Trump nixes $92M military parade, blames DC for high cost
By LOLITA C. BALDOR and CATHERINE LUCEY
Friday, August 17
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday he had canceled plans for a Veterans Day military parade, citing the “ridiculously high” price tag — a day after U.S. officials said the November event could cost $92 million, more than three times the price first suggested by the White House.
Trump on Twitter accused local Washington, D.C., politicians of price-gouging. But preliminary estimates from the Pentagon showed that roughly $50 million would cover military aircraft, equipment, personnel and other support. The remainder would be borne by other agencies and largely involve security costs.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser shot back on Twitter Friday that she was the one who “finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad).”
The Defense Department had announced Thursday there would be no parade in 2018. Trump tweeted that perhaps something could be scheduled next year when the price “comes WAY DOWN.” He did not explain how the costs would be reduced.
Trump said he would instead attend an event at Andrews Air Force Base on another day and travel to Paris for Nov. 11 events marking the centennial of the end of fighting in World War I.
The president added: “Now we can buy some more jet fighters!” He did not offer additional details.
Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that the military and the White House had “agreed to explore opportunities in 2019,” an announcement that came several hours after reports about the projected parade price tag.
The Associated Press reported that the parade would cost about $92 million, according to U.S. officials citing preliminary estimates more than three times the price first suggested by the White House. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss early planning estimates that have not yet been finalized or released publicly.
Officials said the parade plans had not yet been approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Mattis himself said late Thursday that he had seen no such estimate and questioned the media reports.
The Pentagon chief told reporters traveling with him to Bogota, Colombia, that whoever leaked the number to the press was “probably smoking something that is legal in my state but not in most” — a reference to his home state of Washington, where marijuana use is legal.
Mattis, who spoke before the announcement that the parade would not happen in 2018, added: “I’m not dignifying that number ($92 million) with a reply. I would discount that, and anybody who said (that number), I’ll almost guarantee you one thing: They probably said, ‘I need to stay anonymous.’ No kidding, because you look like an idiot. And No. 2, whoever wrote it needs to get better sources. I’ll just leave it at that.”
The parade’s cost has become a politically charged issue, particularly after the Pentagon canceled a major military exercise planned for August with South Korea, in the wake of Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said the drills were provocative and that dumping them would save the U.S. “a tremendous amount of money.” The Pentagon later said the Korea drills would have cost $14 million.
Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said earlier Thursday that Defense Department planning for the parade “continues and final details are still being developed. Any cost estimates are pre-decisional.”
The parade was expected to include troops from all five armed services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — as well as units in period uniforms representing earlier times in the nation’s history. It also was expected to involve a number of military aircraft flyovers.
A Pentagon planning memo released in March said the parade would feature a “heavy air component,” likely including older, vintage aircraft. It also said there would be “wheeled vehicles only, no tanks — consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure.” Big, heavy tanks could tear up streets in the District of Columbia.
The memo from Mattis’ office provided initial planning guidance to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His staff is planning the parade along a route from the White House to the Capitol and would integrate it with the city’s annual veterans’ parade. U.S. Northern Command, which oversees U.S. troops in North America, is responsible for the actual execution of the parade.
Earlier this year, the White House budget director told Congress that the cost to taxpayers could be $10 million to $30 million. Those estimates were likely based on the cost of previous military parades, such as the one in the nation’s capital in 1991 celebrating the end of the first Gulf War, and factored in some additional increase for inflation.
One veterans group weighed in Thursday against the parade. “The American Legion appreciates that our President wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops,” National Commander Denise Rohan said. “However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veteran Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”
Trump decided he wanted a military parade in Washington after he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in the center of Paris last year. As the invited guest of French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump watched enthusiastically from a reviewing stand as the French military showcased its tanks and fighter jets, including many U.S.-made planes, along the famed Champs-Elysees.
Several months later Trump praised the French parade, saying, “We’re going to have to try and top it.”
What is the Hajj?
August 16, 2018
Ph.D. Candidate, Religion in the Americas, Global Islam, University of Florida
Ken Chitwood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Florida
University of Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Nearly 2 million Muslim pilgrims are gathering in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. This five-day pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for all Muslims who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.
What is the religious and political significance of this annual pilgrimage?
The fifth pillar
Millions of Muslims come from countries as diverse as Indonesia, Russia, India, Cuba, Fiji, the United States and Nigeria – all dressed in plain white garments.
Men wear seamless, unstitched clothing, and women, white dresses with headscarves. The idea is to dress plainly so as to mask any differences in wealth and status.
