Could the world’s largest democracies descend into sectarian violence?

Over a year ago, I wrote about how Trump reminds me of a politician I know from my youth, Bal Thackeray:

Bal Thackeray adopted a hodge-podge of ideological positions. His party controlled trade unions while he openly admired strongmen and dictators (including Hitler). The one constant throughout his career was the use of ethnic and religious divisions. His real talent was tapping into economic discontent, frustration and anger at corruption. He rose to prominence by fomenting resentment towards “immigrants” from other states in India. Bombay had been a melting pot for decades, attracting people from all over India who spoke a multitude of languages. Thackeray drove a wedge between Marathi-speakers (from the area around Bombay) and all others, convincing them South Indians, Gujaratis and Hindi-speakers were taking their jobs. Years later, when it became less easy to rouse people using linguistic differences, he moved on to exploit religion.

Thackeray’s party, the Shiv Sena, is allied with India’s ruling right-wing Hindu-nationalist BJP. Thackeray too had a knack for using media to rile up the worst instincts in his followers. He started his career as a political cartoonist. His entire political career was built on bombast and stoking religious, ethnic and linguistic differences. Like Trump, he made his home in the most integrated city in the country. And yes, Thackeray, like Trump, admired Hitler’s rhetoric and tactics.

Modi is far more coy about how he stokes sectarian fires, and projects the perception of competence. He is not above bombastic rhetoric when necessary, but it is not his natural mode. In his personal life, he cultivates a reputation for ascetic probity. Perhaps the right analogue for Modi is actually Mike Pence. That should make you pause and reconsider how much you want Trump removed from office.

Though their styles may differ, Modi and Trump do respond very similarly to violent attacks on minorities. Trump’s behavior after the Charlottesville attacks is very similar to what Prime Minister Modi’s half-hearted statements when vigilantes have lynched Muslim men suspected of eating beef (it’s happened multiple times). They wait for days, and then half-heartedly condemn the violence, often excusing it as being “provoked”. In Modi’s case, the provocation is beef-eating. In Trump’s it’s protesting racism.

Mihir Sharma, writing in Bloomberg today, advises that it’s a waste of time trying to get Trump to “say the right thing”. Most Indians have realized Modi’s winking statements reluctantly condemning Hidutva vigilantes are meaningless and satisfy no one.:

Even before he confirmed that he didn’t actually mean what he’d said, nobody could have believed that Trump genuinely meant what he’d said. Nor could anyone have believed that his stilted statement on Monday deterred or dismayed the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville this weekend.  […]

We in India have played out our version of this dark farce for three years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi climbed to power with a record blemished by years of pandering to Hindu nationalists. Emboldened by his victory, the hardest core of his supporters asserted themselves across India through intimidation and violence. Muslims were lynched; people born into lower castes were publicly beaten. The prime minister was pressed: Why would he not address this violence?

For days after one particularly horrific lynching, Modi declined to respond. And then, when he did, nobody was really satisfied. Like Trump’s real reaction, there was a strong element of “both-sides-ism” in his response.  — www.bloomberg.com/…

Forcing Trump to “say the right words” when he clearly doesn’t believe them, is largely a waste of our time. He wears his allegiance to white supremacy on his sleeve, and that isn’t going to change. Modi ascribes to an ideology of Hindu supremacy, and nothing’s going to change him either. Neither of them is above claiming that they only seek to preserve a unique, especially wonderful “culture”.

There are many other similarities between them and their countries. They both instinctively understand democracy as “majority rule”, and by majority they mean the majority religion/race. They have limited patience for minority rights, I suspect they both ascribe to the view that minorities should “know their place”. Hindus are roughly 80% of the Indian population. That’s a soft number though, since there are very strong caste and linguistic divisions. Modi and the BJP in general, are viewed as an upper-caste, north-Indian party. Roughly 80% of the US considers itself Christian, and 80% is white/hispanic. Though again, there are numerous divisions and clearly Trump sees himself representing the non-hispanic white protestant population, which is the largest group.

