Syrian Rebel forces training
Are American taxpayers funding the persecution of Christians and murder of civilians in war-torn nations?
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 25th, 2013)
Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines earlier this month when he called on world leaders to unite in fighting anti-Christian persecution. Putin has made significant efforts in recent days to underscore the importance of Christian virtues to the Russian people, and his latest statement condemned the violence that has been perpetrated against Christian people in the Middle East and in North Africa.
President Obama didn’t respond in agreement. Indeed, shortly afterwards, he cancelled a scheduled summit with the Russian President. However, Putin’s statement resonated deeply with many Americans who have been working to call attention to the plight of Christian minorities worldwide.
The trouble is that, far from doing our part to end these atrocities, extant American foreign policy seems calculated to exacerbate them. Rather than making an end of the bloodshed, our influence has been making things worse.
Last week, Syrian rebels opened fire on a Christian village during the celebration of a feast day and killed 9 Christian villagers and 2 others. Women and children were among the dead.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, know this is no isolated incident. Since the beginning of the conflict between Sunni Muslim rebel forces and Syrian President Bashar Assad, thousands of Christians have been forced from their homes or brutally murdered. Several Catholic priests and clerics have been beheaded or gunned down in their churches.
Radical Muslim groups, who back the rebel Free Syria Army, see Christians as supporters of Assad’s regime and enemies of their religious belief system, even though many Christians who have been targeted took no active part in supporting Assad.
Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra warned in July that young, Christian women are bearing the brunt of the civil war, with widespread reports of rape in Christian communities. Of the war’s 100,000 casualties since 2011, as estimated 5,000 have been children under 16. A disproportionate number have been Christian women and girls.
Earlier this week, a disturbing video surfaced, purporting to show the execution of two young boys by Syrian rebel forces. The boys, who were accused of supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, are shown blindfolded on their knees beside each other as a masked man hastily reads off what sounds like a list of charges behind them. The video then continues to roll as the boys are riddled with bullets and left lying prostrate and immobile on the ground. Viewer discretion is advised.
In another incident in June, a 14-year old boy in the Northern Syrian city of Aleppo, who was accused of blaspheming the Muslim prophet Muhammad, was flogged and executed by rebel forces. Reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claim the boy was first taken by the rebel gunmen to an unknown location where he was beaten and tortured. He was returned with his body slashed with the marks of a whip and a shirt tied around his head. He was then shot repeatedly in front of a crowd. Grisly photos were released of his bloodied body, a gaping hole all that remains of his nose and mouth.
The Islamists claim that the shockingly violent acts which have been committed by their army are nothing compared with the “genocide,” that has been conducted by Assad’s regime, but it seems the gap is narrowing, as the rebels continue to stack up more and more incidents against themselves. And, obviously, these are only the incidents that have been reported to western news outlets. Who can know what is really going on in the dark recesses of the war-torn nation?
Of course, the last thing anyone would expect is that a civil, respectable, tolerant, and progressive society would be willing to fund such a malicious, vengeful war, or take any part in providing assistance to either side of such a vicious conflict. You wouldn’t expect America, a nation already trillions of dollars in debt, to be giving $250 million in defensive combat supplies to Islamist rebels who violate Christian girls and torture young boys and shoot them up in front of their parents.
But you would be wrong.
Catholic Franciscan Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa warned Vatican Radio in June,
“Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. The international community must put a stop to all this. The world must know that the support of gunmen by the west is helping extremists in killing Syrians.”
Syria isn’t the only place where “Arab Spring” violence has resulted in increased persecution of Christians. Following widespread violence in Egypt this week, CNN reported over 52 churches have been torched and looted by Islamists since Wednesday, along with uncounted Christian homes and businesses.
The unrest began when supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi launched a protest against the military-imposed state of emergency. The protest, which is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, culminated in a “Friday of Rage” yesterday, which left over 600 people dead and over 4,000 injured.
“What we’re seeing right now in Egypt is literally a pogrom,” said Middle East expert Eric Stakelbeck, “where Christians are systematically being targeted. Right now there is a bulls-eye on the back of every Christian living in Egypt.”
One lawmaker in DC has come to the conclusion that what is occurring is unacceptable. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a longtime critic of US foreign policy and foreign aid spending, introduced a bill at the end of July to redirect approximately $1.5 billion in foreign aid from Egypt and use it to rebuild US infrastructure. “In our hour of need in our country, why are you sending money to people that hate us?” Paul asked.
His remarks are reminiscent of another speech he made in June, when he called for an end of foreign aid to countries that persecute Christian people.
