Monday, January 14, 2019

Do we have a responsibility to protect the Kurds?/Despite Everything, U.S. Troops Should Leave Syria


  I am writing as a pacifist, who has been jailed for protesting U.S. militarism.  I am also somewhat of an amateur historian who is quite aware of the sufferings of the Kurdish people in their quest for a homeland.

After World War I, the UK promised a homeland for the Kurds.  Of course, this did not happen.  I protested President George Herbert Walker Bush’s 1991 invasion of Iraq both here in Baltimore and in D.C.  After the U.S. offensive kicked Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, Bush urged the Iraqis to rise up against Saddam.  The Kurds and the Shiites did, and Saddam’s forces slaughtered them.     

  When Bush’s son stumbled and bumbled in his invasion of Iraq in 2003, his henchmen took over running the government in Iraq,  This mismanagement helped to create ISIS which eventually took over swaths of Iraq and Syria.  In Syria, the Kurds have been most responsible for taking on the forces of ISIS.  Of course, there have been terrible losses on the Kurdish side, but these fighters have been largely successful in defeating these terrorists.

 One day Trump gets up and tweets that ISIS has been defeated, and that U.S. forces will pull out. Progressive voices have hailed the decision.  I, however, am very concerned that once again the Kurds will be sacrificed on the whim of U.S. foreign policy.

  The author of the article below is an excellent writer and a thoughtful peace activist.  His arguments are compelling.  However, to betray the Kurds once again would be unconscionable. 

   His solution to this issue is less than compelling.  He suggests cutting a deal with Erdogan or Assad, two dictators who do not tolerate dissent.  Then he states that the U.S. forces are too insignificant to prevent the Turkish military from slaughtering the Kurds, yet he wants this group of 2,000 soldiers to pull out.  I am confused.

Kagiso, Max   

Published on Portside (

Despite Everything, U.S. Troops Should Leave Syria

Stephen Zunes
January 3, 2019
Foreign Policy in Focus

  Donald Trump’s sudden decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria appears to have been impetuous and ill-considered — apparently a result of a conversation with Turkey’s autocratic president Recep Erdoğan. That doesn’t mean, however, that the United States should remain in that country.
It’s quite reasonable to question how and why Trump made his choice. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right one, however.

   First of all, the presence of U.S. forces in Syria is illegal. There was never any authorization by Congress, as mandated by the U.S. constitution, to send troops there, making the frantic bipartisan calls for congressional oversight regarding the withdrawal particularly bizarre.

  There’s also the matter of international law. While the brutality of the Syrian regime and the mass atrocities it has committed do raise questions regarding its legitimacy, it is nevertheless illegal for a country to send troops to another country without either the permission of that government or authorization by the United Nations.

  One can make a case that the presence of foreign troops within a nation-state’s borders against the will of that country’s recognized government, and without the authorization of the UN Security Council, is nevertheless justifiable — if it is to protect the population from mass killing. There’s little to indicate that this is why U.S. forces are in Syria, however.

   Lest one think that protecting civilian lives is a high priority for the United States, let’s remember that U.S. forces were responsible for many hundreds of civilian deaths in the assault on the Syrian city of Raqqa.

  According to administration officials supporting the ongoing deployment of U.S. troops inside Syria, the main reason for staying was to counter Iranian and Russian influence. They had largely given up on pursuing the remnants of the so-called “Islamic State,” or Daesh. There had been little mention from the administration of protecting the Kurds.

   So, basically Washington was saying is that it has the right to send troops into a foreign country and keep them there because we don’t like the fact that the country’s government has close strategic ties with (and some armed forces in their country from) two governments we don’t like.

   This is a rather startling justification for the deployment of U.S. combat troops. It would establish a very dangerous precedent, particularly with no debate in Congress as to whether the United States should engage in such a provocative policy.

  Like other debates over the years on the wisdom of withdrawing U.S. forces from foreign entanglements, those who insist that U.S. forces remain are based on rather dubious arguments.

  First, some say that a U.S. departure would lead to a revival of Daesh. Contrary to what Trumps says, the group hasn’t been defeated in Syria. However, they have been relegated to a small strip of territory near the Iraqi border, only a tiny fraction of the vast “caliphate” they once ruled. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) should be strong enough to resist their expansion, especially since the U.S. has pledged to use air power to fight them in such an event.

