From Afghanistan to Germany: The Life of a Refugee

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
March 1, 2017
www.globalnext.org

I have known Mr. Hami for several years – he was one of my students when I taught business and leadership courses in Afghanistan in 2014-2016. He didn’t finish his course of study – instead he opted for freedom and the life and status of a refugee in Europe.img_1782

Today I had an opportunity to catch up with Zakaraia Hami in Frankfurt, Germany – not far from where he lives as a refugee in government-provided housing. I wanted to hear his story and ask him what his life has been like, far from home, in a new place and square in the middle of the largest refugees crisis since World War II. Here is our conversation.

Please describe your journey from Afghanistan to Germany – the risks, expense, who knew and who helped you? 

I say I “decided” to leave – but the truth is, I was “forced” to leave on November 21, 2015. I was warned through rumors that I would be targeted by the Taliban for my work with Tolo News – a news organization that wasn’t particularly popular with the Taliban. And sure enough, in January of 2016, just 2 months after I left, our Tolo News employment transportation vehicle was attacked by the Taliban and six of my coworkers were killed and many more were wounded. Those friends and colleagues had stayed in Afghanistan. I was two months ahead towards a new and unknown world and hopefully heading towards my freedom and a reasonable se12312498_142595446104841_1218548067_nnse of safety.

From Kabul, I was taken to  Mashhad, Iran. The visa for Iran took 20 days to obtain and cost me $2000. From Iran – I headed to Turkey. I had no legal documents – but two Kurdish guides came and and took me and others by truck from Iran to the border of Turkey where we spent two more days on the Iranian side of the border.

Finally we crossed the border into Turkey and stayed two more days in a border town.  Then two new Kurdish smugglers got us tickets to Istanbul – by bus. It took 24 hours to get to Istanbul. When we arrived, we were kept for 8 days in an apartment – in a “hiding place.” The total cost to the smugglers was $18,000

After the 8 days in the hiding place in Istanbul, the smugglers decided to take us to Izmir in a wagon – with at least 40 of us packed into that wagon. It’s funny how many hours you can spend with people in incredibly small spaces, with no privacy, and with very little conversation. You all know what your goal is – but no one speaks of it. You all have your own dreams but you’re afraid to say them out loud.

From Izmir – (on the coast of Turkey) we made our own boat by ourselves and 60 of us set sail for the two-hour voyage to the Greek Islands. The seas were rough and then we realized we were going in the wrong direction. A fisherman spotted us and told us that we needed to head towards a different island. Our two-hour journey turned into four.

When we finally arrived in Greece, there were people who met us, who were 12334565_142604872770565_971146200_okind and welcoming. They called the UN and after 20 minutes, UN members came and took us to their base. We received an immigration paper from Greece – it was valid for 2 days and we were to go directly to Athens. (Another twelve hours on  a ship.)

From Athens, is was just one transfer after another. A bus from Athens to Macedonia, where we passed the night and then took another very old train to Serbia. Here we received another paper – a temporary permit – and boarded another bus to Croatia and then a train to Slovenia. Finally we took a train to Austria where the Austrian police took us to the Germany police where we got registered with the Germans and got a ticket to the train to Düsseldorf.

Now we were free to go anywhere. Until this time, the UN people/security were with us and we were not allowed to go anywhere else. Now in Düsseldorf, I was free, but didn’t know where to go. I  spoke to a Skype friend who told me to get a ticket to Frankfurt and then to Giessen where I registered as an asylum seeker. After one night, the government issued me an ID card, and I took the bus to Darmstadt – in state of Hesse. Here I was left in a Red Cross camp for 4 months where they did medical checks. Then they moved us to a school which was being used as a refugee camp. The Red Cross passed our documents to the State and the state gave us a bank ID and opened an account for us. Just recently we moved to a new shelter – I think it was a former US army base.

What was the reason for your decision to leave home?

First of all, I left because of the security threat – especially as it related to my job with the media. Secondly, I came to Germany because we had all heard that there were more opportunities for refugees here than other countries.

How did your family feel about you leaving Afghanistan? 

My family is very scared for me  – they had a horrible feeling that I might not make it. When I left, I told only my mother and one of my brothers. I told no one else I just suddenly disappeared.

What has Germany done for you and other refugees – what do they provide?

The Germany government has provided us with housing, food, medical care, and €130 per month. Recently we were moved to a new place and we now received €350 per month, but no food – we have to sort that out ourselves.

What’s the next step in the process? Could you be rejected and sent home?

I am just waiting for the result of my interviews. I  have no idea when I will hear about my case and what the result will be.  And I can’t work a regular job – I could work small task jobs, part time- like in a restaurant.  But that’s all.

Strangely,  the German government is not providing language courses for Afghan refugees. They do provide this for Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians and Nigerians but not for Afghans. I suppose that somehow they feel we Afghans are not a threat. But the integration courses and language training would be helpful.

What is the rational for your immigration? (Economic, political, religious minority?)

Primarily I left Afghanistan because of security concerns – so I am seeking political asylum.

What is your response to the chaos and violence Germany and other parts of Europe have endured because of the large influx of immigration? It is reported that there were 200,000 crimes committed by refugees last year – and that does not include the thousands of sexual assaults committed in Cologne. 
Then you have other attacks in Paris, Brussels, Germany, Turkey, Berlin and unrest in Sweden. Some say that Germany is in a dangerous state of denial about its immigration problem. What do you think? 

There are problems and there is danger. When I hear about all the rubbish that refugees are doing, I ask myself, “Why should we disrespect Germany who is trying to help us?” When I heard about these tragedies – and then saw the faces of those who had helped us – I felt horrible. I felt helpless – saying sorry would not be enough. Especially when some refugees are doing these things in the name of Islam.

I asked myself why Germany had open her borders without checking who these people were.

Somehow I understand the idea of Donald Trump – trying to slow immigration and check backgrounds from some countries. Nations should be more strict about where the people are coming from.

As I see more of this violence happening, I have started to resent the refugees – I even dislike being viewed as one of them. Wow, that statement is not going to make me popular with the refugee community! Trust me, it’s not all of them – or even most of them. But there is a problem. I see more refugees on the streets than Germans these days.

What is your future expectation for your life in Germany? Will you stay? Learn German? Become a part of German society? Will you consider yourself German?

I am learning German on my own (I mentioned that this isn’t being offered to Afghans). I go out with my German friends. I feel it’s important to become integrated into this society – to learn a profession, to get on-the-job-training or to enter a university. I want to make a life for myself here – or somewhere like here.

 What have you appreciated most about your new life? 

Enjoying freedom – the honesty of these people. And the volunteer aspect – people are so happy to help others – for nothing.

What do you want other immigrants to know and understand? 

It’s OK to know your own culture and to value your own culture – but you must now understand and respect the culture of the place where you are now living. Become part of it and contribute to your new society.

To Ban or Not to Ban: That is the Immigration Question

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
February 5, 2017
www.globalnext.org
I can’t think of a more controversial issue plaguing the U.S. news these days than Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban for seven countries deemed to be a potential threat to U.S. security. Protestors and pundits all have their opinions. A Federal judge has “undone” the ban and President Trump is trying to “redo” the ban.  Tomorrow (or later today), we’ll probably enjoy a new round of legal opinions about who gets to come into the U.S. and who gets to stay home. Here are some things think about regarding this issue:

The Roll Out of the Travel Ban:

The roll out was undeniably sloppy. There was a lack of communication, a lack of coordination and overall confusion. Authorities weren’t sure who was allow to come into the U.S. and who wasn’t. To be sure, those who held Green Cards, signifying permanent residence should not have been part of the ban at all. In addition, those who helped the US military in places like Iraq and Afghanistan should also have been granted entrance. But this is exactly what happens when you‘re implementing all of your presidential promises as quickly as possible – mistakes happen. To their credit, most of the confusion was cleared up within 24 hours.

Is This a Muslim Ban?

No. If the ban were a Muslims ban, then additional countries would have also been banned. As it stands, more than 85% of Muslims are not affected by the ban. The seven countries currently being banned (Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen) are a collection of failed states, countries that export terror, countries where individuals are impossible to vet properly or countries where terror organizations have a large stake in the country. In other words, places that pose a potentially serious threat to the safety of America.
If I were to make any argument against the ban, it would be that not enough countries are listed – where’s Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Pakistan?

Is the Threat from these Countries Real?

If you take the word of U.S. intelligence agencies, the threat is real. If you take the word of organizations like ISIS, who state that they will use the confusion surrounding the current refugee crisis to infiltrate Western countries, the threat is real.  And if you take the word of 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the threat is real. According to Dr. James Mitchell, a man who personally interrogated KSM, the terrorist predicted that the very openness and civil liberties of the West were “gifts from god” that would be used by terrorists to infiltrate Western countries and institute Shariah Law. Dr. Mitchell says that “political correctness allows them to operate in our midst without being challenged.” 

Is the Ban Unconstitutional? 

Some Federal judges would like to think so, but no, the ban is not unconstitutional. Past presidents have taken similar actions a number of times when foreign actors were considered to be a threat to America. According to immigration law expert from the Heritage Foundation,  Hans Van Spakovsky, there is no constitutional issue with this ban – not even a federal issue. Van Spokovsky says that Congress has given the U.S. President broad discretion when it comes to issues of immigration and keeping the U.S. safe. Van Spokovsky referred to the statute that Trump references in his executive order: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” 

Do Immigrants have Constitutional Rights? 

No foreigner has a constitutional right to come to the U.S. (Yes, once someone is in the U.S., they do enjoy some constitutional protections, but not a right to enter.) By the same token, I do not have the “right” to enter another nation without complying with that country’s entry requirements and following the limits of my visa. Two weeks ago I was detained in Baghdad for three hours because of a small mistake on my entry visa (made by the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C.) No one organized protests for me or offered me free legal services because of my situation. I had to sort it out through a combination of wit and charm – but I was not granted entry into another country because it was my “right.”

What About the U.S.’s Historic Role of Helping Refugees?

The United States is a unique place – there is no place like it on earth. We are not a perfect nation, but we are a generous nation and a nation that recognizes that freedom does not come from men or governments, but from God. But America works best when people come here who want to be “American.” Who want to assimilate into our culture, learn English and embrace our values of freedom and liberty. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are those who hate our way of life and would bring us harm if they had the opportunity. Just take a look at what’s happened in Germany, France, Belgium and Sweden – all due to their immigration and assimilation policies.
Compassion must be balanced with wisdom – and wisdom dictates that the world can be a very dangerous place – not a paralyzing place, but a place where caution should be employed. And if that caution involves a temporary ban on the entry of people from some regions of the world who cannot offer reasonable information and assurances as to who they are and their background, then wisdom, in the interest of protecting the actual citizens of the U.S. would say that it’s best to slow some things down and figure out a way to vet people from these difficult places and work closely with governments who are willing to work closely with us.
And if your compassion for others indicates that this is too slow a process, I invite you to join me – when I go to several of these “banned” countries and bring leadership and business training to students and young professionals and invest in their personal education and development. There are lots of ways of helping the world – not just immigration.

