Is there a bigger scandal beneath the Sanders/DNC Scandal?

If you’ve been following the DNC broken firewall scandal(*) of yesterday with an open mind, here’s a question that should interest you: Why didn’t the DNC fix the software problem when it was first reported to them by the Sanders campaign itself back in October? Is this just a case of incompetence, or did someone have something to gain by keeping the firewall weak? (Remember: the Sanders campaign suspected that their own private data had been accessed at that time).

And here’s a related question: If the Sanders campaign intended to make illicit use of this broken firewall, why did it come forth itself and report the problem again yesterday? Or for that matter in October in the first place? If there’s some sort of malfeasance in this case, where is it likely to reside? And finally, has the real scandal yet been fully revealed?

Perhaps all these questions have completely banal answers, but in our political house of mirrors it’s often difficult to recognize the real Occam and his razor.

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* Note: The “scandal” erupted yesterday, whereas the real problem — the firewall bug and the DNC’s failure to fix it — goes back months, if not years.

Today’s Syrian Refugees Are Yesterday’s Irish

Immigrants have built the United States — and that includes Syrians.

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Four months after I arrived to Chicago in 1989, my colleague at the hospital, Dr. Nancy Nora, invited me to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I was homesick in a new country after graduating from medical school in Damascus. Nancy Nora was an Irish American from a large Catholic family. Her father was a respected local physician.

Nancy told me that it was a tradition in her family to invite a newcomer to the city. After all, Thanksgiving, I learned, celebrated Native Americans welcoming European refugees who fled their homelands due to religious and political persecution.

I came to Chicago from the ancient Syrian city of Homs to pursue advanced medical training. Syrians look to the US as the best place to pursue this training. In fact, almost half of one percent of American doctors are of Syrian origin. There are also famous Syrian actors, playwrights, rappers, chess players, entrepreneurs, scientists, businessmen, and even Republican governors. Every Syrian American is proud that Steve Jobs is the son of a Syrian immigrant. Syrian immigrant Ernest Hamwi inventedthe ice cream cone during the St. Louis World fair in 1904.

“Everyone who enjoys ice cream and an iPhone should feel indebted to Syrian immigrants,” I remind my children. All three have been born in Chicago. The eldest, Adham, ran his first marathon this year—to raise awareness about domestic violence—and aspires to a career in politics. Mahdi is involved in his university’s Students Organizing for Syria (SOS) chapter as well as the Black Lives Matter campaign. Marwa, a high school freshman, is a budding pianist and ran for her school’s cross-country team. They all volunteer in local charity events and for Syria. My wife, Suzanne, the daughter of a Syrian civil engineer and Canadian mother with Irish-Scottish roots, founded theSyrian Community Network (SCN) to help support newly resettled Syrian refugee families in the Chicago area.

Darkness in Syria

To many Syrians, America symbolizes the values that we lack at home: freedom, rule of law, and the respect for human rights. In Syria, my generation knew only one president, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled for 30 years with “iron and fire,” as they say in Arabic. He detained and tortured thousands of people who dared to speak out against his rule. He committed massacres, the worst of which in the city of Hama the same year I graduated from high school.

I still remember the atmosphere of fear in Syria. We dared not speak. We were told that the “walls have ears.” My family even prevented me from going to the mosque to pray. Many of my high school friends and relatives disappeared into the dark cells of the infamous Palmyra prison, the site of another infamous massacre by Assad’s ruthless security men.

When Hafez died in 2000, his son Bashar, a classmate of mine from medical school, was appointed to the presidency by a token parliament. People expected change. After all, Syria had a well-educated middle class, a diverse economy, and a reasonably vibrant nonprofit sector. It also had a tradition of democracy, which had its ups and downs between 1920 and1970. Bashar, inexperienced but equally ruthless, disappointed us all. When hundreds of thousands of young Syrians demonstrated peacefully in 2011, thinking naively that the Arab Spring had turned at last to Syria, Assad and his cronies responded with what they knew best: brutality and oppression. More than 250,000 people have been killed. Tens of thousands have disappeared into the prisons. Half of the population has been displaced. And barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and all kinds of weaponry have leveled entire cities and neighborhoods .

Besides meager humanitarian assistance and empty rhetoric, the international community has stood by mostly idle, watching darkness descend on Syria. It has become one of the worst humanitarian crises in our lifetime. In the ensuing chaos, extremist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) and Hezbollah filled the vacuum. But the snowballing refugee crisis only captured the world’s attention when it reached the shores of Europe. With the drowning of the Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, who tried to flee with his family to Greece from Turkey across the Aegean Sea, suddenly Syrian lives mattered.

