No doubt Donald Trump will be thrilled that the entire world is mesmerized as he steamrolls over his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination.
He probably doesn’t care that most of the international publicity is bad publicity—but even the master of ill-tempered putdowns and Twitter vitriol will struggle to keep up with the sheer number of attacks and jibes pouring in from every corner of the globe.
He does have a select band of fans—more on those later—but they are being drowned out by an incredulity that stretches from Europe’s capitals to post-conflict Afghanistan; from the African deltas to Asia’s tiger economies.
With the Iowa caucuses just days away, people simply cannot understand how a man like Donald Trump could run a successful presidential campaign in the world’s most powerful nation.
“People are in disbelief; they think he is borderline crazy,” Magnús Sveinn Helgason, an Icelandic historian who worked on the national inquiry into Iceland’s financial crash, told The Daily Beast. “People are kind of scared about what it would be like to live in a world where he is one of the most powerful leaders.”
The interest and hostility toward Trump peaked after his remarks about banning Muslims from the country. A correspondent in Nigeria, a nation of more than 70 million Muslims, says: “Trump was trending on social media and believe me, he was the one man on earth Nigerians hated the most. He still is.”
Leaders from France, Egypt, Canada, the United Nations, and Saudi Arabia were among those to publicly criticize Trump for his proposed ban on entry to America on religious grounds.
In London, politicians held an unprecedented debate in Parliament about whether to introduce a tit-for-tat ban that would prevent Trump from traveling to Britain. The debate was tabled by Labour’s Paul Flynn after more than half a million members of the public signed a petition backing a ban.
“He does seem to be reckless, arrogant, impulsive—and those are his best qualities,” Flynn told The Daily Beast. “He doesn’t fit the mold of anyone’s idea of a statesman because of his rash statements, his flying off the handle to abuse friend and foe. There are few politicians that have been so obviously reckless in modern times, there were people like that before the last war, of course.”
Gawping at Trump has become a national pastime in Britain, a nation that usually pays little attention to international politics. The window in one barbershop in St. Paul’s, in central London, reads: “If Trump becomes President, there will be hell toupee.”
Flynn said the public had turned against Trump not just over his harsh words toward Muslims but for a number of offensive statements. “His remarks about women, and against the disabled journalist came pretty high up on the levels of revulsion against politicians. There are very few countries in the world where mockery of women and the disabled is acceptable.”
In Muslim Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered a stinging critique of Trump’s political acumen. “A successful politician would not make such statement,” he said. Erdogan, who has been either prime minister or president of Turkey since 2003, said Trump would face an embarrassing situation if he ever got to the White House. “I don’t know whether or not he’ll win, but let’s suppose he won. What will happen? Will he set aside all relationships with Muslim countries? A politician shouldn’t talk like this.”
He hasn’t only got flak from the government but also his business partners, suggesting his fiery political rhetoric could have financial implications. Bulent Kural, manager of a shopping mall at the Istanbul Trump Towers, a twin high-rise commercial and residential building, condemned what he said. “Such statements bear no value and are products of a mind that does not understand Islam, a peace religion, at all,” Kural said. The Trump Tower complex in Istanbul was developed by Turkish billionaire Aydin Dogan, who pays Trump for the name. His global brand could clearly suffer.
In China, his business reputation is already compromised, despite repeated bragging that he “knows China.” Over there, he is compared to the nutty Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao, who once tried to buy The New York Times.
It is well-known that in the ’80s and ’90s, he went to Hong Kong to look for investors who could help bail him out of a tight spot. Some local tycoons invited him to play golf for $1 million a hole, Trump realized he was being outmuscled and declined. The investors did eventually buy up part of Trump’s mortgage, for $82 million. When they cashed out for $1.8 billion a decade later, Trump was so furious that he sued them.
The average Chinese man on the street may not be following the American election, but the Global Times, an uber-nationalistic state-run media outlet warned readers Thursday: “If you plan to visit New York sometime this year, take my advice: Try to stay away from Fifth Avenue because Donald Trump may be lurking there with a gun.”
