An American college student was killed in the terror attacks that have left at least 129 dead in Paris and shocked the world.
Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23 year old junior at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) was killed at a restaurant during the attack according to the college she attended.
“I’m deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Long Beach State University student Nohemi Gonzalez. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this sad time,” (CSULB) President Jane Close Conoley said. “Our university stands with our nearly eighty foreign exchange students from France as they struggle with this tragedy. We will extend all support necessary to comfort them. We will also extend support to all students, faculty and staff who are in need.”
Gonzalez was from El Monte, Calif., and was studying design.
According to a press release from CSULB Gonzalez was in Paris attending Strate College of Design during a semester abroad program.
CSULB plans to hold a vigil for Gonzalez 4 pm PST.
Gonzalez was reportedly a “kind, thoughtful, generous and talented student, dear to all who knew her,” Michael LaForte, a lecturer in CSULB’s department of design, wrote on Facebook according to the Los Angeles Times. “We grieve for her today and give our hearts to her grieving family and boyfriend.”
Cover Photo Credit: Facebook
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About the AuthorRich Robinson is the CEO and publisher of Rise News. He is also a journalist and a native of Miami. Robinson graduated from the University of Alabama and can be followed on Twitter @RichRobMiami.
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Last week witnessed yet another guerilla attack on a European capital, as bombs went off in the Brussels airport and subway, murdering and injuring hundreds.
Events like these expose the silliness of most of our squabbles, as the true members of civil society shine through while a handful of mad(mostly)men demonstrate for all of us the true downside of mankind.
Anger is what nature provides us with in these situations because it forces us to assign blame, thus highlighting the failures of the present as a warning to future generations, and there is plenty of criticism to go around.
Taking a look back at the evolution of ISIS is instructive of the catastrophic failures of US foreign policy, as it took a series of cataclysmic blunders across two Presidencies that fostered the environment from which this murderous death cult would emerge.
The Bush Administration
George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq served as the catalyst for the creation of ISIS, at least in the form that we know it as know.
Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but one of the “advantages” of a dictator (from a wonkish macro perspective) is that the brutality of dictatorships tends to keep some semblance of order in these intentionally fractured societies.
ISIS did not have the means, nor the capability to become what it is today so long as Saddam was in power.
However, simply removing Saddam was not enough to facilitate the rise of ISIS.
It took a series of cataclysmic blunders across two Presidencies that fostered the environment from which this murderous death cult would emerge.
The first of many gigantic mistakes after the initial invasion came from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney’s commitment to a “light footprint” in Iraq following the initial invasion.
David Kilcullen, an Australian counter-terrorism strategist who arrived in Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2005 called it “Ground Zero for the greatest strategic screw up since Hitler’s invasion of Russia.”
By not providing American troops with enough support to maintain the peace, Rumsfeld ensured that a power vacuum would be created in one of the most violent areas on the planet, right on the border of our regional nemesis.
The United States sent 127,000 troops to manage a divided population of 33 million in a country that is larger than California (California has about 126,000 police officers, fire fighters, and EMT’s to serve its 38 million citizens).
According to US Central Command’s OPLAN 1003-98, it was estimated that the army would need at least 385,000 soldiers to accomplish its goals in Iraq. The administration gave them a third of that.
Providing our troops with insufficient support in a war torn country was bad enough, but the Bush White House exponentially compounded that problem with its next two calamitous mistakes.
If you had to point to any singular event that is responsible for the rise of ISIS, disbanding the Iraqi army after the invasion would be it.
The US military had hoped to weed out Saddam loyalists and keep it mostly intact, but the administration eschewed that difficult task in favor of simply scrapping the army altogether.
As a result, from May 23, 2003 to September 6, 2006, the security of all of Iraq was the sole responsibility of the United States of America.
Major Robert S. Weiler from the United States Marine Corps summarized the contradiction at the heart of this clusterfuck:
“The decision was a product of colliding priorities. The Secretary of Defense wanted a small occupation force that commanders knew was imprudent, the military planners adapted by planning to use the Iraqi Army to make up for coalition short falls, and the Coalition Provisional Authority wanted to dissolve all things Baathist or resembling Saddam even if it was the only mechanism allowing the country to function.”
Seemingly overnight, 250,000 young men and their weapons and talents of war were thrown out on the street, and a huge chunk of them wound up joining the initial version of ISIS: al-Qaeda in Iraq.
This choice makes Rumsfeld and Cheney’s decision to use 127,000 US soldiers to keep the peace even more befuddling, and that is before you even get to the fact that around 80% of Iraqis reported a dislike for the American occupation. It was a plan that literally defied logic.
Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority overseeing all this, defended his momentous decision by stating that the Iraqi army could not be trusted by the populace, as the Baathists loyal to Saddam had too much power, and the Sunni’s were accepted as a sunk cost; there was no expectation that they would remain loyal to the state during the American occupation.
But instead of trying to bridge the gap between the CPA and Sunni leaders, Bremer accelerated the process of alienation and installed Nouri al-Maliki as Iraqi Prime Minister; a devout Shiite who was raised with contempt for Sunni’s.
Maliki joined the Dawa party as a young man, which aimed to create a Shiite nation-state in Iraq by any means necessary.
Saddam arrested and executed many members of the Dawa party, including some of Maliki’s family members, which only further exacerbated the sectarian tensions boiling inside of Iraq’s future Prime Minister.
The idea that much of the Iraqi Army would remain steadfastly loyal to Saddam seemed like a specious argument anyway, because Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor wrote in “COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq,” that Saddam refused to let his army enter Baghdad out of fears of a coup.
In 2007, the Combat Studies Institute published “Warfare in the Age of NonState Actors: Implications for the U.S. Army,” and it detailed the absurdity of Bremer and the CPA’s decision:
“Taking away the jobs and weapons in which so many men have depended for so long, and giving them an equivalent civilian occupation in a peacetime (something even highly educated US military personnel find challenging), is a delicate and absolutely vital challenge which has little room for error. To simply disband them is extremely dangerous”
Nouri al-Maliki provided the final push to facilitate the creation of ISIS, as he fired countless Sunni commanders during his 8 year tenure as Prime Minister.
These seasoned military men were out of a job with no prospects provided by the new regime, and al-Qaeda’s new branch in Iraq (AQI) was more than happy to welcome them into their ranks.
There was no shortage of candidates available for any position in this new army, as some estimates put the unemployment rate as high as 60% in Iraq after the CPA disbanded the military.
The US government basically helped create an enemy from scratch for its army to fight during the Sunni uprising, which carried out scores of bombings across Iraq between 2003 and 2011, resulting in roughly half a million civilian casualties.
Sasnak Joshi, a Senior Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute highlights the central issue at hand:
“It’s less important in terms of the contribution to manpower, or sheer heft or size, and more important in terms of the specific skills, connections, linkages and technical expertise that the Baathists bring to the table.”
In 2014, Adnan al-Asani, Iraq’s deputy interior minister, told Al Arabiya that half of ISIS’s top military commanders: Haji Bakr, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi and Abu Ahmad al-Alwani, were all former high-ranking members of Sadaam’s party.
This map from Mother Jones of a divided Iraq from 2007 further depicts the folly of coalescing behind one faction, as any group that obtained absolute power would be seen as a threat to the rest of the populace:
Iraq is basically a fake country constructed by colonial powers; it’s really three countries cobbled into one, and a modern day colonial power came in, smashed everything, and sparked a civil war.
The History of ISIS
Not only did his actions lead to the creation of ISIS, but the group embodies his spirit; a spirit that was deemed too extreme by Osama freaking bin-Laden. Zarqawi was a fighter who came up through organized crime, not “finding religion” until later in life, yet he thoroughly enjoyed rape, murder, and torture no matter what ideology he presently subscribed to.
Zarqawi became radicalized in prison during the 1980’s, and upon his release in 1988, he traveled to the Peshwar region of Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets.
By 1992, he had returned to Jordan to create Bayat al-Imam, which was the first iteration of ISIS.
Zarqawi was locked up for 15 years by King Hussein of Jordan, where he was subsequently mentored by Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, and the duo expanded the influence of their newfound Jihadist organization both inside the prison and within the outside world.
Upon Zarqawi’s release from jail in 1999, he visited Osama bin Laden, who was alarmed at his extremist views, but nonetheless was convinced to give him seed funding for his new organization, which was set up in Herat, 355 miles away from bin Laden’s base in Kandahar.
By the time the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, Zarqawi had assembled an army of between 2,000 and 3,000 men, the organization now being known as al-Tawhid wal-Jihad.
Zarqawi soon left Afghanistan to set up camp in Iran, and when some of his operatives were arrested in Europe in 2002, Zarqawi became a much more prominent figure in counterterrorism agencies across the globe.
He spent the next couple years hiding out in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq all while expanding his army, culminating in an agreement with al-Qaeda’s security chief, Seif al-Adel, to move the group into Iraq.
