On Fighting Inequality, Which Nations Do More than Pay Lip Service?

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Student Debt Means Fewer Public Servants — and More Bankers

college graduates looking onto horizon

(Image: Shutterstock)

Cum laude, my diploma reads — “with honor.” But cum debitum, “with debt,” is a bit more accurate.

Collectively, America’s student borrowers owe $ 1.7 trillion. On average, each graduating senior this year is beginning their life around $ 37,000 in the hole.

That looks like a lot, but when you’re living with student debt, you look at that number and don’t even flinch. The debt is so normal it’s like an inside joke for pretty much everyone in my generation. Except we’re the punch line.

I graduated class of 2015 from a private, liberal arts college — a “most selective” one, U.S. News and World Report assures me. It was also an expensive degree, Sallie Mae reminds me. Monthly.

Yes, I chose to go to a private, expensive college. There was a calculus there, and one part of it was “I liked the feeling of it.”

I know, this type of sentimental idealism is a privilege. It’s no surprise I came out with the equally sentimental notion that I wanted to do non-profit work — which makes it that much harder to pay those loan bills.

It’s baffling to my Filipino parents. They didn’t cross the ocean and consign themselves to discrimination and demeaning jobs because they liked the “feel of it” — or even on the promise that their lives would be better. They did it on the promise that my life would be better. And that I wouldn’t owe anyone anything.

They could live underwater, they decided — but they at least expected their children to take a breath of fresh air. Well, sometimes it feels like the air is polluted. And the water is teeming with loan sharks.

So much so that some companies — among them many banks, financial institutions, and other large for-profit businesses — have begun including student loan repayment assistance in their salary packages.

I have to admit it’s tempting, especially since the Trump administration wants to end a federal program that would forgive the student loans of people who commit to public service work.

What’s the alternative, after all?

Having a non-profit career in something you care about can require years of barely remunerated labor: an unpaid internship, volunteer work, a minimum-wage second job, or a salary that barely meets the threshold for a living wage.

Prioritizing a career in something you care about, in addition to paying rent and groceries, requires consigning yourself to a debt you’ll live with until you have children. That is, if you have children — since you don’t want to deal with their student debt either.

It’s not surprising to me that some of my classmates decide to return to school — maybe if they add more letters to their degree they’ll magically land a job they’re passionate about with a salary that can pay the bills.

It’s also not surprising that some of my peers decide to join the other side, cashing in on connections and scooping up those high-paying corporate jobs. But what happens when you have a generation of people trained to enter the public service entering Wall Street instead?

What a loss.

This is just one facet of the student debt crisis — others include putting off starting a family or buying a home. Too many of us are saddled with debt, and too many of us are structuring our lives around this ledger.

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CEOs Now Make 300 Times More Than Their Workers. This City Is Putting a Stop to That.

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(Photo: Flickr/ Democracy Chronicles)

With national policy likely to compound the income and wealth gap in the coming years, states and localities are fighting back.

Across the country, local jurisdictions aren’t waiting for federal action or corporate governance reforms to close the wage gap. In December, for example, the city of Portland, Oregon, passed an ordinance to raise the business tax on companies with CEOs who earn more than 100 times the median pay of their workers. Portland officials said the ordinance is the first of its kind in the country. And now, more cities and states are poised to follow suit.

“The huge divide in income and wealth has real-world implications,” Steve Novick wrote last October in Inequality.org. Novick sponsored the ordinance when he was on the Portland City Council. “Too many Americans cannot get a leg up,” he wrote. “Income inequality undermines the American dream.”

Portland city government projects the tax will raise $ 2.5 million to $ 3.5 million a year, which city officials have said will likely help pay for the city’s homeless programs.

Inspired by the living wage movement, Portland’s ordinance comes on the heels of decades of grassroots activism around the issue of wage inequality.

Starting in the 1990s, the failure of Congress to adequately raise the federal minimum wage gave rise to a prairie-fire movement of local activists pressing for local and state living wage ordinances. Living wage ordinances typically cover a segment of workers, such as employees of government contractors, while minimum wage laws cover all workers. By 2010, over 120 jurisdictions had passed local living wage laws, and at present, 41 jurisdictions have passed minimum wage laws.