Before it Gets Dark

December 28, 2016
Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
www.globalnext.org

As 2016 comes to a close, it’s hard not to think back over all that has happened – with new events marking the final days of the year. 2016 has been peppered with contentious issues like the U.S. presidential election, China’s growing aggression in the South China Seas, the assassination of a Russian Ambassador by a Turkish policeman, the terrorist attack in Berlin on a Christmas market that claimed at least a dozen innocent lives (and wounded 48 others), the ongoing historic refugee crisis in Europe and the absolutely appalling situation in Aleppo, Syria where so many civilian men, women and children have been murdered by their government and others.
Yes, the world, at times, seemed very dark in 2016. Other recent years have had their own shades of darkness as well. As I glance back in my own rear-view mirror, I remember the places I’ve been and people I’ve spoken to.  Their stories echo in the chambers of my heart and mind:
  • Talking to graduate students in Kabul, Afghanistan who wondered if it was possible to be ethical and successful at the same time – while government corruption and suicide attacks had become a constant feature of life.
  • Interviewing Parisians after the unexpected and violent ISIS attack in November of 2015. It was like interviewing Zombies. People walked around as if they couldn’t quite get their minds around this level of personal attack. Their world had changed and no one had given them advanced notice. (Or they simply weren’t paying attention to global trends…)
  • Visiting with Syrian refugees in Egypt several years ago and watching videos of the results of chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians, LONG before President Obama’s “Red Line.” LONG before the media confirmed that chemical weapons were even being used.
  • Meeting with a newspaper editor and others in Benghazi (after the US Ambassador had been killed) who told me about the secret weapons program going on in Libya to provide weapons and ammunition to the Free Syrian Army/Rebels in Syria – God alone knows whose hands those weapons actually ended up in. The US wanted a “zero footprint” left in Syria – I wonder how history will judge how we looked the other way while so many have been slaughtered…
  • But one of my most memorable conversations was with Father Douglas Bazi, a priest in Irbil, Iraq who had done great work to help the Christian refugees who had been expelled from Mosul after ISIS took the city in 2014. He told me that eventually, as Christians continued to be killed and displaced in the Middle East, that all that would be left would be the forces of Syria’s Assad, ISIS and even wor866e4fa8c514a2621c425c155b402529.jpgse – the Shiite Militias of Iran. (Which we are seeing come true in Aleppo as Iranian forces are playing a major role in Syria now.) Father Douglas went on to say, Once those who have been sources of light are gone, there will be nothing left but darkness. So much darkness that no one will be able to recognize the other.” 
Darkness. It signifies the end of something, whether you’re speaking about the end of a day, the end of a life, or the end of a way of life. As we close out 2016, I continue to see some light – some pinholes of hope and opportunity. Moreover, I continue to feel passionately about seeing the world, taking young leaders to the world to help them understand it and I still feel committed to bringing truth and hope to a world that may have dimmed a bit, but has plenty of light left – enough light to see our responsibility to a world in need. John Muir’s quote takes on new and deeper meaning, “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” 

2016: The Rear-View Mirror Look

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
December 15, 2016
www.globalnext.org
It’s time once again to take a look back at the year known as 2016. For me, this year has gone by quickly. At times, I felt that the clock just needed to stop – that time should graciously give us a break and let us catch our collective breathes and just think for a moment.
But she doesn’t. She moves on – she refuses to slow down and wait. We are now 15 years past the historic events of 9/11. We’re 75 years past the catastrophic events of Pearl Harbor. War rages in Syria and Iraq. But time keeps moving. And because she does keep moving, it’s a worthwhile effort to stop and bear witness to some of the highlights of this past year. Here are my top five:  

unknown1.) Election of Donald Trump:

In a surprising victory, Donald Trump will become the next president of the United States. Hillary supporters and still drying their eyes and borrowing
emotional therapy animals to cope with this devastating loss. For me, I’ll just wait and see. What I know is that what’s been going on for the last 8 years has only produced an America that is poorer, has few jobs opportunities, a weaker military and a fatigued foreign policy reputation. All the while terrorism and an uncontrolled border have made our nation less safe.
So, I’m willing to see what will happen with a president who is putting together a cabinet of highly successful businessmen and well-respected Generals. I’m all for smaller government, fewer regulations, more freedom and a government that understand that individual rights comes from God, not from government.
But you’ve got to admit – it was a crazy, nail-biter of a campaign season – revelation after revelation, scandal after scandal, WikiLeak dumps, lost emails, private email servers, the Russians? (Well, we’ll see…) And then the landslide electoral vote victory for Trump, in defiance of all the polls. Hmmmm, what an unpredictable world.

2.) Brexit:

Well, finally. I didn’t know how much more the UK was going to be able to take.FT_Brexit_01 They had always had one foot sort of out the door with their refusal to adopt the Euro as their currency. But now, finally they have voted to depart from the European Union and regain their autonomy over so many things – not the least of which is their trade, immigration, jobs and their way of life. Good for you, England. (Oh, and watch out, the rest of Europe – because it’s not looking so good for some of you. And Angela Merkel – banning the full burqa now is just a little bit too late, don’t you think?)

3.) ISIS:

For a terrorist organization that wasn’t even on President Obama’s intelligence radar, they sure have continued to make a name for themselves and shatter lives and towns along the way. The end of 2016 showed some effort to reclaim contrisisol of the city of Mosul from ISIS. The battle has lasted far longer than necessary and when the city is liberated, one will have to count the cost in human lives. According to CNN, 2000 Iraqi troops have been killed while engaging ISIS in battle in the month of November. Of course the Iraqi government denies these numbers – and actually, reporting the numbers (if they are accurate) would only encourage ISIS to fight harder.
The eventual outcome will be the liberation of Mosul from ISIS control, but one will also have to recognize that ousting ISIS from Mosul does not eliminate their ideology. They are not done yet. According to Frontline, the black flag of ISIS flies in 16 countries with 40 groups.

4.) Syria:

In connection with ISIS, we’ve seen a year where you couldn’t imagine things getting worse in Syria – but they did. Who’s not currently involved in this country? The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, the Kurds and others are all there. As confusing as it may appear, Syria’s war is a warResidents look for survivors at a damaged site after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo for regional dominance and power. It’s President Assad vs. his country. It’s Iran vs. Saudi Arabia. It’s Sunni vs. Shiite. It’s the US/NATO vs. Russia. It’s the Kurds vs. continuing to be denied autonomy. (And at times Turkey vs. the Kurds). At stake is regional influence as well as energy deals, naval interests, religious contentions and the growth of terror groups.
What is tragically clear is that about 500,000 Syrians have been killed throughout this conflict. According to the UN, about 11 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes (including the 4.8 million who have fled to neighboring countries for safety.) The city of Aleppo remains one of the more poignant places and images of a country that has decided that its citizens no longer matter. The big winners: Russia, Iran and Assad. The losers: Humanity.

5.) Death of Fidel Castro:

At the age of 90, Fidel Castro, revolutionary and former leader of Cuba, died. And world leaders have had a variety of reactions. Some of the Cuban people viewed him as a father. He was hailed as a great leader by people like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Oh, and by Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
unknown-1But maybe those folks are overlooking the fact that Castro is responsible for stripping away many civil liberties and executing tens of thousands of Cubans. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who fled Cuba as a young girl, says that some in the world want to romanticize Castro’s legacy and in the process, whitewash all of his crimes as if he was some folk hero. Here is how Ros-Lehtinen described Castro when she spoke on the House Floor:
“I have repeatedly come down to this very podium to call my colleagues’ attention to the threat that Fidel Castro and his regime pose to the U.S. and our national security. This thug, Fidel Castro, who attempted to infiltrate every level of our government through its intelligence services – like convicted Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes;
This despot, who allied himself with our greatest threats like Iran and Russia, and allowed Russia to put up a facility in Cuba in order to spy on our nation. This autocrat who told the Iranian Ayatollah that both Iran and Cuba would bring the U.S. to its knees and who tried to bring the world to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. …Mr. Speaker,  (this) Fidel Castro is dead and Cuba and the world are better for it.”
Sure, Castro provided free education and healthcare. But what good is knowledge and good health if you don’t have the freedom to think and express and say what is important to you? What good are these things if you are not free to live out God’s plan for your life?
As we look back at just these five events that shaped the past year, each person must take a minute to reflect and put these (and other) events into the context of their lives and their own personal stories. And once you’ve done that, you’ve got to ask questions about your own life, your own story and what you can do to make a difference in this world. For me, my 2017 starts by bringing context, truth and leadership principles in places like Poland, Iraq, India and more. Where will your 2017 take you?

Hillary, Huma and Weiner: The Most Bizarre U.S. Election Ever

Phil Johnson, Ph.D
www.globalnext.org
October 31, 2016

On Friday, October 28th, FBI director James Comey, sent a letter to members of Congress alerting them that the FBI was going to reopen the investigation on Hillary Clinton’s emails and the private server she maintained at her home while serving as Secretary of State – an investigation that the FBI had closed down this past summer. And a decision that garnered Comey much criticism from conservatives and others for simply reprimanding Hillary for “extreme carelessness” rather than convening a grand jury and possibly indicting the presidential candidate for putting national security at risk.
In what has been one of the ugliest, craziest, most scandal-ridden, media-biased, dishonest and corrupt elections in U.S. history, things just got more interesting. And the decision of FBI director Comey to make his recent statements wasn’t based on all the WikiLeaks revelations (disturbing as those are). The new information came through the FBI’s continuing investigation of disgraced former New York Congressman, Anthony Wiener. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly sexting an underaged girl. Mr. Wiener is also married to (though currently separated from) Hillary Clinton’s closest friend and aide, Huma Abedin.  According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the FBI has found 650,000 emails on a laptop that was shared by former congressman Weiner and current Clinton aide Huma Abedin. As the WSJ states, “thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was Secretary of State, according to people familiar with the matter.”
No one knows at the moment exactly what the FBI has found, but it’s a fair guess that the FBI’s director would not make this announcement so close to a very divisive election unless it was something big – something significant – something that couldn’t wait until after the election. Here are a few interesting things to consider about this whole unexpected and bizarre surprise as Hillary, Huma and Weiner are all intrinsically tied together.
1. Huma Abedin, Hillary’s closest aide and friend is a practicing Muslim whose family has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. How close those ties are depends on which media sources you trust. And as the Media is irreparably flawed, I encourage you to read various viewpoints and reports on this matter and make your own judgement.  Here are a few articles: Here (1) Here (2) and Here (3).
2. Huma, raised in Saudi Arabia (though born in the US), was the former assistant editor of a journal called the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs – a publication that was founded by her father. (Huma’s mother took over the journal when her father died and her brother is also an editor for the journal.) The publication has been described as: “a radical Muslim publication that opposed women’s rights and blamed the U.S. for 9/11.”  Source (1) Source (2)
3. Huma Abedin married Anthony Weiner, the Jewish congressman (former) who is very pro-Israel and who tried to bar entry of the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations. Weiner added that the delegation “should start packing their little Palestinian terrorist bags.” How exactly did Huma’s family allow this or accept this marriage? Islam forbids Muslim women from marrying any man who is not Muslim. (Though Islam does allow Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women, usually Christians or Jews.) Huma and her family are all practicing Muslims – so how exactly did this marriage happen and why? The cynical view is that the technique of Muruna was used. Look it up. 
4. Think about the national security vulnerabilities that have been created as a result of Hillary Clinton’s choices to follow her own rules and desires while supposedly serving the nation as Secretary of State. Not only did the FBI confirm that classified documents were received and sent by Clinton on an unsecured server, but you have to wonder which foreign governments have those documents and emails now.
5. If Hillary is elected president (and at the moment, polls indicate that this is still a possibility) – her first months as president-elect will be completely consumed by the FBI’s continued investigation and constant media coverage. And what if this all ends up with an indictment and possible conviction against the newly-elected U.S. president? What if significant national security matters have already be compromised?
6. Things in our world are edging towards a boiling point. While US media coverage is almost completely focused on the upcoming election and all the related scandals, Russia is flexing its geopolitical muscle, the Russian people are mentally preparing for what they’ve been told will be an eventual US nuclear attack. Syria is being destroyed before our eyes. The battle for ISIS-occupied Mosul in Iraq rages as ISIS executes hundreds of Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile thousands of Iranian-backed Shia Militia members are joining the fray in Iraq. And our ally, Turkey, is becoming less and less cooperative.
So with little more than a week to go before a new U.S. president is elected, things are more interesting and more troubling than ever. Expect lots of political spin, maybe a few more surprises and eventually a president will be elected –  either one who has no experience and serious impulse-control issues or one who might be a criminal and on her way to jail.

