Richard Sudan

The bizarre case of the alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Whitmer demands answers from the FBI

We’ve been warned for decades about the growing threat of white nationalism in the United States. Back in 2020, FBI director Christopher Wray acknowledged that white supremacy is the fastest growing domestic terror threat in the country, accounting for the large proportion of the FBI’s resources. Wray eventually described the J6 insurrection last year, as an act of domestic terror.

This reality is often drowned out by an avalanche of falsehoods perpetuated by the media, especially conservative media. The greatest threat to US security is posed by the existential enemy from outside, we are told. Islamic extremists, or criminals making their way across the border, are the greatest obstacles for national security.

We are told that the radical woke left, as well as those pesky Black Lives Matter protesters armed with their anti-white critical race theory, pose a danger to cities across the country as well as the minds of innocent white school children.

These fallacies have taken root, even in the minds of what many would describe as respectable Middle Americans.

READ: Dan Crenshaw lashes out and gets heckled when a girl asks about his Jesus comment: ‘Don’t question my faith’

All the above simply isn’t the case. It’s a smokescreen, distraction and reaction, to the very real danger that white supremacy, or the enemy within, poses to democracy. J6 revealed the menace that unchecked white supremacy presents when bolstered by brazen confidence.

The fanatics and cohorts who swarmed the US Capitol believed their divinely ordained moment had arrived. Many saw their defense of white supremacy as the fulfilment of an almost biblical prophecy, a duty, themselves modern-day crusaders in MAGA hats, defending all that is white and pristine.

They might attempt to shroud it in patriotism, but in actuality it’s the very opposite of anything virtuous. These people are dangerous. And not nearly enough is being done to stop them in their tracks.

We’ve seen the lacklustre sentences that many of the assailants have been given. We’ve seen, too, the reluctance of the media to even describe them as terrorists.

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What happens, though, when the very organizations supposedly tasked with tackling such threats have themselves become part of the mix, for all the wrong reasons?

Look no further than the curious case of Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor. In late 2020, the FBI announced it had “foiled” a plot to kidnap her. Those involved were part of the Wolverine Watchmen, a group that shares ties and ideologies with the Boogaloo movement, another violent far-right extremist group.

Since late 2020, we've learned a few things.

While the case against the assailants has been building, it came to light that one of those involved in the plot was an FBI informant. Not only that, but it has also since been claimed that the agent in question was actually aiding the terrorists.

READ: Former top FBI official: 'Concerning' Ginni Thomas signed letter saying Jan. 6 participants 'have done nothing wrong'

The FBI has ID’d Stephen Robeson as a “double agent,”’ presenting him as going against the orders of the FBI.

But now, in another dramatic twist in the plot, a lawyer for one of the defendants, Adam Fox, has slammed the prosecution, claiming that the FBI knew exactly what Robeson was up to. He actively helped advance the plan to kidnap Whitmer.

The claim is apparently backed up by a court filing and a 2020 audio recording supposedly heard by lead FBI agents. Another informant confirmed to Fox that Robeson was indeed offering to use charity funds to purchase weapons to carry out the attack on Whitmer.

Defense attorneys for the five facing charges want all charges dismissed, citing the numerous questions about the FBI's shady squad, including the involvement of yet another agent on the case. Richard Trask was accused of domestic violence and later fired by the Feds. Robeson, too, has a criminal rap sheet dating back to the 1980s.

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Assailants facing charges are due in court in March. But while we wait for the truth to prevail, and for the full extent of the FBI's involvement to come to light, many will be left pondering – did the FBI recruit questionable character out of simple incompetence? Or if the claim that the FBI knew exactly what was going on turns out to be true, who becomes accountable and what will be done about it?

Even if the FBI’s defense is true, and their dangerous recruits were down to shoddy decision-making, what if the plot to kidnap Whitmer had been a success?

The relationship between the FBI and many notable controversies over the years are well-known and have been well documented.

In 2022, the case of the plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer ultimately raises, once again, the age old uncomfortable question: Who investigates and polices the FBI?

The public deserves answers.

Homeland Security has devolved into a nearly rogue agency — accused of spying on journalists and activists

Freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to hold governments to account is regarded as a critical pillar of democracy. In the United States, it’s supposed to be safeguarded by the First Amendment.

However, especially in recent years, the US government stands accused, maybe more than ever, of allowing increasing attacks on press freedom and the abuse of state power to trample on any notion of journalists being truly able to do their job if they wish to hold the powerful to account – and go against the government line.

