Taliban attack in Kabul killed 6, including British national
By AMIR SHAH
Thursday, November 29
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A brazen Taliban attack that targeted the Kabul offices of a British security company killed five of its staffers, including a British national, the company said Thursday. Afghan authorities said a sixth person was also killed in the assault.
Charlie Burbridge, the managing director of G4S Risk Management Group, said 32 employees of the company were also wounded in the attack, five of them seriously.
“Our thoughts at this difficult time are with the loved ones of those who have died and been injured, and our brave team in Afghanistan who have lost colleagues and friends,” Burbridge said in a statement.
The attack started with a suicide bomber who rammed his explosive-packed truck into the gate of the G4S compound in eastern Kabul on Wednesday evening, followed by an hours-long gun battle with insurgents armed with grenades and automatic rifles who stormed the compound building.
The Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attack, said it was in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike in southern Helmand province hours earlier that killed 30 people, many of them civilians.
Afghan officials revised the initial number of 10 reported killed in the Kabul assault to six. The public health ministry spokesman, Wahid Majroh, said four attackers had also died, leading to the confusion, but he did not identify any of the casualties.
The suicide blast left a giant crater in its wake and blew out windows in nearby buildings.
Jan Agha, a police officer at the site of the explosion Thursday, recalled the gunbattle that lasted into the night as ambulances ferried the victims to hospitals amid the chaos.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents had killed 10 foreigners but the Taliban often exaggerate their claims. All the attackers died in the assault.
After the attack in Helmand, a local official, Attahullah Afghan, said most of the civilian casualties there — which included men, women and children — came when an airstrike struck a house in the central Helmand River valley, a Taliban heartland.
U.S. officials said it happened in Helmand’s Garmsir district. U.S. military spokeswoman in Kabul, Sgt. 1st Class Debra Richardson said the airstrike was called in by Afghan special security forces who were conducting an operation with the assistance of U.S. advisers.
“At the time of the strike, the ground force was unaware of any civilians in or around the compound; they only knew that the Taliban was using the building as a fighting position,” she said in an email.
A statement from the governor’s office in Helmand confirmed that 16 Taliban were killed. It said an investigation was underway to determine the number of civilian casualties.
The statement also said the militants had stockpiled ammunition in the area of the operation, which could have caused civilian casualties. There was also a car packed with explosives that ignited during the strike, the statement added.
The attacks were the latest in a series of brutal and near-daily Taliban assaults throughout the country. The Taliban view the U.S.-backed government in Kabul as a dysfunctional Western puppet and have refused repeated offers to negotiate with it.
The fighting came as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was in Geneva, attending a two-day U.N.-backed conference that ended Wednesday and that focused on development, security and peace efforts in the war-battered country.
Associated Press writers Kathy Gannon in Islamabad and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.
Michael Cohen pleads guilty to lying to Congress
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Thursday, November 29
NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, made a surprise appearance before a federal judge in New York on Thursday to plead guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on an aborted project to build a Trump Tower in Russia.
Flanked by his lawyers, Cohen admitted making false statements in 2017 to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the project.
Cohen told the judge he lied about the timing of the negotiations and other details to be consistent with Trump’s “political message.”
Cohen and prosecutors referred to Trump as “individual one” throughout Thursday’s proceedings and said he lied “to be loyal to Individual One.”
Among other lies, Cohen said he told Congress that all discussions of the Moscow Trump Tower project ended by January 2016, when they had actually continued until June of that year.
One of the prosecutors working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller was present in the courtroom.
Cohen’s lawyer, Guy Petrillo, said he would give the court a letter outlining how his client has cooperated with Mueller’s investigation.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to other federal charges involving his taxi businesses, bank fraud and his campaign work for Trump.
Reacting to the plea to the new charges, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Cohen “should be prosecuted to the extent of the law. That’s why we put people under oath.”
Cohen gave a statement to congressional committees last year saying the president’s company pursued a project in Moscow during the Republican primary but that the plan was abandoned “for a variety of business reasons.”
Cohen also said he sent an email to the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of the potential deal.
In his statement, he said that he worked on the real estate proposal with Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate who he said claimed to have deep connections in Moscow.
The discussions about the potential development began after Trump had declared his candidacy. Cohen had said the talks ended when he determined that the project was not feasible.
Cohen had also disclosed that Trump was personally aware of the deal, signing a letter of intent and discussing it with Cohen on two other occasions.
America’s dark history of organized anti-Semitism re-emerges in today’s far-right groups
November 29, 2018
Author: Bradley W. Hart, Assistant Professor of Media, Communications and Journalism, California State University, Fresno
Disclosure statement:Bradley W. Hart 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.
Hours after Robert Bowers allegedly walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 people, investigators told the media that Bowers appeared to have acted alone and fit what experts call the “lone mass shooter profile.”