Presidential Campaigns, Controversy and Leadership

by Dr. Phil Johnson
October 9, 2016
So, just a month before the U.S. presidential election, we’ve more controversies and scandals than ever. The obviously biased media is full of commentary.  Some members of the Republican party have now withdrawn their support of Donald Trump. (They will regret this later.) Things are as chaotic as a presidential election could get. And there are probably more “surprises” to come.
It’s a strange state of elections in the U.S. – and many Americans don’t want either of the choices with which they are being presented.
Donald Trump is painted as racist, bigoted, anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, arrogant, filterless, and he has said indefensible things about women (and others).
Hillary Clinton is a career politician who is perceived as a pathological liar, has admitted to saying one thing to certain groups (Wall Street folk with money and donations) and different things to the rest of the pubic. Transcripts of her speeches reveal that she wants open borders and free trade. She kept her government computer server in her basement (while serving as Secretary of State) allowing classified documents to be hacked by foreign governments. And she has lied about it repeatedly. REPEATEDLY. She has also never given a credible defense for what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 when four Americans were murdered by terrorists, including a sitting U.S. Ambassador.
Here are some things to think about when making your decision to vote:
1.) If you want Hillary Clinton, you have to accept a more progressive America, different views and standards on immigration, liberal judges appointed to the Supreme Court and free trade.  You’ll have to acknowledge that no matter what she says about protecting the middle class, she’s gotten rich through the Clinton Foundation by taking money from an interesting array of foreign governments.  You have to remember her treatment of women during the affairs her husband had before, during and after his time in the White House. There are even accusations of rape from Bill Clinton and the bullying of these women by Hillary. You will also have to accept that nothing that comes out of her mouth will be the truth. I’m not sure she even recognizes the truth. But the mainstream Media want her. Barak Obama wants to protect his legacy (which Trump would dismantle) and Hillary will do anything  to win this election.
2.) If you want Donald Trump, you have to understand that he is not and has not been a career politician. There are probably all kinds of unacceptable comments he has said in his 70 years. He is unfiltered – for good and bad. He has made fortunes, and lost fortunes and remade fortunes – and has taken legal advantage of tax laws. He is strong on the issue of illegal immigration. He has proposed a list of conservative Supreme Court justices from which he would choose to place on the highest court in our country. He has promised to bring jobs back to the US, to negotiate better trade deals and take care of the U.S. military and veterans. He has said he would deal with the Iran deal and ISIS  and do something about the awful results of Obamacare. You will also get someone who is not controlled by the big money of businesses and lobbying groups. And also someone who will not always control what he says – but who is smart enough to surround himself with smart people.
3.) If you’re looking for the next leader of the free world to be flawless, you’re not going to find it in either candidate. If you feel that your vote MUST go to a person of character, sorry – but you don’t have that choice this time around.
4.) But you’ve probably never had that choice when it comes to politics. Just look through history and you will find sexual infidelity, drug use, womanizing, lying, behind-the-scenes deals, betrayal, manipulation and deceiving the American public. It’s politics –  what exactly did you expect? We’re not naming the “Pastor or Priest” of the year.
5.) Yes, you can sit around and pontificate on the weaknesses and flaws of each candidate. You can rouse your indignant anger and declare that “on moral grounds” that you will “sit out” this vote or vote for a third-party candidate. You can do whatever you’d like to do (God bless America). So sit around and make yourself feel quite virtuous in your public distancing from either or both candidates.
6.) But I will leave you with this thought – we’re living in a post-Christian America where few of our “leaders” adhere to traditional Christian, godly values. (Even some of the ones who say they do – don’t really.) What am I most interested in? Smaller government, safer borders, and most of all, whoever will protect my freedom of speech. So, stop agonizing over the the flaws of each candidate – they’re not new, and most people are thanking God that their private conversations are not aired on TV.  Now it’s time to decide what kind of America you want for the future and get back to the primary issues. We’ve got two less-than-desirable candidates – but they are distinctly different in their view of America’s future and what they pledge to do. (And you’re going to get one or the other – whether you vote or not, whether you vote for  a third-part candidate or not.)
7.) And in the meantime – let’s take advantage of what freedoms we have left and let’s use that freedom to teach real leadership skills, develop people of character and attempt to impact our culture from the ground up – while we still can.

The Power of Your Story

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Globalnext spends a lot time chasing stories around the world – and we try to bring that information back to our conference participants and get them to start chasing stories too – and to live out the stories that God has given them to live out.

And we’ve certainly come across our fair share of stories from events in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, The U.S., Afghanistan, China, Iraq and  all throughout Europe.

When you stop for just a moment, and let all of the dust settle, you sometimes see where these stories have ended up – especially in the lives of those whom we have trained through our leadership and geopolitical programs.

Once the frustrations of travel, the concerns of global uncertainty, the personal disappointments in people and all the general efforts of travel have faded – you sometimes get a glimpse of lives that have been changed as a result. And those glimpses sometimes make the hair on your arms stand up.

Our new website: www.globalafter.org is a glimpse into some of the stories of some of the more than 9000 students we’ve worked with. It’s encouraging to see people moving on in life, with just a bit more courage, insight and purpose. Some have changed the way they see the world, the way they see people, gained the courage to escape repressive countries, continued their education, invested in causes that matter and changed the way they understand and live out their faith. If you care about people, the world and the story of your life – you’ll like this site.

If you’ve traveled with Globalnext in the past and have a story – please sent it to us (in under 200 words) along with a picture and we might include it on our site! Send it to info@globalnext.org

Here’s to people who choose to live big! Those wonderful choice-making, victim-resisting, big-living people who are destined to change the world. Thank God for them… You’re our heroes for bothering to engage the world and involve your lives in something bigger than yourselves.

 

 

 

 

A “Son of Raqqah” Shares: From the Heart of ISIS

September 8, 2016
Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
Global Next, LLC
www.globalnext.org

For a number of years I have have known and worked with a man who calls Al-Raqqah, Syria his home. Yes, the place of the headquarters of ISIS. This “son of Raqqah” is a man with whom I am well-acquainted and in turn is well-acquainted with the leadership, ideology and the Islamist terror organization de jour – ISIS. Or simply the Islamic State.

Two days ago, after sorting his way through Syrian and Lebanese checkpoints, he and I sat down in Beirut, Lebanon to talk global issues. As usual, in these types of pieces, I will keep my opinions and thoughts to myself and let the expert share his thoughts, insights and specialized knowledge. You are free to draw your own conclusions – and argue with his conclusions. But he is in the fray – not sitting on the edges of suburbia.

Since declaring its Caliphate in June 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has conducted or inspired nearly 75 terrorist attacks in 20 countries outside Iraq and Syria, where its carnage has taken a much deadlier toll. (More than 18,000 inside ISIS territory.) The attacks outside Iraq and Syria have killed at least 1,280 people and injured more than 1,770 others.

Following are the things the “son of Raqqah”and I spoke about: (His name is withheld for security purposes, both his and mine.)

  1. What’s the current strength and state of ISIS

“Until now they are still strong – strong enough to keep 1/3 of Syria and Iraq as their Caliphate State. ISIS maintains between 19,000 and 25,000 fighters. (And that’s after “10,000 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.)  But it is harder for foreign fighters to get into Syria, so they are being directed to Libya and other growing strongholds of ISIS around the world.

“ISIS has a strong, accurate financial system to operate their Caliphate centered in Raqqah. They are bringing in at least $1 million per day from taxes, oil, selling electricity, donations and other things.

“The success that the US-led coalition strikes have had revolve around the success they’ve enjoyed in what is called the “third ring” – the outer ring area held by ISIS, mostly, tribesman. ISIS has lost some of the sides or edges of the Caliphate border – but not their central strength or their ability to continue to hold land and carry out brutal attacks.

“And one must understand that now days, if ISIS pulls out of a city, it means nothing. They learned their lesson from Kobanî where ISIS lost 600 members with at least the same number wounded. Now, when ISIS feels big pressure from the coalition forces, they simply pull back and save their people and equipment and maintain their strength and prepared to retake that town when it is convenient for them. Trust me, what the West thinks is a victory is not.

“And just putting ISIS aside for a moment – you still have to wrestle with the fact that chemical weapons are being used by Syrian President, Assad on a daily basis. Nearly half a million people have been killed in Syria by Assad’s regime.”

2. This topic has been raised by almost everyone – and the response seems to remain the same in the mainstream progressive media and from the mouths of many moderate Muslims I’ve asked: Is Islam a religion of peace? Sitting in the heart of extremists, can you tell me that ISIS and organizations similar to them are perverting Islam and are not representing true Islam? 

“Not so,” says my source who emphatically states that, “ISIS is applying the Koran accurately. I grew up as a Muslim – I studied the Koran – I know what it says and I know what it commands. What ISIS is doing is coming directly from the Koran. They are not perverting it – they are living it as authentically as it was written. Anyone who says otherwise has either not read the Koran, read a sanitized version of the Koran or they are embracing the verses on peace and purposefully ignoring the calls to actively participate in violent jihad and pursue global Islamic domination.

“And you don’t even have to speak about ISIS to be concerned about the extremeness of Islam – just factor in Saudi, Pakistan and Iran, al-Qaeda and the Taliban to mention a few.

3.  What do you say to the idea that the US or Russia or Turkey is behind  ISIS?

“There are many questions about how all of this is being handled – and actions from these military powers that is hard to explain. For example – when ISIS took Raqqah in early 2014, the Syrian regime didn’t attack any ISIS headquarters – they only bombed civilian targets. They left the headquarters of ISIS completely alone.

“When Russia got involved last year in September of 2015, they did not bomb ISIS headquarters at all. They attacked only nine civilian positions and one was an empty ISIS position – an abandoned training camp.

