President Trump's Jan. 28 executive order barring nationals of seven Middle East countries from entering the US was immediately followed by the burning of a mosque in the south Texas town of Victoria. Two days after that, six were killed and eight others injured when at least two gunmen opened fire at a mosque in Quebec City. The attack came as worshippers were gathered for evening prayers at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. (Montreal Gazete) Now, amazingly, the White House is exploiting the Quebec attack to justify the very policy that may have inspired it. "We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms," press secretary Sean Spicer said at his daily briefing Jan. 30. "It's a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant, and why the president is taking steps to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to our nation's safety and security." (Toronto Star)
President Trump on Jan. 29 reorganized the National Security Council, elevating his chief strategist Steve Bannon and demoting the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Alt-right" mouthpiece Bannon will join the NSC's inner-core "principals committee." Access to the NSC for a White House strategist is unprecedented. Bannon will serve under National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, a recently retired general who is the Trump administration's most extreme Islamophobe. (NYT, NPR, BBC News)
A federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay Jan. 28, temporarily halting the removal of individuals detained after President Trump issued an executive order the previous day that bars entry into the US of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. The stay came as scores of refugees, immigrants and others were stranded at airports across the country. While the ruling blocked the deportation of some arrivals ensnared by the executive order, it stopped short of allowing them into the country, and did not actually weigh in on the constitutionality of the president's order. Large crowds of protesters turned out at several airports, including New York's JFK, to protest Trump's order.
Our last annotated assessment of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) must inevitably be viewed in light of the current countdown to the death of democracy and the imminent despotism of Donald Trump. The fact that the transition is happening at all is a final contradiction of Obama's legacy. He is fully cooperating in it, even as his own intelligence agencies document how the election was tainted. Following official findings that Russia meddled in the elections, the White House has slapped new sanctions on Russia—deporting 35 Russian officials suspected of being intelligence operatives and shutting down two Russian facilities in New York and Maryland, both suspected of being used for intelligence-related purposes. The latest bizarre revelation—that Russian intelligence can blackmail Trump with information about his "perverted sexual acts" involving prostitutes at a Moscow hotel—broke just hours before Obama delivered his Farewell Address in Chicago. The speech was surreally optimistic in light of the actual situation in the country, and contained only a few veiled swipes at Trump. The best of them was this: "If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves."
Under the banner of "Jewish Resistance," hundreds of protesters rallied outside of Manhattan's Grand Hyatt hotel on 42nd St. Nov. 20, where the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) annual gala was being held—with a featured speaker announced as Steve Bannon, the "alt-right" mouthpiece just appointed top counselor to president-elect Donald Trump. CBS News reports that Bannon did not show at the event, for unexplained reasons. But protesters were plenty outraged that he was invited. Solidarity between Jews and Muslims was a central theme of the angry rally, with the most common chant being:
The appointment of Stephen Bannon, head of "alt-right" (read: white nationalist) website Breitbart News, as Trump's senior counselor removes any doubt about the new order that awaits the United States. All those who seek to reassure us that Trump will moderate once in office point to his appointment of GOP chairman Reince Priebus, longtime pillar of the party's establishment, as his chief of staff. They are reading it precisely backwards. This does not represent Trump tilting to the establishment. It represents the Republican establishment embracing open fascism. This is the same Bannon who in a 2014 e-mail to one of his editors, wrote of the Republican leadership: "Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that's the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty." Hate has now won, and the Republican leadership has utterly folded to it. Any other reading is merely an illustration of Oscar Wilde's maxim: "The basis of optimism is sheer terror."
A federal judge has rejected (PDF) the New York Police Department's proposed settlement of a lawsuit accusing the department of improperly monitoring the city's Muslim community. Following the September 11 attacks, the NYPD has reportedly used undercover cops to monitor Muslim neighborhoods, organizations and mosques in the name of national security. In January, a settlement was reached, calling for a stricter modification of the police surveillance "Handschu" guidelines (PDF) and a civilian representative installed for five years to ensure that the NYPD complies. The NYPD declined to accept all proposed modifications yet acquiesced to the establishment of a civilian representative. Nevertheless, US District Judge Charles Haight rejected the proposed settlement, stating that it does not sufficiently protect the constitutional rights of Muslim citizens. Haight suggested that the NYPD further clarify the representative's role, and take additional measures to ensure guideline compliance such as requiring reporting to the court. While expressing disappointment in the ruling, the New York City law department stated its intention to address the judge's concerns.
Towns and villages across large areas of Burma's northern Rakhine state are reported to be deserted, as terrified residents flee a new military crackdown following attacks by supposed Muslim Rohingya militants. At least 26 have been killed in the military raids, and at least hundreds displaced. Villages are said to be in flames. The military action follows attacks on three border posts along the frontier with Bangladesh Oct. 9 that authorities blamed on a previously unknown "Aqa Mul Mujahidin," said to be successor group to the supposedly disbanded Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO). The border attacks, centered on Maungdaw township, left 39 dead—nine police, four soldiers and 26 suspected militants. (Channel News Asia, Channel News Asia, Anadolu Agency, Oct. 14)