U.S. diplomats accuse Tillerson of breaking child soldiers law

A group of about a dozen U.S. State Department officials have taken the unusual step of formally accusing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of violating a federal law designed to stop foreign militaries from enlisting child soldiers, according to internal documents reviewed by Reuters.

A confidential State Department “dissent” memo, which Reuters was first to report on, said Tillerson breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan from a U.S. list of offenders in the use of child soldiers. This was despite the department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries. [tmsnrt.rs/2jJ7pav]

Keeping the countries off the annual list makes it easier to provide them with U.S. military assistance. Iraq and Afghanistan are close allies in the fight against Islamist militants, while Myanmar is an emerging ally to offset China’s influence in Southeast Asia.

[Reuters]

Trump Announces U.S. Will Exit Paris Climate Deal

President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord Thursday, a major step that fulfills a campaign promise while seriously dampening global efforts to curb global warming.

The decision amounts to a rebuttal of the worldwide effort to pressure Trump to remain a part of the agreement, which 195 nations signed onto. Foreign leaders, business executives and Trump’s own daughter lobbied heavily for him to remain a part of the deal, but ultimately lost out to conservatives who claim the plan is bad for the United States.

“In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but being negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction under terms that are fair to the United States,” Trump said from the White House Rose Garden.

“We’re getting out. And we will start to renegotiate and we’ll see if there’s a better deal. If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine,” he added.

[Washington Post]

Reality

The U.S. now joins Syria, which has been mired in a war and Nicaragua, which has said it didn’t join because they didn’t think the climate agreement went far enough, in not taking part in the global agreement.

For years conservatives railed against Barack Obama for what they perceived was “leading from behind.” This is exactly leading from behind. Other countries like China will now take over as global leaders in green energy and reap the economic benefits while Trump at home will push for more oil and coal.

Trump Says U.S. Should Have Stolen Iraq’s Oil, and ‘Maybe We’ll Have Another Chance’

While addressing the CIA on Saturday, President Donald Trump took a break from lambasting the media to remind everyone that he thinks the U.S. should have stolen Iraq’s oil. He also suggested that the U.S. might get another chance to violate international law.

“Now I said it for economic reasons,” Trump said while introducing Representative Mike Pompeo, his pick to lead the agency. “But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place, so we should have kept the oil. But, okay, maybe we’ll have another chance.”

National Review has noted that Trump’s “odd fixation” with taking Iraq’s oil dates back to at least 2011. He made the argument numerous times on the campaign trail, suggesting that the U.S. could take Iraq’s oil while fighting ISIS. When PolitiFact examined the claim in September, numerous experts said trying to seize Iraqi oil would not be legal, feasible, or desirable. The idea is “so out of step with any plausible interpretation of U.S. history or international law that they should be dismissed out of hand by anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of world affairs,” said Lance Janda, a military historian at Cameron University.

It’s not clear what Trump meant by “maybe we’ll have another chance,” but when you’re president, people take even offhand remarks about violating international law pretty seriously. BuzzFeed spoke with several Iraqis on the front lines of the battle against ISIS, and they said they were prepared to take up arms against Americans if they attempted to take their country’s natural resources.

“I participated in the attack against the Americans by attacking them with mortars and roadside bombs, and I’m ready to do it again,” said Abu Luay, an Iraqi security official using a nom de guerre, who is currently fighting the terrorist group in northwest Iraq. “We kept our ammunition and weapons from the time the Americans left for fighting ISIS. But once ISIS is gone we will save our weapons for the Americans.”

Several other people at a base for Popular Mobilization Units, a new branch of Iraq’s armed forces consisting of former militiamen and volunteers fighting against ISIS, said the move would be counterproductive. Iraq recently took out a $5.3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, in part to help pay for the fight against ISIS.

“There’s no way Trump could take the oil unless he launched a new military front and it be a new world war,” said Kareem Kashekh, a photographer who works for the Popular Mobilization Units.

(h/t New York Magazine)

Reality

Specifically, the Annex to the Hague Convention of 1907 on the Laws and Customs of War, which says that “private property … must be respected (and) cannot be confiscated.” It also says that “pillage is formally forbidden.”

