The overnight strikes have targeted Islamic State extremists near the city of Sirte. US President Barack Obama authorized the move just days short of leaving office.
A US defense official said Thursday that Air Force B-2 stealth bombers and drones had attacked Islamic State (IS) camps located 45 kilometers (28 miles) southwest of the city of Sirte.
The official, who spoke anonymously in advance of an expected Pentagon announcement, said that the strike “was done with the cooperation of the Government of National Accord [of Libya].” IS fighters “were seen immediately beforehand carrying weapons, wearing tactical vests, carrying mortars and standing in formation,” he said.
In a separate statement, Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said the strike’s targets were IS militants who had previously left the coastal city.
“The [IS] terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and US national interests,” Cook said. He also noted that the strikes appeared “successful.”
The anonymous official also said that “several dozen” militants are believed to have been killed.
After the nearly 500 American airstrikes aimed at ridding Sirte of IS militants officially ended in December 2016, Pentagon officials promised to help support future counter-extremist measures, if requested to do so by the GNA. At the time, the collapse of Sirte as a jihadist stronghold was a major setback for IS. The extremist group also recently suffered military defeat in the Iraqi city Mosul.
Obama last’s military maneuver
In what will most likely be the last use of his power as Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, outgoing President Barack Obama authorized the overnight airstrikes in Sirte.
Political infighting has continued in the oil-rich nation despite the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement in December 2015, which led to the creation of the GNA. The country hopes an upturn in oil production could help stabilize the national economic situation.
cmb/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)
US military ends anti-IS operation in Libya’s Sirte
The US has ended a military operation to support Libya’s fledgling government in its efforts to retake the former IS stronghold of Sirte. The militant group still retains a presence in the country. (21.12.2016)
Life returns to Mosul neighborhoods freed from IS
As the liberation of Mosul from the “Islamic State” group gathers pace, Iraq’s second city has been coming back to life with remarkable speed. DW’s Florian Neuhof reports from neighborhoods of freshly shaven men. (18.01.2017)
Libya in chaos five years after the death of Moammar Gadhafi
Five years after the death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya is highly fragmented and on the brink of anarchy. Mattia Toaldo, Libya expert for the European Council on Foreign Relations, explains the situation to DW. (20.10.2016)
Only 21 of the victims had been identified, he said. Fifteen or 16 were foreigners, he said, and at least three of the Turkish victims may have been employees at the club.
Several hours later, Israel confirmed one of its citizens, 19-year-old Leanne Nasser, was among the dead.
Turkish state news agency Anadolu also quoted Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya as saying most of the dead were foreigners “from different countries – Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya”.
Early media reports suggested the attacker may have been wearing a Santa Claus outfit, but newly-obtained CCTV footage shows the suspected attacker in a black coat outside the club.
Mr Soylu said the gunman was wearing a coat and trousers, but “we were informed that he was wearing different clothes inside”.
Reina nightclub, in the the Ortakoy area of Istanbul, is an upmarket venue on the banks of the Bosphorus.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker killed a policeman and a civilian outside the club before entering and opening fire.
“Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me,” the Associated Press news agency quoted Sinem Uyanik, who was inside the club, as saying.
“I had to lift several bodies from (on) top of me before I could get out. It was frightening.”
There were reportedly as many as 700 people in the nightclub at the time of the attack, some of whom jumped into the water to escape.
The Turkish authorities have imposed a media blackout on coverage of the attack, citing security and public order concerns, but it does not extend to official statements.
Some media reports spoke of more than one attacker and Dogan news agency reported that some witnesses claimed the attackers were “speaking Arabic”, but there is no confirmation of this.
IS threats: By Rengin Arslan, BBC Turkish, Istanbul
Despite there being no official statement about who might be behind this brutal attack, the finger of blame is being pointed at the so-called Islamic State.
In the last two years of attacks in Turkey, Kurdish militants have mostly targeted military forces and police, while IS is known to target civilians.
IS leaders have threatened Turkey and called on their followers to carry out attacks inside the country.
Turkey began a ground operation against IS as well as Kurdish groups inside Syria four months ago.
In a statement, President Erdogan condemned those trying to “demoralise our people and create chaos with abominable attacks which target civilians”.
“We will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games.”
US President Barack Obama, who is on holiday in Hawaii, was among the first international leaders to make a statement after being briefed by his team.
“The president expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary, and keep him updated as warranted,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the “cynical” murder of civilians. “Our shared duty is to decisively rebuff terrorist aggression,” he said in a telegram quoted on the Kremlin website.
