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France’s History of Violence

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(NNPA) In the aftermath of the killings of staff at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, there has been near universal outrage, and correctly so. The murders were brutal and indefensible, and whether coordinated or not with any terrorist organizations, were acts of terror. Yet, there is something very disturbing about what seems to have been forgotten in this moment. While France would like to present itself as a freedom loving country, its overseas policies are much more complicated and have led to a situation of simmering hostility within large chunks of the planet.

France had an overseas empire that it achieved through indisputable acts of violence. It retained its colonial possessions – until it could no longer do so – through open repression. In 1947, in the face of an anti-colonial uprising, France conducted a legendary and ignominious assault on the people of Madagascar, killing upwards of 100,000 people, as well as engaging in other brutal acts, such as rape. In the 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence, at least 2 million Algerians were killed in their quest for freedom. In both cases France faced no consequences. The lives of the colonial people simply did not amount to much, and outside of the French-speaking world, little attention was focused on either of these massive atrocities.

Understanding history in no way excuses acts of terror. What it does do, however, is to put it in a much larger context. The demand for a cessation of terror must involve a recognition that terror did not start with the Parisian killings. Whether it was historic cases, such as the Madagascar massacres or the repression of the Algerians, or more recently the French involvement in the overthrow of Libyan President Qaddafi, violence has been used as an instrument of intimidation by the land of the tri-color flag.

While in no uncertain terms condemning the murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, people of conscience in France – and around the world – must also examine carefully the policies of their own nations. The extent of hypocrisy, whether regarding freedom of the press, freedom of movement, or freedom from terror, that we have seen displayed in the days since the Parisian killings is more than unsettling. Parisians were killed; the French government declared its own war against terror, yet remains silent about terror and repression committed by its allies and by its own forces, thereby reinforcing the cynical view that might makes right. Such a view does not terminate terror. Rather, it gives a potent excuse for even more deadly terror in order to take on the mighty. That is not the 21st century for which we should be fighting.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Obama is Soft on Islamic Extremism

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(NNPA) President Barack Obama has been catching hell from all sides lately because of his refusal to utter the words “Islamic extremism.” All of the unrest, tyranny, mayhem and atrocities that are being performed by jihadists or Muslim zealots are definitely based on Islamic extremism. Women and children are dying by the thousands and the White House seems to be more worried of the mainstream image of Islam than the health and welfare of innocent people from every continent on this earth.

It seems so juvenile how spokespersons for this administration dodge the use of “Islamic extremism” when pressured by the press. Some reporters have shouted at them, “Say it! Say Islamic Extremism,” but they maintain their naïve position. This denial strategy is feeding the evil doers and helping them to recruit young and impressionable youth – our youth.

Why is the president of the United States so soft on Islamic terrorism? Why didn’t he go to Paris for the leadership summit? I believe this is the result of a long process. President Obama has a strong affinity to Islam that started forming almost from his birth.

His father was a multi-generational Muslim. His step-father was a life-long Muslim. He spent years in Indonesia living as an Indonesian. His formative years had three prongs of influence: One, Islam from Kenya Two, Islam from Indonesia and Three, no emphasis on any particular religion. Islam is in his “bones.” His brothers, sisters and step-siblings are all Muslims. In his early adulthood he took voluntary vacations to Pakistan and India to visit his Muslim buddies. His most trusted adviser, Valerie Jarrett, was born in the Shite Islamic nation of Iran and spoke Farsi as a child. Her parents were committed to service in this Islamic nation. The affinity is there – “cut and dried” – documented.

We have a growing and fearsome enemy right now. It is Islamic extremism. A strong leader must first recognize the enemy. A great example of strong leadership is General Colin Powell. As we were about to invade Iraq for the first time, he gave a full blown press conference. “The enemy is called the Iraqi Republican Guards. We will move them to the northeast. After we have them cut off – we will kill it!”

That is just what he did – all 80,000 of them. The rest of the Iraqi military turned around and started running away. That is how you handle physical conflict. You don’t try to ignore it or explain it away. You don’t call a murderous army such as ISIS a JV team and expect them to get their feelings hurt and turn around. We control the strongest military on earth and he is acting like some silly boy trying psychology on the school yard bully. That is cruising for a bruising.

There is a growing problem very lethal to the well-being of everyone on this earth. We can’t get along with the head chopping, blood dripping Islamic extremists. The only option is to kill enough of them until they stop their evil ways. In some places it will take “boots on the ground.” Other venues may just need a good dose of carpet bombing. Whatever the need, it will be deadly and must be permanent.

He should seek counsel from the top religious leaders around the world. The Pope and his equivalents from all major bona-fide religions should provide moral input. Maybe he can get an understanding of what real Islam is. This jihad mess that is popping up in so many nations because his refusal to address it head-on needs to end immediately.

