Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

 “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
- Bertrand Russell, 1935

"The simplest truths often meet the sternest resistance and are slowest in getting general acceptance. " 
- Frederick Douglass

"In science novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation."
-Thomas Kuhn


1. Leon Panetta: The Afghanistan war lessons that we cannot forget
2. Biden’s nominee for Pentagon weapons chief withdraws
3. As Allied Forces Leave Afghanistan, The Taliban Keep Up Its Surge
4. Joint Chiefs chairman feared potential ‘Reichstag moment’ aimed at keeping Trump in power
5. Huge Military Exercise Kicks Off in Australia Amid Tensions with China
6. Pushing Beyond Sex Assault, Gillibrand Faces Resistance to Military Bill
7. Guard training could be cancelled as political fights delay reimbursement for Capitol Hill mission
8. Statement From Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Welcoming Home General Scott Miller
9. Putting the Sting in the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy: A Vision for the Future of the MAGTF
10. The Uyghur Chronicles: Escaping the Genocide in Xinjiang
11. Biden administration launching operation to help relocate Afghans who helped United States
12. Fact check: Biden's dubious claim that 'the law doesn't allow' Afghan translators to be evacuated to US while they wait for visas
13. The U.S. Surgeon General Is Calling COVID-19 Misinformation An 'Urgent Threat'
14. Mapping the Taliban Offensive in Afghanistan
15. Cuba and Haiti upheaval could mean twin migration crises
16. Opinion | After the Cuba protests, a regime shows its true colors
17. Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?
18. China-US contest will come down to education
19. What Russia’s National Security Strategy Has to Say About Asia
20. The myth of ethical AI in war
21. Pakistan to Host Afghan Leaders for Peace Talks
22. We need a better defense — and tougher offense — to combat Russia's hacks
23. Philippines Thankful For US Resolve To Defend Manilas South China Sea Claims
24. A Navy Admiral Who Reads 100 Books A Year Reveals The Essence Of Leadership



1. Leon Panetta: The Afghanistan war lessons that we cannot forget

Some good guidance here.

Leon Panetta: The Afghanistan war lessons that we cannot forget
CNN · by Opinion by Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta served as Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013 and is chairman of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN)I was on Capitol Hill on September 11, 2001, when I first learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center. As I was driving away from the Capitol, I saw the smoke from the plane that struck the Pentagon. With air traffic halted, my flight home was canceled, I struggled to get a rental car to drive across the country to get home to my family in California. As I drove on I-80 through our nation, I witnessed the American spirit -- homemade signs of God bless America, flags on display, and the strength and determination of the American people to never allow such an attack to happen again.
Leon Panetta
And for the past 20 years, America fought back -- with its troops, diplomats, intelligence and development professionals working tirelessly to ensure that Afghanistan would never again be used as a safe haven to attack our homeland. The US has had successes in Afghanistan, including the establishment of a democratic government, expanded rights for women, improved education, and successful operations to decimate core Al Qaeda and bring Osama Bin Laden to justice. And America has suffered losses, with more than 2,200 of its war fighters killed in action, seven CIA officers killed by a suicide bomber in 2010, and countless civilian deaths in a long and frustrating war.
President Joe Biden decided to bring America's troops home by the end of August. At the same time, the President has also made clear that we will not take our eye off the terrorist threat. The problem, however, is that the situation is deteriorating rapidly: our country's military commander in Afghanistan has warned of an imminent civil war; the latest intelligence assessment makes clear that once US troops leave, the Taliban could take control of Afghanistan in six to 12 months; and the Taliban is moving quickly to capture a number of rural districts and threaten the capital Kabul.
The Taliban cannot be trusted when it comes to terrorism. It is up to the United States to make sure that Afghanistan does not collapse and become a base of operations for terrorists again. Already in recent weeks we have seen senseless deaths at the hands of the Taliban, with the killing of 22 members of an Afghan Special Forces unit.
The fact is that the President has a wide array of military, diplomatic and intelligence resources that can be deployed to support Afghanistan at this critical time:
Read More
1. Meaningful assistance to Afghan Security Forces
The US and its NATO Allies should continue to fund and train the Afghan security forces. Yes, this has been an ongoing -- and often frustrating -- effort for many years, but ultimately, developing an effective military requires sustained educational, financial and security support.
Every time I went to Afghanistan, military commanders expressed confidence that the Afghan military could do the job -- the consensus was clear: "These guys are fighting and fighting tough." But absent US support, the military will struggle against a motivated Taliban.
2. Continue Counter Terrorism Operations

There will be times when the US military may need to be more directly involved with the over-the-horizon strike capabilities -- including the ability to hit targets with air-to-ground munitions, sea-based surface-to-surface missiles, and if necessary, a raid on particular terrorist targets by US Special Operations Forces.
While some US forces will remain in the region after drawing down in Afghanistan, its diplomats should work to establish new or expanded basing agreements with regional partners. These bases could host remotely-piloted MQ-9 Predator UAVs and other reliable surveillance assets to provide situational awareness and to enable quick reaction forces to deploy when US interests are at imminent risk. US commanders will need the ability to call in strikes from these UAVs and other nearby air and sea-based assets, like F-16s, F-18s, and Tomahawk missiles, to take out terrorist infrastructure as well. As with elsewhere around the globe, America's cyber forces will also remain a valuable tool to collect intelligence and disrupt enemy command-and-control.
3. Maintain Intelligence Networks
The ability of US national security professionals to understand the situation in Kabul and beyond will continue to rely on long-established human intelligence networks. The US will have to seek creative ways to maintain and grow those relationships as US government posture on the ground evolves. America's intelligence professionals were the first into Afghanistan after 9/11, and they will have to remain long after our troops depart.
4. A Strong Diplomatic Presence
Underlying this work will be an important element of the Biden administration's national security team, the diplomatic corps. As Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has made clear, the US will remain invested in Afghanistan to help support peace and reconciliation, as well as to provide economic and humanitarian assistance to help the Afghan people. It is also important that the US continues to help strengthen Afghanistan's civilian government capacity, not just its military. Core to this needs to be training its law enforcement and judicial officials to make them more effective and ensure they have proper training on rule of law.
5. Protect Those Who Fought With Our Forces
Finally, we must not forget the thousands of brave Afghans who risked their lives to help US security forces and diplomats over the past two decades. Much as with those who helped the US after we withdrew troops from Vietnam in the 1970s, and Kosovo and Iraq in the 1990s, the Afghans who served side by side with Americans deserve expedited visa consideration and other settlement assistance as they seek refuge from possible Taliban retribution. It's not only the right thing to do morally, but it also sends partners around the world the message that if you're there for America, America will be there for you.
I spent four years of my career as Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA, working intensely on elements of the war in Afghanistan, ranging from operations, to personnel, to policy. I commanded the operation to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice. I understand the reasons Biden made his decision -- the goal of stopping terrorist threats against the American homeland remains the critical objective, and we can achieve that objective with a combination of the on-the-ground and over-the-horizon capabilities to prevent Al Qaeda from reestablishing a safe haven there.

But there are lessons from this war that cannot be forgotten. The President understands the importance of maintaining our support for the Afghan people, so they can live in a pluralistic, democratic society that respects the rights of all its citizens, especially women. And he also understands that it was the Taliban that provided a safe haven for Al Qaeda to plan and execute the 9/11 attack. Surely, we owe it to the victims and families of that attack and all those who fought and died in the wars that followed to make sure that another 9/11 attack never happens again.
CNN · by Opinion by Leon Panetta


2. Biden’s nominee for Pentagon weapons chief withdraws


Biden’s nominee for Pentagon weapons chief withdraws
Defense News · by Joe Gould, Andrew Eversden · July 14, 2021
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Defense Innovation Unit director Mike Brown, withdrew from consideration on Tuesday, Defense News has confirmed.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin obtained by Defense News, Brown said he was withdrawing because an inspector general investigation into hiring practices at DIU was expected to delay consideration of his nomination by up to a year.
”While I am confident the Office of the Inspector General will ultimately find no wrongdoing on my part, I know there are other qualified candidates who can focus on the urgent business of making our acquisition process faster and more cost-effective,” Brown said in the letter. “I must put the interests of the Department above my own enthusiasm for serving as Under Secretary for Acquisitions and Sustainment.”
Brown said he looked forward to continuing in his role as director of DIU.
The news, first reported by Inside Defense, is another setback for the president’s efforts to fill key roles at the Pentagon and to further modernize departmental acquisitions.
As undersecretary, Brown would’ve overseen a budget of more than $100 billion for major defense programs — such as the F-35 fighter jet and aircraft carrier elevators — and for speeding up the software acquisition process. He would have been highly influential over defense industry matters and been responsible for maintaining America’s military edge.
Brown has headed up the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley outreach arm since 2018 and worked to connect small startups working on innovative technologies with Department of Defense components. Brown’s nomination was praised by observers, including several former senior DoD officials, because of his tech background and understanding of the challenges nontraditional contractors face working with the DoD.
Brown joined government in 2016 as a White House presidential innovation fellow after a long career in the tech sector capped by two years as CEO of cybersecurity software giant Symantec. As a fellow, he wrote a detailed report on the threat the Chinese government posed to the U.S. venture capital system.
Get breaking news in your inbox
Don't miss the latest breaking news from the Defense Industry. Sign up today
Enter a valid email address

Thanks for signing up!
Under Brown’s guidance, DIU has transitioned increasing amounts of projects over to DoD components. In 2020, DIU transitioned 11 projects, up from four in 2018.
DIU’s biggest achievement under Brown’s leadership was providing an alternative to Chinese-made small drones under a DIU project called Blue sUAS, which made trusted drone options available to the whole federal government.
Defense innovation experts had high hopes for Brown’s ability to adjust acquisition practices to better accommodate nontraditional contractors that could bring in innovative technologies that defense primes couldn’t offer, particularly in the technology race against China.
Bill Greenwalt, nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial policy, called the news “sad and depressing.”
“He had the potential, based on his background, to really bring in and leverage this massively innovative sector of the U.S. and international economy and then fold that into how we can create better capability against China,” Greenwalt said.
Arnold Punaro, a former staff director with the Senate Armed Services Committee and the current National Defense Industrial Association board chairman, said he is disappointed to see Brown withdraw.
“The DOD acquisition system needs strong leadership to implement innovation, speed, and cost-effectiveness, and Mike was the perfect choice for the position,” Punaro said in a statement. “Mike’s strong leadership will continue to benefit DIU and the Department moving forward, and we are lucky to have him there.”
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.
Defense News · by Joe Gould, Andrew Eversden · July 14, 2021



3. As Allied Forces Leave Afghanistan, The Taliban Keep Up Its Surge

An objective look at this shows the Taliban is getting it right in terms of influencing the population and making effective use of local leaders. It seems to be executing an excellent information operations program.  

It appears that the Taliban is following Mao like rules (and remarks) from  Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare (https://www.marines.mil/Portals/1/Publications/FMFRP%2012-18%20%20Mao%20Tse-tung%20on%20Guerrilla%20Warfare.pdf)

There is also a unity of spirit that should exist between troops and local inhabitants. The Eighth Route Army put into practice a code known as "The Three Rules and the Eight Remarks," which we list here: 
Rules: 
1. All actions are subject to command. 
2. Do not steal from the people. 
3. Be neither selfish nor unjust. 

Remarks: 
1. Replace the door when you leave the house. 
2. Roll up the bedding on which you have slept. 
3. Be courteous. 
4. Be honest in your transactions. 
5. Return what you borrow. 
6. Replace what you break. 
7. Do not bathe in the presence of women. 
8. Do not without authority search the pocketbooks of those you arrest. 
The Red Army adhered to this code for ten years and the Eighth Route Army and other units have since adopted it.

Of course the operative phrase below is "for now." No harsh rule for now. Not until they have consolidated power and dominate the entire country. THEN the harsh rule is likely to be imposed. This also prevents the calls by those who demand intervening againing if the rights of women and children are violated and if atrocities occur. The longer time passes the less likely for a "re-intervention."

Excerpts:

HADID: To curb any nascent opposition. Taking the north also shows how the Taliban's fighting force has evolved. The north is dominated by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks. The Taliban are largely Pashtun. But in the past few years, Sarwary says the Taliban have been recruiting from those communities.
SARWARY: Now they have, you know, people from Tajik, from Uzbek, from Turkmen communities. These commanders and leaders from these communities played a massive role in terms of places falling and places surrendering to the Taliban.
HADID: So in many cases, the Taliban fighters that seized northern areas weren't southern invaders, they were neighbors.
BILL ROGGIO: The Taliban often brought tribal elders and negotiated with a lot of these guys.
...
ROGGIO: If you surrender, we won't hurt you. You can go home. We're done. This was appealing to a lot of Afghans who were cut off.
HADID: And in another move that appears aimed at curbing resistance to their rule, the Taliban commander says in districts they've overrun, they're not imposing their harsh rules for now.


As Allied Forces Leave Afghanistan, The Taliban Keep Up Its Surge
NPR · by Diaa Hadid · July 14, 2021
Following the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the Taliban have begun a new phase of the conflict in Afghanistan. Their objective is to seize the entire country.
SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
U.S. forces and their allies may have largely left Afghanistan. But the country's four-decade-long war continues. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports.
DIAA HADID, BYLINE: This is, perhaps, the moment when the Afghan conflict entered a new phase - in April, when President Biden announced American troops were withdrawing.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It's time to end America's longest war.
HADID: Since then, the Taliban have overrun about half of Afghanistan. Officially, they're negotiating peace with the Afghan government. But on the ground, a mid-level Taliban commander tells us the goal is quite different. He spoke to NPR's producer Fazelminallah Qazizai over the phone. He requested anonymity because he doesn't want Afghan forces to identify him.
UNIDENTIFIED TALIBAN COMMANDER: (Through interpreter) These military achievements are so we can rule the country.
HADID: He goes on to say the strategy is to overrun key districts and encircle urban centers to force their surrender. The Taliban are also taking control of border crossings to deny the Afghan government revenue from customs duties and to compel neighboring countries to deal with them. One of the Taliban's greatest achievements was to overrun much of northern Afghanistan earlier this month. Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary showed a video of Taliban fighters strolling through a newly conquered green valley. They were crying out long live the Islamic Emirate, which is what the Taliban call themselves.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Non-English language spoken).
BILAL SARWARY: The pace of the fall of major districts is not only surprising, it's quite shocking.
HADID: Shocking because northern areas were once the bastions of resistance to the Taliban. The Taliban commander we spoke to says that's why they targeted these areas.
UNIDENTIFIED TALIBAN COMMANDER: (Non-English language spoken).
HADID: To curb any nascent opposition. Taking the north also shows how the Taliban's fighting force has evolved. The north is dominated by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks. The Taliban are largely Pashtun. But in the past few years, Sarwary says the Taliban have been recruiting from those communities.
SARWARY: Now they have, you know, people from Tajik, from Uzbek, from Turkmen communities. These commanders and leaders from these communities played a massive role in terms of places falling and places surrendering to the Taliban.
HADID: So in many cases, the Taliban fighters that seized northern areas weren't southern invaders, they were neighbors.
BILL ROGGIO: The Taliban often brought tribal elders and negotiated with a lot of these guys.
HADID: Bill Roggio is from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He says the Taliban are also benefiting from poor morale among Afghan government forces, many in isolated outposts, often going for months without support. He says tribal elders made this offer.
ROGGIO: If you surrender, we won't hurt you. You can go home. We're done. This was appealing to a lot of Afghans who were cut off.
HADID: And in another move that appears aimed at curbing resistance to their rule, the Taliban commander says in districts they've overrun, they're not imposing their harsh rules for now.
UNIDENTIFIED TALIBAN COMMANDER: (Through interpreter) We will not force men to wear beards or women to wear proper headscarves.
HADID: Yet, despite the Taliban's current surge, their victory isn't guaranteed. Enayat Najafizada is a Kabul-based military analyst. He points out that the government, unlike the Taliban, has an air force. And it is repelling insurgents from urban areas.
ENAYAT NAJAFIZADA: I think as long as the military, political and financial support of the U.S. and NATO continues, the Afghan government will be able to contain the Taliban.
HADID: As long as that support continues.
Diaa Hadid, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF TOR'S "GLASS AND STONE")
NPR · by Diaa Hadid · July 14, 2021


4. Joint Chiefs chairman feared potential ‘Reichstag moment’ aimed at keeping Trump in power

Offered without a partisan comment or judgement from me. If this reporting is accurate, while this may blow over in one or two news cycles, I think this is going to be something discussed in leadership and civil-military relations classes in the professional military education systems for decades to come.

Joint Chiefs chairman feared potential ‘Reichstag moment’ aimed at keeping Trump in power
The Washington Post · by Reis ThebaultJuly 14, 2021|Updated today at 6:33 a.m. EDT · July 15, 2021
In the waning weeks of Donald Trump’s term, the country’s top military leader repeatedly worried about what the president might do to maintain power after losing reelection, comparing his rhetoric to Adolf Hitler’s during the rise of Nazi Germany and asking confidants whether a coup was forthcoming, according to a new book by two Washington Post reporters.
As Trump ceaselessly pushed false claims about the 2020 presidential election, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, grew more and more nervous, telling aides he feared that the president and his acolytes might attempt to use the military to stay in office, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker report in “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year.”
Milley described “a stomach-churning” feeling as he listened to Trump’s untrue complaints of election fraud, drawing a comparison to the 1933 attack on Germany’s parliament building that Hitler used as a pretext to establish a Nazi dictatorship.
“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides, according to the book. “The gospel of the Führer.”
A spokesman for Milley declined to comment.
Portions of the book related to Milley — first reported Wednesday night by CNN ahead of the book’s July 20 release — offer a remarkable window into the thinking of America’s highest-ranking military officer, who saw himself as one of the last empowered defenders of democracy during some of the darkest days in the country’s recent history.
The episodes in the book are based on interviews with more than 140 people, including senior Trump administration officials, friends and advisers, Leonnig and Rucker write in an author’s note. Most agreed to speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity, and the scenes reported were reconstructed based on firsthand accounts and multiple other sources whenever possible.
Milley — who was widely criticized last year for appearing alongside Trump in Lafayette Square after protesters were forcibly cleared from the area — had pledged to use his office to ensure a free and fair election with no military involvement. But he became increasingly concerned in the days following the November contest, making multiple references to the onset of 20th-century fascism.
After attending a Nov. 10 security briefing about the “Million MAGA March,” a pro-Trump rally protesting the election, Milley said he feared an American equivalent of “brownshirts in the streets,” alluding to the paramilitary forces that protected Nazi rallies and enabled Hitler’s ascent.
Late that same evening, according to the book, an old friend called Milley to express concerns that those close to Trump were attempting to “overturn the government.”
“You are one of the few guys who are standing between us and some really bad stuff,” the friend told Milley, according to an account relayed to his aides. Milley was shaken, Leonnig and Rucker write, and he called former national security adviser H.R. McMaster to ask whether a coup was actually imminent.
“What the f--- am I dealing with?” Milley asked him.
The conversations put Milley on edge, and he began informally planning with other military leaders, strategizing how they would block Trump’s order to use the military in a way they deemed dangerous or illegal.
If someone wanted to seize control, Milley thought, they would need to gain sway over the FBI, the CIA and the Defense Department, where Trump had already installed staunch allies. “They may try, but they’re not going to f---ing succeed,” he told some of his closest deputies, the book says.
In the weeks that followed, Milley played reassuring soothsayer to a string of concerned members of Congress and administration officials who shared his worries about Trump attempting to use the military to stay in office.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” he told them, according to the book. “We’re going to have a peaceful transfer of power. We’re going to land this plane safely. This is America. It’s strong. The institutions are bending, but it won’t break.”
In December, with rumors circulating that the president was preparing to fire then-CIA Director Gina Haspel and replace her with Trump loyalist Kash Patel, Milley sought to intervene, the book says. He confronted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the annual Army-Navy football game, which Trump and other high-profile guests attended.
“What the hell is going on here?” Milley asked Meadows, according to the book’s account. “What are you guys doing?”
When Meadows responded, “Don’t worry about it,” Milley shot him a warning: “Just be careful.”
After the failed insurrection on Jan. 6, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Milley to ask for his guarantee that Trump would not be able to launch a nuclear strike and start a war.
“This guy’s crazy,” Pelosi said of Trump in what the book reported was mostly a one-way phone call. “He’s dangerous. He’s a maniac.”
Once again, Milley sought to reassure: “Ma’am, I guarantee you that we have checks and balances in the system,” he told Pelosi.
Less than a week later, as military and law enforcement leaders planned for President Biden’s inauguration, Milley said he was determined to avoid a repeat of the siege on the Capitol.
“Everyone in this room, whether you’re a cop, whether you’re a soldier, we’re going to stop these guys to make sure we have a peaceful transfer of power,” he told them. “We’re going to put a ring of steel around this city and the Nazis aren’t getting in.”
At Biden’s swearing-in on Jan. 20, Milley was seated behind former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, who asked the general how he was feeling.
“No one has a bigger smile today than I do,” Milley replied. “You can’t see it under my mask, but I do.”

The Washington Post · by Reis ThebaultJuly 14, 2021|Updated today at 6:33 a.m. EDT · July 15, 2021


5. Huge Military Exercise Kicks Off in Australia Amid Tensions with China

I have fond memories of training in Australia though the Tandem Thrust and Talisman Sabre exercises I participated in decades ago were not as large as this.

Huge Military Exercise Kicks Off in Australia Amid Tensions with China
military.com · by Konstantin Toropin · July 14, 2021
A massive, multinational exercise led by Australian and U.S. forces kicked off Wednesday.
On its surface, Talisman Sabre is a chance for more than 17,000 troops from the Australian and U.S. militaries, as well as forces from the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea, to practice operating together. However, the exercise also comes at a challenging time in U.S.-China relations.
"Talisman Sabre is a major undertaking for all participants and demonstrates our capacity to achieve large-scale operational outcomes, while also dealing with a global pandemic," Maj. Gen. Jake Ellwood, commander of Australia's Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, said in a statement published by Australia's Department of Defence.
Experts describe the biennial exercise as aiming to send a strong message to China about U.S. strength in the region and its close bonds with allies in the area.
This year, Talisman Sabre begins just days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the U.S. would continue to follow a Trump-era rejection of nearly all of China's significant maritime claims in the South China Sea and warned its leaders that any attack on the Philippines would provoke a U.S. response under a mutual defense treaty.
On July 13, just two days after Blinken's announcement, the destroyer Benfold conducted a freedom of navigation transit near the Paracel Islands -- territory China claims.
The Chinese military said it "drove away" the warship, according to a Reuters report. The Navy denied that, calling the claim "the latest in a long string of [People's Republic of China] actions to misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims" in a statement from Indo-Pacific Command.
Amid that backdrop, Talisman Sabre will conduct amphibious landings, ground force maneuvers, urban operations, and air combat and maritime operations.
The last time the exercise was held, U.S. Marines, Australian soldiers, and Japan's then-brand-new amphibious force carried out a mock beach raid, giving a glimpse into how the three countries could unite to defend contested islands in the Pacific.
The Australian announcement also notes that "a majority of these international forces will participate exclusively offshore, including about 5,000 who will participate as part of a US Navy Expeditionary Strike Group."
In addition to naval forces, the exercise will involve 40 aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force.
Talisman Sabre will run until mid-August, but activities will peak from July 18-31, according to the Australian Department of Defence.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
military.com · by Konstantin Toropin · July 14, 2021


6. Pushing Beyond Sex Assault, Gillibrand Faces Resistance to Military Bill

We have lost credibility as military leaders in our failure to deal with sexual assault (in the eyes of Congress, the public, and the victimes). But we need to be careful about changing the entire military justice system.


Pushing Beyond Sex Assault, Gillibrand Faces Resistance to Military Bill
The New York Times · by Jennifer Steinhauer · July 14, 2021
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has spent years building support for a measure to remove commanders from decisions about prosecuting sex crimes, but some colleagues now worry it goes too far.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill would remove the decision to prosecute major crimes like sexual assault and other felonies such as murder from military commanders to military prosecutors.Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

By
July 14, 2021
WASHINGTON — After years of resistance from Pentagon leaders, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, appeared to be nearing victory on a major change to how the military handles sexual assault cases. But her emphasis on the inclusion of all serious crimes in the measure as a matter of racial justice now threatens to weaken her support.
Ms. Gillibrand’s push to remove commanders from decisions in the prosecution of sexual assault cases had gained bipartisan backing despite opposition from military leaders. Last month, President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III endorsed a similar change recommended by an independent military panel.
But Mr. Austin and some of Ms. Gillibrand’s strongest allies in Congress on this issue are balking at the more extensive changes to the military justice system. Some lawmakers say they had only recently focused on the particulars of the measure after months of discussions.
“Her bill is far broader than I had realized,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and an early proponent of Ms. Gillibrand’s measure. “I believe she’s made a compelling case on sexual assault and related allegations to be taken out of the chain of command.”
But Ms. Collins said she did not think there was justification for moving other alleged crimes out of the military justice system.
Ms. Gillibrand’s bill would remove the decision to prosecute major crimes like sexual assault and other felonies such as murder from military commanders to military prosecutors. The Pentagon panel suggested a more limited change: that a special victims unit within the military should be set up for sex assault cases and a few other crimes.
But Ms. Gillibrand argues that would create an unequal system and has said her proposal would also help combat racial injustice.
A bill that would cover most felonies is “necessary,” she said Tuesday on the Senate floor, “because the current military justice system is simply not delivering justice, especially not to service members of color.”
This tactic has helped bring other voices to her cause.
“Racial and gender biases in the military have resulted in the under-prosecution of sex assault cases and the over-prosecution of Black and brown officers,” Representative Anthony Brown, Democrat of Maryland, a veteran and former Army judge advocate general, said in an interview this week.
While prosecutorial disparities in the military have existed throughout time, he said, “I think in aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic murder, it really propelled many of us to say: ‘Hey, this is a real opportunity here to fix these inequities and disparities.’”
Studies over the years have noted racial disparities in the military justice system, including in how discipline is administered.
The tension building over Ms. Gillibrand’s measure and the narrower changes recommended by the military commission presents potentially tricky terrain for Mr. Austin, who has said that more forcefully addressing sexual assault, racism and extremism in the ranks are among his top priorities.
Many military leaders who reject changes in the sexual assault cases might also oppose losing other prosecutorial powers. But the focus on other crimes also could alienate some of Ms. Gillibrand’s supporters — many of whom were brought along after years of courting.
“My inclination now is to do sexual assault,” said Senator Angus King, Independent of Maine, after previously saying he would sign on with Ms. Gillibrand. “That’s been the target of our work for eight years.”
Ms. Gillibrand still appears to enjoy support among the roughly 70 senators from both parties who got on board this spring. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, has been on her side for years, while some Democrats, like Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, more recently joined her efforts.
“There’s a lot of reasons to professionalize the way you treat felonies,” said Mr. Kaine, who once practiced law. “Kirsten has a bright line that maybe was a little different than the way she was drawing the line earlier. But it’s a line that makes sense to us lawyers.”
Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, agreed. “As a lawyer and former prosecutor, I think there is some value in having continuity, saying any felony crime is going to be handled the same way no matter what it is. I like that as a former prosecutor and I like it as a defense lawyer. To me it’s a plus.”
Both men said they support the bill as written but welcome further debate on the proposed changes, which would require an act of Congress.
Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, now supports the change in sexual assault prosecutions after years of resistance. But he is a leading voice against expanding this process to other crimes.
The data on racial disparities is mixed and at times inconclusive, owing in large part to the military’s failure to keep consistent data on race and the justice system, several reports have noted.
recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that Black and Hispanic service members were more likely than Whites to be tried in a court-martial proceedings across the military, but that race “was not a statistically significant factor for a conviction.”
report last year by the Air Force inspector general found that Black service members are 1.64 times more likely to be suspects in Office of Special Investigations criminal cases, but said that “the identification of racial disparity does not automatically mean racial bias or racism is present.”
The New York Times · by Jennifer Steinhauer · July 14, 2021


7. Guard training could be cancelled as political fights delay reimbursement for Capitol Hill mission

Excerpts:
Nearly 26,000 National Guard troops were mobilized to provide security around Washington D.C. earlier this year. Guard leaders have said that without funding to reimburse those unexpected costs, they’ll be forced to curtail training in August and September to cover the financial shortfall.
But House Republicans offered little support for the House supplemental, and Senate Republicans have said they won’t support the even more expensive plan from Leahy.
Before Leahy’s proposal was unveiled, Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., offered a $633 million supplemental, including the Guard reimbursement money and some new funding for Capitol Police operations, but not much else.
“We all agree we must provide desperately-needed funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard,” Shelby said in a statement Tuesday.
“Funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard must not be held hostage because the Democrats insist on billions more in spending that lacks full support at this time. The clock is ticking. Let’s pass what we all agree on.”

Guard training could be cancelled as political fights delay reimbursement for Capitol Hill mission
militarytimes.com · by Leo Shane III · July 14, 2021
Despite looming financial headaches for the National Guard, congressional leaders remain far apart on plans for a new Capitol Hill security supplemental plan containing hundreds of millions of dollars for the service.
On Monday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced a new $3.7 billion proposal to provide money for security upgrades to the congressional campus, bulk up Capitol Police training and equipment, and cover $521 million in unexpected Guard costs related to the four-month deployment to Capitol Hill in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on Congress.
The measure is nearly double the $1.9 billion plan approved by House lawmakers for campus security earlier this year, which also had the $521 million in Guard reimbursement funds.

The quick reaction force would fall under the District of Columbia Air National Guard.
Leo Shane III
May 14
Leahy’s plan also includes $100 million to emergency aid for Afghan refugees looking to leave the country as U.S. troops depart from that country, $761 million for military health care costs related to coronavirus testing, and $549 million to cover cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment costs related to military activities.
“A violent insurrection happened. A pandemic happened. And the president announced the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan,” Leahy said in a Senate floor speech on Monday. “These events created urgent needs that must be met now.”
Nearly 26,000 National Guard troops were mobilized to provide security around Washington D.C. earlier this year. Guard leaders have said that without funding to reimburse those unexpected costs, they’ll be forced to curtail training in August and September to cover the financial shortfall.
But House Republicans offered little support for the House supplemental, and Senate Republicans have said they won’t support the even more expensive plan from Leahy.

Before Leahy’s proposal was unveiled, Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., offered a $633 million supplemental, including the Guard reimbursement money and some new funding for Capitol Police operations, but not much else.
“We all agree we must provide desperately-needed funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard,” Shelby said in a statement Tuesday.
“Funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard must not be held hostage because the Democrats insist on billions more in spending that lacks full support at this time. The clock is ticking. Let’s pass what we all agree on.”
House lawmakers also included in their security supplemental proposal about $200 million to set up a quick reaction force of National Guard members to respond to future violence or threats on Capitol Hill.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said officials are conducting a review into the matter to see how to best address the pay gaps.
Leo Shane III
June 14
Leahy’s plan would instead set up a new U.S. Capitol Protection Task Force at a cost of about $27 million, made up of “mainly of law enforcement officers who have had significant training and experience in handling demonstrations, riots and and other large scale events” rather than Guard members. Shelby did not include either idea in his plans.
Lawmakers are expected to break in early August for a summer recess. Whether any plan can advance through both chambers in the next few weeks is unclear, leaving the Guard training issues in doubt.

militarytimes.com · by Leo Shane III · July 14, 2021


8. Statement From Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Welcoming Home General Scott Miller

An important statement not only recognizing General Miller and the men and women who served and sacrificed in Afghanistan but also the announcement that DOD and State will work to relocate Afghans and their families who have been in service to the mission.

Excerpts:
As we have over the last 20 years, so must we continue to honor the service and sacrifice of those who have performed so bravely in the field. They and their families have struggled and sacrificed on our behalf. In many ways they still do. But they also have much for which to be proud.
That we have not been attacked from Afghanistan since 9-11, that the Afghan government now has the opportunity to advance the progress which has been made in their country, and that the Afghan forces now have in their possession the capabilities – the advantages – they need to defend their people all stands as testament to the skill, professionalism and courage of our troops and those of our allies.

Statement From Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Welcoming Home General Scott Miller
I was pleased this morning to welcome home Gen. Scott Miller and his staff. On Monday, Gen. Miller concluded his nearly three-year tour as Commander of United States Forces-Afghanistan, and turned those responsibilities over to Gen. Frank McKenzie.
As Gen. McKenzie noted during the turnover ceremony, Scott Miller was the right leader at the right time. Not only did he plan and lead the complex withdrawal of millions of tons of equipment and thousands of personnel, his team did so with the understanding that speed was of the essence. Speed is safety. And it largely for this reason that this truly historic feat has thus far been conducted without a single casualty.
Equally important are the tireless efforts Gen. Miller has undertaken these last three years to secure our hard-fought interests in Afghanistan, as well as those of our NATO Allies, Coalition partners, and Afghan partners. His exceptional operational acumen and strategic vision has helped ensure that America will not be threatened by terrorist networks emanating from within Afghanistan.
Scott and his staff are home now, and we are grateful for their safe return. But our mission in Afghanistan is not over. The drawdown continues and will be complete by the end of August.
DOD remains committed to protecting our diplomatic presence in country, continuing to provide funding to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and advising to Afghan security ministries, and preventing the re-emergence of violent extremist organizations.
We will also be working closely with the State Department to help re-locate those Afghans and their families who have been of such service to our mission. We take seriously our obligation to them, and we honor their contributions.
As we have over the last 20 years, so must we continue to honor the service and sacrifice of those who have performed so bravely in the field. They and their families have struggled and sacrificed on our behalf. In many ways they still do. But they also have much for which to be proud.
That we have not been attacked from Afghanistan since 9-11, that the Afghan government now has the opportunity to advance the progress which has been made in their country, and that the Afghan forces now have in their possession the capabilities – the advantages – they need to defend their people all stands as testament to the skill, professionalism and courage of our troops and those of our allies.


9. Putting the Sting in the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy: A Vision for the Future of the MAGTF

The "wasp MAGTF."

Excerpts:
As part of the shift to a wasp-like maritime force, the Marine Corps should absorb the US Navy’s riverine capabilities and missions. These squadrons already practice asymmetric warfare, support SOF units, and have the assets to support distributed operations. Existing riverine platforms are also capable of providing expeditionary advanced basing options and use ramp and rails to launch sleds for autonomous vehicles.
Ultimately, the Marine Corps needs to be the wasp that operates in the gray zone, below the threshold of war. To do so, it needs to decouple itself from incrementally building on antiquated platforms, policies, and capabilities. It needs to be offensive and small, and it must operate as the disruptive maritime service. These requirements are significant and will demand institutional realignment, doctrinal shifts, and procurement changes. Becoming the wasp cultivates the very Marine Corps the commandant envisions.



Putting the Sting in the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy: A Vision for the Future of the MAGTF - Modern War Institute
mwi.usma.edu · by David Laszcz · July 15, 2021
The newest US maritime strategy, Advantage at Sea, fails to include the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) as a viable operational component for competition in the gray zone. Though Advantage at Sea recognizes the ever-growing Chinese maritime threat, it does not provide a practical way for the United States to address that threat. As the Marine Corps reshapes itself through the guidance in Force Design 2030,it must take the opportunity to create a forward-deployed, commando-like force to fill the gaps present in Advantage at Sea. Doing so offers a way to counter China by using disruptive and asymmetric means to both coexist with and deter competitors and, if necessary, fight at sea.
Strategically, the United States currently lacks an appropriately sized, robust force to conduct gray zone operations. The Marine Corps is the most naturally suited to become that service-level asymmetric component. To be a competitive force against asymmetric actors such as the China Coast Guard and the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia, the Marine Corps must pivot toward an operating concept and organizational design that is smaller, is self-sustainable, and can adapt as needed. The operational answer is the “wasp MAGTF,” which emulates a swarm of its namesake. The wasp MAGTF would be a maritime force that is consistently deployed, distributed in small units, and conceptually in line with Distributed Maritime Operations. Furthermore, the wasp MAGTF’s missions would be different from what the MAGTF does today.
In nature, an individual wasp exists as part of a group. Highly organized, wasps cooperate to build nests, hunt insect pests, gather nectar, and form colonies. Individual wasps also have the ability to attack when disturbed, but often do so in a swarm. The wasp forms part of a swarm to protect the nest, releasing pheromones to warn other wasps of danger. In essence, a wasp is individually small but collectively mighty.
Similarly, as an operating concept, the wasp MAGTF would exist as one part of the larger operational environment. To be effective and support Advantage at Sea’s objectives, the wasp operating concept requires a MAGTF that can scale the required components to conduct direct action, foreign internal defense in the maritime domain, unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, and civil affairs to address contingencies and threats. While these mission sets are traditionally the purview of special operations forces (SOF), the size of SOF limits their ability to be a theater-wide deterrent. By contrast, the Marine Corps is large enough to provide adequate manpower to address the problem at scale.
In business, disruptive innovation is a competitive process through which a well-established competitor is upended when a relative upstart introduces less expensive and more accessible products that are surgical and agile enough to address market needs. Often, the upstart targets market segments that have been overlooked, delivering an alternative product to fill the gaps. These innovative products are burdensome for the established market leader to adapt for and respond to. Disruption forces established businesses to alter their processes, adapt, or lose—how Blockbuster fell to Netflix. For an emerging competitor, success is not predicated on mirroring well-established capabilities; instead, success is achieved by understanding the incumbent’s gaps and countering them with more agile capabilities.
Over the past decades, competitors have leveraged disruptive innovations and techniques to challenge US tactical and operational practices. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States invested billions of dollars in sustaining technologies to compete with insurgents making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using locally available munitions. Looking to the Indo-Pacific, the Chinese recently transformed a cargo ship into an aircraft carrier and have consistently employed asymmetric forces in contested areas. In order to project power, the United States, on the other hand, remains tied to Ford-class aircraft carriers with price tags of over $11 billion per ship. As with the insurgent-built IEDs and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles (MRAPs), the price differential between a cargo ship and an aircraft carrier is staggering.
Chinese efforts at disruptive innovation alone do not foretell American defeat. Enter the wasp operating concept and the Marine Corps. By becoming a commando-like maritime force that is smaller, is self-sustained, and can swarm in response to aggression or hostility, the Marine Corps can be the counter–disruptive force within the competition continuum. Overall, the commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger, is actively reshaping the force and eliminating capabilities that do not support vigorous expeditionary operations conducted in support of fleet operations. To become the wasp, the Marine Corps needs to double down on this effort and continue to reduce its size and divest in irrelevant assets to resemble a more modular force, in line with the direction the British Corps of Royal Marines is taking. The Royal Marines have already cut tanks, MRAPs, and amphibious assault vehicles, and are in the process of streamlining and restructuring their artillery assets. The US Marine Corps should look to its British peer as a model.
Becoming the Wasp
The Marine Corps will need to make structural, equipment, doctrinal, and personnel changes in order to become the wasp and meet the requirements of Advantage at Sea. Most, if not all, will be significant changes and a break from the past. Nevertheless, adopting the wasp operating concept is essential to counter the Chinese threat.
Current Marine Corps structure is built around the MAGTF, which relies on antiquated strategies that do not match needed capabilities. The MAGTF is a scalable construct consisting of four distinct components: a ground combat element, an aviation combat element, a logistics support element, and a command element. It is scalable in size, ranging from a special purpose MAGTF of roughly two thousand Marines and sailors to a Marine expeditionary force of over sixty thousand. Traditional MAGTFs are amphibious, employing naval assets for transportation and logistical support. The MAGTF’s most commonly deployed unit is the Marine expeditionary unit, which is built around a reinforced infantry battalion and composite aviation squadron.
Marine Corps structure is slowly changing with incremental shifts to the Marine littoral regiment (MLR) as the force’s main effort. The MLR is a smaller, more autonomous unit than its predecessors but continues to rely on sustained technologies and organizational paradigms to pit conventional means against asymmetric ones. The MLR remains housed in the Marine division, which has traditionally been the Marine Corps’s main effort. The long-term solution is to divest from the Marine division as the main effort and focus on Corps-wide interoperability with its maritime sister services by producing scalable direct action, foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, and civil affairs forces to minimize costs and maximize output.
Instead of continuing to rely on and invest in ships made vulnerable by Chinese sensors and weapons within a weapon engagement zone, the Marine Corps will need light, reliable, and replaceable maritime assets. As part of the transition to the wasp operating concept, the Marine Corps will no longer need large deck amphibious ships but instead should acquire platforms such as the Light Amphibious Warships, autonomous vessels, and patrol boats. These ships need to be capable of operating organic loitering munitions, long-range fires, and electronic warfare technology.
Overall, the wasp MAGTF would have a vastly different table of equipment than a current Marine expeditionary unit. Internally, the first place to start would be looking at the commandant’s overinvestment list and identify short-term acquisition efforts toward maritime and distributed capabilities. It should both own and employ the Mark VI patrol boats or Combat Boat 90s. These vessels are small, cost-effective, and agile craft capable of swarming over the long distances in US Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility. Using proven maritime technology, the wasp MAGTF would provide a skillset and platform on which to test and refine small-unit maritime capabilities until long-term acquisitions can be made. Fires and reconnaissance capabilities can be enhanced by including autonomous vessels at the small-unit level. Once ashore, lightweight vehicles should provide mobility instead of legacy wheeled vehicles.
Operationally, a wasp MAGTF would operate semiautonomously in the Indo-Pacific, combining the “Warbot” concept proposed by four Marine officers in 2018 with naval expeditionary warfare in actively contested spaces. As such, these small units should be a mix of military operational specialties and skills, similar to the current MAGTF concept. Wasp MAGTFs should incorporate not only traditional combat power and amphibious raiding skillsets but also cryptologic linguist operators; signals intelligence/electronic warfare/cyberspace operations technicians; and intelligence, surveillance, and radio reconnaissance teams. The Marine Corps wasp must also incorporate existing capabilities from sister services to better fulfill its diverse mission set.
As part of the shift to a wasp-like maritime force, the Marine Corps should absorb the US Navy’s riverine capabilities and missions. These squadrons already practice asymmetric warfare, support SOF units, and have the assets to support distributed operations. Existing riverine platforms are also capable of providing expeditionary advanced basing options and use ramp and rails to launch sleds for autonomous vehicles.
Ultimately, the Marine Corps needs to be the wasp that operates in the gray zone, below the threshold of war. To do so, it needs to decouple itself from incrementally building on antiquated platforms, policies, and capabilities. It needs to be offensive and small, and it must operate as the disruptive maritime service. These requirements are significant and will demand institutional realignment, doctrinal shifts, and procurement changes. Becoming the wasp cultivates the very Marine Corps the commandant envisions.
David Laszcz is a Pat Tillman and Harry S. Truman Scholar. He currently serves as the executive officer for MEU Support Company, 2d Radio Battalion. He holds a master’s in public policy from Harvard and previously served at the White House and as an infantry squad leader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, US Marine Corps, or Department of Defense.
Image credit: Cpl. Matthew Teutsch, US Marine Corps
mwi.usma.edu · by David Laszcz · July 15, 2021



10.  The Uyghur Chronicles: Escaping the Genocide in Xinjiang

A long read about the tragic situation for the Uyghurs in China.

Please go to the link for proper formatting: https://www.theatlantic.com/the-uyghur-chronicles/

The Uyghur Chronicles: Escaping the Genocide in Xinjiang


The Police-Station Basement
派出所的地下室 ‎ساقچىخانىنىڭ يەر ئاستى ئۆيى
On a Saturday morning in May 2017, my wife, my daughters, and I piled into the car and headed to Turpan, a nearby city, to relax for the weekend. The winter cold still hadn’t left Urumqi, and we were hoping a couple of days enjoying the warm spring weather in Turpan would be good for us.
On long car trips, we usually passed the time with conversation. But it was hard to talk about anything besides what was happening.
The Chinese government’s mass internment of Uyghurs was in full swing. This campaign had begun in Kashgar, Khotan, and other predominantly Uyghur parts of southern Xinjiang. Now it had reached Urumqi, the regional capital, where our acquaintances were regularly disappearing. Every day, hundreds of Uyghurs who had moved here over the decades—finding work, starting families, buying houses, coming to consider themselves locals—had been shipped out to concentration camps known as “study centers.” Nearly everyone I knew from the labor camp where I’d been imprisoned two decades earlier had already been rearrested. My turn would clearly come soon.

Human-rights groups, academics, and multiple governments contend that China has interned more than 1 million Uyghurs, along with thousands of individuals from other Muslim minority groups, and undertaken a campaign of forced sterilization against Uyghur women. The U.S.Canada, and the Netherlands have officially recognized the crisis as a genocide. Beijing rejects these charges, insisting that Uyghurs are voluntarily undergoing “reeducation” at the camps.
Surveillance technology, already ubiquitous in our city, had become even more sophisticated and invasive. Police were everywhere. I had spent hours cleaning my phone of pictures, videos, audio recordings, and even instant-message records—anything that authorities might seize on as “evidence.”
I wanted to leave the country, but my wife, Merhaba, was reluctant. In 16 years of marriage, we had confronted all manner of difficulties. We had bought an apartment, raised two kids, and started our own film-production company, small though it was. It hadn’t been all that long since we’d established ourselves, but we were finally doing well. Merhaba cherished our way of life and had no desire to leave her relatives and friends. “Things can’t get that bad,” she would say. “God help us. We haven’t done anything they could arrest us for.”
It is not an easy thing to leave your homeland in your 40s and start life anew. Although we had never spoken openly about it, we both knew that if we left, we might never be able to return.
Our two girls, who had long since tired of these endless discussions, had fallen asleep in the back seat. To our right, below the Heavenly Mountains, Salt Lake shone like a giant mirror tossed into the desert.
My cellphone rang through the car speakers. It was an unknown number. Everyone now feared unknown numbers.
“Hello. Is this Mr. Tahir Hamut?” It sounded like a young Uyghur woman.
“Yes, speaking.”
“This is Güljan, from the neighborhood committee.”

In China’s cities, the neighborhood committee is the Chinese Communist Party’s lowest-level governing organ.
She was calling because the police station was collecting fingerprints from anyone who had been abroad, and that meant they wanted ours. I offered to come by on Monday morning.
“I’m sure it will be crowded in the morning. Why don’t you come at two in the afternoon?”
“All right. Seems like you’re working even over the weekend?”
“Yes, we’ve been working weekends for a while.”
Our weekend in Turpan passed under a cloud of anxiety. As hard as Merhaba and I tried to enjoy ourselves, we couldn’t put our appointment out of our minds.
“They don’t want anything else besides our fingerprints, right?” she asked. By “anything else,” she meant whether we would be sent to “study.”
The word from Kashgar was that the wave of arrests there had been so expansive that all existing detention facilities in the city—police-station lockups, prisons, holding centers, labor camps, drug-detox stations—were quickly overwhelmed. Schools and government offices had been repurposed as “study centers” and hastily outfitted with iron doors, window bars, and barbed wire. Rumors spread that outside the city, construction was proceeding rapidly on multiple new internment facilities, each meant to house tens of thousands. Fear reigned. Everyone could only hope that all this “study” would in fact last, as the government said, a matter of months.
On Monday, Merhaba and I made our way to the police station. From the window of a small guardhouse by the gate, a middle-aged Uyghur guard recorded our names, ethnicities, ID numbers, address, and purpose of visit. Then he waved us through.
We stepped inside the police station, and a young Han Chinese police officer stationed at a desk in the front hall sent us down to the basement, pointing us to a door at the top of a stairwell.

China is home to an array of ethnicities, but the Han make up the overwhelming majority of the country’s people, and its leadership. Even in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, most positions of responsibility are held by Han.
My heart skipped a beat. Three years earlier, I had come to this same police station to take care of some passport paperwork for my wife and daughters. After combing through our family’s digital files, an officer had prepared a statement in Chinese affirming that my wife and daughters had no criminal records, were not among the “seven kinds of people prohibited from traveling abroad,” had not participated in the 2009 violence in Urumqi, and were eligible for passports.