Turkey and Russia are working together on efforts to end the fighting in Syria, though they support different sides in the conflict.
Istanbul was already on high alert with some 17,000 police officers on duty in the city, following a string of terror attacks in recent months.
Many were carried out by so-called Islamic State (IS) or Kurdish militants.
Less than a fortnight ago, Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead by off-duty Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas as he gave a speech in the capital Ankara.
After the shooting, the killer shouted the murder was in revenge for Russian involvement in the conflict in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Deadly attacks in Turkey in 2016
10 December: Twin bomb attack outside a football stadium in Istanbul kills 44 people, Kurdish militant group claims responsibility
20 August: Bomb attack on wedding party in Gaziantep kills at least 30 people, IS suspected
30 July: 35 Kurdish fighters try to storm a military base and are killed by the Turkish army
28 June: A gun and bomb attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul kills 41 people, in an attack blamed on IS militants
13 March: 37 people are killed by Kurdish militants in a suicide car bombing in Ankara
17 February: 28 people die in an attack on a military convoy in Ankara
There will only be losers when the US elections are over. And the political establishment is to blame, Ines Pohl writes from the US.
The world is nervously awaiting Tuesday, when the United States will elect a new president. And it is still possible that Donald Trump may move into the White House with his wife Melania and other members of his family empire. That possibility itself is deeply unsettling. How could this happen? What is wrong with the Americans? How could they possibly consider electing a man with absolutely no political experience to what is still the most powerful political office in the world?
Obama leaves a mountain of unfinished business
The unfinished tasks that President Barack Obama will be leaving to his successor are daunting: both on the domestic and the foreign affairs front. His health reform is incomplete, and the country’s education system and infrastructure are both in a disastrous state. Syria is just one example of the kind of power vacuum that occurs when the global police force USA withdraws and no one – except Russia – is willing to step up and fill the void. Especially when the US fails to get the European military support upon which Obama built his new strategy of restraint.
DW’s Ines Pohl
In the end it is still likely that Hillary Clinton will win the election. Her lead may be melting, but thanks to the peculiarities of the US election system, she still has an important advantage in terms of guaranteed votes from the Electoral College.
Yet regardless of the result, it is already clear that there will be only losers when this undignified spectacle ends. Over the last several months the United States has turned into a country shaped by conspiracy theorists and demagogues. That has a lot to do with Donald Trump. He is a man with no idea whatsoever about the business of politics. But he does possess the rhetorical ability to turn worry into hate, fear of loss into xenophobia and insecurity into fantasies of unlimited power. And he is able to present himself as the country’s only possible savior. That is the demagogue’s winning formula.
Only interested in his own success
As a result, many people across the globe are focusing their frustration and concerns about the situation in America on Donald Trump. They see him as the man responsible for setting the US on a path to ungovernability.
But that is incorrect, at least in a political sense. Trump is not a politician – someone who by definition is engaged with improving the common good and who becomes culpable when he or she fails to do so. Trump is a businessman. Therefore his main interest has been how he can turn things to his own advantage. That is how he has run his real estate business, and that is how he won the Republican nomination. Ultimately, this approach may even land him in the White House.
Brutal two-tier system
So are the Americans themselves to blame for being so gullible or too stupid to see Donald Trump’s true interests? That is wrong too. Anyone who travels the country with an open ear can listen to large numbers of Trump supporters with real justifications for their vote. Those who venture outside America’s big cities soon experience first hand the misery of this land of opportunity. One meets people living in run-down neighborhoods. Old and sickly people who don’t know how they will make it through the day. Children that are born into hopelessness and who will never have a chance in this utterly brutal two-tier system.
A symbolic picture of a brutal two-tier system: wealthy women on New York’s 5th Avenue stand next to a homeless man.
As if that were not enough, the publication of hacked emails over the last few weeks has only confirmed what Trump has so successfully instrumentalized in positioning himself as an outsider. These emails illustrate just how corrupt the Democratic party is, clearly showing how close its ties with the Clinton family are – and how both used their power to torpedo a candidate who actually stood for real democratic change.
Out of touch with the base
In this fateful year it seems that the political establishment is paying the price for its own arrogant selfishness. Republicans were so intoxicated with the success of their blockade policies that they simply did not care if urgent decisions could be made or not. Detachment from their own base meant that many Republicans refused to take Donald Trump seriously, until in the end they were forced to nominate a man who could eventually destroy their party. Even if Donald Trump loses the election, his millions of supporters will not go away. They will shoot down every attempt to reach compromise with the Clinton administration – from outside the party and from within its political committees. And there are no Republican leadership figures that appear strong enough to channel voters’ disappointment and rage. How Republicans intend to remain capable of acting is an open question.
