We Have Enough Problems; Don’t Make War with Iran Another

We Have Enough Problems; Don’t Make War with Iran Another

It is nigh impossible to look away from the chaos in Washington, but U.S.-Iran relations in the waning days of the Trump administration deserve a wary glance.

Two U.S. bombers flew a “deterrence mission” in the Gulf region this past Thursday. U.S. Central Command has yet to release a statement on the flight, but an official described the last such mission in December as a means of ensuring “that if the Iranians do think they have a plan that’s executable, that they think twice before executing it, because they do see that we have a robust posture and presence still remaining in the region that could respond to any provocation should it occur.” Official language was similar: “Potential adversaries should understand that no nation on earth is more ready and capable of rapidly deploying additional combat power in the face of any aggression,” said CENTCOM Commander General Frank McKenzie, who described the bomber mission as an exercise in readiness for a conflict “[w]e do not seek.”

But what if this isn’t mere readiness? What if it’s saber-rattling more likely to result in escalation than deterrence? What if it brings that unsought conflict closer? Escalation has been the enduring theme of U.S.-Iran relations during the Trump years, and particularly with turmoil and presidential transition at home, we should not be courting more conflict abroad.

But courting conflict with Iran is exactly what the Trump administration is doing. Beyond the flight missions, a redeployment of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz from the Persian Gulf was reversed on Sunday, and Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite said he did not know “how long that extension will last.” Other U.S. ships, bristling with missiles, arrived in the region last month, making a deliberate show of force. President Trump reportedly explored options including “a military strike” against Iran in November, and his administration planned a “flood” of new sanctions on Iran before the end of their term. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced he would designate the Iran-linked Houthi rebels in Yemen as a foreign terrorist group—a move widely derided as counterfactual and counterproductive to ending Yemen’s civil war—and on Tuesday, he baselessly accused Iran of harboring al-Qaeda.

Read the rest of this article at The American Conservative

WaPo Editors: We Have to Help Destroy Yemen to Save It

WaPo Editors: We Have to Help Destroy Yemen to Save It

Over the past year, the Washington Post editorial board has routinely ignored the US’s involvement in the siege of Yemen—a bombing and starvation campaign that has killed over 15,000 civilians and left roughly a million with cholera. As FAIR noted last November (11/20/17), the Washington Post ran a major editorial (11/8/17) and an explainer (11/19/17) detailing the carnage in Yemen without once mentioning the US’s role in the conflict—instead pinning it on the seemingly rogue Saudis and the dastardly Iranians.
This was in addition to an op-ed that summer by editorial page editor Jackson Diehl (6/26/17), which not only ignored the US’s support of Saudi bombing but actually spun the US as the savior of Yemenis, holding up Saudi Arabia’s biggest backer in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, as a champion of human rights.
In recent months, however, the Post has charted a new course: vaguely acknowledging Washington’s role in the bloody siege, but insisting that the US should remain involved in the bombing of Yemen for the sake of humanitarianism.
Read the rest at fair.org.

WaPo Editors: We Have to Help Destroy Yemen to Save It

Media Ignore Government Influence on Facebook’s Plan to Fight Government Influence

Facebook announced Thursday it was partnering with DC think tank the Atlantic Council to “monitor for misinformation and foreign interference.” The details of the plan are vague, but Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab wrote in a non-bylined Medium post (5/17/18) that the goal was to design tools “to bring us closer together” instead of “driving us further apart.” Whatever that means, exactly.
Behind its generic-sounding name and “nonpartisan” label, the Atlantic Council is associated with very particular interests. It’s funded by the US Department of State and the US Navy, Army and Air Force, along with NATO, various foreign powers and major Western corporations, including weapons contractors and oil companies. The Atlantic Council is dead center in what former President Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes called “the blob”—Washington’s bipartisan foreign-policy consensus. While there is some diversity of opinion within the Atlantic Council, it is within a very limited pro-Western ideological framework—a framework that debates how much and where US military and soft power influence should be wielded, not if it should in the first place.
When a venture that’s supposedly meant to curb “foreign influence” is bankrolled by a number of foreign countries—including the United Arab Emirates, Britain, Norway, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea—one would think that would be worth noting. Nor should US government money be exempt from the “foreign” qualifier with its suggestion of malicious influence; to most of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users, after all, the United States is a foreign country. (It should be noted the US government reserves the right to run unattributed propaganda on Facebook, and there’s much evidence they have. Needless to say, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab hasn’t done any work in this space.)
Read the rest at FAIR.org.

