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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Battling ISIS, Not Islam

After my last posting on San Bernardino, Donald Trump went ballistic, declaring that all Muslims should be denied entry into this country.  They say timing is everything and I missed that one by about an hour!  This led me to research some facts about Muslims in this country and around the globe.  It also pushed me to think again about parallels with Nazi Germany, as Trump’s speech in South Carolina was eerily similar in too many respects to a Nazi rally of the 1930s.  

Like the Nazis of old, Trump seems to have a penchant for coming up with scapegoats to blame, to harass, and eventually to eliminate (what other interpretation can we put on his claim that he will eliminate jihadists in this country by deporting all the Syrians and blocking immigration of all Muslims?).  Further scapegoating and harassment are seen in his prior remarks that Mexicans coming across the border illegally are nothing but rapists and criminals; and, that all Muslims should be on a database, and tracked by electronic means.

This is one example of a fascist tactic for dividing and conquering:  coerce the people into finding one group despicable, then use that hatred to bring forth the basest motives and attitudes of the general population toward that group and toward others, making sure that “outside” groups are seen as a threat because induced “fear” is also a major fascist tactic.  Division, hatred, and vengeful acts against one group lead to a chaotic situation in which a “strong man” is needed to restore sanity and order (or, the “final solution”).  Hitler, Trump, Cruz, or Fiorina, even Huckabee fit the bill to some degree. There have even been declarations that the final solution could be the use of atomic weapons in Northern Syria.  Is there no end to Republican solutions that have such dire and deadly consequences?

Let’s begin today by taking a look at some historical and demographic context.  What is the real situation?  What are we talking about – this War with ISIS/ISIL, Al Qaeda, the Taliban?  As usual, 

Wikipedia sums it up quite nicely:
“ISIS or ISIL:  The group refers to itself as the Islamic State since it proclaimed a worldwide caliphate in June 2014, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being named its caliph.  As a caliphate, it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide" (similar to the supposed extent of the Third Reich for Germans).

 The group's adoption of the name "Islamic State" and the concept of a caliphate have however been widely criticized, with the United Nations, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups rejecting both. It also is not a state, because it lacks any international recognition.  Still, as of December 2015, the group has control over vast territories in Iraq and Syria with population estimates ranging between 2.8 million and 8 million people, where it enforced Sharia law.  ISIL affiliates also control small areas of Libya, Nigeria and Afghanistan and operate in other parts of the world, including North Africa and South Asia.

ISIL gained prominence, when in early 2014 it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by the capture of Mosul (and the Sinjar massacre), prompting a renewal of US military action in Iraq.   The number of fighters the group commands in Iraq and Syria, was estimated by the CIA at 31,000, with foreign fighters accounting for around two-thirds. Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a "historic scale" in northern Iraq.
 
Around the world, Islamic religious leaders have overwhelmingly condemned ISIL's ideology and actions, arguing that the group has strayed from the path of true Islam and that its actions do not reflect the religion's real teachings or virtues.  The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations, the European Union and its member states, the United States, India, Indonesia, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and other countries. Around 60 countries are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIL.

The group originated as a Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and participated in the Iraqi insurgency following the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces. Joining other Sunni insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, it proclaimed the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in October 2006. In August 2011, following the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, ISI, under the leadership of al-Baghdadi, delegated a mission into Syria, which under the name al-Nusra Front established a large presence in Sunni-majority areas including Aleppo provinces. The merger of ISI with al-Nusra Front to form the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), as announced in April 2013 by al-Baghdadi, was however rejected by al-Nusra and al-Qaeda, who subsequently cut all ties with ISIL by February 2014.” ((From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Apparently, the problem Trump intends to address is the risk of Islamic extremist (ISIS) terrorist attack upon the United States.  It is not quite clear whether he believes this to be akin to the well-planned and coordinated 9/11 attacks, or the scattered attacks on Paris or the homegrown individualized attack on the complex in San Bernardino.  The point he makes, I venture, is that we do not know how this attack will occur, but that one possibility is that some radical jihadists could be holding false or special (fiancĂ©) visas, and easily sneak in and attack us.  Since Syria is where ISIS is based, he apparently believes we need to prevent this kind of attack by calling a moratorium on Syrian refugees until we can “figure out what’s happening.”

For a businessman and self-proclaimed negotiator extraordinaire, Mr. Trump falls short on several important fronts. 
1)      The definition of the problem is off-target.  Is an attack on America really the essence of the problem?  It’s certainly one aspect of the problem, but I submit that the primary problem is more an ideological one, similar to the clash of democracy/capitalism and communism, or the clash of Catholic and Protestant interpretations of Christianity.  It is an attack by a splinter group on the very essence and existence of the religion of Islam (and certainly against both Judaism and Christianity).  Not unlike other splinter groups, this one believes it is the true way; that the original base of Islam has gotten away from being the true Islam.  The sticking point for practically all of us is that this cult advocates atrocities of rape and murder of innocent people as a tactic for coercing others to support their tenets.  
2)      Trump’s strategy of preventing all Muslims from coming into this country does not begin to solve the major problem of an ideology clash nor that of violence as a tactic.  Instead, we should be doing what President Obama called us to do: enlist Islamists wherever possible to speak and act against this splinter group and their beliefs.  And, we need to put our support behind their efforts.  Maybe a “Voice of Islam” (similar to the Voice of America during the Cold War) is called for rather than a prevention of Muslim immigrants. 
One aspect of an attack on the ISIL terrorists that is lacking any real clout is that of reverse propaganda – an unrelenting campaign of ideas and truth against a world view of force, brutality and unlimited power.  The disconnected and chaotic tactics of Trump and other candidates do not constitute a long-range plan and do not speak decisively against a protracted war.
3)      Trump’s tactics are all wrong because wanting to bar all Muslims from this country and promoting fear of attacks is equivalent to supporting ISIL in its mission.  It does ISIL’s work for it – preparing fertile ground for recruitment by affirming by actions and words what ISIL is already teaching and propagandizing.
4)      Trump’s strategy and tactics lead to consequences, some unintended, for this country and for American Muslim citizens.  Those consequences are already becoming all too evident: attacks on mosques, attacks on individual Muslims, abandonment of Syrian refugees, and the emergence of hate speech directed toward Muslims.  The actions of some Americans, based on fear and discriminatory attitudes, are hurting America already as other nations decry our obvious bigotry. 
But that’s not all, for these harmful attitudes and actions put our armed forces in greater danger, especially in Muslim countries.  We are inviting retaliation and revenge taken out on our own people who serve abroad as diplomats or as members of our armed forces. 
Moreover, nations within the Coalition against ISIL are becoming somewhat nervous about the rhetoric coming out of the United States. Some British members of Parliament have expressed such dismay openly; and Canada has openly sided with Syrian refugees by publicly welcoming them to Canada.
5)      Finally, Mr. Trump is doing what all demagogues do – he is juicing-up the numbers so that the threats will seem larger and the stakes much higher than they are.   The numbers are difficult to verify.  The total of Islamic jihadists in both Iraq and Syria ranges from 30,000 to 50,000!  But the demagogues who use fear to control people, are most apt to use the higher numbers and to then add numbers of jihadists in other countries. 