The pilgrimage is considered to be the fifth pillar of Islamic practice. The other four are the profession of faith, five daily prayers, charity and the fast of Ramadan.
The first day of the Hajj
The rites of the Hajj are believed to retrace events from the lives of prominent prophets such as Ibrahim and Ismail.
Pilgrims start by circling the “Holy Kaaba,” the black, cube-shaped house of God, at the center of the most sacred mosque in Mecca, seven times. The Kaaba occupies a central place in the lives of Muslims. Muslims, all over the world, are expected to turn toward the Kaaba when performing their daily prayers.
The Quran tells the story of Ibrahim, who when commanded by God, agreed to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Muslims believe the Kaaba holds the black stone upon which Ibrahim was to carry out his oath.
Pilgrims are bound by specific rules regarding going around the Kaaba. They may kiss, touch or approach the Kaaba during the pilgrimage as a sign of their devotion.
In performing these rituals, they join a long line of pilgrims to Mecca – including Prophet Muhammad, who circled the Kaaba.
Pilgrims then proceed to a ritual walk – about 100 meters from the Kaaba – to hills known as “Safa” and “Marwah.” Here they re-create another significant event recorded in the Quran.
The story goes that Ibrahim was granted a son by God through his Egyptian slave girl Hajar. After the birth of Ismail, God instructed Ibrahim to take Hajar and her newborn son out into the desert and leave them there. Ibrahim left them near the present-day location of the Kaaba. Ismail cried out with thirst and Hajar ran between two hills, looking for water until she turned to God for help.
God rewarded Hajar for her patience and sent his angel Jibreel to reveal a spring, which today is known as “Zamzam Well.” Pilgrims drink water from the sacred well and may take some home for blessings.
The second day of the hajj
The hajj “climaxes” with a sojourn in the plains of Arafat near Mecca. There, pilgrims gather in tents, spend time with one another and perform prayers. Some pilgrims will ascend a hill known as the “Mount of Mercy,” where Prophet Muhammad delivered the farewell sermon toward the end of his life.
They then proceed to an open plain near Mecca, often a highlight of the journey for many pilgrims. Muslims believe that the spirit of God comes closer to Earth in this place at the time of the pilgrimage.
As a scholar of global Islam, during my fieldwork I have interviewed those who have gone on the Hajj. They have described to me their personal experiences of standing in the plains of Arafat or circling the Kaaba with fellow Muslims and feeling a close communion with God.
Final three days
Afterwards, pilgrims move to Mina, also known as the Tent City where more than 100,000 tents house the millions of pilgrims about 5 kilometers from the holy city of Mecca.
Here they recall how Satan tried to tempt Ibrahim to disobey God’s call to sacrifice Ismail. Ibrahim, however, remained unmoved and informed Ismail, who was willing to be offered to God. To reenact Ibrahim’s rebuff of Satan’s temptation, pilgrims throw small stones at a stone pillar.
They then proceed to follow Ibrahim in the act of sacrifice. The Quran says just as Ibrahim attempted to kill his son, God intervened and a ram was killed in place of Ismail. In remembrance, Muslims all over the world ritually slaughter an animal on this day. The “festival of the sacrifice” is known as Eid al-Adha.
Many pilgrims spend the next few days in Mina, where they repeat some of the rituals. It is where they start to transition to their worldly life by putting on their everyday clothes.
Muslims believe that a proper performance of the Hajj can absolve them of any previous sins. However, they also believe that just undertaking the pilgrimage is not enough: It is up to God to judge, based on the intention of those undertaking the pilgrimage.
Creating one Muslim community
Of course, the pilgrimage does not take place in a political void. The Hajj is a massive organizational project for the Saudi authorities. Issues concerning crowd management, security, traffic and tensions constantly plague the successful organization of the event. A tragic stampede in 2015 left over 700 dead. Since then Saudi authorities review preparations even more carefully.
There are other tensions too that come up at this time: Some Shia governments such as Iran, for example, have leveled charges alleging discrimination by Sunni Saudi authorities.
This year, Muslims from Canada are concerned about logistics traveling back from the Hajj. Saudi Arabia has suspended all direct flights to Canada in a diplomatic feud sparked by tweets related to the Kingdom’s human rights violations.
To address such issues, Muslims in the past have called to put together an international, multi-partisan committee to organize the pilgrimage. Perhaps that could help avoid regional or sectarian conflicts. The Hajj, after all, is any individual Muslim’s single most symbolic ritual act that reflects the ideal of unity.
By requiring Muslims to don the same clothes, pray in the same space and perform the same rituals, the Hajj has the potential to unite a global Muslim community across national and class boundaries.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Aug. 31, 2017.
