SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
Ever since the American Studies Association had the nerve to decide through a democratic vote that it would impose an academic boycott on Israel, the news media has been on a feeding frenzy. And it's just the beginning. The much larger and much more powerful Modern Languages Association will take up the matter of academic freedom and the Palestinians in about a week. Hang on to your seats. No doubt I will file a dispatch or two about that one. But for right now, I'd like to suggest we take a pause in the debate about the ASA.
I was halfway through my run when I saw her. Per our custom, we both stopped to gaze at each other. She was graceful, silent and beautiful. Then as quickly as she appeared, she was gone.
Moments later, I found myself at the edge of a thoroughfare, wondering whether I should cross the road and continue on the trail or double back. Since it was getting dark, I decided on the latter. That’s when I noticed the sign posted on the tree beside me.
We are grateful to Slovakia for resettling the three remaining Uighurs from Guantánamo, ending one of the most tragic chapters in Guantánamo’s twelve-year history. This is a profound humanitarian gesture toward three men the U.S. government long recognized were innocent of any wrongdoing and never should have been brought to Guantánamo. Unfortunately, their release was delayed for a decade during which they endured terrible physical and psychological abuse at Guantánamo.
It is important to remember that the Uighurs were pawns in a geopolitical saga that involved an agreement by the United States to hold them as “terrorists” in exchange for China’s agreement not to interfere with U.S. efforts to obtain a UN Security Council resolution that would pave the way for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It is especially heartbreaking that when the Uighurs were turned over to U.S. forces following the invasion of Afghanistan, they thought they had been saved. They viewed America as the only superpower capable of standing up to China, and thought that they would be treated fairly and humanely. Sadly, they came to symbolize the tragedy of Guantánamo.
A few months back, the Arab World was shaken by a New York Times article claiming to detail the Obama administration's efforts to disengage from the Middle East in order to facilitate its "pivot toward the East". It didn't matter that the President had just delivered his annual address the United Nations General Assembly in which he spelled out his priorities for the year - largely focused on his commitment to address: the Israel-Palestinian conflict; the war in Syria; the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program; and the effort to build more democratic societies. Despite his words and the actions that followed, the perception that the US was abandoning the region persisted.
As we begin 2014, it is clear that concerns over US abandonment are unfounded. The US isn't going anywhere, and the Middle East promises to be every bit as complicated and challenging to US policy-makers as it has been in the year just ending. There is a dizzying array of conflicts and crises unfolding across the region - all of which will involve the US in the year to come.
Truthout readers have been provided a few comments on the suspension of the “Duck Dynasty" patriarch for extremely bigoted comments regarding gay and black people. In the wider “news” world this has become a recurring topic. In this short piece I would like to point out several key elements of the ensuing debate.
This is not a freedom of speech issue! The Constitution, in Amendment 1, states that Congress shall make no law restricting this freedom. Under the doctrine of incorporation, the Supreme Court has held this prohibition also applies to state and local government. Robertson had every right to say what he did. He will not be arrested for doing so.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees the number of Syrian refugees is now over 2.3 million. The UNHCR also says that within Syria there are 4.2 displaced people as a result of the civil war that has been going on between Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and primarily a Sunni-fundamentalist-led rebel force, with both sides allowing and engaging in attacks on civilian targets. The Kurds, who are about 9% of the Syrian population and traditionally have had a role in the Syrian government now are targeted by both al-Assad and the rebels.
2013 has been a terrible year for several Arab nations. It has been terrible because the promise of greater freedoms and political reforms has been reversed, most violently in some instances, by a few countries taking the path of anarchy and chaos. Syria and Egypt are two cases in point.
Syria has been hit the hardest. For months, the United Nations has maintained that over 100,000 people have been killed in the 33 months of conflict. More recently, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concluded that at least 125,835 people, of which more than a third are civilians, have been killed.
Let’s start with irony:
Compelling research suggests that the public in the U.S. is unique in its commitment to belief, often at the expense of evidence—leading me to identify the U.S. as a belief culture.
Additionally, while I remain convinced that the U.S. is a belief culture, I also argue that, below, the political cartoon posted at Truthout captures another important dynamic: Many committed to their own beliefs both do not recognize that they are committed to belief and belittle others for being committed to their beliefs.
Big Spring is at the heart of the prison-industrial complex in America. The total population of the West Texas town is little more than 20,000, but there are two full prisons and an immigration facility that, in total, house no fewer than 4,000 prisoners. Considering day shifts, night shifts, weekend shifts for the guards, support systems like food service, sanitation, administration, health care, janitorial duties, and maintenance: more than 60 percent of the households in towns like Big Spring are dependent on the prison paycheck. And there are thousands of towns like Big Spring across the country. In other words, if you stop jailing people in The Land of The Free, a good chunk of America would wither up and die.