Subscribe: Reason Magazine - Topics > Middle East
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
act  america  american  government  iran  iraq  law  medical  military  president  reason  state  trump  united states  united  war 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Reason Magazine - Topics > Middle East

Middle East

All articles with the "Middle East" tag.

Published: Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2018 08:34:28 -0400


To Placate Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Blocks Medical Marijuana Exports

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 14:00:00 -0500

Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked plans to allow the export of medical marijuana, citing objections from Donald Trump. "I spoke with Trump," Netanyahu reportedly told members of his cabinet, "and he told me about his general opposition to the legalization of cannabis, and I'm not sure Israel should be the export pioneer." This development, which was originally reported by Hadashot news, is doubly puzzling. Trump has repeatedly expressed support for medical marijuana, and in any case Israeli exports to countries other than the United States would not implicate U.S. law. Trump has said he opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use, although he also has said the decision should be left to the states. On medical use he has gone further, saying patients who can benefit from marijuana should be able to obtain it. "I think medical marijuana, 100 percent," he said at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference. "I think medical should happen, right?" he said at a rally latter that year. "Don't we agree? I mean I think so…I know people that are very, very sick, and for whatever reason, the marijuana really helps them." He reiterated that position at a 2016 rally: "Medical I agree with. Medical I like...Medical is OK." After Trump took office, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated that he still supported medical use of marijuana. "The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them," Spicer said at a February 2017 press briefing, noting that Congress had passed a spending rider aimed at protecting state-licensed medical marijuana suppliers. "There is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana." If so, why would Trump urge Netanyahu to nix exports of medical marijuana, which has been legal in Israel for more than a decade? According to Hadashot, Netanyahu "ordered the freeze after receiving a call about the issue of exporting marijuana from Trump." That does not sound like something Trump would do on his own initiative, so maybe Attorney General Jeff Sessions or another pot prohibitionist in the administration suggested it. Shipping cannabis to the U.S., even for patients in the 29 states that allow medical use, would violate federal law, which does not recognize any legitimate use for marijuana. But medical marijuana is legal in several other countries, and Canada already exports it. The Israeli government estimates that exports could generate about $1 billion a year. "Israel can become an exporter of medical cannabis with an income worth 4 billion (!) shekels a year," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted last Thursday after visiting a cannabis farm in northern Israel. "We must not miss the train. Today we are the locomotive; if we hesitate, we will become the cars." Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who accompanied Shaked on the trip, agreed, saying, "There is a potential here for billions of dollars that Israel will gain and the world will gain." Shaked said she will try to change Netanyahu's mind. "I am sure that when we sit with the prime minister and we lay out for him all the details," she said, "the correct decision will be taken."[...]

The Axis of Evil Is Back, and It's Never Going Away

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 10:45:00 -0500

(image) Back in 2002, in his first full-fledged State of the Union address, President George W. Bush called Iraq, Iran, and North Korea a terror-sponsoring "axis of evil."

A little more than a year later, the U.S. invaded Iraq, a decision whose consequences are still being felt today. A change in presidents in the U.S. and Iran, meanwhile, eventually led to a five-nation deal on Iran's nuclear program, averting military action for the time being. The North Korean regime has continued its nuclear brinkmanship.

In 2018, the axis of evil is making a comeback. President Trump spent a significant portion of his State of the Union last night on North Korea. ( called it the "scariest part" because it sounded the way Bush used to talk about Iraq.)

Trump invited the parents of Otto Warmbier, the American student thrown into a North Korean jail and returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state. He also invited a North Korean defector who helps other victims of the regime escape to freedom. (Sadly but unsurprisingly, Trump didn't talk about America's role in welcoming such refugees.)

Trump also engaged in a bit of fearmongering, claiming that North Korea's "reckless pursuit" of nuclear missiles "could very soon threaten our homeland" but insisting his administration was "waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening."

"Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation," the president continued. "I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position."

Trump didn't elaborate on those past mistakes. Despite his sometimes bombastic rhetoric toward Kim Jong Un, he and his administration have tried to engage China and South Korea in a multilateral solution. Fearmongering could threaten that progress.

On Iran, on the other hand, Trump has been openly hostile to the nuclear deal that de-escalated tensions. For now, nevertheless, he has kept the agreement in place. If he does withdraw, that wouldn't completely dismantle the deal, since it also involves the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia. That didn't stop Trump from calling on Congress last night to "address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal."

