This week, Germany began attempts to prosecute two Syrians who, prosecutors allege, committed crimes against humanity on behalf of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Continue reading
Donald Trump is not a humanitarian by nature. He is a hard-headed businessman, a guy for whom winning, in a notably zero-sum way, is all.
He wants the United States to win at the expense of everyone else – be it in trade or in war. Morally, the president says he will stop at nothing to achieve this ambition. Continue reading
The brutality of the war in Syria is known: its cadences well-established. Regime barrel bombs and chemical weapon attacks, Russian air strikes, and the many outrages committed by the Islamic State (Isis/Daesh) – all of these combine together in the mind.
This cruelty occurs in the open. But worse – if that were possible – is that which is hidden away in regime prisons, locked away with the prisoners. Occasionally, news escapes the confines of these places of suffering. Continue reading
Charles Lister’s book The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency, contains many calculated uses of brutality by both the Assad regime and other actors, most notably ISIS and other Salafi-jihadist organisations such as the Nusra Front. What is surprising is not the nature of the violence itself – which is to be expected in a civil war of this nature – but rather the fact of its careful cultivation. Continue reading
According to the ‘Imperial President’ theory as put forward by Arthur M. Schlesinger, the office of President of the United States has been steadily and repeatedly accruing powers towards its own advancement. A modern president has increasing control over the federal bureaucracy, for instance, and his orders on extra-judicial matters are likely to be stronger now than they have been in a long time. The imperial president gains many of his powers in times of war; and as the United States has spent most of the last half-century fighting one war or another (in various guises), it is suggested that this has led to increasing powers for the presidency in our own times. But there is a flipside to this famous declaration: presidents may also eschew matters imperial, and instead of that particular moniker, they may have the sobriquet of ‘imperilled’ – in the words of Shakespeare’s Malvolio – ‘thrust upon ‘em’. Barack Obama is one such president.
On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the executive summary and portions of an as yet unpublished report into the torture undertaken by the CIA. In the following days, much was revealed about American programmes of ‘enhanced interrogation’. We had all heard of ‘waterboarding’, of course, but this was different. In scale, intensity and variety, the programmes of torture as described in the report eclipse the expectations of all but the most seasoned and pessimistic of observers. Continue reading