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May 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM
Rep. Al Green to Draft Articles of Impeachment Against Trump, Citing Obstruction of Justice
May 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM

As controversy continues to swirl around the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials ahead of the 2016 election, we speak to Democratic Congressmember Al Green of Texas. Last week he became the first congressmember to call for President Trump's impeachment from the floor of the House of Representatives.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: On Capitol Hill, former CIA Director John Brennan testified to the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday, describing how he'd grown concerned last year about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign.

JOHN BRENNAN: I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign, that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals, and it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals. I don't know whether or not such collusion -- and that's your term -- such collusion existed. I don't know. But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not US persons were actively conspiring, colluding, with Russian officials.

AMY GOODMAN: Former CIA Director John Brennan went on to say he was worried the Russians would lure Trump campaign officials onto a, quote, "treasonous path." Brennan's testimony Tuesday came as the Senate Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas for documents from two of former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn's businesses. Flynn himself has pleaded the Fifth and refused to comply with a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena demanding he turn over documents related to his meetings with Russian officials.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Al Green of Texas has announced he's drafting articles of impeachment against Trump. Green first raised the issue of impeachment on the floor of the House last week.

REP. AL GREEN: I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America for obstruction of justice. I do not do this for political purposes, Mr. Speaker. I do this because I believe in the great ideals that this country stands for: liberty and justice for all, the notion that we should have government of the people, by the people, for the people. I do it because, Mr. Speaker, there is a belief in this country that no one is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Texas Democratic Congressman Al Green on the floor of the House last week. Well, Congressman Green joins us from Washington, along with John Bonifaz, co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations that launched the "Impeach Donald Trump Now" campaign just moments after Trump's inauguration.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Congressman Al Green, let's begin with you. Why have you stepped out as the first person calling for Donald Trump's impeachment?

REP. AL GREEN: Thank you for having me on, Amy. This is something that I take very seriously. It's not something that I did on a whim. It was after much thought that I concluded that when the president fired the head of the FBI, who was investigating him, the president, and the president went on to say on national TV that he did it because of the investigation -- thereafter, of course, there was some tweeting done that might amount to intimidation -- all of these things combined are enough to conclude that the president has committed an impeachable act.

It's important to note that impeachment does not mean that the president will be removed from office. The House impeaches. The Senate would have a trial. And then, after the trial in the Senate, the president can be deposed and removed from office.

I would also add this, if I may. There is a difference between the collusion that is being alleged and the obstruction of justice. The obstruction of justice is clear, perspicuously so. It took place. The president confessed to Mr. Holt that he did it because of the investigation, that the Russian thing was a made-up story. This is enough to impeach the president. I believe all of these other things are important. And when you're assessing your evidence as a trial lawyer, you -- in terms of the hierarchy of evidence, you can have something that you consider primary. This is something that the case is really going to hinge on. And then there are things that you might want to deal with that are secondary, other things that can be tertiary and quaternary. But you don't have to have all of those things. You do have to have the fact that the president, in his own words, said that he was firing a person because he was being investigated.

AMY GOODMAN: So you have CNN reporting President Trump asked the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers to publicly state that President Trump's campaign did not collude with Russia to allegedly influence the 2016 election. According to CNN, the request came after former FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed in March the FBI was investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Both Coats and Rogers refused to comply with Trump's demand, which they reportedly found inappropriate. Coats also testified yesterday. The significance of all of this, Congressman Green?

REP. AL GREEN: Well, this is additional evidence that will support the primary evidence, that I've called to your attention. All of this evidence is important. It, in fact, indicates that the president had a great deal of concern. That concern could emanate from the fact that there are things that could be harmful to him. But whether it's ever proven that he colluded or not, whether he is convicted of that, is not important when it comes to the obstruction of justice. Important in the sense that it shows additional things, but when it comes to the obstruction of justice, that act was done. And what happens with the collusion is a totally separate occurrence.

And I assure you, the president is going to have to come before the bar of justice at some point, which will be the House of Representatives. Now, I don't say that in the sense that he will appear before the House. But there will be an impeachment resolution before the House, because any of the 435 members of Congress can file an impeachment resolution with articles of impeachment. I have not relinquished my right to do so. I reserve the right. And at some point, if no one else does it, I will file articles of impeachment against the president.

AMY GOODMAN: Some people say, why not just let the special counsel, Robert Mueller, the former FBI director, do his job, let him do his investigation?

REP. AL GREEN: Well, I want to see him do his investigation. That investigation seems to be directed more toward collusion than obstruction of justice. I think both are equally as important. And I think that he should do his job. I do not have an acid test for when the resolution will be filed. I'm just giving an assurance that there will be one filed, because the president has obstructed justice. And I assure people also that when it is filed, it will be something that is thoughtful, that has been clearly vetted. I have persons who will be assisting me who are constitutional scholars. So it's not something that's done haphazardly, capriciously and arbitrarily. It's something done with a great deal of intentionality.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz: Trump's Budget Takes a Sledgehammer to What Remains of the "American Dream"
May 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM

The Trump administration unveiled its $4.1 trillion budget Tuesday. The plan includes massive cuts to social programs, while calling for historic increases in military spending. The budget proposes slashing $800 billion from Medicaid, nearly $200 billion from nutritional assistance programs, such as food stamps and Meals on Wheels, and more than $72 billion from disability benefits. The plan would also completely eliminate some student loan programs. It would ban undocumented immigrants from receiving support through some programs for families with children, including the child care tax credit. The budget also calls for an historic 10 percent increase in military spending and another $2.6 billion to further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border, including $1.6 billion to build Trump's border wall. For more, we speak with Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, the Trump administration unveiled its $4.1 trillion budget. The plan includes massive cuts to social programs, while calling for historic increases in military spending. The budget proposes slashing $800 billion from Medicaid, nearly $200 billion from nutritional assistance programs, such as food stamps and Meals on Wheels, and more than $72 billion from disability benefits. The plan would also completely eliminate some student loan programs. It would ban undocumented immigrants from receiving support through some programs for families with children, including the child care tax credit. On Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont slammed Trump's budget.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: This is a budget which says that if you are a member of the Trump family, you may receive a tax break of up to $4 billion, but if you are a child of a working-class family, you could well lose the health insurance you currently have through the Children's Health Insurance Program and massive cuts to Medicaid. At a time when we remain the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all, this budget makes a bad situation worse in terms of healthcare. In other words, this is a budget that provides massive tax breaks for billionaires and corporate CEOs, and massive cuts to programs that tens of millions of struggling Americans depend upon.

When Donald Trump campaigned for president, he told the American people that he would be a different type of Republican, that he would take on the political and economic establishment, that he would stand up for working people, that he understood the pain that families all across this country were experiencing. Well, sadly, this budget exposes all of that verbiage for what it really was: just cheap and dishonest campaign rhetoric that was meant to get votes, nothing more than that.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The ACLU, NAACP and Planned Parenthood have all come out criticizing the budget. Some conservatives are also criticizing the budget. Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina told The New York Times, "Meals on Wheels, even for some of us who are considered to be fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far," unquote.

The budget also calls for an historic 10 percent increase in military spending and another $2.6 billion to further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border, including $1.6 billion to build Trump's border wall. In a rare proposed benefit for families, the budget allocates $19 billion for six weeks of paid parental leave for new families -- a project that's been spearheaded by his daughter and senior White House adviser, Ivanka Trump. The budget projects 3 percent economic growth, which economists say is widely unrealistic.

Unlike previous presidents, Trump is unveiling his proposed budget while he's abroad. David Stockman, former budget director for President Ronald Reagan, said, quote, "This budget is dead before arrival, so he might as well be out of town," unquote.

Well, for more, we go to Joe Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Columbia University professor, chief economist for the Roosevelt Institute. He's the author of numerous books, most recently, The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe.

