Alternative Facts are Nothing New

Holocaust denial and the rejection of consensus truth has been around a long time. How can it be countered?

By Peter Bjel

“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Denying that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe during the Second World War—thereby willfully murdering up to six million, or one-third of the world’s Jewish population—is akin to claiming that the Earth is flat. Among 20th-century genocides, the Holocaust is unique not only for its broad scope and use of modern infrastructure, but because it is incredibly well-documented.

Though they were the first to deny the scope and intent of their actions, the Nazis left behind a massive detritus of planning, orders, correspondence, action reports, and logistical details that proved to be too copious to destroy as Germany’s defeat grew imminent. Nonetheless, a movement has evolved, alongside organized racism and fascist ideology, denying that the Holocaust ever happened. These Holocaust deniers would remain marginal were it not for their adroit tactics of cloaking the intent of their ideas.

This past December, Google was forced to take action when it emerged that online queries about the Holocaust performed via its search engine returned results that emanated from neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denying websites.

“This is a really challenging problem, and something we’re thinking deeply about in terms of how we can do a better job,” declared a Google spokesperson to the BBC. “Search is a reflection of the content that exists on the web.”

At other times, Holocaust denial has been publicly brought to light via criminal and libel trials in both Europe and North America. This spring marks seventeen years since one of the biggest and most significant of these trials took place in London’s Royal Courts of Justice. Over the span of three months, from January to April 2000, a libel suit brought against …

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The North Korean Faultline

Security experts in both China and America are concerned about the direction the hermit regime is headed under Kim Jong-Un.

By Farhan Zahid

The hermit state known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or more popularly North Korea, and its eccentric leader, Kim Jong-Un, have become even more of an international migraine than they already were. Kim Jong-Un’s new statements concerning nuclear tests and his unswerving insistence on building intercontinental ballistic missiles have galvanized foreign governments against the pariah state. The assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam, in Malaysia by North Korean agents has also created an upheaval in regional politics. Ruling over what is seen as one of the worst and most corrupt totalitarian societies in the world, the junta in charge appears to be deeply unstable. Tensions are rising on the Korean Peninsula, and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, combined with its race to develop long-range ballistic missiles, which would be in the hands of an unpredictable despot, are at the center of these concerns.

Crises Under an Eccentric Despot

Of all countries in the world, the situation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is perhaps the most peculiar. Even among the three remaining communist states of the Cold War era, North Korea presents a unique case. Under its aberrant leader Kim Jong-Un, the grandson of founder Kim Il-Sung, the country has languished under the worst form of totalitarianism since its birth, and matters have not improved since the 33-year old Swiss-educated supreme leader of North Korea took over on the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in 2011. Hopes that his time in the West would make him amenable to improving relations with the rest of the world were dashed, as he revealed himself to be as tyrannical as his forebears, and even worse at managing the state’s affairs. Not content with having hundreds sent to his country’s gulags, he has had even uncles and other close relatives of his executed as he asserts his authority. The most recent case is the …

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Pro-Business or Anti-Muslim?

Which strategy brought Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party success at the state level?

By Rajendra Prabhu

Asia’s most stable democracy, usually praised for its strong secular political tradition, took another step towards majoritarian Hindu rule in this spring’s provincial and local elections in several parts of the country. India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 120 million, overwhelmingly voted for the state-level branch of Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The results were dramatic, with significant implications for the state’s business climate as well as its Muslim minority.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scripted another spectacular political triumph,” wrote eminent intellectual and President of the Centre for Policy Research Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who has been a strong critic of several missteps Modi has taken over the last three years. The first great countywide swing for the political movement was in 2014, when the connected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Modi’s powerful leadership won 274 seats out of 542 in the lower house of the India’s Parliament, making Modi the Prime Minister. This spring in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP won 324 seats out of 403 in the state’s legislative assembly, among several other state elections. Except in the state of Punjab, which was won by the National Congress, cheers of “Modi, Modi” echoed throughout the five states that went to the polls for their state-level legislatures.

Modi needed this political boost to counter his apparently declining popularity over the past year. The reason: the …

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Muslim vs. Buddhist

Myanmar’s young government must contain its growing ethnic divide.

By Animesh Roul

When Muslim militants attacked Myanmar’s border police in the western Rakhine State, the Buddhist-majority nation’s security forces struck back against the region’s vulnerable Muslim minority, who do not have citizen rights. The decade-old conflict between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya (Bengali) Muslims has drawn international attention. There is a severe risk in the embattled Southeast Asian country that the clashes could spark both a militant Islamic insurgency against the state and a genocide against the Muslim minority population. Myanmar must somehow halt both.

Armed attacks against border police continued on and off for days toward the end of last year. An October 9 attack killed nine border policemen, and as many attackers died in the ensuing gun battles. A similar ambush on October 11 left four more policemen dead. Violence again erupted on November 12-13, when armed militants launched a surprise attack on a military convoy during a clearance operation in Ma Yinn Taung village in Maungdaw town. Two security personnel, including a senior army officer, died in the ambush, while several suspected militants were killed. Subsequent government backed counter-insurgency operations in the area witnessed an escalation of armed clashes that claimed the lives of nearly 70 suspected Rohingya militants and 17 security force personnel.