Therefore, even if Hillary Clinton wins she will have little room to maneuver despite all her experience and political talent. This situation will be compounded by the fact that her long-held hopes of winning majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate – thus making it possible to actually govern – will not come to fruition. All this spells disaster for the citizens of the United States. But also for a world that needs a functioning America.
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Final US job report before election shows slight unemployment dip
The United States added 161,000 jobs in October, pushing unemployment below 5 percent. This was the final major report on the American economy before Tuesday’s presidential election. (04.11.2016)
Opinion: A declaration of war on democracy itself
The final debate proved that Donald Trump does not have the substance to beat Hillary Clinton. He knows that. And is now prepared to sacrifice democracy on the altar of his narcissism, writes DW’s Ines Pohl. (20.10.2016)
Obama: I don’t believe FBI chief Comey aimed to meddle in election
US President Obama has said he believes FBI Director James Comey was not trying to influence the election when he decided to re-examine a probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Democrats blasted the timing of the move. (05.11.2016)
President Obama defended Hillary Clinton’s “integrity” as she faces a renewed FBI investigation of emails sent from her private server.
In a NowThis News interview released Wednesday, the president ducked a question about whether he was upset that FBI Director James Comey had announced the new twist in the long-running probe so close to Election Day. However, he did say the FBI should not operate on innuendo.
“I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo, and we don’t operate on incomplete information, and we don’t operate on leaks,” he said. “We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”
Obama pointed to Comey’s conclusion in July, following months of investigation into whether Clinton or her aides mishandled classified information, that he would not recommend bringing charges. But in a cryptic letter to Congress last Friday, Comey said new emails, reportedly found on a computer used by her aide Huma Abedin, would be investigated.
“When this was investigated thoroughly last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable,” Obama said.
The president also touted the character of his former Cabinet secretary. He said he “wouldn’t be supporting her if I didn’t have absolute confidence in her integrity.”
“I’ve made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don’t look like I’m meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes for making these assessments,” he said when asked about the timing of Comey’s Friday announcement. “Setting aside the particulars of this case, I know that she is somebody who has always looked out for the interests of America and the American people first.”
Elected officials and legal experts from both parties have criticized Comey for his letter to Congress, arguing that it risked influencing the Nov. 8 election. Obama’s top spokesman, Josh Earnest, said Monday that the White House would “neither defend nor criticize” Comey’s announcement.
On August 20, 2012, President Obama called the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s Assad regime a “red line.” Four years on with the Syrian war still raging, DW asked three scholars to assess Washington’s Syria policy.
DW: How would you describe and rate Obama’s Syria policy over the past four years?
Robert Ford: The Obama administration has been unable to contain the Syrian crisis as it had hoped. Syrian refugees were the majority of those who flooded into Europe in 2015, causing new political tensions inside the EU, a vital American partner. Syrian extremists helped organize and execute terror attacks in France, Belgium and Germany, all US allies; the “Islamic State” helped inspire American extremists in California who killed a dozen people. The US for nearly two years has been bombing inside Syria and there is no end in sight, despite progress on the ground. The administration’s big claim of success, the destruction of Syrian government chemical weapons capabilities, is limited; the Syrian government continues to use chlorine gas with impunity.
The most likely prospect is continued fighting, and more refugees, until the Syrian government on one side and extremist elements within the larger Syrian opposition all agree to a ceasefire. That ceasefire appears far away and will only result in a de facto unstable partition of Syria.
In its last five months in office, the Obama administration is unlikely to shift its tactics or its strategy very much. The new US administration will confront an “Islamic State” (IS) which is slowly losing territory but is also preparing to return to the insurgency from which it sprang in 2014. Meanwhile, the former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria is stronger than ever, and Russian bombs and Iranian-backed militias in Syria, along with what is left of the Syrian army, cannot defeat it and the rest of the Syrian opposition.
Gordon Adams: The Obama policy has not reversed the trend in Syria. But it could not change much. Basically, the US has very little leverage over the players – the Turks, the Iranians, the Saudis, Bashar al-Assad, the Russians, Hezbollah, among others. What the US lacks in Syria is leverage. So almost regardless of what Obama had done, the crisis would have progressed the way it did.