Nonetheless, here are a few more statistics related to ISIS that might be interesting to you as well as instructive:
  • The number of militants fighting with the Islamic State, according to a 2014 estimate by Dr. Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on the group, is 30-50 thousand.  (Huffington Post).   ISIS is now thought by some to have over 50,000 ideologically-fueled fighters at its disposal in Syria. (Wikipedia)
  • The approximate value of the Islamic State's cash and assets, according to estimates from terrorism experts is somewhere around $2 billion, including looting hundreds of millions of dollars from banks in Mosul, acquiring hundreds more in military assets from the Iraqi Army, and their relatively new dealings in stolen artifacts.
  • The estimated daily revenue of the Islamic State is perhaps $3 million from its control of oil and gas fields across northern Iraq and Syria.  It “now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations,” according to Janine Davidson of the Council of Foreign Relations.
  • In a broader context, according to another study in 2015 Islam has 1.7 billion adherents meaning Muslims constitute the world's second largest religious group. Islam is the dominant religion in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, and some parts of Asia.  Large communities of Muslims are also found in China, the Balkans, India, and Russia. In Western Europe, Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity, where it represents 6% of the total population (Wikipedia)
The U.S. Census Bureau does not collect data on religious identification. Various institutions and organizations have given widely varying estimates about how many Muslims live in the U.S.  A Pew Research Center report for 2014 on American religion found that Muslims accounted for:
§  0.9% of American adults, up from 0.4% in 2007, due largely to immigration.
§  There were 2,106 mosques in the United States as of 2010, and the nation's largest mosque, the Islamic Center of America, is in Dearborn, Michigan.
§  According to the 2000 United States Census, the state with the largest percentage of Muslims was Michigan, with 1.2% of its population being Muslim. New Jersey had the second largest percentage with 0.9%, followed by Massachusetts with 0.8%.
§  By city: New York City had the largest number of Muslims with 69,985.   In 2000, Dearborn, Michigan ranked second with 29,181,   Los Angeles ranked third with 25,673;
§  Sunnis and Shias are two subgroups of Islam, just as Catholics and Protestants are two subgroups within Christianity. The Sunni-Shia divide is nearly 1,400 years old, dating back to a dispute over the succession of leadership in the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632.
§   In the U.S., 65% identify as Sunnis and 11% as Shias (with the rest identifying with neither group).
§  Recent surveys show that most people in several countries with significant Muslim populations have an unfavorable view of ISIS.  People in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism, and have become increasingly concerned in recent years.
§  Generally, Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified.
§  In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say that such tactics are rarely or never justified.
§  The Pew 2011 survey of Muslim Americans found that roughly half of U.S. Muslims (48%) say their own religious leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.

Is Mr. Trump – and too many of the other alarmists running for the Republican Nomination -- swatting at flies with what amounts to multi-billion-dollar fly swatters.  Deploying troops, conducting stepped-up bombing (including atomic), deporting Muslims, checking for Muslims, registering Muslims, and continuing to carry special ops operations against this faction will cost our nation a heavy burden of tax money.  It certainly indicates the incompetence with which these ill-prepared candidates would conduct foreign policy.  It adds up to another nefarious Republican scheme that would be paid for by America’s middle class thinking they are getting something (leadership?) for nothing which is far from the truth.

Instead, perhaps we could take some intelligent steps (that would constitute a PLAN) to keep these cultist terrorists from our shores, and to ultimately discredit their ideology.   The Obama administration has already formulated a basic 4-item long-term Plan which is criticized by most Republicans (who themselves have offered most of the same or similar thoughts), mostly because the Plan avoids sending in our own ground troops.  The way Obama sees it, however, what the U.S. needs isn’t a change in policy, but a strengthening of resolve in the face of a long struggle—something that isn’t easy to sell, regardless of the backdrop.  Here’s the Plan in brief:
1. U.S. airstrikes: Obama said such attacks have already been successful against al-Qaeda in Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.
2. Support to foreign ground forces: He vowed to send 475 more U.S. troops to Iraq to support local security forces as well as provide military equipment and training to Syrian rebels.
3. Counterterrorism: The U.S. will work with allies on intelligence and programs to prevent foreign fighters from joining ISIS.
4. Humanitarian assistance: Aid will go to Muslim, Christian and religious minorities in danger of being driven out of their homes by ISIS.
Ever since the deadly assault in Paris last month and the San Bernardino attack, polls have shown a deepening fear in the U.S. about more attacks at home. Such fears are driving support for Donald Trump, who says he would prevent Muslims from entering the U.S. The polls also show less than a quarter of Americans believe Obama has a clear plan to deal with ISIS militants.
The public’s skepticism is likely due in large part to the slow progress Obama’s military campaign has achieved and the constant drumbeat of Republican criticism of his strategy, which his critics have called “too little, too late” to score a decisive victory over the militants.  Yet when it comes to alternative proposals for an anti-ISIS strategy, most Republican presidential candidates have approaches that are similar to what Obama is already doing. Like the president, most GOP hopefuls rule out a large U.S. ground force and support the use of airstrikes and special operations forces. Aside from rhetoric, the only discernable differences between most of the GOP candidates and the president: the pace of operations, which some Republicans say should be faster.
Since the military campaign began in August 2014 the President said on Dec. 14th: “U.S. warplanes have carried out more than 9,000 airstrikes, while local ground forces have recaptured 40 percent of the populated areas that ISIS has seized in Syria and Iraq. But he also acknowledged that wasn’t sufficient to defeat the militants anytime soon. “We recognize that progress needs to happen faster,” he said.
In recent weeks, Obama ordered some 200 U.S. special operations forces to Iraq, where they’re assisting Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces in targeting for U.S. airstrikes, training and conducting raids against ISIS. There are 3,500 U.S. military trainers in Iraq, as well as another 50 members of U.S. special operations forces in Syria, where they are assisting a combined force of Sunni Arab and Kurdish fighters who are closing in on ISIS’s self-declared capital of Raqqa, in eastern Syria. (NEWSWEEK)

