While the nation is consumed by the Impeachment trial, we have not heard much on Biden’s moves to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran deal. Since President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran deal there has been a massive hue and cry from certain segments of the political spectrum that Iran is going to go Nuclear and the people will starve with any return to sanctions. Iran has never stopped its nuclear program and its people were starving before the deal.
The US as well as the EU has requested re-negotiating the deal to allow for the addition of missile development, more stringent inspections and, very important, inclusion of human rights. In two on-air interviews/debates I have had recently with Iranian foreign policy people it was made clear that there would be no re-negotiation and the US must first recommit to full compliance before going any further.
The US and other allies went too fast and gave up too much in the original agreement. Those calling for a return to the original have never addressed what the problems are. I am not naive enough to believe that Iran will ever be in full compliance or that any attempt at reducing missile development or getting meaningful access to all sites will be successful. What can be hoped for is that the level of human rights abuses can be exposed to the world. The daily killing of Kurds and others as well as the destruction of any religion other then their version of Islam must be exposed and would-be during negotiations.
When so many call out for social justice to ignore the abuses in Iran for political means is disgusting. Iran is the chief supporter of terrorism in the world including facilitating al-Qaeda and ISIS supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and the killing and destruction of Kurdish culture and the Baha’i religion. These things must be addressed before any return to any negotiation,
In the past few of days, we have been treated to the news that Hilary Clinton and daughter Chelsea will be making a film based on a book about the female Peshmerga in Syria. Lots of comments on Twitter about this new book, to be published on 16th Feb 2021. Called Daughters of Kobani, it claims to detail the Women’s Protection Unit of the Syrian Democratic Forces known as the YPJ, and the YPJ’s struggle in Kobani against ISIS. Early reviews of the book indicate it looks promising and comes at a very timely moment in the struggle of Kurds, with Erdogan attacks in Rojava (NE Syria) on a nightly basis and threatening full-scale invasion.
We are both happy and disgusted by this. Happy that these fighters will get the exposure they need but disgusted that the person doing so spent the latter years of public service calling them terrorist and making every effort to deny the Kurds their rights and the country that should have been theirs to begin with. To make profit off the suffering she was a part of is hypocrisy in the highest.
We can understand the screams of frustration coming from women Kurdish filmmakers and accusations of hypocrisy and cultural appropriation but frankly, at this point of the Kurdish struggle, we warmly welcome this book as pro-Kurdish rights campaigners and hope that it will strengthen some people’s resolve to stand up to Erdogan’s attacks against NE Syria in the coming weeks and months. And to be honest, it is on that basis that Kurds welcome such policies, but at the same time, can disagree and want to ask where Hillary Clinton was when her husband, the then President of the US, were funding the Turkish government when it was at the height of the village depopulations in the 90s. It is a valid question and I’m sure we will face disappointment and anger in the coming months, but at least it gives some sort of hope that those around the President and Democrat circles will give recognition to the role the Kurdish people played in the defeat of ISIS and that they have sacrificed so much, that they have more than earned the inalienable right to be able to determine their own future and build the progressive society they fought for as a beacon of light, not only for women for who Rojava has been a revolution but for the future of the Middle East and beyond! We can only live-in hope and continue to defend the Democratic Nation through all its troubled times ahead. We hope this film can shine a light on the brave fighters of the YPJ. We hope however that the double dealing and hypocrisy of the Clintons is also brought to light.
Currently the outcome of the upcoming Presidential election in the United States is far from clear. Polling for this election has shown no consistency and seems to depend more on political bias of the pollsters then on an honest attempt to discern the true feelings and atmosphere of the electorate. The polls are mixed, so it is difficult to say for sure. Looking at the overall national trends it would appear that Trump is going to be reelected, but trends could change overnight. There are many reasons to anticipate a Trump reelection, the greatest reason looks to come from private polls in battleground states that show the top concerns are economic and law and order. The Biden campaign continues to lean toward health issues and a perceived incompetence of Trump which is being rejected by the undecided voters. He also leans heavily on the assumption that the nation is consumed by the problems of racial injustice. There has also been a recent study that indicated that many of the undecided voters are caught between a dislike for Trump and a distrust of Biden and his policies. The economic issue resonates as the number one issue that people state will drive their vote. The impact on the economy, as the results of Covid-19 shutdowns, have affected many of the traditional Democrat base as well as, in many “Blue States,” attempts at draconian rules and regulations are anathema to many Americans. The left has attempted to blame Trump for all problems based on his perceived lack of leadership in fighting Covid-19. Many Americans accept the fact that this is a pandemic that hit the world with speed and lethality. On the other hand they also know that prior to the pandemic Trump had advanced the economy and working conditions across the board, White, Black and Hispanics were shown to have the lowest unemployment in history as well as growth in Black and Hispanic business. America watched as violence has erupted across the country in cities that then took little to no action to restore order. Law and order are a main concern to most and Trump has established a strong position on this issue.
As we said above Biden has locked himself into the position that health care is a major concern for most American. A recent Pew Research poll showed that while 68% of the respondents showed health care to be a major factor in their voting decision 79% indicated the economy. Another indicator of Democrat party candidate missing the tempo of the country is that in the same report, which came out in August, Racial issues and immigration came at the lower end.