There are many examples to choose from, which ought to elicit concern, while the problem also clearly transcends party politics – and, by no means, is the problem new. The starkest examples might be US treatment of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden.

But ever since its inception following 9/11, the US Department for Homeland Security has descended into little more than a rogue agency that stands accused of spying not just on journalists but also activists and minority communities, too, leading many to demand that Congress make some kind of meaningful reform happen.

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These concerns have been thrust into the spotlight amid revelations that a customs border protection unit, known as the Counter Division Network, part of Homeland Security, accessed government data created to track terrorists to essentially spy on dozens of journalists on US soil, including a Pulitzer prize-winning AP journalist.

If such transgressions of press freedom were occurring outside of the US, they might garner far greater nationwide media coverage.

In July, Attorney General Merrick Garland forbade prosecutors from obtaining the personal records of journalists following outcry from the news that Trump’s Justice Department had controversially seized records of members of Congress, their aides and journalists.

But now, alarmingly, Jeffrey Rambo, one of the federal agents said to have been conducting investigations and gathering information on journalists, has suggested to investigators that such practices were the norm, rather than any exception to the rule stating, “When a name comes across your desk you run it through every system you have access to,” he said. “That’s just status quo. That’s what everyone does.”

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This is a far cry from government powers being used to protect the borders. More apparent, though, is that government powers created under the pretext of national security might have been exploited and remain exploited for politically expedient and nefarious purposes.

Similar transgressions are also believed to have taken place during Obama’s presidency. So the picture being painted suggests press freedom is not under attack from occasional abuses of federal power, but is actually under threat from endemic institutional corruption.

For many observers, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has offered little in the way of any real sufficient explanation following demands for full transparency and accountability from the media.

Despite possible criminal charges for Rambo and other agents accused of abusing sensitive government databases to access the private information and contact lists of journalists, the DOJ stopped short of pursuing prosecution against any of those allegedly involved.

READ: Report reveals new details about Liz Cheney's attempt to hold Trump accountable for Jan. 6

During the Trump era, verbal attacks by the former president on journalists became the norm, and a source of national embarrassment. Some have even said Trump’s violent rhetoric aimed at journalists may have presented a green-light for some to physically attack reporters. Indeed, physical attacks on reporters magnified during the Trump era.

But, surely, increasing evidence of the apparatus of the state being levied against journalists should lead to outcry from sensible people, irrespective of political affiliations. As the saying goes, “then they came for the journalists .. and we don’t know what happened after that.”

For a president like Joe Biden, who campaigned by offering a radical opposite to Trump, and a fresh brand of statesmanship, he now resembles more of a lame political duck, the only difference being that the Democrats still actually have a lot of power in Congress.

Decisive action on the issue of press freedom, and a serious push to transform and reform the operations of the Department for Homeland Security is not out of reach. But again, such a move requires political determination, and the current status quo suggests that such a miracle can only happen, if ordinary decent Americans demand more from their president. There surely must exist the capacity and appetite for that – somewhere. After all, press freedom is not a left, right, blue or red issue. It’s simply about freedom, and arguably one of the most important freedoms of all. It surely must be protected at all costs.

READ: 'A dangerous fascist': Critics blast Josh Hawley on the anniversary of his Fox News insurrection threat

Biden is not bringing the change he promised on immigration

Fifty-five human beings were crushed to death in the confines of a truck estimated to be carrying around two hundred souls. Of those two hundred human beings were almost certainly the ones who perished first, as the truck carrying them, likely speeding, crashed into the steel base of a pedestrian bridge. Survivors have spoken of their ordeal – as best as they can articulate such a horror scene.

Bodybags and white sheets were said to have littered the side of the road while survivors were said to have visible bones broken along with other injuries. It sounds like the set of a horror movie. Witnesses who saw the aftermath recounted how survivors hobbled away into the nearby surrounding streets, still bloodied and injured.

The 55 people who died, which happened in Chiapas Mexico, were migrants trying desperately to enter the United States. Most of them undocumented, they were likely from Guatemala. They were crammed into the truck, because, despite having the right to claim asylum at the US border, they knew the letter of the law does not apply equally.

Packing yourself into a truck container, maybe with your children, presents obvious dangers. For many migrants, though, it’s the better option. Democracies like the United States are failing the world’s most vulnerable people. It’s not right. It’s a downright disgrace.

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In recent months, we saw images of the many thousands of desperate Haitian migrants, dealing with a similar plight, amassing in Del Rio with the hope of having their cases heard. For the majority of them, which was thousands, it was not to be the case. They found themselves swiftly deported to Haiti, some of them facing imminent danger from the moment they disembarked the aircraft.