So let us try to formulate a few common-sense conclusions about this situation, notwithstanding the outrageous rhetoric of the non-productive and non-definitive Republican candidates.
1)      Actions speak louder than words.  The President is following a plan that none of the Republicans seem able to improve upon.  And, in essence, their words are all they have got because they do not hold office, and if they did, would not be able to initiate any more because they would have to move a whole bureaucracy which does not happen in the kind of lockstep that they are promulgating.
2)      This is a long-term war effort, not a short term battle.  Our leaders from both parties should be calling upon the American people to show greater patience and resolve, as we bring about the defeat of the Islamic caliphate and its fascist-like ideology.
3)      One of the things we do not need is another protracted Middle East War, especially over ideological disagreements and divisions that have been around for thousands of years in these Sunni or Shia dominated countries.
4)      “U.S. airstrikes, a short-term answer compounding a long-term problem, may temper the momentum of ISIS, but bombs, no matter how accurate or plenty, will not eradicate the threat of the radical Islamic insurgency.  And that is particularly true of “carpet bombing” which has turned out in several places (such as Vietnam) to be a failed strategy.”  (Michael Kay, BBC News).  Hillary Clinton added a similar sentiment in a recent speech: “Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn’t make you sound strong – it makes you sound like you’re in over your head,” Clinton said, referencing a comment made by Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas. “Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander in chief.”
5)      “Defeating ISIS will only be a viable option if the West has the access and acquiescence of regional partners to strike at the heart of Baghdad’s organization.”  (MICHAEL KAY, BBC News)
6)      The Democratic candidates had little to add in their debate, but a few points did make some sense:
a.       Arming everyone vs. gun control - guns won’t save us from lone wolf terrorists or any other kind
b.       lone wolf attacks not all preventable
c.       must work with Muslims in America to form coalitions with them
d.       cannot react in fear because then we give ISIL terrorists just what they want – a weakened defensive nation
e.       encryption – bring tech leaders together to work on ways to break terrorist database and message encryption

Michal Kay has essentially the right conclusion for this posting:
“Countering the external threat to Western cities and populations is complex, and tracking the organic threat from within is resource-intensive.
Bombs and bullets alone cannot target the ISIS ideology, but a collaborative, coherent and holistic strategy led by the U.S. across the gulf states, along with improved intelligence targeting, collection and processing at home, may be able to treat the ISIS cancer before it spreads.”

My own conclusion is:  This battle can’t happen overnight, and the ‘Trumpettes,’ as well as the general public need to take their heads out of the sand and stand up together for a long-term fight against this mode of terrorism (which happens to keep morphing into other shapes and forms). 

Monday, December 7, 2015

SAN BERNARDINO and the New Reality

The shooting in San Bernardino, California has produced more than unwarranted deaths and injuries.  It has also produced rather large doses of loathing, anger, hate and fear in addition to producing much sadness and even hopelessness.  A personal sense of that sadness led me to write a quick Letter-to-the Editor at the time of the shooting.  It perhaps gives some sense of my immediate thoughts and feelings.  I wrote:

             “On December 2nd, many watched unfolding news about the shootings at the regional Developmental Center in San Bernardino, CA.  I shed tears for the innocent county employees (and others) who were killed and wounded; for the children with developmental disabilities and their mentors who had to endure this attack.  I also shed tears for our country because violent attacks with guns and bombs on innocents are becoming a new normal that is wholly unacceptable.
The new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, called for a moment of silence and prayers from the public, a nicety that left me somewhat annoyed.  Why? Because silence and prayers are the only reactions we get from a Congress that fails to address: sales of assault weapons, over-sized ammunition clips, extension of background checks, regulation of gun sales at trade shows and auctions, and increased funding for mental health treatment.  The repetitive nature of these killings indicates an out-of-control circumstance, as ordinary citizens indicate in poll after poll.  While such incidents become commonplace and Congress does nothing, one can fairly conclude that their inaction is a form of ‘aiding and abetting’ the killers.  Tears, silence and prayers are just not enough to curb the violence.

That is where I started, but not necessarily where I will end up, although I do stand by my thought that congressional inaction is equivalent to complicity in these now regularly occurring incidents of mass shootings.  A silent Congress captured by the NRA is part of the problem; certainly not part of any solution.

What bothers me as much as an inept and silent Congress is the rhetoric that has been advanced, mainly by the leaders of the Republican Party; particularly their many presidential candidates (and I use that term lightly!).  Here are a few brief examples of their perverted propaganda (read my recent series of three Blogs to put their tactics in proper perspective):

  1. The issue is home-grown Islamic terrorism, not gun control. They claim that Democrats are using this incident to further their agenda of gun control. A remarkable claim considering that Republicans are using the incident to promote the 2nd amendment and to denounce the President for not calling the incident by their own label – extremist Islamic terrorism.  Calling the incident by a certain name does not address the real issue: what can we do to reduce both gun violence and the violent acts of all types of extremists?
  2. This is President Obama’s fault.  This is the answer for everything, according to radical Republicans.  While Republicans dither, decry and delude, they have failed to enact effective legislation dealing with actual causes of terrorism and ways to stop jihadist assassins from carrying out planned attacks against our citizens.  Instead, they chose to pass legislation (with the help of some Democrats) denying a safe haven for Syrian families fleeing oppression, repression and assassination in a country where a dictator attacks and kills his own people.  This might be called “minimalist discriminatory” legislation that fails to meet the necessity of preventing terrorism in our country while placing a whole group of people in jeopardy in their own countries.  Turns out, it was also an example of what contributes to, rather than detracts from, the terrorists’ ability to recruit based on just such fear-mongering and divisiveness.
President Obama has been made a scapegoat for every issue and supposed failure that can be dug up, blown up or made up.  Republicans use anything they can to denigrate his character and his presidency.  However, in contrast to our “do-nothing” Congress, the President has actually been pursuing a plan to destroy the jihadist Islamic extremists, just as he destroyed the leadership of Al Quada.  As he reminded the nation on television on Sunday, Dec. 6th, he has kept up a continuous successful pursuit of terrorist leaders with Special Ops forces.  Second, he has built a coalition of nations to battle these murderers.  Third, he has followed a policy of involving Islamic nations in securing their own destiny and has utilized U.S. and coalition military personnel to train their troops.  Fourth, he has used means such as bombing missions to destroy ISIL strongholds and leadership. 

Facing a new phase of less complicated attacks and homegrown terrorists who strike at seemingly modest targets, the President has called on Congress to:
·         make it law that someone on the no-fly list be automatically excluded from owning a gun;
·         make it harder for anyone to buy an assault weapon;
·         establish stronger screening requirements for refugees;
·         declare war on terrorists and take a vote to use our armed forces in united efforts to destroy ISIL (something he has requested more than once, but never been given). 

