In its involvement in the Middle East, the United States military has been responsible for the deaths of many civilians. Likewise, coalitions that it has led, funded, or aided have caused the collateral deaths of many children and other defenseless citizens in hospitals in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and other countries in the region. But now, a recent Amnesty report suggests the United States reported just over one-tenth of the civilian casualties in Raqqa, Syria.
By Josh Hughes | United States
It is not uncommon to see many headlines that currently highlight President Trump’s shortcomings. Many of these accusations are warranted, and he has done some things that have been questionable. However, it’s time to give credit where credit is due. The President has made many decisions recently that are being praised by conservatives, liberals, and libertarians all over the country. In a time where the media is quick to point out the negative aspects of the Trump administration, let us take a look at the successes.
Over the past few weeks, big changes have come involving the United States’ involvement in the Middle East. Last week, the US announced it would be pulling its 2,000 troops out of Syria over the next 100 days. This came as a surprise to many and angered certain Republican leaders in Congress.
An even bigger surprise, however, came soon after when the President announced a reduction of US forces in Afghanistan, cutting the number of troops in half from nearly 14,000 to just 7,000. This shocked everyone, including Afghani leaders, and signaled a sudden change in Trump’s policy. During the campaign in 2016, the President promised to bring the troops home but reluctantly added 4,000 more overseas earlier this year.
With the drawback of troops, it is refreshing to see a promise kept by President Trump. Not everyone is supportive, however. Senator Lindsey Graham and other Congressional Republicans have publically expressed their disapproval of the decision. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis also suddenly announced his resignation from the spot after two years citing “disagreements” with the President’s foreign policy.
For those who are unaware, the Farm Bill recently passed both the House and the Senate and made it to the President’s desk where he signed it into law. The bill contains many controversial elements, but one aspect is the federal legalization of hemp. Hemp, which is not to be confused with cannabis, contains little to no THC, rendering it non-psychoactive. However, it has many agricultural and industrial purposes including plastics, paper, oil, construction, and food. While it has yet to clear the FDA, there is a good chance the hemp industry will soon explode thanks to the passage of this bill.
Criminal Justice Reform
The First Step Act was signed into law by President Trump on December 21. The bill is designed to help those already in federal prison as well as those that commit crimes in the future. It eases minimum sentences for drug offenses, allows for more opportunity for getting out on good behavior, allows for more vocational training, and provides better feminine hygiene. The bipartisan support Trump mustered with this bill came as a surprise, but he proceeded in spite of opposition from leaders like Mitch McConnel and Lindsey Graham.
The President is far from perfect. He has done his share of terrible, hypocritical things that have outraged people from all sides in the country. However, during this holiday season it is a time for optimism, and as we approach the new year, everyone in the country is undoubtedly hoping President Trump will continue with this streak of common sense legislation and good policy.
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Alexander Robak | Canada
Following the conclusion of the Vietnam war and other military conflicts in South-East Asia, many refugees fled from their war-torn nations, and eventually settled in western countries such as the United States and Canada. These mass migrations reached their peak during the late 1970s but continued on through the 1980s. These refugees came to be known as “Vietnamese boat people” due to the fact that they fled their native country on boats and rafts. Following their departure from Vietnam by sea, hundreds of thousands of migrants were put into refugee resettlement camps in other South-East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, and Hong Kong. Once in these camps, the refugees then dispersed into developed Western nations such as the United States, Australia, and Canada for permanent resettlement. The ways in which these refugees were resettled into Canada and other western nations were extremely successful and should be used as a template for resettling refugees in the future.
In Canada, the main method that was used to resettle migrant families following the Vietnam war was to set up a program of host families. With this program in place, Canadian households were able to voluntarily sponsor refugee families coming to Canada, and allow them to live in their household for a certain time. What resulted from this program was a grace period that allowed settling refugees to adapt to the Canadian style of life with their host families helping them, after which they would be put into Canadian society to thrive on their own. This grace period system was effective at allowing new Canadians to adjust to a way of life that is founded on the ideas of tolerance, respect, and freedom. This is in contrast to the country that they were fleeing, which was ruled by an authoritarian communist government that did nothing but crush these principles in favor of conformity and collectivism.
Before continuing with this analysis of a mass migration into Canada, it is essential that the principles that Canada was founded upon are understood. These four principles are freedom, equality, tolerance, and respect. It is important that when introducing a group of migrants into Canadian society, the forces responsible for this migration are absolutely sure that this group of migrants is able and willing to comply with this standard set of values. Not only are these the values that have made Canada what it is today, but these are the values that differentiate the western world from the rest of the world. This mindset is not a modern idea and has existed since the beginnings of mass migration on a global scale. We can and should use this system as a sober second thought when considering mass migration into the western world from non-western nations. When the government of Canada accepted 50,000 Vietnamese refugees into Canada following the Vietnam war, those responsible were aware that these migrants were willing and able to comply with Canadian values.