Indeed, Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and Daily Beast contributor, said Beijing was paying close attention. “China is obsessed with Trump, just as Trump is obsessed with China,” he said. “State media takes his candidacy as proof that American democracy is flawed, comparing him to a ‘celebrity potato,’ for instance. Chinese netizens generally denigrate him as well, but in a country where Communist Party leaders are highly scripted, you can be sure they secretly admire someone who speaks his mind.”
On the other side of China’s mountainous border with Afghanistan, government officials in Kabul were equally unimpressed.
Zardasht Shams, the deputy minister of information, said they were still waiting to hear a real policy on how Trump would deal with the U.S. drawdown and post-conflict resolution. “Sorry, I’m not well updated on this fool’s policy or stand on Afghanistan,” he told The Daily Beast. “In general, Afghanistan, being a conservative and radical Muslim society, would hate and extremely dislike [Trump becoming president] and feel uncomfortable because of his anti-Muslim statements.”
The hostility toward Muslims has gone down better with some in Israel, where the statements have resonated with a growing far-right movement, which has called upon Israeli politicians to revoke Israeli Arabs’ citizenship and residency rights as a form of collective punishment.
These extremists see Muslims and Arabs as a barbaric enemy that understand only power and with whom the enlightened “Western” world cannot negotiate, and some see parallels here in Trump’s own worldview.
Within that far-right movement, a lot of Israelis see Trump’s brash racism as a refreshing dose of truth. While Trump scares many in the Israeli left, he has won credit among even the mainstream right for saying that the world should recognize Jerusalem as the country’s capital and Israel’s need for a separation wall, both of which President Obama and the international community have criticized.
Another potential friend is lounging on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. Silvio Berlusconi, now 79, has had a low profile in Italy since being banned from public office in 2013 for tax fraud. He recently said his party still needs him, so he is claiming that his ousting was unconstitutional, and friendly words from Trump have been warmly welcomed. “I love Italy,” Trump said. “Berlusconi? He’s a great guy. I like him.”
Berlusconi seems to think this will help him back into power. He has always maintained close personal ties with Vladimir Putin and one might envision the three of them in a sort of club of global misfits if Trump is elected and Berlusconi is back in power.
In the rest of Western Europe, mainstream politicians and the media have been largely critical of the American property tycoon. In Germany, Der Spiegel published an article explaining “Trump’s World.” They concluded: “You can laugh about it, get angry about it—this man lives on his own planet.”
The Dutch magazine Elsevier tried harder to explain Trumps’ popularity in the polls. “Trump chooses Fort America… he’s obsessed with national identity. It is a mistake to dismiss him as a clown without ideology. He certainly has a nationalist ideology, which is in tune with the international Zeitgeist.”
Deeyah Khan, a filmmaker born in Norway, said there had been a real effect on Europe’s Muslim population, especially after Muslim and Sikh citizens were thrown out of Trump events.
“The Trump phenomenon shows us how much fear of Muslims there is out there, and how easily it can be exploited,” she told The Daily Beast. “The reaction of his followers to Rose Hamid and Arish Sing is deeply scary.”
When he announced his presidential run last summer, Le Monde described him in its headline, flatly but correctly, as an “eccentric billionaire.”
Since then, people in France and Belgium have learned that he casts his insults far and wide. At the beginning of the week, in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business, she asked Trump about his plans to stop Muslims from entering the United States. He cited Paris and Brussels as places where Muslims were out of control and unassimilated: “You go to Brussels —I was in Brussels a long time ago, 20 years ago, so beautiful, everything is so beautiful—it’s like living in a hellhole right now.”
When the Belgian press translated hellhole idiomatically, it came out as “trou à rats,” or, literally, rat hole.
One showed a beautiful shot of La Grand Place, the square at the heart of Brussels, alongside Trump shouting: “WHERE is the #hellhole @realDonaldTrump? Brussels or your mouth???”
Someone else proposed a novel way to shut Trump up—and blocked up his mouth on Photoshop with a huge Belgian waffle.
By: Nico Hines, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2016
“Congress Consorting To Thwart U.S. Diplomacy?”: The NSA Reportedly Spied On Congress. Is That The Real Scandal?
There’s a lot we don’t know beneath The Wall Street Journal‘s report today that the National Security Agency picked up intelligence on meetings with U.S. members of Congress and domestic political groups while spying on the Israeli government after credible reports (subsequently validated by the surveillance) that the Israelis were collecting and leaking intelligence on the sensitive U.S.-Iran nuclear talks.
