U.S. right-wing militias a growing threat

The arrest of 13 men in a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and “instigate a civil war” placed a fresh spotlight on the growth of armed, right-wing extremist “militias” under the administration of President Donald Trump.

The FBI says such groups constitute the greatest domestic terror threat to the country, but Trump has appeared to encourage some, which lead to widespread worries of political violence around the November 3 presidential election.

A subculture of armed right-wing groups with varied motivations has long existed in the United States. After Trump came to power, many have come out of the shadows, most infamously joining the notorious 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and this year protesting COVID-19 restrictions while heavily armed, and confronting anti-police and Black Lives Matter protestors.

The most prominent groups — the Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, and Patriot Prayer — coalesce around anti-authority, anti-leftist and pro-gun rights ideologies. Some are white supremacists with ties to neo-Nazi movements; some see the police and government as authoritarian enemies; others say they are preparing for a national revolution or race war.

Some also subscribe to the QAnon movement embracing unfounded theories of a “deep state” threat to Trump and a global child-kidnapping conspiracy led by Democrats.

No one knows how many followers the groups have, but it is easily in the thousands, in all areas of the country connected by social media and encrypted messaging, according to researchers.

Many of the 13 arrested expressed support for the Boogaloo ideology, and several were members of the recently formed local Wolverine Watchmen armed militia.

Boogaloo is an organizationless, leaderless, loosely-shaped ideology formed around gun culture and the belief of a looming war or insurrection, fought with the left, with a dictatorial government, or over race.

Some of those arrested had joined rallies this year against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions, wearing paramilitary gear, carrying multiple weapons, and declaring their rights were being violated.

The Wolverine Watchmen regularly undertook firearms training “to prepare for the ‘boogaloo’, a term referencing a violent uprising against the government or impending politically- motivated civil war,” according to a Michigan state court filing.

Since 2019, the FBI has said that right wing extremists, sole actors, and militia groups are the country’s leading domestic terror threat. They have been responsible for dozens of deaths in the past three years, compared to only a handful from Islamist extremists.

FBI director Chris Wray said in September that white supremacists are the leading violent extremism threat. But so far this year, more deaths have been caused by right wing extremists who are primarily anti-authority and anti-government. That includes the May murder of two policemen in California by a Boogaloo follower.

“It’s not just a Michigan problem. It’s an American problem,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

– edited from Agence France-Presse, October 9, 2020
PeaceMeal, November/December 2020

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

America’s ‘war on terror’ has displaced at least 37-million people

At least 37 million people, and possibly up to 59 million, have been displaced by America’s “global war on terror” since it was launched by former President George W. Bush’s administration nearly 20 years ago, according to a new report from Brown University’s Cost of War project. The report says that it offers the first comprehensive picture on how many people have been displaced by the conflicts waged by the United States as part of the so-called “war on terror.”

“The U.S. post-9/11 wars have forcibly displaced at least 37 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria. This exceeds those displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II,” the report states.

Millions of others have been displaced in smaller conflicts involving U.S. forces in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia, according to the report.

To put this into perspective, 37 million is nearly equivalent to the population of California — the most populous state in the U.S.

A little over 25 million of those who’ve been displaced have returned home, the report added, going on to say that “return does not erase the trauma of displacement or mean that those displaced have returned to their original homes or to a secure life.”

Emphasizing that the total number of displaced people does not fully capture the impact of losing one’s home and more, the report states that displacement has caused “incalculable harm to individuals, families, towns, cities, regions, and entire countries physically, socially, emotionally, and economically.”

The report was issued just days before the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, which fostered major changes across the globe and continue to have a reverberating impact on America’s approach to foreign affairs. Overall, the war on terror is widely viewed as a massive failure that cost the U.S. an exorbitant amount of money and resources, to say nothing of the loss of life.

According to the Cost of War project, the federal government’s price tag for the war on terror is over $6.4 trillion, and it’s killed over 800,000 people in direct war violence.

The U.S. still has troops in Afghanistan, which it invaded in October 2001, and the Trump administration is engaged in ongoing, tenuous peace talks with the Taliban. Historians generally agree that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 catalyzed the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), which fostered an entirely new conflict in Iraq and Syria, as well as terror attacks worldwide. Meanwhile, though Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, Al Qaeda has not been totally defeated.

– edited from Business Insider, September 8, 2020
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2020

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Myanmar’s ‘extensive and systematic preparations’ for Rohingya atrocities

In the weeks and months before hundreds of thousands of Rohingya civilians fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, authorities had made “extensive and systematic preparations” for attacks on the Muslim minority, according to a human rights group. A landmark report released July 19 by Bangkok-based Fortify says there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that genocide and crimes against humanity were committed against the minority. The group has called on the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court for criminal investigation.

The Rohingya are a persecuted and mostly stateless Muslim minority from Rakhine state in western Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. After an insurgent group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked state security forces on August 25, 2017, the Myanmar military carried out brutal reprisals against Rohingya civilians characterized by murder, rape and arson. The crackdown forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into neighboring Bangladesh.

Fortify says that the campaign to expel them was not merely a response to the insurgent attack, but that it was premeditated. It suggests that the international community’s failure to effectively respond to the October violence may have emboldened security forces, who appear to have been poised and waiting for a second attack to trigger the group’s violent expulsion.

Systematic preparations detailed in the report include the collection of sharp or blunt objects from Rohingya civilians, training and arming local non-Rohingya communities, tearing down protective fencing and other structures around Rohingya homes, deliberately depriving Rohingya of food and life-saving aid to weaken them prior to attacks, and deploying unnecessarily high numbers of state security forces to northern Rakhine state.

The report says attacks in northern Rakhine beginning in August 2017 were committed by at least 27 Myanmar Army battalions, comprising up to 11,000 soldiers and at least three combat police battalions. It also identifies 22 military and police officials in the chain of command as responsible and suggests they should face criminal investigation and possibly prosecution.

– edited from Time, July 19, 2018
PeaceMeal, July/August 2018

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)