Rodrigo Duterte: Cringing Won’t Help, But Cringe If You Must

America has many allies, and not every ally follows the judicial process or respects the belief in natural rights as defined in America’s Constitution. Not every ally can be Great Britain or Japan and share our philosophy on liberties and individual rights. Human Rights do not have a standard definition for our allies who rely on American aid and support. Aid in countering terrorism and the definition of Human Rights is better served decoupled with some allies. Although America has long considered The Philippines an ally, Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, was elected in May 2016, and has done nothing but make his Western allies cringe with disgust since then.

“Duterte Harry,” as he’s not-so-affectionately referred to in reference to a violent vigilante, is a crude, direct man who advocates killing not only drug dealers, but also drug addicts. He has praised Hitler, as well as directly insulted former U.S. President Barack Obama. 

Duterte has admitted to killing his own people by his own hand without trial for which he claims no remorse. He told The Philippine Star in December 2016, “I would not have any second thoughts about cutting [a drug dealer’s] head off.” His most recent shoot-from-the-hip awfulness is a joke about rape, which is a war crime. However, no reports of rape have surfaced at this time. 

Duterte is often compared to current U.S. President Donald Trump, and in some ways the comparison is apt. Duterte and Trump both rode a wave of populism to power; they both make the progressive left very uncomfortable, and both of them seem to believe they are above the law when they deem fit. However, that is where the comparisons end.

Duterte won the popular vote by 7 million votes, whereas Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million (despite winning the electoral college 306 electors compared to Hillary Clinton’s 232). Duterte’s background and career is in government; his previous position was as the popular mayor of Davoa, the ninth safest city in the world, which Duterte happily takes credit for.

In May 2016, he boasted, “We’re the ninth safest city. How do you think I did it? How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities?”

Trump, on the other hand, has zero experience in government and came from immense wealth, while Duterte’s origins were much rougher and he had to work his way up to get to where he is now. However, despite Duterte’s extremely troubling approach to drugs, and despite the differences between the two men, Duterte’s country has extreme value to the American presence in the Pacific.

Unfortunately, Americans must, for the time being, look past its disgust of Duterte’s unlawful methods and consider what is best in the long-term. Because the Philippines currently has one of the largest Islamist insurgencies outside the Middle East. 

Like many of the underdeveloped parts of the world, the Philippines has a jihad problem. The radical Islam group known as the Maute Group was founded in the Philippines in 2013 by two local brothers, coinciding with the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS). The organization has recently merged with Abu Sayyaf, a larger faction with better connections – they are considered the “rock stars” of Asian Islamist extremists. Both groups have pledged allegiance to ISIS, though they operate in their own interests. Together they managed to bring Marawi, a city of 200,000 people, to a grinding halt in May 2017 by seizing a strategic position in the city. Snipers for the two groups have held their position for four days now,  as airstrikes, attack helicopters, and tanks have failed to dislodge the merged terror organizations. Duterte has since declared a state of martial law across the entire island on which Marawi is located, and many fear Duterte will take advantage of the opportunity to consolidate more power and to be even more brutal and heavy-handed with his countrymen. However, Duterte is staring down a growing Islamist insurgency, born out of a separatist movement, which must be defeated as quickly and powerfully as possible.

“What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens,” said Jose Calida, the solicitor general of the Philippines. “It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria.”

Duterte recently traveled to Moscow, where he planned to ask the Russians for help against an element that threatens his country and currently holds hostage a city the size of Birmingham, Alabama. However, though the situation had looked somewhat manageable, it escalated to the point Duterte was forced to declare martial law in the country and abruptly cut short his visit to Moscow.

The optics of Duterte, an American ally, asking the Kremlin for help is embarrassing and truly shameful.

It gets worse. Our longtime ally, the Philippines, was with our geopolitical foe, Russia, asking for help to counter terrorism at the same time that President Trump was touching glowing orbs with two leaders who make most Westerners cringe, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

Trump was presumably in Saudi Arabia to strengthen and reaffirm our bond with counter-terrorism partners, but it does not go unnoticed that it should have been the U.S. to whom the Philippines looked first. Perhaps Duterte should have been invited to the Saudi summit rather than to visit the White House.

It is easy and popular to denounce Duterte through the American perspective regarding his war on drugs and leave him to fend off an insurgency connected to a global war, but what is often easy is rarely right.