"It angers me to see my tax dollars supporting regimes that put Christians to death for blasphemy against Islam, countries that put to death Muslims who convert to Christianity, and countries who imprison anyone who marries outside their religion," Paul said in June, at a conference in DC. "There is a war on Christianity, not just from liberal elites here at home, but worldwide. And your government, or more correctly you, the taxpayer, are funding it."
The bill failed to pass, with only 13 Senators voting in favor of it. Senator John McCain argued that cutting the foreign aid to Egypt would harm Israel, and that other nations would quickly step in to fill the “vacuum” left by the cuts. The ponderous list of things Sen. McCain doesn’t understand just got a lot longer. Added to it is the fact that choosing to support a murderous society for the reason that someone else will be sure to step in and do it if you don’t, is no reason at all. The web of the world is a great, impenetrable mass of humanity, ideology, corruption, violence and faith. To attempt to summarize in a few short paragraphs the state of the planet is more than a trifle arrogant. Who of us, out of our limited understanding, can say who is responsible for all of the deaths and the decapitations of the past few months in nations seething with sectarian differences, and violent values systems? Who can tell which side is more evil in a conflict where unspeakable atrocities are being perpetrated by both sides?
Thankfully, it is not the place of the American people or elected officials to make these judgments, or to choose which murderous regime to depose, which to support, and which to instate. When our government does step in to make these kinds of calls, one outcome is guaranteed: the American taxpayer comes out of it with blood on his hands. The blood, perhaps, of young children, of uninvolved bystanders, of peaceful Christian families. The American taxpayer doesn’t want that.
When Americans all across the country found themselves in eager agreement with Putin’s call for an end to the persecution of Christian people, did they realize one of the first steps towards achieving that end might be cutting the funding that we give to the persecutors?
It’s time to realize it.
As a closing note, for those that remain unconvinced of the evils of indiscriminate US foreign aid to troubled war zones and terrorist organizations, one final piece of evidence is shrieking loudly, demanding to be heard.
America doesn’t have any money.
Putin calls on world leaders to unite to end persecution of Christians, while President Obama condemns Russian defense of traditional marriage, cancels summit with Putin
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 10, 2013)
The evangelical Christian community that still identifies Russia with communism, Cold War tensions and the chilling brutality of Stalinism, is in for a big, painful shock this week. The world has changed, and not only is the USA no longer the cheery western beacon of homely virtues, but one of her traditional enemies is standing in to defend the sacredness of the ideals she no longer cherishes.
While attending a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin vaulted into headlines by making comments urging the international community to take steps towards preserving the rights of Christian people worldwide and preventing the violence that they suffer routinely in dozens of nations around the globe. Putin said he observed “with alarm” that “in many of the world’s regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa, inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians.”
Presumably, Putin was referring to the recent violence against Christians that is ongoing in Syria and has occurred in the Sudan during the decades-long Sudanese Civil Wars and the continuing unrest. In Iran, Christian pastors like Saeed Abedini and Youcef Nadarkhani have been undergone beatings and torture in deadly prisons over the past two years, and have been threatened with execution. In a recent interview with CBN, Eritrean torture survivor “Philip” shared graphic stories of his own experience suffering as a kidnapping victim in torture camps in the Sinai desert. "In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians," he said. “I was hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands.”
These kinds of stories are nothing new. Horrific persecution of Christian people has been widespread since new converts were fed to the lions in the Roman Empire. What is surprising is that these are the kinds of stories that were coming out of Russia not long ago, when atheism was the official doctrine of the Soviet Union and twenty-year-old Ivan Moiseyev was beaten to death in the Red Army.
What’s changed since then? Putin hinted at it when he said the church in Russia had been a “moral compass” to many who were looking for help, hinting at the recent century of misery and struggle that the Russian people have endured. He also acknowledged the role that the church has played in “culture and education,” adding, “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland.”
Why is the Russian leadership suddenly recognizing the priceless value to their nation of the Christian virtues they condemned for so many years? It’s simple. The Russian people have learned the hard way about the cultural devastation and decline that results from the rejection of the happy principles that have bolstered the western world for so many centuries.
Russia is a nation that has tasted of the fruit of the self-destructive anti-ethical policies that so much of the western world has come to label “progressive.”
They already tried dismantling the natural institution of family, and replacing it with state control and regimentation. As a result, they are suffering a demographic crisis, with the highest abortion rate in the world. Russians have more abortions than live births.
They already tried out the scheme of deconstructing the faith of individuals and replacing it with a collectivistic, subservient society where people owe nothing to an eternal, unchanging God, but everything to a transient, ever-evolving state. This didn’t serve as any kind of cultural liberation.