In addition, the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War provides that “any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

For example, when Saddam Hussein (the former authoritarian leader of Iraq who Trump admires) invaded Kuwait in 1990, one of the justifications for international intervention was because Hussein seized and held Kuwaiti oil fields.

Media

Donald Trump ‘supports policy’ that has killed 4,500 people in the Philippines in five months

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to “kill all” the country’s suspected drug users and dealers has many foreign critics, including the United States, the European Parliament and the International Criminal Court. It now has at least one high-profile supporter: President-elect Donald Trump, at least according to Duterte.

In a statement on Saturday, Duterte shared details of a seven-minute conversation that took place on Friday. He said that during the call, Trump endorsed his campaign against drug users and dealers — a campaign that has left at least 4,500 Filipinos dead in about five months. Trump told Duterte that he was doing it the “right way,” according to Duterte’s account.

“I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump,” he added. “And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.”

The comments, which have not been confirmed by Trump’s team, could signal another significant twist in U.S.-Philippine ties.

The Philippines is a former U.S. colony that has been a close U.S. partner for decades. Since sweeping to power last spring, Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at his longtime ally, threatening to ditch the United States for China and Russia.

In September, when President Obama raised questions about the bloody anti-drug crusade, Duterte lectured him on colonialism, referring to him with a slang term that translates, roughly, as “son of a whore.”

In the weeks that followed, he made several surprise announcements on U.S.-Philippine military ties, calling for the ouster of U.S. Special Operations forces from the southern island of Mindanao and the end of joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises — only to backtrack repeatedly.

But Trump’s triumph in the US presidential race saw Duterte switch direction again. Weeks after railing against “uncivilized” Americans, Duterte greeted the U.S. president-elect with an enthusiastic “long live” Trump. Duterte also mused that they might get along — because they both like to swear.

For the Philippine president, an expression of support from Trump could help reset ties with the United States. But endorsing Duterte’s crackdown may put Trump at odds with allies such as the European Union, whose parliament issued a resolution urging the Philippines to halt “extrajudicial executions and killings” in connection with the drug war.

(h/t Independent)

Reality

Duterte, also an authoritarian, threatens political rivals and other enemies with baseless claims that they too are drug dealers in order to intimidate into submission or move them aside, even having one political rival murdered under police custody.

Trump Supporter Cites Japanese Internment ‘precedent’ in Backing Muslim Registry

A spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC cited World War II Japanese internment camps as “precedent” for President-elect Donald Trump’s discussed plan for a Muslim registry system.

Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL, appeared on Fox News’ “The Kelly File” to argue in favor of the plan, which Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said in a Reuters interview is being modeled after the highly controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System implemented after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Confronted with questions about the constitutionality of such a plan, Higbie cited history, in particular the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

“We’ve done it based on race, we’ve done it based on religion, we’ve done it based on region,” he said. “We’ve done it with Iran back — back a while ago. We did it during World War II with [the] Japanese.”

Pressed by host Megyn Kelly on whether he was suggesting re-implementing the internment camps, Higbie said no, before adding: “I’m just saying there is precedent for it.”

Kelly then swiftly rebuked his suggestion.

“You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything the president-elect is gonna do,” she said.

The conversation around a proposed registry comes less than one year after Trump first proposed a “complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the United States. Since announcing it, Trump has reiterated his support for a ban, but also rebranded it as “extreme vetting” and proposed narrowing its scope to persons from “territories” with a history of terror.

Trump has himself said that he may have supported internment during WWII. “I certainly hate the concept of it. But I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer,” Trump told TIME in December 2015. Then-candidate Trump also said during an appearance on MSNBC that he viewed internment and a ban on Muslims as “a whole different thing.”

(h/t Politico, NBC News)

Media

Donald Trump Touts Waterboarding, Stokes Immigration Fears in Border State

Donald Trump on Sunday warned his supporters in this border state that Hillary Clinton “wants to let people just pour in,” saying without evidence that hundreds of millions of people could enter the US under a Clinton presidency.

And speaking just nine days before Election Day, the Republican nominee also bemoaned criticism of waterboarding and appeared to once again call for bringing back the since-banned technique for use in the fight against ISIS.