Joseph Stiglitz, welcome to Democracy Now!

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Nice to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to the budget that's just been revealed?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: It's like everything else: It's made up. You could say it's a collection of lies put together. It doesn't make any economic sense. I don't think anybody who's looked at it has -- can fathom the economics. I mean, you mentioned one thing, the 3 percent growth rate, which is the largest deviation in estimate relative to the CBO on record. You know, when I was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, we wanted to be responsible, and we always were conservative and were very careful, getting the views of everybody, wanted to make sure that our numbers were reasonable. He's made no pretense to be reasonable.

In fact, what's striking is, while he assumes that there's going to be more growth, if you look at the budget, it's designed to reduce growth. He cuts out support for science, for R&D, which is the basis of productivity growth. He cuts out support for job retraining, so when people leave one job, they can be trained for the next job. He cuts out support for Pell grants, so those who have low income can get the education so they can live up to their potential. All these are things that actually lower economic growth. So I would say this is not a growth budget, this is a no-growth budget.

And then he has the numbers, you know, the gall to have things like -- you know, just mind-bending. He says he's going to -- elsewhere, he said he's going to eliminate the estate tax. And his budget says that he's going to raise several hundred billion dollars' more money from an estate tax that is zeroed out. Now, you can make a statement that if we lowered the estate tax a little bit, maybe people will be induced to die more, and maybe we'll get more revenue. You could make that kind of statement. But one thing you don't need a Ph.D. is, zero times any number is zero. So if you have a zero estate tax, no matter how many people are dying and how wealthy they are, you're going to get zero revenue.

And remember, what he's doing, he's cutting out the estate tax that benefits 0.2 percent of the economy -- of our society. You know, you have to have an estate of more than 10 million, if you're a married couple, in order to pay anything on the estate tax. And meanwhile, he's cutting benefits for ordinary Americans -- education, health, as you mentioned, food, nutrition. It's not just the system of social protection that we've created, but even the bottom safety net that is -- catches people when they're in trouble.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to Donald Trump two years ago, speaking -- this is May 21st, 2015 -- to the right-wing outlet The Daily Signal.

DONALD TRUMP: I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican is going to cut. And even if they wouldn't, they don't know what to do, because they don't know where the money is. I do.

AMY GOODMAN: So, he has said, when he was campaigning -- actually, he was campaigning against other Republicans when he made the point, "I'm not going to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security." I mean, we had endless choices of clips to choose from. Joe Stiglitz?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: He lied. He is cutting Medicaid, the largest cut to Medicaid, even beyond what was in his repeal and replace, that didn't get very far. These are even bigger Medicaid cuts. In terms of so Social Security, one important part of Social Security is disability payments.

AMY GOODMAN: SSDI.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: And, you know, that's really important. People do get to say, well, they have auto accidents, they get sick, they get cancer -- you know, all kinds of things that make them unable to work.

AMY GOODMAN: They get hurt at work.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: They can't work. And he's cutting that. It's an important part of our Social Security, of security that people -- we provide, as a society, as a basic system of social protection. He's cutting back on those expenditures. So, all I can say is, you look at that clip, and what he's doing today is just the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: So you're talking about cutting -- I mean, already the proposed budget from the House was massive when it came to cuts, something like $880 billion in Medicaid cuts. He's suggesting $616 more billion -- $616 billion more, which would basically gut Medicaid.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That's right. And remember, it's not just for poor people. It's a major problem for our elderly, who have to go into old age homes, hospice, you know, all -- so, it is an extraordinarily important program. Another way of seeing the massiveness of these cuts is that, if you look at what we call a non-defense discretionary -- that is to say, you take out Social Security, you take out Medicare, and you take out military -- he's proposing a 40 percent cut in all these programs. And remember, these programs have been cut year after year for the last 25 years, under both Democrats and Republicans, so it's not like there's a lot of fat on this. These are already fairly lean. And what he's doing is just taking an ax to them, a 40 percent reduction.

The consequence of his proposal, I don't think even he fully understands. For instance, we would lose the vote at the U.N. if he carried out his programs. I mean, so, basically, we're -- we're saying to international --

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean we'd lose the vote at the U.N.?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, because he's cutting out all support for international organizations. And if we don't pay our dues, our core dues, to the U.N., we lose our vote. And they're an important source of our influence in international politics. So, you know -- and this is a consequence of what he is proposing. There is no discussion of what the implications of this 40 percent cut in government. You know, there are some programs that can be cut. That's clear. But he hasn't gone pruning. He's taken an ax and said, "Oh, I can get a balanced budget, if I make up numbers about growth and if I just pretend that I'm going to take a 40 percent cut from somewhere."

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

MICK MULVANEY: I think, for years and years, we've simply looked at a budget in terms of the folks who are on the back end of the programs, the recipients of the taxpayer money. And we haven't spent nearly enough time focusing our attention on the people who pay the taxes.

AMY GOODMAN: Mick Mulvaney. Your response, Joe Stiglitz?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Oh, totally wrong. I mean, I was in the White House for four years. And we did a very, very careful analysis of the benefits and costs, how it would affect taxpayers and ordinary consumers, the rich, the poor, the middle class, when we evaluated the program. We were very, very aware that this was money that people had worked for, earned, and that, on the other hand, they need help in a whole variety of areas, help in sending their kids to college, in buying a home. You know, the --

AMY GOODMAN: This would drastically shrink low-income student loan program.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Oh, some of the programs would be wiped out. So, you know, the American dream, we've gradually understood, is really a myth, the fact that anybody can go from the bottom to the top. This is, what is remnant of that American dream, he's saying, "I'm going to hit it with a sledgehammer."

AMY GOODMAN: Under Trump's budget, the Environmental Protection Agency faces a 31 percent cut, the steepest cut of any agency or department across the government. Well, during a press conference on Tuesday, a reporter asked White House budget director Mick Mulvaney about the EPA cuts.

REPORTER: Can you characterize the treatment of climate science programs and cuts to those? And do you–do you describe those as a taxpayer waste, if you do cut them?

MICK MULVANEY: You tell me. I think the National Science Foundation last year used your taxpayer money to fund a climate change musical. Do you think that's a waste of your money?

REPORTER: What about climate science?

MICK MULVANEY: I'll take that as a yes, by the way.

AMY GOODMAN: There's Mick Mulvaney. Joe Stiglitz?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, you know, of course, every government program has the worst thing. The financial sector and the private sector makes a mistake. Remember we had a crisis in 2008? That was a misallocation of trillions of dollars. So, I don't want to pretend that every program is perfect. But if you get rid of environmental protection, we're going to be suffering from dirty air, dirty water, toxic waste, that lower our health. And here's the point. He wants faster economic growth. A less healthy America is not going to be as productive.

AMY GOODMAN: And the massive increase in military spending? I mean, you've written books about this, about the wars and what they cost us.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That's right. And we're fighting, we might say, a war on terrorism. But another aircraft carrier is not going to win -- help us in the war on terrorism. You know, the Cold War, that fight with Russia, in the form that it was, ended a quarter-century ago, and yet we're spending money as if it hasn't ended. So we've been spending lots and lots of money on weapons that don't work, against enemies that don't exist. If he used that criteria that he said for shutting down a department, the Defense Department would have been shut down long ago. You know, the $1,000 toilet, the hammers that cost $100 or things like that -- if we used the criteria of misspending, the Defense Department is illustration number one.