It is crucial to the analysis of this migration that some background information on the cause of this refugee crisis is given. To summarize, the North Vietnamese communist forces were able to overtake the southern portion of the country in a bloody war that lasted from 1955 to 1975. The Northern communists were supported by the Soviet Union, and many Eastern Bloc countries including Czechoslovakia, Poland, and East Germany. On the opposing side, the Capitalist southern government was supported by superpowers such as the United States, Canada, and Australia. The explicit or covert involvement of major world powers means that this war was a proxy war. Both sides were supported by opposing superpowers fighting over control of an area. The war ended with the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the communist forces of Ho Chi Minh. What resulted was the continued persecution of capitalists and dissidents to the new authoritarian government. Many of those who fled Vietnam to escape persecution were South Vietnamese capitalists, who believed in the principles of freedom, equality, tolerance, and respect.
The Vietnamese people brought a factor to Canadian society that was extremely important and beneficial to the society at large. This factor was their entrepreneurship. Following the integration of these refugees into Canada, many of them set up their own small businesses, which were important to the growth of the Canadian economy. It was in this instance that the Vietnamese people’s entrepreneurial spirit showed us that they were important to Canada as a whole, and were worthy Canadians.
Upon the arrival of these refugees into Canada, they were generally well respected among Canadians for their hard-working attitude and willingness to integrate into Canadian society. A big part of the settlement of these refugees into Canada was their ability to maintain traditional Vietnamese culture, while also adopting the culture of their new home. In contrast to many refugee groups in the modern era, these Vietnamese migrants did not demand that Canadian society make accommodations for them and their culture. Rather, they were thankful that Canadians had allowed them to take refuge in their country. This was a very important factor concerning the settlement of these refugees into Canada.
Another part of the settlement of these refugees into their new home was the fact that they were only brought in if Canada was able to support them. These refugees were dependent on the goodwill of the Canadian people to support them, as they migrated into a completely unfamiliar land. The system created helped Vietnamese migrants to settle in Canada and be financially and socially secure.
The Vietnamese were successfully brought into a society in which they had no experience, and within a short span of time, had become productive members of society. This can be compared to the modern Syrian refugee crisis, where many were pushed out of their country out of fear of persecution during a civil war. However, the government handled this refugee crisis completely differently from the one that proved to be successful in the past. Rather than allowing Canadian families to sponsor refugee families, the Canadian government brought in more refugees than could be handled, and as a result, they were not properly assimilated into Canadian society. As a result of this mismanagement, rather than having a support system that integrates refugees into Canada, these refugees were simply put into the whole of Canadian society and expected to prosper on their own. The exact opposite has happened. The unemployment rate for Syrian refugees is astronomically high in comparison to the rest of Canada, and many of them wish for Canada to conform to their culture, rather than the other way around. In the case of the Vietnamese refugees, they were thankful to the Canadian people for supporting them in a time of need and were willing to conform to Canadian culture, customs, and values if need be, while also maintaining their own heritage. It is entirely debatable whether or not the same can be said for the Syrian refugee crisis.
It can be seen that the Vietnamese people who took refuge in Canada, fleeing communist persecution were properly integrated into Canadian society in a way that proved to be beneficial to all parties involved. The support system of using Canadian families to sponsor Vietnamese refugee families proved to be a great system that allowed refugee families to integrate into Canadian society at large, before being put into the country to survive on their own, with no support whatsoever. Seeing as this system has proved itself to be a more than adequate method of integrating refugees from a war-torn country into Canadian society,t is crucial that this system is used in the future to properly integrate refugees, rather than through mismanagement and supporting more than can be handled.
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Late Sunday night, Russia accused the United States of dropping bombs containing white phosphorus in a raid in Syria. The Kremlin alleged that two planes flew over a small town in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor province. At that point, says Russia, they released the white phosphorus bombs, which caused massive fires.
Russian Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko said Sunday that Washington carried out a similar raid with the white phosphorus bombs on Saturday. “Following the strikes, large fires were observed in the area”, he told RT. Information regarding deaths and injuries for both alleged attacks is not yet available.
What is White Phosphorus?
White phosphorus is a war chemical with a number of purposes. The smoke is usable for both offense and defense. When lit, it burns very quickly and brightly, serving as a useful smokescreen to hide behind. These blankets of smoke are quite common and are generally legal.
However, it can also be highly deadly. When used offensively, the gas can burn through skin, all the way down to the bone, in a short timeframe. Because of this, the Geneva Conventions placed heavy regulations on the incendiary white phosphorus missions. Essentially, the substance is legal as a smokescreen, but not as an instrument of death. To ensure this, they barred all use of it against civilian targets, as well as against military targets in civilian areas. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons also bars the use of incendiary weapons against civilians.
The Pentagon’s Denial
Despite the harsh allegations, the U.S. is denying that either strike used white phosphorus. In fact, Commander Sean Robertson said Sunday that such an attack would be impossible because he did not have the chemical. “None of the military units in the area are even equipped with white phosphorus munitions of any kind”, the U.S. official declared.
However, Russia is not without controversy of its own in regards to the matter. In March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British organization, accused the Kremlin of using incendiary bombs against a rebel base near Damascus. Russia has since denied these accusations in full. Neither country, however, has denied entirely the use of military force against largely civilian targets.
A History of Misuse
This is not the first time that the U.S. is coming under fire over chemical weaponry. In 2005, they admitted to using white phosphorus as a weapon in efforts to secure Fallujah in Iraq. “It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants”, said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Veneable, speaking on behalf of the U.S. The country also admitted to using it for incendiary purposes just one year earlier, in the First Battle of Fallujah.
Before admitting this, however, they had denied using the substance. They claimed, on the other hand, that they were only using it as a smokescreen. When the truth came to light, it was a major mishap for the country’s public relations. Questions rose in regards to what else the military was hiding from the people and the world.
Just last year, controversy arose again about the banned incendiary. In June, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. had used the gas twice in Syria as an incendiary. The New York Times, on the other hand, gave a different look. A military official told the paper that the U.S. had used the gas, but only in legal methods.
Mass Casualties in Syria
While Russia and the U.S. continue their patterns of denial, the evidence is growing that Syria is also using banned tactics in their civil war. Residents reported this weekend that President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces had used barrel bombs in Southern Idlib, where rebel forces reside. According to the report, at least two children died as a result of the attacks.
Syria has also faced questions regarding their own use of white phosphorus and other chemical weapons in the past. In total, over 350,000 people have died since the dawn of the war, many of whom were civilians.
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By Joe Brown | United States
Who Was Involved?
On Friday night, President Trump announced that a coordinated military strike had been made in Syria by a coalition consisting of American, British, and French forces. In a separate White House address, he said: “Today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.”
Following Trump’s statement, UK Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement confirming that she had “authorized British armed forces to conduct coordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use.”
French involvement was confirmed on Friday night as well, when the country’s President: Emmanuel Macron, said that a “red line set by France in May 2017 has been crossed. So, I ordered the French armed forces to intervene tonight, as part of an international operation in coalition with the United States of America and the United Kingdom and directed against the clandestine chemical arsenal of the Syrian regime.”
What Was Hit?
U.S. officials had previously specified that strikes would be targeting suspected centers of chemical weapon development. The coalition has confirmed that three sites were specifically targeted.
- A scientific research center located in Damascus
- A military storage facility west of Homs
- And a military command post outside of Homs
Multiple Syrian state sources report that the Mazzeh military Airbase and the Damascus International Airport were also targeted, though these claims are denied by the coalition. There are also reports of damage to civilian infrastructure in the capital of Damascus, a city that is home to nearly 2 million people.
Russia’s Defense Ministry stated that the majority of coalition missiles were intercepted by Syrian defense systems. At a news conference in Moscow on Saturday, Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy said at least 103 cruise missiles were fired into a number of targets in Syria, with 71 of them being successfully downed by Syrian forces.
Are the Strikes Over?
Trump stated that his administration was “prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” However, he emphasized that “America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria.”
Senior officials from the Pentagon also said that “this wave of airstrikes is over,” but maintained that the American military was prepared for prolonged involvement in the region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin released a statement on Saturday saying the Kremlin “seriously condemns” the attack on Syria, which he called an “act of aggression against a sovereign state … at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.” He maintained that these attacks were done “without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council, in violation of the UN Charter, norms and principles of international law,” and that Russia was calling for an immediate UN Security Council meeting.
Sweden’s Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. confirmed that an emergency meeting will begin Saturday morning.
Despite the attacks, a Senior U.S. official involved with counter-terrorist initiations in Syria said that Russian and pro-regime Syrians were showing no signs of aggression towards American or coalition forces.
Members of the coalition, including the leaders of America, the UK, and France, have all claimed that these attacks were done in response to the chemical attacks in Douma just this past weekend. Despite an international uproar regarding the nature of the attacks, there remains to be no substantial evidence that the Assad regime was the true perpetrator. U.S. Secretary of Defense General John Mattis, confirmed this before the coalition attacks, saying that there was “no evidence” connecting the chemical attacks to the Syrian government.
Russian and Syrian forces maintain that the chemical attacks were instigated by members of the rebel insurgency.
An investigation was scheduled to be conducted by United Nations Weapons Inspectors on Saturday, at the same sites demolished by coalition forces.