And Iraq? U.S. troops returned there following a three-year break after the official end of the Iraq War, this time to fight ISIS. While claiming "almost 100 percent of the territory" once held by ISIS had been liberated, Trump insisted U.S. troops would remain in Iraq and Syria until "ISIS is defeated."

Trump also boasted of "tough sanctions" imposed on Cuba and Venezuela. Those dictatorships, while brutal, pose even less of a threat to the U.S. than North Korea or Iran. Meanwhile, other dictatorships, like those in Saudi Arabia or Egypt, continue to be coddled by Washington.

Such schizophrenia can make it difficult for other international actors to anticipate what the U.S. will do, and Trump's love of confrontational rhetoric can make it hard to de-escalate tensions. A motivated president can always find countries to fit into an "axis of evil."

When It Comes to the Escalating War on Terror, Trump's SOTU Was Heavy on Bragging, Light on Details

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 10:05:00 -0500

(image) Washington is escalating the global war on terror, expanding the U.S. military footprint across the Muslim world while ramping up military operations.

President Donald Trump boasted about some of this in his State of the Union address last night. He urged Congress to ensure that the military "continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists—wherever we chase them down," and he announced that he had signed an executive order keeping the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay open.

"Our warriors in Afghanistan also have new rules of engagement," Trump said of the country where the U.S. is now in its 18th year of war. "Along with their heroic Afghan partners, our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies our plans."

Trump also touted progress against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), saying that "the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria and in other locations as well." Nonetheless, he quickly added, "there is much more work to be done. We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated."

In practice, the U.S is keeping thousands of troops in Iraq and Syria, the second IS in ISIS. The terror group, meanwhile, has spread to Libya—and Afghanistan.

Not long ago, the State of the Union was the place to announce the imminent defeat of "core" Al Qaeda or to boast that there were no Americans left fighting in Iraq. Today, American are fighting in Iraq again. The Pentagon has stopped offering details of troop deployment there or in Syria, for "tactical surprise"; the most recent report revealed 1,720 troops in Syria and nearly 9,000 in Iraq.

Trump has taken advantage of the bipartisan consensus that has coalesced over the last decade and a half on the war on terror. Congress, under both parties, has declined to assert its authority in making war.

Three successive administrations have ordered U.S. operations in Afghanistan and across the Muslim world under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which targeted the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks and "associated forces." The average ISIS fighter was about 8 years old on 9/11.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, suggested earlier this month that the U.S. military presence in Syria has to be open-ended to prevent a resurgence of ISIS. Congress never managed to hold a successful vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force for the campaign against the Islamic State, or for any military operation following the Second Iraq War.

In his State of the Union address, Trump called on Congress to end the so-called defense sequester, which modestly limited growth in military spending. The Republican majority is likely to give him this, and pretty much anything he asks for when it comes to the war on terror. What it won't give him is any oversight or pushback. The war on terror has no end in sight.

How the United States Can—And Cannot—Help Iranian Protesters: Podcast

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 14:15:00 -0500

"There are just millions of Iranians who don't want to live under a corrupt clerical fascist state," says Bloomberg View writer Eli Lake about the current protests in Iran. That may not mean Iran is fed up with theocracy, just that they've had it with corrupt theocracy—the current protests started over the price of eggs. Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Lake about the protests and what they mean for Iran moving forward. America has dabbled in regime change in Iran before. In 1953 the democratically elected Mossadegh government wanted to nationalize Iran's oil industry, prompting the United States and Great Britain to sponsor a coup and install a Western-friendly ruler. That ended in 1979 when a coalition of Islamists, Marxists, and students coalesced around the Ayatollah Khomeini, who became the head of the republic (and promptly oppressed his revolutionary comrades). Lake, who writes about national security and foreign affairs, charts options America can pursue to help protesters without either delegitimating their movement or resorting to a military intervention. Audio production by Ian Keyser. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="" width="100%" height="300" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. This is a rush transcript. Check audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: This is the Reason podcast and I'm your host, Nick Gillespie. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today we're going to talk about Iran, what's going on there, why is it happening now, and what if anything the United States should do to address this issue. I've turned to Eli Lake. He's a columnist who writes about national security and foreign affairs for Bloomberg View, and he's written for Reason over the years as well. Eli, thanks for joining us. Eli Lake: It's great to be here. Thanks for having me, Nick. Gillespie: Let's get to it. What is happening in Iran? And I hate to say 'Iran,' but that's the time that I grew up. What's happening in Iran right now with the demonstrations against the Islamic government there? Lake: Well first of all, we have less of a window because the government shut down most Internet functions, so we're finding that when we get videos they're usually a couple days old at this point and it's not like it was 11 days ago when all this started, but we've seen rolling protests throughout the country as opposed to 2009 where we just largely saw this in Tehran, and they are not from the upper middle class, the elites in Iran. They are really from the working class and they were originally protests that were about the kind of economic inequality but in the Iranian system really it's about just how the henchmen of the dictator, the Revolutionary Guard Corps run a lot of the Iranian economy like the mafia, so there was a frustration and some of it was because there had been banks that had failed, pension funds that were failing and they saw that there were a lot of regime figures who were raking in tons of money and so this was a part of it, but- Gillespie: Do we know if the demonstrations all over the country are about the same thing? Or you were talking about Tehran which, it's the largest city and it's the hub of the cultural and economic power, but then as you start moving out into smaller and smaller areas or regions, are they protesting against the same issues? Lake: There has been a common theme which is that they started off literally about the price of eggs, but then like we saw in 2009 almost in an instant turned into chants against the dictator and the regime, and this confirme[...]

Brickbat: Your Move

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Anna Muzychuk forfeited her world titles in rapid chess and blitz chess rather than play in recent tournaments in Saudi Arabia. While the Saudis agreed that female players would not have to wear the hijab and abaya on the floor of the tournament itself, they would have to wear those garments and be accompanied by a man if they ventured out in public. Muzychuk said that was unacceptable.

A U.S. Citizen Suspected of Joining ISIS Has Been Held for Months Without Charges or a Lawyer

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 13:10:00 -0500

(image) An American citizen has been held in Iraq as an enemy combatant for several months, and the federal government has refused to reveal his name or to give him access to a lawyer.

According to the government, the man in question is a United States citizen who went to Syria and joined the Islamic State. Kurdish forces captured him in September, and he was handed over to the U.S. military on September 14. The authorities refuse to identify the man, and he has not been before a judge or in a courtroom since his detention.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is attempting to intervene on the man's behalf. Yesterday U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan took a dim view of the Department of Justice's excuses for keeping the man hidden at a secret prison in Iraq.

The government is being secretive about the man's identity for a reason: The Justice Department is trying to push away legal challenges to his detention by claiming that nobody has legal standing to represent him. Nobody outside the feds knows who he is, therefore nobody could claim to represent him in court. That the government itself is the reason why we don't know his identity is just the icing on the cake.

The Washington Post describes Chutkan's reaction to the Justice Department's arguments:

"How on earth is the man to exercise his habeas rights," and contest being held, Chutkan at one point asked attorneys for the government at an hour-long hearing. The judge said their position suggested "an end-run" around the Constitution by saying in effect "You don't get to exercise your habeas rights until we decide what to do with you."

ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz called the government's position "Kafkaesque" and "a direct assault" on the authority established by the U.S. Supreme Court during George W. Bush's presidency for U.S. citizens suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to challenge detentions after being captured on the battlefield.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 in Hamdi v. Rumsefeld that U.S. citizens being held as enemy combatants still retain the right to due process and to challenge their classifications as combatants. The Pentagon has disclosed (after being ordered by this judge to do so) that the man has requested a lawyer. That attorney has not yet been provided.

The behavior here by the Pentagon and Department of Justice is pretty repulsive, but the fact that the case involves a U.S. citizen who has apparently joined ISIS means it's not likely to inspire much public outrage. Nevertheless, the purpose of due process is to guarantee the rights of those accused of even the most egregious of crimes. This guy has a right to a lawyer and a court hearing.

Read more about the case from the ACLU here.

The Logan Act Is Awful, and No, It’s Not Going to Take Down Trump’s Administration

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 13:45:00 -0500

Two University of Chicago law professors say a terrible, politically motivated federal law on the books for most of American history is a threat to Mike Flynn and President Donald Trump's administration. Eric Posner and Daniel Hemel today at The New York Times raise the specter of the Logan Act, one of the dumber federal laws written during an era where America was not as quick as it is today to protect the rights of citizens to speak freely. The Logan Act makes it a federal crime for a private American citizen to engage in any communication or correspondence with a foreign government that intervenes in a dispute with the United States and that government in order to "defeat" any measures by the U.S. Flynn, as part of Trump's transition team, stands accused of lying to the FBI about contacts with the Russian government and conversations intended to influence Russia's response to U.S. sanctions and its vote on a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements Friday. The nature of Flynn's communications with a Russian diplomat have been known publicly for months now. Whether his behavior violated the Logan Act has been a point of discussion for most of the year, and according to Byron York at the Washington Examiner, partly a motivation for the investigation. Here's how Posner and Hemel describe the Logan Act: The statute, which has been on the books since the early days of the republic, reflects an important principle. The president is — as the Supreme Court has said time and again — "the sole organ of the nation in its external relations." If private citizens could hold themselves out as representatives of the United States and work at cross-purposes with the president's own diplomatic objectives, the president's ability to conduct foreign relations would be severely hampered. How neutral Posner and Hemel's description sounds! It's about protecting America's interests by trying to stop the president's role from being subverted by competing demands by other citizens. Their description is pure bullshit. The Logan Act is rooted in the private efforts of Quaker politician George Logan to negotiate peace between America and France during a little-remembered and undeclared naval war between 1798 and 1800. Logan reportedly did not claim to represent the United States or President John Adams. And it's not clear how much influence, if any, he had on the peace process. But he was a Jeffersonian Republican and a political opponent of the Federalists. His actions with France embarrassed the Federalists, who controlled Congress at the time. The Logan Act, then, was passed to punish political adversaries for attempting to get involved in international politics with agendas other than the president's. The Logan Act is not a law about preventing fraud, or treason, or subversion as Posner and Hemel suggest. It's a law for the expressed purpose of punishing political speech. Whenever it has been invoked it has been for exactly that reason. Logan Act accusations have always had strong stench of political opportunism behind them and very frequently (but not always) in response to peace-seeking activism. President Ronald Reagan invoked it against Jesse Jackson for traveling to Cuba and Nicaragua. GOP Rep. Steve King later tried to invoke it against Rep. Nancy Pelosi for communicating with the Syrian government. And it was invoked again toward the end of President Barack Obama's administration as Republican senators signed onto an open letter warning Iran that their deal with Obama could be undone by the next president. Even in Flynn's case, Flynn's communications with Russia were about discouraging them from overreacting to sanctions from the United States and trying to block a resolution that could have escalated tensions with Israel. Mind you, Flynn is no peacemonger, and there may well have been some extremely sel[...]

Chaos in Africa, Apologias in Alabama, and the Rise of Democratic Socialism

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 13:00:00 -0500

(image) As mentioned in the Morning Links, Zimbabwe is experiencing a bit of a military coup at the moment. Yet that might not rank as the most momentous activity currently taking place on (OK, near) the African continent—the Saudi royal family (with what looks like the blessing of the Trump administration) is engaged in a kind of third-act mafia-film purging spree, and apparently holding the Lebanese prime minister hostage. Steve Bannon is going around talking up our Saudi "allies," and hinting that the Qatar conflict might be the beginnings of a clarifying regional civil war within Islam. All this against the backdrop of the U.S. successfully shrinking the battlefield footprint of ISIS.

So are we perched on the edge of a cataclysm? I will pose that question to Bloomberg View foreign policy columnist Eli Lake today on SiriusXM Insight channel 121's Tell Me Everything With John Fugelsang, where from 2-3:30 p.m. ET I'll be guest-hosting. Other guests include The Nation's John Nichols, who will talk up the ballot-box gains made this month by democratic socialists, and Fox News Channel's Kat Timpf, who will talk about conservative apologia for Roy Moore.

Please call in at any time, at 877-974-7487.