   Second, others worry that the Syrian regime will quickly reclaim Kurdish territory in northern Syria. But Syrian forces are probably stretched too thin at this point to seize most of the vast areas of northern Syria currently controlled by the SDF.

  Though falling well short of the kind of egalitarian anarchist utopia that some Western leftists have claimed, Syrian Kurds have nevertheless organized one of the most democratic, popular, and well-functioning governing structures in the Middle East. During the past couple of years, they were able to make accommodations with the Syrian regime in several areas where government forces did move in — without violence and without any U.S. support that would have enabled them to keep control.

   The most legitimate concern is in regard to Turkey moving its forces into northern Syria to attack the SDF and slaughtering many thousands of Kurdish civilians in the process.
During a number of periods over the past few decades, Turkish forces have engaged in just this kind of brutal repression in Kurdish areas of their own country in the battle against the PKK militia, which has close ties to the Kurdish forces leading the SDF. That is a real possibility, though it seems unlikely they would engage in the same kind of savagery against the civilian population as they did within Turkey, whom they saw as traitors for supporting the PKK and threating the country’s national integrity.

   More pertinently, how are 2,000 U.S. troops in such a vast area an effective deterrent for Turkish intervention? They did nothing to halt the Turkish offensive that seized the SDF-controlled Afrin region back in March, for example. Given the small number of U.S. troops in an area more three times the size of Lebanon, it would be easy for Turkish forces to avoid confronting U.S. troops while slaughtering Kurds, and it would be hard to imagine Trump moving U.S. troops into position to stop it.

  A more effective deterrent than simply keeping U.S. troops in Syria would be for Washington to make clear to the Turks that the United States will suspend all arms transfers and strategic cooperation with Turkey if it moves any more troops into Syrian territory.

   The United States has set up the Kurds only to abandon them on at least three occasions in recent decades, and it is naive to think it would have come out differently this time. If the goal is to keep U.S. forces in Syria until their legitimate rights are recognized and there was no longer a threat from Syrian or Turkish forces, U.S. troops would likely be there for decades to come. Without the support of Congress and a broad consensus of the American public for such a policy, it makes more sense to withdraw.

   Regardless of all the above, perhaps a case could be made for keeping U.S. forces in Syria if the United States had a more competent commander-in-chief. However, given the risks of confrontations with Russian or Iranian forces and the sheer complexity of the situation in that country, it is frankly dangerous to have American troops in such a volatile area under Trump.
Americans are tired of endless overseas wars. Regardless of Trump’s questionable motivations and lack of strategic forethought, now is not the time to demand further U.S. troop deployments in the Middle East.

  Stephen Zunes, a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist and senior analyst, is a professor of Politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He is the author, along with Jacob Mundy, of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010).

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert -- January 14 -- 15, 2019

18] Fight back against Anti Sanctuary City legislation! – Jan. 14
19] Food Rescue – Jan. 14
20] U.S. Withdrawal from Syria – Jan. 14
21] Hawaii Nuclear Missile Scare – Jan. 14
22] Taking the Fight for a Raise to Annapolis!  – Jan. 14
23] No More Cash for Burning Trash – Jan. 14
24] City Council Resolution to Stop Tax Sale for Water – Jan. 14
25] Fight for $15 press conference – Jan. 14
26] Pacem PeaceSeekers Meeting – Jan. 14
27] “Goya or the Hard Way to Enlightenment” – Jan. 14
28] Sierra Club Maryland Priority Legislation -– Jan. 14
29] Get the Money Out conference call – Jan. 14
30] Global Economy in 2019 –Jan. 15
31] Peace Vigil – Jan. 15
32] No Drone Research DEMO – Jan. 15
33] How to Start and Maintain a Nonprofit Organization – Jan. 14
34] Stop and Frisk – Jan. 15
35] American Promise Delaware meeting – Jan. 15
36] Rohingya Refugee Crisis – Jan. 15
18] – On Mon., Jan. 14 at 7:30 AM, fight back against Anti Sanctuary City legislation!  This is hosted by VACIR - Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights at 900 E. Main St., Richmond. Senator Dick Black has sponsored dangerous, anti-immigrant legislation for years and one of his newest attacks on the immigrant community, S.B. 1156, is up to be heard in committee this Monday at 8AM. Mobilize and pack the hearing in Senate Committee Room A, Pocahontas Building. You can come and sit in the audience to show your opposition! If you are interested in speaking on the issues, please email who can help get you prepared to testify! Sanctuary policies will be prohibited. The bill provides that no locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws. See