In regard to foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular the question comes to how the two candidates will impact policy. With a Trump victory there will likely be little change. Trump has made no secret of the fact that US domestic policy is his number one issue. He feels that regional issues are best left to regional players. While he has recently made headlines by brokering historic treaties between Israel and Arab nations UAE and Bahrain were the first two Arab nations to recognize Israel in over 25 years and it was recently announced that Sudan will join this group. Peace in the Middle East is good for America. Biden on the other hand has talked a great deal about wanting peace yet is heavily tied to Iran and under the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) where Iran sanctions were lifted, and Billions of dollars released to Iran. This money has been used not to benefit Iranian people but to increase Iranian hegemony. Biden is invested in reestablishing the Iran deal and lifting sanctions that have been in place since Trump pulled out. Recently the UN, over the objections of the US, lifted the restraint on selling Iran military hardware. A rearmed and strengthened Iran is a danger to Kurds in the entire region. The Obama administration was no friend of an independent Kurdistan and those people that were in the Obama administration will likely return in a Biden administration
As we have said we do not see a major change in administration policy for the region, there are however things that can force a change. One of the biggest problems the next administration will face is the increased belligerency of Turkey, not only in Syria and the Iraqi Kurdish region but also in the Mediterranean and with Greece. Should Turkey keep this up, actions which have drawn the attention of US allies Brittan and France, the US will be forced to engage. Additionally, should Iran increase its activities a Trump administration will need to show the flag. This again is only a Trump administration; Biden will likely do nothing to halt Iranian aggression.
American policy will continue to support Baghdad. American policy remains locked in the belief of “One Iraq.” This has been true since the Bush administration and will continue through any American administration. While many in the congress give lip service to the concept of an independent Kurdistan it is unlikely that support will rise to the point that policy will change. Trumps support to Turkey’s President Erdogan is well established, however many in congress and in both the State and Defense departments are counselling a different approach including Sec. State Pompeo.
The biggest impact this election will have will be in the United States. While it is true that all elections impact the country in which they are held, the difference in the two candidates and their respective parties as well as the increasing division within the US will likely cause a seismic tremor regardless of outcome. The American media has made much about their claim that Trump will not accept the outcome if he loses, something that has never come from Trump, but considering the way the election is being conducted it is doubtful that Biden and his team will readily concede.
From an international perspective should the election not be decided at the ballot box it will have a severe impact on the world economy. Wall Street and other major markets abhor uncertainty, and this will reflect in any problem with the election. This will not be the same as the 2000 Bush-Gore election toss up since at this time both sides have staked a claim of voter fraud against the other. There is also a very good possibility that there will be a repeat of 2016 where Trump will win the electoral collage but lose the popular vote. Should this happen there is a great likelihood of violence in the streets of America by extreme left-wing radicals. At this point Turkey, Iran and Russia could take advantage of a perceived power vacuum and move to consolidate power in what they consider their rightful territories.
In conclusion we must anticipate a longer then usual period before results are released. Trump is trended toward re-election, but the race is in fact at this point tied. A Trump victory will result in a status quo while a Biden victory will result in a return to a weakened US position in the world.
Chiman Zebari is a Kurdish-American author, and human rights activist. She was an analyst for the US Intelligence Community. She has also worked for the US government in other capacities and was a broadcaster for Voice of America.
Paul Davis is a retired Military-Political analyst for the US Army and was a civilian analyst in the US Intelligence Community with a concentration on the middle east with an emphasis on the Kurds. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC.
How do we figure out the best way to handle the current crisis of the Corona virus? Let’s look at two extreme options. The first is to close everything except critical business until we are 100% sure the virus has exhausted itself. The second is to reopen everything and let nature take its course. Neither is an acceptable answer. In the first case, while sounding plausible, does not consider 2d,3d or .4th order effects of an economic and social downturn. These range from an increase in spousal abuse, increased alcoholism or just a large segment of the population dropping into poverty which increase the problem of malnutrition and other problems too numerous to mention. In the second case we are condemning a portion of the population to sickness and in some cases death. For transparencies sake I will let you know I am in at least three of the high-risk categories.
Admittedly there are several other choices, but the question is how you arrive at the correct answer if you are in charge, and keep in mind we are speaking of the person who must make the decision. We must separate the emotional charges that are being made that it is strictly economics over elderly. We must also understand that we are nowhere close to having to make this decision.
While over the years several books and publications have come out on how decisions are or should be made, there does not seem to be one single answer. One commonality is that for every action or decision there will be some form of consequence. To begin I will look at the classic thought experiment in ethics known as the Trolley problem. To save you from looking it up the Google version is:
The trolley problem: should you pull the lever to divert the runaway trolley onto the sidetrack?
The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. It is generally considered to represent a classic clash between two schools of moral thought, utilitarianism and deontological ethics. The general form of the problem is this:
There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the sidetrack. You have two options:
Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the sidetrack where it will kill one person.