Weeks later, FBI agents arrested a Washington D.C. man who followed Bowers on social media. He had told relatives he wanted to pursue the same path and start “a race revolution.”
Bowers may well have lived a solitary life, beyond his frequent presence on social media. Yet the fact that his violent act triggered a would-be emulator highlights an essential facet of prejudice – especially anti-Semitism.
As I show in my book, “Hitler’s American Friends: The Third Reich’s Supporters in the United States,” anti-Semitic violence is never solely the product of a single deluded mind, as the United States’ dark history of organized prejudice reveals. Instead, it is the product of a unique culture of hatred that originated in the mid-20th century and persists to this day.
This aspect of history is rarely found in textbooks. Yet it is critical to understand the continuing influence that homegrown, modern American anti-Semitism has had on the country’s history and continues to exert today. In 1939, Fritz Kuhn addressed 20,000 people at a Madison Square Garden rally celebrating Nazism.
Some forms of American anti-Semitism have been examined and confronted. Many existed at the local level and had a major impact on Jewish communities all over the U.S.
For decades, restrictive covenants in home deeds forbade Jews from buying homes in certain neighborhoods. Some country clubs excluded Jews from membership or even playing their courses as guests. Some Ivy League universities set quotas limiting the number of Jewish students they would admit.
These forms of personal, localized discrimination date back to the earliest days of the American Republic and persisted until relatively recently. Their decline can largely be traced to the passage and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Other forms of anti-Semitism, however, have not disappeared as rapidly or completely. This is where the dark American history of organized anti-Semitism has particular relevance to the present day.
A good starting point for understanding this past can be found in Donald S. Strong’s 1941 book “Organized Anti-Semitism in America: The Rise of Group Prejudice During the Decade 1930-40.”
Strong demonstrated that both anti-Semitic sentiment and the number of explicitly anti-Semitic groups increased rapidly during the Depression. Organized anti-Semitism, Strong argued, appeared in the U.S. only after World War I. Previous forms of the prejudice, he claimed, “had expressed itself primarily in terms of social discrimination” rather than through the creation of specifically anti-Semitic groups.
In other words, organized anti-Semitism in the United States was a purely 20th-century phenomenon. Strong claimed that between 1933 and 1941, a dozen new anti-Semitic organizations had been founded each year.
“The anti-semitic movement in the United States,” he presciently concluded, “can no longer be treated as if it were a transient phenomenon.”
The two most important groups Strong examined were the German American Bund and the Silver Legion, also known as the Silver Shirts.
Symbol was the swastika
The Bund, founded in 1936, was theoretically a German-American heritage organization. In reality, its leader – a German immigrant and naturalized American named Fritz Kuhn – chose the swastika as its symbol and insisted members, including children in summer camps, wear Nazi-style uniforms.
The group’s motto was “Free America,” which its followers understood to be an America freed from supposed Jewish oppression. The Bund had dozens of local chapters and a following that Kuhn claimed exceeded 200,000 nationwide. Other contemporary estimates put it considerably lower.
Kuhn’s time as an aspiring American Hitler ended after a raucous mass rally in Madison Square Garden in February 1939.
Addressing the rally, Kuhn declared that if George Washington had still been alive, he would be a Nazi.
Outraged at what he was hearing, a Jewish hotel worker, Isadore Greenbaum, rushed the stage during Kuhn’s address and was badly beaten by Kuhn’s bodyguards. Outside the Garden, Bund supporters clashed with anti-Nazi demonstrators and police officers.
A post-rally investigation revealed that Kuhn’s interests lay beyond emulating Hitler. He had been skimming money from the Bund’s accounts for personal use. Kuhn was subsequently prosecuted, convicted and eventually deported to West Germany after the war.
From screenwriter to anti-Semite
Kuhn was not the only leader of organized anti-Semitism in this era. The Silver Legion was similar to the Bund and commanded a nationwide following. Its “Chief,” William Dudley Pelley, was a former screenwriter who shared Kuhn’s dictatorial aspirations.
Like the Bund, the Legion was explicitly anti-Semitic and called for the segregation of Jews into ghettos. Silver Shirts across the country armed themselves, trained for a race war and encouraged Americans to “Buy Gentile.”
Also like Kuhn, Pelley was brought down by his own corruption. He had defrauded investors in a previous business venture to help fund the Legion. He was later indicted for sedition and would spend World War II fighting a series of legal cases from behind bars.
The movements both men built did not disappear with their incarceration, as declassified FBI files show. Certainly, their members did not simply cease to hold anti-Semitic views when their leaders were imprisoned.
Where did they go?
Historians know little about what happened to former Bund members and Silver Shirts after World War II. But media figures of the Depression era like Father Charles Coughlin – who had a radio audience in the tens of millions – also did much to popularize anti-Semitism. Recordings of Coughlin’s anti-Semitic radio broadcasts, along with Pelley’s writings, remain popular on far-right social media today.