19] – On Mon., Jan. 14, and every Monday until Feb. 4, 2019, at noon, there will be a Food Rescue at Land of Kush, 840 N. Eutaw St., Baltimore 21201. Food Rescue Baltimore is honored to partner with The Land of Kush each and every Monday to bring access to free vegan/plant-based food in the community. Bring a bag. Take what you want from noon to 1PM or while supplies last. No purchase is necessary to take advantage of the Food Rescue Baltimore give away. Items from The Land of Kush's menu are not included in the give-away but will be available for sale. See

20] – On Mon., Jan. 14 from 2:30 to 4 PM, discuss the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria, hosted by The SETA Foundation, 1025 Connecticut Ave. NW, WDC 20036. On Dec. 19, 2018, President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. The decision has led to a wide ranging debate on the US goals in Syria as well as what to do next. The withdrawal decision led to the resignation of the Secretary of WAR and it has many implications for the region, in particular for Turkey. While the U.S. and Turkey work together to prevent a potential power vacuum, the two NATO allies are not in agreement on significant issues, including the PKK-linked YPG. As the US and Turkey try to chart a new strategy in northern Syria, the impact of President Trump's decision for the course of the conflict as well as the region remains uncertain.   See

21] – On Mon., Jan. 14 at 3 PM at the Wilson Center, 5th Floor, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, WDC 20004, catch up with Lessons from the Hawaii Nuclear Missile Scare. See This event is co-sponsored by the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project.  Against the backdrop of escalating tension with North Korea and unraveling U.S.-Russia nuclear treaties, the January 2018 Hawaii false missile alert came as a shocking reminder of the reality of a nuclear threat. Cynthia Lazaroff and Bruce Allyn experienced the alert firsthand, which drove home the importance of their research and interviews with leading Russian and American nuclear experts. They will share their findings and some possible steps to reduce today’s nuclear danger.  Read Lazaroff’s account of the incident here:

22] – On Mon., Jan. 14 from 3:30 to 8:30 PM, get involved with Taking the Fight for a Raise to Annapolis!  This is hosted by AFSCME Maryland in the House of Delegates, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis 21401-1912. In 2019, AFSCME Maryland members REFUSE to settle!  Last year, Governor Hogan and his administration refused to bargain. This is our last chance to show him what we're willing to do for a real raise. If more money is important to you, you NEED to be in Annapolis. Maryland has a budget surplus over $500 million dollars. Take the fight to Annapolis. If the Governor won't return to the table with an offer, AFSCME members will continue the fight! Rides available from Baltimore, Jessup, Western MD and the Eastern Shore. Check out

23] – On Mon., Jan. 14 from 4 to 5 PM, shut out No More Cash for Burning Trash! Rally at City Hall, hosted by Clean Water Action Maryland, 100 Holliday St., Baltimore 21202.  Did you know that the state of Maryland calls trash incineration clean energy - and subsidizes it just the same as wind and solar? Baltimore's trash incinerator, BRESCO, has received more than $10 million in subsidies in six years. Baltimore is ready to move toward a zero waste future, but we can't do that with the state propping up trash incineration.  At its first meeting of the year, the Baltimore City Council will vote on a resolution calling for the state to stop subsidizing trash incineration by passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act, legislation that will also put Maryland on the path to 100% clean energy and invest $27 million in workforce development for green careers. Join Council members, faith leaders, and community residents in front of City Hall before the Council meeting to send a clear message to Annapolis: no more cash for burning trash! Then attend a lobby training on Sat., Jan. 19, and you will receive all the skills you need to effectively lobby legislators on this issue:  Go to

24] – On Mon., Jan. 14 from 5 to 6 PM,  Support the City Council Resolution to Stop Tax Sale for Water, hosted by Baltimore Right to Water Coalition at Baltimore City Hall, 100 Holliday St., Baltimore 21202.   Join in for the introduction and passage of Councilwoman Shannon Sneed's resolution calling on the Maryland General Assembly to pass the Water Taxpayer Protection Act. This legislation, to be introduced by Senator Mary Washington and Delegate Nick Mosby will ensure that nobody in Baltimore City loses their homes or places of worship because of unaffordable and incorrect water bills!  Currently in our city, as little as $750 in outstanding water bills can send a home or place of worship to tax sale which can mean property removal. Skyrocketing water rates, as well as erroneous water bills, have left families with little ability to pay. In 2017, a total of 10,839 homes were sent to tax sale and legal advocates estimate that between 70-80% of tax sales involve water bills.

