Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido seems, unfortunately, poised to jump into the headlines as East Asia's next flashpoint for Great Power confrontation. When North Korea fired a missile over Japan last month, it was this northern island that the rocket passed over. Buried deep in the New York Times account of the incident is the fact that in addition to the routine annual US-South Korean military exercises then underway along the DMZ, "The United States has also been conducting joint exercises with Japanese forces for the past two weeks." And specifically (the Times didn't note) on Hokkaido. The Diplomat informs us that the exercises were dubbed Northern Viper and involved Japan Self-Defense Forces troops and US Marines operating out of Misawa Air Base, the northernmost US base in Japan, just across Tsugaru Strait from Hokkaido on the northern tip of Honshu. The USMC boasts that the exercises were unprecedented, marking the first joint US-Japanese maneuvers on Hokkaido.
With North Korea's apparent testing of its first (or perhaps second) hydrogen bomb yesterday, the White House is again warning of a "massive military response." Last week, North Korea for the first time fired a missile over Japanese land territory, specifically the northern island of Hokkaido, and last month for the first time tested an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile. (NYT, NYT, AP) Pyongyang's threat to launch missiles toward Guam put the unincorporated US island territory briefly in the news—although the actual threat was to fire into waters some 40 kilometers off Guam. (AP) Pyongyang has threatened to strike Guam before, but now looks as if it may be developing the capability to make good on its threat. Amid all the hype, just a few stories have made note of how Guamians themselves are reacting to all this. And growing sentiment on the island holds that the only thing they are getting out of their current US territorial status is being made a nuclear target.
Police in the Philippines killed 32 people in a wave of anti-drug operations north of the capital, Manila—making Aug. 16 the single deadliest day so far of President Rodrigo Duterte's ultra-deadly war on drugs. Over 100 were also arrested in the sweeps—overwhelmingly street-level dealers—and dozens of firearms reportedly seized. The operations were jointly carried out by National Police and Bulacan provincial authorities. Duterte expressed open enthusiasm for the bloodshed—and warned that it is just beginning. "There were 32 killed in Bulacan in a massive raid, that's good," he said in a speech. "Let's kill another 32 every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country."
Well, here we are. There are real live Nazis marching in streets, with torches and swastikas, terrorizing those who stand to oppose them. It’s the 1930s again, but this time in the USA. What do we do about it? This question has taken a greater urgency since this past weekend's events in Berkeley, in which "antifa" counter-protesters mixed it up physically with "alt-right" protesters. Since then, there been a slew of headlines such as "Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley" (WaPo), "Violence by far-left protesters in Berkeley sparks alarm" (LAT), "Yes, antifa is the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis" (WaPo), "ADL Tells Cops to Infiltrate Antifa" (The Forward), "The Antifa Protests are Helping Donald Trump" (New Yorker), and so on. The anarchist think-tank CrimethInc suggests the media reports are distorted, omitting provocation by the right-wing protesters that sparked the violence, while Mother Jones protests that the media have given undue coverage to the brief clashes, obscuring what was an overwhelmingly peaceful mobilization. Politico ominously reports that the FBI and Homeland Security are now refering to antifa as "terrorists."
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."