Will Congress act, or will they continue along the same path of what not to do, as expressed in the President’s speech to the nation?
1.      Don’t be drawn into a ground war that can be used by ISIL to draw recruits to them based on our invasion of Islamic countries
2.      Don’t turn on one another, particularly in terms of opposing peoples and religions.  For this is what ISIL wants – divisions serve as breeding grounds for recruiting new members.  Instead, enlist Islamists as allies and partners in the rejection of the beliefs and actions of these extremists.  Muslim Americans largely reject these extremists and do not recruit them through local mosques or places of business.  Muslim-Americans are part of us – they are athletic heroes, community leaders, members of our armed forces.  Do not demonize our Muslim brothers and sisters.
3.      Don’t forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.  Our values are what matter – do not throw them aside in order to combat fear and terrorist actions.

At this point, we are compelled to re-iterate some basic facts about our system of governing:  Congress must legislate in order to solve or resolve issues and problems that we face; the President carries out what Congress and he agree upon as law or regulation or national policy/program.  A fact too often forgotten is that even Executive Orders must conform to some authorization or intent in previous laws passed.  The Commander-in-Chief is not a dictator.

Second, when a majority Party in Congress promotes division, enmity and false accusation against a President, they are, in my opinion, bringing harm upon our citizens because of the neglect of their needs, their safety and their welfare.  Political assassination by innuendo, deceit, false accusations and propaganda are not the makings of a government that protects, enhances or effectively governs the lives of its people.

Third, the oath of office taken by every government official is not just an utterance or ritual symbolism.  It is more; it is the acceptance of a fiduciary responsibility

That responsibility is first of all, one of trust and becomes invalidated when no longer garnering the support of the public.  It is also indicative of something held in trust for someone else.  Political office-holders hold their office in trust for the public, not just for themselves.  Thus, the fiduciary “must avoid ‘self-dealing’ or ‘conflicts of interests’ in which the potential benefit to the fiduciary is in conflict with what is best for the person who trusts him/her/it…the best interests of the beneficiary must be primary.” (thefreedictionary.com)

And finally, there is the obligation one has to carry out one’s duty for which the oath was taken in the first place.  In other words, faithful performance of duty is part of taking an oath of office, and all subsequent actions and transactions should be seen from that perspective (a note of thanks here to my friend and fellow-progressive, Steve, for bringing this to my attention!).  If one can be shown to be shirking one’s fiduciary duty on behalf of the public, that individual should be subject to removal from office.  I submit to you that many in the Republican majority in Congress should be so removed.  

This Congress, with its Republican majority in both Houses, has been a disaster, and not just because of its inaction.  It has been a failure because that majority has chosen and planned out a course of obstruction, destruction, avoidance and discrimination.  Rather than choosing to cooperate, collaborate or compromise to produce meaningful legislation for the People, it has chosen the destructive path set forth mostly by the Radical Right-wing of that Party, and continues to do so even in the face of an approval rating from constituents that is abysmal – put at somewhere around 9-10%. 

Their committee hearings, their resolutions, their provocative pronouncements, their lack of action on important issues like jobs, infrastructure repair, public education, official appointments, climate change, immigration reform, gun violence reduction and many more – have engendered incompetence in some areas (inadequate funding for protection of foreign embassies and personnel, for example), impotence in others (public education), and highly incongruous results in a few (unasked-for-increases in military spending for outmoded weapons and supplies), and even destructive outcomes (wars in the Middle East and attacks upon domestic government programs that aid populace with special needs and challenges).  They have absolutely abandoned any fiduciary responsibility to constituents, acted on their own initiative and beliefs, and served the interests of their donors rather than the needs and concerns of their constituents.   

As I have said before:  this is not a political game we are playing; this is the welfare of a nation that is at stake.  Republicans are using destructive techniques to gain political support and power, but effective techniques for governing and benefiting our citizens have been abrogated.         

  1. Arm everyone so we can stop these terrorists  in their tracks. Ever hear of the “Wild West?”  Radical Republicans evidently think that “concealed carry” by more citizens will inevitably resolve these shooting incidents.  Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa county, AZ, recently issued a public call to arms of the 250,000 people with concealed carry permits to be ready to defend and shoot at these terrorists!  Donald Trump says he will do “unthinkable things” to retaliate.  The re-incarnated presence of Senator Joe McCarthy, one Ted Cruz, spoke about concealed carry and his belief that the perpetrators would have been killed if more people were carrying guns in that crowd in San Bernardino.  This, in the face of statistics that clearly show that states with such laws are also the states with greater incidence of such shootings, domestic violence and other forms of killing by gun violence.  
  1. Retaliate by penalizing all Muslims and Immigrants.  ‘When you can’t think of anything constructive, by all means resort to being destructive’ seems to be a Republican motto. They seem to muse: “What better way to resolve the terrorist threats and actions than by rooting out all the “others” who exist in our country.”  Track all Muslim citizens (or at least those on temporary visas, those on no-fly lists and those who visit “suspect” countries for (possible) terrorist training, and those who attend mosques.  Return any who commit crimes to their countries.  And the newest technique:  rigorous examination of “fiancĂ© visas” to stop terrorists from entering on the pretext of marrying a US citizen.  (President Obama has accepted this idea as an accommodation to Republican thinking).
 Does it seem to you that there might just be other ways to address these issues?  Must we live in fear, and hatred, with suspicion as a constant companion?  Let us remind ourselves of some things that make us somewhat unique and maybe somewhat special.  
  
  • We are essentially a nation that welcomes immigrants and has been built in large measure by their hands and their many contributions.  Our ally, France, recognized this fact with the gift to our nation of the grand lady of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty.  The Statue of Liberty Inscription, “The New Colossus,” was a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 and then made into a bronze plaque placed inside the Statue of Liberty in 1903.  It begs to be quoted in its entirety because we rarely see or notice the context in which its famous phrasing is set.  May we never forget nor denigrate what is inscribed thereon: 
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"
cries she with silent lips.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Could the contrast be any clearer between the conquering giant standing astride conquered nations and peoples, and the welcoming arms and hands of the Mother of Exiles?  This nation has not only welcomed refugees and immigrants but appreciates the contributions they have made to our well-being, for many of us are first and second-generation descendants of immigrants, and we know and appreciate from experience and family life what they were able to accomplish.    