The story has many dimensions. But, so far, virtually all of the reaction involves two questions: (1) Should the U.S. be spying on our ally Israel? (This was raised immediately if cautiously by Marco Rubio, who’s in a bit of a quandary because he’s normally a fan of surveillance.) And (2) should the Executive branch be spying, even incidentally, on the Legislative branch? (Former House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra called for an investigation of this possibility and for indictments if it turned out to be true.) These are both important and complex issues. But there should be a third question raised as well: Should members of Congress be consorting with agents of a foreign government to thwart U.S. diplomacy?
Perhaps this question seems obvious in the context of a situation where the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives invited a foreign prime minister to address Congress with the thinly veiled intention of building opposition to approval of the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal. But most Republicans and some Democrats have long adopted the habit of arguing that the U.S. should defer to Israel on all matters relating to the Middle East, to the point of abandoning any pretense of an independent point of view. The dominant position among Republicans was articulated by Mitt Romney in October of 2012: “The world must never see daylight between our two nations,” meaning the U.S. and Israel. No one was under the illusion that Romney was instructing Israelis to move closer to the U.S.
This was and remains a dangerous and largely unprecedented position. Even if one intends slavish obeisance to a foreign government, there’s something to be said for keeping up the appearance of independence. After all, a lot of the conservatives most determined to carry Bibi Netanyahu’s water in Washington are also outspoken about the U.S. being the unchallenged colossus of global affairs, unconstrained by alliances with Euro-weenie socialists or even friendly relations with Muslim countries. So it would be preferable if American politicians who want to signal to conservative Evangelicals or to Sheldon Adelson that Bibi’s policies will be their own could find a way to do so without meeting with people who are under U.S. intelligence surveillance. Their hatred of Barack Obama is no excuse for disloyalty to the United States.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 30, 2015
“Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” How many times have you heard that one? Sure, we heard Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade say it, but to me, that was simply part of the Fox News plan to make their viewers dumber, as we saw again this past weekend when its terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson was caught fabricating the story that Birmingham, England, is closed to non-Muslims. But more alarmingly, even some reasonable people have uttered this statement.
And that comment is often followed up by the question: Why don’t we see Christian, Buddhist, or Jewish terrorists?
Obviously, there are people who sincerely view themselves as Muslims who have committed horrible acts in the name of Islam. We Muslims can make the case that their actions are not based on any part of the faith but on their own political agenda. But they are Muslims, no denying that.
However, and this will probably shock many, so you might want to take a breath: Overwhelmingly, those who have committed terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe aren’t Muslims. Let’s give that a moment to sink in.
Now, it’s not your fault if you aren’t aware of that fact. You can blame the media. (Yes, Sarah Palin and I actually agree on one thing: The mainstream media sucks.)
So here are some statistics for those interested. Let’s start with Europe. Want to guess what percent of the terrorist attacks there were committed by Muslims over the past five years? Wrong. That is, unless you said less than 2 percent.
As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs.
We are talking about groups like France’s FLNC, which advocates an independent nation for the island of Corsica. In December 2013, FLNC terrorists carried out simultaneous rocket attacks against police stations in two French cities. And in Greece in late 2013, the left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces shot and killed two members of the right-wing political party Golden Dawn. While over in Italy, the anarchist group FAI engaged in numerous terror attacks including sending a bomb to a journalist. And the list goes on and on.
Have you heard of these incidents? Probably not. But if Muslims had committed them do you think our media would’ve covered it? No need to answer, that’s a rhetorical question.
Even after one of the worst terror attacks ever in Europe in 2011, when Anders Breivik slaughtered 77 people in Norway to further his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” agenda as he stated in his manifesto, how much press did we see in the United States? Yes, it was covered, but not the way we see when a Muslim terrorist is involved. Plus we didn’t see terrorism experts fill the cable news sphere asking how we can stop future Christian terrorists. In fact, even the suggestion that Breivik was a “Christian terrorist” was met with outrage by many, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.
Have you heard about the Buddhist terrorists? Well, extremist Buddhists have killed many Muslim civilians in Burma, and just a few months ago in Sri Lanka, some went on a violent rampage burning down Muslim homes and businesses and slaughtering four Muslims.
Or what about the (dare I mention them) Jewish terrorists? Per the 2013 State Department’s report on terrorism, there were 399 acts of terror committed by Israeli settlers in what are known as “price tag” attacks. These Jewish terrorists attacked Palestinian civilians causing physical injuries to 93 of them and also vandalized scores of mosques and Christian churches.
Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.
And as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered (PDF).
In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentally shooting a gun.
But our media simply do not cover the non-Muslim terror attacks with same gusto. Why? It’s a business decision. Stories about scary “others” play better. It’s a story that can simply be framed as good versus evil with Americans being the good guy and the brown Muslim as the bad.
Honestly, when is the last time we heard the media refer to those who attack abortion clinics as “Christian terrorists,” even though these attacks occur at one of every five reproductive health-care facilities? That doesn’t sell as well. After all we are a so-called Christian nation, so that would require us to look at the enemy within our country, and that makes many uncomfortable. Or worse, it makes them change the channel.
That’s the same reason we don’t see many stories about how to reduce the 30 Americans killed each day by gun violence or the three women per day killed by domestic violence. But the media will have on expert after expert discussing how can we stop these scary brown Muslims from killing any more Americans despite the fact you actually have a better chance of being killed by a refrigerator falling on you.
Look, this article is not going to change the media’s business model. But what I hope it does is cause some to realize that not all terrorists are Muslims. In fact, they are actually a very small percent of those that are. Now, I’m not saying to ignore the dangers posed by Islamic radicals. I’m just saying look out for those refrigerators.
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, December 25, 2015
“Plight Of Syrian Refugees Recalls Tale Of 2,000 Years Ago”: Bar The Gates, Exclude The Stranger, Ignore The Vulnerable
There is irony aplenty in this season, which is celebrated throughout Christendom because of the tale of a babe born in a troubled precinct in the Middle East a little more than 2,000 years ago. You know the story: A couple of modest means finds no accommodations, even as the woman is on the brink of giving birth. After the child is born, they are forced to flee the depredations of a murderous king.
As history rolls on, we find the Middle East once again in upheaval, roiled by murderous tyrants who have spurred families to seek sanctuary. Given the time of year, you’d think the plight of those families would be the preoccupation of the news cycle; you’d think accommodating them would be the pre-eminent call of preachers and politicians alike. After all, the ancient tale has been said to inspire reflection, charity and generosity.
But those sentiments seem in scant supply in these United States. Instead, we are awash in suspicion, waylaid by fear and anxiety, beset by bigotry. Many of the nation’s political leaders have insisted that we bar the gates, exclude the stranger, ignore the vulnerable.
While President Obama has called on the nation to take in more refugees from Syria — where the armies of President Bashar Assad and the self-proclaimed Islamic State represent dire threats to life and limb — 27 U.S. governors, more than half, would attempt to bar Syrian refugees from their states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has famously said that he wouldn’t even take in orphans under the age of 5.
Indeed, the call to keep Syrian refugees out of the United States has captured a substantial number of voters; 56 percent oppose President Obama’s policy. And that refusal finds support across party lines: Eighty-one percent of Republicans, 59 percent of independents and 31 percent of Democrats, according to an NBC News survey.
The proximate cause of that hunker-down insularity is the threat of terrorist attacks, a danger brought home by the San Bernardino atrocity earlier this month, which left 14 people dead and 22 injured. But humans are notoriously bad at assessing risks. While 45 Americans have been killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 (counting the Fort Hood shooting), far more have been killed since then in automobile accidents and non-terrorist-related gun violence.
Besides, as the brilliant novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson has written: “Contemporary America is full of fear. (But) fear is not a Christian habit of mind. … Those who forget God can be recognized in the fact that they make irrational responses to irrational fears. … There are always real dangers in the world, sufficient to their day. Fearfulness obscures the distinction between real threat on one hand and on the other the terrors that beset those who see threat everywhere.”
Terror is not everywhere, and its risks would not increase if we were to admit substantially more Syrian refugees. They are subjected to a vetting process that takes up to two years. Anyway, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the married couple who allegedly carried out the San Bernardino attack, had no ties to Syria that authorities have detected.
Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been displaced by war. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Turkey has taken in 1.9 million, while Iraq, which is still beset by armed conflict, has taken in 250,000. More than 1 million Syrian refugees are in Lebanon, and more than 600,000 are in Jordan.
The far wealthier European nations are still wrangling over the numbers they will accept, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been steadfast in her welcoming tone; her country has taken in more than 98,000 Syrians and stands ready to accept as many as 500,000 refugees, including Syrians, per year for several years.
With that in mind, President Obama’s call for the United States to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year seems modest. And while providing sanctuary to some of the planet’s most vulnerable populations may not promote peace on Earth, it is certainly a small gesture of goodwill to all men.
By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, December 26, 2015
“The GOP’s Islamic State Bluster”: As Far As The GOP Field Is Concerned, Generosity Of Spirit Is For Losers
The impact of the Paris attacks on the Republican presidential race may turn out to be minimal, especially since the establishment candidates aren’t making any more sense than outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
Theoretically, a deadly rampage by Islamic State terrorists ought to make Republican voters think twice about presidential hopefuls who have zero experience in government and no expertise in foreign or military affairs. But the contenders who hold or held high office are offering little more than bellicose rhetoric and overblown pledges of toughness.
Not that it’s easy to match Trump for hyperbole. “Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country,” he said on Twitter. “Who knows who they are — some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?”
But Chris Christie, who should know better, went not just over the top but around the bend. He said all Syrian refugees should be turned away, including “orphans under 5.” As governor of New Jersey, maybe he’ll order a security sweep of the Garden State’s elementary school playgrounds.
For the record, Syrian refugees are not “pouring” into the United States. There’s hardly even a trickle: Since the civil war began, slightly more than 2,000 refugees have been admitted. Compare our meager total with the estimated 2 million Syrians taking refuge in Turkey or the hundreds of thousands flooding into Europe. Boosting the number to 10,000 over the next year, as Obama plans, would still mean that the U.S. contribution to alleviating one of the worst refugee crises since World War II doesn’t amount to a drop in the bucket. I could describe in detail the lengthy pre-entry vetting process, which can take up to two years, but why bother? As far as the GOP field is concerned, generosity of spirit is for losers.
Carson’s response to the Islamic State is, unsurprisingly, vague and off-the-wall. He wrote an op-ed in The Post calling for a military strategy virtually identical to President Obama’s, augmented by “a multi-pronged communications strategy that leverages our strengths in media production and messaging, combined with cutting off traditional access routes to social media for radical Islamist groups.” He seems to mean we should create a really cool smartphone app.
But Marco Rubio, too, called for a dramatic escalation in social-media warfare. He said Sunday that “where we strike them, we capture or kill their leaders, we videotape the operations, we publicize them, because this is a group that heavily uses propaganda to attract fighters and donors from around the world.” And John Kasich proposed a new government agency to promote “Judeo-Christian Western values” to the world.
Lindsey Graham had the best response to Kasich’s brainstorm: “I think that was the Crusades.”
Jeb Bush, the ultimate establishment candidate, seemed to sense both opportunity and peril. “The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force,” he said in a speech Wednesday. “Militarily, we need to intensify our efforts in the air — and on the ground.”
Coming from anyone else, those words might strike Republican voters as tough and sober. Coming from a candidate named Bush, however, they could portend a geopolitical blunder of historic proportions. Perhaps that is why Bush is vague on how many U.S. ground troops he would send and what they would do, saying he would rely on the judgment of the professional soldiers advising him.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because all the establishment GOP candidates pledge to rely on the generals to tell them how many troops to send. Obama says he follows the generals’ counsel, too.
Rogue candidate Trump, of course, needs no advice. He says he will “bomb the [expletive] out of [ISIS],” applauds the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing the same and vows to destroy the oil fields that provide much of the Islamic State’s wealth.
He says all of this in typically bombastic fashion. His claim that he will “win” by sheer force of personality is deeply unserious. But the actual policies he rants about may resonate with GOP voters: Rely on air power, get other countries to put troops on the ground, take no chances with refugees, talk really tough.
Two new polls of New Hampshire Republicans, conducted since the Paris attacks by WBUR of Boston and Fox News, show that Rubio may be doing a little better in that state and Carson a little worse. But Trump remains far ahead of the pack. Plus ça change.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 19, 2015