, and the campaign’s targeting of “millennial” voters, and polls of a four-way contest (including Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate) began to show that Johnson-Weld spelled trouble for Hillary. This was the signal for the Clintonian regiments of the Fourth Estate to go into action.

It began with an interview on “Morning Joe,” when Johnson was asked: “What would you do about Aleppo?” His answer was to look baffled for a long moment, and then ask: “What is Aleppo?”

Mike Barnicle snarked: “You’re kidding.” Johnson said no, he wasn’t kidding. In tones of barely restrained contempt, Barnicle explained that Aleppo is “the epicenter of the refugee crisis” – a somewhat disingenuous assertion, because that city is more accurately the “epicenter” of the Islamist revolt against the government, and refugees are coming from all over Syria. In any case, once Johnson understood what Barnicle was referring to he gave an excellent answer:

“Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it’s a mess. I think that the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end. But when we’ve aligned ourselves with — when we’ve supported the opposition of the Free Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists.

“And then the fact that we’re also supporting the Kurds and this is — it’s just — it’s just a mess. And that this is the result of regime change that we end up supporting. And, inevitably, these regime changes have led a less-safe world.”

This is a perfectly rational answer – and, as readers of this column will note, it’s practically identical to Trump’s view – but Joe Scarborough wasn’t about to let it go: “Do you really think,” he railed, “that foreign policy is so insignificant that somebody running for President of the United States shouldn’t even know what Aleppo is, where Aleppo is, why Aleppo is so important?”

This is utter nonsense: while the interventionists have latched on to Aleppo as a “humanitarian crisis” created by Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad that requires US intervention, the campaign to paint the city’s defenders as angels of mercy is laughable. Aleppo is in the hands of Islamists who behead children. The battle for the city is indeed important, albeit not for the reason Scarborough and his fellow interventionists would give: it is the last gasp of the US-supported Islamist rebels and their even more radical allies in al-Qaeda and affiliated groups, who are being pushed out of Syria by the combined government-Russian offensive. This the War Party wants to prevent at all costs: regime-change in Syria is their goal, not fighting terrorism. Thus the cry to “Save Aleppo!” is heard throughout the media, amid a longstanding call from Hillary Clinton for a “no fly zone.”

This would lead to a direct military confrontation with the Russians, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress. Responding to a question from Sen. Roger Whicker (R-Mississippi) about establishing a no-fly zone, the Marine Corps General averred:

“Right now, Senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria it would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia. That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make.”

The desirability of a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia is a regular theme put out there by the Clinton camp, and so this dire prospect bothers the Clintonians and their media cheering section not at all. As far as the rest of us are concerned, however, the idea of approaching the brink of World War III over Syria is absolutely loony. Given a choice between “saving” Aleppo and not turning much of the globe into radioactive ash, Gary Johnson chooses the latter.

None of this matters to the “mainstream” media, however, which is so determined to elect Clinton that sparking a nuclear conflagration seems to them a small price to pay. They gleefully piled on Johnson’s “Aleppo moment,” echoing Scarborough’s ridiculous contention that not knowing how “important” Aleppo is “disqualifies” him as a credible candidate. The derision was universal, the snark was endless – even Bill Maher and Colbert got into the act — and it didn’t stop there.

In a subsequent interview with both Johnson and Weld, Chris Matthews asked them all the requisite questions about Trump’s unmitigated evil, and they went along with it, saying all the “right” things. When the conversation turned to foreign policy, Johnson gave a good answer on Syria, basically repeating his “let’s-solve-this-diplomatically” by cooperating with Russia trope, which Weld seemed to contradict by bring up Ukraine. Matthews then asked them both who is more qualified to be commander-in-chief, Hillary or Trump: Johnson hemmed and hawed, basically refusing to give a straight answer, and Weld suggested that he disagrees with Johnson on this question. Matthews, delighted to take advantage of this opportunity, said “I like it when you disagree,” and this was the signal for Weld to give his characteristic smirk, opining:

“But no, Hillary Clinton is clearly qualified to be commander-

in-chief and president of the United States. Donald Trump…

“MATTHEWS: How about the other guy?

“WELD: … is clearly not qualified. And I`ve encouraged him almost

with affection to think some of other job or profession he`d like to [enter]…”

Carl Bernstein reports that he has sources who say Weld is positioning himself to drop out of the race and endorse Mrs. Clinton, and comments like this seem to all but confirm it.

