It turns out we all should have taken Trump both seriously and literally.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The crossed arrow flag is the symbol of the Eurasian Party, fojnded by Aleksander Dugan and supported by Predident Trumps Sentio Advisor Steve Bannon. The Eurasian Party describes itself as the defender of White Christian values.  

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For more than a year, President Trump made it clear how he felt about refugees and other Muslim foreigners seeking to reach the United States: they were not welcome.

Trump’s rhetoric during the election campaign alarmed many Americans and foreigners alike, but his surrogates at the time mocked the supposed hysteria of his critics, insisting they should take him seriously, not literally.

It turns out we all should have taken Trump both seriously and literally. An executive order signed on Friday at least temporarily barred entry to refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries — and unleashed chaos in both American airports and politics this weekend. The international community largely reacted in shock and outrage at the move, which was implemented in a fog of confusion and prompted dramatic protests outside air terminals in many of the U.S.’s major cities. Democrats and even some Republicans condemned the order as mean-spirited, ineffective and harmful to American interests.

Sure, the United States does have a long, dark history of xenophobia. There have been yellow perils and red scares, internment camps and racist exclusion acts. But the Trump White House is operating on a radical nationalist ideology that we haven’t quite seen before, one shaped by open contempt for its critics and opponents and seemingly built on the talking points of Europe’s far right.

Trump has found common cause with a host of hardline, populist and anti-immigrant politicians in Europe, all of whom preach a similar brand of angry cultural nationalism and reject open trade, international institutions and other hallmarks of the liberal global order. Their gains in recent years mirrored Trump’s rise and inspired the American president.

Nowhere was the far-right surge more visible than in their efforts to block tens of thousands of Syrian refugees seeking sanctuary in the West. Their arguments, while couched in security concerns, are explicitly cultural: Influential far-right politicians like France’s Marine Le Pen or Dutch populist Geert Wilders claim their nations are locked in a clash of civilizations with Islam and its adherents. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the most outspoken anti-refugee head of government in Europe, styled himself as a defender of Western Christendom and built a wall on his southern border.

Trump joined them on the parapets and parroted their scare-mongering. He conjured up a world where hordes of Syrian refugees and other malefactors were flooding into the United States, where the Paris attackers could end up in Portland, where we simply “don’t know what’s going on.” It was a world of disaster and fear that only he could set right.

Of course, none of this was particularly true. The European Union’s open internal borders and proximity to the Middle East create security conundrums that the United States, blessed by its geography, just does not have. The existing American refugee resettlement program already involves “extreme vetting” — a rigorous process of checks that can take up to two years. The permanent residents (or “green card” holders) whom Trump’s advisers also sought to block through the executive order have gone through months, if not years, of checks to win their legal status.

One tactic may be to distinguish between Christian and Muslim refugees, an idea already voiced by some European leaders. As early as 2015, Slovakia insisted it only wanted to take in Christian refugees. The country’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, warned that Islam “has no place in Slovakia.”

Trump issued a statement on Facebook on Sunday evening pushing back against the widespread criticism of his executive order, saying the list of countries identified in the ban was one drawn up earlier by the Obama administration (the comparison was quickly debunked by the Post’s own Glenn Kessler). “This is not about religion,” Trump said.

But for Trump’s chief White House adviser, former Breitbart head Stephen K. Bannon, it almost certainly is. Bannon is Trump’s main ideologue, a nativist, a champion of a kind of Christian nationalism and a figure of increasing power behind the scenes. At a conference of European conservatives at the Vatican in 2014, Bannon said he believed the West was “at the beginning states of a global war against Islamic fascism.”

Bannon’s politics — and thus much of Trump’s — combine economic populism with ethnic nationalism. This may seem somewhat out of place in the United States, where the Republican Party has long defended the interests of free traders and corporate elites. But it’s squarely in line with the older European tradition of ultra-nationalism, and those Europeans now see Trump’s victory and policies as harbingers of things to come on their own shores.

When Ford confirmed plans to shift investment from Mexico to the United States earlier this month, Le Pen celebrated the move, saying it was proof that “protectionism works, when it is led by determination, and when a country can exercise its economic independence.” When Trump called for strident “America First” policies during his inaugural address, Orban heralded the speech as “the end of multilateralism.” And when the executive order on immigration took effect this weekend, Wilders told Trump: “I would do the same.”

Trump’s European fellow travelers — which include a motley cast of Euroskeptics, Islamophobes, Russophiles and neo-Nazis — are the source of real alarm within the European establishment. Even British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is tasked with leading her country out of the European Union, found herself having to defend the international order when visiting the United States last week. Over the weekend, she said she did not “agree” with Trump’s immigration ban.

Neither did German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Trump attacked earlier for being too welcoming to refugees. The pair spoke this weekend in what must have been a rather awkward phone call.