  • We are a nation that offers charity and hope, not belligerence and fear.  These values are of great importance, and must be protected and enhanced.
 Yes, we must address terrorism, whether it is foreign or homegrown, but we can afford to act with a considerable degree of informed debate and discussion, with restraint and prudence, and above all, with some dignity and worthy rationale.  We do not need to be impulsive, non-thinking and totally inept.  And we certainly cannot approach foreign policy with an attack-dog mind-set, or with a divisive rationale and an even more divided strategy and policy.  Our Founders perceived of, and intended, that Legislative and Executive branches would work together to maintain our freedoms, defend our shores and provide for the well-being of our People.  They feared the intentions of Parties, Factions and Interests, with good reason, and our present politically-, socially- and economically- motivated interests are not serving the best interests of this nation or of its People.

We must address gun violence as well.  It is time for Congress and the President to bring in expert opinions and ideas from the most informed and most experienced people we can find.  It is time to stop relying on the ideologies of ranting politicians and the self-aggrandizing statements of special interests who often seem to know so little of the real world.  It is time to stop listening to Wayne LaPierre (SCOTUS may have already stopped listening.  Salon.com reports: Against the wishes of conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court today rejected a challenge to a Chicago area ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for ammunition, dealing a major blow to the NRA) and to listen instead to the CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.  It is time to stop listening to the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie.  They don’t display facts, study, experience or leadership.  What they offer are platitudes and inflamed rhetoric without factual foundation; ideas without effective implementation and fear without hope.  They give us nothing on which to base any hope that they could do an effective job of implementation and management of Executive Branch responsibilities.  Taking their word that they can or will do the job, solve problems, and manage difficulties is one huge mistake. 

Living in fear of terrorism and of certain groupings of people (like gays, terrorists, people of color or Syrians); choosing hatred, lost opportunities, hopelessness and authoritarian leadership is not a prescription for success, or even for a modicum of hopefulness.  We must, and we can, do better than that.  The survivors of Columbine and Sandy Hook and Boston - and all the other locations where people have survived tragic mass shootings and killing of innocents - have done better than that.  The overlooked, put-down, invisible minorities of our nation have done better than that.  The immigrants and refugees who came to our shore to start new lives have done better than that.  There are millions of ordinary people – both citizens and non-citizens – whose stories of survival and success, and most of all of caring and giving, are the stuff of which our nation is made.   Can we ask any less of our leaders and office-holders?  

We need to demand of our leaders the respect we all deserve as the builders of community and of freedom, hope and courage.  If they cannot live up to the standards we have set, let us send them packing.  We have no earthly reason to let haters, dividers, non-productive dilettantes and lazy loud-mouths run our country.  It is time to say:  NO MORE! 


 It’s past time to bring this nonsense to an end. Vote for the Democratic Nominee for President in 2016.  Vote for progressives in local, state and national elections.  Get involved RIGHT NOW in an activist organization or movement that is dedicated to the progressive values that begin with liberty and justice for all.  Words, prayers and votes are not enough this time.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

SEND in the STORM TROOPERS (Part III)

In my last Post, we took a look at some of the main tactics used by the Nazis in the 1930’s to win over the town of Northeim, and ultimately to win the support of the voters of Germany to their cause of establishing the Third Reich.  Each of those tactics can easily be seen as having a parallel in Radical Right Republican actions.

To review briefly, those tactics consisted of:
1.      Incessant propaganda – Republican radicals are particularly adept at this with unified themes and emphasis right down to the synchronized wording used by local operatives. 
2.      Keeping detailed records –Donald Trump’s suggestion for a database to track Syrian refugees (and other Middle Easterners) fits exactly into this tactic
3.      Adapting message to audience – Pandering to their ultra-conservative base is something most right-wing Republicans do best.
4.      Castigating the opposition continuously; using violence when necessary or expedient.  There are many examples of this from Republicans, but none as graphic and hate-filled as their acknowledged excoriation of President Obama at every opportunity. 
5.      Projecting an image of fervent patriotism and avid militarism. Donald Trump may be the epitome of tough talk that spurs nationalistic fervor. This last week, Republicans took advantage of the terrorist bombings in Paris and the rejection of Syrian refugees in some 31 states, culminating in the House passage of restrictive legislation pertinent to Syrian refugees. 
6.      Sending in the Stormtroopers – demonstrations of strength and violence are intimidating to most, and attractive to some which is why the Storm Troopers attended most Nazi rallies in their brown-shirt uniforms.  Just recently, Trump’s goons worked over a Black protestor who tried to bring attention to what many consider Trump’s racism.    
The Radical Republican objective is not a second amendment right to own a gun, but having the ability and power to take over a government that challenges their views, their politics and their way of life.
7.      Infiltrating local governments and offices –radical Republican takeover has already begun with their gains in municipal areas by running for school boards, councils and legislatures.
8.      Picking on an enemy (or scapegoat) –Just recently, Republicans chose to make the Syrian refugees the target of their villainous Xenophobia, potentially denying thousands of young families the ability to seek the safety and protection of this land. 
9.      Joining local organizations and movements and then promoting and proclaiming one’s own philosophy and cause(s) at every opportunity, such as a school board meeting or a coalition of churches.
10.  Using religion as a pawn—the Nazis warned the faithful to beware of fundamentally anti-church socialists and communists who were atheists.  Republicans constantly warn their Evangelical friends to be wary of the anti-Christian and socialist leanings of the national government.   Republican support for the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on religious grounds is the epitome of this kind of manipulation of religion.
11.  Assisting workers and others down on their luck –This tactic is well known to both Radical Republicans and to Jihadists who have done similar “good works” in their respective areas.  The pandering of Republican presidential candidates to the pressing needs of the working class is another example of this. What they plan to do when in office is quite different.
12.  Emphasizing youth membership and give them very visible things to accomplish – by keeping its activities as much social and adventurous as political.  Republicans are paying special attention to religion-affiliated colleges where more right-wing students can be recruited to join the Young Republicans. 
13.  Destroying trust in government and its leaders –It is clear that radical Republican debasing of the political process and of the leadership of that process (including the President, the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and the former Speaker of the House) has produced a repugnance among the citizenry for the whole process of governing. 
14.  Using and abusing the election process to win offices and to gain control.  Gerrymandered districts, Super-PACs, attacks on voter registration and the ability to vote, plus attempts to manipulate the actual returns and voting processes, are all ways that Republican radicals have used and abused the election process. 

 In this Three-part posting, I have attempted to point out that citizens tend not to recognize an organized movement when we see such tactics and strategies in isolation one from another. That misperception turned out to cause major problems for the residents of Northeim, and of Germany.  We should not and cannot close our eyes to a collection of tactics that are now extant and clearly being used by ISIS and by the radical Right-wing of the Republican Party (abetted by more moderate Republicans who refuse to speak out). The weight of evidence points to a fascist strain in both of these uber-nationalistic movements.  Moreover, the tactics being used and supported by the Republican Party point to an authoritarian tendency that goes far beyond the checks and balances and other restrictions on governmental power built into our system of government (such as warrantless forced entries and lengthy incarceration for non-violent drug charges).   