Councilwoman Sneed's resolution will help show overwhelming support for removing water bills from the tax sale process. Call your Councilmember and ask them to support this resolution before the vote on Monday! The introduction and vote on the Resolution in Support of the Water Taxpayer Protection Act will take place in Council Chambers on the 4th floor. See

25] – On Mon., Jan. 14 from 6 to 7 PM, there is a Fight for $15 press conference, hosted by Fight for $15 Maryland in the House of Delegates Building, 6 Bladen St., Room 145, Annapolis.  See

26] – On Mon., Jan. 14 at 6 PM, there will be a Pacem PeaceSeekers Meeting at the Pacem office, 401 N. West St., Wilmington. Visit

27] – On Mon, Jan. 14 at 6:30 PM at the Landmark's West End Cinema, 2301 M St. NW, WDC 20037, see the film “Goya or the Hard Way to Enlightenment,” directed by Konrad Wolf. Adapted for the screen by Konrad Wolf and Angel Wangenstein (based on the novel by Lion Feuchtwanger). This film is a 1971 production by the German Democratic Republic / Soviet Union in German with English subtitles.  An introduction to the film will be provided by Sky Sitney, co-director of film festival Double Exposure and Assistant Professor in the Film and Media Studies program at Georgetown University. A discussion will follow the screening.  Francisco de Goya enjoys great wealth and status as a court painter of King Carlos IV. But as the brutality of the Spanish Inquisition intensifies, Goya must decide where his loyalty truly lies: with the throne and the church, or with the Spanish people.  Go to

28] -- On Mon., Jan. 14 from 7 to 8:30 PM, get over to the discussion 2019 Sierra Club Maryland Priority Legislation, hosted by Sierra Club Howard County at the Howard County Library, 10375 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia 21044. Tickets are at The Maryland Chapter’s Political Committee will be presenting. Go to

29] – Join the Get Money Out of Maryland Teleconference on Monday, Jan. 14 from 8:30 to 9:30 PM.  Call 605-475-6711, code 1136243#.  Work only on brainstorming ideas for participation in the upcoming General Election.

30] – On Tues., Jan. 15 from 9:30 to 11 AM, catch the Global Economy in 2019: What Policymakers Need to Know, hosted by the Center for Global Development, 2055 L St. NW, Floor 5, WDC 20036.  Global growth is expected to slow down over the next two years. Trade and investment flows are likely to be more moderate and access to finance more difficult. Risks to the global economic outlook include greater volatility in financial markets, trade tensions, and heightened policy uncertainty.  Given these challenges, policymakers in emerging market and developing economies need to strengthen monetary and fiscal policy frameworks that will help them to cope with these uncertainties. At the same time, they must also focus on long-term growth prospects by taking steps to improve competitiveness, adaptability to technological change, and trade openness.  Join experts from the World Bank, the IMF, and CGD in exploring how global policymakers can best manage economic challenges in the coming year.  Visit

31] –  Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine.  The next vigil is Jan. 15.  Call 215-426-0364.

32] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. The next vigil will be on Jan. 15 from 5 to 6 PM. Contact Max at mobuszewski2001 at Comcast dot net or 410-323-1607. 