“I expect this pay gap reform movement to spread like wildfire, just as the living wage movement did,” said Sarah Anderson from the Institute for Policy Studies. “I’ve gotten inquiries from over two dozen states and cities about how to establish a pay gap ordinance.”

Anderson lobbied the Portland City Council in support of the policy and testified at a public hearing. She has since compiled resources for communities interested in instituting a CEO-worker pay gap penalty.

Read the full article on YES! Magazine’s website. 

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Under Trump, the U.S. May Now Be Killing More Civilians Than Russia

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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In a desolated patch of Mosul, Iraq, people are still digging through the rubble. Rescuers wear masks to cover the stench, while anxious family members grow desperate about missing loved ones.

The full story of what happened in the al-Jidideh neighborhood isn’t yet clear, but the toll is unmistakable. A New York Times journalist reported stumbling across charred human limbs, still covered in clothing, while a man stood nearby holding a sign with 27 names — extended family members either missing or dead.

All told, 200 or more civilians may be dead there following a U.S. airstrike on the densely populated neighborhood. The military has acknowledged the strike, but says it’s still investigating the deaths. If the allegations are true, this was by far our deadliest attack on innocents in decades.

The carnage comes amid a push by the U.S. and its Iraqi allies to reclaim Mosul, Iraq’s second most populous city, from the Islamic State (or ISIS).

That’s making life terrifying for the city’s residents, who’ve endured years of depredations from ISIS only to fall under U.S. bombs — and to face possible human rights abuses from Iraqi soldiers they don’t trust. “Now it feels like the coalition is killing more people than ISIS,” one resident told the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

Unfortunately, that may not be so far from the truth. AirWars, which tracks civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria, counted over 1,300 reports of civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in March alone. That’s about triple the count from February.

In fact, AirWars estimates, more U.S. coalition strikes are now causing civilian casualties than strikes by Russia, which was loudly (and appropriately) accused of war crimes for its bombing of Aleppo, Syria last year.

Is this the simple result of the fight heating up in Mosul? Not quite.

In the same month, at least 30 civilians were reported killed by a U.S. airstrike outside Raqqa, Syria — where the real battle with ISIS hasn’t even begun yet — and up to 50 more may have died when the U.S. bombed a mosque in Aleppo.

Instead, some observers suspect the Trump administration is relaxing Obama-era rules designed to limit civilian casualties in war zones. They deny this, but the Times reports that field commanders appear to be exercising more latitude to launch strikes in civilian-heavy areas than before.

During the campaign, Trump himself famously promised to “bomb the s—” out of ISIS. That sounds extreme, and it is.

But it’s only a few steps beyond the Obama administration’s approach of gradually expanding our air wars outside the public eye. Trump’s just taking it to another level by putting virtually all key foreign policy decisions in military hands, while gutting resources for diplomacy and humanitarian aid.

The human costs of this will be enormous. The political costs will be, too.

The U.S. has been “bombing the s—” out of Iraq for decades now, which has consistently created more terrorists than it’s killed. Extremists are flourishing in Iraq. The same can’t be said for the civilians now burying their dead in Mosul.

Of course, ISIS is guilty of its own innumerable atrocities. But the war-torn sectarian politics that gave rise to the group are a direct result of this military-first foreign policy. There’s simply no reason to believe that reducing Iraq’s cities to rubble will give way to less extremism in their ashes.

Iraqis will still have to wrest their country back from ISIS. But if it’s ever going to get back on its feet, what the country truly needs is a political solution. That’s going to require a surge of aid, diplomacy, and honest brokering — all of which are in short supply now.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Why Spend $54 Billion More on the Pentagon? To Start a War, Obviously.

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(Photo: Joint Chiefs of Staff / Flickr)

So, let me see if I’ve got this right.

North Korea has been pushing its ally China to rein in the United States. Pyongyang is worried that Washington is about to launch a preemptive attack, so it has tried to use whatever minimal amount of influence it has to persuade China to use its considerable economic leverage with the United States to get those knuckleheads inside the Beltway to listen to reason.

Or maybe I misheard the report on the radio.

How about this: As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to stop reckless U.S. military interventions overseas, like the one he so disliked (after it failed) in Iraq. So, as president, he is withdrawing all troops from Syria, reducing U.S. military presence in Asia, and pulling the United States out of NATO. Oh, and he’s going to cut the military as part of his overall promise to downsize government.

Perhaps I misheard that report as well.

During the Obama administration, the comic duo of Key and Peele famously introduced the “anger translator” who could give voice to what President Obama was really thinking as he provided measured responses to all manner of nonsense lobbed in his direction. Ah, those were halcyon days when we made fun of the American president for not giving voice to his true feelings.

What kind of translator do we need for the Trump era? Perhaps a “reality translator” that reveals the simple, id-like intentions behind the current president’s Tweet-rants and policy proposals.

Type in “Obama bugged Trump Tower” and out comes: “Hey, hey, stop looking at my links to Russia, okay!?” Type in “2017 budget proposal” and out comes: “I’m gonna destroy every potential source of resistance to me and my ambitions.” Type in “Trumpcare” and out comes “I’m going to rob poor Peter to pay propertied Paul.” (To quote just one example: Trumpcare would encourage health care companies to pay their overpaid CEOs even more money!)

I’ve come to the conclusion, after about 60 days of presidential antics, that the problem is not “fake news.” The problem is a fake administration.

It’s no surprise that Donald Trump, as president, just makes things up. He’s been doing that all his career. But now an entire government is being re-engineered around the pathological dishonesty of the executive and his advisors. This is bait-and-switch on a level never seen before in the United States.

It would all be rather amusing if millions of lives weren’t at stake — both domestically through the self-destruction of the federal government and internationally through the very real prospects of war.

This president, with his insuperable ambition to score some “wins,” is in search of some missions to declare accomplished. North Korea and the Islamic State are at the top of the list. But don’t be surprised if the $ 54 billion that Trump wants to add like an enormous cherry on top of the Pentagon’s over-rich sundae will translate into even more conflicts around the world.

Let’s Go to the Numbers

If Trump’s proposed Pentagon increase of $ 54 billion were the military budget of a distinct country, it would come in fifth on the list of global military expenditures. Basically, Trump wants to add an entire annual British military budget on top of what the United States already spends — which already towers above any imaginary coalition of potential rivals.

With the rest of his deplorable budget request, Trump will encounter pushback from Congress and cities and major constituencies like the over-65 set. Some of his own voters might finally come to their senses when they realize that Trump the Great is waving his magic hand in the air to distract them from seeing the other hand pick their pockets.

But on the military side, Trump has, if anything, underbid. Congressional hawks are complaining that Trump is not throwing enough money at the Pentagon. They say that he’s only offering a 3 percent increase over what the Obama administration estimated for 2018, that Trump the candidate made even grander promises, that the Pentagon should get at least another $ 37 billion. If Congress comes back with this figure, it would increase the increase to $ 91 billion. Trump’s boost alone would then rise to number three on the list of global spenders, after the United States and China.

What does Trump want to spend all this extra money on? He wants a 350-ship navy — even though the Navy is already undertaking a 30-year program to raise the number of ships from the current 272 ships to 308. He has hinted at pulling out of the New START treaty with Russia — once he found out what it was — so that he could build more nukes. There would be more soldiers, including as many as 60,000 more in the Army.

But all of this is just skirting the real issue. Donald Trump wants to spend more money on the military because he wants to go to war.

First: Islamic State

As a candidate, Donald Trump focused most of his martial fury on the Islamic State. He promised to “bomb the hell” out of ISIS and, within 30 days in office, come up with a plan to defeat the entity. When he was elected, radical jihadists predictably rejoiced: Bring it on, they effectively said.

Within 30 days, Trump indeed published a memorandum on defeating ISIS. Bottom line: We need to come up with a plan.