With the Refugees

I just returned from my last medical mission with my organization, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), to the Greek island of Lesbos. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are making the desperate boat trip from Turkey to Lesbos and other Greek islands. The unfortunate ones are drowning, while the lucky ones must carry on through another 1,200 miles of borders, humiliation, and misery to reach whoever opens the door to them. Germany and Sweden have been the most hospitable, while others are building walls and barbed wire fences along their borders. The Syrian refugees I met were fleeing the recent Russian bombings and Assad’s barrel bombs, while some are fleeing the brutality of the Islamic State. I saw several women, some with toddlers Aylan’s age, who lost their husbands to the war. One woman was crying as she described a public execution by IS that she was forced to witness with her five-year-old son. He has had nightmares since then.

I heard from a Syrian volunteer doctor about a boat with a capacity of 30 people that was stuffed with more than 80 refugees. Each refugee had to pay the smugglers 1,000 to 2,000 euros. It was a cold night when the boat crashed onto the rocky shores and split in half. Children got stuck underneath the boat. Many simply drowned. The Syrian doctor, himself a victim of Assad’s torture and now a refugee in France, described to me how he performed CPR on two small children. One was dead, and one died later. The US presidential candidates and governors who slammed the door in the faces of helpless Syrian refugees should hear these stories. These refugees deserve our sympathy and hospitality.

Since 1975, Americans have welcomed over 3 million refugees from all over the world.Refugees have built new lives, homes, and communities in towns and cities in all 50 states. Since the war began, however, only 2,034 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the entire United States. This is a shameful number, considering that there are 4.2 million Syrian refugees. The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would impose additional security measures on refugees from Syria, making it nearly impossible to accept more refugees from Iraq and Syria. A similar bill is awaiting a Senate vote.

Nancy Nora’s father, surrounded by his large extended family at the dinner table on that Thanksgiving many years ago, explained to me how Irish Americans were demonized when they first arrived to the United States as refugees. They were maligned by politicians and by the public, and were perceived as a threat. During dark times in our history, the United States has treated newly arriving Jews, Italians, Japanese, and Latinos as a threat. .

As I was leaving the Nora household after that memorable evening, her family wished me good luck with my studies and my new life in America. Suddenly, the cold Chicago night felt very warm. I felt at home.


 

M. Zaher Sahloul, a medical doctor, is the former head of the Syrian American Medical Society, @www.sams-usa.net. Follow at Twitter @sahloul

By Funding Foreign Militaries, the U.S. Is Spreading Terrorism

Nothing recruits terrorists like corrupt security forces committing human rights abuses with impunity.

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The War on Terror is at a stalemate.

Recent, disparate terrorist attacks have shown that far from being “degraded and destroyed,” the Islamic State’s reach is growing. Unwilling to commit large numbers of U.S. boots on the ground, policymakers have instead doubled down on a “small footprint” approach of military aid to foreign governments. But this strategy is failing.

Contrary to what one might expect, U.S. military aid doesn’t produce willing, cooperative, or effective security partners. Instead, it incentivizes bad behavior and drives the sources of terrorism: corruption, violence, and poor governance. Unwittingly, this policy is creating its own enemies.

The logic of military aid — or security assistance, as it is euphemistically referred to — is twofold: U.S. military equipment, training, and support will build strategic relationships with partner nations and then empower them to fight terrorists on our behalf.

This thinking has led to explosive growth of military aid since 2001. According to theSecurity Assistance Monitor, the United States is poised to spend almost $20 billion on foreign military assistance in 2016 alone, through programs scattered between the State Department and the Pentagon.

In practice, this logic is severely flawed. Rather than creating cooperative partners,research shows that military aid produces reverse leverage: The more aid given to a recipient country, the less likely it is to do what we want. For example, Pakistan receives$1.6 billion in U.S. military aid every year, but the Pakistani government still supports extremist groups in Afghanistan and has deep ties to the Haqqani terrorist network.

The reason lies with the incentives that U.S. military aid creates.

Limitless and beyond the view of the public, U.S. military aid is a tap foreign governments don’t want to turn off. The longer they’re “fighting terrorists,” the more “security assistance” they get. There’s no reason for them to actually defeat terrorists, because if they did, the cash would go away. Instead, foreign security partners are incentivized to maintain a form everlasting instability, wherein nobody wins and everybody loses.

