The U.S. government has used the post-9/11 war on terror to launch two major wars, mount gunship and drone attacks on several countries, and institute a widespread program of torture and abuse. Casualties of those conflicts number in the hundreds of thousands.
Another casualty of the war on terror is civil liberties. From the USA PATRIOT Act, to warrantless surveillance, to the Muslim Ban, to the use of metadata to spy on people and target for drone strikes, the deprivation of constitutional rights has continued during the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.
An additional assault on the Constitution is the terrorism watchlist, a federal government database of “known or suspected terrorists.” In 2013, there were 680,000 people on the watchlist, called the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). By 2017, the number had swelled to 1.2 million, including 4,600 U.S. citizens.
That increase coincided with the Obama administration’s expansion of the terrorism watchlist system in 2013. It established a secret process that didn’t require “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to designate someone a terrorist, according to The Intercept. The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance” states that even uncorroborated Facebook or Twitter posts may be sufficient to include an individual on the watchlist.
On the eve of the 18-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the illegal U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the United States and the Taliban completed nine rounds of peace talks with no deal.
Although they had reportedly reached an agreement in principle, Donald Trump insisted on a secret meeting at Camp David with the Taliban and the puppet Afghan government so he could take credit as dealmaker-in-chief. The idea of finalizing the negotiations at Camp David was “a prospect that appealed to the president’s penchant for dramatic spectacle,” The New York Times reported.
Trump, however, abruptly canceled the meeting, slated to occur last weekend, citing a Taliban car bombing that killed an American.
There are “questions about the accuracy of [Trump’s] assertion that the Taliban had accepted his invitation to Camp David on Sunday, and that he was the one calling off the meeting,” according to The New York Times.“Taliban negotiators said Sunday that they had agreed to come to the United States only after a deal was announced and only to meet with the American side, suggesting that Mr. Trump may have canceled a meeting that the key participants were not planning to attend.”
The Amazon is burning. Nearly 75,000 fires have started in the iconic Brazilian rainforest this year to date, an 84 percent increase from the year before. Since August 10, a spate of intentionally set fires have been raging in the Amazon. But Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, let them burn for two weeks before sending firefighters to put them out following an international outcry.
Fires ravaging the Amazon pose imminent peril to the 34 million people and 3 million species of animals and plants that live in the world’s largest rainforest, which covers 2 million square miles.
Damage from the raging fires will change the face of the planet. The rainforest is home to 10 percent of the species on Earth, including many types of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else.
“The loss of the Amazon’s biodiversity will be beyond devastating for the planet,” Dahr Jamail wrote in Truthout, noting that many scientists consider the Amazon to be the Earth’s most important site of biodiversity.
During Congress’s August recess, a group of 41 Democratic and 31 Republican congressmembers traveled to Israel on a delegation sponsored by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC subsidizes congressional trips to Israel in order to further the “special relationship” between Israel and the United States. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid: $3.8 billion annually. AIPAC is the chief Israel lobby in the United States and a consistent apologist for Israel’s oppressive policies toward the Palestinians.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, had planned their own “Delegation to Palestine,” scheduled to begin on August 17. Tlaib, who was born in the U.S., planned to travel to the West Bank to visit her 90-year old Palestinian grandmother, whom she hasn’t seen for a decade. But, aided and abetted by Donald Trump, Israel withdrew permission for the trip unless Tlaib agreed to remain silent about Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. She refused to abide by the gag order and the trip was cancelled.
On July 30, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that the Afghan government and international military forces, primarily the United States, caused most of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan during the first six months of 2019. That’s more killings than those perpetrated in the same time period by the Taliban and ISIS combined.
Aerial operations were responsible for 519 civilian casualties (356 deaths and 156 injuries), including 150 children (89 deaths and 61 injuries). That constitutes a 39 percent increase in overall civilian casualties from aerial attacks. Eighty-three percent of civilian casualties from aerial operations were carried out by the international forces.
During Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s televised appearances before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, he testified to facts that amount to lawbreaking by Donald Trump. Contrary to Trump’s mantra of “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION,” Mueller affirmed that his 448-page report did not exonerate the president or reach a conclusion about whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.
The Mueller team found “substantial evidence” of the elements required to convict Trump of obstruction of justice. But, constrained by a Justice Department rule forbidding the indictment of a sitting president, Mueller’s report did not conclude whether Trump actually committed the crime.
Since his inauguration, Donald Trump has effectuated 600 unilateral changes in immigration policy, more than any president in recent memory.
Pursuant to its “zero tolerance policy,” the administration arrested undocumented immigrants who crossed the border, took thousands of their children away, put them in cages and then lost track of them, in violation of the Constitution’s Due Process Clause and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Trump instituted a Muslim Ban, tried to add a citizenship question to the census, reneged on President Obama’s promise to the Dreamers, and is terrorizing immigrant communities with threats of mass raids.
In an escalation of his war on migrants, Trump’s new asylum rule undermines well-established law and prevents refugees fleeing persecution from receiving asylum.
On July 11, President Trump gave up his fight to ask people about their citizenship on the 2020 census.
The question, which the administration has been trying to add to the census since 2017, would have resulted in a significant undercount by dissuading people in households with undocumented residents from responding to the census. An estimated 6.5 million people could be uncounted if the question were included, according to the Census Bureau.
The census is used to calculate how many seats each state will have in the House of Representatives, the number of Electoral College votes each state will get in the presidential elections beginning in 2024, and how $900 billion in federal funds will be distributed to the states annually for hospitals, schools, health care and infrastructure for the next 10 years.
There is no doubt the administration knew that a question asking about citizenship would result in an undercount of Latinos and benefit Republicans. GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller had urged that the question be included in the census as it would “be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting.
Kamala Harris is rising in the polls after dramatically confronting Joe Biden during the Democratic primary debate about his opposition to federally mandated busing for desegregation. The following week, however, Harris backed away from saying that busing should always be federally mandated, calling it just one “tool that is in the toolbox” for school districts to use. When asked to clarify whether she would support federal mandates for busing, she said: “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.” But Biden’s poll numbers are falling as a result of Harris’s theatrical attack.
Harris, who served as San Francisco District Attorney from 2004 to 2011 and California Attorney General from 2011 to 2017, describes herself as a “progressive prosecutor.” Harris’s prosecutorial record, however, is far from progressive. Through her apologia for egregious prosecutorial misconduct, her refusal to allow DNA testing for a probably innocent death row inmate, her opposition to legislation requiring the attorney general’s office to independently investigate police shootings and more, she has made a significant contribution to the sordid history of injustice she decries.
The Supreme Court has abdicated its responsibility to strike down partisan gerrymandering. This occurs when one party intentionally manipulates district boundaries to skew its voting power, notwithstanding the will of the voters. Although both parties engage in partisan gerrymandering, Republicans benefit from it far more than Democrats.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the conservative 5-4 majority inRucho v. Common Cause, admitted that excessive partisan gerrymandering is “incompatible with democratic principles” and “leads to results that reasonably seem unjust.” But, the Court held, challenges to the practice “present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.”
In her passionate dissent, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan noted that extreme partisan gerrymanders “deprive citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights” — the rights of equal participation in the political process, “to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives.” Kagan wrote, “For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”