AMY GOODMAN: So we just have a minute right now. Republicans have joined with Democrats in condemning this, saying that this budget is dead on arrival. He has it released when he's out of town. What actually happens here? You were a chief economic adviser in a White House, under President Clinton. What happens next? What happens to this budget?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, actually, the House Budget Committee starts putting together their own budget. You know, this will be a little bit in their background. It will give a little bit of impetus to the extremists. You know, it's so ironic. He's talking about Islamic extremists while he's in Saudi Arabia, and here we have budget extremists back home, really extremist. And so, it is giving a license for that kind of extremism in thinking about the social fabric in our country. But they will go ahead on their own and try to structure. The House, led by Ryan, is going to come up with a more extreme budget than I think is going to be acceptable to the American people. Fortunately, the Senate will try to be -- tame it in and bring it in. A good chance that they won't be able to compromise. That is to say, they won't be able to put together the numbers that work. And what happens then is, the government operates on a continuing resolution, where what you say is, "We haven't figured out how to make a new budget. We'll keep the old budget for another three months or six months, until we can reach an agreement."

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Columbia University professor, chief economist for Roosevelt Institute, served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton, author of numerous books, most recently, The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the I-word, "impeachment." Stay with us.

Comcast Threatens Legal Action Against Net Neutrality Proponents
May 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM

(Photo: Mike Mozart; Edited: LW / TO)(Photo: Mike Mozart; Edited: LW / TO)

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Open Internet proponents who have been fighting the Trump administration's rollback of net neutrality protections, which has been enacted at the bidding of the telecom industry, said Tuesday that Comcast is now threatening legal action saying the website Comcastroturf.com is infringing on its trademark.

As the organization Fight for the Future quipped on Twitter, "You can't make this stuff up."

The website in question is currently providing a tool for the public to see if their names are among those stolen and used by anti-net neutrality bots to post comments in support of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan to undo Title II protections that classify the internet as a public utility.

The cease and desist order, dated last week, says the domain name is "confusingly similar to the [Comcast trademark] because it sounds the same, looks the same, and is spelled similarly to Comcast."

The letter, signed by a cyber threat analyst at LookingGlass Cyber Security Center, instructs the domain holder, Fight for the Future, to "take all steps necessary to see that the domain name is assigned to Comcast," and says that if the order is not immediately complied with then the cable giant will "pursu[e] its claims for damages."

"This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future.

Greer pointed out that if FCC chairman Ajit Pai's plan, advanced with a preliminary commission vote last week, "is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies."

"It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?" she asked.

Indeed, the fake comment scandal in addition to the FCC's failure to process comments in favor of net neutrality drew sharp criticism in the wake of the FCC's vote, and raised concern over how much influence the telecom industry holds over Pai, and now the FCC.

In case there was any question on that front, The Intercept's Lee Fang and Nick Surgey reported on Tuesday on an internal email from GOP leadership instructing House Republicans on how best to defend the FCC's decision.

Sent by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Republican Conference, the email contains a "nifty toolkit," in her words, which the reporters discovered to have come "directly from the cable industry."

"The metadata of the document shows it was created by Kerry Landon, the assistant director of industry grassroots at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of Comcast, Cox Communications, Charter, and other cable industry companies," Fang and Surgey report. "The document was shared with House Republican leaders via 'Broadband for America,' a nonprofit largely funded by the NCTA."

Trump's Budget Expands Global War on the Backs of the American Poor
May 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM

It is fitting that while President Trump is traveling the world, sealing a weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, he would drop his own kind of bomb on the American people: his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, titled, of course, "The New Foundation for American Greatness."

"This Budget's defining ambition is to unleash the dreams of the American people," Trump writes in his 62-page plan, released yesterday.

Trump's dream for the US is a nightmare for the working class.

The budget proposes deep cuts to government support for the poor, including slashing over $800 billion from Medicaid, $192 billion from food assistance, $272 billion from welfare programs, $72 billion from disability benefits, and ending programs that provide financial support for poor college students.

While cutting government assistance for working class Americans, the budget notably beefs up annual military spending by 10%, to the tune of $639 billion.

The US defense budget is already roughly the size of the next eleven largest national military budgets combined.

Trump's budget aims to go bigger, laying the groundwork "for a larger, more capable, and more lethal joint force [and] warfighting readiness."

Such readiness involves 56,400 more troops across the armed forces and 84 new fighter plans.

Trump wants additional funding to make sure that the US military "remains the world's preeminent fighting force" so that "we can continue to ensure peace through strength."

While slashing cuts for the poor and expanding military spending, the budget also proposes $2.6 billion for building the notorious wall on the US-Mexico border, and widely increasing the number of border patrol agents and immigration enforcement officials.

Support for massive US military spending is a bi-partisan tradition in American politics, as the War Resisters League (WRL), a longstanding US anti-war organization, points out in their annual analysis of the US military budget.

"When it comes to military spending, it really doesn't matter who's in office. The President and Congress are always willing to give the Pentagon more money," the WRL states in their most recent report. Each year, taxpayers turn over billions "for wars that breed more wars, weapons systems that even the Pentagon doesn't want, drones that kill hundreds of innocent children, and bases and troops in countries they've never heard of."

"It's your money," the WRL report explains. "Is this how you want it spent?"

We know how Trump wants to spend it: by funding global war and building a racist wall.

"We have it in our power to set free the dreams of our people," Trump writes in his budget. "Let us begin."

Let us begin by rejecting Trump's budget and saying no more war on the backs of the poor.

Mourning Manchester: Forging a New Politics of Grief
May 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM

As we mourn the lives lost in the Manchester suicide bombing, we cannot allow the deaths of children to be churned into approval ratings for politicians and arms deals for dictators. Whether at a UK concert hall or a school in Yemen, children's lives are routinely taken as a product of violence. A politics of grief for this age of atrocities should be one where we think about what gives rise to such violence.

 A man wears the British flag at a vigil for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, at Albert Square in Manchester, England, May 23, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Testa / The New York Times) A man wears the British flag at a vigil for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, at Albert Square in Manchester, England, May 23, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Testa / The New York Times)

We are all grieving the children lost in the suicide bombing of a concert in Manchester this week.

The global media is remembering these young lives, lost in an unimaginably brutal assault. They have names, faces, personalities, friends, preferences, histories and families. We see their community members weeping for them. We see their loved ones kneeling, planting flowers at the site where their lives were taken.

They are portrayed in their full humanity; the abrupt ending of their lives is a sign of a violence that has no place in our world.

In this moment it might seem callous to point to the simultaneous invisibility, the namelessness and facelessness, of the civilians in Yemen -- many of them children as well -- whose lives have recently been taken as a product of violence.

It might seem uncouth, in this moment of global grief, to express outrage at seeing the British flag wielded as some twisted symbol of solidarity. To point to its legacy as a symbol of brutal imperialism would somehow undermine its current use: a sign of empathy for innocent lives lost.

Our grief in this moment is expected to outweigh our outrage that Donald Trump, speaking from the apartheid state of Israel, calls the purveyors of this attack, "evil losers," just days after brokering a gargantuan arms-deal with a US-backed regime with a known history of human rights violations.

We are expected to be too heartbroken in this moment to remind anyone that visual politics determine how we experience grief itself. On September 11, 2001, media networks around the world chose to play and replay the now-iconic footage of "jumpers" leaping out of burning towers to their death. These same media networks obediently followed a government-issued ban on showing flag-draped coffins of deceased soldiers returning from Iraq, simultaneously rendering 9/11 a unique type of tragedy and rendering invisible the brutalities of the illegal invasion of Iraq. In the aftermath of the 2015 Paris attacks, many people deemed mere mentions of the fact that lives had also been taken by ISIS (also known as Daesh) in Beirut just days before to be disrespectful to the lives lost in France.

Perhaps this is why the standard chorus of "we condemn terror" is sure to emanate from Muslim organizations in the West in the wake of Manchester, as if this were particularly their condemnation to make. No matter how vocally these proclamations are made, they will be drowned out by the much-larger climate of Islamophobic bigotry.