For the 55 migrants who died in Mexico, they paid a price they knew they might pay, but they were willing to take their chances. That’s how bad the situation is in the homeland they left behind. We know, too, that the US often plays a pivotal role in creating the very conditions that cause people to leave their homelands in the first place.

Despite these sad realities, myths and lies about immigration persist. Presidents, from Kennedy to Obama, might well speak of the central role that migration plays in shaping American democracy. But American history also reflects the fact that so many, despite the evidence, do not believe immigration to be a good thing.

Laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Immigration Act of 1917, plus the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 reflect a desire to limit immigration (especially from those Black and brown countries outside Europe). Similarly, Donald Trump did not become president in spite of his lies about Mexicans and Muslims, but because of them.

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This is a backward state of affairs for a country in which Lady Liberty exclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

But why let the facts get in the way of appeasing “respectable white people,” to use John Stoehr’s nomenclature, and their fear about immigration? What are the facts? Well, it’s no secret that modern American society would simply not function without immigration. Services would collapse in a day and the same can be said of the United Kingdom. Every honest economist will tell you how immigrants boost the economy as well as innovation. Migration also has a direct positive knock-on effect regarding the democratic process.

Studies have shown, as was the case with researchers at the University of Texas, which looked at a survey of more than 600 Mexican respondents, that having family and friends who have moved abroad makes individuals twice as likely to engage in politics and more likely to become involved in organized protests. It also encourages democratization back home (for all its pros and cons.) The United Nations too, suggests migration contributes to economic development and growth when supported by appropriate policies,

That’s a far cry from the likes of Tucker Carlson.

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I doubt many expected Joe Biden’s presidency to immediately make things better for migrants but at the very least there might have been the expectation that he’d try to roll back Trump’s policies as promised, not double down on them. Nothing will deter migrants from leaving in search of safety and better opportunities, not Title 42, nor the words of Kamala Harris telling would-be migrants not to come.

While this remains the case, the US therefore has an obligation to make routes safer and to prevent those who are going to make the often deadly journey from falling into the hands of human traffickers that create the tragic scenes like the one in Chiapas.

This responsibility doesn’t just rest on the shoulders of the government. Americans need to demand it! Part of that starts with recognizing the basic humanity of migrants, rather than viewing them as threats when in actual fact they are the very backbone of society.

The truth about the world the Ghislaine Maxwell trial has revealed

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell is underway. She’s accused of taking part in the most serious crimes with Jeffrey Epstein. Given the wide-ranging implications of all of those potentially embroiled, the supremely powerful and wealthy, you'd think the episode might be generating more headlines. At the moment, though, it’s not.

And the fact that it's being treated almost like any other news story is a poignant reminder that there is one rule for the most influential and another rule for everyone else. The way in which the entire scandal has so far played out clearly reflects how the dynamics of privilege, power and race operate in today's society.

The lack of coverage proportionate to the reality and gravitas of the story is one thing. And who knows, perhaps that might change.

But the entire reason Epstein and Maxwell were able to carry out their crimes for so long, plain and simple, is because Epstein was an incredibly powerful wealthy white man, who moved in similar circles, while being protected by those who looked like him. And, of course, no one doubts that Epstein likely had dirt on many of them, too.

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Had Epstein been Black or Muslim or both, committing a fraction of the crimes with a fraction of Epstein's bank balance, the scope and nature of the coverage would be very different indeed.

There’d probably be sweeping generalizations made by the press and pundit corps about Epstein's race, religion and so on. People would be asking if there were anything endemic culturally within the white community that contributed to his crimes and questioning whether the white community as a whole is doing enough to weed out other Epsteins that it might harbor. There would be demands by some that white men everywhere issue an apology on behalf of Epstein.

This hasn't happened, as well it shouldn't, because people don't commit crimes because of skin color. Only stupid people think that.

Epstein's skin and wealth meant he received a relative pass by the justice system and to a large extent the media, up until his death. Until that point, so many of the stories about Epstein referred to his rape of children and minors as “sex crimes” or “sex with underage girls,” etc.

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And let’s not forget, when Epstein did eventually face a couple of charges in 2008 related to procuring a minor for prostitution, he only served 13 months behind bars, in a private section of prison while allowed to leave jail often, under an extensive work release program.

Bear in mind that in America, thousands of Black and brown people languish in jail often for decades for very minor crimes. Sometimes we later learn that they are innocent altogether. Epstein was free to continue ruining lives after a year. Talk about a mockery of justice.