It has been my contention that the concepts of the Third Reich are worth another look because they may provide basic insight into where we may be headed under Radical Republicans who:

  • support Party purity and power;
  • seem captivated by a strong Social Darwinist Leader (or “Fuehrer”);
  • glorify the continual demonstration of military might by our armed forces, and
  • militarization of our local police forces.
 Many Nazi documents spell out the primacy of these concepts, including the following example:

“The political guide and philosophical creative force of the unified people and the Reich is the Party. The Party is the bearer of the National Socialist conception and the moving force of state and people. From its ranks sprang the Fuehrer of the Reich and the supreme commander of the Wehrmacht.
The Fuehrer is in command of the Party, the State and the Wehrmacht, all based upon the racial unity of the German people. The essence of the Fuehrer principle has thus become the central star of our entire political life.  
The Wehrmacht is the arms bearer and the soldierly training ground of the German people….Every male German has the duty to do military service. In a state of war, beyond actual military service, it is the duty of every German man and woman to render service to the fatherland”  (from the Holocaust Museum archives). 

Finally, the author of “The Nazi Seizure of Power,” presents some compelling conclusions for our consideration, as he asks the question: what is to be learned from Northeim’s experiences?”

  1. The Nazi electoral surge and seizure of power was done on the local level.  It was in hundreds of such localities that the Third Reich was born.  It can be argued that Democrats have not recognized the importance of local politics, while Republicans have infiltrated school boards, legislative councils and offices of mayor and county executive, and are winning state governorships and legislatures at a rapid pace.  They have gained substantial local control already. The quick response of mostly Republican Governors to the Syrian Refugee crisis is indicative of their gains at the state level.  Ironically, ISIS will surely benefit from Republican tactics in the treatment of Muslim refugees, making it easier to recruit others to their movement through excoriation of American tactics.
  2. The most important factor in the victory of Nazism was the active division of the town along class lines.  Do we have to ask why Republicans favor the rich and only cater to the middle class and the working poor when it suits them to do so (for money and votes)?  The middle and upper classes of many local communities too often make it extremely difficult and almost impossible for those in poverty status and those in minority communities to grasp opportunities for advancement and enhancement.  Segregation is real.  Joblessness among certain minority groups is way out of proportion and a voice and presence in government, the unions, high-skilled industries, and even in skilled or semi-skilled labor is not encouraged, planned for or offered.  Educational assistance for our young people in poverty or minority status is also minimal. Much too often, certain groups are simply ignored.  The inevitable result in Germany:  some of the most brutal and vengeful of the local Nazi leaders were from the oppressed class, and their social resentment was obscene to say the least.  Can we expect any less vengeance from right-wing radical militias, or from gun-toting radical Rightists who believe that government is their enemy?  Can we expect any less resentment from the ignored, the dis-enfranchised, the jobless and the denigrated under-class of our own communities?

  1. What was needed in Northeim was a coalition of decent and active citizens to recognize and oppose the destructiveness of the Nazi party, and lack of such a coalition made it easy for Nazis to gain control.  Progressives cannot dither around any longer.  There is some coalition-building happening in certain areas, but it is spotty at best.  Progressives are not generally or naturally ready to form coalitions because they are so often one-issue groups.  Collaboration is a necessity if the Right-wing conspirators are to be opposed and hindered in their quest for total control of society.   Encourage a coalition to start in your area, or find one and get involved, or simply join a campaign for a progressive candidate and volunteer to be an active member of a progressive organization.  Political apathy is the sure way to destruction of our democracy by the radical Right, and the lack of progressive coalition opposition is not encouraging.
  2. The erosion of social activities and organizations through exploitative false threats and intimidation was a major factor in destroying the formal social fabric of Northeim.  In addition, the attack on institutions like schools and unions and small businesses resulted in an isolation that allowed a Nazi takeover.  The radical Republican Right has had a hand in destroying our unions, and in a move to destroy our public schools by farming them out to private companies for profit-making (Charter School movement).  These tactics are not just the actions of a few governors.  This is the platform and policy of the Republican Party. 
Isolation from our institutions is already beginning.  Will the isolation of religious groups that do not follow evangelical Christian doctrine and practice be next?  It has already begun, if you take very seriously the reaction of some of the Republican candidates to the Syrian refugees – some were willing to admit Syrian Christians (and probably meant by that Evangelical Christians).  Radical Republican discrimination and divisiveness is what they plan to bring to our nation as a whole, because it undermines our dedication to the principle that out of diversity comes a strong unity.
  1. Perhaps worst of all was the ability of the Nazis to take over the towns and the nation because of something they helped to create in the hearts and minds of the people: a moral numbness that failed to see how much they had strayed from the ideals of their Judeo-Christian heritage.  The promotion of unquestioning patriotism --or rather of misplaced patriotism -- is a force that is invasive and destructive.  In touting American “exceptionalism” no matter the realities of our national life, is to numb us to realities that are destructive of our ideals and of our true patriotism.  We cannot and must not buy in to a cheap and ugly nationalism that makes excuses for educational, social and moral failures while celebrating militarism and mediocrity; that denies reality and settles for standards that denigrate our own heritage.

We are fortunate to have some progressive politicians and leaders right now in our nation who are calling us to recognize the moral dimension of our political and social actions.  The President is one who comprehends the danger of the radical Right to our way of life.  He has set a moral compass on true North, and we ignore his values and opinions to our own detriment and peril.  Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both emulate his leadership in recognizing that what we do as a nation and as communities to aid and enhance the lives of others will determine how moral and just we are as a people.  “Exceptionalism” is not so much found in being first in various fields of endeavor, or being strongest militarily, or being out front earning unmatched profits.  Greatness or exceptionalism is rather found in how much we can, as a people and a nation, give to others; on what we can share to enhance life upon our earth, and on what we can promote so that others can have the opportunities that we have.  The Republican Right wing is attempting to pull us in the opposite direction so that we value self-protection more than accepting refugees; so that we value profit more than quality or equality, strength more than empathy, and self-aggrandizement rather than charity.  We must not allow Right-wing fanatics to rob us of our heritage, and to use a growing moral numbness as a tool of destruction of our democracy.