Duterte should be a lesson for Americans: The perfect ally does not exist.

It is a miscalculation to view and judge leaders abroad through the same lens as American leaders. This is especially true when that imperfect ally is willing to do anything – including turning to the Kremlin – to save his country from a radical Islamic army who is fast gaining strength and notoriety.

Moreover, unlike Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — who has been increasingly in the news for likely gassing his own people — the United States has long had a working and open relationship with Duterte and the Philippines. Allowing that relationship to deteriorate could be costly.

Duterte should not have to go to America’s geopolitical rival to buy weapons and request help from Russia’s counter-terrorism intelligence network. Such support and assistance is what Washington D.C. should happily and proactively offer to its long-time ally – regardless of who it makes cringe.

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Trump Earpiece Fiasco By Some In The Media Fuels “Fake News” Narrative

One of the hallmarks thus far of the Trump administration is the way the President has both lambasted the media and of course uses it when he feels the need. The NY Times is “failing” and supposedly reports “fake news” but Trump was happy to sit down for an interview with Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush.

I’ve seen people refuse outright to read anything in the Washington Post or NY Times as well as CNN because they’ve been targets of the President’s ire. It’s silly because the news coming from those outlets is usually bad for him but when something gets “reported” that later turns out to be nonsense, it only makes it easier for people dismiss legitimate stories.

The Trump “earpiece story” is a perfect example. James Landale of the BBC tweeted this out:

Since the President was not wearing the typical headset one wears for interpretation, the assumption was that President Trump didn’t bother to listen. That was not the case:

The insinuation was that Trump wasn’t listening to Gentiloni. But Trump did have his earpiece in. It’s just tiny.

Trump is notorious for being tremendously disrespectful to foreign leaders. (Well, he’s disrespectful to foreign leaders who don’t have authoritarian tendencies, at least.) But Trump ostensibly listens to what most world leaders have to say. He just uses an earpiece that’s much smaller than most of his counterparts around the world.

Gizmodo’s cheap shot at the President notwithstanding, it’s obvious Landale got it wrong. Nearly 20,000 people retweeted including some others in the media:

NY Times reporter

Huffington Post reporter

So when a “story” like this gets exposed as the nonsense, it is, it only allows for people to be more skeptical of the press and it reveals biases within the media despite assurances they’re fair.

I had somebody say to me it’s easy to believe since Trump is disrespectful to other leaders and Sean Spicer doesn’t have the credibility needed for people to believe him. That is true. Trump earns skepticism because he lies so often. However, the press has an obligation to get it right, not assume it’s right. The burden is on them to report facts and hold the President accountable when necessary.

When they assume, they make mistakes. It happens too often and it’s a large part of the reason why the public distrusts the mainstream media.

 

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Merkel: USA is Not Completely Dependable Now

It’s safe to say that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Donald Trump have somewhat of a chilly international relationship.

This is not only the case for Merkel, though. Other world leaders have similarly strained alliances with the new president. Given his statements on the campaign trail and in these first few months in office, that is hardly surprising.

On Sunday evening, Merkel made it clear what she think of the U.S. as partner. The Hill reports:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told supporters on Sunday that her country could no longer “completely depend” on the U.S. as a reliable partner. She said that Europeans “must really take our destiny into our own hands,” Agence France Presse reported.

Merkel’s comments on Sunday underscored her frustration after a tense meeting with President Trump at the Group of Seven summit a day earlier

The G7 meeting followed a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday that left Merkel and other European leaders similarly irked. There, Trump berated fellow NATO members over their failure to spend at least two percent of their GDP on defense, the number the alliance agreed upon in 2014.

But also absent from Trump’s speech was a mutual defense pledge — a commitment to the principle that an attack on one NATO member state is an attack on all. The White House later told reporters that such a commitment “goes without saying.”

While Merkel said on Sunday that it was important for Germany to maintain friendly relations with the U.S. and the United Kingdom, the country “would have to fight for our own future ourselves.”

We still have yet to see what President Trump really looks like on the international stage. Yes, words are one thing, but actions are another matter entirely. So far, those have been few and far between.

Merkel is right about one thing: Europeans must decide their own future. The trend toward unbridled inclusivity is not an automatic positive. There must be some sort of logical approach to immigration which allows for a growing citizenry without forsaking safety. To differing degrees, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. are all grappling with just how to go about that.

