VIDEO: The U.S. War in Afghanistan Is Now 16 Years Old. Trump Has No Plans to End It.

On October 7, 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. The war is now 16 years old — and that’s not even counting the decade of U.S. intervention in the country during the Cold War.

Donald Trump once advocated the “speedy withdrawal” of U.S. troops from that country. As president, however, he’s gone in the opposite direction, demanding the U.S. must now “fight to win.” 

As Phyllis Bennis, director of the IPS New Internationalism project, explains in this short video, Trump’s plans to extend the war he once supported ending are even more worrisome for their lack of transparency. He’s not said how many new troops he’ll send or how long they’ll be deployed. Worse still, civilian casualties in multiple U.S. wars have been on the rise since he took office — by 67 percent in just six months.

It’s clear by now that the solution to terrorism won’t come from using military power, Bennis explains. That can only be achieved by diplomacy. “It’s harder, it takes longer, it’s not as sexy, it’s not sexy on CNN, it’s not any of those things,” she concludes. “But it’s the only thing that will work.” 

Video by Victoria Borneman and Peter Certo.

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8 Lessons U.S. Progressives Can Learn From the U.K. Labour Party

(Photo: Victoria M Gardner / Shutterstock)

In March, progressive activists in the United Kingdom had reason to feel deeply discouraged. Nine months earlier, a majority had voted for Brexit, setting in motion plans to pull the U.K. out of the European Union. Then Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May decided to call a “snap election” with the goal of consolidating Tory power in Parliament in the face of weak opposition. The Labour Party, led by progressive Jeremy Corbyn, was polling at a miserable 24 percent and facing the possibility of further marginalization.

But on June 8, Corbyn and the Labour Party experienced a stunning reversal of fortune, almost winning the national election called in to vanquish them. And as of mid-July, Labour is 8 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives.

One key force in this change was a grassroots network called Momentum, formed in 2015 to build participation and engagement in the Labour Party. This election, Momentum mobilized 23,000 members and 150 local chapters through on-the-ground campaigning and social media. Think Our Revolution and MoveOn.org with a powerful electoral field operation.

“The results were beautiful,” said Deborah Waters, a Momentum co-founder and volunteer. “I heard it described as ‘the bitterest of victories for the Conservatives and the sweetest of defeats for Labour.’ The winners didn’t really win and the losers didn’t really lose.”

How did this reversal happen? And what can those of us deep in this Trump presidency learn from it? What follows are eight lessons from Momentum and Labour’s remarkable campaign.

Read the full article on YES! Magazine.

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On Electric Cars, the U.S. Is Stuck in the Slow Lane

electric-car

(Photo: Noya Fields / Flickr)

The French government recently announced a plan to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2040. Not to be outdone, the UK government is now rolling out a similar plan of its own.

These plans sound shockingly radical, but in fact many analysts think those transitions will happen anyway.

For instance, the Dutch bank ING recently predicted that all the cars sold in Europe will be electric by 2030. More conservative estimates put it at 2050. Either way, most experts now see this change on the horizon.

Electric vehicles — or EVs — are already more efficient than their gas-powered counterparts, and could soon become cheaper too. High-end models already outperform conventional engines for speed and acceleration.

Yet potential buyers will continue to be wary as long as the range of batteries remains small, and the network of charging points — think gas stations for electric cars — remains patchy.

Rapidly developing technologies could help overcome this “range anxiety,” as the distance between charges could rise from around 100 miles to over 400 in the next decade. But it’s public policy, rather than technology, that’s the real driver of the EV revolution.

Take Norway, where EVs already account for more than 40 percent of new cars sold.

There, a publicly funded network of free charging stations is driving the surge. The government also offered a range of other perks and incentives: scrapping sales and registration taxes for EVs, exempting them from parking charges and road tolls, and allowing them to dodge heavy traffic by using bus and taxi lanes.

As sales of EVs come to overtake gas-powered cars, the subsidies are being phased out. Yet the benefits continue: A growing fleet of clean vehicles will massively reduce air and climate pollution, and Norway is now well placed to develop and export technologies in a fast growing new industry.

As other European governments get more serious about supporting EVs, some conventional automakers are already embracing an electric future. The Swedish company Volvo recently announced that all of its new cars will be electric or hybrids from 2019 onwards.

U.S. manufacturers, on the other hand, could scarcely be more different.

Oil companies and automakers have successfully lobbied the Trump administration to consider reversing Obama-era fuel-economy standards, which could have supported a shift to hybrids and EVs, as well as cutting pollution that leads to thousands of premature deaths every year.

No wonder the big three U.S. automakers — Ford, GM, and Chrysler — lag way behind their global competitors in developing new EVs. Even stock markets are questioning the wisdom of that bet, as Tesla’s value starts to rival its Detroit competitors.

Fortunately, states and cities can still lead where the federal government is failing.

California is sticking with its fuel-economy standards — the nation’s toughest — and mandating automakers to sell “zero emission vehicles” alongside conventional cars.

California’s cities are also leading the way with public charging points, but they’re not alone. Cities from Seattle to Atlanta are embracing EVs through incentives ranging from tax incentives to carpool lane access.

Of course, promoting EVs alone won’t solve our air pollution problem, or help the U.S. meet its share of global action on climate change — especially where electricity is still produced from coal and other fossil fuels.

We’ll also need better public transportation and changes in how cities are planned, to bring homes closer to shops and workplaces. But electric vehicles will be an important part of getting air pollution and climate change under control.

Local politicians need to step up where the Trump administration is failing, or we risk getting left in the slow lane.

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The U.S. Gives Refuge to Torture Victims from All Over — Except from Guantanamo

guantanamo-gitmo-protest-jail

(Photo: Garry Knight / Flickr)

June 26th marks the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day was declared in 1997 and is celebrated every year to honor the struggles of torture survivors.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that there are half-a-million torture survivors who’ve fled other countries in search of a safe haven. While survivors of torture who end up in the U.S. come from all over the globe, there’s a noticeable absence of a particular group of survivors: those tortured by the U.S. itself — and specifically those tortured at Guantanamo Bay.

Since it opened on January 11th, 2002, the prison at Guantanamo Bay has been one of the world’s most notorious. Housed at a U.S. military base on illegally occupied Cuban territory, the prison has held 779 Muslim men behind its bars over the years. For many, the experience has been devastating — not just for those who remain imprisoned, but for those who’ve been freed as well.

The prison currently houses 41 prisoners. Of those who remain, five men have been cleared for release, and 26 haven’t been either charged or cleared. Only seven have been charged in military commissions, and just three others have been convicted. The farcical semblance of justice that the military commissions have been designed to uphold includes a lack of due process rights, admission of hearsay evidence, and surveillance of attorney-client discussions. A fair trial for those detained is pretty much impossible.

However, this isn’t even the worst of Guantanamo, where at least nine men have died in U.S. custody, seven of those by suicide. Adnan Latif, one of the men who died, was a 32-year-old Yemeni citizen who’d spent 11 years behind bars at Guantanamo, even though he was cleared for release three times. Though questions remain about the government’s claim that he committed suicide, Latif suffered from serious mental health conditions. “Anybody who is able to die will be able to achieve happiness for himself,” he wrote in a parting letter to his attorney. “He has no other hope except that.”

But those who are released often fare no better than those still detained.

Take the case of Lutfi Bin Ali, a Tunisian citizen who spent 13 years in Guantanamo only to be released to Kazakhstan. Despite the fact that Bin Ali was subjected to egregious torture at the hands of the U.S. government, he’s expressed an eagerness to return to Guantanamo rather than face the isolation in his host country, where he knows no one. “At least in Guántanamo there were people to talk to,” he told the Guardian last September. “Here I have nobody.”

Bin Ali was told he’d be able to leave Kazakhstan after two years — a period that came up late last year. But similar to those made while he languished in Guantanamo Bay, where he was dubbed a “low risk” in 2004 but not released for another decade, those promises now look flimsy.

Guantanamo has become synonymous with the torture program orchestrated under the Bush administration. Many of the prisoners who ended up in Guantanamo were first subjected to torture in CIA black sites, the details of which can be found in the Senate Select Intelligence’s Committee report on CIA torture. Some of the worst findings include rectal feeding, eye removal, freezing conditions leading to death, and drowning simulations.

Fifteen years later, the security rationale for Guantanamo appears vaguer than ever. What do we win by housing Muslim men in a prison on illegally occupied land, subverting the rule of law to implement outrageous measures of “justice” and condoning and committing torture?

The rule of law in any democracy is built on the premise of accountability — yet, save for a pending civil suit against two psychologists who helped the CIA design its torture program, there’s been none for the torture that prisoners and former prisoners have experienced. Nor has the U.S. agreed to resettle any of those freed from Guantanamo, a move which symbolically cements their guilt despite their release without charge.

The prison’s future remains unclear, though President Trump has stated that no prisoners should be released. He’s even hinted at plans to “load it up with some bad dudes.”

On the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we have a moral and ethical imperative to execute justice — not justice conceived in the height of a national security panic, but justice that is fair, legitimate, and transparent. Nothing short of this will rectify the harm that’s been done to these prisoners — and our democracy.

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Trump’s War on the Climate Will Send U.S. Scientists Fleeing Abroad

science-climate-march

(Photo: Shutterstock)

On June 1, the Trump administration made the utterly irresponsible decision to exit the Paris climate accord. Predictably, global reactions are almost unanimously negative.

But what’s the scene in Paris itself?

There, Anne Hidalgo—the mayor of the city where the accord was negotiated—has convened an international forum called #Women4Climate, which is working to address the climate crisis. Meanwhile, new French president Emanuel Macron has pledged to double French solar and wind energy capacity by 2022.

Macron has even gone on TV to make a recruiting pitch to US scientists and clean energy technologists to relocate to France, saying “you are welcome here.” This raises the very real and frightening possibility of an exodus of scientific and technical expertise from the US resulting from Trump’s exit from Paris.

Whether US scientists and engineers take up Macron’s offer or not, Trump’s misguided attempt to revive fossil fuels will undermine American innovation and technological advances—even while the rest of the world benefits from a growing clean energy economy. The White House’s open disdain for climate science will embolden other countries to make pitches similar to Macron’s.

Why shouldn’t they?

Read the full article in Quartz.

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The World Won’t Wait for the U.S. to Take Climate Action


In pulling out of the Paris Accord, Trump is putting his own interests and the interests of his fellow billionaires first, IPS associate fellow Daphne Wysham told the Real News Network, noting his many investments in oil and gas projects.

“As a result, we are squandering what little trust and reputation and international standing we have with the international community,” she said.

Trump is also working to pull the U.S. out of the Green Climate Fund, which acknowledges that the world’s largest polluters, including the U.S., are responsible for the shifts in the climate. The GCF is designed so that developed countries provide funds to developing countries to help them meet their Climate Accord goals.

“The U.S. is responsible for 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions that are causing significant climate changes,” Wysham explained. “For the U.S. to acknowledge that it created a good share of this problem, but to decide to put itself first and turn its back on countries that are currently suffering extreme weather conditions, is morally and ethically bankrupt.”

While Trump’s announcement is a blow to the reputation of the U.S. on climate change,  it does not undo the work U.S. climate activists have been pushing towards, Wysham said.

“The solution has always been at the local level,” Wysham explained. “State and local officials have a lot of power and they’re showing it out here in the Pacific Northwest.”

Portland currently has a target for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035, with activists trying to push that even faster, Wysham explained. The city also has an ordinance for no new fossil fuel export infrastructure. She said that elected officials in both the West and East coast are eager to follow Portland’s lead.

Wysham also explained that the global community will continue to push towards a cleaner energy transition, “whether it’s the European Union joining up with China and pushing forward with plans to address the needs of the Green Development Bank for developing countries, or countries around the world that are moving forward with their plans to pursue renewable energy.”

“The global community is going to push forward regardless of what the U.S. does,” Wysham said. “It is no longer an option to sit around and wait for the one country that has over and over again attempted to disrupt meaningful climate action.”

Watch the full interview on the Real News Network.

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Who Suffers the Most from the U.S. Drug War? Families

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

Angela Pryor, a 41-year-old woman from Ross County, Ohio, is not living the life she thought she would.

She used to stay at home and take care of her kids while her husband, Jesse, went to work as a carpenter. But as Jesse fell into opioid addiction, Angela had to pick up the slack. It became even harder when he ended up in jail for selling drugs. And harder still when Jesse overdosed and passed away in 2015.

Now Angela’s struggling to care for her five children alone. She’s even lost her house, the Atlantic reported recently.

A few hundred miles to the east, in Washington, another familiar scene played out in the pages of the New York Times.

When Charlene Hamilton’s husband, Carl Harris, was jailed for selling drugs, she was left behind to take care of the kids, pay the rent and feed the family. Like Angela, Charlene found herself homeless more than once. She slept in a car for a month while her kids stayed with other relatives. Meanwhile in prison, Carl started using the drugs he once sold.

The similarities in their stories don’t stop there. Both families lived in communities plagued by joblessness. In Ohio, the decline of good-paying manufacturing jobs combined with health problems have led to a drug epidemic, largely among white men, that was responsible for more than 3,000 deaths statewide just last year.

Meanwhile, majority-black communities have been suffering from unemployment for decades. In the District of Columbia the unemployment rate for black residents — now at 13.4 percent — has actually gotten worse since the recession, even while every other racial and ethnic group in the city has seen an improvement.

These are the conditions that can lead a husband and father like Carl Harris or Jesse Pryor to turn to drug use, abuse and trade. It is what’s called economic despair. And it’s happening all over the country.

As extreme inequality gets worse and the middle class disintegrates, many formerly middle-income white Americans are now experiencing the sorts of pain long suffered by poorer communities of color.

All that’s bad enough. But there’s one man who seems determined to make it all worse: Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Reversing an Obama-era guideline, Sessions recently told federal prosecutors to go after low-level drug offenders and to seek the toughest possible penalties against them.

It’s an unmistakable return to widely discredited mandatory minimum sentencing laws that treat drug use and abuse as a crime, rather than a mental or physical health issue. (Interestingly, Sessions shows little interest in prosecuting the white-collar criminals who are the cause of much of the income inequality that can lead to drug use in the first place.)

The effects of a return to harsher drug law enforcement go beyond the loss of our white and black fathers, husbands and friends. These policies will stifle children for generations to come, as new data show.

Sociology professor Kristin Turney “found that children with incarcerated parents were three times more likely to suffer from depression or behavioral problems, and twice as likely to suffer from learning disabilities and anxiety,” The Nation reported.

That same story quotes a former New Orleans city councilman and former teacher who is an ex-offender himself. He said that when he speaks to schoolchildren and asks if any of them have a family member in prison, “just about everybody raises their hand.”

These students are more statistically likely to drop out, too, which of course makes it more difficult to get a job, continuing the cycle of economic despair.

Poor white families who are now suffering can learn a lot from the suffering that poor black families have endured from this system for decades. These communities can come together to fight reactionary drug war policies like Sessions’, which exacerbate everyone’s suffering.

The Essie Justice Group is one such effort that brings together those often forgotten victims — the women and the families left behind — of the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and the economic inequality wrapped up in all of it.

Gina Clayton, who founded the group, has this message for those women like Angela and Charlene: “This loss that I’ve experienced is not OK, and we all need to do something about it.”

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The U.S. Must Honor the Commitments it Made in the Paris Agreement

“People should be concerned about what the U.S. would be attempting to do at the negotiating table should it stay in the Paris Accords,” IPS fellow and U.S. policy director at Oil Change International Janet Redman told the Real News Network, as the Trump administration weighs how it’s going to treat the Paris agreement.

While it’s the one international space where the U.S. has made commitments to curb global warming, Redman explained, we’re hearing Energy Secretary Rick Perry suggest that he wants the U.S. to stay in that space so that we can renegotiate our position there. “There’s been talk of trying to bring in language to encourage technologies that will give coal a new life,” Redman said.

However, Redman said staying in the agreement offers an opportunity for other countries as well as people inside the U.S to pressure the U.S. government into “honoring our commitments to reduce emissions from the fossil fuel sector. There is conversation about how other countries can incentivize the United States.”

Redman went on to discuss the financial costs of delayed action on climate change, citing a World Bank statistic that for “every one dollar that we decide not to spend on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, we actually spend 7 dollars cleaning up the disaster in extreme weather-related disasters, storms, and other impacts from climate change.”

Redman also spoke about job expansion in the renewable energy sector within the United States.

