Trump: let’s be nasty and make the US less safe

So, President Trump has decided to go the anti-life route:

President Trump signed an order Friday to suspend admission of all refugees for 120 days while a new system is put in place to tighten vetting for those from predominantly Muslim countries and give preference to religious minorities. Trump said that the goal is to screen out “radical Islamic terrorists” and that priority for admission would be given to Christians.

People are given refugee status if there is a danger to staying in their country, so it’s almost certain that people will die because of this order.

Also, Trump he wants to give priority to Christians, but Kevin Drum notices that the country that sent the most refugees to the US last year was the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is a majority Christian country. He can’t even discriminate against Muslims right.

The order went into affect immediately so even people who were in the air when it was signed have been blocked. Let’s look at some:

The lawyers said that one of the Iraqis detained at Kennedy Airport, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, had worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for 10 years. The other, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the United States to join his wife, who had worked for a U.S. contractor, and young son, the lawyers said. They said both men had been detained at the airport Friday night after arriving on separate flights.

So, Iraqis who had helped US troops and had been given permission to enter the US after a long screening process were blocked. Given they were targeted because they helped the US, I wonder how many Iraqis will be willing to help US troops in the future? If fewer Iraqis are willing to help, that will make the job more dangerous for US troops. Thanks Donald.

As an aside, a coincidence has been noticed:

The order would place a 30-day stop to visas for immigrant and visitor visas for travelers from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia, all Muslim-majority countries whose citizens the order says “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” But it would not affect travelers from all Muslim countries — the ban does not apply to Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, which by complete coincidence are all countries where the Trump Organization has business interests.
If this was anyone other than Trump, everyone would know it really was a coincidence but with Trump you never know.
Note: The ACLU has filed suit on the behalf of the refugees that were blocked. It might be a good time to support the ACLU.

Back to Iraq

So, Republicans will be in control of the House and Senate. I hope President Obama will not bend too much towards them. Ah well, I guess he will:

A senior military official says that American military advisory teams will now go to Iraq’s western Anbar province where Islamic State militants have been gaining ground and slaying men, women and children.

The teams are part of President Barack Obama’s new directive to expand the U.S. mission in Iraq by deploying another 1,500 U.S. troops to serve as advisers, trainers and security personnel.

Ok, at least the ACA has passed its Supreme Court challenge. Nope:

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a new challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care law that threatens subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their health insurance premiums.

The justices said they will review a unanimous federal appeals court ruling that upheld Internal Revenue Service regulations that allow health-insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states. Opponents argue that most of the subsidies are illegal.

And the new Republicans won’t show up until next January, I can hardly wait.

But the US is against chemical weapons

There were chemical weapons in Iraq and the Bush administration lied about them (I’m shocked!!):

Participants in the chemical weapons discoveries said the United States suppressed knowledge of finds for multiple reasons, including that the government bristled at further acknowledgment it had been wrong. “They needed something to say that after Sept. 11 Saddam used chemical rounds,” Mr. Lampier said. “And all of this was from the pre-1991 era.”

Others pointed to another embarrassment. In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies.

Iraq had attacked Iran in late 1980, expecting quick victory against a military sapped of officers by Iran’s revolutionary purges. Mr. Hussein also thought Iranians might rise against their new religious leaders.

He miscalculated. By June 1981, as Iran blunted Iraq’s incursions and unleashed its air force against Iraqi cities, Mr. Hussein was seeking new weapons. He created a secret program — known as Project 922 — that produced blister and nerve agents by the hundreds of tons, according to Iraq’s confidential declarations in the 1990s to the United Nations.

War provided urgency; Mr. Hussein added the cash. Western nations, some eager to contain Iran’s Islamic revolutionary state after the American hostage crisis from 1979 to 1981, lent Iraq support.

With remarkable speed, Iraq built a program with equipment and precursor purchases from companies in an extraordinary array of countries, eventually including the United States, according to its confidential declarations.

German construction firms helped create a sprawling manufacturing complex in the desert south of Samarra and three plants in Falluja that made precursor ingredients for chemical weapons. The complex near Samarra, later renamed Al Muthanna State Establishment, included research labs, production lines, testing areas and storage bunkers.

Iraq produced 10 metric tons of mustard blister agent in 1981; by 1987 its production had grown 90-fold, with late-war output aided by two American companies that provided hundreds of tons of thiodiglycol, a mustard agent precursor. Production of nerve agents also took off.

Rising production created another need. Mr. Hussein’s military did not possess the munitions for dispersing chemical agents. So it embarked on another buying spree, purchasing empty ordnance — aviation bombs from a Spanish manufacturer, American-designed artillery shells from European companies, and Egyptian and Italian ground-to-ground rockets — to be filled in Iraq.

So while the US was backing Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Iraq had and used chemical weapons (with the US and allies helping); after the US broke with Iraq (dramatically with the first Iraq war) they mostly stopped making and using chemical weapons. Makes me proud to be an American.

Another war

So, we have now attacked ISIS in Syria, as well as another group, and we also want to get rid of President Assad. Even better, this is an open-ended operation:

Army Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., director of operations for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said the objectives set for the U.S.-led war in Iraq and now Syria could take years to complete. The attacks in Syria marked the start of a new phase, coming six weeks after the U.S. military began a similar campaign of airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in neighboring Iraq.