“She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion,” said Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German chancellor.

• My colleagues have put together a stunning set of stories profiling the people who were denied entry to the United States this weekend or who now find themselves in legal limbo. These include Iranian students thwarted from attending American universities; a Somali refugee on the cusp of a new life in the United States; and an Iraqi family who sold their home, car and possessions after going through two years of vetting for resettlement in the United States, only to be blocked at the Cairo airport.

“I can’t describe to you how I felt — the disrespect for humanity, I am here to visit my sick mother,” said a Syrian woman who had flown from Saudi Arabia to Chicago with a valid visa to see her hospitalized mother. “There is no good reason for me to not be able to enter. It’s a feeling of utter despair.”

There are now dozens of such heart-breaking stories of lives interrupted, families torn apart, dreams dashed — what CNN’s Fareed Zakaria described as the “roadkill of Trump’s posturing.”

• The apparent consensus among counterterrorism experts is that Trump’s ban may make the United States less safe. It was cheered on by the Islamic State’s social media channels as a boon for Muslim recruitment.

“Through inflammatory rhetoric and hastily drawn executive orders, the [Trump] administration has alienated allies, including Iraq, provided propaganda fodder to terror networks that frequently portray U.S. involvement in the Middle East as a religious crusade, and endangered critical cooperation from often hidden U.S. partners — whether the leader of a mosque in an American suburb or the head of a Middle East intelligence service,” wrote Post national security reporters Greg Miller and Missy Ryan.

• The Trump administration landed in another pool of hot water after issuing a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day — this past Friday — that didn’t specifically mention the suffering of the Jewish people, a break from the bipartisan practice of past administrations. Trump simply remembered “the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust.” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus didn’t back down on Sunday, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “I don’t regret the words.”

The conspicuous statement led critics to condemn the White House for giving space to Holocaust denial. “To universalize it to ‘all those who suffered’ is to scrub the Holocaust of its meaning,” wrote conservative commentator John Podhoretz.

• But if he was irked by Trump’s message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu certainly didn’t show it. On Saturday, he tweeted support for Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, likening the endeavor to a fence he had erected along Israel’s once-porous border with Egypt. Mexico tweeted back in anger, expressing “concern, rejection and disappointment” in Netanyahu’s decision to cheer another border wall.

• As of writing, Reuters is reporting that six people were killed, and 8 wounded, by gunmen during evening prayers at a mosque in Quebec City. Islamophobia has been on the rise in the city and a pig’s head was left at the same mosque’s doorstep just last year. But as tensions rise over Trump’s executive order, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made it clear that those rejected from the US would be welcome in Canada.

A Yemeni walks past a graffiti protesting US military operations in the country on Jan. 29. (Yahya&nbsp;Arhab/EPA)</p>

A Yemeni walks past a graffiti protesting US military operations in the country on Jan. 29. (Yahya Arhab/EPA)

The forever war marches on

The first American combat death of the Trump administration came on Sunday in a remote stretch of Yemeni desert. An unidentified service member was killed and four others wounded during a raid by SEAL Team 6 that targeted a senior leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

The death brings at least a modicum of attention back to the wars that the United States military continues to fight around the world, even as President Trump’s draconian immigration policies dominate headlines.

Trump often calls out the Islamic State by name as enemy number one, but his administration has been “particularly aggressive on the al-Qaeda threat in Yemen,” writes Nancy Yousseff, BuzzFeed’s national security correspondent. She notes that the U.S. launched at least three airstrikes within the very first hours of Trump’s presidency.

Despite the horrors of the war there (and alleged American complicity in them), Yemen doesn’t usually grab front-page headlines. AQAP, the U.S.’s main foe in Yemen, is not as powerful as the Islamic State, and its ability to engineer strikes against Western targets has been more limited (they have been linked to the Charlie Hebdo and Boston Marathon attacks).

Otherwise, the first days of Trump’s wars around the word look much the same as the Obama administration’s. The U.S. has launched drone strikes against the Islamic State in Libya, and it continues to coordinate strikes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. Except for Pakistan and Afghanistan, all of those nations’ citizens are barred from entering the United States per Trump’s executive order on immigration.

Former President Barack Obama ended his eight years in office with just over 15,000 Americans on the ground around the world, down from almost 200,000 at the beginning of his term. But, by using drones in particular, Obama ramped up targeted strikes that many said were imprecise and killed civilians.

