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World Press On Feminist Peace, Bangladeshi Women And Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans: New Age Islam's Selection, 25 November 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

25 November 2020

• Why Is It So Difficult For Bangladeshi Women To Get Justice?

By Meenakshi Ganguly

• Investing In A Feminist Peace

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

• The Truth That Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Know

By Timothy Kudo

• The Left Is Accused Of Authoritarianism – But It's The Right That Gets Away With It

Andy Beckett

• Happy Thanksgiving To All Those Who Told The Truth In This Election

By Thomas L. Friedman

• Should Trump Be Prosecuted?

By Andrew Weissmann


Why Is It So Difficult For Bangladeshi Women To Get Justice?

By Meenakshi Ganguly

November 25, 2020


For years, Bangladeshi rights organisations have been calling for victims of violence to get speedy access to justice. Photo: Anisur Rahman


In 2015, Salma's husband and his parents held her down and poured nitric acid down her throat because they wanted more than the Tk 100,000 (USD 1,100) that her parents had already paid in dowry. For months since the wedding, her father-in-law had beat her repeatedly, demanding more. Salma went to stay with her parents to escape the abuse. But when villagers started gossiping about her broken marriage, her parents told her to return to her in-laws. When she said she was being physically abused, they told her "you just need to endure." Now, she is fed through a tube in her stomach.

Salma's story is disturbingly common in Bangladesh, where over 70 percent of married women and girls have faced some form of intimate partner abuse, about half of whom say their partners physically assaulted them. But the majority of women never told anyone about this abuse and only three percent take legal action.

In many cases like Salma's, survivors seeking help are turned away—by family, community, and the police—and can be in even more danger when forced to return to their abuser. When Salma tried to escape the violence, she was met with stigma and—with only a handful of government-run shelters in the country and limited access to support services—she had nowhere else to go.

Salma has fought for a legal remedy for over five years now, but to little avail. Her father, meanwhile, had a stroke and the family cannot afford to continue pursuing justice. The public prosecutor bringing the case told her that her in-laws were paying more bribes so she "should pay more money." "That is how you will get justice," he told her. He too, of course, requested bribes, she said.

Every time they go to court to find out the status of the case, court officials, police and the prosecutor all ask for "tea and snacks costs," Salma said. Now she says she is telling her father, "You have been going to the courts for the last five years and nothing is happening. Let's just give up."

But there are concrete actions the the Bangladesh government and donor governments can take now—during the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence—so that Salma and other women and girls seeking legal recourse never have to give up.

The 16 Days of Activism is an annual international campaign in which governments and activists come together to address violence against women and girls. It runs from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, until December 10, Human Rights Day.

The Bangladesh government should work with concerned donor governments, activists and the UN to conduct an audit of currently available shelters, disseminate this information, and commit to opening at least one shelter in each of Bangladesh's 67 districts by 2025. Shelters should remove restrictions that limit their accessibility, such as requiring court orders to stay there or restricting the presence of children. No woman or girl should ever have to "just endure" violence because there is nowhere else to go.

The law ministry should immediately create an independent commission to appoint public prosecutors to ensure their independence. Donor governments like the US that are involved in justice reform should ensure that training for public prosecutors and police emphasises working with victims of gender-based violence and consider joint training for prosecutors and investigating officers to improve coordination on cases of gender-based violence.

As Salma described, as cases go on for years, justice officials frequently demand bribes, making it more and more difficult to continue to pursue justice. This problem is exacerbated by a lack of transparency and accessibility of case information, given Bangladesh's 3.7 million-case backlog. Without a centralised filing system, cases get lost and survivors are forced to pay bribes to get court officials to find their case information and move cases forward. The German government led an impressive justice audit in Bangladesh and would be well-placed to spearhead a project to move case files into a centralised online filing system—gender-based violence cases would be a good place to start.

The Bangladesh government should ensure that legal aid is reaching women and girls in need and that they are aware of their rights. Last year, the national legal aid services organisation distributed funds to 2.5 times more men than women.

The law commission drafted a witness protection law nearly a decade ago—it should be passed into law in consultation with Bangladeshi women's rights organisations, and donor governments should support the implementation of a witness protection programme.