We live in a seemingly unending terror age -- a time of many instances of mass violence. We have grieved lives lost in San Bernardino, Orlando and Paris. We have seen journalists beheaded. And we know that, just as many of us learned about the terrible news of Manchester upon waking on Tuesday morning, we will wake up to such bad news again. There is a numbing sense of déjà vu in this seemingly repetitive cycle of terror and death.

Yet this terror age must give rise to a new politics of grief.

A new politics of grief would not allow these deaths to be churned into approval ratings for right-wing politicians.

A new politics of grief would not allow the memory of those lost lives to be used as fuel to line the pockets of arms dealers and dictatorships, or to generate an unquestioning support for intensified militarism.

A new politics of grief would not be used to bludgeon us into silence, nor to put a lid on our critical faculties.

Instead, a politics of grief for this seemingly endless terror age would be one in which we think deeply, contextually and historically about the political conditions that give rise to a brutal attack like the one we saw in Manchester.

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Fearing for My Life During a Traffic Stop: Rising Police Violence in the Borderlands
May 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM

Near the US-Mexico border, there's a sharp line between those enabled by law enforcement -- such as armed white militia groups -- and the Brown and Black communities that are targeted and traumatized. For the latter, a simple mistake like driving without headlights on often results in being detained at gunpoint, as this reporter found out firsthand.

(Photo: Banspy; Edited: LW / TO)(Photo: Banspy; Edited: LW / TO)

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Three cop cars with their sirens blazing were coming fast behind me. It was a dark night in April 2017 in Nogales, Arizona, along the US-Mexico border. The infamous wall was visible from where I was stopped. I am an Indian-American college student who had been living in Nogales for the past few months studying journalism and education. My heart dropped as I pulled over to the side of the road.

"Driver!" a Nogales Police Department (NPD) officer yelled at me through the loud metallic intercom of his vehicle.

I didn't understand what was going on, but I tried to remain calm. I knew I could be shot.

I didn't know how to respond since the officer's statement wasn't really a question or a command, so I just shouted, "Yes?" out the window. In my driver-side mirror, I saw an agent creeping toward my car with his blinding, bright flashlight and gun pointed directly at me. Two more officers stood on the other side of my car with their flashlights and guns drawn, too. I didn't understand what was going on, but I tried to remain calm. I knew I could be shot.

Just a few minutes walk away from where I was pulled over, in October 2012, US Border Patrol agents shot and killed 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez through the wall in Mexico. I thought of this as I sat in my car, surrounded by armed police officers. I had become subject to what Attorney General Jeff Sessions would call a few days later the "Trump era" of immigration enforcement and border security during a visit to Nogales in mid-April. There was an eerie premonition that what happened to Elena Rodriguez would happen with more frequency under a Trump administration poised to fortify the border, as Sessions made quite clear, even more than it already is.

"Turn off your vehicle!" an officer shouted.

I turned it off.

"Show me your hands!" the agent on the driver's side yelled.

I stuck my hands out the window. As the officer on the driver's side got closer he put away his gun, reached his hand through the window to unlock the door and opened it.

"Step out of the vehicle and put your hands up."

As soon as I stood up, the cop grabbed my hands, forced handcuffs on, and walked me to his police car.

A few minutes earlier, I had been pulled over for driving without my headlights on. The officer told me he was going to let me go with a warning and I drove off. I then realized I forgot to wait for the officer to return my license and registration. That day, I had been on a long reporting trip in Mexico and was extremely tired. I slowed down, knowing they would pull me over again, and they did. In the US-Mexico borderlands and to the border enforcement apparatus, what I considered a mistake was interpreted as a blatant act of aggression that resulted in me being detained at gunpoint.

They put me in the back of their police car, which was cramped, with little leg room. The tight, cold metal of the handcuffs felt uncomfortable on my wrists. As the police searched my car, I thought of the countless police shootings that topped news reports over the last few years. I thought about how my parents would react if anything happened to me.

The day after Sessions' Nogales trip, I decided to call the NPD to file a complaint for excessive use of force, but the supervising officer said that there was no policy broken and that they had every right to draw weapons.

"That area is very close to the border. When you took off, the officer had no idea what was going on," the supervising officer said. "It could have been drugs; it could have been illegal aliens."

His justification for the NPD's use of force sounded eerily similar to the comments made by Sessions: "It is also here, along this border, that transnational gangs like MS-13 and international cartels flood our country with drugs and leave death and violence in their wake. And it is here that criminal aliens and the coyotes and the document-forgers seek to overthrow our system of lawful immigration."

Sessions painted a picture in which everyone living in the borderlands [is a] criminal drug [smuggler]. Indeed, that rhetoric has long translated into policy. This was a place where non-citizens, Native Americans, Latinos and Black people were guilty and must be proven innocent. Homeland Security is the only federal department sanctioned by Washington to ethnically profile.

The Trump era will inevitably lead to more instances of excessive use of force by law enforcement in the borderlands as immigrants continue to be criminalized.

Racial Profiling and Police Overreach

The Trump era will inevitably lead to more instances of excessive use of force by law enforcement in the borderlands as immigrants continue to be criminalized. During Sessions' speech, he ordered that federal prosecutors charge undocumented immigrants with a felony (previously a misdemeanor) "if they unlawfully enter or attempt to enter a second time."

Depending on the budget, the next few years will likely see a growth in the militarization of the border through the hiring of additional Border Patrol officers, a larger and taller wall, more motion sensor cameras, surveillance towers and other security infrastructure. This will be on top of an already historic 25-year growth of the border enforcement apparatus, which now has more agents, barriers and technologies at its disposal than at any other time in history. Local police are already, in a way, de facto Border Patrol agents through programs like Operation Stonegarden, which is a federal grant program by the Department of Homeland Security that provides funding to local police on the border for additional personnel, overtime pay and new equipment to help "secure the border" and "prevent terrorism." Through this program, NPD has received millions of dollars to fund communications equipment, infrared sensors and overtime pay. But with more resources, incidents of police overreach and racial profiling become more frequent.

At around 2 am on Saturday, February 25, NPD officers entered a Nogales home without a warrant to investigate what appeared to the police to be an out-of-control bonfire in the backyard. The police busted the lip of 20-year-old Adaly Collelmo with the door as they forced their way inside. Four officers entered the home and Collelmo reached into his pocket to grab his cell phone to film the event, but the agents thought he was pulling out a gun and drew their weapons. The police also tackled Collelmo's 16-year-old cousin to the ground and pointed their weapons at his 7-year-old brother.

"We were all scared," Collelmo told Nogales International. "To be honest, I thought I was going to die when they pointed their guns at my face."

 Nogales Police Department officers greet members of the III% United Patriots militia at the Nogales Walmart parking lot in March 2017. (Photo: Arielle Zionts)Nogales Police Department officers greet members of the III% United Patriots militia at the Nogales Walmart parking lot in March 2017. (Photo: Arielle Zionts)

These events clash sharply with how NPD treats an armed militia group named the III% United Patriots (3UP), which frequently patrols the US-Mexico border near Nogales, armed with military gear and assault rifles. In March 2017, the 3UP were spotted in friendly interaction with the NPD at the Nogales Walmart parking lot while openly carrying their weapons. This event closely resembles another instance captured by journalist Shane Bauer in April 2016 when the armed militia members were guarding their truck in the Walmart parking lot while others were inside buying supplies. 3UP members were approached by NPD and told to put down their weapons. After militia members explained that they act as the "eyes and ears of the Border Patrol," an officer said to them, "It takes balls to do what you guys do out there.... Thank you."

When a group of white men armed with military-grade assault rifles casually stood in a Walmart parking lot three miles from the border, NPD did not assume the militia was there for reasons related to drug trafficking or migration. The police did not draw any weapons or handcuff anyone. The contrast between the easy-going interactions between NPD and an armed militia group and the way NPD treated other Nogales residents and me highlights the extent to which Brown people are criminalized in the US-Mexico borderlands. Add to this the countless incidents of undocumented people chased, beaten and arrested every day by the US Border Patrol, and the thousands of cases of short-term detention abuse from deprivation of food, to ice-cold holding cells, to rude and dehumanizing language -- and a stark line of division emerges between those supported and enabled by law enforcement, and those targeted and traumatized.