“The motive behind all these strange moves seems to be that Assad wants ISIS to be as radical as possible – to convince the world that the Syrian regime has nothing but radicals to fight (in other words, Syria is not battling noble Free Syrian Rebels – they are battling only the horrendous ISIS monsters).  Without ISIS, you can’t create this narrative – the story that President Assad heads a legitimate regime simply protecting itself against terrorists.

“Meanwhile, President Assad has jailed intellectuals, educators, resistance members, journalists and others while  setting free radicals, including many of the leaders of ISIS and al-Qaeda. If you don’t have an enemy to play its roll, you create one.”

4. Where does ISIS continue to get its funding? 

“In addition to their oil revenue, tax revenue and the selling of electricity, ISIS is funded through no fewer than 40 countries. With our ties to the international banking system, why have we not moved to freeze all of these assets? This is another pressing question that doesn’t seems to be easily answered. This would be one of the easier ways to strangle the operations of ISIS – if that was the goal. But nothing significant is done.”

5. Why hasn’t the US and its coalition partners gotten rid of ISIS sooner and more quickly?

“Perhaps the most striking evidence of ISIS’s covert pedigree was the way the organization engaged in a massive covert operation to infiltrate cities and take them over, long before their soldiers arrived. In Mosul, Iraq, ISIS thugs entered the city days before the main forces arrived. They shook down businesses, took inventory of what was there, and made threats. They used fear and intimidation to seize power even before their troops arrived. Why did the Iraqi (Shiite) army flee leaving behind US weapons and allow ISIS to take over Mosul and other places? Why were they free to do this? Why was no resistance applied? The US has never left usable vehicles and weapons that could possibly be used for other militaries -even in friendly countries.

“In short, I would call the motivation of the U.S. “Constructive Chaos.” Its purpose is to maintain involvement and power through creating and allowing chaos to fester. A crisis provides the perfect pretext to remain involved. Sometimes, however, the little monster you set loose to cause a little trouble ends up growing bigger than you anticipated – and showing up in places it had not been invited.”

6. What do you think of Obama’s historic deal with Iran? 

“Obama’s deal with Iran was a huge mistake. No one should be fooled, Iran will achieve nuclear capability faster than anyone imagines – as well as other advanced ballistic weapons. And you can be sure that Saudi Arabia has already purchased nuclear weapons from another country.

“The Iran deal was tragic in many ways – It was a massive error to squeeze the Sunni Islamic power by giving free reign to Iran, (Shiite Muslims) to work freely in Iraq, Syria Yemen, Bahrain,and Lebanon.  If you truly want to finish ISIS quickly, it would require giving respect to the Sunnis – I mean, by giving them their legitimate representative rights – not all the power, just their representative power – and they would be motivated to fight ISIS and eliminate them.

“There remain other unanswered questions regarding this whole scenario – that lead people to wonder what and who is in charge and what is the ultimate game plan. You have strange bed-fellows everywhere. Why are al-Qaeda leaders living in Iran? Why has ISIS never attacked Iran? Why did Iran allow Russia to use military bases in Iran to launch operations? (Even when their Constitution, Article 56 prohibits this.)”

7. What comes after ISIS

“Just more groups with the same ideology – the ideology of global Islamic domination. After ISIS it will just be more of the same. More than likely the dominant group will be the Shiite Militias from Iran.  I hear more and more talk about a “Sunni Nation” – as a response to Iran’s model of a “Shiite Nation.” The conflict will worsen.

“Within two years, you can expect all of the former southern Soviet states to be controlled by ISIS or whatever the next version of ISIS is.

“And you also have to consider Chinese involvement. Last month, China, for the first time in five years, sent a delegation to Syria to ask them how they can help them. China wants to train Syrian officers – why? And they want to send weapons to Syria. There are about 20 million Chinese Muslims living in Western China who speak Turkish. They are supported by the Turks and are often recruited by the Turks to fight in Syria. And some fight on either the ISIS side or the side of the Muslim front. It’s all very confusing with many players, many motives and many, many interest.”

8. Do you have any thoughts on the the U.S. and our upcoming elections? 

“When I was young, I supported Barak Obama – in fact I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal expressing my support. But I was wrong;  he has done nothing useful for Muslims or Arabs. Maybe he did not begin any new wars, but he enflamed the world by allowing the conditions of the Arab nations to be able to keep and expand war.

“Obama changed the world by his weakness – by his “Do Nothing” policy that has made countries like Iran, Russia and China stronger. If the next president of the U.S. is similar to Obama – there will be no defeat of ISIS because Iran will be stronger and the Sunni Muslims will be marginalized and will not bother themselves to fight ISIS.

Regarding Donald Trump, “I understand why Trumps says what he says – some people may not find it popular or may find it offense or anti-Islamic. But because I live here in Syria, I know the danger he is speaking about and it is real. The US needs to get more involved in solving this problem because the flame is coming to the US and Europe very soon. (And ISIS is opening offices in many other places.)  The flame has already started – ISIS cells are already in Europe and the US. The US should support the anti-ISIS Sunnis rather than the Shiites.

While I’m not sure if it will happen, if Donald Trump wins, he will adopt hardline policies against Iran and Russia and dictatorial regimes – it will strengthen the US and if the Sunnies are given their position, their rightful representation in Iraq and Syria – then ISIS will be gone. And Saudi will foot the bill and Syrian Sunnis can fight ISIS because they know how to deal with them.

“What does the future hold? The goal of groups like ISIS is global Islamic domination.  Not everyone may be thinking of this at the moment. And as I have said, there are many Muslims who do not desire this. They desire peace. But violent jihad is the ultimate goal and duty of anyone who is adhering to what the Koran says – it’s the undying ideology that will simply be replaced by a similar ideology  with that comes next. Most likely the Shiite Militias from Iran.”

 

The U.S. Does NOT Pay Ransom for Hostages – Until They Do

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
August 5, 2016

Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee of the Wall Street Journal broke news on August 3rd that the US secretly sent an unmarked cargo plane to Iran in the dead of night loaded with 400 million dollars in various currencies (Euros, Swiss Francs and other currencies) as a payment to the Iranian government. At the exact same time, four Americans who had been held prisoner in Iran were released.

It looks an awful lot like a ransom payment – which the US does NOT do.  Or does it? (I can’t help but think of the trade of Sergeant Bergdahl for five top Taliban leaders…) Given the fact that the American hostages were ready to fly out of Iran but were held up until the “other plane” (the one with the money) arrived, only furthers the impression that this was a classic ransom payment.

The US Administration claims that this was no ransom payment at all, but simply a refund of money that the Shah of Iran had paid the US back in 1979 for weapons, and that the deal fell through when the Ayatollah and radical Islamists took over and turned Iran into the Islamic Republic of Iran and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. President Obama and his spokesmen insist that the “refund” was completely separate from the deal to release these four hostages.

You can find plenty of interviews and articles on both sides of this story. Hillary Clinton says, “this is old news…” (In other words, “what differences does it make.”) The defenders of Obama’s administration will tell you we owed the Iranians this money anyway and that since we were finishing the “legacy” Iranian nuclear deal and getting the American hostages back that this would be just as good a time as any to settle up this 37-year-old debt from the time of the Shah of Iran.

You can come to your own conclusions – but here are a few things to think about:

Why was the money sent in an unmarked cargo plane in the middle of the night?

Why were the hostages told that they could not be released until the money arrived?

Why was the money sent in cash? (The President’s Administration says that it’s illegal to send U.S. dollars and that we don’t have a banking relationship with Iran because of the sanctions, but somehow, I feel that a wire transfer could have been managed – or a series of wire transfers from one country to another. In that way, the money could be traced to some degree – as far as how it was used.) But cash cannot be traced. And there is little doubt in my mind that Iran will use some of that money to continue sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing the region. (Which, if I were cynical, I would say that the US Administration is now complicit with providing material funding to a known state sponsor of terrorism – something any of the rest of us would go to jail for.)

Iranian officials view the money as a paid ransom. Since the payment of this ransom, 2 more Iranian-Americans have been arrested in Iran as well as dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K. It doesn’t matter if Obama and Secretary of State Kerry don’t believe this was a ransom payment – the Iranians do – and that’s what they’re saying and telling the world. Not only does this make our president look weak, this endangers other from the West by encouraging kidnapping as beneficial. The price of an American hostage has just been negotiated – it’s 100 million dollars per head.

The Wall Street Journal officials say U.S. officials acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible. I believe that’s called “paying a ransom.”

The President’s spokesperson claims that the American public was told about this back in January when the prisoners were released, but the Journal reported that President Obama did not disclose the $400 million cash payment when he announced January 17th that the arms deal dispute had been resolved.

It appears that the Obama administration wanted this deal with Iran so badly that they were willing to do almost anything to get it accomplished – which means that the Iranians were completely in charge of many of the terms of the negotiations and outcomes.

As Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author and professor at the Marine Corps University, pointed out recently that $43.5 billion is owed by Iran to U.S. victims of Iranian attacks including (among others) the attacks in 1983 on the US Marine barracks in Beirut.  So what exactly was our obligation to return this $400 million in the first place? As Dr. Gorka pointed out – if the Weimar German Republic had attempted to buy weapons from us and the deal fell through because of the rise of Hitler as the new leader of Germany, would we have returned $400 million to Hitler? The answer is obvious – because we know exactly how he would have used that money. How desperately did Obama want/need this deal with Iran?

Now that the controversial Iranian deal has been in effect for a year – in all honestly, one has to say that it has been effective in the short run – meaning: Iran has not developed a nuclear weapon. By and large they have met their obligations. But the Iranian economy is not booming back quickly, the lifting of sanctions and international business investment is moving more slowly than Iran had hoped. Hardliners in the Iranian government never liked the nuclear deal to begin with. And I haven’t even addressed the issue of Iran and North Korea’s collaborations or the ever-cozying relationship Iran has with Russia. Iran is not our friend. Iran is continuing its efforts in terrorism and it is far too early to call this deal successful.

In short, Iran will do whatever is in its best interest, our government has just paid ransom for hostages, Iran is using that information to embarrass our leaders.  Our elected officials have lied to us and I don’t think any reasonable person believes Iran will hold to this nuclear deal and restrain themselves from becoming a nuclear nation for 10-15 years. According to some, there is a side deal that would allow Iran to accelerate their nuclear efforts after Obama leaves office. My personal belief is that this story is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s going on regarding U.S. foreign policy, the destabilization of the Middle East, the ideology of the U.S.’s current administration and the desires of nations like Iran, Syria and Russia. Keep your eyes open – I have a feeling the rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper…

New Season Begins for GlobalNext!

August 2, 2016

The hot, slow days of July have gone by and August is upon us.  With that, things for the Globalnexter begin to step into high gear.  For those who are following our work, our ideas and our global impact – here are some upcoming highlights. We hope you’ll be able to join us, participate with us or at least pray for us as we start the new season! Here’s what’s coming:

August 2: ACSI Summer Clinic – Hope Center, Plano, Texas

This event with teachers in the Dallas area will cover six hours of training about students’ personalities, classic lessons of leadership, how quickly cultural change is occurring and a session called “Turning Points” – a collection of meaningful historical events from World War 1 to today’s current presidential election, ISIS, Iran and beyond. I promise – it will be fascinating. Some of those highlights will involve “how to make a choice in the upcoming Presidential election,” “Who’s likely to be the next country to follow the UK in leaving the EU?” and “What do people around the world really think about Donald Trump’s views on immigration” – we’ll show you the data we’ve personally collected from Afghanistan and Iraq.

