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.
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.)