For example, the income gap is a moral issue because it harms the lives and souls of most of our people.  The lack of universal health care is a moral issue because care of the sick, the elderly, those with disabilities, those who are poor, those who are chronically ill, and those who are vulnerable to rare disease – their care is our moral responsibility (according to our major religions), especially if they have no way to care for themselves.    Education of our young is not simply an obligation of citizenship, nor simply a program that spends our tax money; it is a duty to humankind.  We have a responsibility to produce and to nurture the best-educated, best-prepared, best-thinking people that we can possibly produce for the benefit of all of the people of our society and of the world.   Equal access to a broad-based, factual and scientific Public Education is the means by which we develop an informed and productive citizenry as well as effective and just systems of government, commerce, trade and social welfare that are truly exceptional.  Most importantly, we must each make a moral commitment to personal involvement in every way that is necessary for the well-being of all.

  1. In Northeim, it was not only a moral numbness that allowed Nazism to flourish.  It was also a lack of comprehension of what was going on or of what could happen if this National Socialist Party were to garner electoral success.  What people saw was maybe one or two aspects of their hideousness, and easily dismissed such aberrations, but few seemed to comprehend the fullness of their lust for power, and the horrific tactics they would use to achieve that goal.  The “Bonhoeffer warning” was, after all, a reminder that many in Germany overlooked the aberrations until it was too late to stop the takeover and the carnage.
In the past two posts, I have tried to lay out for you a compendium of the strategies and tactics of the Nazis that closely parallel those of ISIS and of the Right wing fanatics of the Republican Party (and their spineless neo-conservative supporters).  I am not claiming that the Republican Party consists of a bunch of Nazis. What I am saying is that there are abroad today the same tactics and strategies used by the Nazis to gain total control of the German government in the Third Reich.  Taken together, those Right-wing tactics and strategies are a threat to our democracy.  If we don’t act against them now, and rid ourselves of candidates and office-holders who are the promoters of such immoral actions and beliefs, we shall surely have to learn to live in a much more brutal, stifling, oppressive and unjust world than we presently inhabit. 

Above all, I am saying that the Republican Radical Right must be soundly defeated in 2016.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

SEND In the STORM TROOPERS (Part II)

In my last post, I discussed the broad strategies of the Nazi Party of the 1930’s related to the takeover of a small town in central Germany; the town of Northeim, as told in the book, “The Nazi Seizure of Power” by William Sheridan Allen.   Author Allen told us about some of the strategies used, and I summarized them under four large headings: 1) Use Outside Threat(s), 2) Use False Hope, 3) Send in the Storm Troopers, and 4) Seize Complete Control.  In today’s post, it is important to explore the tactics used by the Nazis at the grass-roots level, in order to bring that town, and all of Germany, within its complete control. 

It is of great importance in our current circumstances to illuminate the one weapon used most effectively by the Nazis, and that is the engendering of reactions that further their cause.  The point cannot be over-blown that what ISIS counts on in terms of their strategies and tactics is the reaction of those who are on the receiving end of their threats.  They must be overjoyed by what they have seen, particularly in the United States.  In France and Europe, they are witnessing a growing concern to restrict air travel, to tighten entry surveillance, to ramp up all kinds of additional surveillance, and to lessen the restrictions on search and seizure.  It is quite similar to the reactions of the Bush administration after 9/11.  The more reactions they provoke that instill fear and restriction of freedom, the closer they are to their goal of total control.

More to the point, ISIS must be absolutely exuberant over the Xenophobia exhibited by most of the Republican presidential candidates (along with a majority of Governors and a huge majority of the House Representatives who pushed legislation to keep Syrian refugees out of the country for now).  The candidates and their followers have issued all kinds of warnings and actions regarding keeping Syrians from crossing our borders for fear that some of them may be Jihadist terrorists. Calling for substantial boots on the ground in Syria, as well as taking restrictive and prejudicial actions against Muslims, are additional actions and attitudes that serve the Jihadists’ cause.  Take just the one example of about eight Syrian refugees (including four children) who presented themselves at the Mexican-US border in Texas.  That circumstance was immediately used by Donald Trump (and others) as a foregone conclusion that they could be terrorists.  Turns out, they were families with children who presented themselves to authorities rather than crossing undetected (i.e. illegally).

One point:  those who react with threats of war and threats of more surveillance and repressive actions that reduce individual rights are playing right into the hands of the terrorists, as the citizens of Germany did with the Nazis of long ago. 

The over-reactors like Trump and Carson are cultivating the possibility of new members for the very terrorist cells that they want to destroy.  They lay the groundwork for recruitment of new Jihadist members by lumping all Muslims into the terrorist camp, and especially referring to refugees as "rabid dogs."  Those outcomes are exactly what the Nazis wanted, and are a tremendous help to the Jihadi terrorists in preparing the groundwork for attitudes upon which they can build.  Let us, then, not support those who unwittingly support the terrorists by their words and actions.  Creating fear, suspicion, xenophobia and repression is not helpful, and the radical Republicans fail miserably in understanding that their reactions are helping to build the ISIS movement. 

In addition, we have to point out the obvious: the problem is not with Syrian refugees. There were no Syrian refugees involved in the latest attacks in Paris.   And, of the 2,000 Syrian refugees accepted into our country since 2011, NONE have been arrested or deported for terrorism!  The real problem is the fertile ground in which home-grown terrorists are being cultivated (recruited and trained) by ISIS for terrorist activity.  And that problem is exacerbated by xenophobic congressmen and women, and Republican presidential candidates (and others) who scapegoat innocent refugees (75% of whom are women and children).  The engendering of fear, hatred and scapegoating is a betrayal of our core American values.  It is also a classic tactic utilized by radical rightists in their quest for absolute power.  We should have learned this long ago.

With some editorial comment from me, I hope this posting will enable you to detect the parallel actions of radical Right Republicans and of Jihadi terrorists as compared with Nazis of the 1930’s.  Most recent events and past atrocities have indicated the fascist tendencies of ISIS and reactions to some of those events and their consequences have also shown more clearly what stripes are being carried by the Right-wing radicals of the Republican Party.  Here are a few of the Nazi tactics that deserve your scrutiny and understanding in relation to our own national circumstances.