Egyptian Dissident Cynthia Farahat: The Middle East Is Hungry for Free Markets and Free Speech

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 15:48:00 -0500

In 2003, when Egypt was ruled by strongman Hosni Mubarak, then 22-year-old Cynthia Farahat co-founded the party that would become the Liberal Egyptian Party, the first secular, classical liberal political party in the country's modern history.* "Sharia law is not friendly to women or minorities or gays," Farahat told Reason. "I wanted to fix my country. I wanted freedom. I wanted liberty." Mubarak's government responded by sending intelligence agents and the secret police to go after Farahat. "I was under constant, 24-hour surveillance in Egypt for almost a decade," she says. Government agents would routinely call her in the middle of the night and would sometimes play back recordings of Farahat's conversations with friends recorded in her own living room. Other calls were more sinister, Farahat says. Sometimes she would pick up the phone to hear heavy breathing on the line. The person on the call "would start to talk about the intimate things that he wants to do to my decapitated head—that he's going to keep in his freezer if I don't stop my political work." The key to survival was to "never show fear." She sensed that her family was in danger and knew that the government could arrest her at any time. She was eventually placed on an Al Qaeda affiliates' hit list and banned from entering Lebanon because of her political advocacy. Afraid for her life, Farahat sought political asylum in the U.S. in 2011, which was granted. Today she's a writer, political analyst, and fellow at the Middle East Forum. Her work has exposed secret ties between the Islamists, the military, and governments across the region, which she argues work together to subjugate citizens and uphold theocratic, authoritarian regimes. Reason's Justin Monticello spoke with Farahat about her mission to bring a true political alternative to the region, why she vociferously advocates for the Muslim Brotherhood to be labeled a terrorist organization, how Coptic Christians in Egypt are persecuted and blamed for American foreign policy, and why she believes people across the Middle East are hungry for civil liberties and free markets. Produced by Justin Monticello. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Zach Weissmueller. Music by Silent Partner. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Cynthia Farahat: I wanted liberty. And I knew that the way to get there was through sound ideas that have proven to work. When you look at America, and you look at the Soviet Union, and you look at Egypt, doesn't take a brain surgeon to know which fundamental ideas you need to go with. Justin Monticello: How did you get put under surveillance in Egypt? Farahat: So, I was under constant 24-hour surveillance in Egypt for almost a decade. And I knew this is in a very sinister and nasty way. They used to call me at two or three AM. Every single day for 10 years. To this day, I wake up at that time automatically because I'm used to being woken up at this time. One of the times, I said hello, and I heard my own voice on the other end of the line. And, it was a recorded conversation that I had with one of my best friends in my living room. That was super creeper. That's the good phone call. Bad phone calls will tell you hello in the middle of the night and some necrophiliac would be on the other side of the line. And he would start to talk about he intimate things that he wants to do to my decapitated head that he's gonna keep in his freezer if I don't stop my political work. How would you reply to something like that? And that specific guy's just breathing very heavily. And I would tell him so unattractive to women. Maybe that's what's causing your women's issues. And I would tell them this kind of stuff because you can't show fear. Mo[...]