At this point, some will claim that Epstein's ability to carry out his crimes over many years, while evading justice, is more about wealth and powerful connections than his white skin. They might even claim that the reason Epstein was untouchable was because, as has been claimed by some, that he was “intelligence.” But it's not the case.

Take a look for example, at the relative slap on the wrist that the January 6 insurgents have so far received in what the FBI described as an act of domestic terror. Those people were not billionaires, nor did they maintain connections to the highest echelons of power. What they were armed with was their white skin and all of the privilege it entails. And there are many other examples. We all know it.

READ: Tucker Carlson’s ‘baseless conspiracy theory’ about the Jan. 6 rioters has been forcefully debunked

Epstein had the armory of wealth, class and whiteness. The system is almost tailor-made for the likes of him. And to put it bluntly, the system never held Epstein to account fully in his lifetime, because for all intents and purposes, Epstein and Maxwell were that system.

As if this point had not been illustrated enough, the last few days produced a spectacular development in Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial. A photo was shown in court that seemed to depict Maxwell and Epstein relaxing at Balmoral, the British Queen’s private Scotland residence.

Which reminds me, if you need another similar example of how the system favors men like Epstein, look no further than Prince Andrew. It’s not just that he’s a royal, which is the reason he has thus far evaded accountability. After all, Meghan Markle is a royal, too, and has all but been hounded by the Anglo-American press over the last few years because she’s a Black woman – to the point she’s thought of suicide.

Prince Andrew is from the same privileged bubble as Epstein. That’s why they were buddies. So, as Maxwell’s trial continues, remember it’s impossible to remove the politics of race and class from the equation.

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Many people doubt Epstein took his own life in 2019 before he faced trial. But even if you assume the official narrative is true, the system, which should have been watching him 24-7, afforded him the ultimate privilege of choosing to leave this world without ever facing real justice while denying his victims with some measure of closure.

The signs that Kyle Rittenhouse's whiteness is working hard to vindicate him at his trial

Suspected white supremacist Kyle Rittenhouse is on trial, facing two counts of homicide and one count of attempted homicide.

While the fate of Rittenhouse is yet to be determined, his trial, much like the trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery, is about much more than one individual. About more than Kyle Rittenhouse.

America is on trial, under the spotlight since 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, on the cusp of a seminal moment, with potential for change, yet still careening on the shaky path of injustice.

Whatever the outcome, such trials will be looked back on as a turning point in years ahead, for better or worse. Either justice will be done or injustice will. And judging by events, things could go either way.

For a start, the very fact that there were so many doubts as to whether or not Rittenhouse would even face accountability reminds us of where we are — and the true state of play. It was the same with Derek Chauvin and is the case with Ahmaud Arbery's killers. There's an acute cynicism and lack of faith in the system to deliver racial justice.

Because, while justice is a reality for some, it's evasive for others. America is the land in which George Zimmerman walked free after stalking and killing a Black child. It is the land in which Breonna Taylor was shot dead in her own bed by police, sleeping while Black. And so, while the public and the world are watching the Rittenhouse trial, they are aware of America's internal battle with white supremacy.

So far, the signs in the trial of Rittenhouse are alarming. First came the rather unprecedented decision from the judge that lawyers for Rittenhouse can refer to the men he shot as "looters" and "rioters." The prosecutors, the judge decided, must not refer to them as "victims."

The obvious fallacy of this doesn't need unpacking. But given this is the demand of the judge in a highly significant trial, the language used to frame the discourse will play a major role. Alarm bells should therefore be ringing. Whatever the judge's reasoning is behind the decision about language used in the trial, it'll be and has been applauded by racists.

The majority of those protesting in Kenosha were protesting anti-Black police brutality. Previously, unarmed Black man Jacob Blake had been shot several times by police causing paralysis, leading to protests.

Describing those crowds as rioters and looters is something that Donald Trump and the right-wing media have reveled in. The same playbook pathologizes young Black men as "thugs," Mexicans as "rapists," Muslims as "terrorists." It paints a false equivalence between fascists and anti-fascists. It's a dishonest and dangerous game.

If we surmised how the Rittenhouse trial might play out based on the chronology of events leading up to it, there is further cause for alarm.

Video footage seems to suggest that the police actively welcomed vigilantes like Rittenhouse into the city, offering them bottles of water, aware they were armed, and also that such individuals were answering the call from white supremacists to come and "defend" Kenosha.

Further video hints that police, aware that Rittenhouse had shot three people, allowed him to cross a police line and head home. He was arrested the following day, having voluntarily presented himself to the police. And a further clip reveals Rittenhouse fantasizing about shooting shoplifters just 15 days before it all went down in Kenosha.