As a young reporter, I went undercover to expose the Ku Klux Klan
August 15, 2018
Professor of Journalism, Boston University
Dick Lehr is related to an employee of The Conversation US.
Boston University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Spike Lee’s powerful new film, “BlacKkKlansman,” tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer who infiltrates a local branch the Ku Klux Klan in 1979.
That same year, I also signed up to join the Klan. And at a secret meeting I even met the Grand Wizard himself, David Duke, the same Klan leader featured in Lee’s film.
I was a rookie Klansman at the time, and I’d been recruited to join the cause.
Like Stallworth, I wasn’t a true believer and had a very different agenda from the Klan’s.
The Klan descends on Connecticut
It was the fall of 1979, and I was a first-year reporter at The Hartford Courant when David Duke launched a recruiting effort in, of all places, Connecticut. His “Klan calling cards” and his newspaper, The Crusader, started appearing in factory parking lots, restaurants, high schools and college campuses.
To cover the story for the state’s largest newspaper, I was teamed with a veteran reporter named Bill Cockerham. We called Duke’s headquarters in Metairie, Louisiana.
David Duke was 29 at the time – an educated, clean-cut Klansman campaigning for a seat in the Louisiana State Senate.
Duke was happy to talk. He made plain his aim to recruit young people and to remake the Klan into a gentler, kinder brand of bigotry. He wasn’t anti-black or anti-Jewish, he said. “We are simply pro-white and pro-Christian.”
“It’s the white majority that are losing their rights, not the blacks or the Jews,” he insisted. “We’re the ones being attacked on the streets and they call us haters when we fight back for our rights and heritage.”
It was vintage Duke. He was trying, as one expert told us, to be “everybody’s Klansman,” using his considerable marketing skills to sugarcoat racism.
He told us his recruiting efforts had struck a chord in the Nutmeg State, claiming more than 200 new members and several hundred more associate members. While no statewide organization was in place, there were, he claimed, a number of robust, local dens. He did mention a statewide organizer, but when we requested repeatedly to speak to him, Duke balked.
The KKK was a secret organization, he explained. He couldn’t do that. But because he was the face of the organization, we could call the Metairie office any time – he’d be happy to talk Klan.
The front-page article in The Courant appeared a few days later – “Klan Unit Attracting New Members: New Recruits Join Klan Through Mail” – and local radio and television stations pounced on the story.
Duke was suddenly a newsmaker, and the press and public struggled with the idea he could be successfully establishing a footprint in Connecticut, given that the Klan was mostly associated with the South.
Of course, no one knew whether Duke’s numbers were accurate; the story reported his claims of a groundswell of support.
Which is why I clipped out an application from a copy of his Crusader in our newsroom, filled it out using a false identity and mailed it to Metairie along with the $25 entry fee. (The use of deception in reporting is another story altogether, a matter regularly discussed in journalism ethics courses.)
My goal was to get inside Duke’s local outfit, identify his local leader and either verify or debunk his headcount of followers. In the mail, I soon received my Klan membership card, a certificate of Klan citizenship and a Klan rule book with a picture of Duke in his fancy Grand Wizard robe telling me to buy a robe for $28. Just like that I had joined the Klan.
Then I waited. I figured it wouldn’t take long for my compatriots to reach out and bring me into the fold, where I’d get the inside story. That was the game plan, and when I occasionally called down to Duke’s office in Metairie, using my new identity, I was assured I’d be hooked up with like-minded Connecticut racists in short order.
But nothing happened. Weeks went by. Meanwhile, David Duke continued to reap regular coverage in Connecticut media, with the imperial wizard claiming huge success in his statewide recruitment.
My break came in early December 1979. Duke announced he’d decided to travel to Connecticut and to two other New England states. The trip would be a kind of climax to his fall membership drive. He would visit several Connecticut cities and speak with the press at each stop, before holding a private rally at night with his Connecticut Klansmen.
And that’s when I got the call – all hands were summoned for the secret mass meeting on Friday, Dec. 7. I was told that for security reasons the location would not be disclosed until the actual day but to be on call.
The moment of truth
Teamed again with the veteran reporter, I spent most of that Friday afternoon on the move. I was instructed to call Metairie and was directed to head west from Hartford. While Duke staged a press conference at a Waterbury motel, I waited in a local bar, where Duke’s local point person finally contacted me. He directed me to Grange hall in Danbury, which they’d rented posing as a historical group.