But this time it will work–I expect that in 6 months we will have turned the corner.

How privatization works

This article has been getting a lot of attention, mostly for this:

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.

But there’s another bit that shows how privatization works:

They found that Blackwater’s staffing of its security details for American diplomats had been changed without State Department approval, reducing guards on many details to eight from 10, the documents said. Blackwater guards were storing automatic weapons and ammunition in their private rooms, where they also were drinking heavily and partying with frequent female visitors. Many of the guards had failed to regularly qualify on their weapons, and were often carrying weapons on which they had never been certified and that they were not authorized to use.

A Blackwater-affiliated firm was forcing “third country nationals” — low-paid workers from Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, including some who performed guard duty at Blackwater’s compound — to live in squalid conditions, sometimes three to a cramped room with no bed, according to the report by the investigators.

I think this stuff is left off because it’s so typical–as long as the price is lower we don’t seem to care how workers are treated. But they hate us for our ‘freedom’.

Iraq 10 years later

I’m a day late for the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, but I should mention it because it and the Bush administration are why I got into blogging (although it’s not obvious from my first post). The Bush administration had become so relentless in its attempts to demonize any opposition, that I had to find a place to yell or go crazy. The things to remember about the war: lies (and it was obvious at the time), propaganda, and bullying were used to start the war (Weapons of mass destruction! Hussein is Hitler! Liberals are traitors! We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud! Hussein=Al Qaeda!);  it led to Guantanamo and all that entailed (secret prisons, jail without evidence, torture, indefinite incarceration without trial); it led to a huge expansion in secrecy and the police state (warrantless wire-taps, a large increase in National Security Letters, the expansion of executive power without oversight (it can’t be brought to trial because of Secrecy!!!)). And Iraq really isn’t much better off now than it was before the invasion.

The reason the anniversary isn’t as high-profile as it should be is that most people were wrong and people don’t like being reminded. Also, President Obama said that we should look ahead not back and so we haven’t tried to punish any of the people who lied us into war which would have brought the issues back to the foreground. Those of us who didn’t back the war need to try to remind people how wrong the people pushing the war were whenever they pop up again, although I’m sure we’ll just be ignored again.

Anyway, this is an anniversary to make me cynical so fuck all those who made the war possible.

The US and torture

The Guardian has a story on torture in Iraq (with a follow-up here and look here for the BBC report when the logs first came out):

The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that Petraeus – who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal – has been linked through an adviser to this abuse.

The Guardian/BBC Arabic investigation was sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by the police commandos across Iraq. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years after he pleaded guilty to leaking the documents.

Samari claimed that torture was routine in the SPC-controlled detention centres. “I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library’s columns. And he was tied up, with his legs above his head. Tied up. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten.”

The pattern in Iraq provides an eerie parallel to the well-documented human rights abuses committed by US-advised and funded paramilitary squads in Central America in the 1980s. Steele was head of a US team of special military advisers that trained units of El Salvador‘s security forces in counterinsurgency. Petraeus visited El Salvador in 1986 while Steele was there and became a major advocate of counterinsurgency methods.

Anybody who doubts the story first needs to say how Steele came to be in charge despite:

Along with a dozen commandos, there were several American advisers in the room, including James Steele, one of the United States military’s top experts on counterinsurgency. Steele honed his tactics leading a Special Forces mission in El Salvador during that country’s brutal civil war in the 1980’s. Steele’s presence was a sign not only of the commandos’ crucial role in the American counterinsurgency strategy but also of his close relationship with Adnan. Steele admired the general. ”He’s obviously a natural type of commander,” Steele told me. ”He commands respect.”

The template for Iraq today is not Vietnam, to which it has often been compared, but El Salvador, where a right-wing government backed by the United States fought a leftist insurgency in a 12-year war beginning in 1980. The cost was high — more than 70,000 people were killed, most of them civilians, in a country with a population of just six million. Most of the killing and torturing was done by the army and the right-wing death squads affiliated with it. According to an Amnesty International report in 2001, violations committed by the army and its associated paramilitaries included ”extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings, ‘disappearances’ and torture. . . . Whole villages were targeted by the armed forces and their inhabitants massacred.” As part of President Reagan’s policy of supporting anti-Communist forces, hundreds of millions of dollars in United States aid was funneled to the Salvadoran Army, and a team of 55 Special Forces advisers, led for several years by Jim Steele, trained front-line battalions that were accused of significant human rights abuses.

and:

But while Petraeus headed for the top, Steele’s career hit an unexpected buffer when he was embroiled in the Iran-Contra affair. A helicopter pilot, who also had a licence to fly jets, he ran the airport from where the American advisers illegally ran guns to right-wing Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua. While the congressional inquiry that followed put an end to Steele’s military ambitions, it won him the admiration of then congressman Dick Cheney who sat on the committee and admired Steele’s efforts fighting leftists in both Nicaragua and El Salvador.

In late 1989 Cheney was in charge of the US invasion of Panama to overthrow their once favoured son, General Manuel Noriega. Cheney picked Steele to take charge of organising a new police force in Panama and be the chief liaison between the new government and the US military.

If the US didn’t condone torture, then why was Steele in Iraq and not in jail? Also, they need to answer why none of the leaders are in jail but the one person most responsible for getting this information out (Bradley Manning) is.

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