With Trump’s recent vow to undertake a “great rebuilding” of U.S. armed services, it’s unclear whether Obama’s strike-based strategy will soon give way to boots on the ground once again. But for now, the action is still in the air. — Max Bearak

White House senior adviser Steve Bannon, standing at right, in the Oval Office while President Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 28. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)</p>

White House senior adviser Steve Bannon, standing at right, in the Oval Office while President Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 28. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The big question

Signing the refugee ban wasn’t the only big thing President Trump did over the weekend. He also granted Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist, a permanent seat on the National Security Council. So we asked Philip Rucker, the Post’s White House bureau chief: What do we know about Bannon and the role he’s asserting in national security policy?

“Here’s the thing: In elevating Bannon, Trump gave a political adviser a place at the table where America’s national security decisions are made — at the same time as he demoted the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both figures were regular members of the NSC’s Principals Committee, along with the secretaries of state, defense and treasury. But now they can only attend certain Principals Committee meetings — when, in the words of Trump’s memorandum, ‘issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.’

“Trump says it is part of a broader restructuring of the National Security Council intended to improve efficiencies. But there is no precedent in the Obama or George W. Bush administrations, and Trump’s critics and veteran national security experts were alarmed.

“Trump signed the memorandum finalizing the changes on Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday morning the blowback was intense. Susan Rice, who was President Obama’s national security adviser, tweeted that the changes were ‘stone cold crazy.’

“Bannon is a somewhat mysterious figure within the White House, and a lot of people know one thing about him — that he ran Breitbart, the racially charged and anti-establishment conservative news site. But his life experience is quite broad, both in high finance and as a Naval officer. Trump considers Bannon a savant and is allowing him to shape his presidency and especially his foreign policy. On Saturday, Bannon stood at Trump’s side in the Oval Office as the president spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders.”

It seemed there was only one topic in the news this weekend as demonstrators gathered at American airports and travelers were caught in limbo across the globe. Julia Ioffe of The Atlantic had a powerful recollection of what it’s like to actually seek asylum in the U.S., while former Army officer Phillip Carter wrote about the U.S. military interpreters and would-be Americans banned by President Trump’s order. Elsewhere there were simple reminders of what the new immigration policies may cost the U.S., both in practical diplomatic terms and as a moral leader.

This is what it’s like to come to the United States as a refugee
One story of coming to America from the Soviet Union
By Julia Ioffe | The Atlantic  •  Read more »
With friends like us
In barring even those who’ve helped us wage our wars, Trump signaled to the world that American friendship comes with an asterisk.
By Phillip Carter | Slate  •  Read more »
Trump’s refugee ban dishonors the memory of the Jewish Holocaust victims he failed to acknowledge
If ‘Never Again’ and ‘Never Forget’ mean anything, then let Americans of good conscience and character stand together.
By Mathew S. Nosanchuk | Haaretz  •  Read more »
Trump’s travel ban is a gift to Iran’s rulers
The Iranian regime thrives on isolating its population.
By Hadi Ghaemi | The Washington Post  •  Read more »
Donald Trump’s un-American refugee policy
Freezing the resettlement program undermines U.S. moral leadership and national security.
By David Miliband | The New York Times  •  Read more »
Digital privacy is a growing concern for many Americans. Over the weekend, Twitter revealed two user data requests submitted by the FBI that might be unconstitutional. And while the White House considers vetting visitors to the US using their web browsing history, social media habits and personal contacts, Politico reported that many of Trump’s own hires are not getting the same scrutiny.

Twitter releases FBI’s potentially unconstitutional requests
For months, there’s been a slow drip of tech companies revealing the national security letters that are being sent to them by the FBI to demand user data without a warrant.
By Rhett Jones | Gizmodo  •  Read more »
White House discussing asking foreign visitors for social media info and cell phone contacts
Trump administration officials are discussing the possibility of asking foreign visitors to disclose all websites and social media sites they visit, and to share the contacts in their cell phones.
By Jake Tapper | CNN  •  Read more »
Several Trump appointees shared unflattering views of minorities, women on social media
The postings raise questions about how the administration is vetting hires.
By Caitlin Emma | Politico  •  Read more »

For anyone who has visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the heart of Berlin, this is probably a familiar sight: people jumping on the tops of the memorial’s concrete pillars, playing hide-and-seek between them or just snapping goofy photos. But one Berliner, a 28-year-old Israeli expat named Shahak Shapira, is now on a mission to shame frolicking trourists with a website that meshes their photos with archival shots of concentration camps. “This is not a place for fun selfies, and people need to know this,” he told the Post. “No, it’s not ‘okay.’” (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)


3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mike Venuto #

    Interesting idea…the beer halls of Berlin resurredted?

  2. Mike Venuto #

    The beer halls of Berlin resurrected? Some how this got trashed by a Troll on first submission : )

  3. theaveeditor #

    The analogy to Hitler is too easy. Trump is a fascist but that covers Mussolini, Xi, Stalin, Thermadorians, Singapore, Duterte, Tojo, Andrew Jackson… Scared yet?

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