In June 2009, Uyghur employees at a factory in eastern China were lynched by Han co-workers after baseless rumors circulated that Uyghurs there had raped a Han woman. These events sparked protests in Urumqi, which began peacefully but turned violent following police suppression. The riots left at least 197 dead and marked a turning point in the Chinese state’s treatment of Uyghurs.
The application forms needed to be signed by the police station’s deputy chief for national security. Standing in this very hall, a Han police officer had told me to wait, as the deputy chief was questioning someone in the basement. I took a seat on an iron bench in the corridor. Soon, I heard a man’s voice crying out wretchedly. I shuddered. The officer on duty hurried over and shut the metal door leading down to the basement. Typically, stairwells didn’t have doors like this. It was clear that this police station had constructed an interrogation chamber.
Now my wife and I had to walk through that metal doorway, down the stairs to the basement. At the bottom was a corridor about 20 meters long. On the left were three cells, metal bars separating them from the corridor. The cells’ doors were open, and they were unoccupied. In the first stood a heavy iron chair. Along the walls, iron rings were affixed to the concrete floor; I figured these were for shackling people. In the middle were what could only be faded bloodstains.
On the right was a row of offices. When we entered the basement, two other couples were waiting their turn. Before long, about 20 other people, nearly all middle-aged Uyghurs, had lined up behind us. What I saw on their faces was worry and confusion.
When our turn came, we entered the second office. Güljan, from our neighborhood committee, was waiting for us. She had us sign a registry. In addition to our fingerprints, she now said that they would also be taking blood samples, voice samples, and facial images. My wife looked at me anxiously.
Nearly everyone I knew from the labor camp where I’d been imprisoned two decades earlier had already been rearrested. My turn would clearly come soon.
Clumsily preparing to take our blood samples were a young Uyghur woman, likely from the neighborhood committee, and a young Uyghur man, an assistant police officer. The woman rubbed alcohol on my index finger, then the man drew blood with a needle. She held out a white plastic container the size of a matchbox while he dripped the blood from my finger onto a sponge in the container. Then she sealed the container, wrote my name in Chinese characters on the label affixed to the lid, and wrote my ID number below my name.
In the next room, three computers had been set up on a big table. One was being used to take voice samples, one to take fingerprints, and the third to take facial images. In front of each computer was stationed a Uyghur woman, brought in temporarily from another government department.
On the table were two copies of the Urumqi Evening Gazette, one in Uyghur, one in Chinese. The technician responsible for voice samples pointed to the newspapers. “Read for two minutes without pause. I’ll give you a signal when two minutes are up.” I picked up the Uyghur paper, opened to the second page, and began reading a news item on relations between the United States and North Korea. The technician recorded my voice and saved the file.
I then placed my hands one at a time on a fingerprint scanner, fingers splayed. After that, one by one, I placed each finger of my right hand and then each finger of my left hand on the scanner. To ensure that all of the fingerprints were fully recorded, I was told to roll each fingertip slowly over the scanner. If a scan did not meet the computer’s requirements, the system would reject it, and the technician would instruct me to press my finger to the scanner again.
I had given fingerprints a number of times in my life. But I had never seen or heard of a fingerprinting process as exhaustive as the one I underwent in the police-station basement.
Now it was time for facial imaging. On the other side of the office stood a camera, with a chair facing it. A Han police assistant instructed me to take a seat. He walked over to the camera and adjusted the tripod so the lens was level with my face..
Getty; Adam Ferriss
By then, I had been a film director for 18 years. I had seen and used cameras of all shapes and sizes. After the 2009 violence in Urumqi, surveillance equipment had been installed on every corner of the city. But this camera was unlike any I had seen: Running from one end to the other was a flat lens about three centimeters high and 20 centimeters long.
The woman operating the computer explained what I was to do. When she gave me a signal, I needed to look straight at the camera, then turn my head slowly and steadily to the right. I was then to turn at the same speed back to face the camera. Then I had to turn my head fully to the left, and back again to face the camera. At the same slow, steady speed, I was then to tilt my head back and look up, then to look straight at the camera. After that, I had to tilt my head down at the same speed and look toward the floor, and then to return to the original position. Finally, I was to slowly and completely open my mouth and hold that position. After I closed my mouth and looked steadily at the camera, my facial scan would be complete. All of these movements needed to be carried out in the assigned order in a single, uninterrupted sequence, two seconds per position. If any movement did not conform to the requirements, the computer would give a signal and stop running, after which I would have to start over from the beginning.
I successfully completed the sequence on my third try. I noticed my palms were sweaty.
My wife, who had been going through these procedures immediately after me, struggled when she came to the facial scan. The sequences for men and women differed in only one way: While men were required to open their mouths wide at the end, women had to close their mouths tightly and puff out their cheeks. I wondered what the reason was for this difference. As hard as she tried, Merhaba couldn’t maintain the steady speed required. Her movements would be too fast, then too slow. Her face reddened with frustration and resentment. I stood to the side, encouraging and prompting her. On her sixth attempt she finally succeeded. We couldn’t help but feel as happy as kids.
We reported to Güljan that we had finished all of the procedures, then made our way past the weary line of people waiting their turn and headed upstairs. It was past 5 o’clock by the time we exited the police station.
“We need to leave the country,” my wife said bitterly.
Support the Atlantic’s most ambitious journalism.
From on-the-ground reporting to rigorous fact-checking, our work depends on our subscribers. Join us today, starting at less than $1 a week.


The United Line of Defense
联合防线 بىرلەشمە مۇداپىئە سېپى
On a Monday morning in May 2017, my family finished breakfast and my daughters headed off to school. Before long, my cellphone rang. It was Wang, a Han neighborhood-committee official who had jurisdiction over the building where our film-production company was based.
Every Monday and Wednesday, he came to inspect our office. After each visit, he would use his phone to scan the QR code on the wall just inside the office door. That code contained identifying information for each of our employees. We were all used to such things by then, and none of us thought much of it.
Wang told me over the phone that our office was locked and he was waiting for me in front of the building. He asked me politely to come as quickly as I could to open the office door for him. I got in my car and headed over.
New “stability preservation” measures had recently been rolled out across Xinjiang. One of these was mobilizing residents into a “United Line of Defense Against Violent Terrorists.” Wang was tasked with presiding over our office building’s maneuvers. When he gave the order, the security guards at the front entrance would blow their whistles. The owners and office managers of all the companies in the building would come running down the stairs; within three minutes, we would be standing in formation on the plaza in front of the building. Reading from a list in Chinese, Wang would call out our names to check attendance. Sometimes, at his direction, we would form into military-style columns and jog over to the courtyard of the neighboring building, where we would join its staff in forming a United Line of Defense Against Violent Terrorists.
There wasn’t much to these maneuvers. The cadres would consider their work successful if everyone showed up and demonstrated a serious attitude and urgent bearing. Officials from higher up would regularly come to observe. Ostensibly, the purpose of these maneuvers was to maintain a state of readiness against violent terrorists; if anyone failed to cooperate or took part only passively, their name would be forwarded to the neighborhood police. In reality, it seemed that the aim of these activities was to keep us in a constant state of fear.
People eventually felt as though they were part of the police, with a taste for watching and reporting on one another. They remained constantly ready to confront enemies, and at the same time often felt that they themselves were the enemy. I began to sense this indistinctly in the people around me, and even in myself.
Before the mass arrests reached Urumqi, no one could afford to ignore the activities organized by the neighborhood committee. But since they’d begun, the building had emptied out and the maneuvers had ceased.
It seemed that the aim of these activities was to keep us in a constant state of fear.
Our company was on the sixth floor of the building. I opened the door for Wang. He walked into the office, took out his phone, and scanned the QR code on the wall as he had many times before. Then, like he always did, he took a look through the premises. He registered no surprise that none of those he had been monitoring were in the office anymore.
For a month now, our work had come to a halt: The partnership with the local television station had lapsed; preparations for film production had ceased; advertisements ready to be filmed had been abandoned. Some of our employees had been ordered by the police to return to their hometowns, while others remained in Urumqi, unsure of what to do. I was unable to continue employing them or paying their salaries. Wang knew all this, but he continued coming twice a week to inspect the office.
“Wang,” I said, “you know as well as I do that our company no longer has any work or any people. From now on I’ll be staying home myself.”
“I know, I know,” he responded amiably, “but you also know that I have to do my job.”
“How about this?” I said. “I’ll give you the key, and you can come inspect the office whenever you like.”
He looked a bit taken aback, perhaps thinking I was mocking him. I quickly added, “Don’t think twice about it. This will be more convenient for both of us. There’s nothing to worry about in this office, anyway. I’ve moved all the important equipment to my cousin’s warehouse.”
Wang heard the sincerity in my voice. “All right, then. Let’s do it.”
Now I had one less burden.
One Friday night, I headed out for a walk. After my business had closed, I’d barely left the apartment, and hadn’t done much besides eat and sleep. I’d begun to feel like a lamb being fattened for slaughter. The constant anxiety weighed on me, and each day, my body and spirit hung heavier.
I didn’t even have the concentration to watch television or read. Writing poetry seemed laughable. My wife and daughters and I couldn’t find much to say to one another. Going out for a walk in the evening offered a little relief.
As she did every day, though, Merhaba reminded me: “Don’t stay out too long, or I’ll get worried.” She feared that I would be detained on the street and taken away.
The roads were crimson with the sunset. Our district was deserted. I ran into a man I knew from Kashgar who had also come out for a walk after dinner. We exchanged pleasantries and began walking together. He recounted a recent story from his old neighborhood.
The government in Kashgar had required all Uyghurs there to hand over any religious items they held. Frightened by the ongoing roundups, most had surrendered to the state any belongings relating to their faith: religious books, prayer rugs, prayer beads, articles of clothing. Some were unwilling to part with their Qurans, but with neighbors and even relatives betraying one another, those who kept them were quickly found out, detained, and harshly punished.
Some time after, a man in his 70s had come across a Quran in his house that he hadn’t been able to find following the confiscation order. He was afraid that if he turned it over now, the officials would ask why he hadn’t relinquished it earlier, accuse him of “incorrect thinking,” and take him away to be punished. So he wrapped the Quran in a plastic bag and threw it in the Tuman River. But the authorities had installed wire mesh under all bridges, and when the mesh was cleaned, the Quran was found and turned over to the police. When officers opened it, they found a copy of the old man’s ID card: In Xinjiang, the elderly have a habit of keeping important documents in frequently read books, so that they are easily found when needed. The police tracked down the old man and detained him on charges of engaging in illegal religious activities. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Such stories were now commonplace among Uyghurs. While relating it, my friend repeatedly checked our surroundings. If anyone was approaching, he would stop speaking. Like all of us, he spoke in whispers.
In the middle of June, my wife and I drove to visit her cousin, in the north of Urumqi.
After the 2009 violence, the Chinese government had implemented a policy it called the Slum Renovation Project and begun the wholesale demolition of houses in predominantly Uyghur districts. Those who owned houses slated for destruction were assigned apartments in high-rises built on the same site as their home, or in new apartment complexes elsewhere. Uyghurs who had rented homes in the demolished neighborhoods could apply for cheap apartments on Urumqi’s outskirts.
Merhaba’s cousin had moved to one such apartment complex in 2010. Although the apartments were shoddy at best, the residents—their livelihoods now ruined—were thankful to have somewhere to live.
She had divorced her husband, and lived with her son, Arman, in a one-bedroom apartment. The young man had graduated from college two years earlier with a major in engineering. But, like many Uyghur graduates, he had been unable to find work in his field and was cycling through odd jobs.
After dinner, he told us what had been happening in the complex. That Monday, the neighborhood committee and the police station had delivered an urgent joint order at the daily flag-raising ceremony, which all residents were required to attend. It stated that each household had to turn over any Islamic items within three days; those who failed to do so would face consequences.
Getty; Adam Ferriss
The neighborhood was thrown into a panic, and many people handed over their Qurans and other religious items. Some worried that it would be a sin to turn these items over to the state, which would surely burn them, so they hid their sacred belongings at home. Rumors began circulating, though, that the police had a special device that could detect hidden religious objects. The night before, as soon as it was dark, terrified residents had begun tossing religious articles down the manholes that led to the complex’s sewer system. To avoid tripping over one another, they hid inside the buildings’ entrances; when one person returned from tossing out their items, the next would run out, throw theirs into the manhole, and dart back inside.
All of this happened surreptitiously, but because there were many people with items to throw out, it continued throughout the night. Some sprinted out of the building and stumbled into others, after which both would retreat. Arman watched all of this from his window. By the time dawn broke, some religious items had simply been discarded in front of buildings. Later that morning, neighborhood-committee officials and police officers made the rounds of the complex, collected all the discarded items, loaded them onto a truck, and drove away.
When we returned, Merhaba and I discussed what to do with the religious books in our home.
We had three copies of the Quran—one each in Uyghur, Arabic, and Chinese—as well as Uyghur-language editions of a few other books relating to Islam. None of these was prohibited; all had been published with state sanction. Recently, though, many previously legal things had suddenly become illegal, and it was impossible to say what was permitted and what was not. What counted was whatever the government said at any given moment.
“Keep these books,” she said. “Since you’re a writer, they shouldn’t object if you say you kept the books for professional use.”
“If I say that, you think they’ll believe me?” I replied somewhat sharply.
Merhaba paused. “Maybe we should hide them?”
“And if they search the house and find them?”
In the end, we decided to bring six books, along with our three prayer mats, to her aunt and uncle’s house. Not wanting to risk discussing our plan over the phone, we simply told them we were coming for a visit. Before we left our apartment, we checked each of the books thoroughly. After we arrived, we explained the situation. “Good thinking,” Merhaba’s aunt said.
A few days later, we were having lunch when my cousin Mustafa called from Kashgar. Mustafa never called unless it was important. These days, with bad news arriving from all quarters, I worried constantly about my family there.
Mustafa began by asking if I knew where the women’s prison was in Ghulja, in northern Xinjiang. I didn’t. He had thought I might because Merhaba is from there. I asked him what the matter was.
Six years ago, one of his mother-in-law’s neighbors had held a Quranic reading for the women in the neighborhood. Mustafa’s mother-in-law arrived late; the recitation had already begun. The room was full, so she sat on her haunches on the concrete doorstep. Before long, her legs grew uncomfortable and she headed home.
A month earlier, as the mass arrests had began to empty out Uyghur neighborhoods and villages across southern Xinjiang, the residents who remained were obliged to attend political-study meetings each evening. During these sessions, people started denouncing one another, sometimes for supposed infractions committed long ago. For briefly sitting on that doorstep years earlier, Mustafa’s mother-in-law was arrested on charges of having participated in unauthorized religious activities. Her family heard that she had been sentenced to five years in jail and sent to the Ghulja women’s prison. This information hadn’t been received through official channels but rather through asking around, and it needed to be confirmed. Her family hoped to find her and bring her necessary items and medical supplies.
Since the internment campaign had begun, police had kept families in the dark about their detained relatives’ legal status and location. If a person was arrested, their relatives would first try to learn who had arrested them. The simplest way to do this was to inquire at the police station where the detained individual’s household was registered, but the officers there generally refused to answer questions. If family members insisted, the officers would threaten to send them to “study” alongside their relatives. The word study, once signifying the acquisition of knowledge and skill, had become the term for a feared punishment.
A few days after we visited their house, Merhaba’s aunt called.
“There’s a storm brewing in our neighborhood,” she said. “So I sorted those things out.”
Her voice was strained. After many years of repression, Uyghurs were accustomed to using coded language. A “guest” at home meant a state-security agent. A “storm” typically referred to a political campaign. If someone had been arrested, they were “in the hospital”; the number of days they were to be in treatment marked the years of their sentence. Thus I understood: The house searches must have reached her neighborhood.
“Which things did you sort out?” I asked.
She lowered her voice. “Those things you brought over the other day.”
It took me a moment to catch her meaning. “Which things we brought over? Just tell me.”
“Those books! The books!” she said with frustration, lowering her voice still further.
I immediately felt queasy. “How did you sort them out?”
“Don’t ask. We took care of it.”



Waiting to be Arrested at Night
等候在午夜被抓 كېچىدە تۇتقۇن قىلىنىشنى كۈتۈش
On a Friday in June, my wife and I were home eating lunch. The day was muggy. “It’s been a week since I’ve heard from Munire,” Merhaba said suddenly, referring to my friend Kamil’s wife.
The mass arrests had been ongoing for months. Just to check in, we had been meeting up with or texting our close family and friends on a regular basis. Although we couldn’t protect anyone, it gave us some measure of comfort to hear from them.
“Leave her another message,” I said. “Maybe she’ll respond.”
Merhaba recorded a voice message for Munire and sent it via WeChat. “Salam, Munire, how have you been? I’ve sent you a few messages and haven’t heard back—we’re a bit worried. If you’re there, please say something.”
Not long after, Munire responded, also with a voice message.
“How are you doing, Merhaba? I’m here.” Her voice was despondent.
“How’s Kamil? Tahir is asking after him.”
“Kamil’s not here,” she said.
“He hasn’t gone away, has he?”
“Let it go for now, my friend, I’m feeling under the weather. Let’s talk later.”
The previous month, we had gone to Turpan for a short vacation with Kamil and Munire. Kamil and I had been classmates during high school in Kashgar, and later at college in Beijing, where we grew close. He was an even-tempered, earnest, and hardworking man whose interests ran to linguistics and philosophy. Whereas I stayed in Beijing to work after graduation, Kamil moved back to Xinjiang, where he took a position at a research institute. Around that time, Kamil and Munire were introduced by their parents, and after a while, they got married. They were always happy together.
Recently, though, their relationship had been troubled. In 2016, Kamil spent a period as a visiting scholar in the U.S., with a stipend from the education ministry in Beijing, and took his daughter with him. Munire visited them; while she was there, some of their friends urged them not to go back. When Kamil had left for the U.S., though, the Chinese government had required that two of his friends serve as guarantors. If he did not return, they would be punished. Kamil did not want to stay in America at the price of a lifetime’s guilt. He returned to Urumqi after a year, just before the mass-internment campaign began. Under the terms of the American and Chinese governments’ agreement, he was barred from reentering America for two years. His passport, like those of other Uyghurs working in state-run organizations, was confiscated.
Now, as we ate apricots in an orchard in Turpan, Kamil told me he worried that he would be arrested during the ongoing sweeps. A few years earlier, he said, he had attended an academic conference in Turkey, his first trip abroad, at the invitation of an NGO that had now been blacklisted by Beijing. Even though Kamil had completed the appropriate paperwork and obtained permission from his research institute and the local police department, many things that had once been allowed were now off-limits.
“Before my most recent trip to the U.S. and after I returned, state-security officers came to speak with me,” he told me in a low voice as we left the orchard. “I told them about everything that happened while I was in America. I don’t think it will cause me any problems.
“Except I’m still worrying about that Turkish conference.”
Concerned by Munire’s voice message, my wife and I decided to visit. Their apartment was in the same complex as the research institute where Kamil worked. We approached the gate, told the guard that we had come to visit Kamil’s family, registered our ID numbers, and drove inside to a small, attractive courtyard surrounded by offices and residential buildings.
Munire’s face was drawn, her unease palpable when she opened the door. She led us to the couch in the living room. After we had exchanged the usual pleasantries, I asked, “Is Kamil not home?” Munire hastily put her right index finger to her lips, and with her left hand pointed to the ceiling. Her meaning was clear: We must not mention Kamil, because there might be a listening device in the apartment.
“Let’s head down to the courtyard,” Munire said wearily.
We walked out of the building together. In the small garden out front, a few Uyghur women sat on a long bench, talking in the shade. Munire avoided them and led us some distance away. The moment we sat down, she burst into tears. After a little while, Munire dried her eyes and began telling us in a soft voice what had happened.
A few days earlier, Munire had texted Kamil at the office to tell him dinner was ready. He said he would be home soon, but half an hour went by with no sign of him.
“The food’s getting cold,” she texted again. “Where are you?”
“You guys go ahead, I’ll eat later.” Oddly, Kamil was texting in Chinese, rather than their native Uyghur.
Another half an hour went by. Munire was getting worried. “Are you all right? Why haven’t you come home yet?”
This time Kamil didn’t respond. Munire walked over to his office building and looked up at the fourth floor, where he worked. The windows were dark. Munire called Kamil, but he didn’t pick up. She then called a colleague of his, who said they needed to speak in person. His apartment was in the same courtyard, and Munire walked over.
Earlier that day, the colleague said, Kamil had received a phone call; by the end of it, he looked ashen. He left the office in an agitated state and headed downstairs. His colleagues looked out the window and saw three men load Kamil into a car and drive off.
Munire called Kamil again as soon as she returned to her apartment. No answer. She texted him, and this time he wrote back. He was fine, he said, the police just had some questions for him, and he would come home soon. Then his texts stopped.
Two days later, three police officers drove Kamil home. One officer took Munire to wait in the garden in front of their building while the other two led Kamil inside. Two hours later, they emerged with Kamil and his laptop, and drove off. Munire returned home to find their apartment turned upside down. Closets, drawers, chests, and suitcases had been flung open. In the bedroom, even the mattress and bed frame had been dismantled and thrown to the floor. Kamil’s books and papers lay scattered everywhere.
The next day, Kamil texted again. “They’re taking me to Kashgar,” he wrote. He was still texting in Chinese, presumably at the insistence of the police. “Please bring me a few changes of clothes.” In an hour, she should come to the front gate of a courtyard near the headquarters of the state-security office. A police officer would come out to meet her. Munire asked what else Kamil needed, but he didn’t reply.

China’s constitution guarantees minority peoples the right to use their own language in private and public life. However, over the past two decades the government has gradually restricted the use of Uyghur in education, administration, and publishing. Since 2017, Uyghur children have been sent to mandatory boarding schools, where they are punished for speaking their native language.
Munire brought the clothing. Kamil was being held in an apartment inside the courtyard. The moment he saw Munire, he started crying. He couldn’t bring himself to speak. The police told Munire to trust that the government would resolve the situation fairly. They told her not to inquire with them about Kamil, and that if necessary they would get in touch with her. Then they sent her home.
After that, Munire lost all contact with Kamil. She had no idea what had happened to him.
I felt cold sweat on my back. We told Munire we were ready to help in any way we were able, and gave her all the words of comfort we could. But everything we said felt futile to me.
There was nothing for us to say. I was shattered.
Before we left, Munire asked us not to tell anyone what had happened. Whatever the cause of an arrest, and regardless of whether it was just or unjust, people in Xinjiang were extremely wary of those who had been arrested. If one member of a family was detained, especially for political reasons, those who caught wind of it would feel uneasy around that family, or avoid them entirely. Everyone understood this. We promised Munire we would tell no one. We had no desire to be the bearers of this bad news.
The sky was growing dark. People were hurrying home from work. We were silent all the way home. There was nothing for us to say. I was shattered.
Two decades earlier, after returning to Urumqi from Beijing, I had started working as a teacher. Kamil, who was already working at the research institute, told me of a six-volume set of Chinese-language books in the institute’s library. Intended for internal circulation only, the mimeographed books were titled Studies on Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism. They had been compiled to help “purge the poison” of so-called Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism from the Uyghur region, and to assist in the struggle against “ethnic separatism.” Two of the volumes were translations of foreign scholars’ writings. The government permitted only select researchers and officials to view such books and materials. I was very eager to see them. At my request, Kamil borrowed those two volumes from the library and lent them to me. After I finished reading them, though, I forgot to return the books.
Not long after, I left Urumqi with the intention of studying in Turkey. On the way, I was arrested by the Chinese police for the crime of “attempting to leave the country with sensitive materials.” They searched my room at the school where I worked and found those two books. Kamil was in deep trouble. As the police interrogated me, they also called him in for questioning. They failed to turn up any evidence of a crime but nevertheless sentenced me without trial to three years’ detention. With that, the police ceased questioning Kamil.
I thought about all of this on the drive home. Usually, if one Uyghur was arrested, the authorities would target others connected with the case, as well as the arrested person’s close friends and family.
That night, after our daughters had gone to sleep, I grabbed a pair of sturdy autumn shoes and put them behind the door. Then I rummaged through the wardrobe in our bedroom and pulled out a pair of jeans, a sweater, and a roomy coat. I put a small towel in the pocket of the coat. As I sat folding these on the bed, Merhaba came into the bedroom.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m preparing, just in case.”
“For what?”
“They might come for me too. If they take me away, I want to be warmly dressed.”
“Don’t frighten yourself. Nothing’s going to happen to you.”
“These months, these days, there is nothing that can’t happen to us.”
I continued folding the clothes as I spoke. “You know that everyone who was in the labor camp with me has already been arrested again. I’ve never been as worried about this as I am now.”
She looked at the clothing. “It would be better to take that black sweater you have. It’s warmer.”
Getty; Adam Ferriss
Most of the Uyghurs detained in the mass arrests had been summoned by phone to the local neighborhood-committee office or police station and then taken away. But some, especially intellectuals, had been spirited from their homes in the middle of the night. The police would knock on the door of the person they planned to arrest, slap handcuffs on their wrists, and haul them off. They wouldn’t let them change clothes; whatever they were wearing was what they would leave in. Some people had even been taken away in their pajamas.
Everyone knew what happened next. The police would imprison these people in cells or lockups where there was nothing besides a high ceiling, four thick walls, a camera in every corner, an iron door, and a chilly cement floor. If you felt hot, you could remove clothes, but if you were cold, there was nothing you could do. Even in high summer, this was a practical problem. If someone knocked on my door in the middle of the night, I planned to put on these warm clothes and autumn shoes before answering. Kamil was arrested during the day, but I had a strong feeling that they would come for me at night.
Merhaba and I were both silent for a moment. We lay side by side on the bed. I turned out the light.
“I’m going to ask you something,” I said to Merhaba, “and you have to promise me you’ll do it.”
“What is it? Tell me first,” she said.
“I’m serious. Promise me first,” I said firmly.
“All right,” she replied quietly.
“If they arrest me, don’t lose yourself. Don’t make inquiries about me, don’t go looking for help, don’t spend money trying to get me out. This time isn’t like any time before. They are planning something dark. There is no notifying families or inquiring at police stations this time. So don’t trouble yourself with that. Keep our family affairs in order, take good care of our daughters, let life go on as if I were still here. I’m not afraid of prison. I am afraid of you and the girls struggling and hurting when I’m gone. So I want you to remember what I’m saying.”
“Do you have to talk like you’re heading to your death?”
“You know the PIN numbers for my bank cards.”
Merhaba began crying. In the pitch black, there was no sound besides her weeping.
For the next week I remained prepared for arrest. There was no news from Kamil. We gradually got the impression that Munire didn’t want us to keep asking after him, so we stopped.
The days went by without incident. I felt that the most dangerous moment had passed, and grew slightly calmer. But I kept those clothes ready beside the bed.
It turned out I was not alone. One evening, I went out to buy milk and ran into a young man I knew. He had studied Uyghur literature but since graduating had been unable to find work, and instead made his living as a translator of Arabic and Turkish.
He now lived in fear: Foreign connections, a history of travel abroad, or even just having relatives and friends in other countries were enough to land Uyghurs in jail, especially if the countries in question were Muslim. Although he had never been to Turkey or the Arab world, and had learned those languages here in Xinjiang, my friend worried that he was in danger.
While we were talking, he mentioned that for the past month he’d been sleeping with a set of warm clothes by the head of the bed, and that a fair number of his friends and acquaintances were too. I told him I had been doing the same. We laughed for a moment.
It has been four years since Kamil was taken away. I have continually tried to get word of him but have yet to find any reliable information on his fate. Even now, in the safety of a free country, every time I fold my clothes, I think of the days when I waited to be arrested at night.
Support the Atlantic’s most ambitious journalism.
From on-the-ground reporting to rigorous fact-checking, our work depends on our subscribers. Join us today, starting at less than $1 a week.


There
Are No
Goodbyes
‏不辞而别 خوشلاشماي ئايرىلىش
One evening in June, I met up with four friends at the convenience store one of them owned. The five of us spent the night talking.
There were whispers of Uyghur intellectuals being taken one after another. It was impossible, though, to know what was true and what wasn’t. Whenever we heard that someone had been detained, we would wonder about the reason. But each time we asked the question, we realized immediately how absurd it was. We knew very well that the majority of alleged crimes were mere excuses to arrest people. We were all constantly aware that we could be taken for no reason at all.
With everyone smoking, the one-room store grew hazy, and every little while we would open the door to air it out. Afraid that passersby would overhear us, we always quickly pulled the door closed again. If a customer walked inside, we would halt our conversation until they left.
My friend who owned the store, Almas, had seen his greatest success as a translator. He had rendered a number of works by Western philosophers from Chinese into Uyghur; two of these had been published as books. Only those who have translated philosophical texts know how difficult a task that is. Almas’s work was highly valued in the Uyghur scholarly community.
But he’d always had money troubles. After graduating with a degree in Uyghur literature, he had begun working as an editor at a Uyghur-language magazine and, soon after, had married a high-school teacher. Almas had told me that a couple of years after getting married, and a few months before the Urumqi violence of 2009, he had asked a friend in Norway to send him a letter of invitation so he could apply for a passport and study abroad.

At the time, the Chinese government placed many obstacles in the path of any Uyghur hoping to obtain a passport; one was the requirement that they procure an official invitation letter from another country.
Before Almas had a chance to submit his application, he received an unexpected nighttime visit from two young Uyghur policemen. The pair interrogated him until daybreak, focusing on his relationship with that individual in Norway, and on other people he was in contact with abroad. Almas respectfully answered every question. After the officers compiled an exhaustive interrogation report, they cautioned him to put his passport application on hold for the time being. The next morning they released him, but only after requesting that he stay in touch. Eager for the questioning to end, Almas consented.
Getty; Adam Ferriss
For the next two months, the policemen frequently called Almas and asked to meet. He felt he had no choice but to go. According to him, these meetings did not involve any special discussions. They merely chatted about trivialities over a meal; sometimes, the two cops would insist that they drink together while they ate. Needless to say, Almas always picked up the tab.
Almas’s salary wasn’t high to begin with; his wife had just given birth and was not currently employed. Repeatedly treating the policemen to these pointless dinners placed a strain on their finances. Almas’s wife complained frequently about it, and he himself was fed up with the officers’ behavior. Finally, on receiving yet another call from them, Almas spoke heatedly into the phone. “If I’m guilty of something, arrest me and lock me up. Otherwise, stop bothering me!” After this, Almas didn’t take their calls.
Soon after, however, his boss at the magazine abruptly fired him. Almas was sure this was connected to the policemen, though he had no proof. And even if he could prove it, there was nothing he could do about what had happened. His finances grew even more precarious.
Later, Almas’s family moved to an apartment complex near ours, and after a year of effort, he rented a storefront on a nearby street and opened a convenience store selling various household items. When the political atmosphere in Urumqi grew harsher, Almas, like other shopkeepers, was required to join the United Line of Defense Against Violent Terrorists.
We were all constantly aware that we could be taken for no reason at all.
Sometimes after dinner, I would take a walk through the neighborhood and drop by Almas’s store. Several close friends and I regularly gathered there to chat, and would purchase this and that to support him. Ever since it opened, the store’s business had been disappointing, but Almas was certain it would improve. When I went by, I would often find him seated at a table across from the entrance, translating Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy from Chinese to Uyghur. On his sleeve he wore a red armband with security written in Chinese.

As part of the United Line of Defense Against Violent Terrorists, authorities obliged shopkeepers to buy a truncheon, a whistle, and an armband.
That evening in Almas’s store was the last time I saw my friends. A week later, I escaped with my family to America. I didn’t say goodbye to any of them before I left, even over the phone. The journey ahead of me was a one-way trip. If I made it to the United States, I would request political asylum, and in doing so would become an enemy of the Chinese Communist Party, an enemy of the state.
Experience told me that if the police learned any of my friends had known I would be going abroad or had said a final goodbye to me, they would be in trouble, facing at the very least weeks of interrogation or, if they were less lucky, the camps. Though I longed to bid them farewell before I left, I couldn’t let my friends face that danger on my account.
Merhaba and I decided not to bring anything that could make the border police suspicious, so we packed only clothing. I put four photo albums in a box—our family’s entire past. I asked my cousin to mail this box to us after we reached our destination. He agreed.
After arriving in America, we were busy for a couple of months setting up our new lives. In October, I left my cousin a voice message on WeChat, asking him to send us those albums. My heart sank when I heard his response.
“Almas has left to study and it looks like my turn will come soon,” he said. “This is the last time I will be in touch with you. Take care of yourself.”
This was how I learned that Almas—the translator, the shopkeeper, the member of the United Line of Defense Against Violent Terrorists, my friend—had been sent to the camps.
Like innumerable other Uyghurs in the diaspora, I have been cut off from everyone I knew in my homeland. In early 2018, the American researcher Darren Byler traveled to Xinjiang to see with his own eyes the mass internment under way. He had previously lived in Urumqi for a time, during which he was on good terms with Almas and other friends of mine. I asked him to look up a number of people, in particular several friends who had recently disappeared. Among those he tried to find was Almas. I drew a map of the street where Almas had his convenience store, marked the spot where it stood, and texted Darren a photo of the map. He found the place I had designated, but the store was locked. It clearly had not been open for quite some time.



The Passports
护照 پاسپورت
I keep returning to New Year’s Day 2013.
That evening, I received an unexpected call from Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Central Nationalities University in Beijing. After exchanging pleasantries, Ilham declared: “Xi Jinping has taken power. Things will get better for us now; don’t lose heart. Tell our other friends in Urumqi that now is the time for optimism.”

Given the lack of transparency in Chinese politics, the political inclinations of new leaders are often a topic of intense speculation. When Xi took power, Uyghur intellectuals noted that his father, a former senior party official, had been responsible for China’s northwest, including Xinjiang, and mused that Xi might be pro-Uyghur. Liberal Han intellectuals wondered if Xi might be a closet liberal. Neither proved true.
While today it is clear how absurd it was to expect any good to come from Xi’s rise, at the time such hopes were cherished by numerous Uyghur intellectuals. These were hopes born of desperation, a battered community’s daydream of better treatment by its rulers.
I had met Ilham when I was an undergraduate and Ilham was studying for his master’s in economics. He would go on to become one of the most prominent Uyghur critics of Communist Party policy. In the mid-2000s, he founded a Chinese-language website, where he began publishing articles defending Uyghurs’ legal rights.
llham was placed under police surveillance, but he always believed that the government would not arrest or imprison him. He was, after all, a professor at a university in the national capital, and considered himself to be operating entirely within the law.
But things did not turn out as Ilham thought they would. In mid-January 2014, news of Ilham’s arrest at his Beijing apartment reached us in Urumqi. I heard from a friend that he had not been arrested by the Beijing police alone; instead, officers had arrived from Urumqi to take him away. The involvement of the Urumqi police, traveling 1,700 miles to make the arrest, meant that this was a decision made at the highest levels.
Ilham’s detention affected me profoundly. I had obtained my own passport the year prior, when the opportunity presented itself, but we had not yet gotten passports for Merhaba and our two daughters. To an American or a European, a passport is simply a travel document, a perfunctory booklet that helps one go on vacation or on business trips. To a Uyghur, though, a passport is a precious letter of admission to the outside world. At the time I applied for my passport, most Uyghurs had never even laid eyes on one—for the most part, they were held only by prosperous merchants who did business abroad.
For Han, the process had been streamlined. All they needed was an application form and a photo. For Uyghurs and other minority citizens, applying remained an arduous process. In addition to all the standard materials, I had to provide a company guarantee. Written in Chinese and stamped with the company’s seal, this document included my name, ID number, responsibilities at work, and monthly salary, as well as the reason I needed a passport, the dates I planned to be abroad, the destination country, my reason for traveling there, the company’s promise that I would return by the specified date, and the company’s name, address, telephone number, and contact person.
Once I had prepared the guarantee, our neighborhood police officer, Adile, inspected my paperwork. Then, after looking through the police station’s files, she prepared a letter certifying that I had no criminal record, was not prohibited from traveling abroad, had not participated in the violence of 2009, and was eligible for a passport.
After that, my application had to be approved by both the neighborhood committee and the street office before I could go to the National and Religious Affairs Office, where I had to promise not to make an unauthorized pilgrimage to Mecca. Just gathering everything I needed took two weeks of ferrying around Urumqi on a near-daily basis.

The street office, also known as the subdistrict office, is the party-state administrative organ directly above the neighborhood committee.
Armed with all my documents, I headed to the Public Security Bureau office responsible for border control. An officer there took my files and told me that they would call me once the national-security unit had concluded its examination. About six weeks later, I received my passport.
After Ilham’s arrest, we repeated these steps for the rest of the family. The entire process took months, but by July 2014, we all had our passports.
Any sense of elation over obtaining the documents was short-lived, though. In September, Ilham was found guilty of separatism and sentenced to life in prison. The Uyghur intellectual world was deeply shaken by the news. This was an early warning that a catastrophe lay ahead.

The Chinese government regularly accuses Uyghur and Tibetan dissidents of conspiring to “split the motherland”—to separate Xinjiang or Tibet from China. Most of these charges are baseless, as they were in the case of Ilham Tohti, who consistently advocated for Uyghur coexistence with the Han majority within China.
Soon after, I was at a Central Nationalities University reunion in Beijing. Merhaba, who had never been to Beijing, joined me. She wanted to see the city, and especially the university where I had studied.
A friend came to see us at our hotel. He asked me to speak with him outside, where he relayed a message from Jüret, a close friend of mine who had moved to the U.S. some years before: Our family must leave for America immediately. Jüret was deeply worried by the rapid deterioration of conditions for Uyghurs in China. Wary of saying any of this over the phone, he had sent the message through this mutual friend, who had recently visited America.
I resolved then to apply for American visas for all four of us. We weren’t sure if we wanted to leave the country permanently, but it would be good to have the visas in any case.
We contacted a Beijing travel agent, Li, who had helped a number of other Uyghurs procure visas. He understood the situation in Xinjiang and the circumstances Uyghurs currently faced. I paid the required fees and sent Li the necessary documents, and he got us an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for the following March.
When the date of the interview came around, Merhaba and I traveled again to Beijing. The materials Li Yang told us we might need for the interview—our ID cards, household registrations, wedding license, daughters’ birth certificates, company’s registration, apartment registration, a bank statement, my college diploma, and even the book I had published—filled a knapsack.
It was only in Beijing that Li told us our chances of receiving American visas were quite low. But it was still worth trying, he continued, given that our circumstances—we were doing well financially, I owned a company—were good. And besides, we figured, we had no better option.
The next day we arrived at the American embassy two hours before our appointment. A line of perhaps a thousand people snaked through four rows, each a hundred meters long. A trickle of people walked past, coming out of the embassy. Some trudged by wearily, white slips of paper in their hands; others grinned triumphantly, ostentatiously clasping blue slips of paper.
After passing through embassy security and having our fingerprints taken, my wife and I handed our materials to an official, a young blond woman. From among our four passports she selected mine, and compared it with the files on her computer. Then she placed two white slips atop the passports and slid them back along the counter to me. “I’m sorry,” she said in Chinese. “Our visa policy is currently very strict. We are unable to give you visas.”
Though Merhaba and I had discussed many times the possibility that this could happen, for a moment I was at a loss for words. I tried explaining that our daughters had their hearts set on a trip to America, but I knew how pathetic I sounded. The woman rose from her chair and apologized repeatedly. We were ushered out of the building.
I called Li and told him we had been rejected. He offered some words of sympathy. Then he told me that if we were intent on getting American visas, we should first visit some other Western countries and then wait a year or so before applying again.
So we began planning a trip to Europe. Eventually we settled on a Uyghur tour group organized by an Urumqi travel agency. Over 15 days, the group would make the rounds of Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland, France, and Turkey. Although the tour was quite expensive—about $8,000 for Merhaba and myself—it was well worth it for the possibility of obtaining American visas.
We left for Istanbul in April. This was the first time Merhaba or I had set foot on foreign soil. It was an exciting moment for us both. The trip itself was more of a marathon than a vacation. Our tour bus traveled from Rome to Northern Europe, then west to Paris. In each city we would hurriedly view a couple of the most important tourist sites, take a few photos, and continue on our voyage. Even so, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We were now seeing with our own eyes places we had only read about in books or viewed in films.
Not long after we returned to Urumqi, I had dinner with some friends. Fresh from my travels, I regaled them with my impressions of Europe. Perhat Tursun, a novelist, suddenly spoke up. “Can’t we talk about something else? It stings every time I hear people talk about traveling abroad, like I’m hearing a conversation about a woman I was in love with but couldn’t marry.” We all cracked up. “You should get a passport too,” I told him. With a pained expression, he explained that the government wouldn’t let him leave the country. We all fell silent.

Perhat Tursun is one of the most innovative Uyghur writers of the past few decades. He was arrested in early 2018; in late 2019, a former inmate reported having seen Perhat in one of the camps. Early in 2020, word reached the Uyghur diaspora that Perhat had been sentenced to 16 years in prison.
As Li had advised, we waited a full year before applying again for American visas. In June 2016, Merhaba and I flew to Beijing with our older daughter, Aséna. Having turned 14, she now had to apply for her visa in person.
Upon landing, we hailed a cab to a neighborhood where the hotels tended to be welcoming of Uyghur guests.
It was almost 1 a.m. when we arrived. There were no free rooms in the hotel we had stayed at during our last visit, though. It was tourist season, and demand was high; one had to book in advance.

In most of China, hotels are typically unwilling to rent rooms to people from Xinjiang, especially if they are Uyghur. If a hotel does accept Uyghur guests, the police have to be notified, and sometimes guests are taken to the police station, where officers question them and take their mugshots and fingerprints.
We walked over to another hotel. Its doors were already locked. Further along, the lobby of the upscale Xinjiang Suites was open, but the guard there waved his hand to indicate that there were no free rooms.
There wasn’t a soul in sight. With our suitcases clattering behind us, the three of us wandered like ghosts in search of a hotel. A few small inns were open, but at each one, before we could finish asking about vacancies, the employees saw that we were Uyghur and answered us with a curt “No.”
Our options exhausted, we took a cab back to the first hotel, where we inquired once more about vacancies in the foolish hope that a room might have opened up. The concierge told us some would become available at daybreak.
There was nothing for us to do now but sit on a stone bench under a copse of trees in front of the building and wait for morning. It was the most humid time of the year in Beijing. The city’s mosquitos were hungry. The cicadas sang incessantly. Merhaba and Aséna, never having experienced this kind of humidity, felt like they were in a greenhouse. Merhaba was breathing heavily. Again and again, I tried to offer words of comfort.
“Tahir Hamut,” Merhaba said bitterly, “if they don’t give us visas this time, don’t mention the word America in front of me again!”
“Okay,” I said guiltily.
In the morning we checked into a hotel room. The next day we went to the American embassy. After standing in line for two hours, we had our fingerprints taken and were directed to a visa official’s window. She was pretty and blond like the official we had met last time, but younger. I handed her our passports. I held the rest of our materials at the ready in case she requested them.
Getty; Adam Ferriss
“Why are you planning to go to America?” she asked in Chinese.
“A family trip,” I responded calmly.
From the four passports, the woman selected mine. She typed something into the computer. Then she picked up my passport again and opened it to the page with the visa from our European trip. She took a pen-shaped device from a lanyard and pressed it to the visa; the device emitted a blue light. She must be verifying that the visa is authentic, I thought.
The woman put the passport down. “Is your company based in Urumqi?” she asked. I told her that it was. “Do you live in Urumqi?” she continued. I told her that we did.
She typed some more on her computer. Then, not lifting her eyes from the computer screen, she reached across the counter for the other three passports.
Moments later, she looked up at us and smiled. “Congratulations! You have been issued American tourist visas.” I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Aséna squirmed with happiness. Merhaba’s face opened like a flower. After expressing our heartfelt gratitude to the visa official, we headed outside.
We hailed a taxi back to the hotel. “Dad,” Aséna said, “while that visa official was checking our passports, I could hear your heart pounding.”
Much as when we had received our passports, however, the moment of happiness was soon darkened by political storm clouds. A month after we received our American visas, a new, hard-line party secretary was appointed to run Xinjiang. When the mass internments commenced the following spring, we made up our minds that leaving for America was our best option. Kamil’s arrest confirmed that this decision was the right one. We purchased round-trip tickets to the U.S., leaving on July 10, 2017, and returning the following month—we needed the return tickets to convince the authorities that we were traveling as tourists.

The appointment of Chen Quanguo marked a seismic shift in Beijing’s attitude toward Xinjiang. Chen had previously been the top Communist Party official in Tibet, where he implemented a raft of repressive measures. In August 2016, Beijing made Chen secretary of the Uyghur region, where he replicated many of his tactics.
Leaving would not be easy, though.
One afternoon about two weeks before we were set to depart, my cellphone rang. It was Adile, our neighborhood police officer, who had approved all of our passports years earlier. She informed us that our family must turn them over to her the next morning. Her tone was adamant.
All of us were crushed. “Why?” Aséna asked in frustration. She broke down crying.
“They gave us the passports, so they can take them away whenever they want,” I said, mostly to myself.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I had to find a way to keep our passports. I eventually decided that traveling to America for medical care would be our most convincing and effective pretext. Still lying in bed, I searched on my phone for information about Chinese citizens seeking medical care in America. Something caught my attention: A significant number of Chinese parents bring their epileptic children to the U.S. for treatment.
If we told the police that we were traveling to America to have Aséna treated for epilepsy, and that we had already purchased plane tickets, we might be able to keep our passports. We could say that her epilepsy flared up at night. To prevent people from gossiping, we had kept it from everyone, even our relatives, and had arranged for her to be treated privately. In Uyghur society, people tend to keep medical matters private. The authorities might believe us.
The next morning, I told Merhaba about my plan. She was hesitant.
“We have to try,” I said emphatically. Otherwise, “we might as well just sit and await our fate.”
Merhaba and I walked over to meet with Adile. We told her that we planned to go to the U.S. in July to seek treatment for Aséna’s illness, and that we had already purchased plane tickets. We implored her not to take our passports. Adile told us that collecting passports was an order from above. She added, though, that she understood our situation, and that in a few weeks, we could obtain a doctor’s verification and try applying to retrieve our passports. In other words, the light of hope had not yet gone out completely.
I canceled our original flights to the U.S., and sought out practically everyone I knew who worked in Urumqi’s hospitals. When I couldn’t find people to help me, I spoke with the doctor acquaintances of our close relatives and friends. Of course, if I told them I needed a physician’s confirmation of my daughter’s illness in order to get our passports back, they would be too frightened to help me. Numerous people had been taken to the camps simply for having a passport. Some Uyghurs had been so scared that they had voluntarily turned theirs in to the police or the neighborhood committee without even having been asked. Those who had never applied for passports boasted that they had been right all along, that in permitting Uyghurs to get passports, the government had merely spread its nets to catch more fish. I told people Aséna needed a doctor’s note for school.
There’s a saying in China: “A problem that money can solve is not a problem.” I eventually found three people willing to help me, for a fee. One was a neurologist, the second was a brain-scan technician, and the third was a hospital administrator. We needed the services of all three. Finally, after spending nearly $10,000, we had the necessary documents.
In mid-July 2017, I met again with Adile. The police had prepared special forms for people applying to get their passports back. I filled them out and returned them to Adile, along with the medical documentation.
I grew anxious as time passed with no word from the authorities. In late July, I called Adile to ask her where things stood. It turned out that a directive had been issued: No one with a history of foreign travel could get their passport back.
I felt sick. There was nothing for us now but to give up.
About 10 days later, I called Adile to ask about at least getting our application materials back. She told me, “We’ve gotten a new directive. Those with urgent business can now apply to have their passports returned to them.”
Hope flickered into view once more.
The next day I went to Adile’s office, and again filled out the forms requesting the return of our passports.
Merhaba took a trip to her hometown, while my daughters and I stayed in Urumqi and waited. The days felt endless. The three of us ate mostly in restaurants. Aside from meals, Aséna and our younger daughter, Almila, didn’t leave the apartment. Every evening I’d go out walking for an hour or so.
On August 22, my cellphone rang. It was Merhaba.
“I got a call,” she said. “They told me we could come get the passports.”
“Really?”
My exclamation woke up Aséna and Almila, who had been sleeping on the living-room sofa next to me. They jumped up and down on the couch and yelped with joy.
Moments later I was on my way to Urumqi’s Administrative Services Building. I walked in and told the policewoman at the counter that I had come for my passport. She directed me to an office, where a middle-aged Han Chinese officer leafed through a register book, searching for our names. She found them on the third page, and then carefully compared the name on my ID card with the one in the register. At her request, I signed my name next to my entry in the register. She then rummaged through a drawer packed with passports until she found ours. She handed them to me. It was a miracle.
In my excitement, I didn’t even think to put the passports in my bag. Two Uyghur youths, waiting on a bench in the middle of the lobby, stared with undisguised fear in their eyes when they saw what was in my hand.
I walked out of the building with steps so quick, I couldn’t tell whether my feet touched the ground or not.
As soon as I got back in the car, I called Li, our travel agent, and asked him to purchase four tickets to America, departing in three days, with return tickets for a month later. He told me there was a flight from Urumqi to Beijing on August 24, and from Beijing to Boston on August 25. I instructed him to buy the tickets on the spot. We had one day to make our preparations. Merhaba returned home that night, and the next day we packed up what we could of our lives.
I walked out of the building with steps so quick, I couldn’t tell whether my feet touched the ground or not.
Around noon, we left for the Urumqi airport. The atmosphere there was tense. Armed police scrutinized the people passing through, particularly Uyghurs. After dropping off our luggage, we headed to the security check. I was first in line, and when I emerged from the checkpoint, two Han security officers led me over to a separate room. Inside was a jerry-rigged conveyer belt that orbited a pillar. I was told to stand atop the conveyer belt and hold my hands up high as it carried me around the pillar, which appeared to be scanning my body and sending readouts to a computer nearby. There had been no such inspection at this airport when we’d traveled to Beijing the previous year. While I waited for Merhaba and our daughters to undergo the same check, I watched Han passengers pass through the normal security check and hurry off to their gates. The security officials paid them no mind. This extra inspection was just for Uyghurs, I thought with renewed humiliation.
Finally, we walked over to the gate and sat by the window. Watching the planes on the runway through the glass, I turned to Merhaba. “Take it all in. These may be our final moments in this land.”
“Don’t say that.” Her voice was trembling. “God willing, we will return.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she started weeping. “God willing,” I whispered. Tears were rolling down my cheeks as well.
We would never be free from the guilt of our survival.
The next day, we were standing in line at border control in Beijing. My turn came first. I handed my passport to an agent. The young uniformed officer opened the document and looked long and hard at me, comparing me with my photo. Then she motioned another officer over, this one wearing civilian clothing. Leaning in close, they looked at the computer screen and spoke briefly. Then the plainclothes officer left. The border-control agent stamped my passport and returned it to me. Merhaba and our daughters likewise moved swiftly through the process. We had been approved to leave China.
Seventeen hours later, our plane began its descent over Boston. We landed on American soil. Our passage through customs went smoothly.
We were finally free.
As we waited in Boston’s Logan Airport for our connecting flight to Washington, D.C., I tried to imagine our new life in America. My thoughts, though, kept returning to our home. The people we cared for most were suffering still, left behind in that tortured land. We would never be free from the guilt of our survival.
Once I arrived in America, time passed quickly as I busied myself starting a new life. I wrote little. Even in quiet moments, poetry wouldn’t come to me. In my mind’s eye, I would see Almas in the camp, Munire left alone at home, Perhat hurrying away into the night.
A few months passed. As I lay in bed one night, waiting for sleep and letting my mind wander, suddenly a poem came. I reached over to the nightstand, picked up my phone, and began writing.
Somewhere Else

This poem was originally published in Asymptote.
Besieged by these discolored words
within all these disordered moments
the target on my forehead
could not bring me to my knees
and also
night after night
one after another
I spoke the names of ants I’ve known


I thought of staying whole
by the road or somewhere else
Even
cliffs grow tired staring into the distance
But
in my thoughts I trimmed your ragged hair
with two fingers for scissors
I splashed your chest with a handful of water
to douse a distant forest fire


Of course
I too can only stare
for a moment into the distance



11. Biden administration launching operation to help relocate Afghans who helped United States

Biden administration launching operation to help relocate Afghans who helped United States
CNN · by Jennifer Hansler, CNN
(CNN)The Biden administration is launching "Operation Allies Refuge," an effort to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters and translators who worked for the United States throughout its nearly two-decade military campaign in Afghanistan and now fear for their safety.
Flights for Afghan special immigrant visa (SIV) applicants "who are already in the pipeline will begin in the last week of July," according to a senior administration official.
"At President Biden's direction, the United States is launching Operation Allies Refuge to support relocation flights for interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their families who have supported the United States and our partners in Afghanistan and are in the SIV application pipeline," the official said.
The administration said it would not have additional details about the timing or destination of the flights for operational security. News of the operation was first reported by Reuters.
Amb. Tracey Jacobson, who served as US ambassador to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kosovo, "is leading the State Department Coordination Unit that will deliver on the President's commitment under Operation Allies Refuge," the senior administration official said, noting the task force will include representatives from the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security.

Read More
Russ Travers, a senior adviser at the National Security Council, will coordinate the interagency policy process on the operation.
The administration has faced criticism from bipartisan lawmakers and advocates for not doing enough to protect the Afghans who helped the US and now fear their lives are in danger as the Taliban gains ground and the US nears full withdrawal from Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden announced last week that the military drawdown from Afghanistan would be finished by the end of August, and US Central Command said Tuesday the US had completed "more than 95% of the entire withdrawal process."
In his remarks, the President vowed "to make sure that we take on the Afghan nationals who work side-by-side with US forces, including interpreters and translators."
"Our message to those women and men is clear: There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us," he said.
The State Department has said that there are 18,000 SIV applicants in the pipeline, and the administration had previously suggested it would focus on the 9,000 in the later stages of the application process.
'Offer to relocate'
"We have identified a group of SIV applicants -- that is to say, individuals who were already somewhere in that SIV processing chain -- whom at the right time before the military withdrawal is complete later this year, relocate or at least offer to relocate to a third country as they go through their SIV application processing. We have been in conversations, diplomatic discussions with a number of countries around the world," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday.
As CNN reported in earlier this month, the US is in discussions with Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to take in some of the Afghans who worked alongside US troops and diplomats while their visa applications are processed.
Homeland security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall is leading a high-level delegation to Uzbekistan this week, the NSC announced Wednesday, where she will join with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad for discussions with leaders of Afghanistan and regional countries on "how to promote peace, security, and development in Afghanistan, and advance shared regional security interests, including counterterrorism cooperation."

The US is also looking at the possibility of relocating the applicants to US territories or military installations in other countries, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a briefing last week.
Advocates and lawmakers have pressed the administration for more concrete details about their plans to save the Afghans and their families amid what the former top US military commander in Afghanistan said was a concerning pace of Taliban gains on ground.
One organization that works to help Afghan translators and their families settle in the US is taking matters into its own hands, raising over $1 million to purchase airfare for the 1,250 Afghans who have already received visas and are part of the group that Biden said last week had not yet flown to the US.
James Miervaldis, the chairman of "No One Left Behind," explained to CNN that the details are still being figured out, but flights could begin as soon as next week.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to accurately reflect the name of "Operation Allies Refuge"
CNN's John Harwood, Kylie Atwood, Nicole Gaouette and Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.
CNN · by Jennifer Hansler, CNN


12. Fact check: Biden's dubious claim that 'the law doesn't allow' Afghan translators to be evacuated to US while they wait for visas


Fact check: Biden's dubious claim that 'the law doesn't allow' Afghan translators to be evacuated to US while they wait for visas
CNN · by Daniel Dale
(CNN)Thousands of Afghans who worked with American troops face grave danger as a result of the ongoing US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In a speech last week about the withdrawal plan, President Joe Biden said he is trying to speed up the processing of the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) that will allow these Afghans, such as interpreters, to live in the United States.
Biden said he had a message for the Afghans: "There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us."
But Biden also said that, before their visas are processed, the Afghans would be evacuated to "third countries" or "US facilities outside of the continental United States." He said flights would begin this month.
Some advocates have urged the Biden administration to evacuate the waiting Afghans to Guam -- a US territory that was used to temporarily house Vietnamese evacuees in the 1970s and Kurds who were evacuated from Iraq in the 1990s -- rather than having the Afghans wait in a third country like Tajikistan, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, where some could potentially get marooned in poor conditions without access to the US legal appeals system.
Read More
After Biden's speech, a reporter asked him why the government can't evacuate Afghan translators to the US to await visa processing, like some migrants at the southern border who have been allowed into the country while their cases are addressed.
Biden responded: "Because the law doesn't allow that to happen. And that's why we're asking the Congress to consider changing the law."
Facts First: Biden's "the law doesn't allow that to happen" claim is dubious. According to multiple experts in immigration law, there is a law that allows the Biden administration to bring Afghans who worked with American troops to the US before their visas are finalized. Specifically, these experts say, the Department of Homeland Security has the legal authority to grant these Afghans immigration "parole," under which they could enter the US while their applications are still being assessed. The US already has parole programs for designated population groups from other countries.
Federal parole law says that the Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to grant parole for "urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit" to "any individual applying for admission to the United States," though "only on a case-by-case basis."
"I think it goes without saying that Afghan interpreters and their families would meet this standard," Faiza Sayed, an assistant professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and director of the Safe Harbor Clinic, said in an email.
Adam Bates, policy counsel at the International Refugee Assistance Project, said there is "nothing" -- in either the parole law or the law governing the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghans -- "that forbids President Biden from utilizing parole to get SIV applicants and their families into the US where they can be processed along some path to an immigrant status."
Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, one of the most active members of Congress on this issue, said in an email: "I am a little surprised to hear the president say that. My understanding is that he does have the authority. We need to get these brave people who risked their lives out of Afghanistan and to safety as quickly as possible."
It's theoretically possible that when Biden said "the law" doesn't allow the Afghans to wait in the US, he was attempting to refer specifically to the law or rules about the Special Immigrant Visa program. The program requires applicants living abroad to go through a multi-step vetting process before they enter the US.
But Biden certainly made it sound like he was talking about US law broadly, not one particular statute. And as Bates noted, the SIV law itself talks about Afghans who have already received parole and entered the US -- which clearly suggests Congress did not intend to use the SIV law to prohibit the use of parole for this group.
Further, it's not even clear that the Biden administration as a whole believes that Biden was correct when he said "the law doesn't allow" the Afghans to be brought to the US to await visa processing.
The White House would not comment for this article. On Wednesday, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reported that a US official with direct knowledge of current discussions says Afghans may be now relocated "in the US at potential military installation locations." The official said the State Department was looking at granting humanitarian parole.
The State Department would not comment on the record for this article. A State Department official said in a statement to CNN earlier this week that "parole is not intended to be used to avoid normal visa or refugee processing procedures and timelines, to bypass inadmissibility waiver processing, or to replace established processing channels" -- but the official did not insist that parole simply cannot be used in this urgent circumstance.
At a briefing on Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not say whether Guam was being considered.
The meaning of the parole law
We're saying Biden's claim is dubious, rather than simply declaring it inaccurate, because we can't say for sure how the courts would rule on a future legal challenge about a hypothetical Biden decision to create a parole program for thousands of Afghans. As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service noted in a report last October, there has been a long-running political dispute about what the phrase "only on a case-by-case basis" in the parole law is supposed to mean.
Some conservatives, including in the administration of former President Donald Trump, have argued that since the law says parole must be granted "only on a case-by-case basis," parole can't lawfully be used for entire designated population groups.
We can be confident, though, that Biden was not endorsing the conservative interpretation of the "only on a case-by-case basis" language when he made his own claim about what "the law doesn't allow." We know that because the Biden administration supports the existence of parole programs for designated population groups -- which have existed for years without being invalidated by judges.
The Republican George W. Bush administration created a parole program for people in Cuba who are family members of US citizens or permanent residents. The Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, created parole programs for the family members of Filipino World War II veterans who are US citizens or permanent residentsHaitian family members of US citizens and permanent residents; international entrepreneurs; and Central American minors.
The Obama administration explained that even though its parole programs made a whole group of people eligible for parole, each individual would be considered on a case-by-case basis. (Parole is temporary, and, for the purposes of immigration law, someone who has been granted parole has not been formally "admitted" to the US.)
"Parole power has always had some nominal limits written into the statutory language, but those constraints have rarely prevented presidential administrations from using the parole power broadly to pursue humanitarian and international relations goals," said Adam Cox, a New York University law professor and co-author of the book "The President and Immigration Law."
Biden's administration announced in March that it was reviving the Obama administration's program for Central American minors, which was halted by the Trump administration.
Other factors at play
It is possible that security considerations, rather than some sort of legal prohibition, are the real reason the Biden administration has been reluctant to bring the Afghans to the US before they have completed the vetting process.
A source familiar with the Department of Homeland Security's decision-making process said last week, "DHS is trying to figure out how to do it quickly and how to make sure people coming into the US are not a threat, that's the bottom line." And the source said there are some parts of the intelligence community -- not the entire federal government -- that have taken the position that once an individual is on US soil, their agencies are restricted from providing crucial assistance in the vetting process.
Regardless, that is not what Biden said.
The Biden administration has publicly cited other factors in explaining its thinking. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that it was "better and more efficient to look at locations overseas right now," saying overseas locations were preferable because of "proximity" to Afghanistan "more than anything."
CNN's Kylie Atwood and Geneva Sands contributed to this article.
CNN · by Daniel Dale



13. The U.S. Surgeon General Is Calling COVID-19 Misinformation An 'Urgent Threat'

"Misinformation Kills."

Excerpts:
"The tech companies actually have a much better sense of how much misinformation is being transacted on their platforms, and without understanding the full extent of it ... it's hard to formulate the most effective strategies," he says.
The new surgeon general's advisory comes as welcome news to Imran Ahmed, the Chief Executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a group that tracks COVID-19 misinformation online. But Ahmed also says that asking individual Americans to fight misinformation won't be enough.
His group has identified a dozen major spreaders of vaccine misinformation, and many continue to operate unchecked on social media. "At our last count 30 of 89 social media accounts for those 12 people have been taken down, but that means 59 are still up," he says. "They've still got millions of viewers being pumped misinformation and lies on a daily basis."
Social media companies profiting off clicks are spreading misinformation faster than it can be counteracted, Ahmed says. He'd like to see the surgeon general exert even more pressure on those companies.
"On tobacco packets they say that tobacco kills," he says. "On social media we need a 'Surgeon General's Warning: Misinformation Kills.' "

The U.S. Surgeon General Is Calling COVID-19 Misinformation An 'Urgent Threat'
NPR · by Geoff Brumfiel · July 15, 2021

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has helped the U.S. through other crises like the Zika outbreak, is now taking on health misinformation around COVID-19, which he says continues to jeopardize the country's efforts to beat back the virus. John Raoux/AP
With about a third of adults in the U.S. still completely unvaccinated, and cases of COVID-19 on the rise, the U.S. Surgeon General is calling for a war against "health misinformation."
On Thursday, Dr. Vivek Murthy is releasing the first Surgeon General's advisory of his time serving in the Biden administration, describing the "urgent threat" posed by the rise of false information around COVID-19 — one that continues to put "lives at risk" and prolong the pandemic.
Murthy says Americans must do their part to fight misinformation.
"COVID has really brought into sharp focus the full extent of damage that health misinformation is doing," Murthy told NPR in an exclusive interview ahead of the advisory's release. Surgeon General's advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that demand immediate attention.
In some cases, he says, the simplest way to stop the spread is to not share something questionable you read online: "If you're not sure, not sharing is often the prudent thing to do."
The U.S. has dealt with misinformation around other public health crises, including decades of persistent rumors about HIV/AIDS, but Murthy says the coronavirus pandemic is underscoring just how problematic the false information and rumors related to health can be.
Rates of COVID-19 are rising nationwide, driven in large part by the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant. A recent analysis by NPR shows that cases are highest in places where vaccination rates lag. Multiple factors, including inadequate access to vaccines, can keep vaccination rates low in some communities, but Murthy says fear about possible side effects or extremely rare adverse events are also a powerful driver of vaccine hesitancy.

In many cases, false information about the vaccines feeds that hesitancy. According to polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of unvaccinated adults either believe vaccine myths or are unsure about whether they are true. Murthy says that means misinformation is literally putting lives at risk.
"Every life that is lost to COVID-19 when we have vaccines available, is a preventable tragedy," Murthy says.
Murthy hopes that drawing public attention to the harms of misinformation will lead more Americans to take action in their own lives, including through simple one-on-one conversations with friends and family who are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Rather than judging others, Murthy encourages people to listen to their concerns and come prepared with sources of good information to counteract the bad. Research shows that vaccine hesitant people are more likely to be open and listen to those they know. "These conversations are all driven by trust," he says.
But Murthy also wants to see action on a larger scale.
In his advisory, he puts pressure on big tech companies to play a bigger role in combating health misinformation on their platforms. He wants to see algorithms tweaked to further demote bad information and companies to share more data with outside researchers and the government.

"The tech companies actually have a much better sense of how much misinformation is being transacted on their platforms, and without understanding the full extent of it ... it's hard to formulate the most effective strategies," he says.
The new surgeon general's advisory comes as welcome news to Imran Ahmed, the Chief Executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a group that tracks COVID-19 misinformation online. But Ahmed also says that asking individual Americans to fight misinformation won't be enough.
His group has identified a dozen major spreaders of vaccine misinformation, and many continue to operate unchecked on social media. "At our last count 30 of 89 social media accounts for those 12 people have been taken down, but that means 59 are still up," he says. "They've still got millions of viewers being pumped misinformation and lies on a daily basis."
Social media companies profiting off clicks are spreading misinformation faster than it can be counteracted, Ahmed says. He'd like to see the surgeon general exert even more pressure on those companies.
"On tobacco packets they say that tobacco kills," he says. "On social media we need a 'Surgeon General's Warning: Misinformation Kills.' "
NPR · by Geoff Brumfiel · July 15, 2021

14. Mapping the Taliban Offensive in Afghanistan



July 14, 2021 | Visual
Mapping the Taliban Offensive in Afghanistan








15. Cuba and Haiti upheaval could mean twin migration crises

Another boat people operation?

Cuba and Haiti upheaval could mean twin migration crises
By
Adam Taylor and Claire Parker
 
July 14, 2021|Updated yesterday at 3:47 p.m. EDT



248
The Washington Post · July 14, 2021
For decades, the United States met asylum seekers from Cuba and Haiti with divergent attitudes: for Cubans, open arms, and for Haitians, return tickets.
The countries, the largest by population in the Caribbean, have seen distinct crises in vastly different political contexts. As Cuba faces its largest protests in decades, amid tough economic conditions, Haiti is grappling with the chaotic aftermath of the assassination of its president. But the Biden administration has delivered the people of both countries a uniform message: “Do not risk your life attempting to enter the United States illegally,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a news conference Tuesday. “You will not come to the United States.”
The briefing appeared to be the administration’s attempt to get out ahead of what some experts warn could become concurrent Caribbean migration crises.
Even before the latest round of unrest in both countries, data suggests that the number of Haitians and Cubans seeking to migrate to the United States was steadily increasing.
“People have been trying to leave consistently,” said Ninaj Raoul, co-founder of the New York-based charity Haitian Women for Refugees.
Large protests over the weekend in Cuba, a one-party authoritarian state for more than six decades, were a “manifestation of the economic desperation and frustration that people are feeling” in the country, said William LeoGrande, a Cuba expert at American University. “It’s exactly those feelings that also convince some people that it’s time to leave.”
Defensive asylum claims by Cubans rose by nearly a factor of 10 from 2017 to 2019, according to Justice Department data.
Meanwhile, as many as 10,000 Haitians are already estimated to be stuck at the U.S.-Mexico border, unable to have their asylum claims heard because of a public health order, Title 42, instated by the Trump administration and kept in place under President Biden.
Historically, Cuban migrants to the United States received a welcome that few others — especially those from Haiti — received. President Donald Trump, who derided Haiti while calling Cuban voters “very good for him,” cast into sharp relief the long-standing dynamic.
For critics of the Biden administration, its approach to the situations in Haiti and Cuba illustrate a continuity of many hard-line immigration policies put in place by Trump. But Biden also faces pressure from the right, particularly in Florida.
“The last thing President Biden I’m sure would like to see is Haitian boats showing up in Miami,” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute office at the New York University School of Law.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Monday raised the specter of previous waves of Cuban refugees who headed to Florida.
In a letter to Biden, he asked the president to “warn the regime that any effort to encourage mass migration will be viewed and treated as a hostile action against the United States.”
A fraught history
Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Cuban economic output is far larger, but it has strained for decades under a U.S. trade embargo, diplomatic isolation and mismanagement of its planned economy.
Washington imposed the embargo, along with other restrictions, amid Cold War tensions after the Cuban revolution of 1959, which ousted a U.S.-friendly dictatorship. In the following years, thousands of Cubans fled the country, many reaching Florida by boat.
Haiti’s relationship with the United States, meanwhile, was shaped by a U.S. occupation from 1915 to 1934.
In the latter part of the 20th century, the countries both saw waves of people depart for the United States, where they were received differently.
“Compared to other groups, including the Haitians, it’s clear that the U.S. government has traditionally given special treatment to Cubans for mostly political reasons,” said Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.
The surges in migration have often overlapped, first in 1980, when the arrival of Cubans, considered political refugees, and Haitians, considered economic migrants, led the Carter administration to address the disparity by creating a new category called entrants that allowed both to stay.
In 1994, after a coup in Haiti and economic turmoil in Cuba following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Clinton administration reopened a base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to serve as a refugee processing center.
However, while the majority of the 30,000 Cubans who made it to the base were eventually resettled in the United States, then-President Bill Clinton pursued a different approach for the Haitians: A U.S. invasion of the country, after which the 20,000 Haitians at Guantánamo were repatriated.
After a devastating 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, many left the country for Brazil, where they often found construction jobs and other work ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Some viewed the U.S. treatment of Haitians as born not just of gold war politics, but racism. “White America doesn’t want an exodus of Haitian refugees, Black refugees,” Raoul said.
A challenge for Biden
President Barack Obama sought a “thaw” in relations with Havana, and in 2017 ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy imposed in 1995 that allowed Cubans fleeing the country to stay if they made it to dry land.
Though the Trump administration reversed many Obama-era policies, it maintained a hands-off approach to the question of migrants and refugees.
After the 2010 earthquake, the Obama administration gave Haitians in the United States temporary protected status that exempted them from deportation for 18 months. The designation was renewed repeatedly.
The Trump administration announced in 2018 that it would end the protection in July 2019, but several lawsuits challenging the move allowed the designation to remain in effect. The Biden administration redesignated TPS for Haitians in May, citing the deteriorating political situation in the country, but only Haitians in the United States at that point are eligible.
The Biden administration has not announced a break with Trump’s hard-line Cuba policy, which some commentators attribute to the political influence of Cuban Americans in Florida.
Critics say the continuation of a ban on remittances to Cuba could have contributed to the economic turmoil the country faces.
“Fifty-six percent of Cuban families receive remittances. So 56 percent of Cuban families, their standard of living declined as a result of Trump’s action and Biden’s inaction,” said LeoGrande.
The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted about 550 Cubans attempting the sea journey to the United States so far this fiscal year. That’s higher than the totals for the past three fiscal years — but down significantly from 2016 and 2017.
A Coast Guard crew intercepted and repatriated 23 Cubans on Saturday after a search-and-rescue mission off Key West, according to a Coast Guard news release.
But most Cubans and Haitians traveling toward the United States did not leave their countries of origin recently, according to Giulia Testa, regional manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Mixed Migration Centre. Pandemic-induced economic woes in Brazil prompted many Haitians who had settled there to attempt the journey north.
Most coming from South or Central America undertake the trek to the U.S. land border. Many hope to apply for asylum in the United States. But Cubans and Haitians were also among the top nationalities of people seeking asylum in Mexico, according to the MMC.
Mayorkas, himself a Cuban refugee, expressed the Biden administration’s “support for the people of Haiti” and “solidarity with the Cuban people” on Tuesday. But he made clear that his department would stop those seeking to enter the United States illegally, no matter what they were fleeing.
Sammy Westfall contributed to this report.
Read more:
The Washington Post · July 14, 2021

16. Opinion | After the Cuba protests, a regime shows its true colors

Conclusion: Protests have flared in Cuba over the years, but Sunday’s outpouring was extraordinary. Cuba’s regime responded by showing its true character — a dictatorship — and its determination to remain one.

Opinion | After the Cuba protests, a regime shows its true colors
The Washington Post · by Opinion by the Editorial Board July 14, 2021|Updated today at 5:40 p.m. EDT · July 14, 2021
The most striking aspect of Sunday’s remarkable demonstrations in Cuba was their spontaneity. The most striking aspect of the government’s response was the dreary repetition of its timeworn repressive measures. Once Cuba’s security services realized that hundreds of people were in the streets protesting, they swung into gear, as they have many times before, to extinguish the outburst of free speech and assembly.
The initial spark was a Facebook live video from San Antonio de los Baños, south of Havana, showing protesters in the street, fed up with electricity blackouts, food shortages, rampant coronavirus infections and a police state run by the Communist Party of Cuba. The video was up for about 50 minutes and caught on quickly, inspiring protests across the island, but then was cut off. By Monday, according to Internet monitors, Cuban authorities had largely shut down Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram — although not Twitter. Mobile screens largely went dark this week, making it extremely difficult for activists and independent journalists to communicate. Videos from the Sunday protests showed hundreds of people with smartphones lifted above their heads to record the demonstrations. This was the most digital-savvy revolt yet in Cuba — until the regime severed the connections.
Next, the regime turned to force and coercion. The government confirmed one person died Monday during a clash between protesters and police. But unverified reports circulating in Cuba suggests the use of force to crush the protests was widespread. Videos circulating on social media showed people being roughed up by security forces. Witnesses have reported many detained or missing; activists have circulated a list of more than 100. The independent online news portal 14ymedio says that, based on fragmentary reports, there are more than 5,000 people imprisoned or being investigated for participating in the protests, among them more than 120 activists and independent journalists. A reporter for a Madrid newspaper, Camila Acosta, was among those arrested, along with three Baptist priests. The goal of such sweeping repression and arrests is to instill fear, to intimidate and silence those who would speak their minds.
In 2002 and 2003, the Castro regime was faced with another outpouring of demands for democracy. More than 25,000 Cubans had signed the Varela Project citizen petition, created by opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, calling for free speech, a free press, freedom of association, freedom of belief, private enterprise, free elections and freedom for political prisoners. The response then, too, was an attempt to crush the popular demands. In what later came to be known as the “Black Spring,” 75 people, including those collecting Varela Project signatures, activists and journalists, were arrested in March 2003 and sentenced to long prison terms. Mr. Payá was killed in a suspicious car wreck in 2012.
Protests have flared in Cuba over the years, but Sunday’s outpouring was extraordinary. Cuba’s regime responded by showing its true character — a dictatorship — and its determination to remain one.
Read more:
The Washington Post · by Opinion by the Editorial Board July 14, 2021|Updated today at 5:40 p.m. EDT · July 14, 2021


17. Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?

The culture war not only divides, it is profitable.

Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?
The New York Times · by Jason Zengerle · July 14, 2021

Mat Best, Evan Hafer and Jarred Taylor, the founders of the Black Rifle Coffee Company, at their offices in San Antonio.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
The Great Read
The company doubled its sales last year by leaning into America’s culture war. It’s also trying to distance itself from some of its new customers.
Mat Best, Evan Hafer and Jarred Taylor, the founders of the Black Rifle Coffee Company, at their offices in San Antonio.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
By
  • July 14, 2021
Listen to This Article
Audio Recording by Audm
To hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.
Like most Americans, Evan Hafer experienced the Jan. 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol from a distance, watching it unfold on his television and his iPhone from Salt Lake City. What he saw did not surprise him. Hafer, who is 44, voted for Donald Trump. He was even open at first to the possibility that Trump’s claims of sweeping voter fraud were legitimate, until William Barr, Trump’s attorney general, declared in early December that he could find no evidence that such fraud occurred. Still, Hafer told me recently, “you’re told by the commander in chief for months that the election was stolen, so you’re going to have a group of people that are really pissed.” While he disapproved of those who stormed the Capitol, he didn’t believe that they or their actions constituted a real threat to the republic. “I’ve seen an insurrection,” said Hafer, a former Green Beret and C.I.A. contractor who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I know what that looks like.”
But Hafer’s distance from the incident collapsed that same afternoon, when he was alerted to a picture taken by a Getty photographer in the Senate chamber that immediately went viral. The photo showed a masked man vaulting over a banister holding several sets of plastic restraints, an apparent sign that the insurrectionists planned to take lawmakers hostage. The unidentified man, soon dubbed “zip-tie guy,” was dressed in a tactical vest, carried a Taser and wore a baseball hat with an image of an assault rifle silhouetted against an American flag — a design sold by the Black Rifle Coffee Company, of which Hafer is the chief executive. “I was like, Oh, [expletive],” he recalled. “Here we go again.”

Hafer in the gym and archery area at the company’s Salt Lake City offices.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
Black Rifle was founded in 2014 by Hafer and two fellow veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and who were enthusiastic enlistees in America’s culture wars too. The company billed itself as pro-military, pro-law enforcement and “anti-hipster.” Early customers could download a shooting target from the company’s Facebook page that featured a bowtied man with a handlebar mustache. Its early coffees included the Silencer Smooth roast and the AK-47 Espresso blend. During Trump’s presidency, Black Rifle’s gleeful provocations grew more directly political. It endorsed Trump’s Muslim ban and bought Google ads based on searches for “Covfefe.” (“They should be running Trump’s comms shop,” the alt-right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec wrote in a tweet praising the Google maneuver.) Before long, Black Rifle became the unofficial coffee of the MAGA universe, winning public endorsements from Sean Hannity and Donald Trump Jr.
J.J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, noted that Black Rifle apparel was a recurring feature in footage of last summer’s anti-lockdown and anti-Black Lives Matter demonstrations in various states. When Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager who is charged in the fatal shootings of two people at a B.L.M. protest last August in Kenosha, Wis., was released on $2 million bail in November, his first post-jail photo showed him wearing a Black Rifle T-shirt. (Rittenhouse used a black Smith & Wesson AR-15-style rifle in the shootings.) Elijah Schaffer, a reporter and host for Glenn Beck’s Blaze Media, whose “Slightly Offensive” podcast was sponsored at the time by Black Rifle, tweeted the picture with the message “Kyle Rittenhouse drinks the best coffee in America” and a promotional code for Black Rifle’s website.
In this context, the appearance of Black Rifle merchandise at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was not exactly shocking. Nevertheless, Mat Best, the company’s 34-year-old executive vice president, insists that Black Rifle was singled out unfairly. “Every brand, name the brand, it was probably there: Walmart jeans, Nike shoes,” he said. “And then it’s like one patch from our company. There’s certain terrorist organizations that wear American brands when they go behead Americans. Do you think they want to be a part of that? And I’m not drawing a parallel between the two. I’m just simply saying there are things in business, when you grow, that are completely outside your control.”
It was several months after Jan. 6, and Best and Hafer were revisiting the episode in Black Rifle’s offices in Salt Lake City — a converted warehouse with a lot of black metal and reclaimed wood, as well as concrete floors stained in a swirly light-brown pattern that Hafer calls “spilt latte.” Best, a former Army Ranger who stands over six feet and has the physique of an Ultimate Fighting Championship contender, recalled the initial internet rumors that he himself was “zip-tie guy,” who was later identified as a considerably smaller man named Eric Munchel, a 30-year-old Tennessean recently employed by a Kid Rock-themed bar and restaurant in Nashville. “I was like, ‘That guy’s a buck forty and five-seven!’” Best said in mock umbrage.
Eric Munchel, Kyle Rittenhouse and Eddie Gallagher have all worn Black Rifle apparel.
Hafer, who is of far more relatable stature (Best likened him to Rocket, the genetically enhanced raccoon in the Marvel cinematic universe), was more offended by the continued identification of Munchel with Black Rifle. This link was advanced not just by headlines — “Man at Capitol Riots Seen With Coffee Company Hat On” — but also by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In identifying “zip-tie guy” as Munchel, agents used his affection for Black Rifle as a crucial clue. Security-camera footage from a Washington hotel on Jan. 6 showed Munchel wearing the Black Rifle hat. A photograph on Facebook from September showed Munchel at a political rally in Nashville, draped in an American flag and again wearing the hat. And there was another Facebook photo of him holding a shotgun in front of a television tuned to a Fox News broadcast of a Trump appearance, with a Black Rifle hat visible on a nearby desk. In the 13-page affidavit the bureau filed in support of Munchel’s arrest, the words “handgun” and “shotgun” appear once, “Trump” twice, “Taser” three times and “Black Rifle Coffee Company” four times.
“I would never want my brand to be represented in that way, shape or form,” Hafer said, “because that’s not me.” And yet Black Rifle has made conspicuously little public effort to separate itself from Munchel. This is a sharp departure from its handling of the Rittenhouse incident: Following pressure from the company, Schaffer deleted his tweets, and Hafer released a video statement in which he clarified that while Black Rifle believed “in the Constitution, the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms,” and “that a person is innocent until proven guilty,” the company didn’t sponsor Rittenhouse; “we’re not in the business of profiting from tragedy.”
The limited disavowal triggered fury on the right. “The people that run Black Rifle Coffee are no different than most scammers involved in the conservative grift,” Nick Fuentes, a prominent white-nationalist activist, wrote on Twitter. “They’re giant douche bag posers in flip flops and baseball caps. When push comes to shove they are [expletive] liberals.” Hafer, who is Jewish, was bombarded on social media with anti-Semitic attacks. He estimates that the Rittenhouse episode cost the company between 3,000 and 6,000 subscribers to its various online coffee clubs. Black Rifle was caught off-guard by the backlash, and when the F.B.I. identified Munchel, the company said nothing at all.
The coffee company “is much bigger,” Hafer insisted, than “a hat in the [expletive] Capitol.” But the uncomfortable truth remained: that someone like Munchel would have thought to wear the company’s hat to the Capitol was a large part of how Black Rifle had gotten so big in the first place. This was the dilemma in which Black Rifle now found itself. “How do you build a cool, kind of irreverent, pro-Second Amendment, pro-America brand in the MAGA era,” Hafer wondered aloud, “without doubling down on the MAGA movement and also not being called a [expletive] RINO by the MAGA guys?”
The original Black Rifle coffee roaster is still in operation in Salt Lake City.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
An employee tending to embroidery machines producing Black Rifle hats.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
Until very recently, most companies did everything they could to keep their brands free of political associations. This is not to say they avoided politics, of course: Corporations and business associations hired lobbyists and made political contributions in order to guarantee favorable treatment from public officials. But this was typically done behind a scrim of private meetings and campaign-finance reports, and while the business community’s own politics might have tended toward chamber-of-commerce conservatism, the lobbying and giving were usually calculatedly bipartisan. There have always been firms — oil companies, defense contractors — whose work inevitably placed them in the political conversation, but for most, trying to stay neutral made economic sense.
A sign that this conventional wisdom was changing came five years ago, after North Carolina’s Republican-led Legislature passed a law prohibiting transgender individuals from using public restrooms that match their gender identity. Social conservatives blithely assumed the state’s business community would have no objections to “the bathroom bill.” But by the turn of this century, North Carolina’s big money had shifted from textiles in Greensboro and tobacco in Winston-Salem to the financial center of Charlotte and the pharmaceutical and technology hub of Raleigh. The gravitational pull of those inherently more liberal industries and cities was profound. Bank of America (based in Charlotte), Pfizer (which has a manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount), Facebook and Apple (both of which have large data centers in the state), as well as some 200 other major corporations, publicly called on Gov. Pat McCrory to repeal the law. When he didn’t, the business community contributed fulsomely to the campaign of his Democratic rival, Roy Cooper, who defeated him in 2016.
Trump’s election that same year and the broader transformation of Republican politics that accompanied it seemed to further divide corporate America and the Republican Party. Although corporations didn’t necessarily reduce their political contributions to the G.O.P., they sought greater public distance. In 2017, the chief executives of J.P. Morgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric and other major firms resigned from the White House’s business advisory councils to protest Trump’s remarks blaming “both sides” for violence at a deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. This year, after Georgia’s Republican-led Legislature and Republican governor enacted a restrictive new voting law, the chief executives of the Georgia-headquartered Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines publicly denounced the law and Major League Baseball moved its 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver. The Texas-based American Airlines and Dell have announced their opposition to new restrictive voting laws enacted by that state’s Republican-led Legislature and governor as well.
These corporations often made these political stands defensively, in the face of pressure from activist groups threatening protests and boycotts or from their employees. But other major companies have recently wagered that taking political stances of their own volition is good business. In 2018, Nike built an advertising campaign around Colin Kaepernick, who was driven out of the National Football League the previous year for taking a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter during the playing of the pregame national anthem. During last summer’s nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, YouTube, Procter & Gamble and even NASCAR produced racial-justice TV ads. “There’s an imperfect line between what’s political and what’s cultural these days,” says Steve Callander, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Companies definitely want to tap into cultural trends, because that’s how you connect with your customers.” In a 2019 survey of more than 1,500 U.S. consumers by the social-media management firm Sprout Social, 70 percent of them said they found it important for brands to take a public stand on sociopolitical issues.
More often than not, companies are aligning themselves with liberal causes — not necessarily for ideological reasons but for business ones. “The marketplace skews younger,” Callander notes, “and that’s a big difference with the electorate, which skews older.” But the rise of “woke capitalism,” as the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has called it, has also created a business opportunity for companies that explicitly cast themselves in opposition to the new liberal corporate consensus. American consumers who are alienated by pro-immigration and gun-control messages from the likes of Walmart and Hertz — call these consumers woke capitalism’s discontents — need to shop somewhere. And they also need to get their caffeine fix.
In the art department at the Black Rifle offices in Salt Lake City.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
In retrospect, the market opportunity that Black Rifle sought to exploit when it started in 2014 seems blindingly obvious. Over the preceding two decades, Starbucks had made espresso drinks and specialty roasts as ubiquitous in America as McDonald’s, in part by wrapping them up inside an aspirational lifestyle brand: a deracinated, mass-market version of the Seattle cultural aesthetic of the 1990s. This aesthetic was implicitly liberal, urban, cosmopolitan and mildly pretentious — the grist for thousands of talk-radio rants about “latte liberals.” Now that Starbucks is a mass-market behemoth, with over 15,000 stores in the U.S., it has lost some of these associations, but not all of them. And Starbucks has been so successful at creating a multibillion-dollar market for specialty coffee in the United States that there are now most likely millions of latte drinkers who are not latte liberals.
Black Rifle, too, presents itself as a lifestyle brand, with its hats, T-shirts and other flag-and-firearm-bedecked merchandise accounting for more than 15 percent of the company’s 2020 sales. At times, Black Rifle has explicitly presented itself as a troll-y, Trump-y alternative to the Seattle giant. When Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 refugees to protest Trump’s 2017 executive order banning visas to applicants from seven countries, most of whose populations were majority Muslim, Black Rifle created a social-media meme with Starbucks cups Photoshopped alongside ISIS fighters. In 2019, after an Oklahoma police officer posted a photo on Facebook of a Starbucks cup that a barista had labeled “pig,” Best appeared on “Fox & Friends,” the Trump-beloved talk show, to announce that Black Rifle was giving the officer and his department “enough coffee so they’ll never have to go to a Starbucks again,” as the host Ainsley Earhardt told viewers. “I want people who voted for Trump to know that there is another option for you,” Hafer said in the midst of the feud he orchestrated. “Howard Schultz doesn’t want your business. I do.” (Black Rifle similarly secured Sean Hannity’s endorsement in 2017 shortly after the coffee company Keurig pulled its ads from his show to protest his defense of Roy Moore, a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, in the face of sexual misconduct allegations against Moore involving teenage girls.)
Black Rifle’s executives intend for this sort of provocation to be the basis for the expansion of a brand that, while not the size of Starbucks, could achieve its own kind of red-state ubiquity. In 2015, the company’s revenue was $1 million. By 2019, that figure had grown to $82 million. Last year, the company did $163 million in sales. For most of its existence, Black Rifle has been a “direct to consumer” operation, selling its coffee and merchandise primarily through its website. The company opened its first brick-and-mortar store in San Antonio last fall; others are open or under construction in Montana, Oklahoma and Tennessee, with plans to have 15 in operation by the end of this year and 35 by the end of 2022. Black Rifle has also struck a deal with Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s — which already sell Black Rifle coffee beans and merchandise — to operate Black Rifle cafes in some of their stores. (“Their brand is very popular with our customers,” a Bass Pro Shops spokeswoman said.)
Tom Davin, a former executive at Taco Bell and Panda Express who two years ago became Black Rifle’s co-chief executive, says: “Our customer is driving a tricked-out Ford F-150. It’s blue-collar, above-average income, some college-educated, some self-made-type people. It’s people who shop at Walmart rather than Target.” Hafer put it more bluntly in a 2017 interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business: “Progressives hate me, and conservatives love me.”
Merchandise at a Black Rifle coffee shop.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
Lucas O’Hara runs his blacksmithing business out of Black Rifle’s offices in Salt Lake City.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
In April, Hafer traveled to Clarksville, Tenn., where Black Rifle’s second store was scheduled to open the next week on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, a road just outside Fort Campbell clogged with fast-food restaurants and car dealerships. Baristas in training huddled behind the bar learning how to make drinks, while a giant TV played a slow-motion video of a bullet ripping through a coffee bag and flashed the message “PREMIUM ROASTED COFFEE FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE AMERICA.”
Hafer was conducting a final pre-opening inspection. As he marched around the store, snapping occasional pictures with a Leica that hung from a strap around his neck, he drew up a punch list that his assistant typed into an iPad. The display of coffee mugs designed to look like grenades in the merchandise section was too cluttered. The big empty space above the faux fireplace rankled him. “I’ll send an elk head out,” he said. The bottles of Torani flavored syrup needed to be hidden from view, or the syrup needed to be decanted into Black Rifle-branded bottles. “It should be Black Rifle with Black Rifle all the way through,” Hafer instructed. “There should be zero other exterior branding for anything else.”
Hafer grew up in Idaho in a family of loggers. He joined the National Guard before attending the University of Idaho and left school in 1999, just shy of graduation, to join the Army. In 2000, he became a Green Beret. For the next 14 years, first as a Special Forces soldier and then as a C.I.A. contractor, he went on more than 40 deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, the Philippines and elsewhere. By 2013, he was running a C.I.A. program in Kabul, divorced from his first wife and disgruntled with American foreign policy. He concluded that the war there wasn’t being waged to defend the United States or promote democracy; rather, it was about enriching “the military industrial complex with the largest transfer of taxpayer wealth in American history.” The C.I.A. did not renew his contract the following year.
Back in the United States, newly remarried and with a baby on the way, Hafer searched for a place in civilian life. He connected with Best, whom he knew from the C.I.A.-contractor world. While still a contractor, Best started making bro-ish videos poking fun at military life — blowing up a giant pink teddy bear with Tannerite, for instance — and posting them to Facebook and YouTube. They caught the eye of Jarred Taylor, an Air Force staff sergeant stationed in El Paso who had a video-production company. Taylor helped Best put out a more polished product, with more guns and more women in bikinis. Before long, Best was an internet celebrity in military circles, with over a million subscribers to his YouTube channel. He and Taylor started a military-themed T-shirt company called Article 15, after the provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that governs minor disciplinary matters. Their shirts featured designs like a machine-gun-toting Smokey Bear (“Only You Can Prevent Terrorism”). It did more than $1 million in sales its first year.
Although Article 15 ended up grossing nearly $4 million by its third year, Best and Taylor realized that it could make only so much money. “People don’t need to buy a T-shirt every week,” Taylor says. Partnering with Hafer, they set about trying to better tap the market they had found.
That market included not just military veterans but, perhaps more important, nonveterans who wanted to emulate them. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans who viewed the military as an aspirational lifestyle, as opposed to a professional career or a patriotic duty, were a distinctly marginal subculture, relegated to an olive-drab world of surplus stores and Soldier of Fortune subscriptions. But that changed as veterans began cycling back from Afghanistan and Iraq to a country that — while mostly removed from (and oftentimes painfully oblivious to) the realities of their service — generally admired them and, in some cases, wanted to live vicariously through their experiences. This was especially true of the elite Special Operations personnel who have assumed an outsize role in the post-Sept. 11 wars.
‘I hate racist, Proud Boy-ish people. Like, I’ll pay them to leave my customer base.'
The fascination with, and romanticization of, Special Operations gave us video games like the later installments in the Call of Duty franchise, movies like “Lone Survivor” and a sagging shelf of Navy SEAL memoirs. It also gave rise to an entire industry retrofitting “operator culture” as a lifestyle. There’s Grunt Style, a popular clothing brand founded by a former Army drill sergeant that sells camouflage polyester shorts (“Ranger Panties”) and T-shirts with a variety of skull- and ammunition-centric designs. The apparel company 5.11, which manufactured specialty pants for rock climbers, started going by the name 5.11 Tactical in 2003 and soon began selling T-shirts with twin underarm pockets (“a quick, comfortable and covert solution for concealed-carry wear”) and “active-shooter response” bags specially designed to carry assault-rifle magazines. It now has 85 retail stores in 27 states. (Before becoming Black Rifle’s co-chief executive, Tom Davin ran 5.11.) And of course, there are the gun manufacturers, firing ranges and shooting instructors that cater to people who don’t fancy themselves hunters, target shooters or conventional home defenders, as most gun owners once did, but as commandos preparing for theoretical war.
Aspirational brands like Stetson and Breitling sell inclusivity as exclusivity: They are nominally pitched to a romanticized elite — the rugged frontiersman, the dashing yachtsman — but the real money is in peddling the promise of access to that elite to everyone else. The target market for high-end carbon-steel survival knives includes the 7 percent of American adults who served in the military. But it also includes the broader population of web developers and program managers who are unlikely to encounter physical danger in their daily lives but who sport Ranger beards or sleeve tattoos and talk about their “everyday carry.” As a Grunt Style motto puts it, “You don’t have to be a veteran to wear Grunt Style, but you do have to love freedom, bacon and whiskey.”
Best had made fun of this market in his videos: “Now that we’ve got the superfitted Under Armour shirt and a little operator hat, we need to put on a beard and some body armor,” he said in a 2013 video called “How to Be an Operator.” Still, he, Hafer and Taylor tried to come up with products that would appeal to it. There was ReadyMan, a survivalist outfit that hawked custom tools (tomahawks, tourniquets, AR-15 cleaning cards) and training in “time-tested man skills,” but sales were modest. A crowdfunding website called TwistRate, which was targeted at military and law-enforcement members with entrepreneurial ideas for tactical firearms that Kickstarter wouldn’t host, eventually went out of business. Their whiskey, Leadslingers, seemed as though it would be a lot of fun, until they realized all the regulatory headaches that come with alcohol distribution. (The podcast they used to promote it, “Drinkin’ Bros,” was more successful.) They even made a feature film, partnering with the military-apparel company Ranger Up on a zombie comedy titled “Range 15.” They cast themselves but paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for appearances from the likes of Sean Astin, William Shatner and Danny Trejo — spending about $1.5 million (much of it raised through crowdfunding) to make a movie that brought in just over $600,000 at the box office.
It was Hafer who stumbled into the gold mine. Best and Taylor didn’t know Folgers instant from Blue Bottle espresso, but Hafer was a genuine coffee nerd; when he deployed overseas, he brought along his own pour-over apparatus and beans he had roasted himself. For a Black Friday promotion for Article 15 in 2014, he roasted 500 pounds — on a one-pound roaster in his garage — of a blend that he and his business partners called Dark Roasted Freedom. Taylor made an ad for the coffee titled “Grinch vs. Operators” in which he, Best, Hafer and some of their friends, on orders from Santa, hunt down and execute a keffiyeh-clad Grinch. They sold 300 bags in the first five days.
The seeds of Black Rifle’s success — good coffee and superior memecraft — were planted. Soon Black Rifle was its own stand-alone company, and Best, Hafer and Taylor shuttered or pulled back from their other business ventures. Sure, they rolled their eyes about the commodification of operator culture. But they knew a business opportunity when they saw one. If the people wanted a “tactical caffeine delivery system,” as a Military.com writer later referred to Black Rifle, they would give it to them.
Best (center) and the comedian Caleb Francis recording a video for social media.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
Isaac Aleman Jr. (center) instructing Black Rifle employees in archery.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
Appearing on “Fox & Friends” in 2017 to respond to Starbucks’s pledge to hire 10,000 refugees, Hafer announced that Black Rifle intended to hire 10,000 veterans. Coming from the chief executive of a company that, at the time, had about 50 employees, this was a transparent publicity stunt. Nonetheless, as Black Rifle has grown, it has stayed true to the spirit of Hafer’s promise. Black Rifle says that more than half of its 550 current employees are veterans, reservists or military spouses; they work in roles from forklift operators to baristas to senior executives.
Sometimes it seems as if Hafer and his partners invent jobs at Black Rifle for veterans to do. A former Green Beret medic helps Black Rifle with events and outreach and was recently made the director of its newly formed charity organization. Four years ago, Black Rifle received a Facebook message from an Afghan Army veteran with whom Hafer once served; he wrote that he was now working at a gas station and living with his family in public housing in Charlottesville. “We honestly assumed he was dead,” Hafer says. Black Rifle found a home for the man and his family in Utah, and he now does building and grounds maintenance at the company’s Salt Lake City offices. At those offices, I met a quiet, haunted-seeming man who had been a C.I.A.-contractor colleague of Hafer’s and who, for a time, lived in a trailer he parked on the office grounds. Later, I asked Hafer what, exactly, the man did for Black Rifle. “He just gets better,” Hafer replied. “He gets better.”
This spring, Black Rifle hosted an archery competition for a few dozen disabled veterans and a few dozen of its employees (some one and the same) on a 1,200-acre ranch it leases north of San Antonio, where the company now has a second office. Archery has become the unofficial sport of Black Rifle; the company buys $600 compound bows and $250 releases for employees who want to learn to shoot and employs two bow technicians to teach them. Hafer believes that archery — the mental and physical process of nocking the arrow, drawing the bow, aiming and then releasing the string — is therapeutic. “It’s active meditation, basically,” he says.
At the “adaptive athlete” archery competition in Texas, participants who had lost their legs navigated around the cactus, live oaks and cow patties in all-terrain wheelchairs; those missing an arm held their bows with robotic prosthetics. Wearing T-shirts and wristbands bearing slogans like “Eat the Weak” and “Kill Bad Dudes,” they shot at foam targets in the shapes of various prey — a jaguar, a crocodile, a sasquatch — that had been placed around the ranch and trash-talked one another after every hit and miss.
One of those competing was Lucas O’Hara, a giant, bearded man who is Black Rifle’s in-house blacksmith. O’Hara spent eight years in the Army and then settled down in Georgia, where he worked as a bodyguard before falling on hard times. He was a devoted listener to the “Drinkin’ Bros” podcast and sent Instagram messages to Best, Hafer and Taylor asking if they could help. Taylor gave him a job in Article 15’s T-shirt warehouse. Later, O’Hara took up blacksmithing and began making custom knives. He called his company Grizzly Forge.
“I was struggling to get this business going,” O’Hara recalled. “We were two months behind on my mortgage. We had our power shut off. I had two little girls.” He was on the verge of selling his shop equipment on Facebook when Hafer called him with an order for 50 custom blades that Black Rifle could give away as coffee-bag openers. “That turned my power back on,” O’Hara said. Hafer ordered 300 more. This year, Black Rifle moved O’Hara, his family and Grizzly Forge from exurban Atlanta to Salt Lake City and gave him his own blacksmith shop in a hangar-like structure behind the company parking lot.
O’Hara had been practicing archery for just a couple of weeks but had gotten better by watching online tutorials given by the professional archer John Dudley, who attended Black Rifle’s competition. So did the former professional wrestler Goldberg and Keldon Johnson, a forward for the San Antonio Spurs. O’Hara got his picture taken with some of them, and he won the long-range shooting competition. “This whole thing is like a dream,” he said.
‘Instead of worrying about microaggressions and which bathroom I’m going to use, I believe it’s important to support the people that actually serve our country.’
For Hafer, Black Rifle’s physical stores represent not just another revenue stream for his business but another business opportunity for his subculture. In his vision, Army staff sergeants and Navy petty officers will leave the military and move back to their hometowns, where, instead of joining the local police department, they’ll take a job at a Black Rifle coffee shop and, eventually, operate a Black Rifle franchise of their own. “I would never take anything away from people that want to be police officers, but the guy that’s on the fence who needs a job but still wants to be part of the team and still likes the culture and the community, I’m going to get him,” Hafer told me. “I want him to be thinking: Man, I’m going to work as a barista. I’m going to work the window. I’m going to move up to manager. And then after three years, I’m going to get a franchise opportunity.” He went on: “People that are coming out of the military might be looking at going to work at UPS or FedEx or something like that. I’ve got to be competitive with those guys.”
The community that Black Rifle’s founders are building within the company resembles a concentrated version of the community they hope to build among its customers. The funny videos, the online magazine Coffee or Die, the podcast, the T-shirts and hats are about this as much as they are about selling coffee. “When Joe Schmo is getting out of the military and moves back to his hometown, and he’s alone and depressed and turns on one of our podcasts, and then gets in one of our local group forums, he starts networking, and now he’s got five buddies to hang out with,” Best says. “That [expletive] is life-changing.” As Best put it in his 2019 memoir, “Thank You for My Service,” an account of his combat and sexual exploits that relied on a ghostwriter once used by Tucker Max, his goal with veterans is “to speak to people like me. People who appreciated the gratitude but had no use for the pity.”
“You have an entire generation of guys over the last 20 years that were trained to deploy and kill people,” Hafer told me. “It’s the most politically incorrect profession. Let’s just say what it is: You’re going to take life. And then you have this evolutionary circumstance in society, which says that everything has to be politically correct. And now what they want a generation of guys to do is to come home and be nice. They want us to be all politically correct. They want us to be watered-down versions of ourselves, because I think they just want to forget and move on with their lives.”
Best (right) resting after a day of shooting social-media content.Credit...Eli Durst for The New York Times
In Black Rifle’s early days, the company’s avowed “political incorrectness” resembled a militarized Barstool Sports; some of its early ads ran on “Girls for Gunslingers,” a self-explanatory Facebook page that Taylor operated, and were of a piece with the rest of the page’s content. But over time its political incorrectness became more overtly political. “Instead of worrying about microaggressions and which bathroom I’m going to use, I believe it’s important to support the people that actually serve our country,” Best says in a 2017 Black Rifle ad, name-checking a couple of conservative cultural grievances. “I’ve heard people say patriotism is racism. Well, as a veteran-owned company, we give zero [expletive] about your opinion.”
It’s not too difficult to detect the influence of a certain political figure in this evolution — and not just because Best wears a red “Make Coffee Great Again” T-shirt in the ad. Indeed, Black Rifle’s founders not only adapted to but in many instances also adopted the Trump-era Republican Party’s approach to politics. On the eve of the Georgia Senate runoffs in January, Taylor directed an ad supporting the two Republican candidates called “Georgia Reloaded.” In it, Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL, parachutes out of a plane into Georgia to fight the “far-left activists” there who “are attempting to gain full and total control of the U.S. government.” The ad ends with Crenshaw landing on the hood of a car with antifa members inside and punching in the windshield.
Last month, Black Rifle donated $32,000 to the sheriff of Bexar County, Texas, home to the company’s San Antonio office, so his department could buy a rescue boat. On Instagram, Taylor posted a picture of him and Best presenting the sheriff with a giant check, along with a caption that attacked a female Republican county commissioner who had questioned the boat purchase; Taylor ended it with the hashtag #APAC, which stands for “all politicians are [expletive].” The county commissioner was subsequently the subject of vicious and sexist harassment on social media.
Trump’s taboo-breaking extended beyond political culture to the military culture that Black Rifle celebrates. That active-duty military and veterans are predominantly Republican was well known before Trump; the norms of civilian politics, however, demanded that Republican politicians talk about supporting the troops, not the other way around. But Trump, like an American caudillo, treated the military as a political constituency. “I’m not saying the military’s in love with me,” Trump said during the 2020 campaign. “The soldiers are.”
Trump took his courtship of the military to unseemly extremes. As a candidate, he complained that American forces were not permitted to “fight fire with fire” when dealing with terrorists and regaled campaign-trail crowds with the apocryphal story of Gen. John Pershing executing Muslim prisoners in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pig blood. As president, he vociferously supported Eddie Gallagher — a Navy SEAL who was court-martialed on charges that he attempted to murder civilians and stabbed a teenage ISIS prisoner to death while serving with a platoon in Iraq in 2017 — and other service members accused of war crimes. “We’re going to take care of our warriors, and I will always stick up for our great fighters,” Trump said in 2019 after pardoning one Army officer found guilty of war crimes and a Special Forces soldier charged with committing them. “People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what? It doesn’t matter to me whatsoever.”
Gallagher was acquitted of the most serious charges, over the testimony of some of the SEALs in his squad, who had made the initial accusations. Afterward, Black Rifle’s leadership hosted him twice on the company’s “Free Range American” podcast and collaborated with him on his own line of T-shirts and drinkware called Salty Frog Gear. Gallagher, for his part, wears Black Rifle’s gear so frequently that, he has said, some people have mistaken him to be the coffee company’s chief executive. Once, Gallagher’s case might have been an intramural dispute between “team guys.” But thanks in large part to Trump, Gallagher is now a combatant in a larger cultural conflagration — a frequent guest on Fox News and an author of a new book attacking his accusers as “weak-kneed,” “weak-bodied” “soft beta” males.
Black Rifle has been right there with him. “It’s progressive politics that are trying to fry and paint this picture of moral and ethic problems within the Special Operations community,” Best complained on a 2019 Fox Nation segment devoted to Gallagher and the two Army servicemen Trump pardoned. Rather than condemning those accused of war crimes, Hafer added, “the country should be asking themselves, What can we do to help these guys?”
Black Rifle does not and cannot expect to ever again double its revenue, as it did last year, but it projects annual sales of $240 million in 2021 — 50 percent higher than 2020. Considering how much of Black Rifle’s previous success was built on Trump-fueled divisiveness and polarization, the question is whether its ambitious projections for future growth could possibly be met without more of the same.
Although Hafer remains a conservative, on more than one occasion he told me, “I’m a man without a party now.” He is loath to say anything negative about Trump on the record, but he now also seems reluctant to say much positive about him either. Nevertheless, the Black Rifle executives were unwilling to get too introspective about what their company might have done to lead people on the far right, people they personally revile, to identify with the Black Rifle brand.
When I asked Hafer and Best if they had given any thought as to why the first public thing Kyle Rittenhouse did after getting bailed out of jail was put on a Black Rifle T-shirt and pose for a picture, their answer was procedural. An ex-Special Forces member who helped collect Rittenhouse from jail stopped by a Bass Pro Shop to get some new clothes for the teenager, including the Black Rifle T-shirt, Hafer said. As for why Eric Munchel chose a Black Rifle hat — in addition to a tactical vest and a Taser — as part of his get-up for his “flexing of muscles” on Jan. 6, as he described his actions to a British newspaper, they had no interest in digging too deeply. “He’s just some guy that bought the hat,” Hafer said. “Just like 10,000 other people who bought the hat in the previous 60 days before that, or whatever it was.”
“The Black Rifle guys are not the evil that everybody makes them out to be,” says J.J. MacNab, the extremism researcher, “but they’ve closed their eyes to some of the evil that takes their humor seriously.” Still, Black Rifle professes to be eager to put some of its fiercest and trolliest culture-war fights behind it. “What I figured out the last couple of years is that being really political, in the sense of backing an individual politician or any individual party, is really [expletive] detrimental,” Hafer told me. “And it’s detrimental to the company. And it’s detrimental, ultimately, to my mission.”
Hafer and Best were talking in a glorified supply closet in the Salt Lake City offices, where potential designs for new coffee bags were hanging on the wall. One of them featured a Renaissance-style rendering of St. Michael the Archangel, a patron saint of military personnel, shooting a short-barreled rifle. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Hafer knew a number of squad mates who had a St. Michael tattoo; for a time, he wore into battle a St. Michael pendant that a Catholic friend gave him. But while the St. Michael design was being mocked up, Hafer said he learned from a friend at the Pentagon that an image of St. Michael trampling on Satan had been embraced by white supremacists because it was reminiscent of the murder of George Floyd. Now any plans for the coffee bag had been scrapped. “This won’t see the light of day,” Hafer said.
“You can’t let sections of your customers hijack your brand and say, ‘This is who you are,’” Best told me. “It’s like, no, no, we define that.” The Rittenhouse episode may have cost the company thousands of customers, but, Hafer believed, it also allowed Black Rifle to draw a line in the sand. “It’s such a repugnant group of people,” Hafer said. “It’s like the worst of American society, and I got to flush the toilet of some of those people that kind of hijacked portions of the brand.” Then again, what Hafer insisted was a “superclear delineation” was not to clear to everyone, as Munchel’s choice of headgear vividly demonstrated.
“The racism [expletive] really pisses me off,” Hafer said. “I hate racist, Proud Boy-ish people. Like, I’ll pay them to leave my customer base. I would gladly chop all of those people out of my [expletive] customer database and pay them to get the [expletive] out.” If that was the case, I asked, had Black Rifle — which sells a Thin Blue Line coffee — considered changing the name of its Beyond Black coffee, a dark roast it has sold for years, to Beyond Black Lives Matter? Surely that would alienate the racists polluting its customer base.
Hafer began to laugh. “You wouldn’t do that,” I ventured.
“I would never do that,” Hafer replied. “We’re trying to be us.”
Jason Zengerle is a writer at large for the magazine. He last wrote an article about public performance in sports and politics. Eli Durst is a photographer based in Austin, Texas, who teaches at the University of Texas. His first monograph, ‘‘The Community,’’ was published last year.
The New York Times · by Jason Zengerle · July 14, 2021


18. China-US contest will come down to education

Because we are arguing over CRT, and the 1619 and 1776 projects.

A sobering conclusion:
How China might develop after President Xi’s tenure is of course not clear, but if history is any guide there is likely to be a great deal of change. In part, that would be because the Chinese economy and society are rapidly evolving. In part, it might be due to new ideas about government and international relations.
What seems least likely, however, is that China would stop modernizing its military, withdraw from the South China Sea and the Belt and Road Initiative, and ask America for guidance on economic and social matters.
In the realm of speculation, a recognizably democratic China – resembling, for example, a very large Singapore – would probably be even stronger and more influential than the China we know today. How would the West view that?
When today’s American kids grow up, they may well find it very difficult to compete with a highly educated Chinese workforce that outnumbers them four-to-one.
The United States has a quality of education problem. If that problem is not solved, all the democracy in the world won’t save it from falling behind.
China-US contest will come down to education
America's decline in K-12 schooling is a huge blow to its competitiveness at a time when China's schools are on the rise
asiatimes.com · by Scott Foster · July 13, 2021
In the wake of the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th birthday party, some Western commentators once again are writing about the eventual collapse of President Xi Jinping’s autocracy and the victory of democracy – as if that outcome were inevitable.
They argue that democracy is flexible and legitimate, while Chinese autocracy is illegitimate and brittle; that Xi’s crackdown on Alibaba and other private enterprises will stifle the Chinese economic miracle; that democracy is essential for technological progress.
An American fund manager writes on LinkedIn, “Little by little China is putting a noose around the neck of the private sector.”
The Economist asks, “How long can the world’s most successful autocracy last?” But after ruminating for a page the writer can only conclude that “No party lasts forever.… At some point even this Chinese dynasty will end.”
The magazine finds it alarming that “Chinese streets are bristling with cameras,” as if London were not.

Matthew Kroenig provided an excellent version of the argument more than a year ago in an Atlantic article, “Why the US Will Outcompete China”:
According to an emerging conventional wisdom, China has the leg up on the US in part because its authoritarian government can strategically plan for the long term, unencumbered by competing branches of government, regular elections and public opinion.
Yet this faith in autocratic ascendance and democratic decline is contrary to historical fact. China may be able to put forth big, bold plans – the kinds of projects that analysts think of as long term – but the visionary projects of autocrats don’t usually pan out.
Not usually, perhaps. But, in China’s case, for the last 40 years.
Never mind the crises in American and Western European politics or the fact that US President Joe Biden and the European Union are also cracking down on big tech. Ignore American efforts to shut off the flow of technology to China.

These China critics are kidding themselves.
There is no vital link between democracy and technological progress. To believe that one exists is to underestimate the Chinese challenge. There are, however, clear links to industrial policy and the technology-oriented education required to support it.
In East Asia, Japan caught up with the West first as an empire and again as a bureaucratic and essentially one-party state after 1945. Modern education was an important part of that process.
South Korea’s industrialization was driven first by a military dictatorship and then by a Japan-style economic bureaucracy, again with high standards of education.
Nazi Germany developed the best rocket technology of its era. Wernher von Braun, Helmut Gröttrup and other German scientists and engineers were crucial to the American and Soviet missile and space programs after World War II.

The Soviet Union was first into space. There is now a Chinese rover on Mars. And China has a space station.
An online class about China’s space developments taught by professional researchers is held on China’s Space Day, April 23, 2020, in Yantai city, east China’s Shandong province, Photo: AFP / Tang Ke / Imaginechina
Yes, the counterargument runs, but after the forced march, further progress depends on democracy. Perhaps, but in the case of China, these and similar words have been repeated for more than 20 years now.
In the meantime, China has been on a roll and the West – America in particular – has stumbled into a chaotic restructuring.
A lot has been written about this, so let’s focus on the long-term outlook as represented by youth education.
As has been remarked upon by Apple CEO Tim Cook and others, China produces far more engineers than the US does. And when the daughter of a Japanese friend of mine spent a year at an American high school, she discovered that her math skills were two or three years ahead of the curriculum.

Anecdotal evidence is interesting, but let’s look at data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NIES) of the US Department of Education, by the Pew Research Center and by the OECD.
The 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) survey conducted by the NIES ranks American 8th graders 16th in mathematics and 14th in science. They were outclassed by students from Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Canada, Dubai and several European countries.
This squares with a 2015 survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science conducted by Pew, which found that only 16% of respondents regarded US science, technology, engineering and math – STEM – education from kindergarten through high school as the best, or above average, while 46% said it was below average.
So where is China?
PISA, the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, math and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.
PISA data for 2018 show four major mainland Chinese provinces purporting to stand in for the entire People’s Republic of China and ranked first in reading, math and science, while the US ranked 13th in reading, 37th in math and 18th in science. The PISA survey does not cover anywhere near the whole of China because the country insists on cherry-picking the provinces whose results it sends to OECD.
While it’s notable that four of the most economically developed provinces of China (Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang) and two special regions (Hong Kong and Macau) that were also ranked in the top five (total population of the six: 190 million) all have top-notch schools, they should not be included in a ranking of nations. Including them leads to a comparison of apples and oranges.
But even if we delete the six Chinese units from the PISA list, the US still ranks 34th in math and 15th in science. This is an appalling result for a country with the world’s best universities. (For discussion another day is the question of whether the top universities ranking can be sustained.)
Harvard Yard on the campus of Harvard University. Photo: AFP via Getty Images / Maddie Meyer
Meanwhile, building a first-class educational system has been a priority of the People’s Republic of China from the beginning. “Restoration and development of the peoples’ education,” Mao Zedong described as “one of the most important tasks at present.”
In 2019, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council released the Education Modernization 2035 Plan and the detailed 2018-2022 Plan.
These plans set the direction and objectives for the creation of a modern education system in China with universal and high-quality compulsory education, competitive world-class higher education institutes and enhanced vocational education.
The target, of course, is to bring the rest of the country up to the standard set in major urban areas, and there is little doubt that steady progress will be made.
This has not gone unnoticed in the United States. The “Biden Plan for Educators, Students, and Our Future” promises more resources for schools and teachers. It focuses on teacher compensation, teaching materials, equality of opportunity for the poor and racial minorities, student mental health, dealing with gun violence in schools and, at the university level, easing the financial burden of student loans.
The document notes that:
Many educators across the country are experiencing stagnant wages, slashed benefits, growing class sizes, and fewer resources for their students. Too many teachers have to work second jobs to make ends meet for their families.
And, far too often, teachers and school personnel have to take on additional responsibilities that go far beyond the classroom. Educators end up spending their own money on school supplies, mentoring and coaching new teachers, trying to fill in as social workers, and so much more.
The Biden Plan is about repair and catch-up, not about leading the world. It is a long-term project.
Meanwhile, disputes have broken out across the country – not about the need to upgrade STEM education, but about critical race theory and the rewriting of American history.
America is going through its own cultural revolution, in addition to suffering from mass shootings, homelessness and drug addiction.
In a recent article, “Why the US-China contest will be fought in the heartlands of America,” Singaporean scholar and diplomat Kishore Mahbubani wrote:
In contrast to the bottom 50% of the Chinese people, who have just experienced the best 40 years of human development in 4,000 years of Chinese history, the bottom 50% of the US population has experienced three decades of economic stagnation.
This is, probably, the most important point that American strategic planners should reflect on: At the end of the day, the outcome of the geopolitical contest between the US and China will not be determined by the number of aircraft carriers or nuclear weapons. Instead, it will be determined by which society is doing a better job at taking care of its bottom 50%.
And by which society’s kids can read, write and count.
A banner at Fudan University in Shanghai in December 2019, calls for institutions to adhere to the political philosophy of President Xi Jinping. Fudan, one of China’s top universities, removed references to ‘freedom of thought’ from its charter. Photo: AFP / Hector Retamal
How China might develop after President Xi’s tenure is of course not clear, but if history is any guide there is likely to be a great deal of change. In part, that would be because the Chinese economy and society are rapidly evolving. In part, it might be due to new ideas about government and international relations.
What seems least likely, however, is that China would stop modernizing its military, withdraw from the South China Sea and the Belt and Road Initiative, and ask America for guidance on economic and social matters.
In the realm of speculation, a recognizably democratic China – resembling, for example, a very large Singapore – would probably be even stronger and more influential than the China we know today. How would the West view that?
When today’s American kids grow up, they may well find it very difficult to compete with a highly educated Chinese workforce that outnumbers them four-to-one.
The United States has a quality of education problem. If that problem is not solved, all the democracy in the world won’t save it from falling behind.
Scott Foster is an analyst with Lightstream Research, Tokyo.
asiatimes.com · by Scott Foster · July 13, 2021

19. What Russia’s National Security Strategy Has to Say About Asia

Excerpts:
Given the conservative nature of the NSS, one change looks groundbreaking. Relations with India and China are combined in just one paragraph in the 2021 NSS, while in the 2009 and 2015 versions they were treated separately, with China preceding India. This suggests that balancing relations with China is becoming increasingly important for the Russian political elite.
The attempt to avoid overdependence on Beijing dictates the way relations with China are characterized in the strategy. While describing the China-Russia strategic partnership, there is no mention of a “new era” (this term from Xi Jinping’s diplospeak has been used in bilateral documents since 2019). Cooperation with China is no longer seen as a “key factor in maintaining global and regional stability” – at least, this is not emphasized publicly. The deletion of the “key factor” formula, which featured in the two previous versions of the NSS, will have political implications, but it is premature as of now to measure the reach of this changed narrative.
Wherever there is something crossed out, there is something written in. The Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) prominently made its debut in the 2021 National Security Strategy, although Putin first introduced the term in the 2015 Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. There is no doubt about the stability and longevity of the concept, which in recent years has become part of the official Russian discourse; however, it still needs to be filled with political and economic substance.
While the goal of the GEP is still rather vaguely formulated in the NSS – “Ensuring the integration of economic systems and the development of multilateral cooperation” – its strategic rationale is crystal clear. Moscow is insisting that no single national economic system should dominate Eurasia. While not overtly stated, the GEP inter alia is an attempt to avoid a Chinese monopoly in Eurasia, by building interaction mechanisms between China’s Belt and Road and various multilateral initiatives. The lack of concrete details leaves Russia with room to maneuver when interpreting the partnership in the future. Still, the most challenging task will be to sell the idea of a Eurasian “spaghetti bowl” to China. Elevating this issue to a strategic level means that the GEP is not just about economic integration, but also a matter of geopolitics with a central question: Who will have the lead in determining the rules of the game across Eurasia?
What Russia’s National Security Strategy Has to Say About Asia
The new NSS has some notable differences from the 2015 version on Russia’s approach to the Asia-Pacific – and China in particular.
thediplomat.com · by Igor Denisov · July 14, 2021
Advertisement
For the first time since 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin has updated the National Security Strategy (NSS).
On July 2, Putin signed an Executive Order “On the National Security Strategy.” In a pile of Russian state concepts and strategies, NSS is a key policy document in the security realm, which, according to the law on strategic planning, must be adjusted at least once every six years. Like the U.S. National Security Strategy, it is based on an analysis of external and internal security threats, and lists national interests and strategic priorities in the field of domestic and foreign policy.
The range of the challenges to Russia’s stability addressed in the NSS is wide, from hard security to biosecurity. Curiously enough, the previous strategy foresaw the COVID-19 pandemic, or a similar occurrence: Among the global threats noted in 2015 was the “spread of epidemics, many of which are caused by new, previously unknown viruses.”
The 2021 NSS mirrors Russia’s deteriorating relations with the West, which is mentioned in the text exclusively in negative terms. The current document notes the desire of Western powers to maintain their hegemony in global politics, deliberately erode Russian “traditional values,” and even reconsider Russia’s role and place in world history. The intensity of the confrontation is so high that it significantly narrows the room for maneuver in Russia’s relations with the collective West. Thus, the foreign policy section of the NSS has been greatly reduced. Detailed provisions on Russia’s relations with the United States and the European Union have entirely disappeared in the 2021 version (unlike the previous NSS, which even contained a clause on a possible cooperation with NATO).
Against this background, Moscow’s relations with the two major Asian powers – China and India – are viewed more from pragmatic positions and designated as one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities. At the same time, the drafters of the NSS do not explicitly mention either China or India when talking about Russia’s struggle with the West for moral leadership and competition for the creation of an attractive ideological basis for the future world order. Thus, the RIC (Russia-India-China) triangle is seen in the Kremlin through a regional rather than a global lens.
As highlighted in the strategy, the partnership with Beijing and New Delhi is necessary for Moscow to create reliable mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific region, to ensure regional stability and security on a non-bloc basis. The 2021 NSS consistently mentions the Asia-Pacific region, which suggests that Russia at the highest level rejects the concept of the Indo-Pacific – or, more specifically, its U.S.-centered version.
This more nuanced and selective approach to the Indo-Pacific in general was demonstrated by Putin during the Q&A session at the 16th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in October 2019. When asked about the “Japanese concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy,” the Russian president stated that it would make sense to “pool the efforts of the already established agencies, organizations and even concepts” aimed at creating a large Eurasian partnership.
As pointed out in my recent co-authored paper, Putin effectively put the “Indo-Pacific development strategy” on par with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and other multilateral institutions. At the same time, many Russian official statements reject the military component of the Indo-Pacific Strategy and “rules-based order” narrative, which Moscow believes is being pushed by the United States to contain China and Russia. We argued in our paper that the further development of the Russia’s position toward the Indo-Pacific will very much be determined on which interpretation – U.S.-centered or regional – of the concept will prevail.
Advertisement
Given the conservative nature of the NSS, one change looks groundbreaking. Relations with India and China are combined in just one paragraph in the 2021 NSS, while in the 2009 and 2015 versions they were treated separately, with China preceding India. This suggests that balancing relations with China is becoming increasingly important for the Russian political elite.
The attempt to avoid overdependence on Beijing dictates the way relations with China are characterized in the strategy. While describing the China-Russia strategic partnership, there is no mention of a “new era” (this term from Xi Jinping’s diplospeak has been used in bilateral documents since 2019). Cooperation with China is no longer seen as a “key factor in maintaining global and regional stability” – at least, this is not emphasized publicly. The deletion of the “key factor” formula, which featured in the two previous versions of the NSS, will have political implications, but it is premature as of now to measure the reach of this changed narrative.
Wherever there is something crossed out, there is something written in. The Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) prominently made its debut in the 2021 National Security Strategy, although Putin first introduced the term in the 2015 Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. There is no doubt about the stability and longevity of the concept, which in recent years has become part of the official Russian discourse; however, it still needs to be filled with political and economic substance.
While the goal of the GEP is still rather vaguely formulated in the NSS – “Ensuring the integration of economic systems and the development of multilateral cooperation” – its strategic rationale is crystal clear. Moscow is insisting that no single national economic system should dominate Eurasia. While not overtly stated, the GEP inter alia is an attempt to avoid a Chinese monopoly in Eurasia, by building interaction mechanisms between China’s Belt and Road and various multilateral initiatives. The lack of concrete details leaves Russia with room to maneuver when interpreting the partnership in the future. Still, the most challenging task will be to sell the idea of a Eurasian “spaghetti bowl” to China. Elevating this issue to a strategic level means that the GEP is not just about economic integration, but also a matter of geopolitics with a central question: Who will have the lead in determining the rules of the game across Eurasia?
The NSS lacks a detailed forecast of security developments in Asia, but identifies key regional hotspots of tension that could have an impact on global security. For the first time (in addition to the Korean Peninsula), Afghanistan appeared on the list of such problem areas, which underscores Russia’s view of the situation in the country after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Indirectly, the strategy expresses concern about Sino-Indian tensions without naming these countries. The NSS states that “the risk of armed conflicts escalating into local and regional wars, including those involving nuclear powers, is increasing.”
As in the past versions, the strategy makes no mention of the South China Sea or Taiwan even though dangerous developments have taken place in these areas in recent years. Russia consistently emphasizes that it is not a party to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and does not intend to become involved in them. The same can be applied to a potential military conflict around Taiwan, which is apparently outside Russian strategic interests, since Moscow, as in the South China Sea case, is neither an actual nor a potential stakeholder. Discussing the Taiwan problem with the NBC correspondent Keir Simmons, Putin made illuminating remarks that received less scrutiny than it should have from analysts: “There are different assessments [of the situation]. The U.S. has its own assessment. China has its own assessment. Taiwan may have its own assessment.”
This statement allows us to summarize Russia’s Asian policy as seen through the prism of the NSS. To cite this concrete case, Moscow looks at a potential conflict situation over Taiwan from the outside and does not consider it necessary to adjoin to one apex of the triangle. While deepening its partnership with Beijing, Moscow will retain the non-bloc character of its partnership as long as possible, balancing China-Russia relations with the development of ties with other non-Western centers of power. Despite its own increasingly tough current relations with the West, Russia will try not to get involved in the Sino-American rivalry, the main source of dividing lines on the global scene. In the technological sphere, Russia remains on guard with respect to both China and the West, if the use of products or service relates to national security issues.
Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, aptly notes that the 2021 NSS “seeks to adapt the country to a still interconnected world of fragmentation and sharpening divisions.” He also argues that the main feature of the updated Strategy is its focus on Russia itself. However, the outward view has also undergone changes. In the subheading of the NSS section outlining foreign policy objectives, the former formula “equal strategic partnership” is replaced by “mutually beneficial international cooperation.” This can be regarded as a downplaying of the strategic content of the network of partnerships. But Russian strategists probably had another point in mind: That the stability of strategic partnerships in today’s fluid world is no longer an axiom, but is to be proven through individual and carefully calculated transactions.
For the Asia-Pacific countries, it is important to understand that Russia is not sliding into autarky, but at the same time is giving up illusions that it can join one or another center of power on an equal footing This means that in the possible struggle for a new bipolarity in Asia, Russia will not be on the side of any of the rival camps. It is a challenging task to predict whether such a strategy will be effective, but it coincides remarkably with the idea of one of Asia’s most brilliant diplomats, Minister of External Affairs of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar: “convergence with many but congruence with none.”
thediplomat.com · by Igor Denisov · July 14, 2021


20. The myth of ethical AI in war

Excerpts:
AI is not going to solve this problem by itself or even in combination with human operators.
Our adversaries are not in the least worried about constraints on the use of AI. While it is practically impossible to make AI “ethical,” it is possible and absolutely essential to press our military and civilian leaders to act ethically and unleash weapons only when justified and essential for our security.
In short, while ethical AI may be a myth, ethical leaders are not in the least mythological.
The myth of ethical AI in war
Defense ministries around the world are rightly anxious to infuse their military systems with artificial intelligence
asiatimes.com · by Stephen Bryen · July 15, 2021
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wants the Defense Department to do artificial intelligence (AI) “the right way,” even if our main competitor, China, does not.
Speaking to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Austin said: “… our use of AI must reinforce our democratic values, protect our rights, ensure our safety and defend our privacy.”
This is close to the formula assigned to the fictional “Officer Murphy” in the 1987 movie Robocop. Murphy, a murdered police officer, was turned into Robocop, a cyborg with his human memory (mostly) erased.
He was given four directives, the first three being to serve the public trust, protect the innocent and uphold the law. He was also given a classified order, Directive 4, which blocked Robocop from causing harm to employees of Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the company that built him.
This was an attempt to install company ethics in a cyborg.