Violence against women and girls is so pervasive in Bangladesh, it is sometimes dismissed as unsolvable. For these 16 days of activism, the government and donors should listen to activists who are offering workable solutions.


Meenakshi Ganguly is South Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.


Investing In A Feminist Peace

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

November 25, 2020


Photo: Reuters/Mariana Bazo


During the Covid-19 pandemic, public life in much of the world has largely ground to a halt. For the two billion people living in conflict-affected countries, however, there has been no lull in violence and upheaval. Some of the world's conflicts have even escalated or been reignited during the crisis, dealing devastating new blows to infrastructure and healthcare systems that were only beginning to be rebuilt. Globally, we continue to invest far more in the tools of war than in the foundations of peace.

Of course, some are working for peace. On March 23, at the outset of the pandemic, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire, in order to enable countries to focus on the Covid-19 crisis and allow humanitarian organisations to reach vulnerable populations. More than 100 women's organisations from Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Syria and Yemen quickly joined the appeal with a joint statement advocating a broad Covid-19 truce, which could form the basis for a lasting peace.

It should come as no surprise that women were among the first to support the call for a ceasefire. This month, governments and civil society came together to mark 20 years since UN Security Council Resolution 1325 first recognised women's pivotal roles on the frontlines of peace-building efforts.

It is women—including young women—who do much of the painstaking, long-term work that underpin high-profile formal agreements, which are still often reached in talks that exclude them. For example, in Syria, women have negotiated ceasefires to allow the passage of humanitarian aid, worked in field hospitals and schools, distributed food and medicine, and documented human rights violations. In South Sudan, women have mediated and resolved tribal disputes to prevent conflicts from escalating to violence.

Women also spearhead the critical work of campaigning for peace, including through education programmes, which teach young people that conflict is never inevitable. Feminist organisations have long called for nuclear disarmament, arms control, and the reallocation of funds from the military to social investments.

These appeals are essential. But they have gone unanswered. So has the UN's call for a Covid-19 ceasefire: according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, in the two months following Guterres's appeal, armed conflict in 19 countries displaced at least 661,000 people. Unless we listen to women, and shift our investments from war toward peace, the devastation will continue.

Last year, global military expenditure reached USD 1.9 trillion, following the largest annual increase in a decade. In the last quarter-century—since the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action called on governments to "recognise and address the dangers to society of armed conflict and the negative effect of excessive military expenditures"—defence spending has doubled.

More weapons and soldiers mean fewer resources for the 55 percent of the global population—including nearly two-thirds of the world's children—who lack any social protection, leaving them exposed to the pandemic's brutal social and economic consequences. Military might will not help the 83-132 million people added by Covid-19 to the global tally of the undernourished in 2020.

Liberian Peacemaker and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee has it right: "Peace is not the absence of war," she has said, but rather "the full expression of human dignity." It "is an environment in which human needs can be met. It means education for our children, health systems that function, a fair and unbiased justice system, food on the table in every home, an empowered, recognised, appreciated, and fully compensated community of women, and a lot more."

We should be spending our money not on tools of destruction, but on a kind of "feminist peace" that upholds basic economic and social rights for all. This means guaranteeing broad social protections and delivering vital services, such as health care, childcare, and education. The provision of such services has been proven to reduce conflict-fueling inequality.

The pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of other services as well. For example, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence have faced surging demand during Covid-19 lockdowns, and need more funding to meet it. In addition, governments should be ensuring adequate supplies of medical and personal protective equipment, which have often run out during the pandemic, even in the world's richest countries.

A feminist peace also means that everyone's voice is heard, with all groups included fully and meaningfully in the decisions that affect their lives. Here, women's organisations have a vital role to play, helping women and other marginalised groups gain access to decision-making arenas and giving them the resources and confidence to participate.

But, again, more funding is needed. Bilateral aid to women's organisations in fragile or conflict-affected countries averaged USD 96 million per year in 2017-18—a mere 0.005 percent of global military expenditure.

For all the devastation it has caused, the Covid-19 crisis also represents a generational opportunity to build more inclusive economies and societies, free of the scourge of violent conflict. A concerted effort to demilitarise our world and build a feminist peace—beginning with a global ceasefire, and followed by a comprehensive reappraisal of how we allocate our resources—must be central to this vision.


Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is Executive Director of UN Women.


The Truth That Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Know

By Timothy Kudo

Nov. 24, 2020

The Defence Department recently announced troop withdrawals by Jan. 15 that will reduce American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to 2,500 each from their one-time highs of some 170,000 and 100,000 troops, respectively. This drawdown makes explicit what those of us who served in the military have long realized: We lost.

War is evil even when it is necessary but our inability to win has stolen even the possibility that the ends might justify the means. For the roughly three million service members whose boots touched soil in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 19 years, our defeat is a uniquely personal loss.

When I was sent to Iraq in 2009 it was to safeguard our withdrawal. During our entire deployment in the once treacherous Sunni triangle we discovered and disposed of a single roadside bomb on the main highway outside Falluja, where they had once been as common as potholes. I returned home wishing I could have done more but was glad to see how much progress had been made by the regiments who’d fought so hard before me.

When I read a few years later that the Islamic State had overrun that same area I began to sense that our efforts had been in vain. But it was my Afghanistan deployment in 2010-2011 that cemented their futility for me.

My company defended a labyrinthine cluster of mud-walled villages set amid fields of poppy and corn in the Musa Qala District of Helmand Province. As the northern tip of the Marine campaign in Helmand we held a line alongside battalion after battalion of Marines that extended south through the river valley to the district center, where the bazaar and the governor were, and then down past Sangin to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, and further to Marja and Garmsir.

People often ask me what Afghanistan was like but I can never really answer: Each district might as well have been its own war for the Marines who fought, with victories and defeats known only to them.

I often think back on the moments in my deployments when the crack of a gunshot or the deep thud of a large roadside bomb suddenly infused my life at war with a clear and tangible purpose. I remember the kids lining up the first day after the school reopened, the first time the partners we trained in the Afghan Army took the initiative to patrol without our assistance, and the rare smile on a villager’s face after we’d provided the first aid that had saved the life of his father, who had been shot in crossfire.

I try to remember those small decencies instead of the casualties and the killing but they do little to assuage the overwhelming senselessness of the greater war.

Five American military veterans on why they see the war in Afghanistan as an unwinnable conflict.

