Sept 2, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 141

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: A vital ruling by the National Labor Relations Board; the European refugee crisis; Lebanon’s capital protests lack of trash collection. People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: August 30th, 2015.

Episode 141 (56 min):
AFD 141

Discussion Points:

– Workers’ rights: Major U.S. corporations will no longer be able to shield themselves on labor issues by subcontracting and franchisees will have to face unions.
– Refugees: Is the European Union doing enough to deal with the refugee crisis? Is the world prepared for mass climate refugee situations?
– Lebanon: The people rise up in Beirut as trash goes uncollected for weeks on end.

Related Links

– Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “NLRB ruling could be boost for contract and franchise employees”
The Guardian: “Syrians fleeing war find new route to Europe – via the Arctic Circle”
“Why Al Jazeera will not say Mediterranean ‘migrants'”
AFD: “Real world costs when the Left sells out immigrants”
AFD: Beirut’s Garbage Uprising
AFD: “Lebanon gov’t hastily builds concrete wall, then tears it down”


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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

Is Iran sending refugees to Syria as cannon fodder?

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.


The Daily Star (Lebanon) — “Iran enlists Afghan refugees as fighters”

But interviews with Afghan fighters and relatives of combatants killed in Syria point to a vigorous – and sometimes coerced – recruitment drive of Shiite Hazara refugees by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps propping up Assad’s floundering regime. […]
Haider, she said, was lured by the monthly salary of $700 – a tidy sum for a laborer with no combat experience – and the promise of an Iranian residency permit, an attractive inducement for refugees who otherwise live in constant fear of deportation. […]
Haider’s premonition came true – a few days after he left, an Iranian official informed his relatives, also refugees in Tehran, that he had been killed in battle.


Real-world costs when the Left sells out immigrants

I’ve recently written here about two different topics, which are now becoming closely related.

First, I looked at how Denmark’s Social Democrats, who headed the government until last month, took a much harder line on immigration — in an unsuccessful attempt to hold off the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party on the far-right — ahead of the June 2015 election.

Second, I also looked at a UN report on how the government of Eritrea — a huge source-country of asylum-seeking immigrants to Europe — literally enslaves and murders its own people to try to prevent them from leaving the country’s brutal conditions. It is illegal to exit the country without permission (rarely granted), and the government reacts very harshly to its citizens all across the world if they manage to make it out anyway.

Now the new Danish government, headed by the center-right Venstre Party and supported by the Danish People’s Party, has adopted an appalling new policy to send Eritrean asylum-seekers back to Eritrea. This decision was made on the basis, according to the BBC, of a (widely criticized) report commissioned last fall … under the Social Democrat-led government … claiming it was now safe to send back Eritreans. Skimming over the report (English version), it’s clear how thinly sourced and dubious many of the claims are. By most sound accounts, anyone sent back will be executed or tortured and sentenced to decades of hard labor.

By the report’s own admission (p. 16), as of “a few years ago,”

[…] returning evaders and deserters were routinely subjected to severe punishment including torture and detention under severe conditions over a prolonged period of time. It was further added that those refusing or failing to participate in National Service would risk to lose a number of his or her citizen’s rights and, in exceptional cases risk indefinite incarceration or loss of life. Returning evaders or deserters that were known for political oppositional activities abroad upon return to Eritrea were taken to underground cells at a prison outside of Asmara while they were under investigation.

There has been no change in leadership in Eritrea since then. At the moment, 5,000 people are fleeing the country each month to seek asylum, in spite of shoot-to-kill border control orders.

The report’s suggestion that “the government’s attitude […] seems to be more relaxed” these days is essentially ludicrous. But Denmark’s new policy toward asylum-seekers from Eritrea is premised upon that claim.

This is a real-world consequence of center-left politicians triangulating to be “tough on immigration.” The Danish Social Democrats conveniently managed to lose the election just in time to not get the blame for the policy change, ostensibly undertaken by the anti-immigrant center-right coalition and its parliamentary bloc. But they laid all the groundwork for it: not only failing to defend desperate asylum-seekers and defenseless refugees to voters during the election campaign (instead adopting much of the anti-immigrant talking points and propaganda from the opposition), but literally also writing the fraudulent report that will now get people killed. Denmark’s Social Democrats will have blood on their hands from their pandering to anti-immigrant sentiments.