In the absence of a strategy, what Trump has done is chilling enough. He has unleashed the CIA to conduct drone strikes, reversing an Obama administration order. He has continued to sanction B-52 strikes, like the one this month in the Syrian village of Al Jinah that killed dozens of civilians. He’s sending 1,000 troops to join the fight against ISIS in Syria. He wants to rely more on Special Forces in raids like the one in Yemen in January that went so spectacularly wrong, leaving one Navy SEAL and several civilians dead.

In some ways, Trump is merely continuing Obama-era practices. But it promises to be a no-holds-barred version of the last administration counter-terrorism program.

Even our allies in the region are getting concerned. Trump met this week with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, pledging to stand side-by-side with Iraq in the campaign to defeat ISIS.

But after the meeting, Abadi apparently had second thoughts. “Committing troops is one thing. Fighting terrorism is another thing,” he said at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “You don’t defeat terrorism by fighting it militarily. There are better ways.” Perhaps Abadi was thinking of the Trump administration’s initial inclusion of Iraq among the seven countries on the “Muslim travel ban” list. Or maybe he was thinking of Trump’s alarming pledge to seize Iraqi oil now under ISIS control.

Or perhaps the “better ways” simply referred to all the non-military parts of U.S. foreign policy — diplomacy, food aid, cooperation with international organizations — that Trump wants to ax from the federal budget. Even stalwart Trump supporters like Bob Dole are up in arms about humanitarian programs — like the Dole-McGovern initiative that provides school meals to 40 million children around the world — that are now on the chopping block.

What better way of creating the next generation of America haters?

Next: North Korea

Rex Tillerson, the empty suit that Trump has installed in the now supererogatory position of secretary of state, is trying to get back in on the action. On a recent trip to Asia, Tillerson sat down with Chinese premier Xi Jinping to plot the further isolation of North Korea.

Tillerson pointed out that the “strategic patience” approach toward North Korea had failed over the last eight years. That’s obviously true. The alternative, however, was much worse: Tillerson said that all options, including military ones, were on the table.

All of the military options come with unacceptable risks of retaliation and escalation to full-scale war. The United States could try to destroy a single missile launch, take out as much of North Korea’s nuclear complex as possible, or attempt a full regime change à la Iraq. “North Korea would perceive even a limited strike as the start of a war,” Max Fisher points out in The New York Times, “and respond with its full arsenal.”

Given the relatively crude ICBM capability that North Korea currently possesses, those who would suffer from an escalation would be Korean, Japanese, and Chinese people.

Perhaps Trump is simply trying to scare Beijing into doing more to rein in its erstwhile ally. But China doesn’t have that kind of influence in Pyongyang (just as it doesn’t have that kind of influence in Washington to change the Trump administration’s policies).

Or perhaps the Trump administration will go to war simply out of a general attitude of un-strategic impatience.

Beyond ISIS and Pyongyang

Building the Navy up to 350 ships and inducting another 60,000 people into the Army have little to do with dealing with either ISIS or North Korea, unless the Trump administration anticipates sending another large occupation force to the Middle East or Asia. Even Trump knows that dispatching tens of thousands of American troops to a warzone is a political mistake.

Partly Trump’s moves are about ensuring that the military is on his side. Partly it’s about tilting government in general away from soft power and toward hard power. Partly it’s about Trump’s personal vulnerability on military matters given his decision not to fight in Vietnam. It wouldn’t be the first time that a guy stocked up on weapons as part of a grand scheme of compensation.

There’s been speculation that Trump is really bulking up for a showdown with China. Given Trump’s phone call with Taiwan, his threats to impose tariffs on Chinese imports, and his bellicose rhetoric about China’s role in the island dispute in the South China Sea, there does seem to be some good evidence for this possibility. But the Trump administration has recently dialed back the hostility. Trump himself assured Chinese leader Xi Jinping of U.S. commitment to the “one-China” policy. Tillerson followed with a visit in Beijing that emphasized “mutual respect.”

The uncomfortable truth is that Trump probably doesn’t have any specific war-fighting scenario beyond laying waste to ISIS territory and declaring mission accomplished over the smoking ruins. Rather, he wants to put the United States on a permanent war footing as a way to sustain his unpopular presidency.

Until a challenger emerges that can focus U.S. national security concerns, Trump will let fire at a range of targets such as terrorists, journalists, and Germans. Perhaps his provocative rhetoric and actions will encourage some small country to stand up suicidally against the United States and allow Trump to declare a Grenada-like or Panama-like victory.

Like the $ 19.5 billion that the Trump administration is giving NASA for its Mars program, Trump’s war plans are a long shot. Casinos know that once a gambler wins on a long shot, they’ll go bankrupt trying to reproduce that once-in-a-lifetime event. Unfortunately, bankruptcy in Trump’s case means collective ruin for the rest of us.

Any chance we can convince NASA to send Trump on its first manned mission to Mars — so that he can return to the planet that birthed him?

John Feffer directs the Foreign Policy in Focus Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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More Americans Are Drowning Financially in Underwater Nation

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(Photo: Emiel de Lange / Shutterstock)

Are you or a loved one having trouble staying afloat? You’re truly not alone.

While the media reports low unemployment and a rising stock market, the reality is that almost 20 percent of the country lives in “Underwater Nation,” with zero or even negative net worth. And more still have almost no cash reverses to get them through hard times.

This is a source of enormous stress for many low and middle-income families.

Savings and wealth are vital life preservers for people faced with job loss, illness, divorce, or even car trouble. Yet an estimated 15 to 20 percent of families have no savings at all, or owe more than they own.

They’re disproportionately rural, female, renters, and people without a college degree. But the underwater ranks also include a large number of people who appear to be in the stable middle class. Health challenges are a major cause of savings depletion for these people, both in medical bills and lost wages.

Plenty more Americans could be vulnerable.

A financial planner will advise you to put aside three months of living expenses in financial reserves, just in case. So if your living expenses are $ 2,000 a month, you should try to have $ 6,000 in “liquidity” — money you can easily get to in an emergency.

But 44 percent of households don’t have enough funds to tide themselves over for three months, even if they lived at the poverty level, according to the Assets and Opportunity Scorecard.

Even having a positive net worth doesn’t mean you can always tap these funds, especially if wealth takes the form of home equity or owning a car.

Bankrate survey found that 63 percent of U.S. households lack the cash or savings to meet a $ 1,000 emergency expense. They’d have to borrow from a friend or family, or put costs on a credit card.

Seven percent of U.S. homeowners are underwater homeowners, with mortgage debt higher than the value of their homes. And more and more people have taken on credit card debt to pay the bills. Meanwhile, student debt is rising rapidly and is projected to become one of the biggest factors in negative wealth.

Conservative scolds will blame individuals for “living beyond their means” and being financially irresponsible. And individual behavior is important. But the financial stresses facing millions of families are more likely the result of four decades of stagnant incomes.

Half the workers in this country haven’t shared in the economic gains that have mostly gone to the rich. Their real wages have stayed flat while health care, housing, and other expenses continue to rise.

So not everyone is on the edge at this time of dizzying inequality, after all. The 400 wealthiest billionaires in the U.S. have as much wealth together as the bottom 62 percent of the population.

This is only possible because of the expanding ranks of drowning Americans.

Some politicians will scapegoat immigrants or other vulnerable people for this suffering. When this happens, hold on tight to your purse or wallet. They’re trying to distract you from the rich and powerful elites who are rigging the rules to get more wealth and power.

They want to deflect your attention away from the reality that your economic pain is the result of deliberate government rules that give more tax cuts to the super-rich and global corporations, keep wages down, push up tuition costs, and let corporations nickel and dime you for all you’re worth.

Congress and the Trump administration are proposing to cut health care, pass more tax cuts for the rich, and give global corporations even more power over you. They promise benefits will “trickle down.”

Unless we speak up, the only trickle will be the expansion of Underwater Nation.

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Immigrants Pay More Than Their Fair Share

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(Image: Lightspring / Shutterstock)

It’s hip these days to pick on immigrants. From Pennsylvania Avenue to Phoenix, we’ve seen public displays of hostility toward undocumented workers over and over.

Hostile politicians especially like to say that migrants are a drain on society. During Donald Trump’s recent speech to Congress, for instance, the president implied that immigrants cost “America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.”

But among their many other contributions to American society, it turns out that undocumented immigrants pay an enormous amount of taxes — in fact, $ 11.7 billion in state and local taxes alone.

That’s according to a just-released study from the non-partisan Institute on Taxes and Economic Policy. That figure includes $ 7 billion in sales and excise taxes, $ 3.6 billion in property taxes, and $ 1.1 billion in income taxes.

This total is spread among states and municipalities ranging in scale. The largest is California, where an estimated 3 million immigrants contribute more than $ 3 billion in tax revenue. For comparison, that pretty well covers what the state spends on special education for all Californians.

All told, undocumented workers pay about 8 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Compare that to the wealthiest 1 percent, who pay just 5.4 percent.

Read the full article on InsideSources.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Americans Want to Be More Equal

Of all the pressing problems facing our country, which one garners the concern of the biggest share of Americans? The growing gap between rich and poor.

More than half the country, new Pew Research Center polling confirms, considers growing economic inequality a serious national problem. No other issue elicits as much public concern.

Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, deep partisan lines appear to divide this public unease over inequality. Seven in 10 Hillary Clinton supporters deem inequality a pressing issue. Just three in 10 Trump backers feel the same way.

So what are we to make of numbers like these? For starters, we need to remind ourselves that rising inequality remains indisputable fact. Study after study continues to detail how the rich get richer and the rest of us do not.

Read the full article on U.S. News and World Report’s website.

The post Americans Want to Be More Equal appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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More Troops in Afghanistan is a Huge Mistake

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(Photo: Flickr / David Axe)

“It was a huge mistake when President Obama made the decision back in 2009 to escalate in Afghanistan,” bringing the total up to 100,000 U.S. troops, Phyllis Bennis told Press TV, and it’s a huge mistake now.

In 15 years of occupation, Bennis said, the region has not been stabilized, there has been no freedom brought to the people of Afghanistan, and the Taliban controls more territory than at any point since the U.S. invasion that overthrew them in 2001.

We have not even achieved the goal of getting children, especially girls, to school, Bennis said. In fact, 42 percent of Afghan children either have never been to school or dropped out before they reached the fifth grade.

As long as there are troops in the region, Bennis said, “there is going to be a continuing war against that occupation and against the Afghan government, which is widely seen as corrupt and encouraging this U.S. presence.”

Furthermore, Bennis said the Afghan president does not hold himself accountable to the people, most of whom live outside of the city in tiny villages scattered over a huge territory.

No matter who is in the White House come November, Bennis said, unfortunately it is likely that this ineffective policy in Afghanistan will continue.

“What we know from  Secretary Clinton is that she has generally supported the escalation of U.S. involvement in all the wars across the Middle East and Central Asia,” Bennis said. “There is no reason to think that she will have changed her position.

As for Donald Trump, she said, it is pretty clear that his Islamophobia and antagonism toward Muslims would play out and he would be willing to send massive numbers of troops, despite his occasional rhetoric on isolationism.

The culmination of militarism and hate from Trump, Bennis said “would indicate a very dangerous possibility of escalation in Afghanistan.”

Watch the full interview on Press TV’s website.

The post More Troops in Afghanistan is a Huge Mistake appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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From Paris to Istanbul, More ‘War on Terror’ Means More Terrorist Attacks

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(Photo: Wikipedia)

At least 41 people were killed in the recent bombing of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

The day before, suicide bombers killed five people in Qaa, a small village in Lebanon. And while the Saudi-led and U.S.-backed war in Yemen continues to rage, an ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for attacks in the Yemeni port city of Mukalla that killed at least 12.

As of June 29, ISIS affiliates had claimed responsibility only for the Yemen attacks. But just a few hours after the Istanbul airport attack, Turkish authorities were already blaming ISIS. Since Ankara (unlike the U.S., where many officials blame ISIS for every act of violence) has been eager to blame every attack against Turkish targets on its Kurdish opponents — especially the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK — the government’s early willingness to blame ISIS implies the likely existence of some convincing evidence.

Importantly, all three attacks took place following a significant defeat of ISIS on the ground.

The Iraqi military, backed by U.S. forces, had been moving against the extremist forces in the symbolically and politically important city of Fallujah since early February, when it imposed a full siege on the city. The closure, which denied civilian residents access to food, medicine, and other life-saving supplies, devastated living conditions for the ordinary Iraqis caught between ISIS brutality and the extreme deprivation caused by the siege. On June 26 — just days before the bombings in Istanbul, Lebanon, and Yemen — Baghdad proclaimed the city “liberated” from ISIS. Two days later, the Istanbul airport was attacked.

The timing was similar to other terrorist attacks that occurred as ISIS was losing ground. In the fall of 2015, the U.S.-led coalition, including many European countries, escalated its bombing attacks on the ISIS-held city of Ramadi. As ISIS faced the likely loss of the Iraqi town, it pivoted away from its emphasis on holding territory to return to its earlier focus on terror attacks against civilians. The Paris bombing — apparently carried out by ISIS-affiliated terrorists — shook the world on November 13. Two weeks later, on December 2, a California couple allegedly inspired by ISIS carried out the mass shooting in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and injured 22 more.

On December 28, the Iraqi military would declare Ramadi “liberated” from ISIS. (This celebratory announcement didn’t mention the inconvenient fact that U.S. bombing had largely pulverized what was left of the town. The 350,000 residents who’d fled ISIS brutality had no city to return to.)

The correlation between ISIS losing territory in its so-called “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq and the rise of terror attacks often much farther afield is one more indication of the failure of the U.S. “war on terror.”

Once again, it demonstrates the futility of attempting to bomb or shoot terrorism out of existence. When bombing and shooting are the methods of choice the targets are not “terrorism,” but cities and people. Air strikes and drone attacks — on people in a car, in the desert, in a hospital, or at a wedding party — may sometimes kill individual terrorists (and always other people), but do nothing to stop terrorism. Leaders are soon replaced, and the most adept bomb-makers soon turn out to have trained a successor.

Military engagement may have worked in some areas to oust ISIS forces from territory they controlled, but the cost of such campaigns is extraordinarily high for the people and nations where they occur. People face, as in Ramadi, the absolute destruction of their homes and city. They may become refugees or internally displaced people for a generation or more. In Fallujah, thousands of desperate civilians fleeing the fighting in mid-June found that no preparations had been made to care for them — with clean water, food, shelter from the searing heat, and medical care all lacking.

A big problem Iraqi forces and their U.S. backers face is the lack of support from some residents for their “liberators.” In a recent poll in Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, a full 74 percent of Sunni residents said they didn’t want to be liberated by the Iraqi military. ISIS has held the city since June 2014.

This harkens back to the original reason ISIS became so powerful in Iraq. It’s not because ordinary Iraqis supported the group’s brutal, extremist definition of Islam, but because the sectarian Shi’a-dominated government in Baghdad — and the often even more brutal and sectarian Shi’a militias allied to that government — made ISIS appear a lesser evil. Of course not all Sunnis, or even a majority, turned to ISIS. But a not-insignificant number did, and some continue to accept the group, however reluctantly.

U.S.-led military campaigns “against terror” continue to set the stage for more terror attacks, and to create more terrorists, as anger turns to rage — and rage, for some, turns brutally violent. The military-first U.S. strategy is exacting a huge price — especially for the people in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, and beyond — but also on us here at home, and on civilians throughout the world.

If we ‘re serious about ending terror attacks, there are a host of non-military approaches that hold far more promise than bomb-drone-kill. Diplomacy, humanitarian support, arms embargos, economic assistance, more diplomacy — we need to use them all instead of military action, not alongside it. Step one means acknowledging that the current strategy is failing.

The post From Paris to Istanbul, More ‘War on Terror’ Means More Terrorist Attacks appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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