When I signed up for the Marine Corps, I really believed in the mission. I believed that it was bringing something like democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. But now, I don’ t see how you can be a killer and be a nation builder at the same time. There’s a concept that if you kill the wrong person you just create more insurgents. How do I win the hearts and minds of the local populace by walking around with a machine gun in their neighbourhood and shooting at people? Democracy doesn’t come in a box. It’s not something that fits every country. And it’s an ideal that America has never been willing to let go. The fact that we’ve gotten to this place now, in 2019, where poll after poll has shown that nearly two-thirds of Afghan and Iraq veterans have said, quote, “The wars were not worth fighting,” is remarkable, because that’s a higher rate than the American people at large who didn’t serve. The United States does not possess the capability to ultimately alter the outcomes meaningfully in Afghanistan. I consider myself a conservative, a Republican. In 2011, I had read that things were on the way to getting better. But when I was deployed to Afghanistan, I can tell you, I saw violence was going up the civilians were getting killed, the Afghan military were not being effectively trained. Our leadership had been lying to us. You cannot accomplish with military power a political outcome. ”The bad news if we leave this place it’ll to go to shit in a year.” “Seriously?” “If we pull out, this place will fall apart very, very quickly.” “In terms of our security, you need to maintain some footprint or some guarantee that Al Qaeda won’t resurge in the area.” There’s this line of thinking that if we withdraw from Afghanistan, there will be a new civil war that’s going to start. O.K., there is a civil war going on in Afghanistan right now. The Afghans were having a civil war in 2001 when we first went in there. They had been fighting for years. And our presence there does not stop it. We’re keeping our troops there indefinitely because of this idea that if we leave there’s going to be this vacuum. This idea really needs to be questioned. It’s really not an idea of safety. It’s really keep our troops on the ground to control the Muslims and the brown people of Afghanistan. I don’t think the American people have actually really refreshed their browser on the Afghan war since 2001 or two. All the guys who are responsible for 9/11 are dead. The primary enemy in Afghanistan is the Taliban. It’s crucial for Americans to understand that the Taliban is not Al Qaeda. Whereas Al Qaeda is centered on going to war with the United States, the Taliban rejects that entire idea. Their concern is not to make the world Islamic. It’s to make Afghanistan an Islamic emirate. The fact is right now that tactically on the ground in Afghanistan, the Taliban are in a very strong position. Southwest Afghanistan is just a free-fire zone. Everybody is getting shot at regularly. The Taliban own the area outside of us and they would just bombard our towers all day and we’d fight back and forth. And then we’d have to go out on patrol, even though patrolling was stupid because as soon as you leave the walls you have no protection. I remember hearing the first explosion when the first Marine landed on an I.E.D. and it seemed entirely meaningless to me. There seemed to be no redemptive meaning behind this death. I was there when we had 140,000 troops on the ground. And I can tell you there was vast areas of the country that we didn’t even have influence. Now imagine the 14,000 troops we have there right now. They’re not protecting anything back home. We’re creating war zones and we’re creating refugees. People are going to get mad. They’re going to get upset and they’re going to get tired of it. They’re going to want revenge and they’re going to figure it out. It’s a war that we’ve spent $1 trillion on now. It’s a war where thousands of people have died, where children are growing up and all they’ve ever grown up in is a war zone. That’s the big lesson we need to learn. Diplomacy and targeted military deterrence is what will keep you safe. Whether we leave tomorrow or whether we leave 10 years from now, the outcome is the same, which is a brutal civil war and half the country is going to fall under Taliban rule again and women are going to live in a medieval situation until the Afghan people as a whole come up with an Afghan solution to an Afghan problem. It hurts like hell to say we should leave. But the argument that we should stay there because we are protecting women’s rights is not good enough anymore. Whatever we do is never going to ensure that the most disenfranchised people in Afghanistan are going to be protected, that women are going to have their rights protected. That is a burden that America will have to bear on its soul. I’ve seen firsthand men that I’ve known that end up getting blown up there, and I’ve questioned what do they sacrifice themselves for. But I’ll tell you what I’m worried about even war is that is the ones who haven’t died yet. Kids are joining the Army today — today — who were born after 9/11. Within six months, they’ll be in Afghanistan. My dad was in the military. My grandpa was in the Marine Corps and my daughter’s 4 now — she’s about to be 5. And I want the war to be over. Because 12 to 15 years from now, I don’t want my kid to die in the war that I went to.

Shortly after I returned from Afghanistan in 2011, President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed during a raid on his compound in Pakistan, where he was living after fleeing Afghanistan years before. As I watched people celebrating outside the White House and outside ground zero I hoped that the war was finally over, but even then it didn’t feel like victory.

The conflict had grown so much bigger since the attacks of Sept. 11 that his death felt like a footnote. The execution of a single dethroned sheikh suddenly paled in significance to my own recent experience at war. Later that night I tried to recall the circumstances surrounding the death of each man we’d killed and count how many there had been but there were too many to remember.

The Afghanistan war was finally lost for me in August 2015, several years after my own deployment ended, when the Taliban recaptured Musa Qala, which five men in my company had died defending. After the Taliban’s seizure, allied airstrikes bombed the same government center we’d sacrificed so much to hold.

A member of Parliament from Helmand Province later described that building as “completely vanished from the earth.” Along with it was buried any hope there might have been that the sacrifices I, and so many others, have made in service to our country would not be in vain.

The cost of these wars has been astronomical: Roughly $6 trillion in government spending, with the Defense Department spending alone costing each American taxpayer an estimated more than $7,000. Additionally, today’s young veterans face a legacy of psychological and physical injury, as well as illness from our war’s Agent Orange: the toxic burn pits whose smoke we inhaled.

Even more costly are the approximately 515,000 people killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, including more than 260,000 civilians. And for what? Iraq remains a tenuous democracy teeming with militias while Afghanistan is locked in a conflict with a resurgent Taliban, and peace talks are in deadlock.