Sort of like attempting to install American military ethics in an AI-enhanced weapon. Secretary Austin appears to believe in Officer Murphy, but the ethics of warfare, practiced by the United States or our allies or our adversaries, are in the soldiers and commanders.
If we can’t do this right now without AI, then we can’t do it with AI-enhanced weapons.
Defense ministries around the world are anxious to infuse military systems with AI. Building on the success of surveillance and armed drones and their increasing combat importance, the US, Israel, Russia and China are all seeking autonomous war-fighting systems.
At their simplest, these are capable of carrying out a task without a person in the loop. A drone can be sent to destroy a target without any communication or control system outside the weapon itself.
The immediate fiery aftermath of the missile and drone attacks at Abqaig on September 15, 2019, in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Screengrab
When the Iranians sent cruise missiles and drones against Saudi Arabian oil installations in September 2019, it appeared to some experts that the drones that hit the Abqaiq oil facility were operating autonomously. Autonomy, however, only lets a weapon do the job it is programmed to do. AI has the weapon making decisions.

In some cases, that seems fairly straightforward.
During the Gaza conflict in May, Israel claims to have launched and operated a large swarm of drones that were managed by AI. According to recent reports, the drones each covered a preselected surveillance area and were capable of sending coordinates back to gun and mortar brigades to attack the selected targets.
The technology is said to have been developed by the Israeli army’s Unit 8200 specializing in signals intelligence – roughly equivalent to the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. Israel has not provided detailed information about the drone swarms, but it makes sense that each drone not only could map a specific area but could also detect missile launch sites and other military activities and select them as targets.
Whether there was a person in the loop or not – the likelihood is not – isn’t known.
The US is working on a number of autonomous vehicles ranging from land systems to surface and underwater naval vessels to autonomous refueling aircraft. The army, for example, is adding AI capability to land vehicles, including tanks that ultimately will be able to coordinate with surveillance drones and select the safest available roadways, predict where blockages may be and automatically take alternative action.

These systems are built on civilian technology developed in Israel – eg, WAZE – and in the US – self-driving vehicles, pioneered by Tesla.
Some of this is readily apparent in targeting and killing terrorists using drones and hellfire missiles. The US has been at this for many years now, with considerable success, but it has occasionally hit the wrong target.
These are not AI systems currently, but it is a singular path to “improve” them with AI so that the AI has instructions that it carries out without external decision making – “Did we choose the right target?” or “Is there too great a danger of collateral damage?”
AI-controlled soldiers might do a better job in close combat, but there are limitations. Photo: AFP / Carolco Pictures
The real crunch comes when we get to the future soldier. To make the future soldier effective, he or she has to eliminate perceived threats before the threats eliminate them. Thus, the soldier is not actually a cyborg, but his or her capabilities are reaching a cyborg level of capability.
There is no reason to believe that an AI-driven system would be any better or worse than a purely human-operated system. Furthermore, in a complex combat environment, AI might do a better job than stressed humans fighting for their lives.

AI can be programmed to obey some “ethical” rules, particularly when it comes to civilians in a combat environment, but commanders may find this programming interferes with the mission if built-in “ethical” limitations endanger warfighters.
For example, an AI system might lock a soldier’s gun to prevent a civilian from being killed, when in fact the civilian is a combatant or terrorist.
In urban terror events, it is virtually impossible to know who is, or is not, a civilian. Israel, for example, has been struggling, with or without AI, how to minimize civilian casualties when terrorists launch rockets from mosques, schools and apartment buildings.
AI is not going to solve this problem by itself or even in combination with human operators.
Our adversaries are not in the least worried about constraints on the use of AI. While it is practically impossible to make AI “ethical,” it is possible and absolutely essential to press our military and civilian leaders to act ethically and unleash weapons only when justified and essential for our security.
In short, while ethical AI may be a myth, ethical leaders are not in the least mythological.
asiatimes.com · by Stephen Bryen · July 15, 2021


21. Pakistan to Host Afghan Leaders for Peace Talks
Excerpts:

The American withdrawal is an outcome of an agreement Washington signed with the Taliban signed in February 2020.

Pakistan played a key role in arranging and facilitating the U.S.-Taliban deal but allegations that insurgent leaders use Pakistani soil to direct attacks in Afghanistan remain at the center of Kabul’s diplomatic tensions with Islamabad.

Pakistan to Host Afghan Leaders for Peace Talks
By Ayaz Gul
July 14, 2021 11:39 AM
voanews.com · 
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is set to host prominent Afghan political leaders at a conference in a bid to speed up the intra-Afghan peace process as the U.S.-led foreign military withdrawal from the neighboring country nears completion.

The Pakistani diplomatic initiative takes place after Taliban insurgents rapidly made territorial advances by capturing scores of new Afghan districts across the war-torn country since early May, when U.S. and NATO allied troops formally began the withdrawal process.

The ensuing security deterioration has fueled fears the vacuum left by the departure of foreign troops could turn the conflict into a full-blown civil war and enable transnational terrorist groups to find more space on Afghan soil to attack their respective targets in neighboring countries and beyond.

FILE - A plume of smoke rises amid ongoing fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgeents in the western city of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Afghanistan's Badghis province, July 7, 2021.

Highly placed official sources in Islamabad told VOA on Wednesday the proposed conference is scheduled for “17 to 19 July” and several Afghan leaders have already confirmed their participation.

Afghan special presidential envoy for Pakistan Mohammed Umer Daudzai and former finance minister Omar Zakhilwal have both confirmed to VOA they will attend the meeting. However, Daudzai, said the meeting “dates are still being debated.”

FILE - Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during an interview in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2019.
Hamid Karzai, a former Afghan president, Salahuddin Rabbani, a former foreign minister, Omar Zakhilwal, a former finance minister, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a senior leader of ethnic Hazara minority community, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former warlord-turned politician, and Ahmad Wali Masoud, are among the invitees, the sources said.

Islamabad has proposed to arrange the meeting as months of slow-moving, U.S.-brokered peace negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives have not met with any success.
Many of the leaders invited to the the Islamabad meeting are also expected to travel to Doha, Qatar, under the leadership of the head of Afghanistan’s national reconciliation council, Abdullah Abdullah, to discuss with Taliban leaders ways to advance the peace process.

Pakistani officials say regional countries are worried and collectively making efforts to press warring Afghans to negotiate an “inclusive political settlement” to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.

Afghan Delegation, Taliban to Discuss Peace in Qatar, Official Says
Taliban expected to bring senior leaders to the table when two sides meet, possibly on Friday

Mansoor Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, says his country has maintained across the board engagement with all Afghan stakeholders relevant to the peace process, including the Kabul government and the Taliban.

“We are constructively engaged to use all our influence in a positive manner. But we cannot and we should not be prescribing a solution for Afghanistan,” Khan stressed while speaking to VOA from Kabul earlier this week.

“The responsibility of agreeing on a sustainable future negotiated internal political settlement is of Afghans themselves,” the Pakistani envoy said.

He emphasized that sustaining the Afghan peace process would become more challenging if the escalation of the conflict phase is prolonged.

“If this instability continues, there is an apprehension of mass movements or influx of refugees into the neighboring countries,” Khan said.

Pakistan still hosts nearly three million Afghan refugees fleeing decades of conflict, persecution and poverty in their native country.

Pakistan Refuses to Host Additional Afghan Refugees
Fears grow that millions of Afghans may be forced to flee into neighboring countries if fighting between Taliban and Afghan government forces intensify or deteriorate into civil war
Neighboring Iran also hosts fewer than a million Afghan refugees.

Despite the escalation in violence, Ambassador Khan said he was “optimistic” a political settlement could be reached among Afghan parities to the conflict.

Learning from the past experience of what happened in the 1990s, he insisted, all domestic and external stakeholders, including the United States, have promised to “invest heavily and constructively” in the current peace process.

“The encouraging thing is that all Afghan stakeholders are on the table, all neighboring countries are supporting the peace efforts and the international community wants to assist Afghanistan in bringing an end to more than four decades of conflict and in moving towards an era of peace and stability,” Khan said

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan after emerging victorious in the civil war of the 1990s. The fundamentalist group took power in Kabul in 1996 and ruled the country until late 2001, when the U.S.-led foreign military invasion took place for harboring leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Only three countries, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate, had recognized the Taliban government, while the rest of the global community refused to do so, citing the controversial governance and the group’s links with terrorists.

However, after being ousted from power, the Taliban has been waging a violent insurgency against the U.S.-backed Afghan government and has since taken control or extended insurgent influence to more than half of Afghanistan.

Top Commander in Afghanistan Steps Down in Symbolic End to US Military Mission 
General Austin "Scott" Miller was the longest-serving senior US military officer of the Afghan war
The American withdrawal is an outcome of an agreement Washington signed with the Taliban signed in February 2020.

Pakistan played a key role in arranging and facilitating the U.S.-Taliban deal but allegations that insurgent leaders use Pakistani soil to direct attacks in Afghanistan remain at the center of Kabul’s diplomatic tensions with Islamabad.
voanews.com · by Roshan Noorzai

22. We need a better defense — and tougher offense — to combat Russia's hacks

Excerpts:
But improving our defenses alone is simply not enough. As a nation, we must get much tougher on those who threaten our modern infrastructure. While we know that the most recent ransomware attacks were undertaken by criminal hacker gangs motivated primarily by financial rewards, we also know that many of these gangs have close ties to their respective national governments. For example, the REvil group, which was involved in both the meatpacking and small business attacks in recent weeks, has significant ties to Russia. And notwithstanding President Putin’s protestations to the contrary, more often than not, such hacker gangs operate not just with the knowledge and tacit approval of the government, but often at the Russian government’s explicit request.
To combat this threat, we must make clear to our adversaries what our “red lines” are, and if they are crossed, we must take swift action to respond publicly. For far too long our adversaries have perceived weakness on our part and now seek to capitalize on it. It is time for bold, decisive action to extract costs from our enemies.
Given the potentially existential threats facing our nation in the cyber domain, it is critical that government and industry prioritize both a better defense and a tougher offense. As America’s reliance on cyber networks and systems grows, the need to protect it properly likewise grows. We no longer can afford to wait for the next major attack before we respond; altogether too much is at stake. Now is the time to act.
We need a better defense — and tougher offense — to combat Russia's hacks
The Hill · by Gen. (Ret.) Keith B. Alexander and Jamil N. Jaffer, opinion contributors · July 14, 2021

Cyber attacks are now front and center for the American public. In the past two months, we’ve seen an attack on an East Coast pipeline, resulting in lines at gas stations in the South, fears that an attack on a food producer might lead to shortages of beef, and more recently, an attack on a security provider that put more than a thousand small businesses at risk of having their operations brought to a halt.
In many ways, what we are seeing is escalation into what amounts to a “pandemic” in the cyber domain. It is critical that the government and industry unite to address this threat and make clear to our adversaries that the United States no longer will be an easy target for such attacks.
Ransomware is not new. Over the past year alone we’ve seen police departments, schools and hospitals grind to a standstill as ransomware attacks have increased in frequency and scale. We’ve likewise seen large amounts of sensitive information leaked as attackers leverage their access to government and private sector systems to gain an advantage. And yet, the past few months have been different. The nature of these new attacks now threatens the daily lives of Americans as the businesses they rely upon are targeted for attack.
Our government has begun to take action in several areas. The White House issued an executive order to better protect federal systems and the contractors that support them. Congress is debating the need for more reporting and potential regulatory action. Senior Justice Department officials have talked about the need to treat ransomware like terrorism. And President Biden twice has raised the issue of attacks coming from Russia with President Vladimir Putin.
Yet the attacks have continued — and have gotten worse. Our adversaries appear to be testing our resolve, but we are not prepared to respond as a nation.
There are two key sets of actions we need to take in order to get ahead of these threats. First, we have to fix our defense. Today, even though our adversaries target multiple providers and industries through supply chain attacks and ransomware offered as a service, we still tend to defend in isolation. While many organizations share information about the threats they see, they do so typically after the fact — and only after considering liability, regulatory and reputational risks. Just like the intelligence community after 9/11, we must fundamentally change this dynamic, going from a need-to-know approach to a need-to-share method.
Indeed, the reality is that most small- to medium-sized businesses won’t be able to afford the kind of security services and personnel it takes to effectively defend themselves. As such, shifting from a defensive approach that is focused on individual companies and organizations, to an approach where multiple organizations work together, across the public and private sectors, collaborating in real-time to divide and conquer against the threat, is nothing short of critical.
But improving our defenses alone is simply not enough. As a nation, we must get much tougher on those who threaten our modern infrastructure. While we know that the most recent ransomware attacks were undertaken by criminal hacker gangs motivated primarily by financial rewards, we also know that many of these gangs have close ties to their respective national governments. For example, the REvil group, which was involved in both the meatpacking and small business attacks in recent weeks, has significant ties to Russia. And notwithstanding President Putin’s protestations to the contrary, more often than not, such hacker gangs operate not just with the knowledge and tacit approval of the government, but often at the Russian government’s explicit request.
To combat this threat, we must make clear to our adversaries what our “red lines” are, and if they are crossed, we must take swift action to respond publicly. For far too long our adversaries have perceived weakness on our part and now seek to capitalize on it. It is time for bold, decisive action to extract costs from our enemies.
Given the potentially existential threats facing our nation in the cyber domain, it is critical that government and industry prioritize both a better defense and a tougher offense. As America’s reliance on cyber networks and systems grows, the need to protect it properly likewise grows. We no longer can afford to wait for the next major attack before we respond; altogether too much is at stake. Now is the time to act.
Gen. (Ret.) Keith B. Alexander is the former director of the National Security Agency and founding commander of United States Cyber Command. He currently serves as chairman, president and co-CEO of IronNet Cybersecurity, a start-up technology company focused on network traffic analytics and collective defense. He also serves, among other things, as a member of the advisory board of the National Security Institute (NSI) at George Mason University Law School.
Jamil N. Jaffer is the former chief counsel and senior adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served in senior national security roles on Capitol Hill and in the Bush Justice Department and White House. He is senior vice president for strategy, partnerships and corporate development at IronNet Cybersecurity and is the founder and executive director of NSI, where he is an assistant professor of law. Follow him on Twitter @jamil_n_jaffer.
The Hill · by Gen. (Ret.) Keith B. Alexander and Jamil N. Jaffer, opinion contributors · July 14, 2021

23.  Philippines Thankful For US Resolve To Defend Manilas South China Sea Claims


Philippines Thankful For US Resolve To Defend Manilas South China Sea Claims
eurasiareview.com · by BenarNews · July 15, 2021
By Marielle Lucenio
The Philippines on Wednesday hailed Washington’s commitment to help defend Manila’s South China Sea claims, while it denied assertions by local fishermen that Chinese boats were preventing them from fishing in Philippine waters five years after a landmark court ruling.
A July 2016 verdict by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines and against China over Beijing’s expansive claims in the contested waterway.
“[W]e welcome the United States’ open support for the 2016 Arbitral Award,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said after he and his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met virtually together with America’s top diplomat.
“It is binding international law and the most authoritative application of UNCLOS on the maritime entitlements of features in the South China Sea. As such, it contributes to the rules-based order in ASEAN and benefits all the countries that use the vital artery that is the South China Sea,” he said in a statement, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Wednesday’s talks marked the first bilateral meeting with ASEAN at the foreign ministerial level for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Biden administration.

“The Secretary underscored the United States’ rejection of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China’s] unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea and reiterated that the United States stands with Southeast Asian claimants in the face of PRC coercion,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a readout afterward.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – which are all ASEAN members – and Taiwan.
Sign up for the Eurasia Review newsletter. Click here to have Eurasia Review's newsletter delivered via RSS, as an email newsletter, via mobile or on your personal news page.
On Monday, the fifth anniversary of the arbitral court’s ruling, China’s foreign ministry dismissed it as “nothing more than a piece of waste paper.”
That same day, Blinken came out with a statement to say that Washington, under the 70-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty with Manila, would help defend its longtime Southeast Asian ally if the Philippines came under attack in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, Filipino fishermen are alleging that the Rodrigo Duterte administration has not helped them to assert their rights to fish in and around Scarborough Shoal, a reef located in a prime fishing ground in the waterway.
The shoal was part of a territorial dispute that led a previous Philippine administration to lodge an unprecedented lawsuit before the court in 2013 that challenged China’s vast claims to the sea region. Both Manila and Beijing claim the reef as their own. Scarborough Shoal is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
On Wednesday, Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque rejected allegations by fishermen who say that Chinese coast-guard ships have been harassing or preventing Filipino fishing boats from venturing near Scarborough Shoal. China seized the reef in 2012, which led to the Philippines filing the lawsuit the next year.
On July 12, 2016, the arbitration court ruled in Manila’s favor, declaring its sovereign rights to the EEZ as valid over Beijing’s historical claims.
Roque on Wednesday invited the mayor of Masinloc, a northern Philippine fishing town that faces the South China Sea, to attend his video-call with reporters to back his claim that Filipino fishermen have not been blocked from accessing waters around the shoal.
“This is what the leadership there says, and even the boat operators – they are not prevented from fishing in Scarborough, because that is part of the decision of the tribunal,” Roque told reporters.
“So, I really do not know what they are saying that fishermen are being stopped.”
Neither the Philippine Coast Guard nor Masinloc officials knew of any fishermen who had been harassed by Chinese ships, Roque said.
“Do not worry, when it comes to Scarborough, I don’t think that the Chinese will dare meddle with the likes of Mayor Senyang Lim,” he said, using Masinloc mayor Arsenia Lim’s nickname.
Lim alleged that recent international media reports that Chinese ships were harassing or hindering Filipino fishing boats were old stories. She said fishermen had told her their catch from Scarborough Shoal’s waters had been bountiful.
“We hope that they will stop discrediting us, and the national government is also supporting our fishermen,” Lim told reporters.
“If you go to Masinloc, you will see that they are not being bothered or being stopped.”
‘Our national sovereignty’
BenarNews was among international media outlets that visited Masinloc and talked to the fishermen in the days leading up to the fifth anniversary of the international arbitral ruling.
In spite of the verdict, Scarborough Shoal has remained inaccessible to Filipino fishermen since 2012, they said.
President Duterte’s government “has completely turned its back on our national sovereignty,” Pamalakaya, a fishermen’s group, told BenarNews in response to Roque’s statement.
On Wednesday, a BBC News producer sent Roque a text message as the government spokesman was holding the press briefing, and told him that they were recently with fishermen from Masinloc who were blocked from entering the shoal.
BenarNews also sent Roque a message asking him if the Chinese were still in the area.
He replied: “They have ships there, I believe.”
The fishermen were scathing about Roque, who had represented them in his earlier career as a lawyer.
“Our own government’s cowardice and submission to China will not stop us from asserting what is rightfully ours,” Pamalakaya head Fernando Hicap told BenarNews.
“We no longer expect help from the current administration of Duterte. We will fight for our right to fish in our territory.”
eurasiareview.com · by BenarNews · July 15, 2021


24. A Navy Admiral Who Reads 100 Books A Year Reveals The Essence Of Leadership
"Reading is fundamental" as the old commercial used to say a few decades ago.
A Navy Admiral Who Reads 100 Books A Year Reveals The Essence Of Leadership
Forbes · by Carmine Gallo · July 15, 2021
... [+]NATO copyright/James Stavridis
In my career as a communication specialist working with CEOs and successful entrepreneurs around the world, I’ve reached one firm conclusion: great leaders read far, far more books than the average person.
For example, retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis reads at least 100 books a year, nearly ten times the number of books the average American adult reads in the same period. “I can tell you with direct knowledge that by the time someone has ascended to four-star rank as a full general or admiral, they are profoundly deep readers,” he says.
I caught up with Stavridis upon the release of his New York Times bestselling novel, 2034. Novelist is just his latest title. Stavridis has commanded destroyers in combat, served as a four-star admiral and the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO. These days he’s an executive at the Carlyle Group and Chief International Security Analyst for NBC News.
Stavridis doesn’t expect other leaders to read two to three books a week or to amass a library of 4,000 books like his collection. But he does urge aspiring leaders in any profession to read far more books—fiction and nonfiction— than others in their field.
According to Stavridis, there are three big reasons why the best leaders are voracious readers.
MORE FOR YOU
1. Books are simulators for the mind.
Stavridis says that books function as mental simulators, placing you in the middle of events the book’s characters face. So as you read about characters in a novel or real-life heroes in non-fiction books, you should ask yourself, What would I have done in that situation?
A little over two decades ago, Stavridis prepared himself to take command of a Navy destroyer by reading the classic sea novels of Patrick O’Brian, beginning with Master and Commander. He was also inspired by Steven Pressfield’s epic novel, Gates of Fire, about the Spartans who make the ultimate commitment to fight and to die at the battle of Thermopylae.
“When reading that book, you can put yourself in their shoes, understand their motivations, and ask yourself, would I have had the courage, and the commitment, and the honor to undertake that mission?”
2. Books offer perspective.
Successful leaders have a different perspective than others. Leaders who read history books or historical novels can apply the lessons of the past to navigate contemporary events.
“Books provide the chance to experience an enormous variety of life experiences without leaving home or school,” says Stavridis. “How else can a young aspiring leader learn how Ernest Shackleton managed to save his entire crew after his ship, Endurance, was crushed by ice and destroyed in Antarctica in 1915?
As I think back on my lifetime of reading, many of the people I admire most deeply are known to me only through books—either by them or about them.”
3. Books improve writing and communication skills.
According to Stavridis, “Good leaders must be good communicators, and the hard work of writing is best sharpened on the whetstone of reading.”
In my own experience, CEOs and leaders who stand out as public speakers draw stories, quotes, and examples from the many books they’ve read. Although I read at least 50 books a year, these CEOs almost always teach me about books that have yet to cross my radar.
Simply put, people who read a wide range of books in both fiction and nonfiction categories have a broader, more interesting variety of stories from which to pull. “The essence of leadership is the ability to communicate and inspire and to do that, you have to be a good speaker and a good writer,” says Stavridis.
The single best way to learn and grow as a leader is through reading, adds the admiral. By adding more books to your daily routine, you’ll stand out as a person others want to follow.
Forbes · by Carmine Gallo · July 15, 2021











V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

Company Name | Website
basicImage