Today, Russia is ravaged by alcoholism, with an annual per capita alcohol consumption of 15.76 litres, one of the highest in the world, and a shockingly low life expectancy. According to a U.N. National Human Development Report, Russian males born in 2006 had a life expectancy of just over 60 years. Russia has a suicide rate of 27.1 per 100,000 people. In 2008, suicide claimed 38,406 lives in Russia. Russia has been repeatedly rated the most corrupt European nation, tied with Iran, Guyana, and Khazakstan.
Russia is also a significant destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation from regional and neighboring countries. A 2006 World Vision report claimed Russia is becoming a new destination for child sex tourism, and estimated 2 to 2.5 percent of Russian sex workers are minors.
With all of these sorry statistics to show for their experiment in statism and rejection of Christian virtues, is it any wonder that Putin is extending an olive branch towards the Russian church and seeking to reinstate what has been lost?
The meeting was held with the leaders of all 15 Orthodox Churches to celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the official adoption of Christianity by Prince Vladimir in 988 A.D. Orthodox leaders spoke out against what they consider the growing secularist suppression of Christian freedoms in Western nations like the UK and France, where “gay marriage” has just been instated, and Christian business owners have been threatened with jail time and forced to pay fines for refusing to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.
The Russian Orthodox Church’s chief ecumenical officer, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned of “secularization in disguise of democratization” and of a “powerful energy today [that] strives to finally break with Christianity, which controlled its totalitarian impulses during 17 centuries.”
“Eventually,” Hilarion said, “it unconsciously strives to set up an absolute dictatorship that demands total control over each member of society. Don’t we move to it when ‘for the sake of security’ we agree to obligatory electronic passports, dactyloscopy [fingerprint identification] for everyone, and photo cameras occurring everywhere?”
These remarks come as Russia attracts global attention for its law banning homosexual propaganda directed at minors, and continues each year to pay fines to the European Court of Human Rights for prohibiting Gay Pride parades in Moscow. In June 2012, Moscow courts enacted a hundred-year ban on gay pride parades.
Do Putin’s recent comments signal a Christian transformation of character? Probably not. What they do signal is a fear that grows as Russia slips deeper and deeper into the vicious results of the black hole of creedlessness. And perhaps they signal a growing friendliness towards the virtues of Christian culture.
While Western Europe and the US are slanting slowly towards the neutralization and ultimate rejection of classical and Christian ethics, Russia and Eastern Europe rushed into this chaos of amorality years ago and, it seems, are coming out on the other side a little wiser, a little steadier.
But are they even growing wiser than us? This week, President Obama announced a planned summit with President Putin had been cancelled, and that US relations with Russia had moved from a "reset" to a "pause." (First posted at the Washington Times Communities)
NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden and national intelligence director James Clapper both broke the law. What's the difference?
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 27, 2013)
Whistleblower and former National Security Administration (NSA) employee, Edward Snowden, has been making headlines since he stunned the citizens of the United States three weeks ago with one of the most significant data leaks in the history of US classified intelligence.
After months of planning and preparing, Snowden abandoned his girlfriend, family, comfortable lifestyle, salary and job to flee the US and release from hiding in Hong Kong a collection of shocking documents revealing massive federal wiretapping programs operative in the US.
The documents revealed the existence of a project called PRISM, which has been utilized by the NSA for years to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. According to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just $20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor “email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details” and a mysterious category called “special requests.”
Other disturbing details revealed by the leak include the court order that compels Verizon to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis, all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” and forbids Verizon from disclosing the existence of the order to anyone.
Snowden also divulged information that he claimed showed hacking by the NSA into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.
After capturing public notice by releasing the sensitive documents, Snowden has eluded captivity and set out on a dubious globe-hopping venture that continues to attract worldwide attention.
And not all of that attention is positive. The 29-year-old fugitive’s actions were illegal, after all. Some are calling the leak that disclosed NSA bullying of private companies like Verizon, “treasonous.” Kentucky Republican Representative King said Sunday that he thinks it is, “important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero.”
But when asked for his own thoughts on the criminality of his actions, Snowden told The Guardian, “We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me.”
One Senator seems ready to agree with Snowden’s charge of hypocrisy. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said Sunday that it remained to be determined how Snowden’s memory would go down into history, but gave an insightful warning regarding the opinions of generations to come.
"They're going to contrast the behavior of James Clapper, our national intelligence director, with Edward Snowden," he said. "Mr. Clapper lied in Congress in defiance of the law in the name of security. Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy."