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One of my most valuable leadership lessons: 

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September 1: “Who Me? An Entrepreneur?” Alexandria, Egypt

A conference for young budding business hopefuls. We’ll spend the day talking about what it takes to take an idea and turn it into  business! We will untangle the difference between, purpose, vision and mission – how to narrow your idea down to the “one thing” and a host of other things!

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September 2: “Wired for Brilliance: Understanding Emotional Intelligence” Alexandria, Egypt

A conference that will help with all your relationships – from first impressions, listening skills and reading body language. Interacting intelligently with others is often the difference between who becomes successful and who does not!

Wired_For_Brilliance_3D_Book2_6X9September 3: “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Cairo, Egypt

An old favorite – helping to understand the personalities of those around us! Pit Bulls, Beagles, Golden Retrievers and Dalmatians. Same favorite course – but with a few brand new insights to share!

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September 4-6 – Research in Beirut, Lebanon

Can’t say much about it now, but I promise the info will be fascinating as I meet with my contacts about ISIS and al Nusra Front and the coming problems with Iran’s Shi’a Militias. Stay tuned!

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September 7-14 – Conference Series in Iraq

A series of events including leadership training, interpersonal relationship training, communication skills training and a few interviews at the front lines near Mosul to see what progress the US-led coalition is (or isn’t) making in defeating ISIS. The problems in Iraq are great – the need to encourage young leaders is even greater.

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September 17-23: “Jump Your Shadow” Oxford, UK

An accelerated study-abroad conference for American students on the topic of “how to live big.” We all have choices on how we live and the legacies we leave behind. Prepare to see the world and yourself differently. In addition, it will be our first conference in the UK since BREXIT – so we’ll have a great opportunity to interview the Brits on how they feel about this historic change!

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“Globalafter.org”  

Soon our new website will be up and running – it will feature the stories of people who have traveled through our study-abroad programs, studied with us in conflict countries or in one way or another experienced GlobalNext. After 9 years of sharing our ideas, truths and teaching about life and leadership skills around the world, it is high time to start telling some of the stories of those who have gone through our programs. We have students who have gone on to become teachers, Afghan students who gained the courage to escape their dead-end fate of their country and made it to Europe and a new life, an Egyptian young lady who “jumped her shadow” who now helps place refugees in safer places, and a young marine who was placed in charge of 30 new recruits, because of the leadership skills he learned through Global Next – just a small part of the legacy of GlobalNext. We’re proud of our students from around the world and we’ll soon highlight their stories on our new site. But mostly, we’re thankful to God – who has allowed us this great opportunity to invest in people, to go to challenging places and leave behind the truth of God’s Word and His unparalleled love for this world. As I recently read – Mercy always trumps justice – thank God for that!

I’ll be honest with you – I sort of feel sorry for those who haven’t been able to experience the world from a GlobalNext experience – and I hope that many more will have the opportunity. Go to our website to find out more: http://www.globalnext.org

If you’ve already experience the life-changing effects of GlobalNext – always feel free to contact us about how you can become more involved. If you’re looking for meaning and purpose – you’d be hard pressed to find anything that equals what this program offers. We’ve had students, conference attenders, interns, senior associates and fellows – all of whom had a chance to not only continue growing, but to be part of helping others grow.

The world is changing my friends – do something that matters! Crawl over broken glass, climb hills, dig tunnels, repair relationships, do whatever it takes to make a difference in this world – a world so broken, so in need of grace and yet a world so full of possibilities and hope! Die to yourself and live for something greater than yourself – something with eternal value.

There’s much more coming in October and November…but that’s for another blog. Until next time, be well, safe and blessed.

Dr. Phil – the Globalnexter

http://www.globalnext.org

pjohnson@globalnext.org

 

 

Turkey’s Failed Coup: 5 Things to Know

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
July 17, 2016
www.globalnext.org

1. What happened and when? 

Between Friday night and Saturday morning (July 14-15), segments of Turkey’s military attempted to take over the government and oust current president and leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who was vacationing on the Black Sea) Roads and bridges were blocked by tanks, helicopters dotted the skies, and some of the media outlets were taken over by the military – but not all of them.

The coup – for what it was – appeared to have been a half-hearted attempt. (Just a note for future “coup-attempters:” If you’re going to attempt a coup, you’ve got to have either most of the people on your side or most of the military on your side.  I’m not even sure that some of the soldiers knew that they were in a coup.)

When President Erdogan got word of what was happening, he came back, made sure he and his loyalists took things back over, rounded up dissenters and began to put things back in order. Having survived an attempted coup, now Erdogan can be free to pursue his political agenda with even more freedom. In the aftermath, 290 people were killed and more than 1400 wounded.  According to USA Today, at least 6000 people have been arrested and are being held in custody by Erdogan’s government.

2. What was the the goal of the coup? 

The Turkish military has often taken a role through history to protect the democratic freedoms of Turkish people. There has been growing tension between the military and Erdogan as the president began taking the country in a more Islamist direction. So, the goals of the coup were probably a combination of a reaction to the war in Syria spilling over into Turkey as well as an effort to restore democracy against Erdogan’s lessening of freedoms, crack-downs on the free press and the overall philosophical-religious direction he has been taking the nation.

3. What exactly is the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey? 

It’s an interesting relationships. And it’s an important relationship because of all that’s going on in that region with ISIS and Iraq and Iran, Syria’s Assad and the resultant refugee crisis. But it’s also a relationship of disappointment. Erdogan is not the moderate Muslim leader that Obama thought he would be – he is an authoritarian leader that limits freedoms and journalists and knows who his enemies are. And as for Erdogan, he believes that Obama doesn’t get the serious nature and problem of the Kurds that Turkey views as a dangerous terror group.

The U.S. came out quickly stating its support for President Erdogan and his “democratically elected” government. (OK, it’s not exactly the kind of “democratically elected” government an American might be used to, but when you suppress your competitors and silence free media, democracy always looks a little different.)

But we need Turkey  – as we use their territory to stage airstrikes against ISIS. But I want to point out that Turkey has not been a whole-hearted fighter against ISIS.Would-be ISIS fighters have gone back and forth across Turkey’s border with Syria with little concern from Turkey.  Erdogan is more concerned about suppressing their Kurdish population than ridding the world of ISIS. And yes, there have been a number of people in the U.S. media who came out stating that they hoped the coup would succeed – a hope that is no where near a possibility at this point.

4. Who was behind the coup and who is Fethullah Gulen? 

Some sources indicated that the coup was most likely led by Colonel Muharre Kose and a few other mid-level military officers. In addition, Gendarmerie Commander for Bursa Province, Colonel Yurdakul Akkus has been taken into custody for his part in the coup. (According to Newsweek)

But you can’t have a coup in the Middle East without a few conspiracy theories. One of the most oft repeated theories is that the coup was arranged by President Erdogan himself – in order to root out dissenters, to provide him a chance to solidify power, warn some enemies, and send a message to some potential rivals. Another theory is that the U.S. was behind he whole thing.

Currently, President Erdogan and his government are requesting that a man by the name of Fethullah Gulen be extradited to Turkey. Who is he? Fethullah Gulen is a reclusive, but powerful cleric who used to be best buddies with President Erdogan. They  disagreed and eventually had a falling-out over ideologies. Gulen now lives in the U.S. – in Pennsylvania. He denies involvement in the attempted coup – but Erdogan is not buying it and he wants the U.S. to extradite Gulen back to Turkey to be investigated. So far the U.S. has said “no,” until they are given evidence of Gulen’s crimes. This is putting no small strain on the U.S. – Turkish relationship.

5. What’s next?

The Turkish government will continue to arrests anyone connected to this coup. Punishment will be meted out and some will be assassinated for their treason. There are still divisions in the country – there are tensions between those who want Turkey to be more of a modern, liberal, democracy and those who want to keep it old-school.

Obviously the military will go through many cuts as Erdogan and his administration sort out who can and cannot be trusted. This is a less than an ideal time to have a fractured military –  when your neighbors are Iraq and Syria and you’ve got to battle not only ISIS but your own internal Kurdish militant movement.  But from a power-perspective, surviving a coup, as Erdogan has done, will make him more legendary – and powerful. He’ll be able to take the country in any direction he likes.

France Again? Terror Truck Kills at Least 84

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
July 16, 2016
www.globalnext.org

1.) What happened? 

At about 10:30 pm on July 14th,  (France’s Independence Day – Bastille Day) a 31-year-old French citizen of Tunisian decent, drove his 20-ton truck through a busy pedestrian area on a famous promenade in Nice, France. He killed at least 84 people, wounding hundreds of others. The death count is  bound to go up – as many of the wounded are still in critical condition. The scene, according to witnesses was hard to bear, hard to imagine and people reported seeing things that will change them forever. The idea of using a large truck and using it to kill as many pedestrians as possible was a suggestion in a 2010 issue of the al-Qaeda magazine “Inspire.” 

The horrible scene came to an end when the driver, Mohamed, opened fire on the crowd and the police were able to take him down.

2.) Who is Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel

The tragic act was committed by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel – a man who was known to police for other crimes – but not for crimes involving terrorism. As of now, no group has taken credit for the action. But ISIS has celebrated Mohamed’s actions and encouraged followers to hashtag #Nice on their Twitter accounts. (Both ISIS an al-Qaeda have requested their followers to make use of vehicles as weapons against innocent people.)

What was Mohamed’s motivation? We don’t know for sure. There are reports that Mohamed was a violent man with a failed marriage, who drank, and ate pork, did drugs, and certainly didn’t seem to follow a strict Islamic lifestyle. (But to be fair, that describes all too many Muslims that I have met in my work in Muslims Majority countries around the world. It also describes many of the young men who travel to Syria to fight. There are many people who identify themselves culturally as Muslims, but don’t necessarily live out the commands of the Koran – until they do. And sometimes when they do – when they become radicalized – it is in the most extreme way.)

Some people will spend a lot of time debating whether or not this was a terror attack or just a crazy person. But according to French President Hollande, the event was clearly a terrorist attack.  Authorities say the profile fits what the world is seeing lately:  A Muslim individual who takes his cues from ISIS or an al-Qaeda affiliated group to murder as many people as possible. But the investigation will continue and information will come out. That’s all we can say at this point.

*Update later on July 16th: According to CNN, ISIS takes credit for the massive killings in Nice, France on July 14th. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was radicalized quickly and according to ISIS’ media group, Amaq Agency,  Mohamed Bouhlel was an ISIS soldier who carried out the attack. 

3.) Why France again? 

France has now suffered her third major attack in an 18-month period. The first was the murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and the Jews trapped in the Hypermarket in January of 2015. Then about 130 people were killed when ISIS terrorists attacked the Bataclan theatre, busy cafe streets and the soccer stadium in November of 2015. And now this…more lives lost in a way that no one would have guessed or prepared for as they went about their day, celebrating life, liberty and fraternity.

There are several reasons why France may be an attractive target for violent jihadists. First, France has a large population of North African immigrants – Muslims immigrants – who have not been well-assimilated into French culture. Given the right recruiter, the right mood and the right grudge- they’re not hard to radicalize.