“These savages are chopping off heads, drowning people. This is medieval times and then we can’t do waterboarding? ‘It’s far too tough,'” Trump said, mocking critics of the technique used by the CIA in interrogations of terror suspects under President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 administration.

Trump has previously called for reinstating waterboarding and “much worse” methods of torture if he becomes president.

“We have to be tough and we have to be smart. And we have to be in some cases pretty vicious I have to tell you,” he added.

The Republican nominee also issued a dire — and baseless — warning to Americans that a Clinton administration could usher a flood of hundreds of millions of people crossing into the US.

“You could have 650 million people pour in and we’d do nothing about it. Think of it. That’s what could happen. You triple the size of our country in one week. Once you lose control of your borders you just have no country folks, you have no country,” Trump said, speaking in this Democrat-leaning border state.

Trump also stoked fears about undocumented immigrant crime, warning that continued illegal immigration would result “in the loss of American lives,” even though undocumented immigrants do not commit crimes at a higher rate than legal US residents.

Trump’s stop here came a day before Trump stumps in Michigan, also a state likely to swing in Clinton’s favor, as the Republican nominee and his campaign are hoping to make late gains to help secure the 270 electoral votes Trump needs to secure the presidency.

Trump’s stops in these blue-leaning states also helps bolster the campaign’s message that Trump’s candidacy is on the rise and that the campaign is going on the offensive the final slog to Election Day.

(h/t CNN)

Reality

Trump’s proposed reliance on tactics used by Bond villains as a practical response to the terrorist acts of the Islamic State should be leaving people feeling aghast and concerned.

Unlike fictional TV shows, like 24 where Jack Bauer runs around and tortures his way to the bad guy or movies like Zero Dark Thirty who include torture scenes that never happened which lead to the capture of Osama Bin Laden, reality is quite different.

Waterboarding, and other forms of torture, is considered a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions and is not reliable for obtaining truthful, useful intelligence.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.” There was no proof, according to the 6,700 page report, that information obtained through waterboarding prevented any attacks or saved any lives, or that information obtained from the detainees was not or could not have been obtained through conventional interrogation methods.”

In-fact, we’ve know for centuries that torture is not effective. Here is Napoleon’s own words on the subject:

“It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.”

Instead, rapport-building techniques are 14 times more effective in extracting information than torture and has the upside of not being unethical.

Media

Trump Denounces Bombing Suspect’s Hospitalization and Right to an Attorney

Speaking to supporters in Florida Monday, Donald Trump denounced that the alleged NYC bomber would be given hospitalization and legal counsel in accordance with his constitutional rights.

“Now we will give him amazing hospitalization. He will be taken care of by some of the best doctors in the world. He will be given a fully modern and updated hospital room,” Trump said.

The suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, an Afghan-born naturalized citizen, was injured in a shootout with the police Monday morning before being apprehended. The FBI said he was “directly linked” to the homemade bombs that appeared over the weekend in New York and New Jersey.

Trump continued: “And he’ll probably even have room service, knowing the way our country is. And on top of all of that, he will be represented by an outstanding lawyer. His case will go through the various court systems for years and in the end, people will forget and his punishment will not be what it once would have been. What a sad situation.”

He argued for the need for “speedy, but fair trials,” as well as a “very harsh punishment.”

He also said that authorities must use “whatever lawful methods are available to obtain information from the apprehended suspect to get information before it’s no longer timely.” (Previously on the campaign trail, Trump has spoken of his enthusiasm for waterboarding and other methods of torture.)

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday evening, New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo responded to Trump by saying, “Welcome to America. We have a system of jurisprudence. You’re innocent until proven guilty. You have a right to counsel. And you have the right to hospitalization if you’re ill.”

Cuomo added, “Let’s not lose ourselves in an effort to protect ourselves. We want to protect America. What is America? It’s the rights that we’ve established.”

He said, “I fear sometimes with this rhetoric that people are suggesting we lose what’s special about us in a way to protect ourselves. And that doesn’t work. It’s not who we are. Let’s preserve the system. Let’s be fair about it. Let’s keep our heads.”

(h/t Mediaite)

Media

Slate

Trump Surrogate Rudy Giuliani on War Crimes: ‘Anything’s Legal’ During War

Donald Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani on Sunday claimed that “anything’s legal” during war, including the theft of private property.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Giuliani said that the United States should have seized oil fields in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, to prevent the resource from falling into the hands of terrorists.