33] – On Tues., Jan. 15 from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM, get over to How to Start and Maintain a Nonprofit Organization, hosted by Community Law Center, Inc., 3355 Keswick Rd., Second Floor Conference Room, Baltimore 21211.  Understand the legal and practical considerations of running a nonprofit. This is a live workshop with limited registration to allow time for questions and individual attention. The $75 price of the workshop includes refreshments and a copy of the How to Start a Nonprofit in Maryland manual.  Registration is closed once the workshop is at capacity. If registration is full you may sign up for the waitlist. If a space opens up, you will be notified and will have limited time to register for the open space. Please call Ingrid Hitchens at 410-366-0922 if you have any questions about the waitlist.
Attorneys interested in representing nonprofits in obtaining 501(c)(3) status should consider joining Community Law Center’s Pro Bono Program by registering as a volunteer attorney. For more information about the Pro Bono Program, please click here

34] –    On Tues., Jan. 15 at 7 PM, there is an ANC 6B MPD Briefing on Stop and Frisk of Black Boys, hosted by Black Lives Matter DC at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, WDC 20003.  Tickets are In response to the post and video (links below) of three Black boys being stopped, detained, and frisked in Capitol Hill while cold and scared, MPD will be at the regularly scheduled ANC 6B meeting (Open to the public) to provide a briefing.  The issue of Stop & Frisk has (finally) started getting the District wide attention it deserves. This may be the first time many people have become aware of the routine interactions Black children in DC live with, but for a great many Black DC residents this is simply reality.

Please come out to this meeting to show support for the children and their family, show MPD that they can no longer keep saying these are “isolated incidents” because we know stop and frisk is routine policing for MPD and that 8 out of 10 people stopped by MPD in DC are Black despite being only 47% of the population, and to connect with others to rise to action and work toward justice and ending these practices moving forward.  Go to or

35] – On Tues., Jan. 15 from 7 to 8:30 PM, American Promise Delaware, which promotes a 28th Constitutional amendment to get Big Money out of politics, meets in Room 25, First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, 730 Halstead Rd., Wilmington. For background on topic of getting money out of politics, see this article: After Citizens United, a Vicious Cycle of Corruption. See

36] – On Tues., Jan. 15 at 7:30 PM, catch the presentation by Bill Frelick, director of Human Rights Watch's refugee program, on Bangladesh is Not My Country: the Rohingya Refugee Crisis, at Upper Gild Hall, 2126 The Highway, Arden, Wilmington, DE. Go to

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Witness Against Torture Activists Arrested for Sit-In at Senator Mitch McConnell’s office

For Immediate Release:                       Contact:  Kathy Kelly  773 619 2418
January 10, 2019                                                      Josie Setzler  419 559 3759
Witness Against Torture Activists Arrested for Sit-In at Senator Mitch McConnell’s office
Activists call on McConnell to schedule a vote on the War Powers Act, allowing discussion in the Senate regarding the war on Yemen, and to fully support closure of Guantanamo prison.
Four human rights activists were arrested today and charged with unlawfully demonstrating inside Senate office buildings after sitting-in at the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They were among a group of about twenty-five Witness Against Torture activists who entered the office at 3:00 p.m. Many were clad in orange jumpsuits resembling those worn by prisoners in Guantanamo. They delivered a letter requesting McConnell’s assistance on two matters concerning human rights violations.
The letter asks him to “schedule a vote on the War Powers Act to end U.S. military involvement with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the terror attacks on the people of Yemen.” The letter also asks that he use his influence to close down the prison facilities at Guantanamo.
Two of McConnell's aides listened to the activists' concerns for an hour.
The four who were arrested had remained seated in a conference room inside the Senator’s office. They said they were prepared to wait in McConnell’s office until he is able to meet with them and confirm that he will take action on a vote on the War Powers Act regarding Yemen and initiate a process to close down the prison at Guantanamo.
Photo captions:
                 Witness Against Torture Activists Enter Sen. Mitch McConnell's office
                 Activists sitting in at Sen. Mitch McConnell's office
                  Don Cunning (NJ), Max Obuszewski, (MD), Alice Sutter, (NY), Janice Sevre Duszynska (MD), and Pamela Stoner,
(PA), inside a conference room at Sen. Mitch McConnell's office
                  Don Cunning (NJ), and Janice Sevre Duszynska (MD) review a letter they delivered to Sen. Mitch McConnell's office