U.K. Anti-Terror Censorship Law Stupidly Used Against Guy Who Fights Terrorism

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:35:00 -0400

Prosecutors in the United Kingdom didn't think Josh Walker was an actual terrorist. But they treated him as if he were one anyway, because of a book they found in his bedroom. Fortunately, they failed. But the case, highlighted at The Intercept, details some of the terrible consequences of trying to criminalize dangerous thoughts or ideas rather than actions. Walker was prosecuted for downloading and having in his possession a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, an infamous guide to homemade explosives (and other tools for lawbreaking) that was first published in 1971. Walker wasn't plotting a terrorist attack. He was, in fact, doing the opposite. According to The Intercept and the court case, he was using the book as a reference material for a terror crisis management simulation at a college. The United Kingdom does not have the same broad First Amendment freedom of speech protections that Americans have. The Terrorism Act of 2000 in Section 58 criminalizes the ownership of "information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." There is a defense that a person has a "reasonable excuse" for having the material, and that's what Walker had to lean on during the trial. The whole thing seemed particularly absurd because Walker had returned to the United Kingdom from Syria, where he was helping a Kurdish militia fight the Islamic State. I wasn't kidding when I said he was the opposite of a terrorist. And prosecutors knew that. From The Intercept: As the case moved forward, the prosecution acknowledged that Walker was not suspected of plotting any kind of terrorist atrocity. The government was instead arguing that his mere possession of the book was a violation of the Terrorism Act's Section 58 because it contained information that could have been useful to a terrorist if discovered. The book is freely available to anyone on the internet, and versions of it can even be purchased on Amazon. Regardless, prosecution lawyer Robin Sellers said it was possible a "radicalized" person could find Walker's copy of the book and use it to prepare an attack. The prosecution's argument seemed bizarre and without precedent. People in the U.K. have been prosecuted before under the Terrorism Act for possessing the "Anarchist Cookbook," but usually the defendants have been involved in some other kind of nefarious activity as well. In 2010, for example, a member of a violent neo-Nazi group called the "Wolf Pack" was convicted of a terrorism offense for possessing the book. He was linked, through his father, to a plot to overthrow the government and poison people. In another case, in 2011, a man was sentenced to three years in prison for selling the "Cookbook" and Al Qaeda training manuals, pocketing $113,000 in the process. Walker's case was different: He was being prosecuted solely because he downloaded and stored a copy of the book. Fortunately for Walker, the jury also found the prosecution's argument bizarre. Last week they found him not guilty. Despite the absurdity of this prosecution, the U.K.'s home secretary (essentially the equivalent of the head of America's Department of Homeland Security) actually wants to expand this anti-terror censorship law. Section 58 doesn't currently cover viewing or reading content online. So this month Secretary Amber Rudd said she wants to expand the law's reach to cover people who view "terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions." (If you'd like to know how the U.K. government would be able to know what you've been viewing online, they've covered that with the Investigatory Powers Act that went into effect at the start of the year.) Rudd says that the "reasonable excuse" exemption will remain for people such as journalists and academics who write about ideas the[...]

The Truth About Niger

Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Predictably, the news media spent most of last week examining words Donald Trump may or may not have spoken to the widow of an American Green Beret killed in Niger, in northwest Africa, in early October. Not only was this coverage tedious, it was largely pointless. We know Trump is a clumsy boor, and we also know that lots of people are ready to pounce on him for any sort of gaffe, real or imagined. Who cares? It's not news. But it was useful to those who wish to distract Americans from what really needs attention: the U.S. government's perpetual war. The media's efforts should have been devoted to exploring—really exploring—why Green Berets (and drones) are in Niger at all. (This is typical of the establishment media's explanation.) That subject is apparently of little interest to media companies that see themselves merely as cheerleaders for the American Empire. For them, it's all so simple: a U.S president (even one they despise) has put or left military forces in a foreign country—no justification required; therefore, those forces are serving their country; and that in turn means that if they die, they die as heroes who were protecting our way of life. End of story. Thus the establishment media see no need to present a dissenting view, say, from an analyst who would question the dogma that inserting American warriors into faraway conflicts whenever a warlord proclaims his allegiance to ISIS is in the "national interest." Patriotic media companies have no wish to expose their audiences to the idea that jihadists would be no threat to Americans who were left to mind their own business. Apparently the American people also must be shielded from anyone who might point out that the jihadist activity in Niger and neighboring Mali is directly related to the U.S. and NATO bombing of Libya, which enabled al-Qaeda and other Muslim militants to overthrow the secular regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. That Obama-Clinton operation in 2011, besides producing Qaddafi's grisly murder and turning Libya into a nightmare, facilitated the transfer of weapons and fanatical guerrillas from Libya to nearby countries in the Sahel — as well as Syria. Since then the U.S. government has been helping the French to "stabilize" its former colony Mali with surveillance drones and Green Berets based in Niger. Nice work, Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. (Citizen Trump was an early advocate of U.S. intervention in Libya.) Need I remind you that the U.S./NATO regime-change operation in Libya was based on a lie? Obama later said his failure to foresee the consequences of the Libya intervention was the biggest mistake of his presidency. (For more on the unintended consequences for the Sahel, see articles here, here, and here.) So the media, which pretends to play a role in keeping Americans informed, have decided the people need not hear the truth behind the events in Niger. Instead, "reporters" and "analysts" perform their role as cheerleaders for the American Empire by declaring the dead men "heroes" and focusing on the tragedy that has befallen their families. Public scrutiny of the military operation is discouraged because it thought to detract from the Green Berets' heroism. What makes them heroes? They were killed by non-Americans in a foreign land while wearing military uniforms. That's all it takes, according to the gospel of what Andrew Bacevich calls the Church of America the Redeemer and its media choir. But are they really heroes? We can question this while feeling sorrow for the people who will never see their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers again. Reporters and analysts who emote over alleged heroism base their claim on the dubious proposition that the men were "serving their country" and "protecting our freedom." A brief examinati[...]

