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Mike Pompeo Is Inviting Catastrophe in the Arctic

TruthDig.com News -

Donald Trump got the headlines as usual—but don’t be fooled. It wasn’t Trumpism in action this August, but what we should all now start referring to as the Pompeo Doctrine. Yes, I’m referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and, when it comes to the Arctic region, he has a lot more than buying Greenland on his mind.

In mid-August, as no one is likely to forget, President Trump surprised international observers by expressing an interest in purchasing Greenland, a semi-autonomous region of Denmark. Most commentators viewed the move as just another example of the president’s increasingly erratic behavior. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen termed the very notion of such a deal “absurd,” leading Trump, in an outburst of pique, to call her comments “nasty” and cancel a long-scheduled state visit to Copenhagen.

A deeper look at that incident and related administration moves, however, suggests quite a different interpretation of what’s going on, with immense significance for the planet and even human civilization. Under the prodding of Mike Pompeo, the White House increasingly views the Arctic as a key arena for future great-power competition, with the ultimate prize being an extraordinary trove of valuable resources, including oil, natural gas, uranium, zinc, iron ore, gold, diamonds, and rare earth minerals. Add in one more factor: though no one in the administration is likely to mention the forbidden term “climate change” or “climate crisis,” they all understand perfectly well that global warming is what’s making such a resource scramble possible.

This isn’t the first time that great powers have paid attention to the Arctic. That region enjoyed some strategic significance during the Cold War period, when both the United States and the Soviet Union planned to use its skies as passageways for nuclear-armed missiles and bombers dispatched to hit targets on the other side of the globe. Since the end of that era, however, it has largely been neglected. Frigid temperatures, frequent storms, and waters packed with ice prevented most normal air and maritime travel, so—aside from the few Indigenous peoples who had long adapted to such conditions—who would want to venture there?

Climate change is, however, already altering the situation in drastic ways: temperatures are rising faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet, melting parts of the polar ice cap and exposing once-inaccessible waters and islands to commercial development. Oil and natural gas reserves have been discovered in offshore areas previously (but no longer) covered by sea ice most of the year. Meanwhile, new mining opportunities are emerging in, yes, Greenland! Worried that other countries, including China and Russia, might reap the benefits of such a climate-altered landscape, the Trump administration has already launched an all-out drive to ensure American dominance there, even at the risk of future confrontation and conflict.

Related Articles by by Climate News Network

The scramble for the Arctic’s resources was launched early in this century when the world’s major energy firms, led by BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Russian gas giant Gazprom, began exploring for oil and gas reserves in areas only recently made accessible by retreating sea ice. Those efforts gained momentum in 2008, after the U.S. Geological Survey published a report, Circum-Arctic Resources Appraisal, indicating that as much as one-third of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas lay in areas north of the Arctic Circle. Much of this untapped fossil fuel largess was said to lie beneath the Arctic waters adjoining Alaska (that is, the United States), Canada, Greenland (controlled by Denmark), Norway, and Russia—the so-called “Arctic Five.”

Under existing international law, codified in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), coastal nations possess the right to exploit undersea resources up to 200 nautical miles from their shoreline (and beyond if their continental shelf extends farther than that). The Arctic Five have all laid claim to “exclusive economic zones” (EEZs) in those waters or, in the case of the United States (which has not ratified UNCLOS), announced its intention to do so. Most known oil and gas reserves are found within those EEZs, although some are thought to be in overlapping or even contested areas beyond that 200-mile limit, including the polar region itself. Whoever owns Greenland, of course, possesses the right to develop its EEZ.

For the most part, the Arctic Five have asserted their intent to settle any disputes arising from contested claims through peaceful means, the operating principle behind the formation in 1996 of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental organization for states with territory above the Arctic Circle (including the Arctic Five, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden). Meeting every two years, it provides a forum in which, at least theoretically, leaders of those countries and the Indigenous peoples living there can address common concerns and work towards cooperative solutions—and it had indeed helped dampen tensions in the region. In recent years, however, isolating the Arctic from mounting U.S. (and NATO) hostilities toward Russia and China or from the global struggle over vital resources has proven increasingly difficult. By May 2019, when Pompeo led an American delegation to the council’s most recent meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland, hostility and the urge to grab future resources had already spilled into the open.