Both countries fail to meet the objectives of freedom and democracy set when President George W. Bush started those wars. They fall short of President Obama’s goals when he sent me and 30,000 other troops to Afghanistan and of the claims he made when declaring an end to combat operation in Iraq only to see the Islamic State undo those gains. President Trump does not seem to even have a purpose for those 5,000 troops who will remain in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Like many service members I wrote a letter in case I was killed during my deployment. It began with an assurance to the friends and family I would have left behind: “It was worth it.” I believed then that we had a moral obligation to not only protect my fellow Americans but to leave the Afghan and Iraqi people with a chance to live in peace.

That obligation remains even though it cannot be fulfilled. Instead I am resigned that these wars will finally enter the history books not only as defeats but as stains on our national honor.

The political theorist and philosopher Michael Walzer writes in “Just and Unjust Wars” that “it still seems important to say of those who die in war that they did not die in vain. And when we can’t say that, or think we can’t, we mix our mourning with anger.” I would add that we also mix it with shame.

I recognize that shame is not a very American trait but with it comes humility. Sadly, my generation had to relearn the lessons of Vietnam in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in coming to grips with our defeat, we have a chance to ensure that we do not sacrifice future generations to such folly.

And by so doing we may yet salvage some purpose from this tragedy: to do everything in our power to avoid more wars, and to ensure that if and when the next war does come, it is worth it.


Timothy Kudo a former Marine captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is working on a novel about the Afghanistan war.


The Left Is Accused Of Authoritarianism – But It's The Right That Gets Away With It

By Andy Beckett

23 Nov 2020

For a wearyingly long time now, one of the right’s favourite tactics against the left has been to accuse it of planning a police state. From Winston Churchill’s 1945 claim that a Labour government would need “some form of Gestapo” to last year’s warnings in the Tory press that Jeremy Corbyn would turn Britain into a version of Venezuela, rightwing journalists and politicians have used the spectre of authoritarianism to make the left seem sinister and foreign.

The tactic is sometimes still effective. In this month’s US election, Donald Trump won the key state of Florida in part by persuading Hispanic immigrants that Joe Biden, a famously pragmatic Democrat, would instead form an intolerant leftwing government. “I voted for Trump to prevent the United States from resembling countries like Cuba,” Jose Edgardo Gomez told the Miami Herald. “We want the United States to continue being free and to continue having a true democracy … Many Americans don’t understand the threats that socialism poses.”

The fact that no western democracy has ever been turned into a police state by the left hasn’t completely neutralised this argument. Because there have been so few elected socialist governments in the west, and even fewer that have enacted much of their programmes, the left hasn’t had many opportunities to prove that it’s not interested in ruling by authoritarian methods. Instead, the allegation has lingered.

On rightwing websites such as Spiked and Guido Fawkes, which often provide anti-Labour attack lines to the Tory press and politicians, Keir Starmer is already being described as an authoritarian, despite his history as a human rights lawyer. No doubt tabloid picture researchers are scouring the archives for any photos of him wearing a Russian hat. Corbyn had to waste some of his leadership denying that his favourite cap was a tribute to Lenin’s; the Times told readers he rode a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle”. Besides smearing the left and putting it on the defensive, these red scares have another important but less noticed effect. They serve as a political distraction.

Over the past 40 years, while the right has continued to warn about hypothetical leftwing dictatorships in the west, actual authoritarianism has become a growing feature of rightwing government in Britain and the US. The change has been incomplete and gradual. Authoritarianism is often a tendency, an official inclination, rather than an absolute political state. And this autocratic turn has gone largely undeclared: countries that won the second world war and the cold war like to think they have no time for despots. But the outcome has been a great strengthening of government against the governed.

In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher politicised the police as strike-breakers, and demonised her opponents as “the enemy within”. In the 2000s, the George W Bush administration argued that the president’s powers should be almost unlimited, and established the brutal detention camp at Guantánamo. Both premiers were criticised for their draconian tendencies, but both were comfortably re-elected, unrepentant.

Yet even Bush has been shocked by the Trump presidency. Donald Trump’s intolerance of press criticism and peaceful protest, threats to jail political opponents, and contempt for the electoral process have arguably made the United States more of an autocracy than a democracy. Meanwhile, similar impulses have been at work in Boris Johnson’s premiership, with its illegal suspension of parliament, illegal Brexit legislation and fury at the few remaining checks on its authority, such as “activist lawyers”.

As with Bush and Thatcher, the breaking of democratic norms by Trump and Johnson has been accepted and sometimes welcomed by many voters. Over 10m more people chose Trump this month than at the 2016 election. Last year, Johnson won the first big Tory majority since 1987.

In increasingly impatient, divided societies, frustration with the compromises and deadlocks produced by previous, more consensual governments has left voters open to more aggressive alternatives. Shortly before the 2019 election, a prophetic survey by the Hansard Society found that 54% of Britons felt the country “needs a strong ruler willing to break the rules”, and 42% believed that Britain’s problems could be dealt with better “if the government didn’t have to worry so much about votes in parliament”.

Even people appalled by the transgressions of Trump and Johnson can be reluctant to consider their implications. For the first few days after this month’s US election, Trump’s refusal to concede defeat was widely seen as just a tantrum – rather than a rejection of democracy and, in effect, a demand to head a one-party state. If you’ve grown up with the idea that the US is a strong democracy, or that British prime ministers respect the law, it’s frightening to face up to the possibility that neither may be the case.

It may also be frightening to realise that the Anglo-American right has a double standard on authoritarian governments. That double standard used to be applied mainly to other countries. During the 1980s, Jeane Kirkpatrick, an influential adviser to the Republican president Ronald Reagan, argued that rightwing police states were “less repressive” than leftwing, “totalitarian” ones, and should be supported by the US when there were, from a conservative perspective, no better alternatives. At the time, the consequences of her thinking were felt by people living under rightwing foreign dictatorships, from the Philippines to Argentina, that the US helped sustain in power. But with the Trump presidency you could say that a version of her doctrine has been applied at home.

The US and Britain’s authoritarian experiments may now be coming to an end. The sacked Dominic Cummings was the source of much of the Johnson government’s autocratic thinking. Trump, for all his manoeuvring, will almost certainly have to step down when Joe Biden is inaugurated in January. The democratic and constitutional pressures against him staying on are probably too great.

Yet the conditions remain that made the experiments possible. In the US, after Trump’s attacks on the election, many voters are disillusioned with democracy. And the ground has been prepared for his party to refuse to accept future electoral outcomes it doesn’t like – possibly starting with January’s crucial Senate races in Georgia. In Britain, the government still contains deeply illiberal figures, such as the home secretary, Priti Patel. And Johnson himself, like Trump, has a dislike of being held accountable that’s so strong, he’s arguably not a democratic politician in any sense beyond the winning of elections. As with Trump, the fact that he lacks the focus and diligence to be a dictator is not that reassuring. A more functional rightwing strongman could come along.

And the scale of what has already happened during Trump and Johnson’s premierships shouldn’t be played down, as just another stage in conservatism’s evolution. In two of the world’s supposedly most stable political systems, the right have bent democracy out of shape. In future, it would be good to have a bit less self-righteous talk from them about dictatorships of the left.


Andy Beckett is a Guardian columnist


Happy Thanksgiving to All Those Who Told the Truth in This Election

By Thomas L. Friedman

Nov. 24, 2020

With so many families gathering, in person or virtually, for this most unusual Thanksgiving after this most unusual election, if you’re looking for a special way to say grace this year, I recommend the West Point Cadet Prayer. It calls upon each of these future military leaders to always choose “the harder right instead of the easier wrong” and to know “no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

Because we should be truly thankful this Thanksgiving that — after Donald Trump spent the last three weeks refusing to acknowledge that he’d lost re-election and enlisted much of his party in a naked power play to ignore the vote counts and reinstall him in office — we had a critical mass of civil servants, elected officials and judges who did their jobs, always opting for the “harder right” that justice demanded, not the “easier wrong” that Trump and his allies were pressing for.

It was their collective integrity, their willingness to stand with “Team America,” not either party, that protected our democracy when it was facing one of its greatest threats — from within. History will remember them fondly.

Who am I talking about? I am talking about F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, who in September openly contradicted the president and declared that historically we have not seen “any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election” involving mail-in voting.

I am talking about Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — a conservative Republican — who oversaw the Georgia count and recount and insisted that Joe Biden had won fair and square and that his state’s two G.O.P. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, did not garner enough votes to avoid election runoffs. Perdue and Loeffler dishonorably opted for the easier wrong and brazenly demanded Raffensperger resign for not declaring them winners.

I am talking about Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who not only refused to back up Trump’s claims of election fraud, but whose agency issued a statement calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history,” adding in bold type, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”

Krebs did the hard right thing, and Trump fired him by tweet for it. Mitch McConnell, doing the easy wrong thing, did not utter a peep of protest.

I am talking about the Republican-led Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, Ariz., which, according to The Washington Post, “voted unanimously Friday to certify the county’s election results, with the board chairman declaring there was no evidence of fraud or misconduct ‘and that is with a big zero.’”

I am talking about Mitt Romney, the first (and still virtually only) Republican senator to truly call out Trump’s postelection actions for what they really were: “overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election.”

I am talking about U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann, a registered Republican, who dismissed Trump’s allegations that Republican voters in Pennsylvania had been illegally disadvantaged because some counties permitted voters to cure administrative errors on their mail ballots.

As The Washington Post reported, Brann scathingly wrote on Saturday “that Trump’s attorneys had haphazardly stitched this allegation together ‘like Frankenstein’s Monster’ in an attempt to avoid unfavorable legal precedent.”

And I am talking about all the other election verification commissioners who did the hard right things in tossing out Trump’s fraudulent claims of fraud.

Asking for recounts in close elections was perfectly legitimate. But when that failed to produce any significant change in the results, Trump took us to a new dark depth. He pushed utterly bogus claims of voting irregularities and then tried to get Republican state legislatures to simply ignore the popular vote totals and appoint their own pro-Trump electors before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14.

That shifted this postelection struggle from Trump versus Biden — and who had the most votes — to Trump versus the Constitution — and who had the raw power and will to defend it or ignore it.

To all of these people who chose to do the hard right thing and defend the Constitution and the rule of law over their party’s interest or personal gain, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving.

You stand in stark contrast to Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo (who apparently never attended chapel at West Point), Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Nikki Haley, Kayleigh McEnany and all the other G.O.P. senators and House members, who put their party and self-interest before their country and opted for the easy wrongs. History will remember them, too.

Though Trump is now grudgingly letting the presidential transition proceed, we must never, ever, forget the damage he and his allies inflicted on American democracy by attacking its very core — our ability to hold free and fair elections and transfer power peacefully. Tens of millions of Americans now believe something that is untrue — that our system is rigged. Who knows what that will mean in the long run?

The depths to which Trump and his legal team sank was manifested last Thursday when Giuliani and Sidney Powell held a news conference alleging, among other things, that software used to disadvantage Trump voters was created at the direction of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. It was insane.

As Jonah Goldberg, a conservative critic of Trumpism, wrote in “The G.O.P.’s social media account spewed sound bites from Powell and Giuliani out into the country like a fire hose attached to a sewage tank.” Fox carried the whole news conference live — uninterrupted — for virtually its entire 90 minutes.

Shame on all these people.

Sure, now Trump and many of his enablers are finally bowing to reality — but it is not because they’ve developed integrity. It is because they WERE STOPPED by all those people who had integrity and did the hard right things.

And “shame” is the right word for these people, because a sense of shame was lost these past four years and it needs to be re-established. Otherwise, what Trump and all his sycophants did gets normalized and permanently erodes confidence in our elections. That is how democracies die.

You can only hope that once they are out of power, Barr, Pompeo, Giuliani and all their compatriots will be stopped on the streets, in restaurants or at conferences and politely but firmly asked by everyday Americans: “How could you have stayed all-in when Trump was violating the deepest norms that bind us as a democracy?”

And if they are deaf to the message being sent from their fellow citizens, then let’s hope some will have to face an interrogation from their own children at the Thanksgiving table this year:

“Mom, Dad — did you really side with Trump when it was Trump versus the Constitution?”


Should Trump Be Prosecuted?

By Andrew Weissmann

Nov. 24, 2020

When the Biden administration takes office in 2021, it will face a unique, fraught decision: Should Donald Trump be criminally investigated and prosecuted?

Any renewed investigative activity or a criminal prosecution would further divide the country and stoke claims that the Justice Department was merely exacting revenge. An investigation and trial would be a spectacle that would surely consume the administration’s energy.

But as painful and hard as it may be for the country, I believe the next attorney general should investigate Mr. Trump and, if warranted, prosecute him for potential federal crimes.

I do not come to this position lightly. Indeed, we have witnessed two U.S. presidential elections in which large crowds have found it acceptable to chant with fervent zeal that the nominee of the opposing party should be jailed. We do not want to turn into an autocratic state, where law enforcement authorities are political weapons of the reigning party.

But that is not sufficient reason to let Mr. Trump off the hook.

Mr. Trump’s criminal exposure is clear. I was a senior member of the investigation led by the former special counsel Robert Mueller to determine whether Russia attempted to subvert our fundamental democratic source of political legitimacy: our electoral system. Among other things, he was tasked with determining whether Mr. Trump interfered with our fact-finding into this issue.

We amassed ample evidence to support a charge that Mr. Trump obstructed justice. That view is widely shared. Shortly after our report was issued, hundreds of former prosecutors concluded that the evidence supported such a charge.

What precedent is set if obstructing such an investigation is allowed to go unpunished and undeterred? It is hard enough for the executive branch to investigate a sitting president, who has the power to fire a special counsel (if needed, through the attorney general) and to thwart cooperation with an investigation by use of the clemency power. We saw Mr. Trump use his clemency power to do just that with, for example, his ally Roger Stone. He commuted Mr. Stone’s sentence, who was duly convicted by a jury but never spent a day in jail for crimes that a federal judge found were committed for the president. The same judge found that Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, lied to us repeatedly, breaching his cooperation agreement. He, too, was surely holding out hope for a dangled pardon.

Mr. Trump can’t point to what the special counsel investigation did not find (e.g., “collusion”) when he obstructed that very investigation. The evidence against Mr. Trump includes the testimony of Don McGahn, Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, who detailed how the president ordered the firing of the special counsel and how when that effort was reported in the press, Mr. Trump beseeched Mr. McGahn to deny publicly the truth and, for safe measure, memorialize that falsity in a written memorandum.

The evidence includes Mr. Trump’s efforts to influence the outcome of a deliberating jury in the Manafort trial and his holding out the hope for a pardon to thwart witnesses from cooperating with our investigation. Can anyone even fathom a legitimate reason to dangle a pardon?

His potential criminal liability goes further, to actions before taking office. The Manhattan district attorney is by all appearances conducting a classic white-collar investigation into tax and bank fraud, and the New York attorney general is engaged in a civil investigation into similar allegations, which could quickly turn into a criminal inquiry.

These state matters may well reveal evidence warranting additional federal charges. Such potential financial crimes were not explored by the special counsel investigation and could reveal criminal evidence. Any evidence that was not produced to Congress in its inquiries, like internal State Department and White House communications, is another potential trove to which the new administration should have access.

The matters already set out by the special counsel and under investigation are not trivial; they should not raise concerns that Mr. Trump is being singled out for something that would not be investigated or prosecuted if committed by anyone else.

Because some of the activities in question predated his presidency, it would be untenable to permit Mr. Trump’s winning a federal election to immunize him from consequences for earlier crimes. We would not countenance that result if a former president was found to have committed a serious violent crime.

Sweeping under the rug Mr. Trump’s federal obstruction would be worse still. The precedent set for not deterring a president’s obstruction of a special counsel investigation would be too costly: It would make any future special counsel investigation toothless and set the presidency de facto above the law. For those who point to the pardon of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford as precedent for simply looking forward, that is not analogous: Mr. Nixon paid a very heavy price by resigning from the presidency in disgrace for his conduct.

Mr. Trump may very well choose to pardon not just his family and friends before leaving office but also himself in order to avoid federal criminal liability. This historic turn of events would have no effect on his potential criminal exposure at the state level. If Mr. Trump bestows such pardons, states like New York should take up the mantle to see that the rule of law is upheld. And pardons would not preclude the new attorney general challenging a self-pardon or the state calling the pardoned friends and family before the grand jury to advance its investigation of Mr. Trump after he leaves office (where, if they lied, they would still risk charges of perjury and obstruction).

In short, being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.


Andrew Weissmann, a senior prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, is a senior fellow at the New York University School of Law and the author of “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation.”



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