Which is the more ethical option? Or, more simply: What is the right thing to do?
To make this more complicated there is a version were the lone person is your son (daughter, parent or spouse).
If the question was simply between economics and life it would be an easier answer. As we have said above there are other consequences in an economic downturn that weigh in.
A more real-life consideration is to look at the concept of triage, we’re in a crisis and with limited resources decisions must be made based on:
Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive.
Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive.
Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome.
We can always look to history to see what other have done. It is being said that we have never faced a crisis of this magnitude in recent history. This is only true if you confine recent history to the last 3½ years. Getting past the hyperbole we can come up with several examples, none exactly match today but since we are looking to make a decision they act as a guide.
The US has seen a number of epidemics and pandemics is recent years and has reacted to each with degrees of difference and similarity. One thing that appears to be consistent in our reaction is isolation. The next was rushed vaccine development and of course constant updates to the public. In the days of widespread smallpox, we also saw quarantines of houses and families. Today we are self quarantining. In other words what is happening today is what has been done in the past.
Increased requirements for protective gear such as masks and gloves have caused a strain on the system as has the need for ventilators. What sort of decisions should have been made for these. In the 2009 H1N1 pandemic 100,000,000 N95 masks were used but never replaced. Had they been we may or may not have solved the current crisis since there is an expiration date on them. Ventilators are needed. The government did indeed see a need and had over the years placed orders for up to 40000 units. While the contracts were canceled by the manufactures for different reasons the numbers, had they been delivered, would have been insufficient. New Your alone has called for 30000 units, leaving 10000 for the rest of the country had the government stockpiled them.
How then should the decision-making process work? We can look to history and try to decide based on what was done in the past, which was done today but based on the differences and extent of this pandemic from those in the immediate past actions were missed. We could have insured resources were available, but we see that there is a shelf-life on items so how many to buy and when to replace becomes problematic. Without a crystal ball the number of items to purchase and store becomes an imposable task. Based than on limited resources who gets what and when comes down to what? Is it a medical decision of who is most likely to survive and just make the rest comfortable? This last brings us to the ethics of decision, how do you decide where the trolley goes.
In the end someone must decide and it is not always easy or straight forward. It is easy to criticize the person who must make it and to say they are wrong, if you are not the person making the decision. Monday morning quarterbacking is a time-honored tradition in America, but for now let’s stop and hope/pray that we get through this soon.
The current crises in Washington is the decision by the president to pull US forces out of Syria and thereby ending the protection we have afforded to our Kurdish allies. In the middle of the arguments the president daughter in law, Lara Trump, made a statement in support of the president that said the average American had to Google the Kurds to find out who they were. This set off a firestorm of criticism justified or not. The main problem with the statement for many is that it is basically true. Even those who know the Kurds do not fully understand who or what they are. In order to educate we think it time to produce a Kurdish primer, or at least one about the current Kurds.
To begin the Kurds are an ethnic group not a race and have occupied the area commonly referred to as Kurdistan for over a millennium. They share no common history or culture with those surrounding them other than through interactions with their neighbors. As the region was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, they became subjects of the Caliph but, like most throughout the empire, maintained their identity. Like many groups there were fissures and differences which can be seen today most glaringly in the different dialects of spoken Kurdish, some argue different languages. Throughout this time Kurdish culture remained intact. Following the end of the First World War the Kurds were divided up amongst three separate countries, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, while a portion remained in Persia or todays Iran. The Kurds have fought for a separate country ever since. As the Kurds became more independent, they began to develop separate political philosophies and parties.
To put into context the Kurds are not a monolithic group but like all other people in the world hold different political views and opinions. They have shown however they are different then their neighbors by allowing for different philosophies and different ethnicities to coexist in the Kurdish region.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is the oldest of the modern Kurdish political movements. Founded in 1946 as a Pan-Kurdish party in Iran it was instrumental in the creation of an independent but short-lived Kurdistan known as the Mahabad Republic. When the Soviet Union removed its backing the tow leaders Qazi Muhammad and Mustafa Barzani had a final falling out and Barzani established the Iraqi brand of the KDP.
The KDP was mostly operated as a tribal entity and existed by the strong will and stronger hand of Barzani. The back and forth relationship between the KDP and the various governments in Baghdad led to a revolt in 1974 in which the Kurds did not fare well. Results of the revolt on the Kurds led to the establishment of a second party in 1975, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Despite personal difference between Barzani and the leader of the PUK, Jalal Talabani, another difference was philosophical. The KDP was more tribal and center right while the PUK held a more socialist left drift. This split was so severe that it led to a brief but violent civil war between the two parties with the KDP looking to Baghdad for help and the PUK turning to Iran.
While the KDP and PUK never fully reconciled the actions of Saddam Hussain in his attacks of the Kurds killing hundreds of thousands did push the two sides together in the face of a common enemy. The Persian Gulf war allowed for a greater sense of autonomy until once again Saddam launched attacks on the Kurds as well as Sunni Arabs. After the US led invasion in which the Kurds play an important role an autonomous Kurdish region was set up and then enshrined into the Iraqi constitution.