Merkel also made a jab at Trump during her speech at NATO headquarters on Thursday, criticizing “the building of walls” as detrimental to society. Trump has long vowed to build a massive border wall between in the U.S. and Mexico.

“It is not isolation and the building of walls that make us successful, but open societies,” she said.

No, I don’t think building a wall (which may never happen) will solve either the immigration or terrorism issues in the United States. But neither will entirely open societies where common sense safety measures come second to diversity.

Merkel prefers more distance between Germany and its allies, especially the United States. In this tense international climate, she will likely get her wish.

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WATCH: Here’s What Happens When Tourists are Disrespectful at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Memorial Day is a day we set aside to remember those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of our freedoms. If you’ve ever been to Arlington National Cemetery, you know that this remembrance happens 24/7/365 at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The tomb was built in 1921 to remember soldiers from World War I whose remains were never identified, and was ultimately expanded to include all unknowns. It is a place of solemn reverence.

The tomb is guarded by soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment, called ‘The Old Guard’, dressed in ceremonial uniform. One of the soldiers walks along the black mat in front of the tomb. They Soldier does not display any insignia to show rank. This is out of respect, so that they do not outrank the dead soldiers.

Soldiers guard the tomb 24 hours a day, even on those rare occasions when it is closed to the public. The Old Guard is out there every day, in every kind of weather. The tomb is visited by millions of tourists every year, and the vast majority of them behave in the dignified manner befitting the unknowns.

Every once in a while, however, people forget their manners. In those cases, this happens:

Don’t mess with the Old Guard.

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Sen Grassley Raises Concern Over Promotion Of Kushner Business Venture Promising Visas To Chinese Investors

So Jared Kushner’s family gives a presentation in China several weeks ago, promoting their new real estate project, and the company sponsoring the event, Qiaowai, makes a few questionable statements about the access investors will have to the presidency, due to Kushner’s name being attached.

Things like that tend to catch the attention of lawmakers, and this was no different.

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is asking that these “potentially fraudulent” claims be investigated.

“Given all of these concerns, a closer look at Qiaowai Group and the U.S. Immigration Fund are clearly warranted, as reports suggest both companies have long employed questionable practices,” Grassley wrote.

Qiaowai and Kushner Companies are looking for investors to help finance a pair of luxury apartment buildings as part of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program. That program offers visas in exchange for a $500,000 investment in a U.S. business.

The Chinese firm boasted about its connections to President Trump via Kushner and promised clients that Trump would ensure their visas were approved, according to The New York Times.

If this is the case, it could potentially be another instance of someone in the Trump family enriching themselves through the office they hold.

Grassley wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the Security and Exchange Commission on May 25, seeking to have the issue addressed.

As the senator pointed out in the letter, Qiaowai made the statement to investors, regarding this project, that there was “no chance” it could fail. They also stated that the president would make sure it came through.

After a Reuters report, those statements were deleted from the company website.

A portion of Grassley’s letter reads:

Such guarantees are problematic for several reasons, and the SEC and USCIS have coordinated to halt similar cases of investment fraud in the past.6 It is a fundamental rule of the EB-5 program that an applicant’s investment must remain “at risk” up to the end of the alien’s conditional permanent resident status, and a “guaranteed” investment fails this basic EB-5 test7 ; if Qiaowai is in fact guaranteeing the safety of the investment principal, all related EB-5 petitions should be rejected by USCIS. In addition, a petition submitted on the basis of such a guarantee seems to constitute misrepresentation of “a material fact . . . to procure . . . a visa . . . or admission to the United States or other benefit,” 8 rendering the petitioner inadmissible to the United States pursuant to section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. 9 Further, by guaranteeing green cards and assuring that funds are “safe,” Qiaowai appears to be in violation of laws governing the offer and sale of securities, such as antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. 10 Specifically, Rule 10b-5 states that it is unlawful “for any person, directly or indirectly. . . to make any untrue statement of a material fact. . . in connection with the purchase or sale of any security.”

To be clear, Jared Kushner was not at the early May conference where the project was touted to wealthy Chinese investors. His sister, Nicole Meyer was, however, and she not-so-subtly invoked her brother’s name while presenting the idea of this project.

 

 

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