As Strong recognized, the 20th century saw the emergence of a new and potentially violent anti-Semitism fundamentally based in Nazi-esque ideas and, in the 1930s, Hitler worship.
The only recorded instance of the Ku Klux Klan lynching a Jewish person – Leo Frank – took place in 1915, as World War I raged in Europe. While the Klan had previously focused its ire on African-Americans and Catholics, the move to anti-Semitism updated its appeal to racists facing the changing world of the 20th century.
Frank’s lynching is generally considered to have galvanized support for the previously declining group. In other words, violent and organized anti-Semitism became one of the ideological underpinnings of this leading American radical right group.
It continues to underpin the ideology of radical right groups today. Like Robert Bowers, the anti-Semites of the 21st century prepare for racial warfare and rant about Jews “committing genocide to my people.” They are following directly in the footsteps of America’s 20th-century leaders of organized anti-Semitism.
Past as prologue
American anti-Semitism doesn’t just hurt Jews. Racial and religious prejudice of various sorts have proven corrosive to the American social fabric in the past, for instance, in the Jim Crow-era South, where racist laws denied African-Americans their civil rights. And the United States’s geopolitical rivals – Russia, for instance – view the inflammation of these tensions on social media as a means to undermine the American political system.
Historians and educators can ensure that this dark aspect of U.S. history is included in textbooks and wider cultural memory. By confronting America’s dark past of organized anti-Semitism, it may be possible to recognize it in the present and see it as a more common part of our culture than most Americans would like to acknowledge.
That recognition can lead, possibly, to escaping the shadow that the 1930s still cast over the country today.
Opinion: North Korea Is the Sideshow
NEW YORK — Controversy surrounding President Trump is so intense that you have to wonder whether he’s going to want the job beyond his current four-year term. Surfing the morning news, you get to listen to non-stop attacks from MSNBC on the left, equally hard-hitting defenses from Fox on the right — and not all that much in between.
Trump himself goes on with barbs at “fake news” in the middle of a firestorm that’s partly of his own making. Sometimes you doubt he’s thought through what he’s saying as when he criticizes a Navy SEAL team for not having gotten Osama bin Laden long before he was killed in a raid in the compound where he was staying not far from a Pakistan army base. And you find it hard to believe he could have been so hard on the late Senator John McCain, captured and imprisoned for years in North Korea after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War.
Nor, for that matter, can anyone, really, see why Trump, so great at playing to his base among red-blooded Americans who can’t stand the media elitists who keep bashing him, would not have visited the Marine cemetery during his recent trip to France or, for that matter, have taken a bow at the Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day. Yes, Trump has said he should have visited Arlington, so why doesn’t he make the trek right now across the Potomac from the White House? The cemetery is open every day, not just Veterans Day.
The daily tirades, the sniping, the words of wisdom from panelists and analysts, capture your attention in a drama that never gets boring, but they’re also a massive distraction. Has Trump considered seriously what he’s going to say to Kim Jong-un if they do meet again for that second summit? Vice President Mike Pence, in Singapore at the recent confab of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, spoke highly of Trump’s success in getting Kim to stop threatening the United States with nukes and missiles, but he also raised a couple of issues that might not be to Kim’s liking.
For one thing, Pence stuck to the mantra of CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization). While Kim might agree in an abstract sense on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, as he did at his first summit with Trump in Singapore in June, it’s inconceivable he’s going to throw out all his nukes and missiles and the facilities for making them. In fact, there’s little doubt that North Korean engineers right now are making more of them or at least working on the means to do so.
For another, the North Koreans are not going to produce a list of everything to do with their nukes and missiles. A report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on the basis of commercial satellite imagery developed by Joseph Bermudez suggested the scope of the program.
No doubt the Pentagon knew about all that from its own spy satellites, but North Korea has a lot of other sites hidden away in nooks and crannies, caves and tunnels all over the country. The show that Kim has made of seeming to destroy a couple of them has fooled no one.
Not that those realities would deter Trump from saying, fine, I’d be glad to talk to the man. He might even consider signing another joint statement with Kim as they did in Singapore. This time around, it would be a “peace declaration” committing both countries to formally “ending” the Korean War.
But what if Kim avoided agreeing to a listing of anything or making a commitment, a real promise, of CVID? Trump has a lot of other stuff going on. Rather than answer such questions, he would prefer to leave North Korea to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, still looking for another meeting with his North Korean interlocutor, Kim Yong-chol, to talk about the timing and setting for a summit.
No matter, national security adviser John Bolton will have trouble convincing his boss of the need to read up on what North Korea is doing. The president is too busy tweeting about political foes, playing games with the media that he loves to hate, making pronouncements about everyone else’s mistakes.
You think all that’s a sideshow? For Trump, North Korea is the sideshow.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspaper and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.