Secondly, France is also very involved in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and has also called the enemy and the ideology behind it by name. France’s leaders understand that they are fighting radical Islamic terror. And France’s leaders seem to understand that the enemy is seeking to destroy the West and its influence and then to expand their Caliphate and their brand of Islam.

And finally – some people have long memories – and France’s colonial past is not so far in the past for some of today’s up-and-coming radicals. Some still blame France for the part they played in the break-up of the Turkish Empire (Ottoman Empire) after World War 1, which ended the last Caliphate.

4.) What’s next? 

France will continue its state of emergency for another three months, giving police broader powers and people less privacy. France will mourn once again – at least 84 more souls have left this earth from French soil. Among the dead are men, women and children, from France, Switzerland, Morocco, the U.S. Russia and Armenia.

Hopefully the U.S., France and their allies will get serious about getting rid of ISIS by striking at its command center in Raqqa, its land holdings, its oil revenues, its other streams of money and its leadership. I suspect that this is what the short-term future holds for us – a scenario that will look like the dramatic end of ISIS. But sometimes appearances can be deceiving and victories have a way of turning into things you never expected. (And to be clear – taking care of ISIS could have been accomplished much earlier if the “powers” had wanted it to happen.  But understanding the conflicting interests between the U.S. the EU, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Russia, etc. is sure to give you a brain tumor. But the situation has reached such a critical mass, the “powers”, I believe  have decided to “end ISIS” – and then we get to see what we’ll watch next season.)

ISIS knows the end is coming – according to a source speaking to the Washington Post (upon the condition on anonymity) ISIS is preparing for losing their Caliphate – (the land they now control in Iraq and Syria). They are telling new recruits to stay in their own countries and continue attacks wherever they are.

Which is how ISIS changes from a very organized, wealthy, centralized organization to a decentralized one – where it provides ideas, reminders and inspiration for its followers. For ISIS, stage one of training is nearly over, it’s not Allah’s time for the ultimate Caliphate yet, but our soldiers are trained, dispersed and capable of bringing harm, fear and death to the infidel. As retired Air Force Michael Hayden told the Washington Post, “Where al Qaeda was hierarchical and somewhat controlled, these guys are not. They have all the energy and unpredictability of a populist movement.”

So, you can expect more attacks to happen – sometimes in surprising places at surprising times, in surprising ways.  And ISIS will be able to console itself when it loses its Caliphate – because they always knew it would happen. For them, it was already written into prophecy. After all, they are just a tool in the hands of God for a time – but the ideology is not dead. The dream of an Islamic Caliphate with the Koran as the constitution, Shariah as the Law and global domination as the goal – well, that dream simply will not die – nor sleep too deeply.  If we’re lucky, it will occasionally take a nap.

Dallas Ambush on Police: Update

Phil Johnson, Ph,.D.
July 10, 2016
www.globalnext.org

*The following includes the original article – as events were happening. This includes both the original as well as current updates and perspectives in race relations in the U.S.

Within one day of each other, there were two police shootings of two back men  – and of course two videos showing at least one perspective of the events. (In one case, the girlfriend live-streamed her boyfriend dying on Facebook – I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that…) The events took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and in St. Paul, Minnesota. Emotions are running high – and rightly so. As I don’t know all the details of those circumstances, I won’t comment on them – and I will let the justice system do their job.

But what I do know is that in American, we have the right for peaceful assembly and the right to robustly express our thoughts, concerns and frustrations regarding our nation. Two days ago, a protest – regarding concerns of police violence – was planned for Dallas, Texas. From the accounts of witnesses, it was going well, it was peaceful – until it wasn’t.

As most of the world knows now, what started as a peaceful rally, things turned bad – really bad. Two (at least) snipers from strategic vantage points planned and targeted shooting police officers. Here’s what we know:

  1. We know that this attack appears to have been planned and coordinated – not a last minute escalation of tempers. (Which is unusual since this event was only announced/planned 2 days ago).

  2. We know that eleven police offers and one civilian were shot in downtown Dallas. Five officers have been killed (four Dallas police officers and one Dallas transit officer.) Others are wounded, some in critical condition.

  3. Some suspects have been taken into custody. Negotiations with one suspect and an “uncooperative shootout” is still currently underway (In the El Centro Garage in downtown Dallas). This individual is communicating that the “end is coming” and that there are bombs placed all over Dallas and that his goals is to take out as many people  – especially police – as possible. (According to Dallas Police Chief David O Brown). It sounds as if there were more people involved than just the man who is already in custody and the man currently in the standoff in the garage. There are some other people of interest (possibly four) – and the Chief of police still doesn’t have complete confidence that they have all suspects captured. I am sure we will hear more about this by the morning.

Everyone knows that there is growing social unrest concerning black men being killed by some policemen. (And please note – the majority of police officers are noble men and women who sacrifice and put themselves at risk to protect the public.)

But tonight, the Dallas police officers had been out all night protecting the protesters, protecting their rights to express themselves and to express their anger and frustration. By all accounts, it had been a peaceful event. Until the planned, targeted attacks by snipers that attempted to kill as many police officers as possible.

What we need now is leadership – leadership that unites rather than divides. Leadership that looks at race relations, social conditions, the state of families in minority communities that contribute social challenges – and find solutions – not just blame.  We also need to be  able to identify police officers that don’t need to be in law enforcement.  We simply  need stronger leadership in the country – not just leaders that read off statistics, wag their fingers, or mishandle top-secret security documents.

America – we’re better than this – we have better people and resources than this. It’s time to stand up, be different, mentor someone, get involved and let’s take back our country, our community and our societies.

UPDATES:

Now that the smog of confusion has cleared, I can make some updates on this tragic episode that ended the lives of 5 law enforcement officers in Dallas. Here are some of the new things that we’ve learned:

  1. It turns out that that shootings were the responsibility of only one assassin, his name was Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old former soldier in Afghanistan. (The other subjects that were held have been released.) Johnson had been discharged from the army because of allegations of sexual harassment.

  2. Officials claim that Johnson had no connection to any particular political group or protest group – but his Facebook page showed his support for the New Black Panther Party.

  3. According to the New York times and the Dallas Police Department, “detectives found bomb-making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics.”

  4. During the more than hours-long negotiations with Dallas police, Micah Johnson repeatedly expressed his desire to kill whites – especially white policemen. When negotiations broke down and Johnson refused to surrender himself or his weapons, he was blown up by a bomb-equipped robot. There is nothing left of him.

What’s happening with race relationships in the US is mystifying. We’ve elected an African American as president twice – which shows that anything is achievable. At the same time, if you look at events through the media’s eyes, race relations are worse than ever. And the police are taking the brunt of the blame and backlash. Yes, discrimination and racism exist all over the world. Yes, there are some bad cops. But the Black Life Matters movement (as well as others) would have you believe a very different and distinct political narrative that is not backed up by the facts.

I won’t detail all of the statistics in this space.  But I encourage you to take a look at the following websites to get a truer picture of what’s really going on with discrimination and supposed abuse of power. Given the 13% of African Americans that live in the U.S. and the disproportionate number of crimes that are committed by African Americans, it’s a miracle that there haven’t been more fatal encounters between police officers and blacks. But read these facts for yourself – and the next time you see a police officer, stop and thank him or her for their service.

5 Devastating Facts About Black-on-Black Crime

The Myths of Black Lives Matter (by the Wall Street Journal) 

New DOJ Statistics on Race and Violent Crime

Dallas: Police Ambushed by Snipers at Peaceful Rally

Phil Johnson, Ph,.D.
July 8, 2016
www.globalnext.org

Within one day of each other, there were two police shootings of two back men  – and of course two videos showing at least one perspective of the events. (In one case, the girlfriend live-streamed her boyfriend dying on Facebook – I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that…) The events took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and in St. Paul, Minnesota. Emotions are running high – and rightly so. As I don’t know all the details of those circumstances, I won’t comment on them – and I will let the justice system do their job.

But what I do know is that in American, we have the right for peaceful assembly and the right to robustly express our thoughts, concerns and frustrations regarding our nation. Two days ago, a protest – regarding concerns of police violence – was planned for Dallas, Texas. From the accounts of witnesses, it was going well, it was peaceful – until it wasn’t.

As most of the world knows now, what started as a peaceful rally, things turned bad – really bad. Two (at least) snipers from strategic vantage points planned and targeted shooting police officers. Here’s what we know:

  1. We know that this attack appears to have been planned and coordinated – not a last minute escalation of tempers. (Which is unusual since this event was only announced/planned 2 days ago).

  2. We know that eleven police offers and one civilian were shot in downtown Dallas. Four officers have been killed (four Dallas police officers and one Dallas transit officer.) Others are wounded, some in critical condition.

  3. Some suspects have been taken into custody. Negotiations with one suspect and an “uncooperative shootout” is still currently underway (In the El Centro Garage in downtown Dallas). This individual is communicating that the “end is coming” and that there are bombs placed all over Dallas and that his goals is to take out as many people  – especially police – as possible. (According to Dallas Police Chief David O Brown). It sounds as if there were more people involved than just the man who is already in custody and the man currently in the standoff in the garage. There are some other people of interest (possibly four) – and the Chief of police still doesn’t have complete confidence that they have all suspects captured. I am sure we will hear more about this by the morning.

Everyone knows that there is growing social unrest concerning black men being killed by some policemen. (And please note – the majority of police officers are noble men and women who sacrifice and put themselves at risk to protect the public.)

But tonight, the Dallas police officers had been out all night protecting the protesters, protecting their rights to express themselves and to express their anger and frustration. By all accounts, it had been a peaceful event. Until the planned, targeted attacks by snipers that attempted to kill as many police officers as possible.

What we need now is leadership – leadership that unites rather than divides. Leadership that looks at race relations, social conditions, the state of families in minority communities that contribute social challenges – and find solutions – not just blame.  We also need to be  able to identify police officers that don’t need to be in law enforcement.  We simply  need stronger leadership in the country – not just leaders that read off statistics, wag their fingers, or mishandle top-secret security documents.

America – we’re better than this – we have better people and resources than this. It’s time to stand up, be different, mentor someone, get involved and let’s take back our country, our community and our societies.

2016 Half-Time Report: Bloody Season for ISIS and the Loss of Elie Wiesel

July 6, 2016
Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
www.globalnext.org

Here we are, just barely past the half-way mark of the year and the figures for ISIS terror attacks is astounding. In the first half of 2016, there have been 1208 jihad-inspired attacks in 50 countries, in which 11,076 people were killed and 13,356 were injured. You can check out all of the details here.

“11,076 jihad-inspired murders in 50 countries”

The US Administration says that this increase in terror activity is evidence of ISIS feeling under pressure as they lose territory from their Caliphate. And the attacks are not exclusive to one group.  Christians, Jews and Muslims have all been murdered. Anyone who is not like ISIS – anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe is a target. Some of most recent attacks have been in Israel, the U.S., Turkey, Iraq, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia.