Roy Moore Would Make America Saudi Arabia Again

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:45:00 -0400

God certainly has a great sense of irony. In the same week that Saudi Arabia, an Islamic theocracy, took a small step out of the 18th Century by easing its ban on female driving, America took a step back into that century by handing a win in the Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary to Roy Moore, a vehement proponent of a Christian theocracy on U.S. soil. Sadly, it seems, faith in American-style liberalism is dimming in America just as it is penetrating the remaining bastions of illiberalism in the world. Moore calls Islam a "fake religion" while spreading the fake news that unnamed Christian communities in Illinois and Indiana are being forced to live under Islamic law or sharia. But why he would find sharia all that troubling is unclear given that his Christianity is its spiritual twin. He has twice been defrocked as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, first in 2004 for insisting on displaying a massive plaque of the 10 Commandments in his court in defiance of the First Amendment's establishment clause, and then in 2016 for refusing to hand marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Far from showing regret, he regards these as justified acts of civil disobedience because, like Islamic fundamentalists, he believes that God's law supersedes man's law. Indeed, he considers God to be "the only source of our law, liberty and government" and made the restoration of Christian "virtue and morality" the cornerstone of his campaign. Nor is there much daylight between his idea of Christian virtue and the Islamic strictures that he demonizes. Moore would ban not just reproductive choice for women but also homosexuality which he has condemned as "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God." In fact, he has repeatedly refused to rule out the death penalty against gays. He considers 9-11 God's retribution against America for "legitimizing sodomy." This means that as far as he is concerned, the 9-11 Islamist were really emissaries of God. Yet he penned purple prose opposing Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever to be elected to the House in 2006, from taking his oath of office on the Koran rather than the Bible because, you know, America wasn't settled by folks who brought "a Koran on the pilgrim ship, Mayflower." Most chilling, however, is that he is the author of the misnamed 2005 Constitution Restoration Act that would give Congress the power to remove any judge who refuses to recognize God as the source of America's law. The bill also seeks to limit the power of the Supreme Court to overrule or punish any state official or judge acting in the name of God's law and, instead, would impeach the judges who take on such cases. Think of it as the Christian version of Taliban rule with slightly more checks-and-balances and fewer beards. Many explanations have been proffered for Moore's victory including the failure of Congressional Republicans to deliver on their promise to repeal-and-replace Obamacare, the close ties of Moore's primary opponent, Luther Strange with Alabama's disgraced, scandal-plagued governor, and the conservative base's general disgust with the Republican establishment that backed Strange. There is some truth to all of them. But the far more disturbing reality is that the hard-core conservative base has turned inward, seeking "redemption" by returning to a purer past. It has become deeply hostile to the true source of American greatness, its receptiveness to outside influences, whether in the form of ideas, people or products. It has become the enemy of what the British philosopher Karl Popper famously called the "open society" that sees alien influences not as a threat but as a source of progress [...]

Roy Moore's Illiberal Vision for America: New at Reason

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:45:00 -0400

Last week, Alabama handed victory to Roy Moore, a Christian Reconstructionist with barely disguised plans to plant Christian(image) rule on American soil, in the Senate Republican primary. Ironically, this happened the same week that Saudi Arabia, an Islamic theocracy, lifted its ban on female drivers and started moving away from its strict version of sharia law.

Moore is an implacable foe of Islam and sharia. But the truth of the matter, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia, is that Moore's Christianity has more in common with sharia than American liberal democracy. If he had his druthers, he'd turn back the clock to New England-style puritanism when it comes to gay rights, women's reproductive rights and religious liberty.

$7,700 Is Your Share of the Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria So Far

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 13:15:00 -0400

(image) How much have our post-9/11 wars on terror cost? This year's National Defense Authorization Act ordered the government to collect and calculate that information, and the results are in. The Pentagon estimates that so far the war in Afghanistan has cost $753 billion, amounting to a cumulative cost per taxpayer of $3,785. Iraq and Syria are $770 billion, or $3,955 per taxpayer. That adds up to a grand total of more than $1.5 trillion and $7,740 per taxpayer. So far.