Zarqawi spent most of his time in Iraq in the “Sunni triangle,” gaining new recruits and setting up bases.
By the time the US invaded in 2003, Zarqawi had effectively assembled a Sunni nation-state to combat the invasion.
His strategy was based on four central tactics that we still see ISIS use today:
- Isolate American forces by targeting international coalition partners (ie: the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad).
- Attack civilians there to help (ie: the May 2004 beheading of Nicholas Berg, thought to be carried out by Zarqawi himself).
- Spark a sectarian war by attacking Shiite targets (ie: the December 2004 attack against Shiite leader Sayyid Muhammad al-Hakim at a funeral in the holy city of Najaf)
- Deter Iraqi cooperation by targeting politicians, recruiting centers, and police stations (too many examples to count).
The invasion of Iraq served as one of the greatest recruiting boons Jihad has ever seen (second only to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict), as an influx of foreign fighters from all over the globe entered Iraq to fight with Zarqawi and the rest of the Sunni insurgency against the US army.
After the bloody battle that took Fallujah in 2004, the insurgency began to pass out leaflets demanding full compliance with their version of Islamic Law, even going so far as to list the names of “offenders” who were marked for public execution. By October 2004, Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden and renamed the group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
The Sunni insurgency boycotted the 2005 Iraqi elections, which proved to be a disastrous decision, as they were left out of the redrafting of the new Constitution.
Zarqawi continued to attack Shiites, further dampening popular support for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The final straw came in November of 2005 as AQI bombed a wedding party, killing 60 people, most of them Muslims.
al-Qaeda began to distance themselves from AQI, as it along with other Sunni terrorist groups were absorbed into a larger Mujahedeen Shura Council from which Zarqawi was excluded.
His brutality and aggression had simply become too much for a terrorist organization that was obsessed with developing popular support from Muslims of all backgrounds. The United States killed Zarqawi in an airstrike on June 7th, 2006, but by then, his ideology had already poisoned an entire generation of fighters.
The 20,000 troop “surge” of 2007 is largely credited as the key event to break the stalemate in Iraq, but the surge would not have had the impact it did if it were not for Sahwa, more commonly known as the Sunni Awakening. Frustrated with the lack of progress by AQI, Sunni tribesmen began to use AQI’s tactics against them, killing many of their senior leaders and intimidating many more to leave the movement.
This was so successful, that by 2009, more than 100,000 Sunni tribesmen were working in cooperation with the United States army against AQI. Not only had they either killed or captured well over half of the organization, but the flow of foreign fighters entering Iraq went from around 120 per month to just a handful.
The Obama Administration
However, an opportunity to reassert themselves emerged when Barack Obama continued the Bush Administration’s misguided “small footprint” strategy by ratifying the US-Iraq Status of Force’s Agreement that Bush had negotiated, which promised a full withdrawal of all US troops by December 31, 2011.
On December 18th of that year, the last US boot left the ground in Iraq, leaving a fractured and vulnerable country with no national force capable of holding all of its disparate parts together.
With AQI seemingly confined to an existence as a regional pest, the Iraqi election of 2010 served as a major event which breathed life back into the movement.
After the populace had elected a more moderate, even pro-American Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in 2010, the United States still continued to back the increasingly unpopular Nouri al-Maliki and his allies in parliament while pursuing conflicting goals, as Joe Biden told top US officials
“I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement]”
As yet another power vacuum was being created by American intransigence in Iraq, next door in Syria, an even larger problem was emerging. The Iranian backed dictator, Bashar al-Assad, was facing a serious challenge to his rule, as the Arab Spring spilled into Syria’s streets.
Assad and his Alawite support (who are minorities in Syria) were being challenged on all sides, and his strategy to stay in power is to build up the more extremist segments of the revolution while brutally massacring the moderates, thus presenting the West with a stark choice for the future of Syria: him or ISIS.
Obama massively compounded the problem when he stated that Assad using chemical weapons would be a “red line,” for the United States.
Once it was discovered that Assad did gas his own people, the President did nothing militarily, effectively letting the rest of the world know that he did not have the will to commit to a war with a relatively small regime like Assad’s even if he implied it, making his future proclamations on this conflict ring completely hollow.
Additionally, it let Assad (and by extension, Iran) know that they had full control over this situation.
While the United States debated what to do, the former Iraqi officers and Sunni Jihadists who had comprised AQI began to unite with Syrian factions, and captured Raqqa in 2013, declaring it the capital of the Caliphate the following year.