Photo Credits:  Steve Pavey
The four arrestees were released around 8:45 PM after being charged with demonstrating inside the Russell Senate Office Building.  They are scheduled to appear in court in February.  Below is a copy of the letter the activists wrote to Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell.  
Witness Against Torture -- or @witnesstorture
Witness Against Torture will carry on in its activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantánamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account.
January 10, 2019
Senator Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator McConnell:
We are members of Witness Against Torture <>, and we are seeking your assistance on two matters, both of which concern human rights violations.  We would like to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss these issues with you, the Senate Majority Leader.
First, we feel it is extremely important that you schedule a vote on the War Powers Act to end U.S. military involvement with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the terror attacks on the people of Yemen.  Immense human rights violations are being committed by these two countries with the assistance of the U.S. military and U.S. weapons contractors.  You are quite aware that the situation in Yemen worsens on a daily basis, and thus we feel it is urgent to seek a meeting with you. On August 9, 2018, for example, the Saudi-led coalition conducted an airstrike in Yemen that destroyed a school bus and killed some forty children – using armaments allegedly provided by the United States. This attack took place more than three years into a conflict that has resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and a situation where 22 million people require humanitarian assistance.  Besides the famine, Yemenis are dealing with a health crisis as diphtheria and cholera are at epidemic proportions.
Our second issue is the US detention center at Guantánamo Bay which has been open for over 17 years. Forty men remain imprisoned, five of whom are cleared for release. Witness Against Torture is working to raise awareness about their torture and indefinite detention. We’re also working to combat Islamophobia across the U.S. Playing to Islamophobic fears of Muslim peoples, Guantanamo was founded with the lie that it houses only “the worst of the worst” terrorists.  It continues to hold exclusively Muslim men, many of whom were severely tortured, without charge or trial. 
   Other detained men face prosecution in the legally-flawed Military Commissions.  The unworkable Commissions have failed to provide due process for the accused or justice for the victims of terrorism.
Guantanamo has been a place of physical and psychological torture, the imprisonment of innocent men, brutal forced-feedings to break hunger-striking prisoners, and the pain of indefinite detention without charge. 
    The prison remains a profound violation of law. It is a threat to U.S. security and a blow to our ideals.  It is an insult to the world, to the tenets of all religious faiths, and to the idea of human rights. We are asking you to use your influence to close down the prison facilities at Guantanamo.
   These two issues are so critical that we are prepared to wait in your office until you are able to meet with us and to confirm that you will take action on a vote on the War Powers Act regarding Yemen and that you will initiate a process to close down the prison at Guantanamo.  Thank you for giving these matters your urgent attention.
In peace,

Trump's Wall With Mexico Follows in the Footsteps of Authoritarian Leaders Throughout History

Trump's Wall With Mexico Follows in the Footsteps of Authoritarian Leaders Throughout History
From China to Germany, walls have been used for centuries to spread fear, closed-mindedness and isolationism.
By Nina Khrushcheva
January 11, 2019
Instead of leading the world away from its worst impulses, as America did for most of the 20th century, President Donald Trump’s demands for a wall on the U.S. southern border look to be leaning closer to the autocratic acts and optics of tyrannical regimes.

  Throughout history, autocratic leaders have relied on walls to control their people. From the fierce tyrant who first began building China’s Great Wall in roughly 220 BC to Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev (my great-grandfather as it happens) who ordered construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, walls have represented undemocratic forces.

   This symbolism alone should have given a president pause. Instead, Trump continues his vehement demands — and insisted on forcing a partial government shutdown once Congress balked.

  From the fierce tyrant who first began building China’s Great Wall to Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev (my great-grandfather as it happens), walls have represented undemocratic forces.  His opponents, meanwhile, argue that it is practically unnecessary and ideologically demeaning for the U.S. to protect itself in such an outdated manner.

  New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called Trump’s demands “immoral and unwise.” Speaking to CBS News on Sunday, Pelosi pointed out that Trump “would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress so the only voice that mattered was his own.” That authoritarian voice indeed.

  Trump, with his affinity for branding and ability to connect through tweets and soundbites, has tried to sell the wall as simple, impenetrable and ultimately protective. But as a historical concept, walls often connote fear, closed-mindedness and isolationism.

  So which is it? The president has already shown that he is comfortable with problematic and, indeed, unwise illusions. He talks of “America First” — a slogan favored by American fascists as they sought to keep the United States out of World War II. He regularly labels the media the “enemy of the people” and recently went as far as to brand journalists “crazed lunatics” — though even despotic Soviets were wary of such characterizations. In the late 1950s, after Joseph Stalin’s death, Khrushchev banned the phrase “enemy of the people,” when he denounced the dictator’s “cult of personality.”

   But this wall has proved one step beyond Trump’s usual boasting. Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example, hardly a model of democratic governance, is now criticizing Trump’s desire for the wall, pointedly suggesting that “the wise man builds bridges.”

   Ironic, since China’s Great Wall remains the model, and metaphor, for divisive borders. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, founder of the Qin Dynasty and the first emperor of a unified China, built the immense, self-enclosing structure during his reign 220 to 210 BC. He connected various smaller walls into a powerful defensive border to guard against invasion, protect trade and control immigration.
His wall became, however, a warning to other emperors and empires. Future Chinese rulers continued to expand its battlements, yet they avoided referring to the structure as “the wall.” They didn’t want to be associated with Qin’s reputation as a tyrant.

   Centuries later, during World War I, the demarcation between German-occupied Belgium and the Netherlands was an electrified barbed-wire fence. This German construction in the middle of No Man’s Land became known as the “wire of death.”

   Many Belgians died trying to escape into neighboring (and free) Holland. By the middle of the Great War, reportedly 3,000 people had been killed at the electrified wall. These deaths contributed to the region’s hatred of Germany — a sentiment uncommon in Holland and Belgium before the barrier was erected.

  Then, of course, there was the Berlin Wall, Khrushchev’s effort to separate East Berlin and West Berlin at the height of the Cold War. The wall was designed to prevent East Germans from escaping communism to live under democracy in the West. Countless lives were lost, and, over the decades, the wall became the stark symbol of Soviet oppression.

   Public protests finally destroyed the Berlin Wall starting in 1989. This stunning act initiated the fall of communism, and, ultimately, the end of the Soviet Union. It also solidified the negative symbolism of walls as inefficient and inferior ways of protecting nations.

   To some extent, this feeling remains today. Hungary’s conservative prime minister Viktor Orban sparked an international outcry in 2015 when he instituted a “keep [migrants] out” policy and constructed his own giant wall. Never mind the criticism, Orban’s 100-mile long, 13-feet-high razor wire fence separates Hungary from Serbia to this day.
This brings us back to Trump’s wall, which he talked about throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, and which was originally supposed to be concrete and paid for by Mexico. His recent proposal suggests the finished barrier could be iron or steel — and paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

  Regardless of the building material, the Democrats in Congress are refusing to fund it.
Around the globe many see this fight as a defense of American democracy. The White House, Trump’s critics insist, should not be allowed to dismantle the U.S. principles of inclusion, not exclusion. They ask why Republicans are not doing their job and providing checks-and-balances to Trump’s worrying autocratic tendencies.

 The good news is that some House and Senate Republicans have begun to express disagreement with the president and the GOP leaders about the government shutdown.
They should be moving faster, however. As a former citizen of the Soviet Union, which used walls to lower the quality of life of its citizens, I fear that the longer Trump’s party allows him to act with impunity, the harder it could be to restore America to normalcy after he is gone.
© 2019 NBC News

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Nina Khrushcheva is a professor of international affairs at The New School and the author of “The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind.”

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert -- January 13 - 14, 2019

9] Speak out for Creation in Annapolis -- Jan. 13
10] Maryland Legislative Preview – Jan. 13
11] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-faith Service – Jan. 13
12] Hopkins Private Police: Public Safety or Safety Concern – Jan. 13
13] The CALL - ERA Education Program – Jan. 13
14] Black Lives Matter – Jan. 13
15] Sierra Club Group Potluck – Jan. 13
16] See the documentary "Coffee for All Nations" – Jan. 13
17] Pentagon Protest – Jan. 14
9] On Sun, Jan. 13 from 2 to 5 PM, there is Speaking Out for Creation: Legislative Briefing & Training, hosted by Interfaith Power & Light (MD.DC.NoVA) at First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, 9325 Presbyterian Circle, Columbia 21045. The Maryland faith community has a special opportunity to speak out for Creation in Annapolis this legislative session. Prepare your faith community for 2019. The featured keynote speaker is Delegate Eric Ebersole, Maryland's 12th Legislative District. Hear from Del. Ebersole about how communities can prioritize environmental legislation in the Maryland General Assembly! This event is geared toward faith communities and congregations, and is open to all.