WaPo Editors: We Have to Help Destroy Yemen to Save It

DEA Bribed Snoops with Stolen Money to Violate 4th Amendment

The Fourth Amendment is clear that the government can’t search our persons or property without a specific warrant permitting the investigation.

So what do you do if you’re the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and you want to rifle through innocent Americans’ mail and luggage without bothering with all that annoying Constitution stuff?

Well, a Justice Department (DOJ) audit of the DEA released this fall reveals that the federal agency decided to skirt that pesky Fourth Amendment by bribing citizen “volunteers” to rifle on their behalf. Buzzfeed News reports (emphasis added):

Department of Justice investigators spent two and a half years investigating the DEA’s confidential source program and released their findings in September. They uncovered a system rife with problems.

In one case, a DEA source working for a package company would rummage through private mail in the hopes of finding bundles of cash he could turn in for reward money.

In other cases, TSA employees working the X-ray machines at travel screening points would tip off the DEA about suspicious packages for cash, rather than report to their own superiors.

It was all part of a program of what the DEA terms “limited use” confidential sources. In theory, these were tipsters who voluntarily handed information over to the DEA.

But in practice, federal investigators found that these sources had become a de facto arm of the agency. The informants did repeat business, were well-compensated, and took direction from the DEA on what information to pass on.

In some cases they made more money from the DEA than they did from their day jobs. Investigators found that one airline employee made $600,000 in four years while a parcel company employee was paid over $1 million across five years.

Now, what Buzzfeed doesn’t mention but the full DOJ report spells out is where the DEA got the $237 million it paid these habitual informants.

Read the rest at Rare.

WaPo Editors: We Have to Help Destroy Yemen to Save It

Police Accountability and the Killing of Philando Castile

In July, just a few miles from my home in St. Paul, Minn., Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, during a traffic stop.

A horrified nation watched Castile’s death play out live on Facebook, as his girlfriend had the presence of mind to livestream and narrate the final moments of his life. Soon after, we learned Castile was a beloved cafeteria manager at an elementary school. He had no criminal record, and his only previous interactions with police were the endless harassment he was subject to thanks to abusive policing for profit.

Yesterday, we found out Officer Yanez will face criminal charges for his actions, specifically, second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.

Though it’s too soon so say how this trial will go, just the fact that it is happening is great news. I’m glad to see my city providing a better (though certainly not perfect) model of dealing with police misconduct.

And that model is badly needed, because far too many police killing cases simply dissolve into nothing. No charges are ever brought or real accountability ever offered. Those few officers who are charged are almost never convicted — just look at what happened with Freddie Gray in Baltimore or, so far, Eric Garner in Staten Island.

The cops who killed these men walked away scot-free.

Read the rest of The charges against Philando Castile’s killer are a model of police accountability done right at Rare.

WaPo Editors: We Have to Help Destroy Yemen to Save It

Now Can We Start Making the Presidency Less Powerful?

 

In March, when Donald Trump’s inevitability was more accomplished than most of us realized, I saw a silver lining to his popularity and then-potential presidency: Simply imagining Trump in the White House was enough to make many people understand for the first time just how dangerous our too-powerful executive really is.

The rise of Donald Trump—no matter what else one thinks of him—has one big advantage, I argued, because it perfectly illustrates what we libertarians have been saying for years, namely that the executive branch has way, way, way too much power.

To be sure, there are a lot of specifics about Trump’s personal character and policy agenda that make his win troubling in its own right. But any candidate’s win (very much including Hillary Clinton) would have been troubling for a structural reason much bigger than Trump himself.

Indeed, as I said in March, what really makes “President Trump” so scary for those who oppose him is that (bureaucratic and congressional foot-dragging aside), they know that the modern imperial presidency would give Trump enormous power. And though some may have been comfortable seeing that power in the hands of a Clinton, or a Bush, or an Obama, envisioning it under Trump’s control reveals this overgrown executive for the horror it is.

Read the rest at Rare.

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