I don’t expect better from the Conservative governments in Britain and Norway, which issued similarly roundly attacked reports on how “safe” Eritrea now is, based on vague promises by the Eritrean dictatorship to do things differently in future. I do demand better from center-left parties.

U.S. Democrats, take note: Don’t make the same mistake here. Don’t triangulate on this issue. Don’t turn your back on people in need. Don’t sell out immigrants coming to this country for a better life and freedom from want and fear.

Do the right thing.

Border fence politics comes to the EU (in Hungary)

The anti-liberal far-right reign of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán continues, once again defying all basic principles of the European Union his country joined in 2004 after a referendum with overwhelming voter approval.

“Hungary to erect fence on Serbian border” – Irish Times:

Hungary plans to build a security fence along its entire border with Serbia to halt the flow of illegal migrants, despite domestic and international criticism of its handling of the issue.

Officials say more than 53,000 people – mostly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans – have lodged asylum requests in Hungary this year, compared with 43,000 last year and 2,157 in 2012. Most file a request before moving west, however, and prime minister Viktor Orban has been accused of taking a harsh line against refugees to counter the rise in popularity of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party.

Mr Orban’s office said yesterday the government had ordered the interior ministry to “prepare for closure of the Hungarian-Serbian border by next Wednesday; this will be achieved by erecting a four-metre-high fence” along its 175km length.
Mr Orban’s government has also erected billboards around the country, with slogans such as “If you come to Hungary, you can’t take Hungarians’ jobs”.

Clever differentiation of his far-right party from the even further right Jobbik Party. He holds a huge majority while they are a minor presence. They’re essentially a stalking horse to justify his outrageous policies.

Fascist is as fascist does. Orbanism rising. 

Summary of developments in northern Iraq for August 9, 2014

The Obama Administration is apparently determined to prevent the fall of Erbil, Kurdistan Region’s capital, at all costs (or at the very least whatever it takes short of ground troops — though that might be on the table, too, as discussed below). It’s one of the advantages of being a longstanding protectorate and ally of the United States. The President ordered airstrikes on ISIS missile launchers and mortars as soon as Erbil came under long-range attack because most of the U.S. presence in Iraq (outside Baghdad itself) is located there and locals were already evacuating in a panic. The concern was that mass evacuation left Americans at the Erbil consulate and other sites even more vulnerable.

The U.S. military also asserts that the ISIS capture of Mosul Dam poses a risk to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, so I suspect it’s within the realm of possibility that we may see U.S. Special Forces land to re-take it very soon. Presumably this would be a very limited action to eject ISIS troops from the dam facilities and (one hopes) set up more secure defenses to help local paramilitaries and the Iraqi security forces hold it against future attacks. The destruction of this Tigris river dam, as attempted unsuccessfully by Saddam Hussein in 2003, would likely release quasi-apocalyptic flood conditions on the rest of Iraq to the south. That, however, would require ISIS to make the calculation that destroying the city of Mosul and much of their own territory in the process was worth the destructive power further south. It seems more probable they will use the dam, which is the country’s largest hydroelectric dam, to cut off water and power to the south. A 65-foot tall wall of water smashing through Mosul, the most important city in ISIS hands, seems a bit too Hollywood. Thus, it might not make much sense for the U.S. military to try to re-take the dam.

On the other northern front, Syrian Kurdish forces say they have broken out 10% of the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar, which is located near the Iraq-Syria border. They will be taken across into an anti-ISIS rebel-held area of Syrian Kurdistan.

The mountain, which is perhaps better described as a 25-mile-long and 10-mile-wide ridge, is a dozen or so miles from the Syrian border.

USGS Satellite Image of Mount Sinjar ridge. Dark, bent line in the upper left corner is the Syrian border.

USGS Satellite Image of Mount Sinjar ridge. Dark, bent line in the upper left corner is the Syrian border.

It’s a very distressing situation. Before any evacuations, 40-50,000 people were trapped on a mountain without food or water, completely surrounded by ISIS forces. The latter are reported slowly starting to move in and are snatching women and girls. U.S. and Kurdish relief aircraft are continuing to drop food, water, and other supplies on to the mountain — reportedly under enemy fire.

Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Region has had to absorb 200,000 internally displaced Iraqis since Monday alone. On top of that, tens of thousands of local residents started moving southward within the region on Thursday in an effort to evacuate before ISIS invades.

Kurds say US airstrikes have begun in Iraq tonight

In an effort likely aimed at rescuing 50,000 starving Yazidi Kurd civilians trapped by ISIS on Mount Sinjar, Kurdish commanders say the U.S. has started airstrikes tonight on ISIS positions, in coordination with Kurdish peshmerga troops. The mountain, which is a Yazidi holy site near the Syrian border, is outside the normal zone of control of the Kurdish Regional Government and is virtually surrounded by the forces of Islamic State (of Syria & Iraq), following the recent Kurdish retreats.

From the New York Times:

An announcement on Kurdish television of what was described as an American intervention prompted street celebrations and horn-honking by residents of towns under siege by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Anwar Haji Osman, deputy minister of the pesh merga, the Kurdish military force, said in the televised statement that his forces had been in contact with the Americans and that the bombings had been carried out by fighter jets.

Kurdish officials said the bombings had initially targeted ISIS fighters who had seized two towns, Gwer and Mahmour, near the main Kurdish city of Erbil. A top Iraqi official in Baghdad close to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said that the Americans had consulted with the Iraqi government Thursday night about starting the campaign, the government had agreed and the bombing had begun.


Location of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. (Credit: Urutseg on Wikimedia)

Location of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. (Credit: Urutseg on Wikimedia)

The Pentagon is denying the reports of U.S. airstrikes there — though the Obama Administration has confirmed plans to drop food and supplies for the refugees — and tried to shift credit on to the Turkish military or Iraqi Air Force. While Turkey’s foreign minister did announce a food drop via helicopter, the government has denied conducting any airstrikes.

And although Iraq’s airforce has indeed been conducting airstrikes, they have already proven themselves far too incompetent to be responsible for the precision strikes near Sinjar. Iraqi airstrikes didn’t even make it past day 1 without indiscriminately obliterating big clusters of people who weren’t the intended target because the air force lacks the training — and desire — to be more careful or conscientious about their target selection. Killing 50 prisoners from your own side, while trying to liberate them by way of airstrikes, is not a smooth move.

The likeliest scenario is that this is a United States humanitarian intervention air campaign to try to rescue the Yazidis, a shrinking minority sect who have faced full-blown extermination campaigns by various factions more than 70 times in history. (Update, 8/8/14: The United States confirmed Friday morning that they had initiated airstrikes against ISIS missile launchers that were threatening Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Regional Government. President Obama vowed to defend Erbil, a longtime U.S. ally city in northeastern Iraq, from any efforts by ISIS to move on it.)

In other news, the town of Qaraqosh also has fallen to ISIS and Christians are having to flee as the Kurdish Peshmerga troops fell back again. The town was one of the big centers of Iraq’s Christian populations. Earlier today, the UN claimed that the 50,000 trapped Yazidis were successfully and safely broken out, but US and most UK media outlets (following the lead of the US government) say they are still there. On another front, newly ISIS-aligned rebel forces in Syria struck at Lebanese military posts on the border, in retaliation for their failure to stop Hezbollah’s cross-border activities in support of the Syrian regime.

The world’s oldest refugee

Credit: The Globalist

Credit: The Globalist

Learn the story of Sabria Khalaf and how you can help:

She is a 107-year-old refugee of the Syrian civil war. She is quite likely the world’s oldest refugee. She now lives precariously in Greece. Sabria would like to be reunited with her family in Germany. This seemingly easy feat, however, is being frustrated by EU immigration policies. Please join us in urging Chancellor Angela Merkel to let Sabria into Germany.