After about 10 minutes of searching, an officer walked back to the police vehicle I was detained in and opened the door. They didn't find drugs or migrants in my car. They didn't find any terrorists (indeed, no known person with a terrorist affiliation has ever crossed the border).

"Alright, you can step out. I'm going to take the handcuffs off," the officer said.

I stepped outside and the officer moved behind me.

"Now after I uncuff you, you're not going to come at me or anything, right? You're not going to attack me?"

I thought this question strange, considering that [I'd] been fully cooperating with them this whole time, and that they were the ones with the guns, not me.

"No," I responded.

He uncuffed me, and after searching my backpack, the officers finally let me go with just a written warning to remember to always drive with my headlights on.

Before I finally walked away, the officer said to me, "We're on the border. A lot of stuff goes down and that's why we had guns on you." This statement sounded like an admission of guilt, like he knew their use of force was excessive and this was an attempt to justify it. But proximity to the border has long been enough to justify some of the most egregious acts of violence and cruelty from one group of human beings to another. And in the coming years under the "Trump era," we can only expect there will be more. In the written version of his announcement, Sessions declared, "It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth."

The police let me go, handed me my license and registration, and I walked back to my car and drove off, wondering who would be next.

War in Afghanistan Is Killing Children in Record Numbers in 2017
May 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM

Abdullah, an 8-year-old from Ghazni province, lies in a ward inside Emergency Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2017. Abdullah was wounded during a fight between the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Taliban when a shell landed near his home. Abdullah lost an arm and has severe head trauma. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)Abdullah, an 8-year-old from Ghazni province, lies in a ward inside Emergency Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2017. Abdullah was wounded during a fight between the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Taliban when a shell landed near his home. Abdullah lost an arm and has severe head trauma. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)

2016 was the deadliest year for children in Afghanistan since the US occupation, according to a UN report. Of the 11,418 civilian casualties documented last year, 3,512 were children. And already, 2017 has seen a 21 percent increase in child deaths over the same period last year. As the US ramps up its war without end, what will it mean for Afghan children?

Abdullah, an 8-year-old from Ghazni province, lies in a ward inside Emergency Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2017. Abdullah was wounded during a fight between the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Taliban when a shell landed near his home. Abdullah lost an arm and has severe head trauma. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)Abdullah, an 8-year-old from Ghazni province, lies in a ward inside Emergency Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2017. Abdullah was wounded during a fight between the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Taliban when a shell landed near his home. Abdullah lost an arm and has severe head trauma. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)

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Four-year-old Alisina was playing in the fields outside her house in the Maidan Wardak province of Afghanistan, located 80 kilometers from the capital city of Kabul, on a mid-April morning. Only vaguely aware of the constant war that surrounds them, Alisina and her friends didn't know the large metal object they found in the field that day was in fact an unexploded ordnance left behind by one of the warring parties. The little girls squabbled over who would get to play with it first, and Alisina won the rights to the deadly weapon, which minutes later exploded in her hands as she attempted to lift it.

"She has shell injuries to [her] face and both eyes, chest and hands. Her thumb and third finger required traumatic amputation," Alisina's doctor at the Emergency Hospital in Kabul told me in an interview.

"We had heard a lot of such cases happen to other families in our village, but [I] never thought it could happen to one of my children," Alisina's mother told me as she waited for her little girl to gain consciousness. "We don't know if it was the Taliban or the Afghan National Army (ANA) who planted the bomb, but it was definitely something that was placed recently," she said, explaining that there has been continuous fighting in the district over the last three years.

 Alisina, 4, is watched over by her mother inside Emergency Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2017. Alisina was playing outside of her home in Maidan Wardak when she found a land mine and it went off. The explosion wounded her in the face, damaging both of her eyes. She also took shrapnel to the chest and hands. Her thumb and third finger required traumatic amputation. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)Alisina, 4, is watched over by her mother inside Emergency Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2017. Alisina was playing outside of her home in Maidan Wardak when she found a land mine and it went off. The explosion wounded her in the face, damaging both of her eyes. She also took shrapnel to the chest and hands. Her thumb and third finger required traumatic amputation. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)

Alisina's story isn't a rare occurrence; it isn't even unique, in a country that's steadily spiraling back into a state of rampant war, as casualties have increased over the last three years. In fact, the 2016 civilian casualty figure was the worst since the US occupation of Afghanistan began in 2001.

Just last week, an explosion killed five children in Laghman province. The children were playing in the vicinity of their home when they found an unexploded mortar round, likely fired during fighting earlier in the day. The five young boys, all from the same family, were killed when this mortar exploded as they were inspecting it. "A family destroyed in seconds -- this horror is just one of too many incidents documented at the onset of this fighting season," Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General's special representative for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told Agence France-Presse.

In its annual report for 2016, UNAMA documented 11,418 civilian casualties, an increase over previous years. Children accounted for at least 30 percent of these casualties. The report noted 3,512 child casualties (923 deaths and 2,589 injuries), a 24 percent increase from 2015, and the highest number of child casualties recorded by UNAMA in any single year.

Barakatullah, a 10-year-old from Paktika Province, was riding on the back of his uncle's motorcycle when they drove over a land mine. In this photo from May 2, 2017, he sits in a wheelchair in Emergency Hospital in Kabul. He has major wounds on his right leg and left arm. Doctors at the hospital say he will need skin grafts. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)Barakatullah, a 10-year-old from Paktika Province, was riding on the back of his uncle's motorcycle when they drove over a land mine. In this photo from May 2, 2017, he sits in a wheelchair in Emergency Hospital in Kabul. He has major wounds on his right leg and left arm. Doctors at the hospital say he will need skin grafts. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)

This year hasn't been any better. According to the latest report, the first four months of 2017 have already been the worst ones yet documented for Afghan children. "[UNAMA] witnessed the highest recorded number of child civilian casualties resulting from conflict-related incidents in Afghanistan, including the highest number of children killed, for the same comparable period since the Mission began documenting cases [in 2009]," a statement by the UN agency read. Between January and April 2017, UNAMA preliminarily recorded 987 child casualties (283 deaths and 704 injured), a 21 percent increase in child deaths compared to the same period in 2016.

UNAMA attributed the rise in child casualties to "persistent use of indirect and/or explosive weapons in civilian-populated areas and due to the use of illegal and indiscriminate improvised explosive devices." The statement urged "all parties to the conflict to commence marking, clearing, removing and destroying explosive remnants of war left behind from fighting in areas under their territorial control."

While a number of the child casualties are from insurgent attacks and aerial airstrike by pro-government forces, a surprisingly high number of the casualties are a direct result of unexploded ordnance left behind on the battlefield by parties to the conflict who had failed to clear it. The report cited "554 child casualties (167 deaths and 387 injured) caused by this tactic (primarily pressure-plate and remote-controlled IEDs)" in 2016.

Barakatullah, a 10-year-old from Paktika Province, was riding on the back of his uncle's motorcycle when they drove over a land mine. In this photo from May 2, 2017, he sits in a wheelchair in Emergency Hospital in Kabul. He has major wounds on his right leg and left arm. Doctors at the hospital say he will need skin grafts. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)Barakatullah, a 10-year-old from Paktika Province, was riding on the back of his uncle's motorcycle when they drove over a land mine. In this photo from May 2, 2017, he sits in a wheelchair in Emergency Hospital in Kabul. He has major wounds on his right leg and left arm. Doctors at the hospital say he will need skin grafts. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)

Illustrating this phenomenon, the report pointed to the deaths of two young boys and seven other injured children at a wedding party in Kunduz province, due to an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade left behind during the Taliban offensive in the city in the month before.