“Renewable energy is a more job-dense sector than the fossil fuel industry, but it’s also the largest-growing job sector in the United States overall,” Redman said. “If we want to talk about making America great again on the international stage, this is where we are going to see some interesting economic growth.”

“It is not just political. This is where the markets are heading even while we are seeing signals from the administration that are trying to put the brakes on this part of the industry,” Redman concluded.

Watch Part 1 and Part 2 of these interviews on the Real News Network.

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U.S. Anti-war, Climate Justice, Racial Justice, Women’s, Immigrant Rights, Economic Justice Movement Leaders All Oppose Trump’s $54 Billion Increase in Pentagon Budget

FOR RELEASE APRIL 4, 2017

Media Contacts:
Phyllis Bennis, pbennis@ips-dc.org, 202-309-1377
Domenica Ghanem, domenica@ips-dc.org, 202-787-5205

A coalition of leaders in the anti-war, civil rights, immigration, climate,  women’s, and faith movements have come together to denounce Donald Trump’s proposed $ 54 billion increase in the military budget.  The broad-based #No$ 54BillionforWar Campaign includes city-based resolutions against increased military spending.

We are launching this campaign on April 4th, 50 years after Martin Luther King’s profound speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence speech,” a speech that recognized the urgent need to end militarism and war. King called for a revolution of values, affirming that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

The Trump administration’s budget does exactly that. It takes money from urgent social needs to feed the already-bloated Pentagon budget. It proposes to compensate for the additional $ 54 billion by slashing the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency (even threatening to shut down its already under-funded environmental justice office), the Department of Health and Human Services (slashing family planning and anti-violence-against-women programs), the State Department (thus privileging war over diplomacy), and foreign aid funds (so that the wealthiest country in human history turns its back on the world’s most desperate).

Full statement and partial list of signatories:

“Our environmental and human needs are desperate and urgent. We need to transform our economy, our politics, our policies and our priorities to reflect that reality. That means reversing the flow of our tax dollars, away from war and militarism, and towards funding human and environmental needs, and demanding support for that reversal from all our political leaders at the local, state and national levels.

We and the movements we are part of face multiple crises.  Military and climate wars are destroying lives and environments, threatening the planet and creating enormous flows of desperate refugees. Violent racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia and other hatreds are rising, encouraged by the most powerful voices in Washington DC.

President Trump plans to strip $ 54 billion from human and environmental spending so as to increase already massive spending on the military. The plan raises Pentagon spending to well over 60 cents of every discretionary dollar in the U.S. budget — even as Trump himself admits that enormous military spending has left the Middle East “far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago.”  The wars have not made any of us safer.

Washington’s militarized foreign policy comes home as domestic law enforcement agencies acquire military equipment and training from the Pentagon and from military allies abroad. Impoverished communities of color see and face the power of this equipment regularly, in the on-going domestic wars on drugs and immigrants. This military-grade equipment is distributed and used by many of the same private companies that profit from mass incarceration and mass deportation.

Using just a fraction of the proposed military budget, the US could provide free, top-quality, culturally competent and equitable education from pre-school through college and ensure affordable comprehensive healthcare for all. We could provide wrap-around services for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence; replace mass incarceration with mass employment, assure clean energy and water for all residents and link our cities by new fast trains. We could double non-military U.S. foreign aid, wipe out hunger worldwide. The list of possibilities is long.

Instead, the Trump administration plans to take much of their $ 54 billion gift for the Pentagon from the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency (even threatening to shut down its already under-funded environmental justice office), the Department of Health and Human Services (slashing family planning and anti-violence-against-women programs), from the State Department (thus privileging war over diplomacy), and foreign aid (so that the wealthiest country in human history turns its back on the world’s most desperate).

Among those most desperate are the 24 million refugees who have been forced out of their homes and countries, more than at any time since World War II.  Instead of cruel Muslim bans and cuts to the already meager number of refugees allowed into the U.S., we should be welcoming far more. Alleviating the refugee crisis also means working to end, rather than escalate, the wars that create refugees, and supporting human rights defenders in their home communities.  That means more diplomacy and foreign aid, not more military spending.