The newly established Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) now sits in its capitol Erbil and is the acknowledge government for the Kurdish Region of Iraq. There are a dozen different political parties represented in the Kurdish parliament for the KDP and PUK to Gorran (Change), New Generation, as well as the Communist party and the Kurdistan Islamic Group as well as others.
We have spent some time on the Iraqi Kurds since they are the best known to the American audience. We now turn to the Turkish Kurds who as a population represent the largest group of Kurds in the Region.
While Iraq treated its Kurdish population as second class citizens the Turks refused to even admit that the Kurds were a separate ethnic group. Denying the use of the Kurdish language or celebration of Kurdish culture the Turk went so far as to rename them Mountain Turks. While the Iraqi Kurds evolved the Turkish Kurds responded to their oppression by the formation of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. The PKK grow from the revolutionary youth movement begun in the 1960 and was organized in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist student movement. Moving through clashes with both police and right-wing organization it became a full-blown armed insurrection based on Kurdish nationalism and desiring a Pan-Kurdish nation. The PKK has gone through some evolutionary changes but remains basically an armed revolutionary group based in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq moving between attacking Turkish outpost and working for a peace agreement. This has been on going for 30 years. On the political side there have been a number of parties that have been associated with the PKK. The current party is the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). HDP has had success in elections even winning a large number of seats in the Parliament in the 2015 general election. The ruling party under the current President Erdogan canceled the results and held new elections which reduced the win. Following which leaders of HDP in parliament were striped of their seats and some imprisoned under the claim of being or supporting terrorist. Most recently several mayors of towns in the Kurdish region were removed and replaced with Turks.
The PKK was chased around the region and at one time were in Syria until Turkey forced the Syrian government to get them to leave. Before leaving they establish a Syrian branch of the PKK which became the Democratic Union Party or PYD. This has allowed Turkey to claim the PYD as a terrorist organization and part of the PKK. While calling for autonomy of the Kurdish regions in Syria the PYD has learned the Lesions of the PKK and have mostly cooperated with the Syrian government until the time of the Syrian civil war. The PYD used the disarray in Syria to establish an autonomous government but did not engage in the war against the Assad regime itself. It has rejected Kurdish nationalism and maintains a Kurdish-Syrian identity. Like many parties in the region it maintains an armed force called the Peoples Protection Unit of YPG and an affiliated Women’s Protection Unit or YPJ. Today the Turkish government is unable to separate the PYD from the PKK in its operations which has led to the current violence. It is difficult also for some in the west to make the distinction because of a similar socialist ideology.
Another which Turkey claim’s is affiliated with PKK, is the Iranian Kurdish group the Kurdistan Free Life Party or PJAK. PJAK started out as a civil rights movement in the Kurdish region of Iran and moved to a violence when attacked by Iranian forces. Pushed out of Iran they set up in the Qandil mountains in Iraq and came under the influence there of the PKK. While adopting socialist ideology it is not known has much the PKK can influence PJAK away from its desire to maintain Persian roots.
Most Kurdish parties in Iran are outright communist or very left. Also, most are breakaways form other parties with the oldest being the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran.
Not all parties are mentioned is this article and much of the history has been severely modified, but as Lara Trump said it can be Googled. This brought us to a conclusion that the average is not up to date on geography, or the Middle East. We can point out so many television shows interviews where the average American on the street when asked about the past and present US presidents are clueless so we are not shocked about Lara’s statement as so many Kurds are. Education plays a big part in this case. The only thing that unites most Kurds is a call for a homeland. We are speaking of upwards of 40 million people without a nation. To dismiss any attempt to achieve autonomy is to ignore history. Regardless of what happens the Kurds, will continue to fight for independence within their respective regions. While it is unlikely that a united Kurdistan can be achieved it is possible to create separate Kurdish states that can work in confederation with each other. Giving in to Turkey will not stop the desire of the Kurds to be free. It is time that the United State, Unite Kingdom and other countries stand up for Kurds, those who claimed Kurds are their allies, those who used Kurds to push the Islamic State (ISIS) out of Iraq, and defeated them in Syria. Kurds shed blood for the world, it is time for everyone to step in and support the establishment of an Independent Kurdistan. President Trump made many harsh statements in the past a few days about the Kurds, first he mentioned that they are no angels, and then he said they got paid a lot of money. This angered Kurds tremendously. As president Masud Barzani replied to his statment, “Kurdish Blood is more valuable than money and weapons.
Chiman Zebari is a Kurdish American author, and human rights activist. She was an analyst for the US Intelligence Community. She has also worked for the US government in other capacities and was a broadcaster for Voice of America.
Paul Davis is a retired Military-Political analyst for the US Army as well as a civilian analyst in the US Intelligence Community with a concentration on the middle east with an emphasis on the Kurds. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC.
Why have we ignored Santayana’s warning that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. To covet truth is a very distinguished passion.” We have seen repeatedly the effect of not learning from the past, ignoring obvious lesions. There is a book I would recommend for all its “Thinking in Time – the uses of history for decision makers.” Using history as business schools use case studies this book tries to show decision makers the how and why of past decisions and their consequences.