At Defense One, Marcus Weisberger notes: "Americans paid the most for the wars in 2010, an average of $767 apiece. The annual amount declined through 2016 to $204 per taxpayer, before growing again as the U.S. ramped up its airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria."

These figures vastly understate the ultimate monetary costs of the wars. In Reason piece last year headlined "The High Price of Security Theater," James Bovard included the costs of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Agency harassment at airports, and FBI, CIA, and NSA surveillance to come up with a total cost of $4 trillion.

The Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University calculates that "through 2017, the US federal government has spent or been obligated to spend $4.8 trillion on the post-9/11 wars, including medical and disability payments to veterans over the next forty years." The researchers at the Watson Institute further noted that the wars had generally been financed by borrowing. "Unless the US changes the way it manages that debt, future interest will exceed $8 trillion by the 2050s," they report.


Assuming 210 million taxpayers, the Watson Institute figures suggest that, if these trends continue, that the cost of our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria will amount to $61,000 per individual taxpayer by 2050.

President Donald Trump wants to increase the Pentagon's budget by $54 billion. Below see Reason TV's "3 Reasons Conservatives Should Cut Defense Spending Now":

src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

The Vietnam Syndrome: How We Lost It and Why We Need It Back

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:15:00 -0400

In Kabul, Afghanistan, American Embassy personnel who want to meet with their counterparts at the nearby U.S. military base have to travel a mere 100 yards. But they don't make a practice of walking or driving. They go by military helicopter, reports The New York Times. The space between is too dangerous to cross on the ground. It's the sort of bizarre fact that might have emerged in Ken Burns' new PBS series on the Vietnam War, illustrating our inability to turn South Vietnam into a safe, stable place. But it's not the past; it's the present. The Vietnam War was the greatest U.S. military catastrophe of the 20th century. A conflict begun under false pretenses, based on ignorance and hubris, it killed 58,000 Americans and as many as 3 million Vietnamese. It ended in utter failure. Never in our history have so many lives been wasted on such monumental futility. It was a national trauma worse than any since the Great Depression, and it left deep gashes in the American psyche. It instilled an aversion to wars of choice that became known as the Vietnam syndrome. The allergy might have lasted for generations. It didn't. In 2001, just 26 years after the fall of Saigon, the United States invaded Afghanistan. American troops have been fighting there twice as long as we fought in Vietnam. Once again we find ourselves mired in an incomprehensible land, amid people who distrust us. Once again we are aligned with a corrupt regime that couldn't survive without our help as we incur casualties in the pursuit of goals we never reach. In Burns' documentary, President Lyndon B. Johnson is heard in 1965 confiding, "A man can fight if he can see daylight down the road somewhere, but there ain't no daylight in Vietnam." Afghanistan has also been an endless journey down a pitch-black mine shaft. The American military drew some obvious conclusions from Vietnam. Gen. Colin Powell, who served in combat there, had them in mind when he formulated what became known as the Powell Doctrine. It advised going to war only if we can identify a vital interest, have clear, achievable purposes, are prepared to use decisive force, and know our exit strategy. But Powell's wisdom eventually was forgotten. How could we be repeating the mistakes of Vietnam already? We didn't wake up one day with severe amnesia. It was not a one-step process. It occurred through a succession of military interventions that convinced us we were clever enough to avoid the pitfalls that had brought us to such ruin in Southeast Asia. Ronald Reagan lamented the Vietnam syndrome but shrewdly declined to send American forces to fight leftists in Central America. He did, however, undertake one brief, low-risk invasion -- of the Caribbean island of Grenada, against a Castro-backed Marxist regime. Our forces removed the government, and we soon departed. In 1989, George H.W. Bush tried a more ambitious mission, invading Panama to eject a dictator. Then came Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which provoked Bush to send a huge air and ground force to expel Saddam Hussein's army—a fight that proved far easier than expected. Bill Clinton had his own victory, an 11-week bombing campaign that forced Serbia to leave the breakaway province of Kosovo. He managed it without a single American combat fatality. By 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Americans had gotten our swagger back. We had proved we could bring about regime changes in hostile countries while incurring few casualties and avoiding long-term entanglement. We thought we had cracked the code of successful military interventions. The general attitude in Washington was: "We've mastered this." We proceeded to plunge into Afghanistan, [...]