Evening Blues Preview 8-12-15
This evening's music features delta blues harmonica player and singer, also a member of the Jelly Roll Kings, Frank Frost.
Here are some stories from tonight's posting:
As everyone knows, “closing Guantánamo” was a centerpiece of the 2008 Obama campaign. In the Senate and then in the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly and eloquently railed against the core, defining evil of Guantánamo: indefinite detention.
On the Senate floor, Obama passionately intoned in 2006: “as a parent, I can also imagine the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantánamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence.” During the 2008 campaign, he repeatedly denounced “the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantánamo.”
In the seventh year of Obama’s presidency, Guantánamo notoriously remains open, leaving one of his central vows unfulfilled. That, in turn, means that Democratic partisans have to scrounge around for excuses to justify this failure, to cast blame on someone other than the President, lest his legacy be besmirched. They long ago settled on the claim that blame (as always) lies not with Obama but with Congressional Republicans, who imposed a series of legal restrictions that impeded the camp’s closing.
As I’ve documented many times over the last several years, that excuse, while true as far as it goes, does not remotely prove that Obama sought to fulfill his pledge. That’s because Obama’s plans never included an end to what he himself constantly described as the camp’s defining evil: indefinite detention. To the contrary, he explicitly demanded the right to continue to imprison Guantánamo detainees without charges or trial – exactly what made Guantánamo so evil in the first place – based on the hideous new phrase “cannot be tried but too dangerous to release.” Obama simply wanted to indefinitely imprison them somewhere else.
In other words, Obama never sought to close Guantánamo in any meaningful sense but rather wanted to re-locate it to a less symbolically upsetting location, with its defining injustice fully in tact and, worse, institutionalized domestically. In that regard, his Guantánamo shell game was vintage Obama: he wanted to make a pretty, self-flattering symbolic gesture to get credit for “change” (I have closed Guantánamo) while not merely continuing but actually strengthening the abusive power which made it so odious in the place.
War games conducted by Russian and NATO forces go far beyond the hypothetical, raising the specter of a very real conflict on the European continent, a new study warns.
According to the European Leadership Network (ELN), a think tank based in London, "[o]ver the last 18 months, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the relationship between Russia and the West has deteriorated considerably"—at least in part due to war games that feed a "climate of mistrust."
ELN's report, Preparing for the Worst: Are Russian and NATO Military Exercises Making War in Europe more Likely? (pdf), analyzes a Russian 'snap exercise' in March involving 80,000 military personal from bases all across the country, and NATO's Allied Shield set of war games conducted on air, land, and sea in June, which involved 15,000 personnel from 22 countries.
Though both sides "may maintain that these operations are targeted against hypothetical opponents, the nature and scale of them indicate otherwise: Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia," the authors write. ...
"We do not suggest that the leadership of either side has made a decision to go to war or that a military conflict between the two is inevitable," the report continues, "but that the changed profile of exercises is a fact and it does play a role in sustaining the current climate of tensions in Europe."
The true nature of the debate over the Iran nuclear deal announced last month is slowly coming into focus. Those who favor it are are backed by dozens of nuclear scientists and arms control experts, while opponents consist almost exclusively of bellwether politicians mugging for the camera and playing into the fears of the constituents they have whipped into a terrified frenzy.
That’s where the ever intensifying debate surrounding the nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran now sits, as a furious lobbying campaign – estimated to cost upwards of $40m – tries to buy enough votes in Congress to override the president and scuttle the historic deal.
The biggest news about the deal last week should have been the fact that 29 of what the New York Times called “some of the world’s most knowledgeable experts in the fields of nuclear weapons and arms control” came out in favor of it. The scientists agreed that the deal has “more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated nonproliferation framework.”
Instead, Senator Chuck Schumer, who is poised to be the incoming Senate Democratic leader, got far more press by coming out against it after reportedly being pressured by pro-Netanyahu lobbyists for weeks. Nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis, who goes by @ArmsControlWonk on Twitter, skewered Schumer in Foreign Policy for his disingenuous and misleading reasoning for opposing the deal, explaining that Schumer got “got the facts all wrong” and “came across a bit like your crazy uncle who gets his opinions from talk radio and wants to set you straight at Thanksgiving.”