Paul was referring to an incident that took place in March, when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, asked Clapper whether the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans."
"No sir," Clapper responded. "It does not. Not wittingly.”
“He [Clapper] said they were not collecting any data on American citizens,” Paul said, “and it turns out they're collecting millions of data on phone calls every day. So it was a lie. What I'm saying is that by lying to Congress, which is against the law, he severely damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence community."
"I would say that Mr. Snowden hasn't lied to anyone,” Paul continued.
"He did break his oath of office, but part of his oath of office is to the Constitution, and he believes that, when James Clapper came in March, our national director of intelligence came and lied, that he [Snowden] was simply coming forward and telling the truth that your government was lying. This is a big concern of mine, because it makes me doubt the administration and their word to us when they talk to us, because they have now admitted they will lie to us if they think it is in the name of national security."
Snowden and Clapper both broke the law, thus undermining our nation’s system of government. The difference is that one of them did so in the name of truth-telling and honesty and the other through lies and for the sake of keeping hidden what the American people have the right to know. One did so in the name of correcting the ills of the system of government he breached, and the other for the sake of protecting those ills by burying them deeper yet into the gaping well of classified information.
As sequester woes shut down White House tours, $4 million in taxpayer money goes to study alcoholism, obesity in lesbians
(posted by Bryana Johnson on March 22, 2013)
Last week, some disturbance was caused by news that the National Health Institute has awarded $1.5 million for a study to determine why 75% of lesbians are obese, compared to only 50% of heterosexual women. The issue is being called a matter of “public health importance,” and the grant reads,
“Obesity is one of the most critical public health issues affecting the U.S. today. Racial and socioeconomic disparities in the determinants, distribution, and consequences of obesity are receiving increasing attention. However, one area that is only beginning to be recognized is the striking interplay of gender and sexual orientation in obesity disparities. It is now well-established that women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic.”
This study is one of those really crucial programs that is reportedly being threatened by the infamous and hyper-inflated sequester catastrophe. Yesterday, we learned about another one. Apparently, there’s not just an obesity epidemic among lesbian women, but also a plague of alcoholism.
Since 2009, the University of Illinois has been receiving federal grants for a study called, “Cumulative Stress and Hazardous Drinking in a Community of Adult Lesbians.” A description of the grant states,
“Studies using both probability and nonprobability samples provide ample evidence of lesbians' vulnerability to hazardous drinking. However, very little is known about the factors that increase lesbians' risk for hazardous drinking. We propose to build on and extend our study of sexual identity and drinking…to model effects of cumulative stress on hazardous drinking among lesbians.”
Doesn’t this make it a little more difficult to take our elected officials seriously when they babble on about how the teeniest funding cuts constitute the end of life as we know it?
Last month I contacted my congressman’s office to apply for a White House tour later this year. After providing detailed information for all of the members of my party, I was informed that I would hear back from the office regarding the status of my submission in about a month. However, I received a follow up e-mail well before the month was out, and it wasn’t the news I was waiting for.
“I wanted to update you regarding your Washington, DC tour request,” wrote my congressman’s tour coordinator. “Our office has received word today from the White House that:
‘Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours.’ ”
Not surprisingly, a number of our US senators and congressmen were incensed by the news that White House tours have been discontinued, reportedly due to funding cuts occasioned by sequestration. Especially since sequestration isn’t really a spending “cut,” after all, but only a reduction in the rate of spending increase.
Kansas Senator Jerry Moran stated, “Cancelling White House tours is an unnecessary and unfair way for the Department of Homeland Security to meet its budget-cutting obligations.”
Is it really, though? What is it that makes one program special and another frivolous? Isn’t everyone just pursuing their own interests and working overtime to milk the federal cash cow?
Huffington Post’s Sam Stein seemed to insinuate as much in his column Thursday, entitled, “White House Tours Obsess GOP Lawmakers Despite Sequestration Hits Back Home.” Examining the complaints of Republican lawmakers following the announcement that the tours had been suspended, he points to the supposedly more serious cuts occurring in the legislators’ home states, as though to chide them for not showing enough concern for their own constituents.
The question is, at a time when our nation is over $16 trillion in debt, should we really be avoiding spending decreases like a plague, and expecting every government official to be fighting to keep as much of the available funding in his own state?
Or should we hope for a common sense response that finds lawmakers stepping up to the plate and laying their lucrative but useless and meddlesome projects on the chopping block? Would it be too much to hope that frivolous programs and studies and foreign aid might give way to a concern like allowing the American people to visit their own national monuments and federal buildings?