In another incident, UNAMA reported that detonation of an unexploded ordnance left behind by an international military base in the Shah Joy district of Zabul province killed a boy and injured five others.

According to a UN report, at least 235 civilian casualties (127 deaths and 108 injured) were caused due to aerial operations carried out by international military forces, a steep 44 percent increase compared to 2015. For example, in late 2016, a series of airstrikes conducted by the international military forces in Kunduz province killed 32 civilians and injured 36 others, mainly women and children. This series of airstrikes should not be confused with its 2015 predecessor, also in Kunduz, and also by international forces, that targeted a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) facility during the Taliban takeover of the province.

Hospitals like Kabul's Emergency Hospital, which treated Alisina, confirm a spike in child casualties. "It's true; we saw a much higher number [of] child casualties in 2016. About 27 percent of our patients were below 18 years of age and a large number among them were female; most were victims of IEDs [improvised explosive devices]," Dejan Panic, program coordinator at the Emergency War and Trauma Hospital, told me. "The numbers are telling us, yes, this year will be worse; this hospital is busy constantly. There are hardly any days we have an empty bed," he adds.

Patient statistics shared by Emergency War and Trauma Hospital show that there was a 10 percent increase in war casualties in 2016 as compared to 2015. "It has doubled in the last five years," Panic explained.

Nazbibi, a 9-year-old from Laghman Province, was playing with two other children and was caught in an IED explosion, according to doctors at Emergency Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2017. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)Nazbibi, a 9-year-old from Laghman Province, was playing with two other children and was caught in an IED explosion, according to doctors at Emergency Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2017. (Photo: Ivan Armando Flores)

However, it is hard for Panic or any of the doctors to confirm if the IED casualties are from insurgents or international and pro-government forces. "The bombs and shrapnel don't have an identity. We're pulling out shards and metal wires from kids as young as two years old. It's hard to tell who planted them," a doctor in the children's ward told me.

Incidentally, the Afghan government recently ratified the Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. This obligates the government to have strategies for marking and clearance of explosive remnants of war. Although the convention came into effect in January 2017, there is little clarity on how it is being implemented by the Afghan government.

UNAMA believes that about 21 percent of the casualties that affected the children were perpetrated by the Afghan national security forces and pro-government armed groups.

The last annual report from the United States to the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), released in 2014, states that the US "supported various groups in clearance and destruction of Explosive Remnants of War" (ERWs) in Afghanistan. Additionally, it states that the US government conducted destruction of munition stockpiles that are likely to turn to ERWs in Afghanistan. However, it does not specify if any action was taken to identify and clear unexploded ordinances that were left behind by the international forces.

As the geopolitical disaster persists, children continue to be slaughtered.

Recently, I met the mother of nine-year-old Sayeeda, who was caught in a crossfire between the Afghan forces and local Taliban group in Ghazni province. Sayeeda was herding her family's sheep in pastures not far from her house, when a bullet hit her in the head, causing a severe hemorrhage in her brain. She was taken to the Emergency First Aid Post in the Ghazni district center and moved to Kabul a day later.

"I don't know who fired the bullet, but now I'm on the verge of losing my daughter," Sayeeda's mother told me. As Sayeeda's condition deteriorates, there is very little hope of her survival, her doctor says. "But children can often surprise you; they're stronger than we give them credit for," the doctor added. Even amid near-constant tragedy, some hope persists.

As the US prepares to ramp up its war without end, how many of Afghanistan's children will be lost to it? At this point, the odds seem to stack up against them.

As Last Confederate Statue Is Removed in New Orleans, Will School Names and Street Signs Follow?
May 22nd, 2017, 07:04 PM

New Orleans has removed the last of four Confederate statues in recent weeks. Workers wore bulletproof vests and face coverings to conceal their identities as they used a crane to remove the statue from its pedestal. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said threats and intimidation necessitated the overnight work and extra safety precautions. White nationalists have staged a series of protests and issued threats in the lead-up to the memorials' removals. Though the four most prominent Confederate monuments have been removed, activists are calling for New Orleans officials to remove all monuments, school names and street signs in the city dedicated to white supremacists. We speak with Malcolm Suber, co-founder of Take 'Em Down NOLA.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today's show in New Orleans, where on Friday the city removed the last of four Confederate statues in recent weeks. Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate as the massive bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee came down. It was the first of a series of monuments to be removed during daylight. Workers wore bulletproof vests and face coverings to conceal their identities as they used a crane to remove the statue from a 60-foot-high pedestal. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said threats and intimidation necessitated the overnight work and extra safety precautions. Afterward, Landrieu delivered an address about the city's efforts to remove the monuments, that he says celebrate the "Lost Cause of the Confederacy."

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: The historic record is clear: Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected to just honor these men, but as part of a movement which became known as the cult of the Lost Cause. This cult had one goal and one goal only: through monuments and through other means, to rewrite history, to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected 166 years after the founding of our cities, 19 years after the Civil War, these monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of the Confederacy. ...

These statues are not just stone and metal. They're not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy, ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for. And after the Civil War, these monuments were part of that terrorism, as much as burning a cross on someone's lawn. They were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in the shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

AMY GOODMAN: White nationalists have staged a series of protests and issued threats in the lead-up to the memorials' removals. A car belonging to one of the workers had also been set on fire. Though the four most prominent Confederate monuments have been removed, activists are calling for New Orleans officials to remove all monuments, school names and street signs in New Orleans dedicated to white supremacists.

Well, for more, we go to New Orleans, where we're joined by Malcolm Suber, co-founder and coordinator with Take 'Em Down NOLA.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Malcolm. Can you talk about the history of the Take 'Em Down movement and your reaction to these four statues being taken down?

MALCOLM SUBER: Yes. Well, you know, first of all, Take 'Em Down NOLA is a continuation of the decades-long struggle of black people in this city to rid ourselves of the presence of these white supremacy monuments. Take 'Em Down NOLA was founded two-and-a-half years ago, and in the wake of the Bree Newsome taking down the Confederate flag in South Carolina and the shootings in Charleston. And we felt that it was necessary for us to come together and really press the city to step up its efforts or renew our efforts to get rid of these white supremacy monuments.

And so, just coincidentally, the mayor announced that he wanted to get rid of four statues around the same time. And from the very beginning, our position was, we are not satisfied with you just saying that there will -- the mayor saying that there would only be four statues removed, when we knew, due to our historical research, that there were more than 20 Confederate statues, hundreds of street names and 30 school names. So, in all, there was 130 or 140 Confederate memorials in the city that needed to be removed. And so, our position with the mayor has been, if you truly believe that these Confederate memorials are here to terrorize and to remind black people about who is in charge in the city, then you should expand your reach. And as far as we're concerned, we, of course, welcome these four being down, but we've got plenty of work to do. And we're asking the mayor to join us in this effort, rather than ask us to be satisfied with these four.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Malcolm Suber, your reaction to the -- the Louisiana House just passed a bill that would make it more difficult to remove any monuments honoring war heroes, including Confederate monuments. Your reaction to those actions of the Legislature and also the threats that have come against the city just for those few monuments that have been removed?

MALCOLM SUBER: Well, you know, we think, of course, the whole history of white supremacist organizations in the South has been one of terrorism. And so, even though they don't march in the streets with sheets any longer, they have organized themselves and are still issuing all kinds of threats against myself, against the city officials and everybody else who they can think of. But again, history proceeds, and we are not afraid to challenge these white supremacist institutions.