Weld is a weasel who is bad on nearly everything: on domestic policy, he’s a statist through-and-through, except when it comes to “socially inclusive” issues like abortion. On foreign policy, he’s a dyed-in-the-wool interventionist, and a fervent Atlanticist: as a surrogate for George W. Bush, he defended the Iraq war, opining that Bush had “risen to the international challenge.” He has stated that the American military presence will be global under a Johnson administration, including “the projection of air and naval military supremacy around the world,” as Ed Krayewski points out in Reason magazine.

Unlike Johnson, Weld clearly is rooting for Hillary Clinton, and he undoubtedly thought he could raise considerable money from Democrats and Never-Trumpers back when everyone thought the Libertarian ticket would drain voters away from Trump. Now that that’s backfired, and presumably the big donations have dried up, Bernstein’s scenario is more than a little credible.

Toward the end of the interview with Matthews came what Johnson himself said was another “Aleppo moment”:

“MATTHEWS: I got actually a little lightning round here. This is where we

have fun and maybe make some news. Who is your favorite foreign leader?

JOHNSON: Who is my favorite…

MATTHEWS: Any – just name ,,, any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to, anybody.

JOHNSON: Shimon Peres.

MATTHEWS: No, no, OK. I`m talking about living. Go ahead. You have got to do this. Anywhere. Any continent, Canada, Mexico, Europe over there, Asia, South America, Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect.

JOHNSON: I guess I`m having an Aleppo moment …”

Johnson tried to save himself by mentioning “the former President of Mexico,” whom he could not name, Vicente Fox – whose scandal-plagued regime, rife with corruption, eventually drove him from politics. Weld, who’s taken on the role of Johnson’s babysitter, eventually stepped in and said Angela Merkel – who has presided over a surge in terrorist attacks and the overrunning of Germany by a horde of “refugees.” Matthews agreed with Weld that “no one can argue with that,” while Gary sat there grinning sheepishly.

When Matthews said “You have got to do this” the appropriate response was: No, I don’t. The idea that any libertarian could have a “favorite foreign leader,” a head of state one could “look up to,” is absurd. There is no such person on earth.

That this never occurred to Johnson underscores his lack of grounding in the basics of libertarianism. That aside, however, Johnson himself saying he was having another “Aleppo moment” was enough to invite yet another storm of derision from Hillary’s partisans in the media. Matthews is no dummy: he knew perfectly well what he was doing, and even hinted at what he was up to when he said they might “make a little news.”

I’ve been very critical of Johnson, but in this case I have to come out in his defense.

In spite of his many shortcomings as a candidate, he has managed to put on a good showing – for all the wrong reasons, true, but perhaps this is of less concern to my readers than it is to me. For the most part he’s been relatively principled when it comes to foreign policy: indeed, when the Chicago Tribune endorsed him, they made a point of distancing themselves from his strongly anti-interventionist stance. This is a great irony, since the Tribune, under its founder, Col. Robert McCormick, was the flagship paper of Old Right “isolationism” in the years before and after World War II – the journalistic antecedent of modern libertarianism.

Johnson has been falling in the polls a bit, and with the pro-Clinton media pounding away at him his descent may continue. However, the Johnson Effect, to coin a phrase, will likely continue to impact the election in potentially significant ways: it could even throw the whole thing into the House of Representatives, as Nate Silver has opined (although, admittedly, the chances of that are low, albeit not nonexistent).

Gary Johnson, in spite of himself – and in spite of the sinister Weld – may wind up stopping Hillary Clinton from taking the White House. And that, my dear readers, is a lesson in the truism that one’s actions are likely to have all sorts of unintended consequences. If Weld thought he could throw the election to Hillary by joining the Libertarian ticket – over the objections of a great many horrified libertarians – he may be proved laughably wrong.

Syrian Refugee Helps Germans Hunt Down IS

As a prisoner of Islamic State in Syria, journalist Masoud Aqil suffered torture and death threats. Now in Germany, he is helping law enforcement officials hunt down former IS members who came to Europe as refugees.

October 4, 2016

by Jonas Breng

Spiegel

At the climax of the hunt — one which was to give Masoud Aqil his freedom back — he clenches his fists and holds his breath in dread. Aqil is hiding in the parking lot of an industrial park in Bavaria and he carefully peers out onto the street from between the cars. On the right, he can see the refugee hostel, on the left, a shoe store. On the street in between, a man is approaching on a bicycle. Is he really the terrorist?

Aqil leans forward slightly to get a better view — the man he is looking for has a scar on his forehead. “That’s the bastard. Oh god, I recognize him,” Aqil whispers. The man with the scar pedals unhurriedly into the courtyard in front of the hostel.