And then of course, there is the flooding of support Rittenhouse received from those hailing him as a white supremacist hero. Conservatives, police, serving and former military members, and of course the Proud Boys, and many other sympathizers, were all said to have been among those who dug deep into their pockets to cough up the money to pay the $2 million bail bond for Rittenhouse.

Rittenhouse's bond conditions initially placed no restrictions on him meeting with white supremacist groups. There was, apparently, no evidence linking Rittenhouse to any white supremacist militia group.

And yet, following the release of Rittenhouse on bond, he was pictured in a bar posing with Proud Boys while flashing the notorious white supremacist "OK" power sign — while also donning a T-shirt that read "Free as Fuck." You can't make this stuff up.

Regardless of the history in the lead-up to the trial, lawyers for Rittenhouse will do everything they can to paint and humanize him as a teen who was simply defending himself.

But the reality here is Rittenhouse is a product of a much wider culture and system that cultivated and produced him. That same system will now punish him or vindicate him while every detail about events in Kenosha is forensically picked apart by Rittenhouse's lawyers and the prosecutors. And of course the evidence should be looked at, because everyone deserves a fair trial, right?

Had Rittenhouse been Black and armed in Kenosha, having shot three people, killing two of them, we all know his trial would have taken place right there, in the streets. The police would have shot him dead.

Rittenhouse may well yet receive the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. He could still walk.

Really, it's America that's on trial.

The reality of Ahmaud Arbery's killing is part of a long history of lynchings in Georgia

The killing of a 25-year-old, whose only crime was jogging while Black on the "wrong side" of town on the outskirts of Brunswick, Georgia, has been described as a lynching. That's not for dramatic effect.

Ahmaud Arbery's broad daylight killing was akin to a public execution committed by three white men who were clearly supremely confident of being afforded every protection by Georgia's legal apparatus.

Indeed, we now know Gregory McMichael, one of the accused, is thought to have left a voicemail to former colleague and then-District Attorney Jackie Johnson, on the day Ahmaud died requesting he call her. Johnson never returned the call, but presumably McMichael had contacted Johnson for assurances that he'd have Johnson's support.

No surprises then, months later, Johnson was arrested for misconduct in connection to Arbery's killing, accused of preventing police from initially arresting the shooter, Travis McMichael, son of Gregory.

In fact, it took months for the arrests of the McMichaels and their accomplice William "Roddy" Bryan to eventually be made, and arguably, had the video of Ahmaud's murder not gone public and viral, Ahmaud's killers may well have evaded accountability entirely.

As it stands, and as jury selection continues ahead of the trial, the realities of Ahmaud Arbery's lynching are part of a pattern of a long history of lynchings in Georgia, and of the thousands that have taken place across the country over the years. Ahmaud, unarmed, was chased and hunted by three armed men who had one goal.

The pickup truck driven by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael is said to have sported a Confederate themed flag — something the defense will fight to keep from the court during the trial.

Ahmaud, who ran for his life until he could run no more, was eventually trapped by both McMichaels and accomplice Roddy Bryan. Faced with a life or death, Ahmaud bravely chose to defend himself and was killed by two shotgun blasts to his chest, the second at point blank. Immediately after, Gregory McMichael, according to Bryan, stood over Ahmaud and called him the N-word as he lay dying.

Police arriving at the scene did not immediately attend to the dying Ahmaud. One officer can be heard, however, consoling Travis McMichael, saying "If you need to move around, do what you need to do man, I can only imagine." Also heard in bodycam footage is an officer saying to another officer, "Did he shoot him? A self-defense thing?" which was met with a reply of "That's what it looks like."

As was the case throughout the slavery and Jim Crow eras, innocence was immediately presumed on the part of Arbery's white killers, casting Ahmaud, the unarmed Black victim, as the wrongdoer.

What's also interesting in the run up to the trial, is that potential jurors were reported to have "accidentally" been given easy access to Ahmaud's mental health and criminal history. The judge has since ruled that neither Arbery's medical records, nor dealings with police can be used as evidence in court. But it's telling that defense attorneys for the McMichael's wanted to use the mental health records.

It's an age-old tactic by white supremacist to blame the victim. The McMichaels defense wants to paint Arbery as an aggressive young Black man, despite Judge Timothy Walmsley stating that, "There is no evidence that the victim was suffering from any mental health issue" at the time he was killed. Those defense attorneys will fight tooth and nail, though, to have Arbery's private medical history and other personal records heard in court and splashed across the media.

Let's assume justice is done in this case, and Arbery's killers spend the rest of their lives behind bars? What next for the country? There's no serious federal push to root out structural racism within police forces or the ability of card-carrying white supremacists to remain in their ranks. In fact, police have been given more funding. Putting racist killers on trial, even if justice is regularly done, which it is not, is not enough. It doesn't stop the killings and murders in the first place.

De-incentivising terrorism remands more than jail time. Plenty of people now believe that a specific federal anti-lynching bill needs to become law (as has been unsuccessfully tabled before) in order to add another layer of protection under law for Black people. Please remember, too, there were plenty of cases of Black men last year and in recent years being found dead literally hanging from ropes.

They were ruled suicides, but there's reason to cast doubt.

As the McMichaels and Roddy Bryan face federal hate-crime charges, America is reminded that there needs to be an anti-Black hate crime law set in place too. Asian-American's rightly had this law quickly passed to protect their communities. Do it for Black Americans, too.

Biden is fueling the flames of paranoia about immigrants that Trump stoked before him

The news that Biden's administration is to provide legal support for unaccompanied migrant children in several American cities will doubtless be welcomed. The federal initiative is said to provide attorneys to represent children facing deportation proceedings after having entered the country on their own at the southern border.

But when examining United States border policy holistically, the move doesn't go nearly far enough. It's a drop in the ocean when considering the escalating humanitarian crisis — and it is a crisis — that exists as a result of US border policies, foreign policy and influence.

First, the way to deal with a surge in unaccompanied minors is not to buttress legal provisions. The sensible and humane thing would be to allow passage for their parents and guardians to safely enter the country in order to have their asylum claims processed together as families. The sanctity of families should be protected at all costs.

While many Democrats might choose to blame the migration crisis on the Trump era, that's too easy. Biden's administration has the power to rescind Title 42 whenever it wishes. Yet Title 42 remains in place despite Biden promising to break from such policies, and in the face of demands from the UN and countless other humanitarian groups demanding its removal. Furthermore, with the availability of vaccines, covid is no longer an excuse to maintain racist border policies.

In recent days, four United Nations agencies have warned against the dangers of deporting Haitians arriving at the border back to Haiti. Instability in the island nation is serious. Experts highlight food shortages, gang violence and political turmoil in the wake of the assassination of a former president. Haiti still suffers from the after-effects of its most recent earthquake. The US special envoy there resigned, citing the treatment of Haitians at the southern border.

The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy.

If the conditions outlined by Daniel Foote and UN agencies don't justify the chance to safely claim asylum, then what does?

There's a reason, too, why many are characterizing the treatment of Haitian migrants as anti-Black. From Afghans to Canadian border crossers, other migrants are treated better. The Biden administration's border policies break the president's campaign promises. They arguably also break domestic and international law. They are self-evidently morally repugnant, enforced with barbarity. The real reason that such policies exist is, of course, to satisfy America's insatiable unwarranted paranoia over so-called border security.

The flames of that paranoia were stoked for sure by the former president. But rather than extinguish those flames, Biden's administration is doing the equivalent of throwing chip fat into the fire. While politicians repeat endless talking points about enforcing law and safety regarding the border, the reality is that America's border policies, like the UK, ought to represent a source of national shame. But they don't. They've become mainstream political currency.

By supporting such policies, flag wavers and so-called respectable people are consigning vulnerable people to a death sentence. Deporting people back to places like Haiti could mean exactly that. Such privilege and racism are the opposite of democracy.

What certainly is a cornerstone of democracy, however, is protest.

And that's what demonstrators did recently, outside the home of Alejandro Mayorkas, demanding Biden's administration make good on promises to undo damage already done. They want an end to Title 42, the rule allowing the deportation of people suspected of having covid.

It's clear by now that relentless pressure must be applied to force the right thing. As it stands, human rights and human dignity remain buzzwords repeated by President Biden and his predecessors. Decent democrats and Democrats need to rally and demand that Biden's administration reverse the inhumane border policies.

It's tiring having to constantly argue that Black people are humans deserving of fair treatment under the law. One day, Haitian kids will grow up, becoming our future. What do we tell them to explain their treatment and that of their parents? That it was the law, a government policy? That democracy was a nice idea, applicable to some?

The government's disturbing treatment of the Proud Boys is a clear and present danger

Far-right extremism, or white supremacy, is the fastest growing ideology in the United States. The impact of white supremacists terrorizing Black communities has led to calls for serious action, even an anti-lynching bill. This alone reflects how dangerous they are.

Add to that the January 6 insurrection and the evidenced involvement of the Proud Boys, and other groups, leading to the FBI describing the attack on the United States Capitol as an act of domestic terror.

A mountain of evidence suggests that, just as Canada did (and as I've written previously for the Editorial Board), the United States should follow suit and list the Proud Boys (and others) as domestic terror groups, as part of its initiative to tackle white supremacy.

But that hasn't happened. Failure means the problem persists with the potential to worsen. The safety of Black people and people of color, and the internal security of the United States, depends on such a bold move happening. The failure to treat the Proud Boys as they should be by the federal authorities is continuing to have consequences.

Indeed, a couple of things have taken place recently that have once again brought this worrying reality into sharp focus. First, the clashes several weeks back between the Proud Boys and anti-fascists.

The scenes in Portland, Oregon, turned ugly, but thankfully nobody was killed. Here's the thing that's alarming. Prior to the Proud Boy protest and the counter demonstration, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell publicly announced that officers would not intervene. The Proud Boys are a threat, but here they were treated with kid gloves.

The lack of policing means that an approach of doubling down will be needed the next time the Proud Boys appear. Because the calculated failure to leave them to their own devices in the streets is akin to Trump's message. It's extremely dangerous, and dare I suggest, not how millions of Americans want their tax dollars spent with policing. Surely, those Proud Boys who watched events unfold in Portland at home on the TV will be salivating at the prospect of the next protest.

The plot thickens even further.

Just days ago, a judge ruled that prosecutors in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha shooter who shot three people at a protest against police brutality in 2020, will not be able to play for jurors a video of Rittenhouse allegedly stating his desire to shoot people — while agreeing with the Proud Boys' tactics. The news is another example of how dangerous the Proud Boys and their ilk have become.

They can terrorize the Capitol, greenlighted by the former president, and, others would argue, in the streets, allowed to do so by a police chief in Portland. Apparently the Proud Boys were allowed to post banners around the city before the violence took place.

Their white supremacist ideology is something the likes of Kyle Rittenhouse was sympathetic to. How many more like Rittenhouse are on the sideline, "standing by" for their chance, brainwashed by the nonsense of the Proud Boys? It doesn't bear thinking about.

In recent day, the Times reported that a member of the Proud Boys who was present and took part in the insurrection was also an FBI informant and was texting his contact throughout the day.

That the FBI remained in contact suggests that law enforcement were more informed about imminent violence than previously suggested. One thing is clear by now. Law enforcement have more than enough evidence and knowledge, and means, as do the FBI, to halt the Proud Boys in their tracks before they carry out further serious crimes.

Trump was a dream come true for the Proud Boys. God only knows what messaging he might have continued giving to white supremacist groups had he secured another term. Biden needs to now break up the dangerous groundwork that was laid for groups like them. And ordinary Americans need to push him. The safety of tax-paying Americans, and American democracy itself, is depending on it.

Biden is already breaking the pledge from his United Nations speech

President Joe Biden in his recent address at the United Nations announced that the United States will "lead" the world on "human dignity and human rights." If the scenes from the southern border are anything to go by, the reality as it stands is the polar opposite.

It's not just that America's racist past has yet to be accounted for. The past has a direct correlation to the present. In the same way that local police departments have roots in slave catching, in every aspect of state authority imaginable, racism festers. The United Nations recognizes this, and so do countless others around the world.

A true commitment to human rights would mean revolutionizing policy by rooting out systemic white supremacy, with checks and balances that ensure powerful institutions can never again become corrupted by such forces. But far from leaving the dark chapter of the Trump era in the past, a period in which America's longstanding racism was mainstreamed, parading belligerently in the highest corridors of power, the US seems barely able to turn a new page.

Thousands of Black migrants, having gone through a living hell to reach the US, are being met with the kind of inhumane barbarism that the US is quick to call out elsewhere in the world. The argument of the law being enforced is in itself highly questionable, as is the motive of using such an argument. But in any case, it doesn't mean a damn. The scenes at the border are just plain wrong, and it doesn't take a legal expert to know it. Anyone with two eyes, and a heart, can see it.

Black people born in the only nation to ever produce a successful slave revolt, being herded like cattle by white men on horses in the name of the law, is not an accident. It's a policy decision made somewhere along the line by powerful people sitting in offices with houses in suburbs, who would swear blind they believe in democracy.

But as the story of the Haitian migrants at the border continues, the narrative may yet worsen. Just yesterday, reports suggested that some of those Haitians detained at the southern border might be sent to a migrant "facility" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be "processed."