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul may have said it best when he wrote on his facebook page, “We supposedly can't find $17,000 a week for school kids to tour the White House, but somehow still have $250 million for Egypt.
And for studies to determine why lesbians get drunk and fat. I’m sure they’ll all be very appreciative.
(For those who are under the impression that this misappropriation of our money is a pair of isolated incidents, a quick look at Senator Coburn’s 2012 Wastebook might be enough to peel the scales from their eyes.)
Senator Rand Paul warns indefinite detention is back: a House-Senate committee led by Sen. McCain has presented a new draft of the 2013 NDAA bill – without the Feinstein-Lee amendment
(Posted by Bryana Joy on December 21, 2012)
Just a month ago, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was making headlines by threatening to hold up the 2013 NDAA bill. The NDAA is a federal law that is passed every year, specifying the budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense, although each year's act also includes other provisions. Paul’s demand was for a vote on an amendment to secure the right to a jury trial.
“If you don't have a right to trial by jury, you do not have due process. You do not have a Constitution. What are you fighting against and for if you throw the Constitution out?” he pleaded in an address before the Senate on November 30th.
As anyone knows who stayed up into the wee hours of the morning on the night of the 30th with c-span on their screens and their hearts pounding, he seemed to win a quite glorious victory.
Amendment #3018, which was introduced by California Sen. Feinstein and Mike Lee of Utah and enthusiastically supported by Rand Paul, passed the Senate by a wide margin of 67-29 that night. It provided that,
“an authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States unless an act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”
Many embraced this amendment as a solution to the wildly unpopular clause in Section 1021 of the 2011-2012 NDAA, which provided for the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens judged to be involved in terrorism or “belligerent acts” against the US.
Others were not so sure, insisting that the line about an Act of Congress “expressly authorizing such detention” was a loophole allowing for Section 1021 to remain in effect. Congressman Justin Amash stated,
“Well, that Act of Congress is the 2012 NDAA, which renders the rest of the Feinstein amendment meaningless.”
Mike Lee offered his full response countering Congressman Amash’s concern on his website.
On the whole, most defenders of freedom seemed to agree that, if not perfect, amendment #3018 still offered some protections to American citizens. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a practically legendary champion of liberty, wrote on his facebook page,
“I applaud the Feinstein-Lee amendment for moving the debate forward. In the House most Republicans believe that a habeas hearing is sufficient for due process. The Feinstein-Lee amendment makes clear that anything short of a jury trial is not due process.”
Today, Senator Paul had some sad news to announce: A House-Senate conference committee led by Senator John McCain has stripped amendment #3018 from the new draft of the NDAA bill. Senator Levin confirmed this, saying, “The language of the Senate bill was dropped,” but, according to Politico’s Juana Summers, declined to offer any further comments.
"The decision by the NDAA conference committee, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to strip the National Defense Authorization Act of the amendment that protects American citizens against indefinite detention now renders the entire NDAA unconstitutional," Sen. Paul warned.
“When I entered the United States Senate, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is for this reason that I will strongly oppose passage of the McCain conference report that strips the guarantee to a trial by jury,” Paul further elaborated.
The good news is that your senators took that same oath. The bad news is that they need regular and animated reminders of the fact. The good news is that you have the opportunity to give them exactly that.
Now is as good a time as any to dial up both of your two senators at all of their offices and leave your message explaining the latest developments in the struggle for individual liberty. Remind them of their oath. You might also need to remind them that you watch, you listen, you care and you vote. They had better do the same.
(This article was first posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
“IT IS the mark of our whole modern history that the masses are kept quiet with a fight. They are kept quiet by the fight because it is a sham-fight; thus most of us know by this time that the Party System has been popular only in the sense that a football match is popular.”
-- Gilbert Keith Chesterton --
Obama waives sanctions on four of six nations that use child soldiers in their armed forces, including Libya and South Sudan
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on October 5th, 2012)
“When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world. Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.”
President Obama uttered these stirring words at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York last week. He was making reference to the appalling practice of recruiting young children to serve in military action, a practice that has long been prevalent in various African and Middle Eastern countries. From the infamous Joseph Kony of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army to the Libyan youths recruited by both sides in the recent rebellion in Libya, to middle-school aged boys conscripted into the Free Syrian Army, the plight of child soldiers has gained widespread attention over the past few years, with humanitarian organizations working hard to keep the issue in the public eye.