Government forces have been accused of retaliating by razing entire villages of displaced Rohingya to the ground, with security forces allegedly killing over 500 people and …

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Editor’s Comment: Washington and Moscow Must Talk

Russian efforts to influence elections and national referendums in Europe and the United States has become a great international anxiety. The daily onslaught of concocted and misleading news and the hacking of anti-Moscow political parties’ computer systems has become a deep concern for Western governments. This is an election year for France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other European nations. Moscow was working overtime to influence the American presidential election, according to U.S. intelligence reports, and now continues its efforts against continental Europe.

Though Russia has denied these allegations as Russophobic, that Moscow’s goal is to weaken the E.U. and NATO, diminish confidence in Western democracies, and reduce the strength of American and European alliances has been noted by many security experts. Russia’s moves have now made the country second only to America in world geopolitics. The nation’s hacking of the American election, its support for mass human slaughter in Syria, its arsenal of nuclear weapons, and its usurpation of Crimea have caused grave concern for American military strategists. In addition, Vladimir Putin continues exploring strategic avenues from the Arctic North to Pacific South to recover the lost glory of the old Kremlin. (See “Russia’s Arctic Interests” in this issue.)

Russian’s contracted economy due to falling oil prices and Western economic sanctions could eventually threaten Putin’s popularity at home, and so he shores up his power by crafting foreign war hysteria with the Kremlin’s well-oiled propaganda machine. He plans to keep Russia well away from Western-style democracy in order to perpetuate his intended lifelong rule. The recent demonstrations in Russia on March 24 were the largest outpouring of anti-Putin sentiment since 2011. That it took six years for the opposition to manage to mount significant protests again demonstrates just how well the Russian President suppresses his domestic detractors.

For NATO and the United States, all important avenues of negotiations with Moscow have virtually been closed. In the face of Russia’s escalations, this is an even more dangerous phenomenon between two major nuclear nations. The breakdown in communication risks allowing a minor incident to flare into a major military escalation. Both sides are currently to blame. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia’s invitation to the G8 was withdrawn; Russia then did not attend last year’s Nuclear Security Summit in the United States; and now Moscow has been excluded from the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Material of Mass Destruction.

The threat of nuclear war is the highest it has been since 1953. The reestablishment of nuclear cooperation between the Kremlin and Pentagon would not only serve American interests, but provide security and stability for the whole world.

— Probir Kumar Sarkar
Executive Editor

Op-Ed: Congress Challenges Trump

Donald Trump’s proposed tax overhaul will be another test for his young presidency.

By Probir Kumar Sarkar

In the coming days and weeks, President Donald J. Trump will have further important bills to deal with in Congress, and with them, the President might face even harder opposition from his own Republican stalwarts—to say nothing of the Democrats across the aisle. Trump’s debacle with his signature promise—the American Health Care Act to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”—opened a Pandora’s Box for the new president in the House. This will embolden his challengers further.

Just two months into his presidency, Trump has found the toughest challenge yet in his fledgling political career. On the campaign trail, Trump had pledged that he would abolish Obamacare, which he termed a “disaster”, and come up with a new care plan that was going to perform better at a lesser cost. He is a great salesman, and his great product is himself, but this “Art of the Deal” health care bill failed to move forward in Congress.

The business dealmaker-turned-novice politician is now facing …

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Russia and CIA Hack French Elections

The political campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has said recently that their servers have been targeted by Russian hackers. Since these allegations, however, a Wikileaks document has shown the CIA had “targeted for infiltration” all the major political parties in a 10-month period around France’s 2012 presidential election.

The CIA operation was titled the espionage order for “Non Ruling Political Parties and Candidates Strategic Election Plans”, and included both the CIA’s human (“HUMINT”) and electronic (“SIGINT”) spies. This appears to have been significantly more advanced than the current accusations of Russian interference in the ongoing election.

France’s political parties are currently worried about a “spear phishing” campaign identical to the attacks launched against the U.S., apparently from Russia, that targeted the DNC and John Podesta’s emails. After his meeting with French candidate Marine Le Pen in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for Eurosceptic parties in the E.U. is certain, but the allegations of hacks against Europe’s pro-E.U. political parties have not been substantiated. Whatever outcome of the infiltration and investigations, the first round of the election will be held on April 23.

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Top Scientists Condemn U.S. Environment Chief’s Climate Change Denial

Statements made by Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s appointee as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in March, in which he denied human emissions as the primary cause of climate change, have contradicted the EPA’s own stance on climate change as well as the consensus of the scientific community.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt had lobbied against the EPA on behalf of fossil fuel industries. His own biography describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” His appointment has caused concern.

“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. One of the oldest conservation organizations in the U.S., the Sierra Club has over 2 million supporters.

Over 97 percent of climate experts have firmly concluded that human-caused climate change is happening, according to the American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences, the world’s largest general science society. They recently released a report which said that switching to renewable energy could avoid warming above 2C, beyond which we face “game over” for human life, with severe droughts and weather events that would kill millions and force many more to flee their regions, making the current flow of refugees seem like a trickle by comparison.

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Spring 2017