Still paralyzed by indecision, the United States watched as this new iteration of AQI claimed town after town, reaching a breaking point in 2014 as ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq’s 2nd largest city.
Five months prior to this event, Obama dismissed ISIS as a “JV team,” further demonstrating the administration’s miscalculation of this virus rapidly spreading across the globe. By the time a serious military campaign was launched, ISIS had already established a nation state.
Long story short: a decade-plus of foreign policy adventurism and fecklessness from two Presidents combined with the psychotic brutality of a charismatic Jihadist culminated in the establishment of a functional Caliphate in 2014.
Since its establishment, the US State Department estimates that upwards of 25,000 foreign fighters have flocked to these hinterlands formerly known as Syria and Iraq.
Even though they have demonstrated the capability to export their ideology and tactical skillset across the globe, there are still many signs that ISIS is on the decline.
In January, the US military estimated that ISIS has lost 40% of its territory in Iraq and 20% in Syria. In that same month, ISIS announced a 50% pay cut for everyone on the payroll.
Additionally, there have been many reports of protests in ISIS controlled territory, as we are seeing the same dissatisfaction that many Iraqi Sunni’s felt after the initial opposition to the US occupation.
If we have learned anything from this quagmire, it is contained in this sobering quote from Syrian Businessman Raja Sidawi:
“I am sorry for America. You are stuck. You have become a country of the Middle East. America will never change Iraq, but Iraq will change America.”
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!
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What Do You Think?
By Courtney Anderson
Like any other socially conscious person who is suffering from racial fatigue, I spent this week becoming addicted to Pokémon Go as a means of escaping my reality.
While this strategy has mostly worked (it’s much more fun looking up poké stops than it is looking up statistics of police brutality), playing Pokémon Go has actually alerted me to real-life issues I was working to disassociate from.
And, as usual, these real-life issues are somehow connected to issues of racial discrimination, economic disparities, and other social ills that have managed to permeate every aspect of my life.
So, without further ado, here is a list of observations I’ve had while playing Pokémon Go in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, that made my racism alarm go off a little bit.
- The layout and transportation problems in the city make playing way too hard for certain folks.
Pokémon Go is a game that is designed to make players walk around.
The best way to catch Pokémon and find poké stops is to walk from place to place.
Because of the fact that Pokémon can pop up at any time while you are playing, it’s best that you’re able to stop moving or move faster at any given moment.
Parts of Memphis make that basic requirement of Pokémon Go very difficult.
First of all, it’s a sprawling city; its layout consists of seemingly endless flat land and forever-long streets. You need a car to get almost everywhere.
If you’re playing Pokémon Go in Memphis, you’ve probably had to hop in your car a few times.
And unless you want to get knocked off of the road, you’re driving at least ten miles above the posted speed limit.
Catching Pokémon becomes much more difficult when you have to use your car (and waste your gas and gas money) to get to the nearest poké stop.
Not to mention that fact that some of the streets of Memphis are filled with so many potholes that driving over them feels like an assault on your car’s tires and alignment.
“But, Courtney, how are bad roads and spaced-out areas a problem based in racial and/or economic discrimination?”
Thanks for asking.
Well, to put it simply, it’s because the raggedy roads and spaced-out areas mostly affect poor and Black people.
It’s no secret that the worst roads and the most spread-out areas of the city are in predominantly Black neighborhoods.
Places like Bartlett and Germantown, which are famously white, are more likely to have smooth roads and closer stores and such.
Meanwhile, driving down certain parts of Elvis Presley feel like you’re jumping on a pogo stick.
And the further into the hood you get, the less likely you are to see groupings of stores, restaurants etc.
It’s mostly empty buildings.
It’s a fact that is so widely accepted that even city officials make jokes about it (and they really have no business joking about that, but that’s another post for another day).
Even more obviously, having spaced-out, sprawling areas sucks for people who can’t afford to waste gas money. Or to buy a car, for that matter. And public transit in Memphis has always left a lot to be desired.
Besides, who is going to try to catch the MATA just to catch a Charmander? The sprawling nature of Memphis is a feature that effectively excludes poor people from playing the game.
2. All the poké stops are in the bourgeoisie parts of town.
Speaking of Bartlett and Germantown, you’re much more likely to find poké stops in those areas than you are in other (mostly Black) areas of town.
For example, today I went poké stop hunting because I’m on Level 6 and I ran out of poké balls (which made me panic more than I care to admit).