The carnage in Syria continues
Andrew Bowen: President Obama’s initial assessment that Syria could be kept in a box proved to be a miscalculation. It’s not so much this miscalculation, but his overall aversion to being drawn into new wars in the Middle East which has driven Obama not to take any pro-active action to resolve Syria’s civil war.
Obama reluctantly was about to take action on his “red line” remark and was very content to be able to pull back from the rhetorical trap he placed himself in. The president has treated Syria as a challenge that could be delegated to largely lackluster diplomacy. The refugee challenge was largely left to Europe and Syria’s neighbors. Obama watched with passive disinterest as Russia moved last fall to militarily shore up President Assad’s regime while Iran continued to entrench itself in Syria.
Obama turns up pressure on Putin over Syria
What alternative path could Obama have taken?
Robert Ford: There are two alternative paths that could have been taken. One might, perhaps, have changed the war. The other would not have changed it much.
A. The Obama administration could have stayed entirely silent, not urged Assad to step down in August 2011, and remained an observer. This would not have changed Turkish/Saudi/Qatari behavior nor would it have changed Russian/Iranian behavior. The war, the destruction, the refugee flows and the rise of extremist elements all would have occurred even with the US entirely out of the conflict.
B. The Obama administration could have decided in autumn 2012 or early 2013 to strongly back moderate elements in the armed opposition in return for those armed opposition groups avoiding sectarian behavior and reaching out politically to elements of Syrian society still backing Assad. This would have meant much larger material and cash assistance so that the moderate groups could have successfully competed with the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front (remember, the Islamic State didn’t exist in 2012 or early 2013) for recruits.
The failure to step in strongly in 2012 or early 2013 gave al Qaeda and other relatively well-funded hard-line groups a big advantage in recruitment. The Obama administration’s failure to enforce the “red line” in a meaningful way that stopped ALL Syrian government chemical weapons attacks further fueled extremist recruitment. The State Department specifically warned of that risk. The White House ignored that counsel.
Gordon Adams: There were no good alternatives. A no-fly zone would have enmeshed the US in the war without providing a prospect of success. The “moderate” opposition scarcely existed, so more arms and training would not have accomplished much. An airstrike over the chemical weapons would not have taken down Assad, not without an invasion, which would have been counter-productive. Only cooperation with the Russians, who have real leverage in Syria, might have accomplished something, but even that is doubtful.
Andrew Bowen: Obama had a number of opportunities to more robustly train and arm moderate opposition fighters. The president could have taken robust military action to cripple President Assad’s Air Force in the wake of his “red line” remark. He was presented numerous times with “no-fly zone” options, both in the north and the south, which he didn’t take.
Obama never wanted to match active diplomacy with credible force if diplomacy failed. As a result, both Moscow and Tehran have never taken Obama’s words and intentions seriously and don’t see much consequence if these talks fail. As a number of senior regional officials have noted, it’s now a race to see how much that can be gained before a new administration enters office in Washington who may push back. Even if a President Clinton wants to take more action, Obama’s leaving her a poor hand to play.
Russia has propped up its Syrian ally
Obama’s “hands-off” policy leaves the US four years later with a stalemate that has not only produced one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and a vacuum space for IS to thrive. It’s also enabled Russia and Iran to set the tone of the conflict and the terms of the settlement.
Robert Ford was the US ambassador to Syria (2010-2014) and to Algeria (2006-2008). He is currently a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute.
Gordon Adams is professor emeritus of US foreign policy at American University and a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center.
Andrew Bowen is a global fellow in the Middle East Program of the Wilson Center.
The interviews were conducted per email by Michael Knigge.
Opinion: The West’s total failure
The situation in Aleppo appears increasingly hopeless. This civil war is on the brink of its greatest humanitarian disaster. But there’s not much the West can do on its own, writes DW’s Loay Mudhoon. (15.08.2016) 129 Comments
Russia rebuffs US over Iran-based Syrian airstrikes
Russia has rebuffed a US suggestion that airstrikes on Syria launched from Iran may violate UN resolutions. The airstrikes deepen Russia’s ties with Iran and Syria. (17.08.2016)
‘Not one single convoy’ reached besieged Syrians this month, says UN envoy
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura symbolically ended a meeting on Syria after saying no aid convoys reached besieged cities. Soon after, Russia said it would support a 48-hour truce in Aleppo and help secure aid deliveries. (18.08.2016)
The situation in Aleppo appears increasingly hopeless. This civil war is on the brink of its greatest humanitarian disaster. But there’s not much the West can do on its own, writes DW’s Loay Mudhoon.