These historic studies are relevant and necessary to keep us from falling into known traps, but even with this knowledge we have failed to avoid them. Keeping to recent problems that could have been avoided we will discuss only two, one specific and one broad based.
The affordable care act, known as Obama care is a case in point. While accepting that there is a need to help those who cannot afford reliable healthcare there are much better ways to do it. One of the best ways was to incentivize the private insurance industry through tax breaks. Instead the government decided to simply tax the people that could least afford it and set up a system that did nothing more then look like they were doing something, and in fact set up a system that most who needed it could not afford. The biggest problem that should have been seen is the individual mandate and the assumption that young healthy people will be paying into the system, thereby funding the system for those that are older and sicker. Had the government looked back at the assumptions made in the ‘30s, during the Roosevelt administration, when they started social security. While the concept of Social Security was admirable, a safety net and secondary pension, the reality has shown that it is unstainable. In the beginning there were enough workers paying into the system to cover the costs of the fewer who had retired and were drawing. The system paid out to those collecting, with the tax collected from those working. Today the problem is that we are seeing more demands on the system then can be covered by those paying into it. This in effect is what will happen to Obamacare in the future, especially when the economy is better, as it is now, and less and less people need Obamacare as their employer supplied insurance is better and cheaper. The caveat to this is if it becomes a standard then the employer supplied insurance will go away, as have company paid retirement and pension plans. This we see with the concept of Medicare-for-all. Just as Social Security eventually replaced employer funded pension funds and retirement programs Medicare-for-all is designed to replace private insurance. Just as Social Security has reduced the ability for millions to retire in some comfort, Medicare-for-all will bring down health care for most. How do I know this, history tells us so.
Now for the broader look at history forgotten, socialism. The recent rise of calls for socialist government or turning more toward socialist style programs is, paradoxically, the result of socialisms failure. Let’s define what we mean by socialism, Communism, Nazi, Fascist or whatever the name is socialism. It is the government taking control of all or most of society, personal and economic control of the individual. All means of production is in the hands of the government. It is an economic theory that cannot be applied to government or society as a whole.
Despite the failure of socialist governments such as the Soviet Union, North Korea, Venezuela and others, we lack understanding of why the older ones failed and what is happening to those that still try to exist. Following the Second World War the west was exposed to realities of socialism because of our new-found eyes, television, and the steady stream of information leaking out of the USSR and the eastern block, and the new threat of the North Korean and the Chinese. What happened to all that knowledge? Without a steady stream of information and first hand accounts the truth went to sleep and then the academics took over.
People will usually go for the answer that sounds the best. Socialism sounds great but has always failed to deliver on its promise. Pointing to the wests failures the socialists will say that in a socialist society all people are equal, all have jobs/guarantied income, free housing, free medical and free education. In the west they claim the rich control everything and the rest of society is poor and barely hanging on. Racism is rampant and minorities are held down by a lack of education and a violent police state that denies justice to the poor. To be fair some of these claims have a kernel of truth but rehash historic moments that are not relevant to the current situation. While many of the problems still exist, they are not large or impactful as the socialist tend to shout about. The problem with income inequality shows up as the discrepancy between the wealth of the richest to the wealth of the poorest. The implication is that the rich sit in their mansions and eat all the food available while the rest of the 99% of the country lives in cardboard boxes and eats scraps that are left over from the millionaire’s parties. While poverty exists in the US it effects around 13% of the population, which means 87% of us are above the poverty line. People will struggle and many live paycheck to paycheck but the standard of living is not what the socialist make it out to be.
To listen to the left all black Americans live in poverty and are discriminated against on a daily basis. Does racism and bigotry exist in our country, of course it does. It exists within every country and society in the world, the question is, does it control us as a people and the answer is no. As for poverty 20% of the black population of America lives in poverty as compared to 8% of the white population. This of course is much too high, but it also means 80% of the black population does not live in poverty. According to recent studies while about 52% of whites in America qualify as middle class so do 45% of blacks and 48% of Hispanics. By the way there are non-white millionaires in the US. This of course goes against the current narrative and must be ignored if socialism is to win.
We can go on and on about the facts versus the narrative, but we will stop here. What we do know at this point is that the US has advanced from what it had been, and must continue to move forward. We also accept the fact that there are still problems that must be addressed and dealt with. Socialism does not however hold any answers to solving most of the remaining problems and in fact socialism exasperates these problems.
In the old Soviet Union, there was a large economic disparity, without a middle class. In order to show equality all but the political elites were poor. Crime was cured by lack of a justice system in which accusation equaled conviction. Everyone did however have a job and a place to live regardless of personnel choose. As we move forward in time, we find the same conditions in almost all of the socialist systems to some degree, with the exception of China which adapted a modified capitalist system.
With past and current examples of the abject failure of socialism how are we looking more and more at political leader who want to move us closer to that system and the continued bashing of the capitalist system that has brought the US and other countries so much. Simple by refusing to not learn from the past or to teach the past, as well as having so many distort the past as well as outright lie about the present. Ignoring the pasts failures, we are told to look at present successes such as Sweden. The problem is that Sweden is not a socialist nation but a free market capitalist state. Its experiment into socialism failed and they reversed course. Sweden does have a higher tax rate and many social programs but not like we think of socialism. The government does not control any of the businesses in the country and while they have an excellent education system, they also allow for school vouchers which means private schools. What has helped Sweden and other countries is an open, competitive free market society
Let us stop the ridiculous fantasy of the left and constantly question everyone of their claims and force the truth to shine through. While we are at it lets do something about our schools and make them teach history.
Time for the politicians to once again learn the difference between what they perceive as reality and how the rest of us see it. Two examples are the hearings before the House Oversight Committee with Michael Cohen and the end of the Trump-Kim summit.
I will not waste a lot of time on the Cohen hearings since it was just a political circus not meant to archive anything other then to push forward an agenda. Nothing new was learned from a full day of statements and political attacks from both side. What we were told is what we knew: Donald Trump spent his life as a real estate developer and had for years attempted to build a hotel in Moscow. It never happened and other then Trump associates saying they tried to get it done is a nothing. Donald Trumps attorney facilitated payments to two blackmailers in order for their stories, true or false, not to tarnish the image of Trump. Since according to Cohen, Trumps personnel money was used this is again a nothing. The rest of the time was spent on rumors and innuendo as well as personnel attacks by the members on Cohen and each other. Paying hush money is not a crime and if it was to enhance the election possibility then it might be a crime except for the fact that it was Trumps personnel money of which there is no limit on use in his own campaign. The only facts that are evident in the hearing are that Cohen is going to jail for perjury and tax evasion. What was gained by this stunt is negligible, those that like Trump, still like him. Those that hate Trump, still hate him, and most everyone else was not tuned in and was not fooled by this Congressional circus.
The other story, one that was buried by the news and through manipulating the timing of the Cohen hearing, was the Trump-Kim summit. It is only front page today because of its perceived failure. This is the story that points out the greater difference and lack of understanding between politicians and the real world. While hoping to achieve the next stage of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula the negotiations ended early because the North Korean leader wanted more then the US was willing to give. The fact that the US then ended the negotiations and left must have come as a shock for Kim who, like the rest of the world, was trained to understand that the West would give into anything just to get a deal. Welcome to true negotiations Mr. Kim. I could make that welcome to most of the politicians and diplomats who have lived in a bubble for years.
Negotiations between people, companies or nations required certain elements. Among these are a give and take with known parameters, a set understanding of the end state and realistic expectations. In this case the North Koreans came with unrealistic expectations of complete sanctions relief while giving only limited movement toward the goal of denuclearization.
The world however has seen in recent years that the US, when negotiating, will accept almost any end state just to have an agreement. The most notable of these is the Joint Comprehensive Plain Of Action, or the Iran Deal. The Iran Deal saw the west give Iran everything it wanted and receiving nothing but empty promises in return. This was apparently the Norths expectation, leaving when it became obvious that there would be no true negotiated end, the US left.
The main stream media immediately called this a diplomatic failure showing Trumps lack of negotiating skill or knowledge of international relationships. Those of us who have been in business, or just life, understand this as reality. When you realize that the negotiation is going no where or that the demands of the person on the other side of the table are more then you are willing to give, you end the negotiation. This is standard when any two people or companies sit down to talk, this is however a sea change in government and diplomatic circles.
This is all part of what Donald Trump has brought to Washington, part of the drain the swamp movement. I fear however, like so many other reform movements, this will run into the wall that is Washington. Conservatives and progressives alike are very resistant to true change. If this change is going to be effective almost all who are a part must be removed, which is highly unlikely.
The hypocrisy of the west knows no bounds. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a prime example. There is no doubt that the government of Saudi Arabia murdered Khashoggi at their embassy in Turkey, we all accept that as fact. That the world should be outraged is not in question, but that Turkey led the original call for justice is the height of hypocrisy. An opinion piece in Newsweek in September called Erdogan’s Turkey the worlds biggest prison for journalist. While true numbers are hard to come by the estimate is that between one-third and one-half of all journalist imprisoned in the world are sitting in Turkish jail cells.
The murder of Khashoggi was a despicable act, of that there is no question, the reaction however could be said to be excessive when put in the light of other events around the region. The moral outrage from the press and the call for the United States to punish Saudi Arabia is valid, but it has dominated the headlines and has been politicized. The facts are that Khashoggi was a Saudi citizen who engaged in actions that opposed the Saudi government and especially the Royal family, which is a crime in Saudi Arabia. He was technically executed on Saudi territory, inside the embassy, under orders from someone in the Saudi government. While this violates international norms and laws it does not violate Saudi custom of an absolute monarchy. Let’s look at the region.
Staying with Saudi Arabia, criminals can be executed by beheading for crimes that range from murder to adultery and vary from blasphemy to homosexuality. There were 146 executions in Saudi Arabia in 2017 and according to human rights organizations the number rose by over 70% in the first quarter of 2018. The kingdom also imposes other punishments such as stoning and lashes for crimes, all of which violate international norms. The world knows of these barbaric practices and yet continues to ignore them, likely for the sake of oil.
