Editorials: A nation of clumsy hit men? and The totalitarian element

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Senior commander of the IRGC’s Quds Forces Lieutenant-General Qasem Soleimani was assassinated in a terrorist operation in Baghdad Friday morning. Iraqi media on Friday quoted official resources as saying that the Major General of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) and the acting commander of the volunteer Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), known as Hash al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, who were separately leaving Baghdad airport in two cars were targeted and assassinated. Tehran, Iran, January 4, 2019. Islamic Republic News Agency photo and caption – Iran’s official words and symbols, because even if they are to become the deadliest of enemies it’s important to know from whence they come.

Brazen but bumbling crime

Yes, we have heard it so often. The whole nation is terrorist, the men are all gangsters, the women are all whores and the children are of no consequence. But if we send in US troops, they will surely be greeting us with flowers.

That was the prediction back in 2003 when, against a small honor roll of politicians who objected, the United States invaded Iraq. Saddam’s forces quickly collapsed, but some of the militias that sprang up to begin a stubborn resistance counted on an Iranian advisor, Qasem Soleimani, who taught them to take the bombs and shells that Saddam’s forces abandoned and US forces neglected to promptly collect and improvise remote controlled mines that greatly complicated the invaders’ used of the roads and cost the lives of a number of US military personnel and mercenaries.

America gets to invade and bomb, but if anyone shoots back, it’s a terrorist war crime, you see. And since the enemy are illegitimate by definition, Americans can torture them, make military targets of their religious and cultural sites and assassinate their public officials when on diplomatic visits abroad. And declare in advance 52 attacks for every time they fire a shot at us.

But see, America has been fighting in Afghanistan for more than 18 years now, and the only possible end is a negotiated US withdrawal and ultimate Taliban victory. It’s more than 16 years after the Iraq invasion and the government that the United States installed is demanding a US withdrawal. The world is sick of war crimes wrapped in a cloak of American exceptionalism. The Europeans who went to war in Iraq as US allies now saying that, notwithstanding Trump’s defiance of the Iraqi request to leave, THEIR forces have suspended operations and intend to leave.

In another country not far across the Indian Ocean, a naval base in Kenya which housed US military personnel and mercenaries was attacked by the Al Shabab jihadis in the aftermath of Soleimani’s assassination. Was there any relationship?

If there was, political alarms should be going off. Al Shabab are Sunnis of the Wahabi sort, usually expected to be hostile to Iranians and others of the Shia branch of Islam. If they are now allied with Iran, or lashing out in solidarity with the hope of striking up an alliance, that’s another split in the Saudi-led Sunni jihad against Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and ultimately Iran. It’s a jihad with which both Democratic and Republican administrations unwisely allied the United States, and which a growing bipartisan group in Congress now opposes. The s-word gets thrown around way too much, but if the assassination of General Soleimani has driven Al Shabab close to Iran, that’s a significant “strategic” setback for a US policy that was senseless from the start.

So, just an unthinking move by a reality TV hustler? Actually, a businessman who has been mobbed up since the early days of Manhattan construction and an Atlantic City casino. Back then, with La Cosa Nostra families in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. In more recent years, heavily backed by Russian mobsters and with Mexican, Colombian and Brazilian gangsters as clients and business associates.

Trump knows about gangland hits and was surely thinking like a gangster when he ordered the hit on Soleimani. He figures that the most vulgar part of the television audience will be enthralled by the violence and distracted from other unsavory facts about himself. Those who think that professional wrestling is real and entertaining, plus the End Times sort of religious fanatics, plus the white supremacists, provide an overlapping base that just might give him another term.

Trump’s conduct was not unthinking, just reckless. He’s out for personal gain and doesn’t care about anything or anyone else.

Problem is, this is not a scripted game with the rest of the world playing along. Even America’s closest traditional allies are stepping back in horror.

Listen carefully to the Democrats who would replace Trump. Do they argue that the Soleimani hit was justified but badly timed? Or that it would have been justified had Trump only notified Congress?

In the upcoming primary those who would accept gangsterism and those against will trade allegations. It’s actually a divide between those who would go back to what the United States used to get away with doing and those ready to stride forward into new ethical standards, new understandings with friends and foes in the world, new sets of alliances and a new array of American soft power.

 

This past July a predominantly male mob organized by Zulay Rodríguez, “through the use of … persecution or harassment… force[d] … [citizen, journalist and activist Gaby Gnazzo, a woman] … [to leave the National Assembly galleries, where she had every right to be.]” But if Gaby is a strong individual who does not suffer terrible psychological damages from this treatment, it’s OK?

Would-be Panamanian fascism

The PRD is President Cortizo’s party. Now one of its members, PRD deputy Zulay Rodríguez, is using the courts of this nation that he leads in an attempt to send a journalist, Mauricio Valenzuela to prison for years for asking her a question about more than 62 kilos of gold ingots that she took from a client. That erstwhile client’s claim is in the public courts by way of a lawsuit against that legislator, a matter of public interest and to the extent that our opaque courts allow anyone to see, a matter of public record.

Zulay is abusing a landmark piece of legislation meant to address the serious problem of violence to control the lives of women in her attack on freedom of the press.

Some of us know domestic violence and the long-lasting psychological damage it can cause. The child who has been chased out of the family home with a gun, and has nightmares and flashbacks of running away in stark terror for years afterward. The cop, called into a domestic violence situation and having negative and distorted images and unreasonable thoughts of “If only…” imprinted in her mind forever. The woman who has been beaten into instinctive automatic fear of all men.

Which is why there is Article 138-A of the Penal Code, widely and rightly hailed as an advance for women’s rights:

Article 138-A. Anyone who engages in psychological violence through the use of threats, intimidation, blackmail, persecution or harassment against a woman or forces her to do or stop doing, tolerate exploitation, threats, demands of obedience or submission, humiliation or vexation, isolation or any other similar behaviors will be sanctioned with imprisonment of five to eight years.

If the behaviors described in the previous paragraph produce psychic damage, the penalty will be increased from one third to half the maximum penalty..

 

There are vagueness traps and proof problems in this law. What to say about the woman who claims to have been driven crazy who was mentally disturbed beforehand? What’s “similar behavior?” If an armed police officer validly arrests a woman, creating a public scene and some social humiliation, then takes the screaming individual away to a place where she is locked alone in a cell until brought before a prosecutor or judge to consider her case – is that officer guilty of a crime?

Those were the obvious issues for judges to iron out, but now we have this law used in the case of a reporter asking a politician a legitimate question.

And the leader of her party, President Cortizo, expects to jam through constitutional changes that go nowhere near addressing the systematic abuses of power by a thuggish political caste, of which we now have another example? Mr. Cortizo, if you are leader of this nation, lead. Bring your own legislative caucus into line or oblige the totalitarians to leave and form their own fascist party.

 

Bernadette

To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey    

Bear in mind…

There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.

Robertson Davies

 

It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.

Paul “Bear” Bryant

 

Climate and weather variables affect the air people breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, and the chances that they will get infected by a disease.

Margaret Chan

 

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