Reaping the Arctic’s Riches

Usually a forum for anodyne statements about international cooperation and proper environmental stewardship, the lid was blown off the latest Arctic Council meeting in May when Pompeo delivered an unabashedly martial and provocative speech that deserves far more attention than it got at the time. So let’s take a little tour of what may prove a historic proclamation (in the grimmest sense possible) of a new Washington doctrine for the Far North.

“In its first two decades, the Arctic Council has had the luxury of focusing almost exclusively on scientific collaboration, on cultural matters, on environmental research,” the secretary of state began mildly. These were, he said, “all important themes, very important, and we should continue to do those. But no longer do we have that luxury. We’re entering a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic, complete with new threats to the Arctic and its real estate, and to all of our interests in that region.”

In what turned out to be an ultra-hardline address, Pompeo claimed that we were now in a new era in the Arctic. Because climate change—a phrase Pompeo, of course, never actually uttered—is now making it ever more possible to exploit the region’s vast resource riches, a scramble to gain control of them is now officially underway. That competition for resources has instantly become enmeshed in a growing geopolitical confrontation between the U.S., Russia, and China, generating new risks of conflict.

On the matter of resource exploitation, Pompeo could hardly contain his enthusiasm. Referring to the derision that greeted William Seward’s purchase of Alaska in 1857, he declared:

“Far from the barren backcountry that many thought it to be in Seward’s time, the Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas, and an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources.”

Of equal attraction, he noted, was the possibility of vastly increasing maritime commerce through newly de-iced trans-Arctic trade routes that will link the Euro-Atlantic region with Asia. “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” he enthused. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days… Arctic sea lanes could come [to be] the 21st century’s Suez and Panama Canals.” That such “steady reductions in sea ice” are the sole consequence of climate change went unmentioned, but so did another reality of our warming world. If the Arctic one day truly becomes the northern equivalent of a tropical passageway like the Suez or Panama canals, that will likely mean that parts of those southerly areas will have become the equivalents of uninhabitable deserts.

As such new trade and drilling opportunities arise, Pompeo affirmed, the United States intends to be out front in capitalizing on them. He then began bragging about what the Trump administration had already accomplished, including promoting expanded oil and gas drilling in offshore waters and also freeing up “energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” a pristine stretch of northern Alaska prized by environmentalists as a sanctuary for migrating caribou and other at-risk species. Additional efforts to exploit the region’s vital resources, he promised, are scheduled for the years ahead.

A New Arena for Competition (and Worse)

Ideally, Pompeo noted placidly, competition for the Arctic’s resources will be conducted in an orderly, peaceful manner. The United States, he assured his listeners, believes in “free and fair competition, open, by the rule of law.” But other countries, he added ominously, especially China and Russia, won’t play by that rulebook much of the time and so must be subject to careful oversight and, if need be, punitive action.

China, he pointed out, is already developing trade routes in the Arctic, and establishing economic ties with key nations there. Unlike the United States (which already has multiple military bases in the Arctic, including one at Thule in Greenland, and so has a well-established presence there), Pompeo claimed that Beijing is surreptitiously using such supposedly economic activities for military purposes, including, heinously enough, spying on U.S. ballistic missile submarines operating in the region, while intimidating its local partners into acquiescence.

He then cited events in the distant South China Sea, where the Chinese have indeed militarized a number of tiny uninhabited islands (outfitting them with airstrips, missile batteries, and the like) and the U.S. has responded by sending its warships into adjacent waters. He did so to warn of similar future military stand-offs and potential clashes in the Arctic. “Let’s just ask ourselves, do we want the Arctic Ocean to transform into a new South China Sea, fraught with militarization and competing territorial claims?” The answer, he assured his listeners, is “pretty clear.” (And I’m sure you can guess what it is.)

The secretary of state then wielded even stronger language in describing “aggressive Russian behavior in the Arctic.” In recent years, he claimed, the Russians have built hundreds of new bases in the region, along with new ports and air-defense capabilities. “Russia is already leaving snow prints in the form of army boots” there, a threat that cannot be ignored. “Just because the Arctic is a place of wilderness does not mean it should become a place of lawlessness. It need not be the case. And we stand ready to ensure that it does not become so.”