US military leaders are reportedly “outraged” at the recent escalation of Turkish airstrikes against Iraqi Kurdistan, with concerns centered both on the risk of sucking the US into yet another regional conflict and the danger that Turkish warplanes could inadvertently bomb American forces in the region.
The US has a number of ground troops in Iraqi Kurdistan training the Peshmerga, and has refused to tell Turkey where those troops are exactly, instead giving them broad swathes of territory to avoid. Turkey has countered by giving the US 10 minutes advanced notice when warplanes are headed into those areas, telling them to get out of the way. ...
Turkey is also attacking the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria, and trying to prevent a linkup of Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan into a contiguous region. This has fueled enormous tension between the Turkish government and Kurds in general, and with the US suddenly welcome at Turkish airbases, they risk losing their alliance with those same Kurds.
The Obama administration is still publicly counting on a $500 million rebel army to beat ISIS in Syria. But privately, the Pentagon brass long ago moved past its own proxy force, The Daily Beast has learned. They’ve found another group to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State instead.
In recent weeks, the handful of fighters in the administration-backed rebel army—the so-called “New Syrian Force”—have been killed, kidnapped, or fallen off the proverbial radar. But the Pentagon maintained a brave face, even after these 54 fighters (out of what was supposed to be a total of 15,000) were decimated by Islamist attacks. “We continue to see volunteers want to be a part of this program,” Air Force Colonel Pat Ryder, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters Friday. ...
But what Ryder didn’t say is that, in the eyes of the administration, a better force had emerged—already trained, competent, organized—that posed little risk of abandoning the fight or worse yet, switching sides. They are the Syrian Kurdish militia—the Popular Protection Units or YPG, by their Kurdish initials. And they have successfully wrested Syrian territory out of ISIS’s hands. ...
According to one group, the YPG has so far reclaimed at least 11 villages from ISIS, including the Syrian city of Kobani, one of the biggest victories in the year-long campaign. And in June, the YPG regained control of the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, cutting off a key ISIS conduit to weapons and supplies. Like the New Syrian Force, the YPG can call in coalition airstrikes as needed.
Along with hoping nascent Arab fighters can take on ISIS, the U.S. is now keen to work alongside as many as 50,000 proven Kurdish fighters. ...
The first public mention of the U.S. military move away from the New Syrian Army and toward the YPG came from Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, [July 7] when he talked about the need for “options.”
“We’re trying to form a network of partners, partners that we may not have conceived before, like the YPG, the Syrian Kurds in and around Kobani and over to the east bank of the Euphrates River,” Dempsey said.
After The New Republic on Tuesday preemptively reported that a small number of Black Lives Matter activists were on their way to a Hillary Clinton campaign stop in Keene, New Hampshire, the potential protest against the leading Democratic presidential candidate never took place because security at the event barred the group entry.
According to TNR:
When they arrived at today’s Clinton event, which focused on substance abuse and the heroin epidemic, after first sharing their talking points and questions exclusively with the New Republic, the activists found the entrances closed by U.S. Secret Service who said the venue was at capacity. Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who was in contact with the five activists, later told the New Republic that the activists were eventually let into an “overflow room.” Following the event, Clinton met with the group for about 15 minutes in a private meeting that they claim turned contentious at times, and featured Clinton giving unsolicited advice for the direction of the movement. ...
Asked whether Clinton actually proposed policies in the meeting, Jones said, "Not that I recall, no. In fact, I know that she didn’t because she was projecting that what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do is X,Y, and Z—to which we pushed back [to say] that it is not her place to tell the Black Lives Matter movement or black people what to do, and that the real work doesn’t lie in the victim-blaming that that implies. And that was a rift in the conversation." Jones said that the meeting concluded without any aggression, and that the meeting was "respectful."
In a tweet, Black Lives Movement-Boston characterized their failed attempt to protest the event a success because they had "gotten the attention of [Clinton's campaign] staff" and "now they are working with us."
— Thomas Ates (@AtesTommy) August 11, 2015
@BLM_Boston Clarify what you mean by working with you all? How so?
— Johnny E. Williams (@jwillia2) August 11, 2015
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) August 11, 2015
Also of interest: