Category Archives: terror

The Message with Sally Yates

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I was going to write a love letter to Manitoba, but recent news has got me upset. What happened with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was not the Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon was more subtle by comparison. The Trump administration had the constitutional right to remove Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from her position for not following Trump’s executive order to ban Muslim immigration from seven countries, but there is absolutely no reason to tar and feather her by saying she “betrayed” the country and that she is “weak on borders and weak on illegal immigration.” The statement they issued was petty and vindictive, and they flaunt their authority over the justice system, completely ignoring the federal court orders to have the immigration ban stayed. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates cannot act on the executive order when federal courts are against it and the Supreme Court has not made a ruling on its legality.

As the top lawyer of the United States, it is not the attorney general’s job to agree with everything the president does. To do so would make the position technically moot. This also isn’t the first time an attorney general or a deputy attorney general has acted against a sitting president’s orders. James Comey famously went against the president’s wishes just a few years ago. Of course, many attorney generals go along with the administration’s wishes. After all, they get their by the administration’s recommendation. Eric Holder was extremely partisan and didn’t go after the big banks after the Obama administration mentioned that they weren’t looking to prosecute them. But while they are partisan appointees, their job is to uphold the law and make sure that the executive branch acts within the scope of the law. It is not the attorney general’s job to do something which they believe is illegal or somehow bend the rules to make them legal. They definitely can, and can be rewarded for being loyal partisan actors, but it’s blatantly unethical to relieve someone of their position for not doing something which they believe is illegal.

This constitutional duty to not blindly follow the leader but to follow the letter of the law as well as what is ethical is what allows me to sleep at night despite knowing that Trump has the nuclear codes. He may order a country to be bombed simply because a citizen there annoyed him on Twitter, but it is the officer’s as well as everyone else in the hierarchy’s duty to not follow his order if they deemed it illegal, immoral, or unethical. It is their civic duty to do so; and to follow the president’s order in such a case would be a dereliction of duty. This is what Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to do, to carry out an act which is in her opinion, an opinion based on a lifetime of working for the justice department, is both illegal and indefensible. It was her duty to refuse the president. And for that, she got sacked.

But really, what choice does she have. The Muslim ban is clearly a disaster and several federal court orders agree. It was an executive order that was hastily made without consultation from the president’s own top advisors. His own Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, does not support the order, and believes it endangers the troops he’s been recently made in charge of. As far as I can tell, the only people who were certainly in the room when Trump drafted the order was Stephen Miller, a young political operative with a racist history, and Steve Bannon, a publisher of a Web site frequented by neo-Nazis. They’re not exactly the people with the most expertise regarding immigration and national security. But then again, neither is Trump. The woman Trump fired had more years serving the public, more years keeping the country safe, than Trump.

And to those defending the Muslim ban, calling it a mere travel restriction, even Trump calls it a ban. And whatever name you call it, and even if you only limit it to those seven countries, it still affects Muslims. It still goes against the notion of having no religious test for the country. It flies in the face of common decency. The measure doesn’t make the US safer. It makes it harder for the military to gain allies in those seven countries and serves as a great recruitment tool for ISIS. But then again, what do expect from the great military expertise of Trump, Miller, and Bannon?

Sally Yates’ firing goes along with the message that the Trump administration is sending out. From journalists and employees at the National Park Service, to long-time government employees and officials- if you’re not with the Trump agenda, you should be fired. This is an amazingly flagrant display of authoritarianism.

It’s been a really dark few days. Even Canada has not been immune to Trump’s brand of intolerance. Quebec has been marred with tragedy, with the shooting of a mosque. And while some detractors will point out that Quebec has had a history of intolerance long before the Trump phenomenon, the shooter has been a part of the same alt-right movement which supports Trump.

It’s going to be a tiring few years. I believe the wave of bigotry will continue to wreak havoc long after we stopped getting daily bad news from Trump. There will be frequent protests and frequent outrages. Luckily, it is exactly during these times when people can become heroes by fighting injustice. Sally Yates will now be remembered as a hero. Honestly, I doubt if many people knew her name before she stood against Donald Trump. Now it’s time for people to go against him, take advantage of the growing rage against the US government’s recent actions, and make a name for themselves. If not because it is the right thing to do, but it is also good politics.

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A Few Thoughts Regarding Paris

Rider

So another horrible tragedy happened in Paris over the weekend. I’m sure most of the people on the Internet are already aware of it, so I’m not gonna explain what happened. I was going to write about something else entirely, but let me react to a few things regarding the recent tragic event.