In 2008, Senators Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced the Child Soldier Prevention Act, (CSPA) a bill to restrict the US government’s military support of nations that fail to stop recruiting child soldiers into their armed forces. This bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously and was signed into law by former President Bush, making it a federal crime to recruit or use soldiers under the age of 15. The law also gave the US authority to “prosecute, deport or deny entry to individuals who have knowingly recruited children as soldiers.” Needless to say, international human rights organizations applauded the bill enthusiastically.
On Sunday afternoon, President Obama signed a Presidential memorandum waiving the sanctions that the CSPA imposes on the nations of Libya, Yemen and South Sudan, and partially waiving the sanctions imposed on the Congo, thus authorizing the US to sell weapons to four nations that would not be eligible to receive military aid from the US under the CSPA. Four of only six nations on the State Department's list of foreign governments that recruit and use child soldiers. That’s two-thirds.
President Obama states in the memo,
I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen; and further determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to allow for continued provision of International Military Education and Training funds and nonlethal Excess Defense Articles, and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of U.S. origin defense articles; and I hereby waive such provisions accordingly.
Jesse Eaves, a senior policy advisor for child protection at World Vision, expressed disappointment over this action by the President, saying, “At a time when Congress is locked in one of the most difficult budget battles I’ve ever seen, it is shameful that a portion of federal funding continues to help support governments who are abusing children. At its core, this is a missed opportunity to show leadership on this issue and protect thousands of vulnerable children around the world. Frankly, we expected more from our nation’s leaders.”
Given his statement earlier this week hotly condemning child soldiery and branding it “slavery,” it does seem odd to find the President taking this action which seems to betray his own ideals. Unfortunately unbeknownst to many, this is in fact the third straight year that President Obama has granted waivers to countries using child soldiers. When Obama granted the waivers in 2010, his administration explained that they were a one-time deal, but when he again granted them in 2011, humanitarian organizations were incensed. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry tried to pass new legislation requiring Obama to notify Congress before issuing the waivers again, and called the decision an "assault on human dignity.”
Every now and then, some absurdity enacted behind closed doors in Washington is uncovered which should leave the people of the US with the uncanny feeling that all is not as it appears to be on the surface of things. Some actions are simply too inexplicable – or point to horrible and frightening explanations. Some decisions on the part of our leaders and lawmakers make it all too obvious that what they are saying is not what they are doing and that what they are doing cannot be explained by what they are saying.
We like to think of America as a nation dedicated to ideals. Liberty, justice, freedom. Unfortunately, the bitter truth is that the majority of our nation’s leaders allow pragmatism to eclipse their ideals on most occasions when the two come into conflict. Principles are only good until they get in the way of allowing the US to take action. If Libya is working to overthrow Gadhafi and our leaders don’t like Gadhafi, they are going to back his attackers regardless of whether they employ child soldiers or not.
Rand Paul’s lonely foreign aid filibuster on the Senate Floor last week showed us that most of our supposedly conservative senators cannot necessarily be expected to vote for foreign aid restrictions to Islamic countries that disrespect our ambassadors and our flag. President Obama’s disturbing memo of Sunday shows us that US weapons sales for controversial rebellions in Islamic countries are more important than curbing our own national bankruptcy and more important than putting an end to the nightmare of child soldiery. And that is an assault on human dignity.
KY Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul's lonely foreign aid filibuster shows Senate Republicans' true colors
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 26th, 2012)
Dr. Shakil Afridi, the CIA informant sentenced to 33 years in prison for his role in hunting down Osama Bin Laden, spoke to Fox News in an exclusive interview earlier this month, describing the brutal torture and interrogation he has undergone at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Dr. Afridi stated that he was burned with cigarettes and subjected to electric shocks while in the custody of the ISI. He was also blindfolded for eight months and handcuffed with his hands behind his back for 12 months.
In addition to providing these disturbing details, Dr. Afridi made some sobering claims regarding the ISI’s attitude about America. “They said ‘ The Americans are our worst enemies, worse than the Indians,’ he told Fox News. “I tried to argue that America was Pakistan’s biggest supporter – billions and billions of dollars in aid, social and military assistance -- but all they said was, ‘These are our worst enemies. You helped our enemies.’ It is…indisputable that militancy in Pakistan is supported by the ISI. Pakistan’s fight against militancy is bogus. It’s just to extract money from America,” Afridi said. Pakistan has received over $20 billion from the US since the 9/11 attacks.
This is a state of affairs that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wants to remedy. On the day that Afridi’s interview with Fox News was released, Sen. Paul issued a statement declaring that he meant business.
"I will continue to work tirelessly to keep this issue front and center. America should not give foreign aid to a country whose government is torturing the man who helped us kill Osama bin Laden. We should not be giving foreign aid to any country that is not clearly our ally. This must end, and this week I will renew my push for a vote on this issue, including holding up Senate business to accomplish this goal.”
Sen. Paul also sent a letter to Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking Reid to work with him on scheduling a vote for his bill S.3576, which would have placed restrictions on foreign aid and effectively cut aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan in the event that those countries do not agree to abide by terms set forth in the bill. The terms for Pakistan included the release of Dr. Afridi.
Sen. Paul, however, was not able to get what he wanted without a filibuster. The result was twofold. A skewed schedule for the Senate, which ended up holding a midnight vote in the dark hours of Saturday morning. And an epic, hour-long speech on the Senate floor for Sen. Paul, who delivered a compelling and resounding address exploring the disastrous failures of unconditional foreign aid, and tugging at the hearts and minds of Americans who stayed up late to watch the performance on c-span.
This fascinating and eloquent speech began with the tragic story of Zairian dictator Mobuto who embezzled billions of dollars from his own government throughout the course of his 32-year reign and yet was funded by U.S. taxpayers. Mobuto subjected many of his personal enemies to horrific tortures and took elaborate shopping trips to Europe while his own nation was without basic energy provisions.
Paul then went on to cite similar examples of dictators who were supported by the US in their oppression of their own people, including that of Saddam Hussein.
“It’s sad to contemplate what despots and dictators have done and are doing to their people,” said Sen. Paul. “It’s sadder still to realize that they’re being subsidized in this behavior with your money. Those who say, ‘Oh, I just simply want to help people. I want to help poor people around the world by sending them money,’ – it is stolen by their leaders. It doesn’t get to the poor people. And besides, you may have heard, we’re a trillion dollars short in our own budget here. How are we sending money overseas?”
Paul said that while supporters of foreign aid assert the aid is necessary to ensure good behavior on the part of foreign powers, he doesn’t see that unconditional aid is bringing about those results or can even be reasonably expected to. Instead, he suggested that aid, when it is provided at all, should be a reward for loyal allies of the US.
In further remarks that seemed calculated to appeal to the patriotism of fellow conservatives, he stated,
“I think the real question and the image that you have to have in your mind is, when you see ten thousand people outside the embassy in Pakistan, burning the US flag, can you imagine that we would send them more money? Can you imagine that we would not place restrictions on this money?”
Despite the magnificence of this impassioned speech, Paul didn’t seem to be harboring any illusions as to how his bill would be received by his colleagues in the Senate.
“Foreign aid is a bipartisan project,” he said near the beginning of his talk. “If I get this vote, you watch, the vast majority of the Senate is going to vote for unlimited, unrestricted foreign aid. I will probably lose this vote. But if you go home and ask your friends, ‘should we be sending money to countries that disrespect us? To countries that burn our flag?’ I think you’ll find that eighty to ninety percent of the American people wouldn’t send another penny. But that may also be why congress has about a ten percent approval rating…in fact, many people who claim to be conservatives are for foreign aid.”
When it came time to hold the vote, Senators John Kerry and John McCain stood to oppose Paul’s bill, while South Carolina Senator and Tea Party leader Jim Demint rose to speak on behalf of S.3576. Demint was particularly incensed at what he considered shockingly unfair treatment of Sen. Paul by Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Demint explained that earlier in the day he had met with Paul to discuss some of his misgivings about the wording of the bill. Demint shared that Paul had been very willing to accommodate him and had spent some hours re-writing the bill to make it even narrower in scope. However, when the two had come up with an amended bill that they were both pleased with, Reid refused to allow Paul to amend the bill. Demint said that Senators had always been allowed to amend their own bills and that the practice was common in the Senate. He said that although he didn’t think the bill without the amendments was perfect, he would still be voting for it and encouraged his colleagues to join him.
Only nine of his colleagues joined him in the vote to support the bill, one of these being Sen. Paul himself. Only nine votes for the American taxpayer, for fiscal conservatism, for sanity in foreign affairs. Only nine votes for ending aid to the sworn enemies of the American people. Only nine votes for cutting payments to oppressive rulers in third-world countries, for removing the burden of foreign dictators’ debts off of the backs of American children. Only nine votes for justice, for political prisoners suffering in confinement, for friends of freedom serving jail-time in their homelands. Only nine votes for Dr. Shakil Afridi.
It sounds to me like there 90 seats in the US Senate that are in need of new owners. (First posted at the Washington Times Communities.)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus
The RNC Power Grab:
Ignoring GOP injustices makes 'us' as bad as 'them.'
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 03, 2012)
GOP Presidential Candidate Ron Paul
Ron Paul is showing remarkable foresight in paving the way for a future generation of liberty people, even as he begins to see the end of his own road in sight
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 23, 2012)
According to the latest reports, the "liberty man” is not going to be given an official speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of the month. Texas congressman Ron Paul is missing from the RNC’s list of announced speakers, The Blaze reported Friday. Although this is hardly an unexpected omission, it has served to heighten the tension surrounding the event. Delegates from all over the country will meet in Florida on August 27th to nominate the Republican Party’s presidential candidate and Barack Obama’s opponent. Paul supporters, which comprise a hefty number of the delegates, will certainly be making their presence felt, as they have been doing for months.
The Ron Paul Campaign has planned a rally to be held on the afternoon of August 26th, with the theme ‘We Are the Future – A Rally for the Liberty Delegates’. Another rally organized by Paul’s supporters will run simultaneously in Tampa. These events are expected to draw huge crowds and put a spotlight on Paul’s gigantic influence, despite the Republican Party’s snub.
Paul supporters, of course, are still holding out for a Ron Paul presidency. Although it’s becoming increasingly likely that the party will nominate Mitt Romney at the convention, it is theoretically possible for Paul’s delegates to pull off a last-minute takeover next week. This possibility may shed some light on the Republican Party’s seemingly dangerous and unwise decision not to humor Paul supporters by giving their spokesman a speaking slot. Perhaps the RNC organizers know that Paul shines on a podium when given a reasonable amount of time to explain his views and that when his remarks are not limited to sound-bite-length statements in a televised debate, his fact-based arguments are fascinatingly convincing.
Paul supporters are weary of seeing their man ignored and cheated out of his votes. Many are fed up with the party and some have taken to wearing buttons which declare boldly, “No One But Paul: good luck winning without us!” They understand something the GOP doesn’t seem to grasp. They have become a massive electoral base, and if they abandon the party this November, Mitt Romney and his supporters will be in a sorry state.
But what about the man himself? Where does Ron Paul come down in all of this confusion? Although he can’t help but be aware of the injustices done to his campaign and of his supporters’ frustration, the congressman is showing remarkable foresight in paving the way for a future generation of liberty people, even as he himself begins to see the end of his own road in sight.
In a message to his supporters, concerning the rally his campaign has planned in Tampa, Paul said, “I’m sure it will not only be a great time, but it will also go a long way to proving you and I are the future of the Republican Party.”
Ron Paul’s dream is to see his supporters take the message of liberty into the heart of the GOP and transform the Republican Party. He wants to see his dedication to fair play, his passion for the Constitution, his commitment to push back on the overreaching US government, and his enmity towards the Federal Reserve reach the utmost corners of the establishment. He wants the Republican Party to radically redefine its idea of government authority.
Paul continues to urge respectful discourse. He know his supporters are inclined to get excited, and he wants them to fight their battles courteously, bearing in mind that kindness and patience are more effective than threats and taunts. He is paving a way for them to take when he is gone. Ron Paul still has hope for the GOP. He has a vision of what the GOP can become.
Paul knows that he won’t be around forever and that unless his supporters can learn how to fiercely guard their principles and at the same time work amiably with the powers that be, they will soon become an irrelevant minority. He understands that they must find a way to keep their passion pure and unadulterated and still show the GOP they can be team players. He understands there is a danger that the movement he has started will die out with him, and he wants his supporters to understand that they will have to move on when he is gone and fight for the truth even without a charismatic and popular leader to unite them. He wants them to carry their values forward even without a nationally recognized spokesperson to lead the charge. Does he hope his followers will one day be able to charge under the banner of the GOP?
Fortunately, the GOP has left some loopholes open for kindly and pleasant discourse with the Paul supporters next week. They have announced that Ron Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul will be given a “very prominent speaking place,” and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told Fox News yesterday that Ron Paul supporters are "welcomed with open arms" to the convention.
There are a lot of things that remain to be seen. It remains to be seen whether Paul supporters will embrace the path their leader has paved for them, or whether they will allow their resentment to get the best of them and to choke out the message they bear. Additionally, it remains to be seen whether the liberty people will be able to find enough common ground with the GOP to enable them to get along, as Paul seems to hope they will. “Unity is important but what do we unify behind?” Paul asked a crowd at the Texas Republican State Convention in June, making it clear that he doesn’t advocate giving an inch of the moral high ground. It remains to be seen how the GOP will treat these steadfast and impassioned liberty people.