By the time the man appears, Aqil has been waiting in front of the hostel for seven hours. During the wait, he speaks of revenge and of the gratification of no longer feeling like a victim. But on that evening in May, as the man who Aqil believes is an Islamic State (IS) terrorist rides by, Aqil cowers motionlessly. For a couple of seconds, he is once again prisoner 6015, a captive of Islamic State, doomed to death. The Islamists humiliated Aqil, and they tortured him. They said they were going to cut his head off with a knife, like an animal.

A Kurdish journalist from Syria, Aqil is 23 years old. He was kidnapped there by IS and survived for 280 days in their prisons of torture — until he was released as part of a prisoner exchange and fled to Germany.

But here, in the peace and quiet of Europe, the terror of Syria caught up with him. Aqil ran into an old acquaintance from the other side — a fighter for Islamic State. Both of them are now refugees in Germany — a victim and an alleged perpetrator, one in northern Germany and the other in the south. It is a situation that shows that some refugees brought the war with them when they fled — and it shows why it is so difficult for German investigators to distinguish between criminals and their victims.

Reason To Be Afraid

It is often the case that people want to remain anonymous in stories such as this one. But Aqil insists that his real name be used. He wants to demonstrate that the terrorists have no power over him. Aqil, though, is still afraid, and he believes that he has reason to be fearful, even here in Germany. That’s why he is helping out German investigators on other cases as well.

Aqil is from Qamishli, a city in the largely Kurdish area of northern Syria. His father was a wheat farmer and owned a large plot of land while his mother often cooked her son a meal of eggs and tomatoes. It was a good life.

Aqil moved to Aleppo to attend university, where he began studying English-language literature, reading Hemingway and Faulkner — only returning to Qamishli in 2013 after the university was bombed. A brother-in-law managed to get him a job at the Kurdish radio station Rudaw.

Aqil interviewed Kurdish officers and wrote both about concerts in the city and about politics. He was quick and smart — and he found the work easy. If there is such a thing as freedom in times of war, Aqil was able to enjoy it.

But that life came to an end on Dec. 15, 2014. Together with his colleague Farhad Hamo, Aqil set out that morning for the city of Tall Alu for an interview with a clan leader on the edge of IS-held territory. Hamo drove while Aqil dozed off in the passenger seat. After about an hour, Aqil says, Hamo suddenly woke him up with a jab to the ribs. Aqil opened his eyes and saw a group of men in front of them. It was an Islamic State assault unit — only about 50 meters away.

Later, in prison, Aqil kept reliving that moment — thinking of the couple of seconds he and Hamo maybe could have used to turn around and floor it out of there. But in the moment, it was like they were paralyzed. One of the IS fighters came up to the window. “Who are you? Where are you going?” he asked, according to Aqil. He was wearing the kind of vest often worn by suicide bombers and a green facemask and was carrying an M16 assault rifle.

Aqil says: “We had microphones and cameras in the trunk. We couldn’t have denied it. The only thing going through my mind was: We shouldn’t be here.”

Blindfolded and Handcuffed

The Islamists brought the two journalists, Aqil continues, to a school that they used as a prison. Aqil was blindfolded and handcuffed. They began beating him for a few minutes and then pulled him up on a rope by the hands. I’m going to die, Aqil thought to himself.

The terrorists wanted to know where he came from, for how long he had been a journalist and whether he belonged to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, Islamic State’s most feared enemy. The Islamists opened his laptop, Aqil says, and scoured his hard drive. For every one of his Twitter posts, they hit his naked legs with a wooden club. There were 154 posts, he says.

When the fighters pulled him and Hamo out of their cells the next morning, Aqil yelled: “What’s going to happen to us?” An IS guard ran his finger across Aqil’s neck: “What do you think? We’re going to cut off your head,” the man said according to Aqil.

They were led in front of an open-air Sharia court. Aqil describes how they kneeled trembling on a gravel square in a cold, dusty wind. They were surrounded by around 10 IS members, though it was impossible to know for sure because of his blindfold. The judge had a high-pitched voice and screamed most of the time. The judge, Aqil says, shrieked that he had decided to execute the “devils.” Immediately.

Afterwards, as the fighters shoved he and Hamo into a car, Aqil whispered: “Brother, be strong. Our time has come.”

But then, the car didn’t just drive into the desert somewhere, but to Shaddadi, a town 60 kilometers away, stopping in front of a small prison. Somebody had apparently decided that the two reporters could prove more useful alive than dead.

In Shaddadi, Aqil continues, they forced him into orange coveralls and threw him into a cell holding four other men. It stank of excrement and sweat. A small man was crouched down in a corner: “I’m Nihab,” the man said. Like Aqil, Nihab was from Qamishli and had been locked up for a minor infraction. Aqil collapsed next to Nihab and closed his eyes.

When the guards in the coming days tossed moldy hunks of bread into the cell, the two shared it between them. Aqil was younger than Nihab, but when Nihab cried, Aqil put his arm around his new friend’s shoulder and told stories of Qamishli. It proved helpful, mostly to calm Aqil’s own fears. Nihab showed him a small pen that he had managed to keep hidden from the guards.

“It’s like a movie,” Aqil told himself. “I have to watch and wait for it to end. It will be over eventually.”

Aqil says that he was tortured regularly, mostly at night. IS men, he says, would beat him with cables or metal rods. Afterwards, as he lay on the floor with the metallic taste of blood in his mouth, he would think about the taste of the dish his mother used to make for him. “On some days, we were happy to be tortured,” Aqil says. “That meant that death would wait.”

On Fridays after prayers, the terrorists would shoot some of the prisoners. Aqil says he could hear the gunfire in his cell, after which the Islamists would force him to watch the videos on a mobile phone. “Look, journalist, what we did to your friends,” they would say. Aqil would try not to throw up. “We are going to burn you alive,” one of the IS fighters told him, Aqil says.

At some point they learned that Nihab might be released. Aqil tore a piece of paper out of a Koran and, using Nihab’s pen, he wrote a kassiber, a secret message: “My dear father, my dear mother, I wish so badly to be with you at this moment. I miss you so much, but I am well. I know you are doing all you can for my freedom.” Nihab shoved the note between the layers of the sole of his shoe and was released a short time later.

Aqil kept a calendar on a second scrap of paper, drawing a line each evening. He carried the slip hidden in his underwear. “I needed order. I didn’t want to go crazy from fear.”

A few days later, a broad-chested IS leader in sunglasses arrived at the prison. It was probably Abu Luqman, the IS provincial governor from Raqqa, Aqil says. Kneeling in front of a black flag, Abu Luqman ordered that Aqil be brought to the so-called central prison, a football stadium in the terrorists’ stronghold of Raqqa.

It was February and the drive took five hours and there was snow in front of the stadium when they arrived. When Aqil’s blindfold was removed, he found himself in a cell measuring two meters by one meter. From then on, Aqil slept on the damp ground next to his excrement. Under a thin felt blanket, parasites ate their way into his skin.

At some point, Aqil began talking to himself, for hours at a time — until one night he heard Hamo’s voice. His colleague, Aqil thought, must be just a couple of cells away. “We prayed as loud as we could so that we could hear each other’s voice,” Aqil says. “So that we knew we weren’t alone.” At night, Aqil dreamed of wool socks and of his girlfriend.

Beneath his skin, the vermin lay eggs — and Aqil scratched himself until blood ran down his arm.

Freedom

When IS fighters pulled him out of his cell after about 100 days, he could hardly stand anymore. But his ordeal wasn’t over and he was repeatedly brought to different prisons. Aqil didn’t understand why Islamic State kept him alive. He had been imprisoned for about seven months — his beard had grown down to his chest — when prison guards made a video of him, forcing him to read a statement before the camera. It was about ransom money and a prisoner exchange. “I was of course hopeful,” he says. “But a Kurdish journalist had never before survived IS captivity.”

One evening in September, it was the 279th day of his imprisonment, one of the guards called out Aqil’s name. Together with several fighters from the Kurdish militia YPG, he was taken to a pick-up. The men were forced to lie on top of each other in the bed of the truck, which then drove off into the night on a bumpy gravel road. Aqil says that he tasted the sand of the desert and once again prepared himself to die.

But the IS driver had a radio with him and Aqil heard the word “exchange site” through the receiver. He couldn’t believe it. “I was shaking, but maybe it was just a trap and they would blow us up in the last second.”

The exchange took place between the front lines in the desert south of Hasaka. “Tell the infidels they must obey Islam,” said one of the terrorists before they took off Aqil’s handcuffs. Aqil was put on a motorcycle and driven to the other side. He was free.

In the weeks that followed, Aqil met friends and relatives, but his fear persisted. On the street, he kept glancing over his shoulder, thinking that enemies could be lurking everywhere. He wanted to get away from the terror and away from the war. So he decided to travel to the safest country in the world, a place where two of his brothers were already living: Germany.

When Aqil and his mother crossed the German-Austrian border by train, Germany was involved in a bitter debate about the events that had taken place on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, which saw dozens of women sexually harassed by migrants. Just months before, arriving refugees had been met with open arms and applause, but now, the mood was shifting. Many Germans were now wondering who these foreigners were who were coming to their country for protection. The Germans were concerned about their security.