It is a position that Trump has argued for years, but it has only garnered serious attention since the former reality TV star became the Republican nominee for president.

Asked why such a move would not amount to theft, Giuliani scoffed. “Of course it’s legal,” he said. “It’s a war. Until the war is over, anything’s legal.”

This is patently false. The seizure of private property in war has been prohibited under international law for more than a century.

That Giuliani, a lawyer and former U.S. attorney, would dismiss decades of international law was unexpected, but it was in keeping with Giuliani’s recent adoption of many of Trump’s most unsubstantiated claims.

The tenor and tone of Giuliani’s media appearances on behalf of Trump have caused a number of his former colleagues to worry publicly that the former mayor of New York is throwing away his legacy.

Giuliani went on to claim that Trump never meant that the United States should have literally removed Iraq’s chief natural resource from the country, only that American troops should have remained in Iraq to ensure it was divided up evenly. “Leave a force back there and take [the oil] and make sure it’s distributed in a proper way,” he told Stephanopoulos.

“If that oil wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have the Islamic State,” Giuliani continued. “That oil is what makes the Islamic State so rich. Had we held that oil, made sure that it was equitably distributed within Iraq, we [could] have some say, some control over the distribution of it.”

For Trump, however, the notion of taking Iraq’s oil has always held an appeal as a sort of plunder. Speaking to Stephanopoulos in 2011, Trump explained: “In the old days, you know when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils. You go in. You win the war and you take it. … You’re not stealing anything. … We’re taking back $1.5 trillion to reimburse ourselves.”

On the presidential campaign trail, Trump has moderated his statements, leaving out the part about Iraq reimbursing the United States for the cost of our blundered invasion of their country.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Reality

Specifically, the Annex to the Hague Convention of 1907 on the Laws and Customs of War, which says that “private property … must be respected (and) cannot be confiscated.” It also says that “pillage is formally forbidden.”

In addition, the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War provides that “any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

For example, when Saddam Hussein (the former authoritarian leader of Iraq who Trump admires) invaded Kuwait in 1990, one of the justifications for international intervention was because Hussein seized and held Kuwaiti oil fields.

Media

Trump: Geneva Conventions Are ‘Out of Date’

Speaking at a press conference, Donald Trump agreed with the statement that the Geneva Conventions outlawing war crimes were “out of date,” and reiterated his support for “enhanced interrogation” of terror suspects.

“Do you think the Geneva Conventions are out of date?” asked NBC’s Katy Tur.

“I think everything’s out of date,” responded Trump. “We have a whole new world.”

Trump repeated his much-scrutinized comments that NATO was obsolete. “Three days later, people that study NATO said, ‘You know, Trump is right.’ You know what, we have a lot of things that are out of date because they’re 20 and 30 and 40 years old.”

“What would you renegotiate?” asked NBC’s Katy Tur. “The enhanced interrogation aspect of it…?”

“Katy, I would renegotiate so much of everything,” he responded.

Tur asked the question again after he gave a long answer that nonetheless avoided the question: “The Geneva Convention and enhanced interrogation, do you think they should allow for that given the rise of ISIS?”

“I am a person that believes in enhanced interrogation, yes,” Trump responded. “And, by the way; it works.”

Reality

No it doesn’t.

Trump’s proposed reliance on tactics used by Bond villains as a practical response to the terrorist acts of the Islamic State should be leaving people feeling aghast and concerned.

Unlike fictional TV shows, like 24 where Jack Bauer runs around and tortures his way to the bad guy or movies like Zero Dark Thirty who include torture scenes that never happened which lead to the capture of Osama Bin Laden, reality is quite different.

Waterboarding, and other forms of torture, is considered a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions and is not reliable for obtaining truthful, useful intelligence.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.” There was no proof, according to the 6,700 page report, that information obtained through waterboarding prevented any attacks or saved any lives, or that information obtained from the detainees was not or could not have been obtained through conventional interrogation methods.”

In-fact, we’ve know for centuries that torture is not effective. Here is Napoleon’s own words on the subject:

“It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.”

Instead, rapport-building techniques are 14 times more effective in extracting information than torture and has the upside of not being unethical.

Media

Trump Praises Saddam Hussein’s Approach to Terrorism — Again

Donald Trump praised former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein Tuesday night, allowing that he was a “really bad guy” but had redeeming qualities when it came to his handling of terrorists.

Trump lauded the former U.S. adversary for how “well” he killed terrorists, recalling that he “didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk. They were terrorists, over.” Now, Trump assessed, “Iraq is Harvard for terrorism. You want to be a terrorist, you go to Iraq.”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign seized the opportunity to once more paint Trump has unfit for office. “Donald Trump’s praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds,” Senior Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an emailed statement. “Trump’s cavalier compliments for brutal dictators, and the twisted lessons he seems to have learned from their history, again demonstrate how dangerous he would be as commander-in-chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has cast the brutal dictator in a positive light — or called Iraq an Ivy League locale for aspiring terrorists. Throughout the primaries Trump glossed over Hussein’s violent history in favor of what he viewed as a more stable Middle East ruled by Saddam’s viciousness.

In an October exclusive with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Trump asserted that the Middle East would be better off today if Moammar Gadhafi of Libya and Saddam Hussein were still in power. “It’s not even a contest,” Trump told Meet the Press. Trump continued to push this idea at a rally in Franklin, Tennessee, telling the crowd that despite Hussein’s “vicious” rule in Iraq “there were no terrorists in Iraq” while he ruled.

“You know what he used to do to terrorists?” Trump polled the Tennessee crowd. “A one day trial and shoot him…and the one day trial usually lasted five minutes, right? There was no terrorism then.”

Trump didn’t just praise Hussein for keeping terrorists at bay, but seemed to tacitly accept the dictator’s use of chemical weapons. During a December rally in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Trump took a cavalier attitude toward Iraq’s use of chemical weapons under Saddam.

“Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘oh he’s using gas!'” Trump said. Describing the way stability was maintained in the region during that time, Trump said “they go back, forth, it’s the same. And they were stabilized.”

Trump lamented how the United States intervened in the region during a speech in South Carolina late last year. “if you go after one or the other, in this case Iraq, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East. That’s what’s going to happen,” he said.

On Tuesday night, at rally focusing heavily on Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, Trump revived the old riffs from his primary playbook. “We shouldn’t have destabilized Saddam Hussein, right? He was a bad guy, really bad guy, but you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good.”

Trump’s statements were noteworthy for the company he made them in. At Trump’s side Tuesday: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who was on the trail with Trump for the day. Corker is being vetted for vice president and his trail time in North Carolina was considered by many to be an audition.

(h/t NBC News)

Reality

What Trump is praising Saddam Hussein for here isn’t justice against the evil terrorists. Saddam Hussein used this tactic of labeling political dissenters and ethnic minorities as “terrorists” and disappearing them, many times without trial. This is a violation of human rights, crimes against humanity, and murder. Hussein’s atrocities are all documented at organizations like Human Rights Watch.

So this is what Trump is praising when comparing Hussein against our “weak” justice system. And if applied in the United States it would be a clear violation of the 5th and 14th amendments of the Constitution should it be applied here in the United States.

Also this isn’t the first time Donald Trump praised Saddam Hussein and other authoritarian leaders while calling the democratically elected officials in Congress and the White House “weak.”

  • After receiving praise from Vladimir Putin, Trump showed lots of love for the authoritarian Russian President in return saying he’ll get along fine with him.
  • Praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on how well he killed all of his uncles in order to take power.
  • In the midst of a brutal civil war where authoritarian Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, Trump was kind enough to give Bashar a grade of ‘A’ for leadership.
  • During the CNN-Telemundo Republican candidates’ debate in February that while Gaddafi was “really bad,” his tactics were effective and we would be so much better off if Gaddafi were in charge.
  • Trump tweeted a quote from former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. When asked about being associated with a fascist Trump responded what difference does it make if it was Mussolini or somebody else — it’s a very good quote.
  • And Trump has a history of praising Saddam Hussein in interviews and at rallies.

Gadhafi, Hussein, Bashar, Un, and Putin all have committed atrocities against their own people and were among the world’s worst human rights abusers.

Media

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