Unfortunately, the U.S. taxpayer isn’t the only victim. The crimes committed by U.S.-funded security forces are too many to list, but they include bombing weddings in Yemen, sexually abusing children in Afghanistan, and blowing up tourists in Egypt. Western support of these outrages is seldom lost on the local victims.

The perverse irony is that this type of behavior — underwritten and enabled by the United States — is perpetuating terrorism. Research has shown that nothing recruits terrorists like corrupt security forces committing human rights abuses with impunity.

Kenya illustrates this dynamic well. After the horrific attack at the Westgate Mall in 2013, Kenya responded with aggressive policing tactics, arresting and mistreating thousands of Kenyan Somalis and Muslims. That brutal response, however, helped al-Shabaab by inciting anger across the country.

After last month’s attack in Paris, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for a more aggressive strategy to counter terrorism. Days later, the State Department finalized a $1.29 billion sale of targeted bombs to Saudi Arabia. It’s hard not to note the irony: Howexactly would extending the coercive arm of oppressive states like Saudi Arabia improve counterterrorism efforts?

After 15 years of letting the military take the lead in fighting terrorism, policymakers need to accept that political problems demand political and diplomatic solutions, which are seldom found on the path of least resistance. But the tools needed — robust diplomacy, accountability mechanisms, democracy support — are starved of funding.

As U.S. military assistance grows every year, support for democracy shrinks. During Obama’s tenure in office, democracy assistance funding has declined by almost 30 percent. And while the Pentagon is slated to receive over $600 billion in funding, the State Department and foreign aid account will be lucky to get $50 billion.

By relying on military aid, the United States is fostering a world of endless war and insecurity. For the United States’ so-called security partners, that’s good for business.


 

Jeremy Ravinsky is a program assistant at the Open Society Foundations, working on issues relating to security assistance and human rights.

The Vast Majority of Muslims HATE ISIS and Terrorism

The Times of India reported yesterday:

Nearly 70,000 [Muslim] clerics [from around the world] came together and passed a fatwa [i.e. Islamic legal decree] against terrorist organizations, including IS, Taliban and al-Qaida. These are “not Islamic organizations,” the clerics said to a sea of followers, adding that the members of these outfits were “not Muslims”.

Surprised?

As documented  by Metrocosm, what Americans assume about Muslim support for ISIS is very different from reality:

American perceptions of isis

According to a Brookings report from last January:

  • 40% of Americans believe most Muslims oppose ISIS.
  • 14% think most Muslims support ISIS.
  • And 44% (the plurality) of Americans believe Muslim views are evenly balanced on the issue.

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Last month, the International Business Times cited a study from Pew Research Center concluding ISIS is “almost universally hated.”

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What the Muslim world actually thinks of ISIS

Looking only at scientific opinion polls, the results are actually very consistent.

The figures in the map below come from surveys conducted by six different research organizations, covering a combined 20 countries in the Muslim world.

what muslims really think of isis

In the Muslim world, support for ISIS is low across the board.

In 15 of the 20 countries shown, support for ISIS is in the single digits. And with the exception of Syria, in no country is it greater than 15%.

Sources

Pew notes:

In Lebanon, a victim of one of the most recent attacks, almost every person surveyed who gave an opinion had an unfavorable view of ISIS, including 99% with a veryunfavorable opinion. Distaste toward ISIS was shared by Lebanese Sunni Muslims (98% unfavorable) and 100% of Shia Muslims and Lebanese Christians.

Israelis (97%) and Jordanians (94%) were also strongly opposed to ISIS as of spring 2015, including 91% of Israeli Arabs. And 84% in the Palestinian territories had a negative view of ISIS, both in the Gaza Strip (92%) and the West Bank (79%).

Indeed, as we’ve previously point out, Muslim leaders have been speaking out against Islamic terrorismfor years … but we never hear about it from the mainstream American media.

Father Elias Mallon of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association remarks:

“Why aren’t Muslims speaking out against these atrocities?” The answer is: Muslimshave been speaking out in the strongest terms, condemning the crimes against humanity committed by [extremists] in the name of Islam.

And Rabbi Marc Schneier notes in the Washington Post that the moderate Muslim majority isspeaking out against the extremists … but “we’re just not listening.”

Sadly, the U.S. and West are backing the two main countries that support ISIS and Islamic terrorism: Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Darth Trump

Weirdly true-to-life in its depiction of a self-absorbed Vader … hilarious! And of course the contrast between the expected Darth Vader basso voice and Trump’s unmistakable weeny voice adds to the hilarity.

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