No, the Underwear Bomber was not a misguided kid. He was formally trained in Yemen in the same terrorist school that trained the recent Paris shooters. Call him a terrorist! Everyone coming out of that Al Qaeda produced school is a terrorist. Treat them like it – kill or imprison them forever.

Mr. President, please don’t think that Iraq and Afghanistan are done with. The Islamic extremists are coming back exponentially and that is your fault. History will show that. Sooner or later, true leaders of the world will have to go in and exterminate the bad guys.

Oh yes, there is a place known as Nigeria. It is the largest Black population in the world. It is slowly bleeding with no end in sight. That end won’t come until you rise up like a true leader and do what is good for our brothers and sisters. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? If you pray, please request strength, courage and the faith of David. Yes, David was Jewish but there are many great leaders who are or have been Jewish. It is all right.

Mr. President, the longer you wait the more innocents will be murdered. Also, the more Islamic extremists you will have to kill. Happy Hunting!

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

A Question of 21 Times

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(NNPA) I find it very unsettling to hear police officers discuss how they believe that BlackLivesMatter protesters and certain politicians, e.g., NYC Mayor de Blasio, are either unsympathetic to their plight or, worse, provoking violence. Ever since the murder of two NYC police officers there has been a concerted effort to shift the entire focus of the discussion regarding police abuse and lynching and turn it on its head, suggesting that the police are the victims of inexplicable anger.

When NYC police officers turned their back on Mayor de Blasio during the funerals of the officers, or when they suggest that Rev. Al Sharpton is a demagogue for supporting and encouraging mass protests against police abuse, interestingly I never hear them discuss the question of “21 times.” Just in case you missed this, an analysis of the data on police killings noted that African American youth are 21 times more likely than White youth of being shot dead by the police. [See: http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white]

This is an astounding ratio. With a figure like this, why should it surprise anyone, let alone be a source of controversy, that Mayor de Blasio cautions his bi-racial son about how to interact with the NYPD? Why should the anger of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans regarding our dealings with the police be difficult for anyone else to fathom?

Those who are suggesting that the BlackLivesMatter protests have gone too far need to come to grips with the “21 times” question. How does one explain such a phenomenon? Clearly, there is crime in other communities. As I regularly note, Charlestown, Mass. has a reputation as being the bank robbery capital of the U.S.A. Given this, how would one explain that White youth of that segregated segment of Boston are not facing the same level of threat as Black youth a few miles away?

The response by many police to the killings of the two NYPD officers has been to turn the tables. There is a desire, such as articulated by Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association leader Pat Lynch, to shift the discussion away from an examination of police violence and instead to focus on those who are challenging the abuse and lynching. Through incendiary suggestions, such as that Mayor de Blasio and others allegedly have blood on their hands for failing to back the police against the protesters, these demagogues are avoiding the real issue. Yes, the murder of the two NYPD officers was as inexcusable as it was tragic. That said, what does the PBA have to say about “21 times?” When they call for greater support from political officials, what do they actually mean? What it certainly sounds like is that they wish for the protests to cease and for the public and the political establishment to close ranks behind total support for any action carried out by the police.

It’s not going to happen.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

CBC Chair Butterfield Vows to Work with Both Parties

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(NNPA) If you were the new chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), beginning your time tenure when the first Black president of the United States was completing his last two years in office, what would your plan be?

If you were chair at a time when Republicans held a record number of House seats – the most since 1928 – and conditions for Black Americans were getting worse, what would your plan be? If that first Black president on his way out the door wasn’t all that excited about Black agenda items and rarely connects with members of Congress, what would be the plan?

These are the questions that the new Black Caucus chairman, Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, has to confront over the next two years. Presidential politics have already begun to take the stage at the start of 2015 as a lame-duck president notorious for not connecting with members of his own party in Congress begins to announce policy objectives.

Butterfield got off to an aggressive start on January 6 with his first speech as Black Caucus Chairman.

“America is not working for many African Americans and we, as the Congressional Black Caucus, have an obligation to fight harder and smarter in the next Congress to help repair the damage,” he said. The speech included a devastating rundown of current statistics on where African Americans now stand.

“We are fighting generations of indifference on the part of those in power. The statistics tell the story,” Butterfield said. Then he told the audience at the Capitol:

• Twenty-five percent of Black households live below the poverty line, compared to 8 percent for White households;

• One out of three Black children lives in poverty;

• African Americans are twice as likely as Whites to be unemployed;

• African Americans earn $13,000 less per year than their White counterparts;

• The unemployment rate of African Americans has consistently been twice as high as for Whites over the past 50 years and

• For every $100 in wealth of a White household, the Black household only has $6 in wealth.

“What is this if it’s not an emergency?” the new Black Caucus chairman concluded.

In an interview on January 9, with Crewof42.com, Butterfield addressed legislative strategy.

“I think we can negotiate with the Democratic Caucus or the Republican conference or both, right now. I’m not ruling out working out any bi-partisan deals with the majority. John Boehner’s in charge. And he has 246 members,” he said.

