A new movie, “12 Strong,” is opening on January 19th. I’ve been seeing a lot of trailers for it while watching the NFL playoffs. It’s being advertised as America’s first victory in the “war on terror.” Based on a popular book, “Horse Soldiers,” it features American special operations troops charging into battle on horseback. The synopsis of the movie (at Fandango) describes it as follows:
“12 Strong” is set in the harrowing days following 9/11 when a U.S. Special Forces team, led by their new Captain, Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth), is chosen to be the first US troops sent into Afghanistan for an extremely dangerous mission. There, in the rugged mountains, they must convince Northern Alliance General Dostum (Negahban) to join forces with them to fight their common adversary: the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies. In addition to overcoming mutual distrust and a vast cultural divide, the Americans – accustomed to state-of-the-art warfare – must adopt the rudimentary tactics of the Afghani (sic) horse soldiers. But despite their uneasy bond, the new allies face overwhelming odds: outnumbered and outgunned by a ruthless enemy that does not take prisoners.
I don’t think it will surprise anyone that, despite those “overwhelming odds” and being “outnumbered and outgunned by a ruthless enemy,” US troops prevail.
January 11, 2018 marked the 16th year that Guantanamo prison has exclusively imprisoned Muslim men, subjecting many of them to torture and arbitrary detention.
About thirty people gathered in Washington D.C., convened by Witness Against Torture, (WAT), for a weeklong fast intended to close Guantanamo and abolish torture forever. Six days ago, Matt Daloisio arrived from New York City in a van carefully packed with twelve years’ worth of posters and banners, plus sleeping bags, winter clothing and other essentials for the week.
Matt spent an hour organizing the equipment in the large church hall housing us. “He curates it,” said one WAT organizer.
Later, Matt reflected that many of the prisoners whose visages and names appear on our banners have been released. In 2007, there were 430 prisoners in Guantanamo. Today, 41 men are imprisoned there. Shaker Aamer has been reunited with the son whom he had never met while imprisoned in Guantanamo. Mohammed Ould Slahi, author of Guantanamo Diary, has finally been released. These encouraging realities don’t in the slightest diminish the urgency we feel in seeking the release of the 41 men still imprisoned in Guantanamo.
On Tuesday, there was a United States House of Representatives floor vote on H.Res 676, a resolution praising recent protests in Iran and condemning the Iran government.
The resolution includes language stating the House “stands with” the protestors who are termed “the people of Iran” suggesting in obvious contradiction to reality that all or most people in the country are taking part in the protests or even just supporting the protests; condemning the Iran government (called a “regime” to make clear it is viewed as illegitimate and worthy of overthrow as were “regimes” in Iraq and Libya) for “serious human rights abuses against the Iranian people, significant corruption, and destabilizing activities abroad;” encouraging the Trump administration to aid Iran government opponents through expediting the licensing of communications technology in Iran; urging the Trump administration to use “targeted sanctions” to counter Iran; and urging the Trump administration to “convene emergency sessions of the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian regime and establish a mechanism by which the Security Council can monitor such violations.”
The US House today voted to extend Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments. The section allows the government to spy on Americans without a warrant and to save their communications for possible prosecution for “future crimes.” It is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Can the US Senate stop this assault on the Constitution? On today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:
President Trump is expected to direct US embassy staff overseas to more aggressively push the sales of US-manufactured military items to their foreign counterparts. His “National Security Decision Directive” due next month will reportedly also ease the rules and regulations for the export of military hardware. In today’s Liberty Report we take a critical look at US taxpayer-funded salespeople for the US arms industry. Should middle class Americans, who have seen their real incomes decline over the years, really be subsidizing the sales force for large, wealthy corporations? And what of the danger of yet more weapons to get into the hands of bad actors overseas?
The world is a month away from the PyeonChang 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. My friends in South Korea have already bought tickets for multiple events. What a wonderful opportunity for the parents to expose their two boys to displays of athletic skills and friendly competition between nations in the Olympic spirit.
All is good, except for the fear of nuclear war triggered by impulsive leaders in North Korea and the United States. Recent rare talks between North and South Korea give us a glimmer of hope that the Olympic spirit transcends the games into politics. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic games is quoted saying that "the most important thing is not to win, but to take part." This is even more important in the current conflict between North Korea and South Korea. The most important part is not to agree on everything, but to talk.
The Olympics offer a unique moment to de-escalate tensions and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula. The first talks already led to agreements on North Korea sending a delegation to the Olympics, to hold talks on lowering tension along the border, and to reopen a military hotline. Any small step away from the brink of war deserves support from all nations and civil society. Conflict resolution professionals always look for openings in intractable conflicts such as this one. The opportunities of direct dialog between Koreans need to be realistically addressed.