‘Now, the Terrorists Are Here’

Initially, Aqil and his mother ended up in a refugee tent in northern Germany. Not long later, in March, three IS terrorists blew themselves up in Brussels and investigators uncovered a terrorist network that spread across several countries, including Germany. Politicians and security personnel warned that Islamic State was able to smuggle fighters into Germany by way of the refugee routes.

A huge number of migrants arrived in Germany without papers and it was impossible to determine who they were. How, then, could officials differentiate between real refugees and terrorists? “Germany made a mistake by letting all of these people in,” says Aqil. “Now, the terrorists are here.”

He opens his laptop and points to a screenshot of a Facebook profile showing a grinning man in sunglasses. When Aqil saw this photo for the first time, he could hardly breathe. He knew this Arab with the scar on his forehead.

The man is from Qamishli and had lived just a few streets away from Aqil until, in 2013, he suddenly disappeared from the city, parts of which were under the control of the Kurdish YPG. At the same time, Aqil says, images of the man holding a Kalashnikov and standing next to IS fighters appeared on his then-Facebook profile. He had apparently become one of them.

After the terrorists kidnapped Aqil, his brother contacted the man with the scar on his face via Facebook. It was a desperate attempt to ask for help from an Islamist — and he of course didn’t get an answer.

“He is evil incarnate,” says Aqil, biting his fist. “Everyone in our city knew that he belonged to them.” Now, the man has a new Facebook profile and there are no longer any images of him with other IS fighters. Aqil’s brother stumbled upon the new profile and forwarded it to Aqil. The man’s new hometown was also listed: a city in Bavaria.

The night after his brother sent him the screenshot, Aqil couldn’t sleep. He came to Germany so that he could live in safety. But now, the terror was here too.

At some point that night, Aqil got up and started researching, looking through Facebook profiles and contacting members of the YPG militia. He wanted to find the man with the scar and expose him to the German police. Aqil, the former prisoner, had become a terrorist hunter. “I had to do something to protect Germany,” Aqil says. Now, Aqil is working on a number of different cases for two German investigative agencies. He has already been able to deliver the names and locations of several suspects from his time as a prisoner. The investigators hold him in high regard.

An Extreme Challenge

But the first case was the man with the scar. In May, after Aqil had found out where the man was living, he climbed aboard a train to Bavaria. “If I wasn’t certain, I wouldn’t steal the police’s time,” he says on the ride and pulls a thumb drive out of his pocket where all of the pictures and information is stored. Rapeseed fields and gardens speed past outside.

It is pouring down rain when Aqil climbs up the stairs to the offices of the criminal police. Two special investigators with the Bavarian police forces have traveled there to meet him. They lead Aqil into an interrogation room with a poster of a Bavarian landscape on the wall. “You don’t have to say anything that would incriminate you,” says one of the investigators. Aqil takes a deep breath.

Following the interrogation, the investigators are satisfied and they take Aqil seriously even if he is unable to provide clear proof. “The man seems credible. We have no reason to doubt the information. But it’s a complicated case,” one of the two says.

Cases such as this one present an extreme challenge to the special investigators. How are they supposed to gather evidence that will stand up in court about people who have no paper trail? A scar, the testimony of another refugee: that’s often not enough. Plus, there isn’t a police force in Syria that they could turn to for help. In recent months, the two special investigators have looked into more than 30 complaints of the type they received from Aqil. Only one suspect has been arrested.

This time, too, the officers began investigating. They interrogated the man with the scar and searched both his laptop and mobile phone — but found nothing. So Aqil decided to call on the man himself. Two days later, he was sitting in the parking lot of the industrial park.

And then everything went quickly. When the man biked into the courtyard of the refugee hostel, Aqil froze. He could have stopped him to talk to him, but he stayed where he was. “I can’t,” Aqil whispered.

Later, the man was standing in front of the hostel entrance smoking a cigarette, providing an opportunity for a couple of questions. “Are you from Qamishli in Syria?”

“Yes.” His voice was quiet and tight. “How did you know that?”

“The police were here a short time ago. What did they want from you?”

The man remained silent. His fingers fished a second cigarette out of his pack. But he didn’t light it.

“Have you ever been a member of Islamic State?”

“Bullshit,” he said fiercely and threw the cigarette into the corner. His hands were shaking as he quickly shoved them into the pockets of his pants.

What We Talk About When We Don’t Want to Talk About Nuclear War

Donald and Hillary Take a No-First-Use Pledge on Relevant Information

by Andrew J. Bacevich

Tom Dispatch

You may have missed it. Perhaps you dozed off. Or wandered into the kitchen to grab a snack. Or by that point in the proceedings were checking out Seinfeld reruns. During the latter part of the much hyped but excruciating-to-watch first presidential debate, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt posed a seemingly straightforward but cunningly devised question. His purpose was to test whether the candidates understood the essentials of nuclear strategy.