The Black Caucus has a block 42 voting Democrats in the House, the most in history. But of the 48 African Americans who will serve in the 114th Congress over the next two years, 45 of them will be serving in the minority Democratic Party. Though there is talk of being more aggressive, legislative wins will require loads of backdoor negotiation. It will also require President Obama to be more aggressive in his negotiations with the GOP before legislation is brought to Congress for consideration. Unfortunately for Democrats, tough negotiation is not something President Obama is known for.

As Chairman Butterfield deals with the known and the unknown, he’s focused on what he can control.

“He’s indicated that he wants to be the conductor of the orchestra and give each person an individual opportunity to shine. He also wants to connect every Black organization across the country with the CBC,” noted Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)

“A plan is put in place where the previous chair [Rep. Marcia Fudge] will take some responsibility when dealing with the White House. As is widely known, she takes no prisoners, so that will be a help to him and he can spend time dealing with them on legislation and initiatives that they need us to support,” said Rep Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

Joy Reid, host of The Reid Report, was the master of ceremonies at the Congressional Black Caucus’ ceremonial swearing-in event where Butterfield spoke as CBC chair for the first time.

“I though Congressman Butterfield made it really clear that the CBC is going to be really aggressive about pushing their agenda,” Reid said. “They’re definitely not backing down in the face of the larger Republicans majority. He came out swinging.”

What the New CBC Chair said on January 6 was pointed and reflective.

“In my hometown of Wilson, North Carolina, the railroad tracks divided our town; a town where 23 miles of unpaved streets greeted Black citizens every day. They were relegated to second class citizenship. Our mothers and fathers; grandmothers and fathers; our aunts and uncles worked every day to support the Jim Crow economy,” Butterfield said.

“The CBC was formed in 1971 because its founders understood that Black lives matter. Black boys matter. Black girls matter. The Black family matters. The Black church matters. Black America in its totality matters. In 2015, we are still fighting generations of discrimination. We are fighting generations of indifference on the part of those in power.”

Clever said of the new CBC chairman: “He is methodical and does not tend to act impetuously – whether we planned it or not – he’s the right one for the season.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is freelance writer and creator of the blog Crewof42.com, which covers African American members of Congress. She Burke appears regularly on “NewsOneNow with Roland Martin” and on WHUR FM, 900 AM WURD. She worked previously at USA Today and ABC News. She can be reached through her website, laurenvictoriaburke.com, or Twitter @Crewof42 or by e-mail at LBurke007@gmail.com.

Tortured 'Reasoning' for Using Torture

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(NNPA) I found it quite amazing to hear the reactions by much of the public to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture. The first was the attempt at denial. The second was a defense of torture.

The attacks on the exhaustive report began with the assertion that the report was under-researched and inaccurate. This attack was very difficult to sustain. The report was based on 6 million internal CIA documents and assorted reports, including reports concerning the relative utility of interrogation techniques. It was also not a document that was produced over night. It took more than five years to complete this. This was not, in other words, a last minute job.

So, the initial attacks, though loud, obnoxious and inflammatory, began to collapse. Next came something more interesting, and actually quite disturbing. Among some in the CIA, and later within the public, there was the defense of torture. Most people in the U.S. were not naïve enough to deny that torture took place. Instead, large numbers of those polled suggested that while, yes, it was torture, at the same time it was acceptable because – supposedly – useful information had been obtained.

There are several sources of concern here. Let’s start with the very fact that we are talking about torture. Supposedly, the U.S. does not engage in torture. Other countries have been accused in the past as having been perpetrators of torture, including Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the former Soviet Union. The U.S.A was supposedly morally superior. Yet, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, all of that. was thrown out the window and the U.S. joined the list of countries openly conducting torture. And, by the look of some of the polls, a few too many people seem to be quite proud of it.

We cannot stop there, however. Not only are the majority of those polled willing to embrace torture, but they have accepted the fiction that the torture resulted in useful information. What is noteworthy here is that the documentation indicates that very little of use has been obtained by torture. It is all there in black and white, yet much of the public appears unwilling to accept that fact and, instead, substitutes its own imagination for reality. There is a name for this in psychology.

Once a nation embarks on torture, it is forever on a slippery slope. Not only does it lose the right to criticize others, but there is also a question of limits. In other words, who else can be tortured once one has opened the gates of hell? If someone is thought to have terrorist connections, does that justify subjecting them to torture? What sorts of alleged connections justify torture? Can torture be used as a preemptive approach with someone who might, under certain conditions, engage in alleged terrorist activity? Hopefully, you see where this is going.

Torture is not a new instrument in the arsenal of the USA. What is new is the willingness of much of the government – and the population – to quite openly embrace it. And with that step any suggestion of a moral high ground evaporates like a morning mist…and with that, quite probably many of our Constitutional rights.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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