And here we get to the heart of Pompeo’s message: the United States will, of course, “respond” by enhancing its own military presence in the Arctic to better protect U.S. interests, while countering Chinese and Russian inroads in the region:

“Under President Trump, we are fortifying America’s security and diplomatic presence in the area. On the security side, partly in response to Russia’s destabilizing activities, we are hosting military exercises, strengthening our force presence, rebuilding our icebreaker fleet, expanding Coast Guard funding, and creating a new senior military post for Arctic Affairs inside of our own military.”

To emphasize the administration’s sincerity, Pompeo touted the largest NATO and U.S. Arctic military maneuvers since the Cold War era, the recently completed “Trident Juncture” exercise (which he incorrectly referred to as “Trident Structure”), involving some 50,000 troops. Although the official scenario for Trident Juncture spoke of an unidentified “aggressor” force, few observers had any doubt that the allied team was assembled to repel a hypothetical Russian invasion of Norway, where the simulated combat took place.

Implementing the Doctrine

And so you have the broad outlines of the new Pompeo Doctrine, centered on the Trump administration’s truly forbidden topic: the climate crisis. In the most pugnacious manner imaginable, that doctrine posits a future of endless competition and conflict in the Arctic, growing ever more intense as the planet warms and the ice cap melts. The notion of the U.S. going nose-to-nose with the Russians and Chinese in the Far North, while exploiting the region’s natural resources, has clearly been circulating in Washington. By August, it had obviously already become enough of a commonplace in the White House (not to speak of the National Security Council and the Pentagon), for the president to offer to buy Greenland.

And when it comes to resources and future military conflicts, it wasn’t such a zany idea. After all, Greenland does have abundant natural resources and also houses that U.S. base in Thule. A relic of the Cold War, the Thule facility, mainly a radar base, is already being modernized, at a cost of some $300 million, to better track Russian missile launches. Clearly, key officials in Washington view Greenland as a valuable piece of real estate in the emerging geopolitical struggle Pompeo laid out, an assessment that clearly wormed its way into President Trump’s consciousness as well.

Iceland and Norway also play key roles in Pompeo’s and the Pentagon’s new strategic calculus. Another former Cold War facility, a base at Keflavik in Iceland has been reoccupied by the Navy and is now being used in antisubmarine warfare missions. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has stationed several hundred combat troops at bases near Trondheim, Norway, the first permanent deployment of foreign soldiers on Norwegian soil since World War II. In 2018, the Pentagon even reactivated the Navy’s defunct Second Fleet, investing it with responsibility for protecting the North Atlantic as well as the Arctic’s maritime approaches, including those abutting Greenland, Iceland, and Norway. Consider these signs of heating-up times.

And all of this is clearly just the beginning of a major buildup in and regular testing of the ability of the U.S. military to operate in the Far North. As part of Exercise Trident Juncture, for example, the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and its flotilla of support ships were sent into the Norwegian Sea, the first time a U.S. carrier battle group had sailed above the Arctic Circle since the Soviet Union imploded in 1991. Similarly, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer recently announced plans to send surface warships on trans-Arctic missions, another new military move. (U.S. nuclear submarines make such journeys regularly, sailing beneath the sea ice.)

The Irony of Arctic Melting

Although Secretary Pompeo and his underlings never mention the term climate change, every aspect of his new doctrine is a product of that phenomenon. As humanity puts more and more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global temperatures continue to rise, the Arctic ice cap will continue to shrink. That, in turn, will make exploitation of the region’s abundant oil and natural gas reserves ever more possible, leading to yet more burning of fossil fuels, further warming, and ever faster melting. In other words, the Pompeo Doctrine is a formula for catastrophe.

Add to this obvious abuse of the planet the likelihood that rising temperatures and increasing storm activity will render oil and gas extraction in parts of the world ever less viable. Many scientists now believe that daytime summer temperatures in oil-producing areas of the Middle East, for instance, are likely to average 120 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, making outdoor human labor of most sorts deadly. At the same time, more violent hurricanes and other tropical storms passing over the ever-warming waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico could imperil the continuing operation of offshore rigs there (and in other similarly storm-prone drilling areas). Unless humanity has converted to alternative fuels by then, the Arctic may be viewed as the world’s primary source of fossil fuels, only intensifying the struggle to control its vital resources.

Perhaps no aspect of humanity’s response to the climate crisis is more diabolical than this. The greater the number of fossil fuels we consume, the more rapidly we alter the Arctic, inviting the further extraction of just such fuels and their contribution to global warming. With other regions increasingly less able to sustain a fossil-fuel extraction economy, a continued addiction to oil will ensure the desolation of the once-pristine Far North as it is transformed into a Pompeo-style arena for burning conflict and civilizational disaster.

The post Mike Pompeo Is Inviting Catastrophe in the Arctic appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Marjorie Cohn on Afghanistan’s Unending War, Amit Narang on Deregulation & Corporate America

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting -

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(cc photo: Dread Scott)

This week on CounterSpin: Just after September 11, 2001, Time magazine published a special issue that ended with the words of Lance Morrow. “A day cannot live in infamy without the nourishment of rage,” Morrow wrote; “let’s have rage.” Calling for America to “explore the rich reciprocal possibilities of the fatwa,” Morrow called explicitly for “hatred,” and “a policy of focused brutality.”

New Yorkers who were here remember vigils, hugs from strangers and signs all over the streets reading, “Our grief is not a cry for war.” But war is what came, to the delight of media’s Morrows—first to Afghanistan, which the US invaded on October 7, 2001, and never left. We’ll talk about that ongoing legacy of September 11, 2001, with Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and author of, most recently, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues

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Also on the show: A series of news stories suggest that corporations are lining up to defy the Trump White House’s deregulatory policies. It’s true, some corporations might resist some moves for some reasons, but it’s a long way from there to companies’ boldly invoking Trump’s wrath in their zeal to fight climate disruption. We’ll talk about the media oversell and the real deal with Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen.

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While Democrats Debated, Trump Went on a Bizarre, 68-Minute Rant in Baltimore

Mother Jones Magazine -

While ten Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls battled it out on a Houston stage Thursday night, President Donald Trump was in Baltimore, Maryland, giving a rambling 68-minute speech to House Republicans who had gathered for a three-day retreat. 

“Whether you like me or not, it doesn’t matter,” Trump told the crowd at the Republican conference. “You have to elect me; you have no choice.”

Trump then went on to criticize the lighting that was used, claiming that “the light is the worst,” a comment he made, the New York Times reported, “during an extended aside about his dislike for energy-efficient light bulbs.” He complained that the light made him “look orange, and so do you.” 

 The President touched on a vast range of topics including but not limited to the North Carolina special election, opioids, Venezuela, the Paris Climate accords, African-American unemployment, immigration, various Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Occasio-Cortes (D-N.Y.) and 2020 candidate South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, plastic straws, and his many accomplishments as president. He also took the opportunity to repeat his attacks on Baltimore from earlier this summer, which he had described as “disgusting” and “rodent-infested.” 

“We’re going to fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule,” he said, including Los Angeles and San Francisco in his assault. “These are great American cities, and they’re an embarrassment—what the Democrats have let happen. Republicans want to rebuild our inner cities and provide a future of limitless opportunity for all Americans.”

Protesters surrounded the hotel where Trump spoke, yelling abuse at the presidential motorcade. In response, Trump tweeted.

Hello Baltimore! pic.twitter.com/Iz2aYj7rrC

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2019

Texas Republican Tells Beto O’Rourke, “My AR Is Ready for You”

Mother Jones Magazine -

A Texas state representative is under fire after tweeting, “My AR is waiting for you” at Beto O’Rourke, shortly after the Democratic presidential candidate endorsed mandatory buybacks of assault-style weapons during the third Democratic debate Thursday night.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” O’Rourke declared to the audience in Houston, Texas, while describing how such weapons are designed for combat and should therefore not be in the hands of everyday gun owners. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”

But as the remarks, which drew loud applause, reverberated on social media, Republican Briscoe Cain, who has served in the Texas House of Representatives since 2016, made his contempt for the proposal clear:

This is a death threat, Representative. Clearly, you shouldn't own an AR-15—and neither should anyone else. pic.twitter.com/jsiZmwjMDs

— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) September 13, 2019

The post, widely interpreted as a threat against O’Rourke, was instantly slammed on social media. But that didn’t stop the Republican from attacking O’Rourke once more. “You’re a child Robert Francis,” he said later, retweeting O’Rourke.

Twitter has since removed the initial post.

O’Rourke first backed a mandatory buybacks program in the wake of last month’s massacre in his hometown of El Paso that killed 22 people. The proposal has since riled conservatives, including Meghan McCain, who warned earlier this month that there would be “a lot of violence” if Washington passed legislation aimed at confiscating weapons like the AR-15.

“I’m not living without guns!” McCain told her colleagues on The View. “It’s just that simple.”

Meghan McCain, after saying there will be "violence" in America if the AR-15 is banned because it's "the most popular gun" in the country, then declares that she's "not living without guns." pic.twitter.com/YlDtQwkFr0

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) September 3, 2019

Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism: We Want to Create an Economy That Works for All of Us

Democracy Now! -

After being questioned about the crisis in Venezuela, Senator Bernie Sanders defended his vision of democratic socialism. “I agree with what goes on in Canada and in Scandinavia: guaranteeing healthcare to all people as a human right. I believe that the United States should not be the only major country on Earth not to provide paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said. “I believe that every worker in this country deserves a living wage and that we expand the trade union movement.”

"Racism in America Is Endemic": Democratic Candidates Vow to Confront White Supremacy & Legacy of Slavery

Democracy Now! -

During the third Democratic debate Thursday night, the discussion of race and racism got personal for former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who brought up last month’s El Paso massacre. He said the white gunman who killed 22 people, mostly Latinos, had driven to the border city “to kill people who look like me.” Former Texas Congressmember Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, said racism is endemic and foundational of the United States. He mentioned that this year will mark the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved African being brought to America, and promised he would create a slavery reparations commission.

Joe Biden Faces Criticism over His Healthcare Plan & His Support for Iraq Invasion at Third Debate

Democracy Now! -

The 10 leading Democratic presidential candidates appeared for the first time on the same stage Thursday night at a debate at Texas Southern University in Houston. It was the third debate of the primary season, but it marked the first time former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren took part in the same debate. Biden repeatedly faced criticism for his healthcare plans and for his vote to support the war in Iraq.

Headlines for September 13, 2019

Democracy Now! -

#NeverForget the War in Afghanistan

TruthDig.com News -

When President Donald Trump announced this week that a highly anticipated peace deal with the Taliban was dead, Afghans braced for more violence. Their fears were realized as fresh fighting broke out immediately between Taliban forces and U.S.-backed Afghan government forces. With little remaining incentive to taper off the violent attacks, the Taliban have once more unleashed the full force of their ferocity in order to take over Afghanistan. Nearly 18 years after the U.S. began its war, Afghanistan remains mired in unending violence.

Taliban forces had been marking their participation in peace talks with a relentless series of deadly attacks all along while their representatives were meeting with U.S. officials in Doha, Qatar. Presumably the militant organization was leveraging its capability for violence as a negotiating tactic with U.S. officials.

But they hadn’t counted on the fickle nature of an unpredictable U.S. president whose seat-of-the-pants foreign policy is driven more by ego and whim than by facts. Trump cited the killing of a U.S. soldier during a recent Taliban attack as a reason for ending the peace talks. He went as far as announcing on Twitter last Saturday that he had planned to host on Sunday Taliban representatives and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David, but that after the Taliban’s attack, he “immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.”

While many politicians and media pundits fixated on the audacity of inviting the Taliban onto U.S. soil—and days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at no less a sacrosanct space than Camp David—the real question was why Trump felt that this latest troop casualty was a deal-breaker. Thirty-four-year-old Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz, a Puerto Rican service member of the U.S. military, was the 16th American soldier to be killed in Afghanistan this year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Sunday, “It’s not appropriate [the Taliban] killed an American. And it made no sense for the Taliban to be rewarded for that kind of bad behavior.”

Except that the Taliban had been engaging in such behavior for months now. In late June two U.S. soldiers were killed in a firefight with Taliban forces in Uruzgan province just a few days before a round of peace talks took place. Soon after those talks, another U.S. soldier was killed in a Taliban attack in Wardak Province. That event also did not dampen U.S. officials’ hopes for a deal, as special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad continued his plans days later to travel to Afghanistan and then Doha to resume talks with the Taliban.

So what changed? Did Ortiz’s life mean so much to President Trump that he suddenly began caring about the violence facing American soldiers in Afghanistan and decided not to reward the Taliban with a peace deal? Such logic is hardly likely, not just because Trump has revealed himself to be utterly lacking in empathy (especially toward Puerto Ricans), but because if the president wanted to safeguard the lives of U.S. soldiers, withdrawing them from Afghanistan would be the most direct way forward.

Simply put, the reason American troops are dying in Afghanistan is because they are deployed to Afghanistan. Therefore, the best way to immunize soldiers from a violent death at the hands of the Taliban is to withdraw them from Afghanistan altogether. Reports suggest that his former national security adviser John Bolton tried to dissuade Trump by planting negative stories in the press over his opposition to signing a deal with the Taliban. Some commentators have expressed relief that the ultra-hawkish Bolton was ousted from the White House before be could start a war. But it appears as though, when it came to Afghanistan, he succeeded in keeping an existing war going.

The Afghan war has been going on for so long that perhaps we have forgotten why U.S. troops were deployed in the first place. With the commemoration this week of the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans may assume that we launched a war in Afghanistan to retaliate against the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Broadly speaking, that sentiment is correct—it was essentially a war of revenge. By that measure, have we punished Afghan civilians enough? More than 30,000 Afghan civilians—none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks and who were themselves being held hostage by the Pakistani-backed Taliban—have been killed since the first bombs dropped on Oct. 7, 2001.

The rate of death has not tapered over the years. In fact, 2018 was the worst year on record for Afghan civilian deaths since 2001, with 3,804 people being killed, 927 of them children. And this year, civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. forces and their Afghan allies surpassed the number killed by the Taliban.

Our war has cost the Afghan people more than ten times the number of deaths than al-Qaida cost the U.S. on 9/11. While politicians and others blithely claim to #NeverForget the deaths of thousands of innocent American lives, we have not only forgotten about the Afghan lives lost at our hands, but we have rarely, if ever, allowed their deaths to enter into our collective public consciousness.

Trump has declared the Afghan peace deal “dead.” Given the unpredictability of this president, that may not be the last word on the matter, as we have seen in other foreign policy hot zones such as North Korea.

But had the deal gone through, would it have actually led to peace for the people of Afghanistan? Sadly, that aspect of the war has been of the least importance to negotiating parties. Some Afghans were even relieved the deal was over. One survivor of the same Taliban bombing that killed Ortiz told The New York Times: “It’s always the poor people who are stepped on and killed. … Nobody cares about us—not Trump, not our own government.”

Had the deal gone through, it would have left military power and political control of large parts of the country in the hands of a violent, fundamentalist faction that knows nothing about running a society (except in the image of a misogynist form of Sharia law) and everything about guerrilla warfare. Just as the U.S. was never truly interested in the welfare of civilians in wartime, it has shown no interest in civilian safety under the auspices of a peace deal. The fight for real peace is and always will be left in the hands of the beleaguered Afghan civilian population.

Had U.S. troops begun withdrawing, we would have seen an end to direct American participation in a brutal and deadly war, but the legacy of U.S. violence would have remained intact in the country. For now, Afghans will continue to face attacks from both the Taliban and the American war machine.

The post #NeverForget the War in Afghanistan appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Inside the Alaskan Boarding School Trying to Overcome Its History by Embracing Indigenous Students

Mother Jones Magazine -

In 1867, after its territorial acquisition by the United States, Alaska began a system of compulsory education for Indigenous children. It endured for more than a century, experimenting with different models of schooling Alaska Native youth that ranged from well-meaning paternalism to the overtly sadistic. Children as young as 5 were removed from their families and brought hundreds of miles from the only homes they had ever known to be taught that the places they came from were backwards, their cultures corrupt, their languages deficient.

The writings of Sheldon Jackson, the Territory’s General Agent of Education and the architect for Alaska’s boarding schools, their rules, and the social order therein, are filled with culturally chauvinistic, bigoted beliefs presented as facts of nature. “They are savages, and, with the exception of those in Southern Alaska, have not had civilizing, educational, or religious advantages,” Jackson wrote of the Inuit along Alaska’s western and northern coasts in a report to Congress. “The work of the Alaska school system is not only to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also how to live better, how to make more money in order to live better, and how to utilize the resources of the country in order to make more money.”

Most of the territory’s Indigenous children did not speak English and did not understand why they were being removed from their families and their tight-knit communities. The newness of the natural environment was a shock: Kids from Alaska’s icy, flat northern coasts found themselves in the mountainous island rainforests of the southeast panhandle, where even the light and smell are markedly different. As one alumni explained, just traveling to school was terrifying—many of the young rural children had never been on an airplane.

“Strapped in their seats, some of the kids screamed with fright at the roar of the engines or as they lost sight of the ground,” wrote Jim La Belle. “For these children, airplanes came to represent unknown forces that took them to alien places, then returned them in the spring profoundly changed.”

Entire communities lost all of their young people for nine or 10 months each year. A group of social science researchers looking into the effects those policies decades later found that “the loss of children to boarding schools created a tremendous void, one that interviewees said was filled by alcohol and a breakdown in society.” Those same researchers found that the experience of many boarding school alumni was mixed. There were memories of fondness, friendship, and growth alongside a sense of profound loss, sadness, and cultural dislocation. One oft-cited effect of boarding schools is that it built cross-cultural relationships among talented young people at a pivotal period in Alaska’s history, laying the groundwork for the political organizing that led to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

But the violence involved in the boarding school system was horrific; perhaps the most striking example is the Wrangell Institute. Established in 1932, it was at points the only public primary education option for Alaska Natives. Students were brutally beaten for even minor infractions, like speaking in their native language. Sexual abuse by the staff was endemic. By the time it was closed in the ’70s, two generations had been taught that the worlds they came from were invalid and worthy of punishment.

Then, in 1972, students sued the State of Alaska, claiming that the decision not to “provide local high schools in Native villages constituted a pattern and practice of racial discrimination.” The case ultimately led the state of Alaska to agree to establish schools in every community that had eight or more students (it has since been amended to 10).

Mt. Edgecumbe High School remains, as do a handful of other boarding schools. The Sitka-based institution was one of the few secondary schools providing public education to rural teenagers for decades and it is credited in part with training the generation of leaders who won major civil rights and legal victories for Alaska Natives. Now it’s the site of changing conversations around Indigenous identity, pedagogy, and a cultural revival. Enrollment is voluntary, and in addition to traditional coursework, cultural activities are encouraged; there are Indigenous dance groups on campus, a building devoted to cultural activities, and weekly Fry Bread Friday, where traditional foods are served. Some students have the opportunity to hunt deer with licensed faculty in Sitka, and though it’s not a substitute for traditional hunting, it’s a practice aligned with the subsistence way of life to which many in attendance are accustomed. As Ash Adams’ photographs explore, Mt. Edgecumbe is incubating a new experiment in how Alaska’s youth will inherit the territory.

Students eat lunch at Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska.

Ravenne Snow and Courtney Lestenkof watch YouTube in Lestenkof’s bunk.

Nelson Jackson, 18, texts about his victory in Fortnite, a video game many students play in their recreational time.

Students at Mt. Edgecumbe create art as part of a cultural arts program.

Claire Greene, 16, paints Courtney Lestenkof’s nails in her dorm room the night before prom.

Students receive haircuts from volunteers the day before prom.

Kaisa Kotch, 14, hugs Courtney Lestenkof, 16, after getting ready for prom.

Students wait in line to have their photos taken.

Students hug on the steps of one of the dormitories.

An American flag hangs in the dorm room of Paige Goodwin, 18, and Sacha Saccheus, 16.

Alaska history class

Daisy Hunt sings in a group led by visiting artist Stephen Blanchett, a renowned traditional musician who has performed with the Inuit group Pamyua for the past 25 years. Blanchett was brought to the school as part of a cultural arts program.

A map in the reception area shows the places where some of the student body comes from.

Students board the bus to attend their classmates’ graduation ceremony.

After the graduation ceremony in Sitka


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