A moderator given to plain speaking might have said this: “Explain why the United States keeps such a large arsenal of nuclear weapons and when you might consider using those weapons.”

What Holt actually said was: “On nuclear weapons, President Obama reportedly considered changing the nation’s longstanding policy on first use.  Do you support the current policy?”

The framing of the question posited no small amount of knowledge on the part of the two candidates. Specifically, it assumed that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each possess some familiarity with the longstanding policy to which Holt referred and with the modifications that Obama had contemplated making to it.

If you will permit the equivalent of a commercial break as this piece begins, let me explain why I’m about to parse in detail each candidate’s actual answer to Holt’s question. Amid deep dives into, and expansive punditry regarding, issues like how “fat” a former Miss Universe may have been and how high an imagined future wall on our southern border might prove to be, national security issues likely to test the judgment of a commander-in-chief have received remarkably little attention.  So indulge me.  This largely ignored moment in last week’s presidential debate is worth examining.

With regard to the issue of “first use,” every president since Harry Truman has subscribed to the same posture: the United States retains the prerogative of employing nuclear weapons to defend itself and its allies against even nonnuclear threats.  In other words, as a matter of policy, the United States rejects the concept of “no first use,” which would prohibit any employment of nuclear weapons except in retaliation for a nuclear attack.  According to press reports, President Obama had toyed with but then rejected the idea of committing the United States to a “no first use” posture.  Holt wanted to know where the two candidates aspiring to succeed Obama stood on the matter.

Cruelly, the moderator invited Trump to respond first.  The look in the Republican nominee’s eyes made it instantly clear that Holt could have been speaking Farsi for all he understood.  A lesser candidate might then have begun with the nuclear equivalent of “What is Aleppo?”

Yet Trump being Trump, he gamely — or naively — charged headlong into the ambush that Holt had carefully laid, using his allotted two minutes to offer his insights into how as president he would address the nuclear conundrum that previous presidents had done so much to create.  The result owed less to early Cold War thinkers-of-the-unthinkable like Herman Kahn or Albert Wohlstetter, who created the field of nuclear strategy, than to Dr. Strangelove.  Make that Dr. Strangelove on meth.

Trump turned first to Russia, expressing concern that it might be gaining an edge in doomsday weaponry. “They have a much newer capability than we do,” he said.  “We have not been updating from the new standpoint.”  The American bomber fleet in particular, he added, needs modernization.  Presumably referring to the recent employment of Vietnam-era bombers in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, he continued somewhat opaquely, “I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, they’re old enough that your father, your grandfather, could be flying them. We are not — we are not keeping up with other countries.”

Trump then professed an appreciation for the awfulness of nuclear weaponry.  “I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it.  But I would certainly not do first strike.  I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.”

Give Trump this much: even in a field that tends to favor abstraction and obfuscating euphemisms like “fallout” or “dirty bomb,” classifying Armageddon as the “nuclear alternative” represents something of a contribution.

Still, it’s worth noting that, in the arcane theology of nuclear strategy, “first strike” and “first use” are anything but synonymous.  “First strike” implies a one-sided, preventive war of annihilation.  The logic of a first strike, such as it is, is based on the calculation that a surprise nuclear attack could inflict the “nuclear alternative” on your adversary, while sparing your own side from suffering a comparable fate.  A successful first strike would be a one-punch knockout, delivered while your opponent still sits in his corner of the ring.

Yet whatever reassurance was to be found in Trump’s vow never to order a first strike — not the question Lester Holt was asking — was immediately squandered.  The Republican nominee promptly revoked his “no first strike” pledge by insisting, in a cliché much favored in Washington, that “I can’t take anything off the table.”

Piling non sequitur upon non sequitur, he next turned to the threat posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea, where “we’re doing nothing.”  Yet, worrisome as this threat might be, keeping Pyongyang in check, he added, ought to be Beijing’s job.  “China should solve that problem for us,” he insisted.  “China should go into North Korea.  China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.”

If China wouldn’t help with North Korea, however, what could be more obvious than that Iran, many thousands of miles away, should do so — and might have, if only President Obama had incorporated the necessary proviso into the Iran nuclear deal.  “Iran is one of their biggest trading partners.  Iran has power over North Korea.”  When the Obama administration “made that horrible deal with Iran, they should have included the fact that they do something with respect to North Korea.”  But why stop with North Korea?  Iran “should have done something with respect to Yemen and all these other places,” he continued, wandering into the nonnuclear world.  U.S. negotiators suitably skilled in the Trumpian art of the deal, he implied, could easily have maneuvered Iran into solving such problems on Washington’s behalf.