10] On Sun, Jan. 13 from 2:30 to 5:30 PM, come to the MD Statewide Legislative Kickoff, hosted by Jews United for Justice – Baltimore at Columbia Jewish Congregation, 5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia 21045.  Tickets are at JUFJ's 2019 Maryland legislative kickoff is the most important chance of the year to learn the ins-and-outs of the campaigns we'll be taking on this legislative session. You'll get educated on the campaign of your choice and have the opportunity to receive training in how to be a superb JUFJ organizer. Whether you are a seasoned activist, coming back for another year of making change in Annapolis, or you are brand new to advocacy at the state level, this is where we'll all learn the intricacies of JUFJ's issues and strategize together toward a more just Maryland. Sign up using this link:  Go to kickoff/.

11] – On Sun, Jan. 13 from 3 to 4:30 PM, get over to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-faith Service, hosted by InterFaith Council of Metropolitan Washington at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Ave. NW, WDC 20005. Enjoy an afternoon of keynote speaker, Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, sharing reflections, multi-faith expressions related directly to Dr. King’s teachings, Hip Hop Artist Yusha Assad, music by well-known gospel singer Wyomme Pariss and musical selections by the extraordinary “Artists Group Chorale of Washington”; and a real treat ~ the “2019 MLK Interfaith Youth Choir” representing youth of nine different religions! Be present for the first, "Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Humanitarian YOUTH Awards"! Register at Contact Andra Baylus at  See

12] – On Sun., Jan. 13 at 3 PM, come to a Political Action Committee Meeting, hosted by the NAACP - Baltimore City Branch, 8 W. 26th St., Baltimore 21218. Catch the debate -- Hopkins Private Police: Public Safety or Safety Concern.  The Political Action Committee engages NAACP members and the community in fighting for equity and justice in government policies, housing, education, economic development and public safety. See

13] – On Sun., Jan. 13 at 4 PM, join The CALL - ERA Education Program, hosted by One Rural Woman at Katrina's Dream, PO Box 32003, WDC 20007.  Get tickets at  Help build the groundswell. The collaboration of grassroots organizers, lobbyists, and professionals is dedicated to promoting and educating folks across the United States of America to empowering women around the world.  PASS THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT.

There is a NATIONAL WEEKLY SUNDAY CALL at 4 PM with E.R.A. ADVOCATES -- CALL IN NO: 563.999.2090 CONFERENCE NO: 898879#.  Go to

14] – Attend a Black Lives Matter Vigil on Sun, Jan. 13 from 4 to 5 PM at the Governor Warfield Pkwy. and Windstream Drive.  On the second Sunday of each month, gather to give public witness to the problem of anti-Black racism in our neighborhood, our nation, and our world. Join to show that all lives WILL matter when Black Lives Matter. See

15] On Sun., Jan. 13 from 5 to 7 PM, the Prince George’s Sierra Club group Potluck Social and Climate Change Update is taking place at Watkins Regional Park Nature Center, 301 Watkins Park Dr. Kettering, MD 20774, USA. The guest speaker, Dr. Astrid Caldas, Senior Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, will provide an update on climate change and its impacts, in light of recent high-profile reports. The cost is $5 with a potluck dish, and $10 without. Kids get in free. RSVP to indicate what you'll be bringing. Directions will be sent to those who register. Contact RSVP at

16] See the documentary "Coffee for All Nations" on Sun., Jan. 13 at 6:30 PM at Homewood Friends, 3107 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218 in the basement (next to the side entrance). Doors open at 6 PM.  Homemade Arabic food available before and after the film.  The suggested donation is $5.  This film tells the story of 70,000 Palestinian books that were looted by the newly created State of Israel in 1948. The film interweaves various story lines into a structure that is both dramatically compelling and emotionally unsettling.  Eyewitness accounts and cultural critiques that place the book theft affair in a larger historical-cultural context; in the process, new light is shed on the Palestinian tragedy of 1948 and the moralistic-heroic Israeli narrative of the 1948 war is deconstructed.  

17] – There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop.  The next vigil is Jan. 14, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.  Email or call 202-882-9649.  The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro.  By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr.,  and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM.  No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs