The US Is Wrong to Block Iran’s Loan

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

Iran has been seeking a loan from the International Monetary Fund for the first time in almost sixty years to help them fight the pandemic. The U.S. is expected to block the loan:

The US plans to block Iran’s requested $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund for funding Tehran says it needs to fight its coronavirus crisis.

Advocates for sanctions relief have also been calling for the IMF to approve this loan request in recognition that Iran needs all the resources it can get to get the pandemic under control. Hadi Ghaemi, an Iranian human rights activist, mentioned it in his appeal for sanctions relief last month:

Time is of the essence. The US government should immediately suspend all sanctions that affect the delivery of humanitarian goods to Iran, including banking sanctions on Iran, and vote yes on the $5 billion emergency funding Iran has requested from the International Monetary Fund.

The official excuse for blocking the loan is that the administration assumes that Iran doesn’t need the loan and granting the loan will allow them to divert other funds to support for proxies. This is a very tired excuse, and one that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Iran’s government has every incentive to bring the outbreak under control. The assumption that they will use the loan as an opportunity to send more money to their proxies relies on a cartoonish, ideological view of the country. Iran hawks assume that Iran wants to exploit the pandemic to engage in more “adventurism” because that is what they have been hoping to do. Iran hawks think that this is their best chance to bring about regime change, and they are willing to let the pandemic consume many thousands of innocent lives to that end.

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After Crozier Comments, Navy Secretary Modly Must Resign

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly just made things much worse for himself and the Navy by delivering an attack on Capt. Crozier in a speech to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. It will come as no surprise that the contents of the speech have become public:

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” Modly said, according to a transcript of remarks Modly made to the crew, copies of which have been provided to CNN by multiple Navy officials.

There is a rough transcript of the speech here, and both Task & Purpose and The San Francisco Chronicle obtained an audio recording of the speech.

Modly’s speech was an attempt to justify his unpopular and outrageous decision to remove Crozier from command, and by giving such an inflammatory speech so soon after that decision he showed remarkably poor judgment. The “big controversy” that he complains about just became even bigger. Lecturing the crew about Crozier’s supposed “betrayal” is not going to persuade anyone, and it is bound to stir up even more discontent than there was before. It is deeply insulting to Crozier and his crew to cast the captain’s actions in such derogatory terms. Even if Modly genuinely believes Crozier to have been in the wrong, it is destructive and demoralizing to attack a well-respected officer this way. He was lashing out at the crew as much as Crozier because the crew gave the captain such a rousing sendoff. That’s unacceptable, and it proves that there needs to be someone else in charge of the Department of the Navy.

Modly’s original decision to relieve Crozier of command was a serious mistake, and this tone-deaf exercise in self-justification compounds the first error. Incredibly, Modly criticized Crozier for being either “too naive” or “stupid” for circulating his letter to maybe 20 people, and then he delivers a speech to a crew of thousands and somehow doesn’t think it was going to leak the minute after he finished. Whatever he hoped to achieve by berating the crew for their devotion to their captain, he has pretty much destroyed whatever credibility he might have still had with them.

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A Tale of Two Stockpiles: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Anniversary of his Murder in a Pandemic Year

The United States Strategic National Stockpile of essential medical supplies maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, seems unable to respond to the present COVID-19 crisis. There is much discussion in today’s news about who is responsible for the shortcomings. Did Trump find the shelves empty or full when he took office after President Obama? Is the stockpile meant to support local governments in dealing with shortages in such a crisis, as the DHHS website said until last Friday, or is it specifically meant for use by the federal government, "our stockpile… not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use," as White House senior advisor Jared Kushner insists, a view supported by the newly amended DHHS website?

The United States maintains other strategic stockpiles, more carefully and at a far greater expense. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a stockpile of oil and gasoline and in 2009, President Obama announced the "Stockpile Stewardship Program," pledging more than a trillion dollars to ensure the "safety, security, and reliability" and the "life extension" of the deteriorating nuclear weapons stockpile. A common dictionary definition of the word "stewardship" is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources for the future, but in 2009, President Obama was not speaking of stewardship over the fragile environment, nor over the crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges and tunnels, nor hospitals or schools, nor even stewardship for our national parks and forests, but stewardship for a stockpile of nuclear weapons. The "life extension" he called for was not for the world’s elderly increasingly at risk, but for the aging arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that threaten the obliteration of all life.

President Trump’s determination to purge his predecessor’s legacy does not apply to Obama’s Stockpile Stewardship Program. With unique bipartisan support, the life extension of nuclear weapons has been kept safe from Trump’s budget cuts that decimated the United States’ ability to respond to a pandemic.

On this day in 1967 (April 4), one year before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech at New York’s Riverside Church titled "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," that speaks to the present situation where weapons of mass destruction have priority over instruments of healing. "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift," Dr. King declared, "is approaching spiritual death." In this speech Dr. King labeled the "triple evils of militarism, racism, and materialism" and he lamented that "adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube" while human needs, especially those of the poor, went unmet.

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He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else

On April 4, 2020, my friend Steve Kelly will begin a third year of imprisonment in Georgia’s Glynn County jail. He turned 70 while in prison, and while he has served multiple prison sentences for protesting nuclear weapons, spending two years in a county jail is unusual even for him. Yet he adamantly urges supporters to focus attention on the nuclear weapons arsenals which he and his companions aim to disarm. "The nukes are not going to go away by themselves," says Steve.

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 now await sentencing for their action, performed two years ago inside the Kings Bay Trident Submarine base in southern Georgia. They acted in concert with many others who take literally the Scriptural call to "beat swords into plowshares." Commenting on their case, Bill Quigley, a member of their legal team, told me "their actions speak louder than their words and their words are very powerful." Bill encourages us to remember each of them in our thoughts, prayers, and, hopefully, through our actions. "The legal system is not big enough for the hearts, minds and spirits of these folks," he adds. "The legal system tries to concentrate all of this down to whether you cut a fence or sprayed some blood." Bill believes we should instead look at the impending disaster nuclear weapons could cause, and the continuing disaster they do cause by wasting crucially needed resources to potentially destroy the planet.

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Neither Pandemic nor Panic Supersede the First Amendment

Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of The River church in Tampa, Florida, strongly believes that God wants his church to continue holding live services for hundreds of parishioners even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hillsborough County sheriff Chad Chronister and state attorney Andrew Warren strongly believe that they’re entitled to threaten Howard-Browne with arrest for holding those services, then follow through on that threat.

Howard-Browne is obviously willing to go to jail for his belief. Are Chronister and Warren willing to go to prison for theirs?

Whether Howard-Browne is correct in his assessment of God’s commands isn’t something I’ll pretend to know. But Chronister and Warren are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, incorrect in their claims of authority.

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The Intense Backlash To Firing Captain Crozier

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

The backlash to the Navy’s punishment of Capt. Crozier has been intense, and some influential members of Congress are denouncing the decision to relieve him of command:

Some Navy veterans were disgusted:

David Lapan, a retired Marine colonel, had this to say:

“What signal does this send to the fleet?” said Lapan. “Relieving that commander under these conditions makes it appear to be retaliation. It makes it appear the Navy is more interesting in not being embarrassed rather than taking care of sailors.”

Especially, he said, when one day earlier Modly was calling for commanders to be honest about what they need.

“It makes it appear that you really don’t want them to be honest.”

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