Between last week’s bombing in Manchester, the patriotic three-day weekend in the United States, comedian Kathy Griffin’s mock beheading of President Trump on Tuesday, and the president’s recent ‘covfefe’ tweet, the media and public have been busy.
Here are five ongoing stories that should have received the same feeding frenzy as covfefe and Kathy Griffin — but didn’t and probably won’t:
1. Human Rights Watch issues urgent warning over a new “Back the Blue” law in Congress — Last week, the human rights organization penned a letter to Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein condemning the pro-law enforcement legislation, which is currently making its way through both the House and Senate. Human Rights Watch (HRW) says H.R. 2437 and S.B. 1134 “[a]mend civil rights laws to severely limit private citizens’ ability to hold police accountable for their violations of the law.”
It also removes incentives for officers to refrain from abusive behavior against citizens. Additionally, it imposes mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of causing “bodily injury” to officers, “defined to include injuries as minimal as a cut, an abrasion, a bruise or even just the temporary feeling of physical pain.” The letter claims “The ‘Back the Blue Act,’ which purports to protect law enforcement officers from violence, does not propose any meaningful measures to advance this important goal of keeping officers safe. Instead, it would weaken police accountability and do serious damage to existing tools for the protection of civil rights.”
The bill is currently in a judiciary committee, and HRW concluded its letter by urging lawmakers to reject it. Considering the continued police violence that plagues the United States — officers have already claimed nearly 400 lives so far this year, with few facing appropriate ramifications for their violence — the legislation appears to be a step in the wrong direction. Read Human Rights Watch’s full statement here.
2. Suicide bombing kills 90, injured 400 in Afghanistan — A terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, believed to be one of the worst in the country’s history, is being drowned out by the media’s incessant focus on covfefe and a fake bloody head. Though Westerners fumed at the attack in Manchester last week, which killed 22, the attack in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation is failing to attract the same indignation and outrage. The Taliban (a terror group empowered by U.S. policy) is denying responsibility for the attack, making it possible the Islamic State (another terror group empowered by U.S. policy) may take credit in the next few days, the Independent reports. Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry says the death toll is expected to rise, which is nothing new for the country, which has been subject to the United States’ invasion and violence for sixteen years. In February, a U.S. airstrike killed 18 civilians in Afghanistan, and the American military has killed hundreds, if not thousands of innocents in Iraq and Syria in the last several months.
3. U.S. considers trillion-dollar military budget — Though the U.S. strategy of perpetual war has failed to quell terrorism or create stability in the Middle East, Antiwar.com reported this week that the Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal seeks to allocate over a trillion dollars toward military spending. As Antiwar.com notes, it is “particularly shocking just how money is disappearing not just into the general war-fighting budget, but into related costs of having such a massive military for so long.” Over $183 billion would go toward Veterans Affairs amid the ongoing crisis veterans face in the United States. Still, if the United States government stopped waging so many wars and creating so many veterans, that figure would not be necessary.
According to the Straus Military Reform Project, the discretionary base military budget would increase over $20 billion with the new proposal. They note that “The ‘base’ budget purportedly contains all routine, peacetime expenses; however, DOD and Congress have loaded tens of billions of such ‘base’ spending into the Overseas Contingency Operations fund for declared wartime expenses.” Further, Antiwar.com points out that while spending on the U.S. nuclear program would be increased by over $1 billion according to the budget, the cost of updating the entire arsenal will likely increase many times over as the policy is implemented.
4. The warfare state has come home to roost, according to documents detailing counterterrorism strategies used at Standing Rock — Over the holiday weekend, the Intercept reported that according to leaked documents, law enforcement worked with private defense contractor TigerSwan to impose counterterrorism tactics on protesters at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to the Intercept, they were hired by Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the project: “Internal TigerSwan communications describe the movement as ‘an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component’ and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters. One report, dated February 27, 2017, states that since the movement ‘generally followed the jihadist insurgency model while active, we can expect the individuals who fought for and supported it to follow a post-insurgency model after its collapse.’ Drawing comparisons with post-Soviet Afghanistan, the report warns, ‘While we can expect to see the continued spread of the anti-DAPL diaspora…aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements are now a proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies.’”
The vast majority of demonstrators at Standing Rock were peaceful, making it all the more concerning that a military-industrial profiteering company was deployed to silence free speech as militarized law enforcement used aggressive tactics to steamroll opposition — not to mention the fact that the pipeline has already sprung two leaks before even becoming operational.
5. Opposition to Trump’s $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia grows in Congress — Lawmakers like Rep. Justin Amash and Sen. Rand Paul have crafted legislation to nullify the president’s recent deal with the extremist Saudi regime, which received widespread coverage when Trump visited the Arab nation, sword-dancing with the monarchs and touching a glowing orb.
In an email sent out to constituents and followers Wednesday, Amash discussed the transfer of “tanks, ships, anti-aircraft missiles, and possibly precision-guided bombs,” which was sealed during the president’s trip to Saudi Arabia. Amash warned that “all those weapons are going to a questionable partner… in an unstable region… without so much as a debate.” Highlighting the fact that Saudi Arabia has inserted itself into a civil war in Yemen, attempting to prop up a leader previously ousted from power, he said “thousands of civilians, including more than a thousand children, have died in the conflict — some of them at the hands of the Saudi government, using American weapons.”
Citing extremism coming out of Saudi Arabia — indeed, the country spends billions exporting its radical Wahhabist ideology and has also funded ISIS — Amash asked for support for his bipartisan joint resolution, H.J. Res. 102, to halt the sale. Sen. Paul has also introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
Also deserving of honorable mention are the statements made in court on Tuesday by violent racist Jeremy Christian, who killed two Americans when they attempted to stop him from harassing two teenage girls, one African-American and one Muslim, in Oregon last week. Though that story received widespread coverage, Christian’s hyper-nationalistic statements have been somewhat drowned out by the Kathy Griffin-covfefe fervor. “Death to America’s enemies,” he said in the courtroom, also claiming, “Free speech or die, Portland. You got no safe place. This is America,” as he faced the judge, displaying no remorse for his murder of two men, including one Army veteran.
This extreme form of American “patriotism” is just one symptom of perpetual jingoism, militarism, and American exceptionalism, which are also represented in the five underreported stories highlighted in this list.