When the siege around eastern Aleppo was surprisingly broken two weeks ago, there was no notable improvement for the civilian population. The insurgents may have defeated the Assad regime and its Russian protecting power, but in fact up to 300,000 people are still trapped in Aleppo.
The supply situation is dire: 1.5 million people have no electricity, no clean drinking water. The biggest humanitarian catastrophe of the Syrian civil war looms.
In view of this new dimension of suffering, there’s no doubt that these demands are as important as they are justified. At the same time, they show how limited the West’s options have become to influence current developments.
To noticeably ease the besieged population’s hardship, it would take a cease-fire lasting several days, or the end of all fighting – in particular after the creation of safe corridors turned out to be staged by Russia and the Assad regime.
Loay Mudhoon is the editor in chief of Qantara.de
Diplomatic appeals won’t be enough to push through such demands. And that’s the dilemma. Put more bluntly: the West’s total failure lies in the fact that decisionmakers in Washington and Brussels decided early on not to intervene militarily in Syria, but instead to “let the conflict bleed out,” as one western diplomat so cynically put it.
By the time it became clear that Bashar al-Assad’s violent regime had allowing what started as a peaceful revolution to become militarized, and was working to split society along religious lines, the West should have more vigorously supported the opposition in order to prevent radical Islamists from moving into the power void.
While Assad received massive backing from Russia, Iran and Shiites in Lebanon and Iraq, the West failed to come up with a joint Syria policy. This inertia, in particular the Obama administration’s watering down of the “red line doctrine” after poison gas was used in the conflict, led to the West’s massive loss of credibility and assertiveness in this conflict.
Putin, the kingmaker
So, what should the West do? The question is difficult to answer.
It all depends on Vladimir Putin’s political goals. When he intervened a year ago, the Russian president turned the military tide in Assad’s favor: his regime has meanwhile stabilized, also thanks to the Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite militia. A political solution for the complex proxy war in Syria against Moscow’s wishes appears impossible.
Diplomatic appeals won’t be enough to get Putin to relent. The head of the Kremlin is out to demonstrate power, also as a signal to the West with regard to Ukraine. He has clear goals in Syria, with hardly a thought for the Syrian people’s plight and the massive destruction of their country.
The regional powers aren’t in any condition to critically influence the war, either. The Arab Sunnis are too weak and unable to coordinate their regional policies. Turkey has turned its attention inward since the failed coup, and is in no way interested in endangering its newly reactivated ties to Russia – another reason why Ankara has remained silent on the massacres in Aleppo.
The conflict’s current constellation can only shift once the US government drastically changes its policies on Assad and his protective powers in Moscow and sheds its pretended powerlessness.
But the election campaign has virtually paralyzed US foreign policies, which gives Putin a free hand in Syria until the end of the year. Europe will feel the effects of his cynical policies.
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Berlin blames Moscow for Aleppo humanitarian crisis
A spokesman for the German government has criticized Russia’s offer of three-hour daily ceasefires in the Syrian city. But Moscow insists longer breaks will only help “terrorists” in the city. (15.08.2016)
Warplanes pound Syrian rebels in Aleppo, Idlib
Dozens of civilians have been killed in a wave of airstrikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes in northern Syria. Most of the deaths were in the embattled city of Aleppo, where rebels announced a new offensive. (15.08.2016)
US-backed Syrian Arab-Kurdish alliance retakes key border town of Manbij
An Arab-Kurdish alliance with support from US airstrikes has retaken the strategic town of Manbij near the Turkish border. The fate of some of the 2,000 civilians who fled the crumbling IS stronghold remains in doubt. (13.08.2016)
German minister urges African Marshall Plan
On a tour of Senegal, Niger and Rwanda, German Development Minister Gerd Müller repeated his call for a Marshall Plan for Africa. But is a post-World War II-style recovery program realistic or even necessary? (12.08.2016)
German development minister calls for billions for Syria’s neighbors
Germany’s development minister has called on the EU to set up an emergency program to help Syria’s neighbors deal with an influx of refugees. The European Commission appeared unimpressed by the demand. (17.08.2015)
Rescuers say toxic gas dropped on Syrian town near downed Russian helicopter
A rescue team has reported that chlorine gas was dropped on a town in Syria’s Idlib province. The government and rebels alike have been accused of using chemical weapons during the ongoing conflict. (02.08.2016)
Kerry meets Putin in bid to rescue Syria peace plan
US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of an effort to salvage the stalled Syria peace process. The pair discussed cooperating against Islamic State and other militant groups. (15.07.2016)
Politics professor Scott Lucas responds to shootings targeting cops in Dallas, following the police shootings of two black men caught on video. He urges real dialogue at a perilous time for the country.