And, of course, a real reflection of how bad race relations are in the state of Louisiana and in New Orleans is that every white legislator in the Louisiana House or Representatives voted last Monday to require a popular vote to have any of these Confederate statues removed, especially of any soldier, including those who were traitors who fought in the Confederate Army. So that, of course, revealed that their true position was to support white supremacy. And as a result of that, all of the -- all 23 of the black representatives walked out after the vote and rightly and justifiably called this another white supremacist assault against black people in the state.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn back to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu speaking last week about the efforts to remove the four monuments to the Confederacy.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we really need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historic denial. We still find a way to say, "Wait, wait, wait, not so fast." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "'Wait' has almost always meant 'never.'" We cannot wait any longer. We need to change, and we need to change now. No more waiting. This is not just about statues. This is about attitudes. And it's about behaviors, as well. If we take down these statues and don't change to become a more open and inclusive society, then all of this would have been in vain.

AMY GOODMAN: Malcolm Suber, if you can respond to the mayor of New Orleans?

MALCOLM SUBER: Well, of course, we say, if you really do believe Mayor Landrieu, if you really do believe that we can't wait and we should get rid of all these statues, then you've got to extend that reach to get rid of all of them. Let's go forward with a clean slate. Let's get rid of all the Confederate street names, all the Confederate names on our schools and the rest of the Confederate statues. We just believe there is some inconsistency in the mayor's position. If he really believes what he says and is not just putting words out for public consumption, then he should join Take 'Em Down NOLA and put a timetable as to when we would get all these things done. And then we can celebrate and go forward and talk about beginning to really address the many problems of the black community here, including 50 percent male unemployment, including 50 percent of our children live in poverty, and, of course, New Orleans is the most incarcerated place in the entire world.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the lieutenant -- your lieutenant governor, Billy Nungesser, who has asked --

MALCOLM SUBER: Nungesser.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Nungesser, who has asked New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to turn over the Confederate monuments to his office. He met with Landrieu, but city officials said the state would have to submit their proposals for acquiring the monuments along with any other interested groups. This is the lieutenant governor speaking on Monday.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR BILLY NUNGESSER: I just want to do the right thing with them. And I think dragging this thing out is not to the better -- is not helping tourism. It's not helping the city. And it's truly not helping the state. So, I think the people that are passionate about preserving history, those people want to feel comfortable that they're going to not sit in a yard somewhere, not -- not be put back up where visitors from all over the world can come see the history of Louisiana. And that's what we're hoping for.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Lieutenant Governor Nungesser. Your response to him?

MALCOLM SUBER: Well, Billy Nungesser is a white supremacist, believes in white supremacy. And we don't believe -- we don't take seriously his argument that tourists come to New Orleans to bathe themselves in white supremacy. People come to New Orleans to enjoy the vibrancy of our city, its food, its culture. And very few people come here out of any love or desire to learn about the history of the enslavement of African people and the oppression of African people in the Jim Crow era. So we think these are all thinly veiled arguments to support white supremacy. And our position in Take 'Em Down NOLA is that not only should these things be removed, but they should be destroyed. We don't think that they should be on public display in any context, because, like the mayor said, these things were put up purposely to celebrate white supremacy and the oppression of another people. And we don't think that the city should be going forward, getting ready to celebrate its 300th birthday -- that it should be going forward with a clean slate, getting rid of all Confederate monuments.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, speaking about the findings of their 2015 report, "Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror." He called for the placement of historical markers at sites where lynchings occurred.

BRYAN STEVENSON: This idea that racial difference can make you a target of violence and terrorism is something that we've been dealing with for a very long time, and I think we just haven't really talked about it. And one of the things we want to do by erecting these markers and monuments is to get communities to begin to reflect more soberly on what this history represents. You go to Germany now, and you are forced to deal with the legacy of the Holocaust, because there are markers and monuments everywhere. We do the opposite in this country. We celebrate the things, in my judgment, that we probably shouldn't be celebrating. In all of these states, you find Confederate memorials and monuments everywhere, dedicated to the people who were defending slavery, trying to preserve slavery, and yet nothing about the pain and anguish and suffering and injustice that those institutions created.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative. He was speaking to us from Montgomery, Alabama, on Democracy Now! Malcolm Suber, your response to what Bryan is saying?

MALCOLM SUBER: We agree completely with what Bryan is saying. You know, these memorials, all across the South, in every courthouse, in every county, throughout the South, they've got a Confederate soldiers' monument. And they don't teach our kids in schools that these people were indeed traitors. And, of course, the United States made some fundamental errors after Reconstruction. First of all, the battle flags and these traitors should not have been allowed to participate in the politics of this country. And because of that legacy, instead of doing as they have done in Germany and outlawing all these things that are reminders of the enslavement of African people, they celebrate it. And as long as they celebrate it, they won't ever understand that these things are daily insults to African people and to our allies and that they must be gotten rid of, if we're going to move forward on the basis of freedom and equality.

AMY GOODMAN: Malcolm Suber, we want to thank you for being with us, co-founder and coordinator with Take 'Em Down NOLA. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Jerusalem. Stay with us.

As Trump Visits Israel, How Can Palestine Negotiate Peace as Prisoners' Lives Are at Stake?
May 22nd, 2017, 07:04 PM

President Trump arrived in Bethlehem Tuesday during a two-day visit to Israel as part of his first trip abroad as president and vowed to do whatever necessary to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This comes as Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza launched a general strike Monday to protest Trump's visit to Israel and Palestine and to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails. We get an update from Jerusalem, where Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group notes leaders on both sides are unsure what to expect from Trump, who made negative comments about Israel on the campaign trail. "That's really the locus of the fear on the Israeli side with respect to Trump," Thrall says. "It's the notion that he could really try and exert pressure on Israel, threaten real consequences in the US-Israeli relationship, if Israel were not to agree to, let's say, the outlines of an American proposal for a settlement of the conflict or the outlines of an American proposal on which the two sides would negotiate and work out the details." Thrall argues that if Trump uses his leverage, "we're looking at a totally different Israeli-Palestinian peace process than we have seen in the past."

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack on a concert arena in Manchester, England, Monday night that killed 22 people. Meanwhile, President Trump has arrived in Bethlehem as he continues his two-day visit to Israel as part of his first trip abroad as president. On Monday, Trump placed a note in the ancient stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall and met Israeli leaders. He vowed to do whatever is necessary to broker peace between Israelis and the Palestinians, and called a peace accord the ultimate deal but offered few specifics.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I believe that a new level of partnership is possible and will happen, one that will bring greater safety to this region, greater security to the United States and greater prosperity to the world. This includes a renewed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I thank the prime minister for his commitment to pursuing the peace process. He's working very hard at it. It's not easy. I've heard it's one of the toughest deals of all. But I have a feeling that we're going to get there eventually. I hope.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: During a meeting with Israeli leaders, Trump appeared to generate discomfort in the room when he mentioned his stop in Saudi Arabia and implied Israel is not located in the Middle East.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As you know, Rex, our secretary of state, has done an incredible job. We just got back from the Middle East. We just got back, Saudi Arabia. And we were treated incredibly well.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As Trump made the comment, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer can be seen burying his face in his hand. During his remarks, Trump said he also saw the possibility of a new alignment of Muslim nations and Israel against Iran.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: These leaders voice concerns we all share about ISIS, about Iran's rising ambitions and rolling back its gains, and about the menace of extremism that has spread through too many parts of the Muslim world. I am encouraged that they pledge cooperation to confront terrorism and the hateful ideology that drives it so hard.

AMY GOODMAN: During his appearance alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday, Trump also pushed back against reports he had disclosed highly classified information to the Russians during his Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name "Israel," never mentioned it during that conversation. They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word "Israel."

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times reported the information that Trump had passed along had come to the United States from Israel, but it did not allege that he mentioned the word "Israel" during the meeting. All this comes as Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza launched a general strike Monday to protest Trump's visit to Israel and Palestine and to show solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails. This is Rifa Abu Jazar in Gaza.

RIFA ABU JAZAR: [translated] This protest comes as a response to the head of terrorism, Trump, and a response to whoever protects the head of terrorism, who describes the resistance of our people to defend their land and resisting against the murderers of their children as terrorism.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Jerusalem, where we're joined by Nathan Thrall, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group covering Gaza, West Bank and Israel. His new book is titled The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine.

Nathan Thrall, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the significance of President Trump's trip to both Israel and the Occupied Territories? And talk about what he has said so far and the response.

NATHAN THRALL: Well, the trip so far -- and it's just ended -- is not all that significant. I mean, the real significance is anticipating whether he's going to attempt to start a peace process, whether he's going to attempt to start a peace process with the regional states, with the Sunni-Arab states that he just visited in Riyadh. And it appears that he does intend to do so. And it appears that the parties, both the Israelis and the Palestinians, are keen not to upset him and will probably go along with at least starting a process. That hasn't been trivial for previous administrations to do. Of course, if he starts a process, that's by no means a guarantee that he's actually going to conclude one successfully. And I think both sides are counting on the notion that he is easily distracted, and when he faces obstacles, as he inevitably will, he'll just move on to the next thing.

So, I think that what we're facing right now is great uncertainty on both sides with respect to Trump, which both sides both regard as a threat and an opportunity. There is a sense that there's real ignorance, both on the part of the president and the team around him, and so much so that each side could potentially take advantage of that ignorance and change or shift US policy in their direction. So, everybody is walking on eggshells right now and trying very much not to upset Trump, very uncertain whether he's capable of retaliating against one side if he feels that they are an obstacle to his achieving what appears to be a real priority for him, and the real -- real priority for both sides is to try and stay on Trump's good side for now, without doing anything that's too domestically difficult for each one.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Nathan Thrall, I wanted to ask you -- clearly, Trump is not a conventional American leader as far as the foreign policy establishment is concerned. But you suggested in some of your writings that he's treating the Israeli-Palestinian question as basically a real estate deal, a real estate transaction. Could you talk about that?

NATHAN THRALL: Sure. I mean, there's a sense that Trump is not at all beholden to the views of the US foreign policy establishment really on anything, but especially on this conflict. And he -- there's a sense that he does look at this as a real estate transaction. He has a bold subheading inside his book, The Art of the Deal, that's called "Use Your Leverage." And that's really the locus of the fear on the Israeli side with respect to Trump. It's the notion that he could really try and exert pressure on Israel, threaten real consequences in the US-Israeli relationship, if Israel were not to agree to, let's say, the outlines of an American proposal for a settlement of the conflict or the outlines of an American proposal on which the two sides would negotiate and work out the details. And Trump has -- you know, during his campaign, he said some things that were frightening to supporters of Israel. He refused to blame one side for the impasse. And he even refused to back down when he was criticized for refusing to do so. And he does appear to really prioritize this conflict and see it as something that could create a legacy for him. And so, the question is: Does he intend to use his leverage? Is he capable of using his leverage? And if he is, then we're looking at a totally different Israeli-Palestinian peace process than we've seen in the past.

AMY GOODMAN: Nathan Thrall, can you talk about who Ronald Lauder is and what his relationship with Donald Trump is around Israel and Palestine?

NATHAN THRALL: There's been a lot of reporting about Ronald Lauder's influence over Trump. They've known each other for a long time. Ronald Lauder is a very wealthy American businessman. And he had in the past been close to Netanyahu, although they are estranged now. He had been an envoy for Netanyahu in the '90s in negotiating -- when Netanyahu was prime minister then, in negotiating with Syria. By many accounts, he was not a very good one. And at this point, he is said to be very influential over Trump on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For a couple of years now, he's been going around the region trying to promote his own peacemaking initiative. The people who have looked at this plan have ridiculed it as being ignorant of kind of the basics of the conflict. But that's the administration that we're dealing with. Trump has a personal relationship with this man. And he has a plan, and he has a team. And he appears to be telling -- if the reporting is correct, he appears to be telling Trump that the Palestinians are ready and willing to make a deal and that Netanyahu is probably the obstacle. Again, that's if the reporting is correct. I'm not inside the room to tell you for sure whether that's the case. But if so, I think that's very troubling to the Israelis. At the same time, there are real limits on how much of a role Lauder can play if Netanyahu refuses to deal with him.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In a recent article you wrote for The Guardian, you said -- I'm quoting -- "The real explanation for the past decades of failed peace negotiations is not mistaken tactics or imperfect circumstances, but that no strategy can succeed if it is premised on Israel behaving irrationally." What did you mean by that?

NATHAN THRALL: Well, what I meant by that is that, in the past, US administrations have had a notion that both sides really want an agreement, and it just takes, you know, a bit of American facilitation to bring them together and to convince -- in particular, to convince Israel that it's in its own self-interest to reach peace, because if they don't, then they're going to become a pariah state and be forced by the entire world to give citizenship to all Palestinians. That's this very stark choice that Israel is imminently going to face, and so, clearly, it's in its rational interest to avoid doing that. The whole purpose of Zionism is to have a state for the Jewish people. They'll lose that if they give citizenship to all Palestinians. And this is the conventional wisdom among American commentators and inside the US government.

But the fact is that it's not a matter of just convincing Israel of its rational self-interest, because it's not actually in Israel's rational self-interest to make an agreement and to give the Palestinians a state today. It may be in the future, when circumstances change. But today, they -- any prime minister would be crazy to make peace with the Palestinians now, without being forced to. Even if they knew for a fact that in the future they were going to be forced to make a deal, they have every interest in waiting until that day comes, seeing if that day comes. Today they're enjoying security quiet from the Palestinians in the West Bank. They've enjoyed years of this security quiet in the West Bank. And they have full security control. Their forces are on the border with Jordan. And they have very little to gain when they're going to pull out tens of thousands of their own citizens, cause enormous domestic upheaval. And, you know, you have polls that show a majority of Israelis are opposed to giving up sovereignty over the Temple Mount, or Haram esh-Sharif. And that would be a necessary component of any agreement. So, basically, what you're talking about is an Israeli prime minister who has to say to himself, "I'm ready to end my political career, create the worst domestic turmoil this country has ever seen, face potential assassination, and all for what? What am I avoiding by doing that? If I take the other path and I just don't do the deal, what do I face? I face a very comfortable situation that I have today."

AMY GOODMAN: Nathan Thrall, what about the Palestinian hunger strike, this major strike that's going on in Israeli jails? Talk about what it's about and its connection to Trump's visit right now.

NATHAN THRALL: So, the hunger strike is primarily led by the Fatah faction, and -- although other factions are participating in it. And it's now in its 37th day. The demands of the hunger strikers is to improve the conditions of prisoners. There's a list of 14 demands that they have. But the most important of them is to end administrative detention, to end solitary confinement, to improve health conditions in the prisons.

And the effect of this -- I hope you can hear me with the helicopters overhead. The effect of this is really to create a problem for the Palestinian leadership, which is trying to promote a process with Trump, trying to be on Trump's good side and is talking about something that's totally disconnected from what most Palestinians care about today, which is the hunger strike that is overwhelmingly supported by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, a huge proportion of Palestinian families. Nearly all of them have relatives who are in prison. They're all extremely supportive of this hunger strike, extremely concerned about the hunger strikers. These people are now receiving medical attention and being pulled out of the prisons into medical facilities. And at the same time, there's this very incongruous image of their president sitting and meeting with Trump, who has not -- hasn't said too many things that ought to make Palestinians happy, and talking about engaging in yet another round of negotiations, vowing that there will not be an imposed solution, meaning, of course, that Israel -- that the United States won't put pressure on Israel. So, there is already extreme skepticism that any of this effort at restarting negotiations would succeed, but to have this take place while Palestinians are concerned about something so pressing as the lives of these prisoners really makes it quite tough for the Palestinian leadership.