Unfortunately, I think the world is playing exactly to ISIS’ plans. Politicians are now committing to close borders to Syrian refugees, increase surveillance of Muslim communities, and send more forces to the Middle East. What exactly does ISIS want? They can be quite vague with their calls for the downfall of the west, but like all terrorism in the Middle East, I believe all of their actions are fueled by their need for self-preservation, they need to justify their existence. They kill civilians, parts of the Middle East are bombed in retaliation, Muslims in the west are marginalized even further, resentment against western government increases, and ultimately more people join ISIS. The military might of western nations just plays into the victim mentality of the “oppressed” Muslim who finds himself/herself joining groups like ISIS.  These terrorist groups market themselves as revolutionary forces fighting against oppressive regimes, and for the past few years the United States and its allies have acted the part to fit the terrorist narrative.

Already, I believe the reaction to the attacks will fuel more violence. A Syrian passport was found among the carnage and people have used it to claim that the terrorists were gaining entry to the west as refugees. (As of this moment, some news sources believe the passport belongs to one of the victims) Because of this, several countries are rethinking helping refugees. People forget that these refugees are running away from ISIS. Not all of them are terrorists. Not all of them hate the west. Should Canada shut down its borders if one or two immigrants commit crimes in the country? A man was beheaded by a Chinese immigrant in Winnipeg a couple of years ago. The attacker was found to be mentally unstable. But there were no talks regarding mental screening for immigrants or an examination of the Chinese population after the attack. The Chinese community was not indicted for the crime. And yet for the Paris attack and the like, it is par for the course to indict the whole Muslim community. Inflammatory rhetoric does nothing but justify more hatred towards the west and divide people. Right now, the French Interior Minister is already calling for the “dissolution” of some mosques. Now, how is that gonna play in the minds of some Muslims?

Regarding immigration, ISIS doesn’t need to slip in operatives to countries. Even if they do, history shows we’re often looking at the wrong direction anyway. The 9/11 hijackers were mostly from Saudi Arabia. They were not from Iraq or Afghanistan. ISIS does a lot of recruiting online. They are converting people with their “oppressed by western powers” message. If there was to be another attack, it’ll probably be done by people who are already savvy enough to know the ins and outs of a particular country and community. It won’t be a fresh of the boat immigrant who barely knows the language, especially with the amount of focus the Syrian refugees are currently receiving from the press.  ISIS doesn’t want these people leaving Syria. They want them to remain in the country to be under their control. Them leaving and living decent lives in other countries goes against the narrative that ISIS is running a competent government.

Napoleon

A Youtube user, Thunderf00t, mentioned that the recent attack shows the effectiveness of using guns for terrorist attacks versus bombs. It is true, gun massacres tend to produce more casualties than bomb attacks. Guns are relatively easier to acquire and control; and the results are more predictable. Bombs on the other hand are much more complicated, and suicide bombers never get to gauge the amount of damage they cause. It is thus very disheartening that over the weekend, several gun rights proponents are saying that the massacre would’ve been less deadly if there were more people in the vicinity with guns. These people forget that while France doesn’t have as much guns as the United States, it also doesn’t have as much mass shootings. Gun control is actually something that can be done to fight terrorism. Controlling the runaway arms and defense industries is something that could be done to reduce violence. But as far as reactions to terrorism are concerned, this isn’t even in the picture. Guns will continue to be sold and find their way to terrorist hands, be it through sale within western countries or through “aid” the US gives out like free candy.

Knight

This brings me now to a couple of things that bother me to a lesser extent. First is hashtag activism. Now, I think it’s fine to show support to the victims by changing one’s Facebook profile pic to the color of France’s flag, but it doesn’t really put too much skin in the game. It’s very low cost and doesn’t really do much to affect change. Looking at the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, it didn’t really put an end to the atrocities in Nigeria. Boko Haram still exists, abducting and trading young girls. Now, I’m not saying that one should not support France by doing something as low cost as changing one’s Facebook profile pic, but I suspect it is often more about following trends and thus more about the person than it is about the cause.

And speaking of making it about themselves, Bono is a well-meaning idiot. He calls the attack the first direct hit on music. Now, I know what he’s saying. The attack affected freedom and a way of life that celebrates music. But the way he says it makes it seem like the attack was more against him and the music industry (Boohoo, a U2 concert got cancelled!) and less against France and the west in general. He means well, but he’s not doing himself any favor. He still sounds like a narcissist.

I could go on and on about the attacks, but I’m probably not the only person pretending to be an expert in Muslims and geopolitics. I imagine social media is filled with people like me, talking as if they know what’s really going on.  I’m writing my thoughts as an unknown person with very little influence. Unfortunately, there are people out there with far more influence but with incredibly more extreme (and violent) solutions to this growing problem.

I say be kind to your neighbors regardless who they are, and hug your loved ones. Right now, bombs are falling, guns are being readied, and more violence will probably be in the news in the future.

*Unfortunately, most of my work related to France have a militaristic theme.

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