As bad as all of that sounds, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of problems centering around the Middle East. I was told a number of months ago when I was working in Iraq that the next worry, after ISIS executes its final act of horror, will be Iran’s Shia militias – who are already fighting in Syria. There have been reports since January that Russia is teaching Hezbollah (an Iranian proxy terror organization operating in Lebanon – and fighting in Syria) some pretty terrifying new tricks. This will only make them more effective soldiers, not only in Syria, but ultimately to Israel when (not if) Israel and Lebanon come to war again. Currently, there are at least 8000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria – about twice the number that were available to fight Israel back in 2006. (The time of their last conflict).

“There are at least 8000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria – twice the number available to fight Israel back in 2006.” 

Last night, a source of mine inside Afghanistan confirmed to me that Shiite Muslims from Afghanistan are being aggressively recruited by Iran to fight in Syria. They are mostly of Hazara decent (the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan). According to the source, individuals are being paid about $800 per month, given visas from the Iranian embassy, transferred to Iran, trained as soldiers and then sent to Syria – at the rate of about 100 soldiers per day. Who are they fighting for? Intuitively you would assume they are fighting against ISIS and on behalf of Assad’s regime. But again, there are conflicting reports about this as well. The complexity in the region grows as the players, funders and geopolitical interests grow, cross, compete and conflict. It’s getting harder and harder to tell who is on whose side.

“Iran is aggressively recruiting Afghan Shiites to come and fight in Syria.” 

So as we review the violence and confusion that has already marked the half-way point of 2016, it seems especially meaningful – in the saddest possible way, that Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2nd. Elie was a survivor of the Holocaust and the author of the poignant memoir Night – his first-person account of surviving the Holocaust and giving witness of the atrocities that mankind is capable of. It was his wisdom that allowed this Nobel Peace Prize winner to share truths like, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” 

According to NBC News, ”Elie once remarked: “This is what we must do: not to sleep well when people suffer anywhere in the world, not to sleep well when someone is persecuted, not to sleep well when people are hungry all over here or there, not to sleep well when there are people sick and nobody is there to help them, not to sleep well when anyone somewhere needs you.”

“With Elie Wiesel’s passing, we will all have to work a little harder…to remind us of what happens when the world is indifferent to evil…” 

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, remarked, “We have lost the most articulate witness to history’s greatest crime… With his passing, we will all have to work a little harder because we will no longer have Elie to remind us of what happens when the world is silent and indifferent to evil. It is now our job, and that of our children and grandchildren, to pick up the baton and to relay Elie’s message of hope and peace to the world.”

I can add nothing better, but I can ask you my favorite question – “What’s better because of you?” For me, I don’t want to be a silent witness to the crimes and tragedies of the world – I don’t want to be an ostrich with my head in the sand. What about you? Who are you going to be in this complicated world? 2016 is only half over…

Benghazi, Libya: Is There Anything New?

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
June 29, 2016
http://www.globalnext.org

When our consulate in Benghazi was attacked on September 11, 2012, I was in Cairo, Egypt – watching our embassy being attacked by a large and angry group of Egyptians – who were actually offended by an anti-Muslim video they had seen on YouTube. The building had been defaced with graffiti,  the embassy employees had gone to a safer place and just a few Egypt security guys who worked for the embassy and the Egyptian police force remained. The Egyptian police continued to launch teargas grenades at the attackers, trying their best to keep them from taking over the embassy completely. It was a messy situation – as many situations in Egypt were messy during that time.

Meanwhile, there had been another event that had happened next door in Libya – in the city of Benghazi. But this time, the event had breached our mission there and killed our Ambassador, Christopher Stevens and three other Americas. Several months after this event, I visited Benghazi, located the very consulate where the terror attack took place and conducted my own interviews with those who knew more than the U.S. government was willing to admit.

So, it is of great interest to me to see the final Benghazi report after the committee spent two years and 7 millions dollars. What new light was the committee able to  shed on what happened that fateful night and who was responsible.

Here are four (at least) of the most important findings by the congressional committee who spent so much time and effort trying to figure out what went wrong, why our government lied to its people about the nature of the attack and why ultimately four Americans died.

1.) According to the report the primary responsibility of the failure to secure the consulate and our people was the fault of the State Department .

The Administration had a very flawed perception that al-Qa-ida was on the decline and that wishful, inaccurate belief played into the lack of protection of the consulate in Benghazi. The failure was certainly not a failure of the intelligence community, who reported about the threats to U.S. and Western interests in Benghazi.

Previous reports reveal that officials at the State Department, including Hillary Clinton received the request for additional security, but did not approve the additional requests. In fact, the requests were not  routine requests.  Ambassador Chris Stevens’ pleas regarding security made before he was killed, included words such as “urgency,” “lawlessness,” “unpredictable,” “lack of effective security,” “limited success,” “widespread violence,” and “act with increasing impunity.” Clinton, who was in charge of American policy in Libya, chose not to remove Americans from Benghazi or beef up security.

Other countries and organizations had already left Libya, but the US remained. Libya was part of Hillary’s legacy, one of her signature achievements.  – she had pushed for the US to intervene in Libya, so she was not about to admit failure and close down the consulate in Benghazi. In this case, it appears politics trumped saving lives.

2. The report attempts to deny that the U.S. had any involvement in transferring weapons from Libya through Benghazi and Turkey, ultimately to Syria  (to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria).

The report focuses only on whether or not weapons were being collected at the CIA annex in Benghazi. It does not answer the questions about whether the CIA was involved in the process of collecting weapons in connection with other groups/governments for the purpose of transferring them to Syria.

In 2013, just months after the incident, I was in Benghazi and interviewed  Mr. Fateh Younis Elkhashimi, the chief editor of the New Quryna, Libya’s largest Arabic newspaper. It was suggested to me  that the CIA was involved in transferring weapons between Libya and Syria through Turkey with the complete knowledge of the president of Turkey and the President of the United States.  I don’t believe that the CIA was in Libya to collect human intelligence only, but to provide cover for the transfer of weapons.  Editor Elkhashimi made it very clear that everyone in the region was aware of the covert wars and operations that the U.S. was involved in in this region of the world. The U.S., as Elkhashimi said, does what they want, when they want.

3.  Even though Hillary Clinton and U.S. officials knew immediately that the attack on Benghazi was a highly coordinated terrorist attack, they purposely misled the public by linking the attack to a protest about an anti-Muslim video.

The question as to why this lie was told is easy to understand. It was 56 days prior to the presidential election and Mr. Obama had assured the American public that  al-Qa-ida had been routed and was slinking into the night. An al-Qa-ida affiliate in Libya attacking one of our embassies and killing our ambassadors and three other Americans certainly didn’t fit into his narrative – and certainly didn’t look like the President had a handle on it.

Strangely, Hillary Clinton kept the “it’s all about some anti-Muslim video on YouTube” that caused this disaster,  – even to the victim’s families. However, the Benghazi Report reveals that her private chat with the Egyptian prime minister clearly said, “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack- not a protests…Based on the information we saw today, we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda.”

In additional to all of this, the report indicates that no military men or machines were ever sent to help those in dire need, that the terrorists involved were never brought to justice, and that the current administration did whatever it could to obstruct the investigation – and now the reaction is to dismiss it as “nothing new, and it’s time to move on.”

I wonder if the families who lost loved ones are OK with that response.

(Photos from my visit and interviews in Benghazi in 2o13)

BREXIT: It’s like breaking up with your girlfriend, unfriending someone on Facebook and making Vladimir Putin happy all at once

June 27, 2016
Phil Johnson, Ph.d.
http://www.globalnext.org

Ok, so the UK has made a decision for itself – to leave the European Union. While the vote was close, the majority of voters decided it was time to walk away. But nearly half the country disagrees that the UK will be better off outside the EU and people are feeling quite emotional right now.

The post-breakup comments that I am hearing from “across the pond” sound exactly like the comments you hear when a teenager breaks up with his boyfriend or girlfriend: “What? You were serious about this? It’s really over?” “You lied to me!!” “I’ll never have a future without you!” “You never really loved me…” “I’ll never take you back!”

And then, of course, there are your friends who have been standing at the edge of your just-ended relationship. They have their comments too… “So, uh, hey, I heard you’re not dating Europe anymore? Do you mind if I have a shot at her? She might like Scottish guys.”

During the hurt, uncertainty and post-breakup turmoil, the EU will take a good hard look at herself, probably lose a few pounds, go back to the gym, get a new haircut, take stock of herself to make sure she doesn’t lose anyone else. Britain will date around – meaning, she’ll see what kind of meaningful trade relationships and partnerships she can get. Trust me, for all fear and uncertainty that’s out there – I think the UK will do OK for herself – she has been a reliable business partner with stable financial institutions and has been a successful mediator between nations that have not always gotten on so well.  It will take time – but she’ll be fine.

First, let’s recognize that being part of the EU was really appealing if it gave you more global power, if you got to simplify some things (like trade and movement between each other’s countries) and enjoy each other’s good times and prosperity. But in reality, not everyone puts the same effort into work and prosperity and it’s harder to go through the hard times with each other – especially if you think you’re putting more into the relationship than you’re getting out of it.  Skepticism towards the European Union is not new and the UK is not alone in its concerns. But for now, let’s take a look at some of the major questions that pop into our minds regarding  this new turning point in history.

1.) Question Number One: Was immigration the primary motivation for the UK’s leaving the EU?

Actually, the way some would phrase this question would be: “Was racism the primary motivation for the UK’s leaving the EU?”

It is fair to say that immigration was a huge factor in many people’s Brexit decision. In the last year, Britain’s net migration hit 336,000 according to the Office of National Statistics (and as reported by BBC and the Washington Post).

Being part of the EU means that anyone who is a member of the 28-country block could move and work in any of the other countries. A lot of Europeans were coming to the UK to take advantage of jobs and benefits there. And a lot who were not European. More people than many Brits were comfortable with.

Pressure to take in more Syrian refugees and fears due to increased acts of terror in Europe also didn’t help. There was a general feeling among those who voted, “leave” that it was time to take some control of Britain’s borders and immigration policies. National security is a very reasonable concern.

But to be honest, there were other reasons to dislike the EU as well. Reasons that had nothing to do with being white or racist. (Some polls indicated that a third of British Asians were planning to vote their way out of the EU.) The European Union is a huge bureaucracy – and with bureaucracy comes corruption and waste. So additional factors affecting the decision to leave included Britain’s cost of being a member of the EU (financial numbers that varied greatly depending on which side of the argument you were on), wasteful spending, bothersome regulations, and the feeling that the “powers that be” in Brussels were not giving due attention to the needs and desires of the member states.

2.) Why does the UK leaving the European Union make Russia’s Putin happy?

It’s very simple – a weaker Europe makes a stronger Russia. With Britain leaving, one of the strongest members of the EU has just exited. Mr. Putin’s biggest disappointment in his life is the demise of the Soviet Union. And the European Union has always been seen as the biggest rival to Russian power.  His biggest fear/annoyance is having NATO in his backyard. This decision of the UK may help move him closer to his old dream and further from current threats. (Keep in mind how strong European sanctions have been against Russia since the annexation of Crimea as well as Russia’s general concerns of having Ukraine possibly absorbed into the EU – which would put NATO on his doorstep.)