I left my colleague behind and was met in a rear parking lot by three “enforcers.” They asked for my Klan ID card, and then waved me through. I walked into the dimly lit room on the second floor and looked around. The hall was nearly empty, except for around two dozen men quietly mingling.
That’s when it dawned on me why I’d never heard a peep from any other Connecticut Klansmen: There was no real organization, or presence, to speak of.
While most were dressed in leather and jeans, the sandy-haired Duke wore a three-piece suit with a Klan pin on his lapel. He introduced himself to each attendee, showing off a three-ring binder with Connecticut newspaper clippings about him and the Klan.
Duke’s idea for a meeting was a simple one – a screening of D. W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” the 1915 blockbuster about the Civil War and Reconstruction. (In Spike Lee’s movie, a Klan meeting also involves a showing of the film.)
To Griffith, a Southerner, the robed Klansmen were heroes, riding to the rescue and saving the South from the lawlessness and chaos of Reconstruction.
That night in Danbury, Duke used the film as a teaching tool, turning the darkened Grange hall into a classroom for a course on white power. Standing next to an American flag, he read aloud the film’s subtitles and then added his own bigoted commentary. When a group of Klansmen on horses dump the corpse of a black man on a front porch, Duke began to clap his hands – a firm clap that grew louder as others in the room joined in to applaud the death of a black man on screen.
I left that meeting with the story we’d been after for months – the identity of the Connecticut leader and, more importantly, the actual numbers in Duke’s much-ballyhooed statewide Klan. It wasn’t several hundred but closer to two dozen. Duke’s run of media coverage in Connecticut dried up immediately.
We exposed Duke as the con man who’d bluffed his way into a run of free publicity to spew is pro-white nonsense – a transparently perverse message that somehow has regained currency today. The imperial wizard’s rhetoric of 1979 is parroted almost verbatim by a new generation of haters who are attracting plenty of media coverage.
I never spoke to Duke again, but I did receive a Christmas card from him that holiday season – addressed to my Klan alias, apparently mailed before the article was published.
The red card featured two Klansmen in robes holding a fiery cross. The caption read: “May you have a meaningful and merry Christmas and may they forever be White.”
Dutch Memorial Day: Erasing people after death
August 15, 2018
Director of Dutch and Flemish Studies, University of Michigan
Annemarie Toebosch does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Michigan
University of Michigan provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
As the anniversary of Indonesian independence from the Netherlands approaches, a close look reveals a Dutch narrative that erases people along racial lines.
Indonesia declared independence from the Netherlands on Aug. 17, 1945. This followed 350 years of Dutch East India Company control and Dutch state rule, as well as Japanese occupation during WWII.
After the declaration, the Netherlands waged a war to re-establish colonial control over Indonesia. The war, whose dead included Indonesians killed by summary execution, cost an estimated 300,000 Indonesian lives compared with around 6,000 casualties on the Dutch side.
In Indonesia, national identity has been built around anti-colonial sentiment, and the history of Dutch violence is taught and discussed. There was much Indonesian attention for a court-ordered Dutch apology in 2011 for the 1947 massacres in Rawagede and for execution pictures that surfaced in 2012. Indonesian violence toward the Dutch is emphasized less, but not ignored.
How does the Netherlands deal with this history?
As a social scientist and director of Dutch and Flemish studies at the University of Michigan, I ask this question in my writing and teaching about issues of inclusion in the Dutch-language area.
The answer to that question: The Netherlands ignores the sacrifices of Indonesians. Here’s how and why.
The Indonesian War of Independence of 1945-1949 ended with the signing of an internationally mediated independence agreement requiring Indonesia to take over the Dutch East India government’s debt, effectively paying the Netherlands 4.3 billion guilders for its independence. Payments continued until 2002.
A Western European nation thus rebuilt itself after World War II with Marshall Plan loans from the United States, plus a comparable amount of money from Indonesia, which was itself recovering from the war.
The struggle for historic justice for Indonesia continues today. One expression of that struggle unfolds on Dutch Memorial Day, May 4, the day when the Netherlands remembers its dead from World War II and after. The day involves a ceremony with two minutes of national silence and the laying of wreaths by the Dutch king and queen.
The Indonesians who fought against the Dutch and were killed in the ‘45-‘49 war are not commemorated in this ceremony, despite the Dutch officially considering them Dutch at the time.
An exclusive Memorial Day
Dutch Memorial Day is no stranger to protests against exclusion, and the Indonesian victims of the war are not the only ones who have been ignored on this day.
It took decades, for example, for Dutch Holocaust victims to be remembered.