Turkey, once a shining light of democracy in the region, has devolved into a dictatorship where the rule of law is up to the capriciousness of politicians and judges. Based on political beliefs or ethnicity, Turks as well as foreigners are tried and sentenced to long prison terms with no transparency or right to defense. This system has been used to silence and imprison not only journalist but political opponents as well as shut down opposition news papers and news outlets. Foreigners traveling to or transiting through Turkey are subjected to searches of there computers and other electronic devices for anything that may be anti-Turkish and subject to arrest and prosecution if materials are found. While widely publicized in the United States the arrest and detention of US Pastor Andrew Brunson on trumped up charges are just an indicator of how Turkey subverts its laws. Less well know is the case of German journalist Mesale Tolu who was held in detention for months on terrorism charges but was allowed to leave the country in order to leverage the German government. There has been no call from the world or US politicians to punish Turkey.
Iran is without a doubt the worst abuser of human rights in the region if not the world. There is no covering up the crimes, in fact they seem proud of how they treat their citizens. Their interpretation of Islam and sharia law allows them to do so under the guise of religion. There is no free press or even freedom of expression. Recently a young woman in protest stood up and took off her head covering, she has been sentenced to 19 years in jail. Not long ago a 16-year-old was stoned to death for crimes against chastity because she was raped. The war against the Kurds is ongoing, declared terrorist or apostate Kurds are hung every day in Iran, woman are stoned to death and the jails are filled to over capacity by Iranians and foreigners. The jails are filled through the use of closed courts and unknown charges, while the world objects to these actions they are more then willing to allow them to continue in order to do business. There is no outcry for protection of the innocent. While the Trump administration has withdrawn from the Iran deal and reinstated sanctions the rest of the world objects to these actions and continues to deal with Iran.
Iraq has abandoned all pretense of a true legal system and has subverted or ignored its constitution. The highest court in Iraq was to be appointed by the government with apportioned seats so that all of Iraq was included. This has never been done and the court that rules is left over from the Saddam regime. Recent activities have included the illegal attack on Kirkuk and other disputed territories following a legal referendum in the Kurdish region that the central government disapproved. This was preceded by more then a decade of ignoring article 140 of the constitution calling for resolution of the problem. Illegal use of private militias such as the PMF and the suppression of individuals and groups is the norm, and yet the world ignores this in hopes that Iraq can be held together and some how become a functioning democracy.
There are many countries that violate human rights or operate outside of international norms and are ignored by the world, but this must be addressed. The world is getting smaller and cultures are clashing harder. This is not to say there should be a culture war, but moral outrage cannot be a light that is turned on and off for the convenience of governments. Saudi Arabia should be held accountable for the extrajudicial execution of Jamal Khashoggi, it should also be held to account for its barbaric justice system. Turkey and the others as well should be made to address their systems. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be a key not just a document. It was once said that human history would be much less bloody if we were as upset over the death of millions as we can become over the death of one individual.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but in the end the results were predictable. The first of the two elections, Iraq, did have an element of suspense and surprise following the electoral win of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saairun Alliance winning 54 seats in Parliament. While a good showing for Sadr it was not enough to secure a majority, 165 seats, in Parliament. This has left the door opened to a wide range of maneuvers to secure power that are taking place now. The next election to be discussed was the Turkish election, while there were attempts to make it appear to be an actual free and open election it lacks the drama of Iraq and was more predictable. Following President Erdogan’s call for snap elections there was much said and written that through his recent attempts to subvert Turkey’s democracy that he had opened a window for the opposition to consolidate and remove his power. This of course presupposed the existence of a democratic government in Turkey. Like Iraq the winner, the AK Party did not win a clear majority and will assume power with the help of the ultra-right wing MHP. Unlike Iraq however the AKP will not be controlled by its alliance with MHP and in fact has moved closer to an inescapable one-party dictatorship. The results of the Iraq election are still not clear and may not be for some time. With the world, and donors, watching the Iraqi government made a valid attempt to run an open election. In the end however old habits die hard, if at all. The Fatah Party, an alliance of Shia militia under Iranian control had secured the second most sets, 47, and under the direction of the IRGC Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani have proceeded to work to build a Coalition that will be, if not under control of Tehran, very friendly to Iran. The use of electronic voting was intended to streamline the process and discourage vote fraud. Following the elections many of the losing parties cried foul and demanded a manual recount. With the Council of Representatives took it upon themselves to call for a recount, even though they had no legal authority to do so, it became apparent that regardless of the legitimate will of the people who voted the decision will be made by the power elites, many of whom would loss power if the results were sustained. With the acquisition of the courts the recount will be done, even though after a period of time it is not yet determined when and how long it will take. What has been determined is the results will be questioned and never fully accepted. At the outset parliament had set conditions that would not recognize Peshmerga or IDP votes from the Kurdish region, this however was overturned by the courts. Other conditions however have gone forward including percentage reduction in results from polling stations as the failure to address the presence of PMF at polling stations used to discourage voter participation. The loss of paper ballots in a fire in Baghdad as well as attacks on election commission sites in disputed territories has made any results now invalid. With all of this the results