Veering further off course, Trump then took a passing swipe at Secretary of State John Kerry:  “Why didn’t you add other things into the deal?”  Why, in “one of the great giveaways of all time,” did the Obama administration fork over $400 million in cash?  At which point, he promptly threw in another figure without the slightest explanation — “It was actually $1.7 billion in cash” — in “one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history.”

Trump then wrapped up his meandering tour d’horizon by decrying the one action of the Obama administration that arguably has reduced the prospect of nuclear war, at least in the near future.  “The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems,” he stated with conviction.  “All they have to do is sit back 10 years, and they don’t have to do much.  And they’re going to end up getting nuclear.”  For proof, he concluded, talk to the Israelis.  “I met with Bibi Netanyahu the other day,” he added for no reason in particular.  “Believe me, he’s not a happy camper.”

On this indecipherable note, his allotted time exhausted, Trump’s recitation ended.  In its way, it had been a Joycean performance.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters?

It was now Clinton’s turn to show her stuff.  If Trump had responded to Holt like a voluble golf caddy being asked to discuss the finer points of ice hockey, Hillary Clinton chose a different course: she changed the subject. She would moderate her own debate.  Perhaps Trump thought Holt was in charge of the proceedings; Clinton knew better.

What followed was vintage Clinton: vapid sentiments, smoothly delivered in the knowing tone of a seasoned Washington operative.  During her two minutes, she never came within a country mile of discussing the question Holt had asked or the thoughts she evidently actually has about nuclear issues.

“[L]et me start by saying, words matter,” she began.  “Words matter when you run for president.  And they really matter when you are president.  And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.”

It was as if Clinton were already speaking from the Oval Office.  Trump had addressed his remarks to Lester Holt.  Clinton directed hers to the nation at large, to people the world over, indeed to history itself.  Warming to her task, she was soon rolling out the sort of profundities that play well at the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment, or the Council on Foreign Relations, causing audiences to nod — or nod off

“It is essential that America’s word be good,” Clinton continued.  “And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.”

Then, after inserting a tepid, better-than-nothing endorsement of the Iran nuclear deal, she hammered Trump for not offering an alternative.  “Would he have started a war?  Would he have bombed Iran?”  If you’re going to criticize, she pointed out, you need to offer something better.  Trump never does, she charged.  “It’s like his plan to defeat ISIS. He says it’s a secret plan, but the only secret is that he has no plan.”

With that, she reverted to platitudes. “So we need to be more precise in how we talk about these issues. People around the word follow our presidential campaigns so closely, trying to get hints about what we will do. Can they rely on us? Are we going to lead the world with strength and in accordance with our values? That’s what I intend to do. I intend to be a leader of our country that people can count on, both here at home and around the world, to make decisions that will further peace and prosperity, but also stand up to bullies, whether they’re abroad or at home.”

Like Trump, she offered no specifics.  Which bullies?  Where?  How?  In what order?  Would she start with Russia’s Putin?  North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un?  Perhaps Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines?  How about Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan?  Or Bibi?

In contrast to Trump, however, Clinton did speak in complete sentences, which followed one another in an orderly fashion.  She thereby came across as at least nominally qualified to govern the country, much like, say, Warren G. Harding nearly a century ago.  And what worked for Harding in 1920 may well work for Clinton in 2016.

Of Harding’s speechifying, H.L. Mencken wrote at the time, “It reminds me of a string of wet sponges.”  Mencken characterized Harding’s rhetoric as “so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.  It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh.  It is rumble and bumble.  It is flap and doodle.  It is balder and dash.”  So, too, with Hillary Clinton.  She is our Warren G. Harding.  In her oratory, flapdoodle and balderdash live on.

The National Security Void

If I’ve taxed your patience by recounting this non-debate and non-discussion of nuclear first use, it’s to make a larger point.  The absence of relevant information elicited by Lester Holt’s excellent question speaks directly to what has become a central flaw in this entire presidential campaign: the dearth of attention given to matters basic to U.S. national security policy.

In the nuclear arena, the issue of first use is only one of several on which anyone aspiring to become the next commander-in-chief should be able to offer an informed judgment.  Others include questions such as these:

What is the present-day justification for maintaining the U.S. nuclear “triad,” a strike force consisting of manned bombers and land-based ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles?

Why is the Pentagon embarking upon a decades-long, trillion-dollar program to modernize that triad, fielding a new generation of bombers, missiles, and submarines along with an arsenal of new warheads?  Is that program necessary?

How do advances in non-nuclear weaponry — for example, in the realm of cyberwarfare — affect theories of nuclear deterrence devised by the likes of Kahn and Wohlstetter during the 1950s and 1960s?  Does the logic of those theories still pertain?

Beyond the realm of nuclear strategy, there are any number of other security-related questions about which the American people deserve to hear directly from both Trump and Clinton, testing their knowledge of the subject matter and the quality of their judgments.  Among such matters, one in particular screams out for attention.  Consider it the question that Washington has declared off-limits: What lessons should be drawn from America’s costly and disappointing post-9/11 wars and how should those lessons apply to future policy?

With Election Day now merely a month away, there is no more reason to believe that such questions will receive serious consideration than to expect Trump to come clean on his personal finances or Clinton to release the transcripts of her handsomely compensated Goldman Sachs speeches.

When outcomes don’t accord with his wishes, Trump reflexively blames a “rigged” system.  But a system that makes someone like Trump a finalist for the presidency isn’t rigged.  It is manifestly absurd, a fact that has left most of the national media grasping wildly for explanations (albeit none that tag them with having facilitated the transformation of politics into theater).

I’ll take a backseat to no one in finding Trump unfit to serve as president.  Yet beyond the outsized presence of one particular personality, the real travesty of our predicament lies elsewhere — in the utter shallowness of our political discourse, no more vividly on display than in the realm of national security.

What do our presidential candidates talk about when they don’t want to talk about nuclear war?  The one, in a vain effort to conceal his own ignorance, offers rambling nonsense.  The other, accustomed to making her own rules, simply changes the subject.

The American people thereby remain in darkness.  On that score, Trump, Clinton, and the parties they represent are not adversaries.  They are collaborators.

Philippine leader tells Obama ‘go to hell’, says can buy arms from Russia, China

October 4, 2016

by Martin Petty

Reuters

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday told U.S. President Barack Obama to “go to hell” and said the United States had refused to sell some weapons to his country but he did not care because Russia and China were willing suppliers.

In his latest salvo, Duterte said he was realigning his foreign policy because the United States had failed the Philippines and added that at some point, “I will break up with America”. It was not clear what he meant by “break up”.

During three tangential and fiercely worded speeches in Manila, Duterte said the United States did not want to sell missiles and other weapons, but Russia and China had told him they could provide them easily.

“Although it may sound shit to you, it is my sacred duty to keep the integrity of this republic and the people healthy,” Duterte said.

“If you don’t want to sell arms, I’ll go to Russia. I sent the generals to Russia and Russia said ‘do not worry, we have everything you need, we’ll give it to you’.

“And as for China, they said ‘just come over and sign and everything will be delivered’.”

His comments were the latest in a near-daily barrage of hostility toward the United States, during which Duterte has started to contrast the former colonial power with its geopolitical rivals Russia and China.

When asked about Duterte’s comments, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday, “Frankly, it seems at odds with the warm relationship that exists between the Filipino and American people and the record of important cooperation between our two governments, cooperation that has continued under the Duterte government.”

‘HELL IS FULL’

On Sunday, Duterte said he had received support from Russia and China when he complained to them about the United States. He also said he would review a U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement.

The deal, signed in 2014, grants U.S. troops some access to Philippine bases, and allows them to set up storage facilities for maritime security and humanitarian and disaster response operations.

He said the United States should have supported the Philippines in tackling its chronic drugs problems but instead criticized him for the high death toll, as did the European Union.

“Instead of helping us, the first to hit was the State Department. So you can go to hell, Mr Obama, you can go to hell,” he said.

“EU, better choose purgatory. Hell is full already. Why should I be afraid of you?”

At a later speech he said he was emotional because the United States had not been a friend of the Philippines since his election in May.

“They just … reprimand another president in front of the international community,” he told the Jewish community at a synagogue.

“This is what happens now, I will be reconfiguring my foreign policy. Eventually, I might in my time I will break up with America.”

It was not clear if by his “time”, he was referring to his six-year term in office.

According to some U.S. officials, Washington has been doing its best to ignore Duterte’s rhetoric and not provide him with a pretext for more outbursts.

While an open break with Manila would create problems in a region where China’s influence has grown, there were no serious discussions about taking punitive steps such as cutting aid to the Philippines, two U.S. officials said on Monday.

Several of Duterte’s allies on Monday suggested he act more like a statesman because his comments had created a stir. On Tuesday, he said his outbursts were because he was provoked by criticism of his crackdown on drugs.

“When you are already at the receiving end of an uncontrollable rush, the only way out is to insult,” he said.

“That is my retaliation.”

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Editing by Robert Birsel and James Dalgleish)

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