DW: We’d like to talk a little about the polarization that we’re now seeing. What are your concerns now seeing first these horrific images coming out of Baton Rouge, and now Dallas?
America has always had this paradox that it’s economically the most powerful country, still, militarily powerful, and has – for all its faults – a pretty good political system. Yet at the same time when it’s got all these assets, it’s caught up in this culture of fear. It’s a very frightened place and has been for decades – I lived through it in the Cold War. But more recently of course you had it after 9/11. And you had it domestically because of fear of the inner city, fear of deprivation and what people will do, fear of drugs, fear of crime.
Professor Scott Lucas
And the Black Lives Matter movement, of course, following Michael Brown’s killing in 2014, this is a movement which is dealing with some very serious issues: Not just police violence or alleged police violence, but also issues such as the economic situation, the lack of employment in certain areas, the income disparity. There is a risk now that this movement in particular will be cast as a threat to all police. There’s going to be this stigma which is going to be placed on it. Now if you do that – which is not to say that I agree with everything Black Lives Matters says, what the protesters say – but what you do is you shut down the possibility of dialogue and you turn this into a conflict situation.
We’ve got a former congressman, on Twitter right now, saying that this is war – a guy named Joe Walsh. If that type of language is exploited by politicians, including Mr. Trump, it will only contribute to what I think has been a very damaging erosion. In fact, more than erosion – I would never use the word “threat,” that would only contribute to the language, but I would say that there is a serious problem in American politics and that this could be exacerbated by the reaction to what we’ve seen.
There’s no consensus on these incidents, the narrative seems to shift back and forth. Looking at the fallout on social media between people in the police community and those in less-advantaged communities, both seem to see themselves as being victimized. Do you think the culture of victimhood shifts back and forth in these events?
Social media can reinforce that, because you wind up talking to your allies, and you criticize your enemies. Of course, social media is so much quicker than quote “traditional media” that it can accelerate the process. But on that topic I think there’s another risk too: there have been efforts in communities to get away from this, to get beyond the victimization.
Dallas police report officers shot: 5 dead, several wounded
Five police officers have been shot dead and several injured during protests in the US city of Dallas. Thousands have marched in cities across the United States after the fatal police shootings of two black men. (08.07.2016)
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The irony of this, in Dallas, is that the police had allowed protest. The police had been receptive to letting these issues be talked about. That it could happen there could be another impact of this tragedy: this is not the case – as it has been in some other communities – where there’s been a real shutdown of protestors, or an attempt to shut down protests.
There is this immediate culture thing where the police say “we’re the victims” and the protesters say the same. But if we fall into that trap, and say “oh yeah, yeah, that’s exactly what the case is,” then we sort of listen to the chatter and we miss the fact that there are grass-roots efforts to get beyond this. Again that’s another one of my worries – that those grass-roots efforts will be eclipsed in the reaction to Dallas.
Do you agree that there is an intersection between gun culture and police militarization?
That’s been a question that we’ve had for years, in terms of how not just the police, but also the National Guard for example, have dealt with protests. I wouldn’t go there in terms of this being a new phenomenon.
What I would say is: Until you deal with the issue of guns being so freely available in America, until you deal with that root cause of the violence, whatever other causes there are as well, that issue of a failure to address gun control will eat away at your society. It will eat away at it not just in terms of the immediate politics, it will eat away at it socially, because of the tragedy of the deaths, because of the fear that it’s going to engender, and eventually because of the hatred that it’s going to foster.
Do you have any closing thoughts?
Yes. What I would want to say is that at this time, we’re going to hear some politicians say that we need to have a period of calm. They’ll say we need to be reflective, that we need to try to deal with this. I don’t want those to be just words. There has to be a serious effort by people to try to engage with each other and to discuss this, because otherwise we’ve seen too much hatred with stuff in America – which quite often, fortunately, has been hatred of words and not of action. I fear that words which are not promoting dialogue, which are promoting conflict, are going to have serious consequences.
Scott Lucas is a professor of American politics at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Originally from Alabama, he is also the editor of the Journal of American Studies.