  • Incessant propaganda – Republican radicals are particularly adept at this with unified themes and emphasis right down to the synchronized wording used by local operatives.  Not only do they make use of propaganda to convince an unthinking public of their beliefs and policies, they use lies and manufactured crises and threats to put fear in voters’ lives and misconceptions into their heads.  Just like Jihadi Terrorists, radical Republicans use this tactic to recruit new members as well. 
  • Keep records – of all kinds: who attends meetings; topics that work; numbers in the audiences, etc.  Donald Trump’s suggestion for a database to track Syrian refugees (and other Middle Easterners) fits exactly into this tactic, as do special ID cards suggested by others.
  • Adapt message to audience – adapt to public interests and what works.  Pandering to their ultra-conservative base is something most right-wing Republicans do best.
  • Castigate the opposition and keep doing it; use violence when necessary or expedient.  One mechanism that worked well in Northeim was a weekly Nazi newsletter that contained furious attacks on the communists and the city council.  Jihadists tend to use electronic means and Republicans tend to use TV, especially Fox News, but are now using electronic social media and databases at a more effective level.  There are many examples of this from Republicans, but none as graphic and hate-filled as their acknowledged excoriation of President Obama at every opportunity. 
  • Project an image of fervent patriotism and avid militarism.  Radical Republicans use this tactic whenever possible because Americans are generally receptive to it, as it is an integral part of the American experience.  Donald Trump may be the epitome of tough talk that spurs nationalistic fervor, but John McCain has always been the stirrer of the pot when it comes to war-talk.  This last week, Republicans took advantage of two circumstances that presented themselves: the terrorist bombings in Paris and the rejection of Syrian refugees in some 31 states, culminating in the House passage of restrictive legislation pertinent to Syrian refugees.  Such reactions were nothing more than bluster as most military solutions proposed by the Republicans for battling the terrorists have already been implemented by President Obama.  State restrictions on refugees are nothing more than symbols of toughness because Governors have no say over federal law that governs what happens with those seeking asylum or protection in this country. Nonetheless, they serve to promote nationalism and militarism.
  • Send in the Stormtroopers – demonstrations of strength and violence are intimidating to most, and attractive to some.  Terrorism works to impress certain groups which is why the Troopers attended most Nazi rallies in their brown-shirt uniforms. 
Radical Republicans don’t support gun violence just because they support the 2nd amendment right to own firearms.  They also support secret and not-so-secret militias; unrestricted carry and self-defense laws, and guns for children.  They vigorously support the idea that the more people carrying guns, the better prepared they are to fight off an out-of-control central government.  Their main objective is not a second amendment right to own a gun, but having the ability and power to take over a government that challenges their views, their politics and their way of life.
  • Support and infiltrate local governments and offices – important to Nazi takeover and to radical Republican takeover (they have already made gains in municipal areas by running for school boards, councils and legislatures).
  • Pick on an enemy (or scapegoat) – choose one that others will also identify as a problem –like Jews in Europe, illegal immigrants in America, and Christians or Israelis in the Middle East.  Just recently, Republicans chose to make the Syrian refugees the target of their villainous Xenophobia, potentially denying thousands of young families the ability to seek the safety and protection of this land.  At least twenty-eight Republican governors actually have led the fight to exclude those refugees from their states, in defiance of federal law, and 50 Democrat Representatives in the House just supported Republican passage of a bill that will do just that, but the President has vowed to veto.
  • Join local organizations and movements and then promote and proclaim one’s own philosophy and cause(s) at every opportunity.  Ever been to a school board meeting or a coalition of churches where right-wingers are in abundance and are attempting to impose their beliefs on everyone present?  It’s not pretty.
  • Use religion as a pawn—the Nazis warned the faithful to beware of fundamentally anti-church socialists and communists who were atheists.  They also excoriated the Weimar Republic which they said leaned toward communism and therefore would damage the Christian (Lutheran) church.  Sound familiar?  Republicans constantly warn their Evangelical friends to be wary of the anti-Christian and socialist leanings of the national government. 
Voter restrictions to combat voter fraud, walling off borders, abortion and same-sex marriage have been lead subjects for Republicans – why?  Because they know this is the way to garner solid support from middle class church-goers for what is essentially an immoral approach to denying homosexuals, African-Americans and Hispanic Americans (particularly Mexicans who cross our border illegally) as well as poor women and children certain benefits and rights to which they are entitled. The Republican support for the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on religious grounds is the epitome of this kind of manipulation of religion. For Ultra-Rightists, Religion is a means to an end: a very useful pawn in their battle for control of people’s lives and their votes.
  • Organize to assist workers and others down on their luck – when the depression got worse, the Nazis organized a soup kitchen to feed the unemployed but went even further to provide bed and shelter for those in need of a place to stay.  This tactic is well-known to both Radical Republicans and to Jihadists who have done similar “good works” in their respective areas.  It is a tactic and not charity, for they expect to recruit new members from such activities, much like the evangelical missionaries of a by-gone day and certain faith communities today.  The pandering of Republican presidential candidates to the pressing needs of the working class is another example of this. What they plan to do when in office is quite different, for they plan to destroy the programs and policies that aid the “unwashed” and the “unworthy” (read their budgets!).
  • Emphasize youth membership and give them very visible things to accomplish – by keeping its activities as much social and adventurous as political, the Hitler Youth groups for boys and for girls made a lasting impression on its members and on the community.  Republicans are paying special attention to religion-affiliated colleges where more right-wing students can be found to join the Young Republicans. 
  • Destroy trust in government and its leaders – the Nazis attacked and vilified a particular senator in the Civic Association of Northeim.  They did it for a reason that explains why Republican radicals vilify and downgrade government and prominent office-holders every chance they get. It’s also why they themselves act in a seemingly raucous and mean-spirited manner.  It is clear that radical Republican debasing of the political process and of the leadership of that process (including the President, the Majority Leader of the Senate and the former Speaker of the House) has produced a repugnance among the citizenry for the whole process of governing.   This attitude exists to the extent that a majority of Republican voters now favor outsiders (non-politicians) as their candidates for President in 2016.  The chief effect of the blockages, disharmony, disarray; the partisan bickering and the relentless attacks on President Obama is not to turn people away from a particular Party necessarily, but to undermine the People’s trust and respect for government itself and for its leaders.  Why? Because that very distrust and disgust can be used by a radical group to worm its way into power with a promise to make everything right through a strong authoritarian leader (Hitler, by the way, was a definite outsider and so were many of the local Nazi leaders!).
  • Use and abuse the election process to win offices and to gain control.  This must be a never-ending pursuit and the Nazis did so over decades until elections were no longer needed.  Gerrymandered districts, Super-PACs, attacks on voter registration and ability to vote, plus attempts to manipulate the actual returns and voting processes are all ways that Republican radicals have used and abused the election process.  The fact that the Supreme Court has joined in this strategy by approving legal bribery in their Citizens United decision is abominable.
Although there may be other tactics used, the point of this exercise was mainly to point out that when we citizens see such tactics and strategies in isolation from one another, we think little of it as a movement or conspiracy.  That misperception turned out to cause major problems for the residents of Northeim.  We cannot close our eyes to a collection of tactics that are now extant, now being used by ISIS, and more especially by the radical Right-wing of the Republican Party (abetted by more moderate Republicans who do not speak out when they should).   The author of “The Nazi Seizure of Power” presents some compelling conclusions for our consideration, as he asks the question: "what is to be learned from Northeim’s experiences?”  More on that next time.