But it’s not only the UK that signals potential changes in the EU. The Danes and the Dutch may have their own referendum about the EU.  According to Sky News,  “Italy, Greece, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, France and even Germany are seeing a growth in anti-EU parties. Some, like the French National Front, have enjoyed funding from Russia.” Putin, has every reason to feel optimistic about his prospects for growing regional power and influence.

3.) Why are terrorist groups happy about BREXIT?

To begin with, former British Prime Minister, David Cameron mentioned that rivals like Putin and ISIS would be pleased if Britain left the EU. That might be true… but you don’t say that out loud, Mr. Prime Minister. (Well, of course you do if you’re a politician – because fear is your number one tool of motivation. It just worked in the opposite direction this time…)

Anything that disrupts the normal flow of things makes some radical groups believe that there is an opportunity to sow the seeds of chaos. Some Western intelligence sources reported ISIS messages encouraging their members to strike during this time of confusion – specifically at Berlin and Brussels.  ISIS is hoping that Britain’s departure from the EU will create economic turmoil and hardship – and what is bad for the West is viewed as good for them.

4.) Are any other European Union members at risk for leaving? 

I’ve already listed a number of European nations that have seen the growth of anti-EU political parties. This has much of the leadership in Europe concerned – worried about a dominoes effect and the possible weakening of the European bloc.

But, if you listened to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s comments, you’d better not be considering it. The Chancellor voiced regret at the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, calling it a “blow” to Europe.”We take note of the British people’s decision with regret. There is no doubt that this is a blow to Europe and to the European unification process,” she said. But she warned EU member states against drawing hasty conclusions about Britain’s decision to quit the bloc, as that risked further splitting Europe.”

Time will tell how the Brits fare from their decision. My guess is that it will look a bit worse before it looks better. Some European nations may seek to “make an example” out of the UK – as a warning to others who may try to break up with the EU. But others will embrace the British with open arms, better trade deals and the respect she deserves. In the best possible sense, the world would not be the place it is today if it were not for the Brits and their inventiveness, risk, resolve and character. I’m betting that in time, they’ll be better off.

ISIS: Get Your Boarding Passes Ready: Next Stop, the USA.

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
June 20, 2016
www.globalnext.org

Let’s start with a brief review of what ISIS has been up to since their infamous split from al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2014, (who found ISIS just a bit too intense for their tastes…go figure): ISIS held a siege at Mt. Singar against the Yazidis (a minority religious group) which resulted in the slaughter of at least 500 men. Yazidis women were sold into slavery. Aid workers and journalists have been beheaded. Children have been crucified. Coptic Christians were lined up on a beach in Libya and beheaded. A Jordanian pilot, Muath Al-Kasaesbeh, was burned to death in a cage. Some 600 Iraqi men were taken into the desert near the city of Mosul and executed. Four children who refused to convert to Islam were beheaded. 3500 Yazidi women were sold into sexual slavery. 139 people were killed in a multiple-location coordinated attack in Paris last November. Fourteen people were killed in San Bernardino, California in December of 2015.  Thirty-two people were killed at the airport in Brussels in March of 2016. And most recently, last week, fifty people were killed at an Orlando, Florida Nightclub by an ISIS-inspired radical as he yelled out “Allahu Akbar” and called 911 to announce his pledge to ISIS. And those are just the highlights.

Between the five-year old Syrian Civil War, the American-led coalition airstrikes on ISIS positions, the involvement of Russia since late 2015, (not to mention the Free Syrian Army, al Nusra Front and Shiite Militias) the Syrian Civil War has created the worst humanitarian crisis since World War 2.  Currently, the death toll for the Syrian Civil War has exceeded 470,000 according to the New York Times. 

According to the U.N., 6.6 million Syrians are displaced internally. According to Amnesty International 4.5 million refugees from Syria are living in just five countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Strangely, Gulf countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have taken in zero Syrian refugees – which makes little sense since they have similar cultures, language and religion. (Yes, yes, these countries counter that they are contributing money to help the refugees, but whatever…how convenient.) Interestingly, Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have also offered absolutely no resettlement places for Syrian refugees.

Strangely, Gulf countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have taken in zero Syrian refugees

I am all for humanitarian aid, helping people, giving sacrificially, and helping Syrians in crisis (and Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans and others in the world as well). But the  problem is this:  If the U.S. is going to accept a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the fiscal year of 2016, we’ve got to have a plan – and it appears to me that at the moment we don’t have one. And why is that a concern? Well, let’s discuss a few things:

Have we learned nothing from Europe?

Apparently not. Europe’s immigration program – which basically looks like an “open-house-come-as-you-are” party has resulted in millions of immigrants, poorly assimilated, problems with discrimination against Muslims, Muslims who have a greater affinity for their home countries (even second generation immigrants) and now pockets of radicalization beleaguering the continent. ISIS has a great PR department and disenfranchised second generational Muslims are especially ripe for recruiting. Actually, according to the publication Foreign Policy,  having an educational degree without being able to fulfill your employment potential increases the likelihood that Muslims will join “clubs” where “belongingness” can be fostered and radicalization can be nurtured. Simply put, Europe has a problem and they’re waking up a bit late to the issue.

Who are the Syrians that the U.S. is accepting? 

It’s the U.N. that refers the Syrian refugees who are to be settled in the U.S. Supposedly, not more than 10,000 refugees will be resettled in the U.S. during the year 2016. The vast majority of whom are Sunni Muslims who generally oppose the Assad regime in Syria and support the rebels who are against the current Syrian government and who have been the targets of ethnic cleansing by the Assad regime. (ISIS are Sunni Muslims as well – just wanted to point that out…) It’s hard to pin down the figures exactly (percentages of women, children and men) – it’s become such a political issue – but it does appear that we are NOT just admitting children and women as refugees. 

How easy is it to vet those coming from Syria?

Not easy at all. Do you think that in a country that’s been at war with itself for five years, is troubling itself with keeping accurate records of who’s who? Do you think that no one has assumed any deceased person’s identify? Do you think they do not possess the capability to create what appear to be valid passports with “clean” identities?

The inconvenient answer is that there is not a reliable nor fast process of vetting an individual’s past, his associations, connections and the potential threat that someone may pose to the citizens of our country. And as a side note – even with a heart for the world -it seems that the primary purpose of our government should be to protects the individual rights, freedoms, liberties and safety of its own citizens. I guess what I’m looking for is reasonable balance – a way to verify who we’re letting into our country, how we can help them, how they can contribute, assimilate and then let’s help as many people as is reasonably possible -without putting Americans at unnecessary risk.

Will ISIS use the confusion of the Syrian humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to slip ISIS trained militants into the mix to attack and kill Americans? 

According to the CIA director John Brennan the answer is “yes.” According to a long-time trusted Syrian source of mine (located in Damascus) who I spoke to this week, the answer is “most likely yes.” According to a trusted Iraqi source, the answer was , “Yes, of course.” James Comey, the director of the FBI has been saying for more than a year that ISIS is already in the U.S. So, I’m telling you now – do not be surprised if there are more problems, more attacks in the U.S. None of of my sources have told me that ISIS is too busy Keeping up with the Kardashians to plan more mayhem.

James Comey, the director of the FBI has been saying for more than a year that ISIS is already in the U.S.

Here’s what CIA director Brennan said earlier this week, (contrary to how Obama is characterizing the conflict with ISIS) “Despite efforts by the U.S. and its allies to strike the terror group, its “terrorism capability and global reach” have not been hampered, he said at a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

“We judge that ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks. ISIL has a large cadre of western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West. The group is probably exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including in refugee flows, smuggling routes and legitimate methods of travel.”

Why is Barak Obama so anxious to accelerate accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S.? 

He’s behind on his schedule and to keep his promise to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. So far this year, we’ve only accepted about 1300 Syrian refugees. (And about 2000 Syrian refugee since 2001) Obama wants to get the remaining promised 10,000 Syrians refugees approved by October before the November election, because immigration is such a hot-button issue in this year’s election.

The process of vetting Syrian refugees usually takes between 18-24 months. According to the Washington Times, that processing time will now be cut to 3 months with about 600 applicants being interviewed per day.

According to Mr. Obama’s view of the world very, very few people are evil – if any at all. And if a few people are a bit cantankerous, then it’s probably America’s fault for overreaching in the world. Or the fault of guns. Any threats made by ISIS, any warnings by the FBI or CIA are ignored. Any outcries of concerned citizens are simply viewed as coming from bigoted, racist, Islamophobic people.

Strangely, Obama doesn’t have any trouble using drone strikes – strikes that have killed  terrorists as well as many innocent people, but he seems to have a huge probably with the possibility of offending an American-Muslim by using certain words or suggesting that there are some devout Muslims who believe in interpreting the Koran literally in every sense and who believe Shariah Law should be applied in its strictest sense.

Strangely, Obama doesn’t have any trouble using drone strikes – strikes that have killed  terrorists as well as many innocent people, but he seems to have a huge problem with the possibility of offending an American-Muslim by using certain words

And as I have  clearly documented in other articles, I do not believe that most Muslims are violent or want to cause harm to anyone. But there are those who read the Koran in a very literal way and believe in their hearts that they are pleasing Allah by killing homosexuals, Christians, Jews, infidels and anyone who doesn’t think and believe as they do. These beliefs exist and they exist in America already today.  And this is NOT an indictment against the Muslims community who repudiates this kind of thinking and who reject verses in the Koran that can be interpreted as violent against others and the implication of punitive Shariah Law.)

Why haven’t we wiped out ISIS already? 

Simple answer: If we had wanted to, we would have. If you want to know more about why, we will discuss that in another blog. The answer is complicated and involves way too many actors, way too many national interests, strange bed-fellows and way too much of a game for regional influence and dominance.

Why haven’t we wiped out ISIS already? Simple answer: If we had wanted to, we would have. 

But by not getting rid of ISIS, it encourages them to view any success as the blessing of Allah. ISIS believes that they are uniquely written into God’s story of end-time events – they are an apocalyptic group and that is part of what motivates them and their attacks on others.  Once they start losing significantly, they will begin to believe that Allah’s blessing is gone – and maybe they would just get jobs, cable, watch Netflix and be done with it. But you have to go after the ideology, understand the ideology and name the ideology as radical Islamic terrorism if you want to defeat it. At the moment, based on their rather modest losses, their growth in other places, and a media propaganda machine that is very good at spinning information, ISIS still believe they are winning, so they are encouraged.


I am not against immigration – I AM against stupidity and flawed policies. But common sense seems to be on summer holiday. So, as of the moment – dear refugees – we know things in this world are broken – and we know that many of you have endured things that most of us will never conjure up in our worst nightmares. So just select your seat, fasten your seatbelt, put your tray table in an upright position and prepare for your trip to America. I hope you have an enjoyable flight, and we hope you enjoy your stay. This nation, in case you haven’t heard, is not a perfect country, but it is the best country on the face of the earth. A country that at its worst moments still has noble intentions and who after a couple hundred years of change, still offers more freedom and opportunity than anywhere else on earth.

But on the off chance that any of you have an ideology that dictates that you hate us, hate our way of life, hate our freedoms, want to establish Shariah Law in the United States or want to find a way to harm innocent citizens, we politely and clearly ask you to remove yourself from the plane and don’t forget to take your carryon luggage with you.

 

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