must be accepted as reported in the beginning and the fact that Iran will be in charge of the Iraqi government must be accepted by Iraq as well. This of course does not hold true for the rest of the world. Donor nations may decide or be shown that the election does not in fact reflect the Iraqi demographic and world powers need not support an Iraqi military that is under the control of a foreign power and operating to the detriment of the population. Before all this however a final count must be given, and the government formed. The only other alternative is to have a new election which comes with its own set of problems. Turkey is another story. Forgetting the AKP accidentally released the results days before the election, the activities of the government have made the election and the results illegitimate. Many of the opposition candidates are in jail as well as reporters that could cover the election for the opposition. News papers and other media outlets have been shut and polling stations moved out of reach for many, particularly in the Kurdish region. There is no surprise that Erdogan won a majority what is surprising is that the HDP won enough to be seated. This of course may well be temporary given the history of Kurdish victories. While it is not yet a rump parliament Erdogan has very little to fear in his march to complete one man control Turkey. His rule will not be disputed and we see that regardless of the existing problems all parties accepted the results. Between the two elections the Iraqi results are the most likely to be a true reflection of popular sentiment. A rejection of the current power elites and a call for change. Regardless in the intervening time the will of the people has been subordinated to the will of the elites. The recount will, without a doubt, strengthen the Shia/Iranian parties and the government will be formed that will continue to ignore the people and the constitution. There will be strong opposition voices but they will be heard as background noise to the Iranian masters. The current upheaval in Iran however could cause major problems in Baghdad. Without money and guidance from Tehran chaos may ensue. This last will likely not be immediate but is worth a mention. The impact of Turkey’s election however will be more immediate and likely deadly. With little to stand in the way Turkey can continue to its military adventures in Syria and Iraq and expand them without fear of internal interference. The continued crackdown on internal enemies will likewise continue unabated. This slide away from any form of democracy constitutes a greater threat to the region then the confusion in Iraq at least as far as the west should be concerned. Turkey is a NATO country and as such its actions reflect on the alliance as a whole. While there is little the other nations can do to influence the internal operations of a dictatorship there is no longer any reason to pretend it is anything but. The run up to this election should have indicated to all the type of country Turkey has become. In Iraq the actions of the government prior to the election, to include the illegal attack on Kirkuk, as the actions following the election, attempts to disenfranchise minority populations are also good indicators to the rest of the world the direction Iraq is taking. Like many other countries in the world Iraq is, on paper, a constitutional republic. Unlike other countries the Iraqi government does not seem to see any reason to read or follow its constitution. Again there is little the world can do to impose any external control on the government in Baghdad. The one area that some leverage could be derived is in the will of the people. Iraq has shown in this past election both the peoples desire to have a say in the government and the aftermath has shown the elites have no intention in giving it to them. The US leads the call for a one Iraq but forgets its own past. The American colonist had been strong in their determination to remain part of England, only asking to be given the full rights of Englishmen. When it became apparent that they would never be treated as full citizens of the British Empire they declared and fought for those rights an independent nation. Today in Iraq we also see that a large minority does not have the full rights of Iraqi citizenship and the world must come to recognize this. If the election shows the west anything it is that the west has lost Iraq, it is time to allow what is going to happen, happen and support those who will find their own way to freedom. As has been said by many, elections have consequences, its time to accept those consequences and react properly to them.
When I read “Art of the Deal” years ago I was impressed by the pragmatism but did see some parts that to me as a young man starting out in business did not make sense. I have continued to read Trumps books, “Art of the Comeback” etc., and they now make sense. I also remember a scene in the movie “Patton” in which, after defeating Rommel, Patton yells out “ I read your book.” Today we don’t read books but get our information from TV or the web, at least that’s how it appears listening to politicians and pundits. If you see Trump as an enemy I suggest you follow Sun Tzu and “Know your enemy as you know yourself,” read his books and study his back ground. The most recent political blowback on Trump has been his pulling out of negotiations with North Korea, with the talking heads and opposition politicians trumpeting how Kim has played us and that it was never going to work etc. Many of those who are saying these things went to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard or got there degree in political science from Georgetown and so forth. Had they gone to Harvard Business School or Wharton they may understand how Trump will handle negotiations. It would also have helped if any of them had bothered to read his books. What we are seeing, playing out in the open is the give and take of true negotiations. These types of negotiations used to go on in government and between governments after the lights went out, at cocktail parties and behind closed doors. Today there are no negotiations just posturing for the cameras and picking positions based on ideology and the latest poll. Little thought is given today on the impact of decisions for the future if that future goes beyond the next news cycle. Business cannot run that way and neither should government. A politicians legacy should not be decided on just getting a deal but getting the right deal. The other difference here is that Trump is use to moving fast while government moves glacially, if at all. There will be a summit with North Korea, just don’t know when. The stage has been set and Trump maneuvered China to our side which has blocked North Korea. This is a beginning and will play out. It will take time and more back and forth, but it will end. Its time for those who report the news and work in government to catch up with the new paradigm or get out of the way. The cost of failure is to great and should not be the subject of a sound bit.