Days after again vowing that Ankara will not tolerate a Kurdish state in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has deployed additional artillery and tanks along the border, signaling an imminent offensive to take the Kurdish-held contested enclave of Afrin. This could be the start of a wider Turkish offensive—reportedly to be dubbed "Euphrates Sword"—to reduce or expunge the Kurdish autonomous zone of Rojava and establish a Turkish "buffer zone" in Syria north. Ominously, China's Xinhua news agency reports that Russia has meanwhile mobilized troops to Afrin, to back up the Kurdish militia that controls the enclave, the People's Protection Units (YPG). The independent Kurdish wesbite Rudaw also reports that Russian "military observers" have been deployed to Afrin and neighboring al-Shahba to "maintain security"—raising the threat of direct Russo-Turkish military confrontation.
Jihadist militia Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) on Aug. 28 took over the city council building in Idlib, capital of the governorate of that name in northwest Syria and the biggest opposition-held city in the country. HTS fighters siezed the building a week after civil authorities refused to hand over control. HTS has in recent weeks won control of much territory in Idlib governorate, in ongoing battles with the rival Ahrar al-Sham faction. However, HTS continues to face resistance from residents and many of the more than 150 local councils in the governorate, with demonstrations against their rule by civil resistance activists in many areas.
From New York City comes the disturbing news that the local Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC) will be holding a "No Platform For Fascism" meeting and self-defense workshop on Aug. 30 at the Solidarity Center on West 24th Street, which is also the headquarters of the Workers World Party, an entity that does a good job of dressing up its ultra-reactionary and ultimately pro-fascist politics in pseudo-left garb. Another WWP front-group, the Peoples Power Assemblies, is named as co-sponsor, as is Workers World itself. It looks like MACC is being exploited in an attempted sectarian takeover of metro-area antifa.
President Trump's Aug. 25 pardon of former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio is a clear signal that constitutional and human rights violations are to be rewarded, not punished, under his administration. A federal judge found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt last month, for violating a court order in a racial profiling case and continuing his immigration patrols that discriminated against Latinos. In his announcement, Trump said that "Arpaio's life and career...exemplify selfless public service." He cited Arpaio's army time and his tenure as the Drug Enforcement Administration's Arizona chief before concluding: "In 1992, the problems facing his community pulled Arpaio out of retirement to return to law enforcement. He ran and won a campaign to become Sheriff of Maricopa County. Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon."
The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte met in Manila on Aug. 8 with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and came away gloating that the new administration in Washington is unconcerned with his blood-drenched "war on drugs," that has left perhaps 8,000 dead since he took office just over a year ago. "Human rights, son of a bitch. Policemen and soldiers have died on me," he sneered to reporters at a press conference after the Tillerson meeting, adding an open threat: "Human rights—you go there and you might have a bomb dropped on your head."
Trump's disparate reactions to the similar attacks in Charlottesville and Barcelona provide an obvious but inevitable study not only in double standards, but (worse) the president's actual embrace of racist terror. Whether opportunistically or not, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack, in which a motorist ploughed into pedestrians on Las Ramblas, a pedestrian thoroughfare packed with tourists, killing 13 and wounding scores. Just five days earlier, a neo-Nazi did the same thing to a crowd of antifa counter-protesters in Virginia, killing one and wounding 19. Mother Jones is among those to provide a sampling of the presidential statements and tweets in response to the two like attacks, just days apart. Regarding Charlottesville, Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence, and said there were "fine people" on the side that was flying the Nazi flag and committed an act of terror. He's also been waxing maudlin about the "beautiful" statues of Confederate generals now coming down around the country. This of course squanders all credibility to tweet that he "condemns the terror attack in Barcelona." But it gets much, much worse...
The "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville—which brought out open neo-Nazis, Klansmen and Confederacy-nostalgists over the city's plan to remove a statue of Robert E Lee—escalated to open terror when one attendee ploughed his car into a throng of anti-racist counter-protesters, leaving one dead and 19 injured. Five are in critical condition. The deceased is identified as Heather Heyer, 32, a Virginia resident and longtime civil rights activist. The motorist, who has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder (why not first-degree?) and leaving the scene of an "accident" (sic!), is identified as James Alex Fields, 20, of Ohio. (Why always three names for these freaks?) He was earlier photographed at the rally by the Daily News bearing a shield with the black-and-white fascist insignia of the Vanguard America hate group (which we discussed here).
The Rohingya Muslim people of Burma are facing what some have called genocide in their homeland, long denied citizenship rights and now under attack by both the official security forces and Buddhist-chauvinist militias, who have carried out massacres and burned down their villages. Some 500,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh—where they are not being welcomed. Already confined to squalid refugee camps near the Burmese border, they now face forcible relocation to an uninhabited offshore island. Shunted from one region to another, they are targeted by the predictable propaganda—Burmese authorities have stigmatized them as Muslim terrorists, and now Bangladesh authorities increasingly stigmatize them as drug-traffickers.