In medieval times, cities were walled. At night the gates were locked, the towers guarded, and thieves and brigands were kept outside. At least in theory, because walls could be scaled, or blown up, or tunnels dug, or guards bribed.
And so in what may turn out to be the ultimate 21st century Renaissance Faire, the Iraqi government, no doubt with the support of, if not the checkbook of, the United States, is building a wall around the city of Baghdad in hopes that that will stop ISIS where nothing else has.
An interior ministry’s spokesman explained that work began this week on a 65 mile stretch of a wall and trench on the northern and northwestern approaches of the capital. The wall will be 10 feet high and partially made up of concrete barriers already in use across much of the capital. The spokesman declined to specify the measurements of the trench, possibly out of embarrassment.
Lethal drones have come to symbolize “smart power” to Democrats. In the first Democratic presidential debate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went so far as to characterize the “no boots on the ground” 2011 intervention in Libya as “smart power at its best”. Judging by their campaign trail rhetoric, Republican candidates tend to believe the opposite: drones are not a symbol of smartness and savvy, but of weakness. Usually drones are not mentioned at all, but at last night’s Republican debate in New Hampshire, they were positively “dissed”.
Senator Ted Cruz has enthusiastically proclaimed that he will “carpet bomb” ISIS strongholds and make the sand “glow”, suggesting his readiness even to use nuclear weapons against the latest bearers of the Al Qaeda torch. When asked whether he knows that ISIS is embedded among civilian populations, Cruz did not back down from his hawkish plans, essentially replying to the question that it doesn’t matter where the members of ISIS live. He will crush them, wherever they may be, and whomever they may be with. Cruz’s answer had a familiar ring because whenever Republican candidates are asked about rules of engagement (ROE), they afford themselves of the opportunity to complain that President Barack Obama has diminished the military, not only through budget cuts, but also by “tying their hands”. The explanation for the chaos in the Middle East, according to Republicans, is that Obama has not permitted the US military to do what needs to be done.
Vice News revealed the details of a confidential database that banks, employers and others use to blacklist customers.
The World-Check database also includes major charities, activists, and mainstream religious institutions under its category of “terrorism.”
The confidential service claims it is used by over 300 government and intelligence agencies, 49 of the 50 biggest banks, pre-employment vetting agencies and 9 of the top 10 global law firms. It says it provides “an early warning system for hidden risk.
The word “genie” comes from the Arab jinni. As every child knows, it describes a creature that, when summoned, fulfills your wishes. Doesn’t it seem like the United States played a cruel trick when it further westernized the concept of jinni by uncorking a bottle in Iraq and bidding the unleashed genie to effect regime change. Unfortunately, the genie, given its head by the United States, had its own ideas and subsequently lit the region on fire.
It’s hard to believe, but 13 years after the United States invaded Iraq and the situation isn’t much better than when it was at its worst. At Salon, Ben Norton writes:
At least 18,802 civilians were killed and 36,245 wounded in the country in the 22 months between Jan. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2015, according to the Report on the Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq.
Another 3,206,736 Iraqis were internally displaced, including more than 1 million school-age children, in the 21 months from January 2014 to September 2015.
Solitary confinement is exactly what it sounds like.
A prisoner is kept in a small cell – usually 6 feet by 10 – alone, for 23 hours a day.
For one hour a day, he or she may be taken into a small cage outside, with the opportunity to walk in circles before being taken back in. Even the outdoor cage can usually be opened and closed remotely.
The idea is to keep the prisoner from having any human interaction. Those who’ve been through it call it a “living death.” The United Nations calls it torture.
The practice is widespread in the United States. And until recently, it was applied even to juveniles in the federal prison.
When we speak of the government’s ongoing assault against the First Amendment, it is typically in the context of Freedom of Speech. That is indeed primarily the focus, using the tools of The State to silence its critics. But not if you are a Muslim.
For many Muslims, the clause inside the First Amendment most often violated is that of Freedom of Religion. One of the latest battles in that war is playing out now in New York City.
Because the worst of the 9/11 attacks happened in New York, the city has always claimed a kind of de facto exemption from having to follow the rule of law. Under its former mayors, the NYPD actively conducted blanket surveillance of the Muslim community, to include sending undercover cops into mosques and Muslim social events for “intel.” Though no obvious terror attacks were identified or thwarted, the NYPD insisted the program was critical (see the same tired arguments expelled as “torture worked, though we won’t tell you how.”)