Neither of them are particularly concerned with lower-caste, poorer population. When pressed, they’re likely to claim whatever benefits the majority or wealthy will eventually benefit the minority or poorer population as well.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. They are both firmly anti-Muslim. This is a bigger issue in India since Muslims are a larger part of the population. But in the US anti-Muslim rhetoric generally goes hand in hand with anti-black sentiment since for a lot of people Islam is associated with black people.

We can discuss what drives the forces that brought Modi and Trump to power, and they would certainly include technological disruption, globalization, climate change stress, and much more besides.

But the question I want to ask is whether our countries can descend into widespread sectarian violence. I don’t have an answer, it’s really more of a question. Both countries have a long history of violent pogroms (as frankly do almost all places).

The historian Ramchandra Guha was interviewed by Slate recently, and he was asked what he thought of Modi vs Trump:

In what ways do you think personally is Modi similar or different from the other demagogues we see around the world?

Trump is a maverick, an egomaniac really interested only in himself, whereas Modi is interested, of course in himself, he is an enormously vain man too, but he is interested in consolidating his party [BJP] and his philosophy’s control over India. He would like to leave a positive legacy behind. It’s unlikely that he will, but he likes to think of himself as a man of history. And he’s building upon this very well-entrenched, very motivated, and very dangerous RSS organization, which Trump certainly doesn’t have and [French leader of the National Front] Le Pen certainly doesn’t have and [Hungary’s] Viktor Orbán doesn’t have. In that sense, Modi has the capacity to do a great deal more damage because of the organizational depth of the RSS and the BJP. — www.slate.com/…

Guha’s right, Trump doesn’t have the brown-shirt like organization, Modi does. But, Guha also doesn’t appreciate the fact that the US population is far, far more heavily armed than the Indian population. The typical Indian riot involves machetes, knives and sticks. Virtually no one has firearms. The white nationalist militia people in Charlottesville were very heavily armed. The governor admitted this intimidated the police.

— @subirgrewal

 

As you consider 2018/2020 strategy & candidates, don’t miss the forest for the trees.

This is a diary about the big picture. About things we should not forget as we fend off the daily outrages of the Trump administration.

First, let’s hear from a very large sample of voters who were interviewed on election day 2016, by Reuters/Ipsos:

The poll of more than 10,000 people who have already cast their ballots in the presidential election showed a majority of voters are worried about their ability to get ahead and have little confidence in political parties or the media to improve their situation. A majority also feel that the economy is rigged to mostly help the wealthy.

The poll, which will be updated as additional responses are tallied and votes are counted throughout Tuesday, found:

– 75 percent agree that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.

– 72 percent agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.”

— www.reuters.com/…

Well, you can’t say the American people are ill-informed when it comes to the relationship between the 1% and the 99%.

Three out of four Americans know the rich and powerful have been eating their lunch. And they went to the polls saying they want to take their country back.

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

— Warren Buffett quoted in www.nytimes.com/…

If a candidate won anything close to 75% of voters it would be a landslide victory the likes of which we have never seen. Reagan 1984, Nixon 1972,  LBJ 1960, Eisenhower 1956, FDR 1936 were all between 57% and 61% of the vote.

Why do three out of four Americans feel this way about the country? Perhaps because they know that the top 0.1% (300,000 people) have captured almost 12% of national income, a level not seen since the gilded 20s.

saezpiketty_top01percent.png

The last time the wealthy took so much of national income, voters revolted, elected FDR (57.4% in 1932, 60.8% in 1936) and radically transformed the social compact. And yes, there were lots of arguments back then too about how globalization and new telecommunications technologies explained the income disparities and were insurmountable.

In times like this, voters typically turn to Democrats. But, this is where we run into a problem with voter’s perceptions. Again from the Reuters election day poll.

– 68 percent agree that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”

– 76 percent believe “the mainstream media is more interested in making money than telling the truth.”

— www.reuters.com/…

Why would Americans think neither party is on their side? Well perhaps because they know that they’ve been getting a raw deal from both parties the past few decades.

Here’s how incomes have grown for the poorest people (on the left) and the richest (on the right), since 1980.

Screenshot_2017_08_08_12.34.47.png

The poorest have seen almost no increase, the richest have seen 6% growth annualized.  Democrats have held the House for 18 of those years (though 14 of those were before 1994). Democrats have also held the Senate for 18 of those years (including 10 of the past 16). And Democratic presidents have been in charge for 16 of those 34 years.

From the average voter’s perspective, it doesn’t seem to matter whether or not they send a Democrat of a Republican to Congress. The rich just keep getting richer either way, and the rest of us tread water.

Was it always like this? No, not at all. For the 34 years prior to 1980, it wasn’t. That’s the grey line in the chart below.

Why was middle class income growing faster than that of the wealthy? Well, for one thing, taxes were significantly higher. And that happened though a Republican held the White House for 16 years between 1946 and 1980. Democrats controlled the purse-strings for most of that period though, Republicans only had a Senate majority for 6 of those 34 years, and a majority in the house for only 4 years.

The Reuters exit-poll results were analyzed after the election by the NY Times.

One exit poll has been haunting me since I saw it: The Reuters/Ipsos early exit poll found that 75 percent of respondents agreed “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.” Only slightly fewer agreed that “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful,” and — perhaps the kicker — 68 percent believed that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”

There’s a lot to unpack in those statements. They may conceal white resentment of the perceived advancement past them of black and Latino people. But they also reveal the sentiment that has been there since the 2008 financial crisis laid bare the lines of power in the country and the world — when, as the protest chant went, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.”

The downward trends have been with us for decades: the divergence of productivity gains from workers’ incomes, the substitution of credit card debt for raises, the shift of good union jobs and family wages and pensions into low-wage service jobs, and the attendant slashing of the social safety net. But the past eight years sped all that up and made it impossible to ignore. — www.nytimes.com/…

So, lest we forget the forest for the flaming trees of the Trump administration, here’s what we need to remember going into 2018 and 2020 as we pick candidates, policy and strategy.

  • 75 percent agree that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”
  • 72 percent agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.”
  • 68 percent agree that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”
  • 76 percent believe “the mainstream media is more interested in making money than telling the truth.”

If a party and a candidate can speak to those concerns, convincingly, they have a good chance of winning. If a party and its candidates cannot speak to those concerns convincingly, well it may well be another crapshoot.

1947: When even the fruit on the trees tasted of blood.

70 years ago today, the British government, exhausted by the second World War retreated from its largest colony, India. In doing so, the British Empire finally acquiesced to the right of the sub-continent’s peoples to determine their own political fate.

The first, halting steps towards devolution of power were made in response to enormous Indian military and materiel contributions during World War I. It took decades of violent rebellion, non-violent protest and eventually, the cost of the second World War to loosen the British grip on India. After all that, in mid-August 1947, two new nations, India and Pakistan were created. Suddenly, almost 400 million people were free. Decolonization in India eventually led to the collapse of all European colonies across Asia and Africa.

There were a multitude of reasons that the Indian independence movement had split along religious lines and led to demands for two separate nations. But chief among them was identity. As with most places, the people of the sub-continent find their identities in ethnicity, language, culture, politics and yes religion as well.

It was religion and a fear of subordination that divided United India in two. Pakistan for the Muslim majority regions, and India for the Hindu majority regions. Later, in the 20th century, the two geographically separate halves of Pakistan split along ethnic and linguistic lines. East Pakistan became Bangladesh, with some help from the Indian army and much resistance from West Pakistani forces.

The primary Pakistani and Indian leaders at independence almost without exception failed to understand the ramifications of the ethno-religious-nationalism they had set in motion with partition. The New York Times has published two essays to mark the 70th anniversary of Indian and Pakistani independence, both worth reading. Pankaj Mishra’s India at 70, and the Passing of Another Illusion discusses how India’s political establishment has failed to live up to the democratic ideals expressed at independence. Abbas Nasir’s How Pakistan Abandoned Jinnah’s Ideals give the Pakistani elite the same treatment.

On August 14th, 1947, when Pakistan became independent of the British Empire, it’s precise borders were unknown. On August 15th, 1947, when India became independent, it’s borders were uncertain. For tens of millions of people in Punjab, Sindh and Bengal, the celebrations were colored by a deep uncertainty. Would their homes end up on the “wrong” side of the border, and would they be forced to flee?

Not till August 16th, 1947 was the Radcliffe line defining the borders between India and Pakistan disclosed to representatives of the two new nations. It was published on the 17th. Cyril Radcliffe, an British lawyer with no previous Indian experience was given five weeks to consult with the Boundary Commission and determine the borders based on Muslim, Sikh and Hindu majorities in different areas. Radcliffe left the country before the results were published and reportedly refused payment for the service.

As soon as the Radcliffe line was made public, a great migration was set in motion. Eventually, 15 million people would migrate under panicked circumstances, from homes within India to Pakistan and vice-versa. Over 11 million of those migrations would be in Punjab and Sindh, the vast province in the north-west. Within a few months, a society and culture that had evolved over centuries shattered along communal lines.

Sporadic violence, which had begun prior to independence, spiraled out of control as the ramifications of partition became clear to individuals and communities. Neither the British colonial authorities nor the newly constituted Indian and Pakistani governments were prepared for what ensued. As people left villages and towns that had been home to their families for centuries, theft and extortion grew rampant. Killings were followed by reprisals, rape and abduction by more abduction and rape.

By 1948, over 2 million people were believed to have gone missing. The number murdered was in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps as high as 2 million. Hundreds of thousands of women and children were abducted and new identities forced upon them.

The magnitude and scale of the panicked migration and the violence that ensued is difficult to comprehend. The ferocity and intimacy of the pogroms has few comparisons in history. In many places, neighbors murdered and preyed on people they had known for generations.

In villages where not much had changed for centuries, the migration and blood-letting erased a third or more of their population within a matter of days. Virtually every part of Punjab and Sindh suddenly lost the human element of half their culture.

Across what once was a United Punjab, in thousands of towns and villages, lie the crumbling ruins of unattended temples, mosques and gurudwaras. The people who worshipped there spirited away to the other side of the border, or killed in their homes or along the way.

Not all these abandoned places of worship are neglected. Some are tended by an aging man or woman who does not pray to this particular god. They tend to these physical spaces in the memory of a childhood friend or neighbor. It is, a higher, more human form of devotion.


During the First and Second World Wars, the civilian population of India was rarely threatened directly. The German light cruiser Emden did bombard Madras in World War I.  In World War II, the Japanese advance (aided by Bose’s INA) was stopped decisively in Kohima, though Andaman and Nicobar were occupied. The butchery of civilians that was a feature of WW-II in both Asia and Europe did not reach United India. Nevertheless, India did not remain unaffected. 2 million civilians starved to death during the Bengal famine, many in the streets of Calcutta, within sight of colonial bureaucrats who could have alleviated their suffering. This indifference reached the very top of the British government.

For most Indians and many Pakistanis, the independence celebrations on August 14th and 15th remain joyful celebrations. As the 19th and 20th centuries progressed, British rule was increasingly seen as onerous, capricious and unnatural. At Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar, while hundreds of thousands of Indian sepoys fought across Europe and the Middle-East under the British banner, Indian Army troops were ordered by their British officer to fire on unarmed protesters. A thousand people were killed. That attack on an peaceful gathering led even the most Anglophile of Indians to question continued British presence in India.

The population of United India was just under 400 million on the eve of partition. A small fraction of the population, less than 5%, was forced to migrate. Most Muslim populations across North and South India, far from the borders stayed in place. The migrations were largely restricted to Bengal and the states along the Indus river, Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir.

Bengal remained, for a variety of reasons, relatively free of violence. The sons and daughters of Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir killed each other till the rivers literally turned red. This year again, the anniversary of independence/partition will evoke a mixture of both pride and shame for many in Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir.

The Washington Post has an article on the horrors of Partition with oral histories. The New York Times also asked readers to contribute oral histories. There are millions of such stories.

Several artists have mined the trauma of partition for material, producing books, short stories and movies.

Mohinder Sarna’s short stories on partition are now available in English, a collection titled Savage Harvest. They cannot be recommended highly enough. Intizar Hussein wrote extensively on partition, including in the novel Basti. Jyotirmoyee Devi’s novella Epar Ganga, Opar Ganga was translated into English as The River Churning. Numerous authors approached the vicious violence of partition from a distance, discussing it in the abstract or from a child’s perspective. Bapsi Sidhwa’s novels, especially Ice-Candy Man (later re-titled Cracking India) is a great example. Khuswant Singh’s Train to Pakistan is unflinchingly different in that respect. Saadat Hassan Manto’s short stories are generally superb, and several deal with the partitionToba Tek Singh is the most widely known. Naseem Hijazi’s Khaak aur Khoon is only available in Urdu, but Anis Kidwai’s memoir, In Freedom’s Shade, has been translated into English. Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas is also accesible in English. More recently, Anuradha Roy’s novel An Atlas of Impossible Longing is set across several decades, including the 1940s. Amit Majmudar’s Partitions narrates the story of three children and an old man trying to travel to safety.

When it comes to movies, Garam Hawa is considered the classic. Shyam Benegal’s Mammo is probably a close second. Khamosh Pani is intense and moving. Kartar Singh was one of the earliest movies on the partition, and featured Amrita Pritam’s poem Aaj Aakhan Waris Shah Nun. The later Bollywood movie Pinjar included the poem too, it is probably the most widely known poe on partition. Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan was turned into a movie, as was Sahni’s Tamas. The sprawling TV series Buniyaad aired in the 1980s and continues to find an audience.

Since the violence largely impacted Punjab, Punjabi (on both sides of the current border) authors are over-represented. It is the primary historical topic in Punjabi literature of the 20th century.

When it comes to non-fiction, Collins and Lapierre’s Freedom at Midnight is an accessible and dramatic retelling of partition. I read it as a teenager and I still recall my initial shock at the scale and scope of the violence. In most families, the trauma of partition was not openly discussed. Several non-fiction works have focused on the partition including Yasmin Khan’s The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan. Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India relates interviews with a number of people who lived through 1947. Nisid Hajari’s Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition recounts the events with a reporter’s viewpoint.

— @subirgrewal | Cross-posted to NotMeUs.org

 

Maxine Waters, Bobby Scott, Elijah Cummings, Barbara Lee and Jim Clyburn support Medicare for All.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Chicago, March 25, 1966 — Medical Committee for Human Rights)

Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-3) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7) were all among the original co-sponsors of HR-676 when Conyers first introduced the bill in February 2003. Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43) joined them in December 2005. Rep. Jim Clyburn (SC-6) signed up as a co-sponsor in April 2008.

All five are members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The CBC provides core support for HR-676, 38 out of 47 CBC house members are co-sponsoring the bill. Lee, Waters and Cummings are also members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is another important base of support for HR-676.

All five of these co-sponsors are deeply committed to the principle of health care as a right, and enshrining it into law with a single-payer system.

Rep. Barbara Lee was on the Democratic Platform committee in 2016 and voted to include Medicare for All/HR-676 in the Democratic Platform (it failed by one vote).

Rep. Jim Clyburn (who has been Assistant Democratic Leader since 2011) is stead-fast in his support for single-payer/HR-676, even when there was a enormous pressure to back away in 2009.

Elijah Cummings wrote a compelling Op-Ed in 2007 about the cost of not having a single payer system. He was writing after having watched Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko:

In one scene, Mr. Moore takes three small boats of sick Americans, including 9/11 volunteer rescue workers, to Cuba. They receive, at no cost, the medical treatment they had been denied at home.

We have heard time and again the statistic that 47 million Americans are uninsured, 9 million of them children. This does not even account for the more than 50 million who cannot get the care they need because they are underinsured.

The numbers are staggering, but they become more meaningful when we talk about how this trend affects the lives of everyday Americans. For me and many others in our community, our nation’s health care crisis has a face and a name. On February 25, 2007, Deamonte Driver, a 12 ­year ­old boy from Prince George’s County, died when an untreated tooth infection spread to his brain.

Deamonte Driver was a victim of our failed health care system. A routine dental checkup might have saved his life, but Deamonte was poor and homeless and he never made it into the dental chair. His is a story that chills the conscience. I simply cannot comprehend how, in a country that sent a man to the moon, we so thoroughly failed this little boy. — cummings.house.gov/…

Like most members of the CPC, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43) has been a proponent of single-payer for a long time. This is from a discussion of her vote for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare):

A longtime proponent of comprehensive, affordable health care for all Americans, Congresswoman Waters and her allies in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) insisted that health care reform legislation must include a “public option” – a voluntary, public insurance program similar to Medicare that would be an alternative to profit-driven private insurance companies.

Most CPC members prefer a single payer health care system, but when it failed to gain enough support in the House as health care reform legislation was being drafted, they expressed support for a “robust public option”, which would reimburse medical providers at the Medicare rate plus 5%.  While Congresswoman Waters was pleased that the House passed legislation including a public option, she was disappointed that the reimbursement rates will be negotiated between the government and providers, a plan favored by more conservative Representatives. […]

Congresswoman Waters noted that efforts to provide health insurance coverage to all Americans was proposed in 1912 – almost 100 years ago – by Teddy Roosevelt, and Presidents following him have also supported this objective. Congressman John Dingell of Michigan has introduced the National Health Insurance Act (H.R. 15), which would provide universal health care for all Americans, during each of his terms in Congress going back to 1957. It was previously sponsored by his father when he was a Congressman.

— waters.house.gov/…

I’m thrilled these progressive stalwarts are supporting Medicare for All and co-sponsoring HR-676. If your Congressional representative is not on the list of 115 co-sponsors, please call their office and ask them why.

— @subirgrewal | Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org & The ProgressiveWing.com

As Trump ponders a coup in Venezuela, report says 165 military coups since ’70 involved DoD trainees

Calls for a US backed military coup in Venezuela have emanated from the Trump White House. Meanwhile, NPR has given coup advocates a platform to advocate for a coup, positioning it as “humanitarian intervention”.

It’s worth discussing the history of coups the US has been associated with. Last week, new documents revealed that the UK government had repeatedly asked the US to foment a coup in Iran in 1952. This is from the NSArchive project at GWU:

1953 Iran Coup: New U.S. Documents Confirm British Approached U.S. in Late 1952 About Ousting Mosaddeq

State Department Temporarily Declined, in Part Because U.S. Was Still Hoping to Reach Oil Deal with Iranian Prime Minister

Paul Nitze Proposed Targeting Ayatollah Kashani and Tudeh Party as Test before Attempting Full-blown Coup

Just-Declassified Documents Were Withheld from Foreign Relations of the United States Volume on Iran Coup Published in 2017

— nsarchive.gwu.edu/…

Note that the State Department only “temporarily declined” to sponsor a coup. Eventually, the US did participate in the coup against the democratically elected Mossadegh. We delayed because there was a possibility the democratically elected government might sign an oil deal. When they didn’t we initiated a coup.

Now, think how people in the region, who are intimately familiar with this history, might feel about the invasion of Iraq, or any other country. They might be a bit skeptical about our intentions. Worse yet, that invasion was a president (Bush) and vice-president (Cheney) deeply involved in the oil industry (and the war industry). For an American, this should raise alarm. Was our country and our armed forces “captured” and used by a particular industry to further its interests? Is that happening today?

When Trump comes out and says “We should take their oil”, no one in the Middle-East is particularly shocked, because they’ve just assumed (rightly) that this is what we were after all along. Our claims that we are spreading democracy and liberalism are met with justified skepticism. After all, if we are so interested in human rights, why are we Saudi Arabia’s staunchest allies? The KSA is a toxic monarchy that executes and tortures anyone who challenges the ruling kleptocracy. It is waging a war on the poorest nation in the Middle East, Yemen, which has cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocents. And KSA is only the worst example, there are many other repressive, regressive regimes supported by successive US governments.

A lengthy investigation has revealed that foreign officers trained in Dept. of Defense programs go on to engage in coups twice as frequently than those who have not.  Foreign military personnel trained by the US have been involved in 60% of the military coups attempted since 1970.

Caverley and Savage identified 275 military-backed coups that occurred worldwide between 1970 and 2009. In 165 of them, members of that country’s armed forces had received some IMET or CTFP training the year before the coup. If you add up all the years of such instruction for all those countries, it tops out at 3,274 “country years.” In 165 instances, a takeover attempt was carried out the next year. “That’s 5 percent, which is very high, since coups happen rarely,” Caverley told TomDispatch. “The ratio for country-years with no US training is 110 out of 4101, or 2.7 percent.”

While US training didn’t carry the day in The Gambia in 2014 (as it had in 1994 when US military-police-training alumnus Yahya Jammeh seized power), it is nonetheless linked with victorious juntas. “Successful coups are strongly associated with IMET training and spending,” Caverley and Savage noted. According to their findings, American trainees succeeded in overthrowing their governments in 72 of the 165 coup attempts. […]

Indeed, it’s a truism of US military assistance programs that they instill democratic values and respect for international norms. Yet the list of US-trained coup-makers—from Isaac Zida of Burkina Faso, Haiti’s Philippe Biamby, and Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia to Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, and the IMET-educated leaders of the 2009 coup in Honduras, not to mention Mali’s Amadou Sanogo—suggests an embrace of something other than democratic values and good governance. “We didn’t spend, probably, the requisite time focusing on values, ethics, and military ethos,” then chief of US Africa Command, Carter Ham, said of Sanogo following his coup. “I believe that we focused exclusively on tactical and technical [training].”

— www.thenation.com/…

Our country is in an uproar over the possibility that Russia may have spread propaganda and leaked damaging information to influence an election. Imagine how Gambians or Hondurans or Iranians feel when militia or rogue units trained by the US attempt honest to goodness military coups. The damage and distrust lasts for generations.

As alarming as the frequency of coups is, it gets worse. Personnel trained by the Department of Defense have also been implicated in human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and murder.

The Defense Department trained at least 17 high-ranking foreigners at some of its top schools who were later convicted or accused of criminal and human rights abuses in their own countries, according to a series of little-noticed, annual State Department reports to Congress.

Those singled out in the disclosures included five foreign generals, an admiral, a senior intelligence official, a foreign police inspector, and other military service members from a total of 13 countries, several of which endured war or coups.

Several officers committed crimes within a few years of their training. Others committed crimes more than a decade later. Many of the officers were described in the reports as leaders or participants in high-profile scandals and conflicts in their countries — including extrajudicial killings in Colombia, torture during Nepal’s conflict against Maoists, and murder during a Bolivian internal conflict, according to the State Department reports. — www.publicintegrity.org/…

The number of trainees implicated in human rights abuses is almost definitely much higher. The Dept. of Defense and State are supposed to report statistics to Congress, but these were not found to be comprehensive.

By law, the programs are meant to teach  “basic issues involving internationally recognized human rights”. However, the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation found very few trainees received such training as separate courses.

@subirgrewal

A Modest Proposal: Conscript Don Jr, Jared and Eric into a combat infantry unit

Eric Trump is 32.

Jared Kushner is 36.

Donald Trump Jr. is 39.

They’re all young enough to serve. Yes, the Army won’t allow Jared and Don Jr to enlist since they’re over 34, but I’m sure the President can make a call and request an exemption.

If Donald Trump is going to deliver “fire & fury”, perhaps his kids and sons-in-law should help deliver it. Eric and Don are already “locked & loaded” so to speak. They have the ability to track and shoot dangerous animals as you can see in the photo above. They should require minimal training to end up on the front-lines.

It would really be a wonderful testament to their father and father-in-law’s deep desire to serve his country in Vietnam, which was prevented by his painful bone spurs. Those bone spurs really were a pity, since all those years he spent at the pampered “military academy” were wasted.

Anyway, this generation can redeem all that. I would recommend placing them in a combat infantry unit that leads the “fire & fury” charge into Pyongyang, or any other place Trump wants to go to war.

Hey, maybe we should ask all Senators, Representatives and Presidents’ children to serve in combat roles if their parents voted for war. Wouldn’t that be a good idea?

#ConscriptDonJr #ConscriptEric #ConscriptJared

— @subirgrewal

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) supports single-payer Medicare For All.

We’ve had a fair amount of discussion about Medicare For All recently, including the various proposal and what it means to different people. Over the past few months, an increasing number of Democrats have expressed support for the proposal. On that note, I’m proud that my Senator, Kristen Gillibrand of New York, supports Medicare For All.

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has come out in favor of a single-payer health care system.

This is a move to the left for Gillibrand, who despite advocating for “Medicare for all” since her first congressional campaign has not outright advocated a single-payer system. She is following in the suit of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who told The Wall Street Journal last week that “President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts. Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.”

— www.salon.com/…

Gillibrand has consistently supported universal healthcare for years. In 2009, during the lead up to the ACA, she was a strong proponent for a public option that she then referred to as “Medicare For All”.

“Standing up for public healthcare is the most important thing we can do,” she said, adding that her goal was a system that achieved “Medicare for all.”

But while at least one previous speaker had encouraged support for the single-payer approach to healthcare, with an entity like Medicare handling all health matters, Ms. Gillibrand did not mention that idea. She focused instead on what has emerged as the most divisive part of the current national healthcare debate in Washington—whether a government-supported health insurance program should be allowed to compete with private sector companies offering coverage under new terms set by the federal government. On that question she said, “if we do not have a not-for-profit [insurer] then we, as Democrats, have failed.”

— www.columbiapaper.com/… (2009)

As Salon notes above, Sen. Gillibrand now supports single-payer “Medicare For All” as the right solution for our times.

Add another major 2020 Democratic player to the list of supporters of single-payer health insurance: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “Yes,” the New York senator does support single-payer, her senior adviser Glen Caplin told me.

Gillibrand first seemed to endorse the idea on the steps outside the Capitol this week, in a Facebook Live hosted by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. “Health care should be a right, it should never be a privilege. We should have Medicare for all in this country,” she said.

However, Gillibrand in the past hasn’t used the phrase “Medicare for all” as a substitute for “single-payer” the same way Bernie Sanders does. Instead, as Caplin pointed out, “since she first ran for Congress in 2006 in a red district, Kirsten has been advocating for ‘Medicare for all’ where anyone can buy into Medicare for a price they can afford” — that is, by paying a fixed percentage of their income.

That all begged the follow-up: Does Gillibrand support single-payer? Her senior adviser’s answer — “yes” — to that question is a major development for Gillibrand. It positions her with Sanders, progressive activists, and as of this week, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who told The Wall Street Journal that on health care, “now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single-payer.” Per the Pew Research Center, 52% of Democrats support single-payer.

— www.cnn.com/…

That Pew research report found that 60% of Americans say the federal government is responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has publicly said that “we should have Medicare for all.”

— www.theatlantic.com/…

The Senate companion to John Conyers’ HR 676 (which has 116 co-sponsors in the house) has not been released as yet. That is largely because Senate Democrats had been focusing on defeating the ACA repeal efforts. Gillibrand has already endorsed the forthcoming bill.

Sanders spoke alongside Gillibrand in March at a press conference in support of the Family Act, and Gillibrand is very enthusiastic about becoming a co-sponsor of Sanders’s forthcoming Medicare for All bill. “People want affordable health care,” she says. For the record, she’s not late to that party; Gillibrand supported Medicare for everyone when she ran in her House district in 2006. “It’s the solution, and it makes sense to people even in my two-to-one Republican district.”

— nymag.com/…

I’m pleased that my Senator and progressive stalwart, Kirsten Gillibrand supports Medicare For All.