I live on Sycamore View, so Bartlett is down the street for me. And while I don’t excitedly drive down Bartlett Road often (because Bartlett police are no joke), I got pretty excited when I saw there was seven poké stops in a two-mile radius.
But my excitement died away when I thought about my experience playing the game this weekend and how different it was.
This weekend, I spent most of my time on Mill Branch Road, which is in Whitehaven.
And for those who don’t live in Memphis, Whitehaven is a misnomer; it is not a haven for white folks, but rather a predominantly Black and poor area of Memphis.
Anyway, when I tried to play the game in Whitehaven this weekend, I was annoyed by the fact that there was nary a poké stop around. Not one.
But Bartlett has seven in a two-mile radius? *side-eyes*
“Okay, but that’s probably just a coincidence, Courtney. You’re probably just reading too much into that.”
Maybe. But it’s hard not to read into things when there’s an established pattern of leaving poor Black people out of the fun and giving all the goods to the well-off, white areas.
3. All the Pokémon seem to be in bourgeoisie parts of town.
Besides there being no poké stops in the hood, there doesn’t seem to be many Pokémon in the hood, either.
I don’t know if this a quirk of the development or just my racial anxiety acting up, but I’ve found that I am much more likely to catch Pokémon in areas like the two I keep having to mention.
I find it odd that I can walk into a McDonald’s in Bartlett and have six Pokémon just show up, but that walking into several buildings and stores in Frayser turns up nothing.
This phenomenon could serve as an example of the racial and economic discrimination Pokémon Go plays into.
All these observations have been disconcerting to say the least.
But the major problem/racism-alarm-triggering-issue I’ve had while playing this game is one that others have previously pointed out.
4. I can’t play Pokémon Go without feeling like I’ll get stopped by a cop.
That may just be a personal problem, but the seemingly never-ending list of black people who were killed by police for doing mundane things make this seem like not a personal problem.
With me being Black and all that, I feel like I already have a “Hey, police officers, come stop me for almost absolutely no reason,” sign hanging on my back.
“Like I said, Courtney, you’re probably just reading too much into this.”
And like I said earlier, coincidences are hard to find in a society that values whiteness and wealth over blackness and not-wealth.
Even something as frivolous as Pokémon Go can reflect racism and other inequalities.
And, as someone who is keenly aware of this inequalities, it’s difficult for me to just let it all go and focus on getting a Pikachu (because I will get a Pikachu, damn it.)
Look, as much as I would like to frolic around and play Pokémon Go like everyone else seems to be able to, I can’t.
I guess I’ll either just have to deal with what I feel while playing or stop playing entirely.
And I’m too far along to stop playing entirely.
Besides, I still have to get my Pikachu.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.
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What Do You Think?
By Ashley Perry
In recent months The 1975 has released their first single, “Love Me”, off of their highly anticipated sophomore album- I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It.
With Bowie-esque melodies and cheeky lyrics, the British quartet is shaking up the music industry with a valiant effort to challenge contemporary pop music. The 1975’s new single is a self parodying ode to the narcissism of fame in today’s youth culture.
Matt Healy, the front man for The 1975, begins the music video by singing, “I’m just with my friends online” while he drinks a bottle of champagne donning electric blue eye shadow.
Healy states this lyric derives from our generation’s obsession with social media and the alternate reality it ensues. If that’s not shocking enough he does this while provocatively enticing card board cut outs of pop icons.
He goes on to sing, “You look famous, let’s be friends and portray we possess something important” revealing the rock star’s sarcastic views on entitlement as a celebrity.
This poses the idea that artist and consumers alike falsely believe that celebrities possess qualities and thoughts that make them elite compared to the general population.
The in your face lyrics conclude with, “We’ve just come to represent a decline in the standards of what we accept!”
This is a direct questioning of the current principles of the music industry as we know it.
Healy believes that pop music has become a brand and not about expressing genuine emotion through talent. He has articulated his want for the youth to be more critical about what they consume and what inspires them.
The band hopes to start a conversation what as a society we have let the music industry become.
Before releasing their single, The 1975 made a bold power move by deleting all of their social media accounts leaving fans and critics perplexed on the state of the band.
24 hours later, they reemerged with a new aesthetic, giving music lovers the opportunity to decide if pop artist can survive without a social media presence.
So what does witty one liners background with 80’s synth pop and social media blackouts mean for the The 1975’s music career? As listeners we’ll have to stay tuned but we’ll always be in awe of the band’s blatant disregard to music industry norms.
Cover Photo Credit: The 1975/ FacebookPost Views: 1,063
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