I have previously criticized past prosecutions for stolen valor (here and here) as a threat to the first amendment. Such cases are deterred through social stigma and simple research. We have criminal laws allowing for the prosecution of those who use false claims to secure financial gain or benefits. Such is the case with former Marine Brandon Blackstone, who stole a combat veteran’s story of valor to secure a house and benefits. He is now facing 21 years in jail for his crimes in assuming the valor of Casey Owens, left, who lost both legs in combat. Blackstone served in the same unit as Owens.
Longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro is dead at age 90. While many around the world spoke highly of Castro’s success in greatly reducing illiteracy and proving basic services like health care, I have long been critical of his reign and his enablers in the West. Whatever success he achieved, he did so through a brutal dictatorship that denied freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and other basic civil liberties. For those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s, he was a defining character of our generation. The menace across the border. When we were being taught to shelter under our desks in any nuclear attack, it was his image with that of the Soviet premier that would be flashed across the screen. It was a time of utter madness and mania — on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
The election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte constitutes the lowest point for the struggling Filipino democratic system. Duterte has used profanities against President Obama, the United States Ambassador to the Philippines, Pope Frances, the United Nations and others who have questioned his blood-soaked reign as president. Recently, he even compared himself to Hitler in not only refusing to stop his extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals but saying that he was prepared like Hitler to murder millions. This budding tyrant has declared that the very concept of human rights is the “anti-thesis of government.” Finally, Duterte has pledged to end military training exercises with the United States, break away from the close alliance with the United States, and rely more on China and Russia. He has even been taunting the CIA to try to oust him. For those already familiar with our checkered history of supporting dictators and even enemies of the United States, it will come as no surprise that (just as Duterte is pledging to support Russia and China and fighting the United States), our government just approved another $180 million in aid to someone widely viewed as blood-soaked, anti-American lunatic.
If you were still wondering what the thousands of dead and wounded U.S. soldiers (and billions in funds) lost in Afghanistan accomplished, your confusion is about to be exponentially increased. This week, our Afghan allies in the government pardoned one of the most ruthless terrorists in the world — a man who murdered Americans, supported throwing acid in the faces of girls and women, and stood out among the most blood-soaked terrorists in the world. He is now effectively the ally of the Afghan government and by extension the United States. The man is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the hated leader of the militant group, Hezb-i-Islami. He is better known by his popular and well-earned nickname: “The Butcher of Kabul.”
Like many Muslim countries, Turkey has a long and troubling history of child brides and arranged marriages. Some Islamic clerics have maintained that there can be no age limitation on child brides. They often note that Muhammad married Aisha when she was seven and consummated the marriage at nine years old.Just as Pakistan recently struck down its protection for girls from such abuse, the Turkish Constitutional Court annulled a provision that punishes all sexual acts against children under the age of 15 as “sexual abuse.” It is a major set back for girls and women in Turkey and another example of how the Islamic fundamentalists have taken over this once secular country under the authoritarian rule of our ally Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Below is my column in USA Today on Donald Trump’s statement that he thinks that American citizens should be tried at Guantanamo Bay with other “terrible people” accused of terrorism. I have previously criticized Hillary Clinton for her views on free speech and executive power. However, the suggestion that U.S. citizens could be sent for faux trials at Gitmo is truly chilling. Here is the column.
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Having seen recent events culminating with the failed coup to oust Turkish leader Erdogan and the onset of his Orwellian crackdown against the judiciary, academics and any others perceived to be a threat to his increasingly autocratic rule, the time has come for the United States and subsequently the NATO alliance to reconsider whether Turkey is stable enough to host a nuclear stockpile.
New Yorker Magazine, quoting Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, Incirlik Airbase holds about fifty B-61 thermonuclear bombs–more than twenty-five percent of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile. The dial-a-yield of these bombs can be adjusted from 0.3 kilotons to as many as one hundred seventy kilotons. For comparison, the yield of the Little Boy device that destroyed Hiroshima is estimated at fifteen kilotons.
During the coup attempt, the Turkish government closed Incirlik to all travel and cut off its power, forcing operations command to rely on back-up generators. The base’s commander was temporarily detained. The coup only hastened and to a much greater extent expanded the suppression of civil liberties and dissent.
The Erdogan government accuses dissident Fethullah Gulen, currently living in exile within the United States, of organizing the coup and warned the United States that it would be making a “great mistake” if extradition was not granted.
The dictatorial becoming of Mr. Ergodan should come as a strong worry especially when met with the inevitable backlash against his rule could pose a risk of proliferation if these weapons are not secured.