Today a Dutch movement called “No May 4 For Me” protests the exclusion of Indonesian casualties from remembrance while their killers are remembered. Among the killers were former Dutch Nazis, who were sent to Indonesia after World War II to fight for Holland in the War for Independence.
Recognizing Indonesian independence
So who is, and who is not, commemorated on Dutch Memorial Day?
The key to the answer is this: The Netherlands does not officially recognize Indonesia’s 1945 independence – it recognizes the 1949 date of the sovereignty agreement instead.
Here’s why the Netherlands cannot recognize Indonesia’s 1945 independence: If the Netherlands recognized that date, that would mean that the country had attacked a sovereign nation after World War II with the purpose of recolonizing it. And then the massacres, euphemistically referred to in the Netherlands as the “police actions,” would not be “police actions” but war crimes, as explained in an upcoming book by Ady Setyawan and Marjolein Van Pagee.
According to the official Dutch story, however, Indonesia was “Dutch” during the “police actions”, and thus killing your own people is not a war crime but, rather, law enforcement gone wrong.
Except that law enforcement in the “police actions” were not police officers but soldiers serving in the Dutch army.
The publication “De Doden Tellen” (“Counting the Dead”), issued by the government-appointed national Memorial Day committee, betrays the inconsistencies of the official story. It cites the conflict as “police actions” while simultaneously using language of military “conquest.”
“During the so called police actions, the Netherlands conquers areas and declares them as Dutch territory once again,” the publication says.
The Netherlands wants to count the people it has killed as its own, so as not to have committed war crimes, while at the same time not commemorating their deaths.
What lies beneath the surface of the exclusion is segregation on the basis of race.
Dutch colonialism did not grant citizenship to indigenous Indonesians. Now, 70 years later, colonial apartheid policies that separate, disadvantage and denigrate one race in favor of another are applied after death, on Dutch Memorial Day. On a day that commemorates civilian casualties of war, Indonesian civilian casualties are not commemorated because they had no citizenship under colonial rule.
The chair of the official government national Memorial Day Committee, Gerdi Verbeet, admits as much when she says that “those who had no Dutch passport are not remembered at the moment.”
There is further evidence of a racial exclusion policy on Dutch Memorial Day: Indonesian victims of World War II are also not commemorated.
Although the number is not verified, civilian casualties from World War II in Indonesia are commonly estimated at 4 million. The official document that counts the dead to be commemorated on Dutch Memorial Day lists around 20,000, a stunning discrepancy. The way that the Dutch come up with such a wildly different number is because they exclude all indigenous people. Millions of people are thus erased on Dutch Memorial Day.
Counting the dead
Dutch Memorial Day is then a story about the value of human life, about who counts, who doesn’t and who gets to decide.
Four million brown civilian casualties of World War II don’t count; 300,000 brown victims of the “police actions” don’t count.
And in a sad twist in this tale, exactly one group of brown people does count: the fallen Indonesian soldiers, most of them Moluccans, who fought on the side of the Netherlands during the recolonization war. They are the victims-made-perpetrators by a colonial oppressor after a centuries-long history of exploitation.
Colonial thinking as a form of racial supremacy is never far away in the Netherlands. In Indonesia, it took the form of an assumed right to enslave people, kill them and take their land for profit. Afro-Surinamese Dutch educator and writer Gloria Wekker, in her groundbreaking book “White Innocence,” analyzes it as the racial exceptionalism that paved the way for white Dutch culture’s blindness to the many forms of racism today.
Dutch racism is evident in the fact that the country has the worst employment outcomes for people of color in Europe other than Sweden. In another example, the second-largest political party, the Party for Freedom, puts out dehumanizing campaign ads in both Dutch and English that target the country’s Muslims, saying their religion equals “discrimination,” “injustice” and “honor killing,” among other attributes. A legislator warns of the dangers of mixing Dutch and non-Dutch blood. Just this past year, Surinamese- and Antillean-Dutch were barred from attending a May 4 memorial if they spoke publicly of the history of Dutch slavery in the Dutch slave colonies of their heritage.
The most widely known throwback to colonialism and Dutch slavery comes each year in the form of “Black Petes,” the caricatured black helpers of St. Nicholas on the nation’s most important tradition.
Elizabeth Eckford, one of the first African-American students in a desegregated school, said that “true reconciliation can occur only when we honestly acknowledge our painful but shared past.”
In the Netherlands, this message is reflected in the voices of the “No May 4 For Me” protesters, who want their dead counted but instead find a culture blind to its own guilt and unwilling to create a shared memory.
Building a shared memory could start today, with the Dutch recognition of Indonesian Independence Day and the commemoration of Indonesian casualties of war.