With its hundreds of billions of un-audited dollars, the military remains the greatest consumer of petroleum in the United States, and one of the world’s worst polluters. The US needs new green, sustainable jobs across our economy targeted to people facing the highest rates of unemployment and low wages. Military spending results in an economic drain.  Clean energy production creates 50% more jobs than the same investment in military spending.

The U.S. military also serves as a security force protecting the extraction and transport of fossil fuels domestically and from the Middle East and other parts of the world. U.S. military force thus enables the continued assault on the planet and some of its most impoverished inhabitants by ensuring the supply of cheap fossil fuels, all while subsidizing some of the largest corporations in the world.

A December 2014 Gallup poll showed people in 65 nations considered the United States far and away the largest threat to peace in the world.  If the United States was known for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others, instead of attacking and invading other countries, we would be far more secure and face far less global hostility.

We can do this. Reverse the flow. No walls, No War, No Warming!”

Available for interviews:
Phyllis Bennis, New Internationalism Director, Institute for Policy Studies, 202-787-5206 or cell 202-309-1377, pbennis@ips-dc.org
Basav Sen, Climate Policy Program Director, Institute for Policy Studies, 202-787-5215 or cell 202-997-0479, basav@ips-dc.org
Judith LeBlanc, Caddo Tribe, Native Organizers Alliance, 917-806-8775, judithleblanc1@gmail.com

Partial list of signatories*

Michelle Alexander – author of The New Jim Crow
Lindsey Allen – Rainforest Action Network
Olivia Alperstein – Progressive Congress
Medea Benjamin – CODEPINK
Phyllis Bennis – Institute for Policy Studies
Basav Sen – Institute for Policy Studies
John Cavanagh – Institute for Policy Studies
Regina Birchem – Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom
May Boeve – 350.org
Jaron Brown – Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Peter Buffett – American musician, composer, author and philanthropist
Leslie Cagan    – Peoples Climate Movement NY
Daniel Carrillo –  Enlace
Reece Chenault – US Labor Against the War
StaceyAnn Chin – Poet
Jamie DeMarco – Friends Committee on National Legislation
Michael Eisenscher – US Labor Against the War
Zillah Eisenstein – International Women’s Strike/US
Eve Ensler – V-Day and One Billion Rising
Jodie Evans – CODEPINK
Laura Flanders – The Laura Flanders Show
Jane Fonda – actress & activist
Jeff Furman – Ben & Jerry’s
Dan Gilman –  Veterans For Peace
Eddie S. Glaude Jr. – Princeton University
Rafael Jesús González – poet Xochipilli, Latino Men’s Circle
Stephanie Guilloud – Project South
Saru Jayaraman- Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United)
Chuck Kaufman – Alliance for Global Justice
Naomi Klein – author, This Changes Everything
Lindsay Koshgarian – National Priorities Project
Judith LeBlanc – Native Organizers Alliance
Annie Leonard – Greenpeace
Mairead Maguire – Nobel Peace Laureate
Kevin Martin – Peace Action and the Peace Action Education Fund
Maggie Martin – Iraq Veterans Against the War
Michael T. McPhearson –  Veterans For Peace
Stephen Miles – Win Without War
Nabil Mohammad –  Arab-American Anti-Discrimination committee
Terry O’Neill – National Organization for Women
C. Dixon Osburn- Center for Justice & Accountability
Rabbi Brant Rosen – American Friends Service Committee
Lukas Ross – Friends of the Earth
Josh Ruebner – US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Linda Sarsour – MPower
Mab Segrest – Southerners on New Ground
John Sellers – Other 98%
Adam Shah – Jobs With Justice
Thenmozhi Soundararajan – Equality Labs
Kathy Spillar – Feminist Majority
David Swanson – World Beyond War
Mike Tidwell – Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Opal Tometi – Black Alliance for Just Immigration & Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter Network
Rebecca Vilkomerson – Jewish Voice for Peace
Alice Walker – poet and writer
Vince Warren – Center for Constitutional Rights
Cindy Wiesner – Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Robert Weissman –  Public Citizen
Kimberle Williams-Crenshaw- The African American Policy Forum
Winnie Wong – People for Bernie
Ash-Lee Woodard-Henderson – Highlander Research & Education Center
Ann Wright – Veterans for Peace
Murshed Zaheed – CREDO Mobile
*organizations for identification only

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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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