The United States Department of Homeland Security has since denied the claims, despite the Biden administration advertising a new contract to operate the migrant center at the US naval base there, with an emphasis on the need for Spanish and Haitian Creole speakers.

Taking the DHS at its word, likely means that other Haitian migrants who are captured at sea will be taken to Guantanamo, as has previously been the case, and not the ones we've seen on TV. In other words, the Haitians at Del Rio might be spared imprisonment at Guantanamo, a place accused of carrying out torture, but their very own family members might be sent there instead. So much better.

A healthy dose of skepticism, however, will cast doubt on DHS claims. The published update of the advertised contract is from just a few days ago. And while the migrant facility at Guantanamo is advertised as having the capacity for 120 people, the posting also states that, "the service provider shall be responsible to maintain on site the necessary equipment to erect temporary housing facilities for populations that exceed 120 and up to 400 migrants in a surge event."

A surge in Haitians is what we have seen at the southern border. It is what we will continue to see despite attempts from both governments to stem the flow of people. Could this be why the migrant facility at Gitmo needs managers capable of dealing with greater capacity?

In addition to this, there have been suggestions that of those already deported to Haiti, paperwork was forged with some being deported to Port-au-Prince despite not having left from there in the first place.

These suggestions, alongside the visible conduct of the border authorities both in the US and Mexico, do not inspire confidence that the Haitians at the border will not end up being sent to Guantanamo. And if the border authorities look like slave-catching vigilantes, what kind of individuals will be in charge of the operational custody of the migrants at Guantanamo? It doesn't bear thinking about.

The Biden administration can talk about law and order, and human rights, all it wants. The notion that Haitians can safely claim asylum, as repeated by Mayorkas, is obscene. The horrendous border policies are part and parcel of the hostile messaging by the administration, and deterrent, telling potential asylum seekers "do not come."

The timing of Joe Biden's UN remarks could not be worse. It's one thing to honestly outline a plan, as a new leader, acknowledging that the starting point to the finish line, with the goal of the US leading the world on human rights, might be a long road — to say the least.

But Biden's statement, made while his administration continues to implement and accelerate the very same policies that would make Donald Trump proud, with the evidence literally being televised around the world, is a dangerous form of denialism that's insulting to the victims of the racist border violence we have seen.

And it's getting worse for Biden.

In his bid to appease voters illogically clinging to unfounded lies about migrants and border fears, the border controversies have whipped up a political storm. A senior US diplomat and special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, has now stepped down having handed his resignation to Anthony Blinken, saying that he would "not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees" while slamming the border policies as "deeply flawed." His resignation letter also argued that Haiti as a "collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime."

Foote's honesty means he has no place in an administration that's digging in over its globally criticized border policies, and even fighting a federal court judgement ordering an end to families being deported and prevented from setting foot on US soil under Title 42.

Politically, there might be no easy options for the president. But the promises of his campaign, and the human rights and dignity he speaks of, are really universal values. His administration should have the guts to do the right thing, regardless of the political consequences.

Better to try and fail than to fail to try.

Haitian refugees are fleeing a crisis created in part by the US — and we owe them an enormous debt

President Joe Biden promised during his first joint address to the United States Congress earlier in the year to tackle systemic racism. America and the world was listening, including Haitians.

Some might have thought that beyond the need of the United States to eradicate the scourge of racism evident in many areas of society within its own borders, a radical plan might be implemented to tackle discrimination regarding the heavily criticized border policies.

But as is evidenced with the growing humanitarian crisis witnessed at the US/Mexico border, far from tackling systemic racism, critics say the government is continuing to perpetuate, and even exacerbate it.

Make no mistake: desperate people are capable of remarkable things. Some of those migrants, including the large number from Haiti, have traveled incredible distances, unimaginable for most of us, and have survived innumerable deadly situations, simply for the chance to live.

In recent days the number of migrants, mostly Haitian, amassing at the underpass in the small American town of Del Rio has grown, fast and to incredibly large numbers. By the time you read this, the numbers may match or surpass the size of the population of the town itself.

And despite charter planes already deporting hundreds at a time back to Haiti, despite others being removed, supposedly to be "processed" elsewhere in the US, or also deported, those numbers of Haitians crossing onto American soil are only going to increase.

Militarized border agents in Mexico rounding them up and beating them will not deter them. Border authorities in the US, and the threat of deportation, will not deter them. Nor will the sour words from American politicians prevent them from making the perilous journey from Haiti to the US in the hope of reaching relative safety.

Make no mistake: desperate people are capable of remarkable things. Some of those migrants, including the large number from Haiti, have travelled incredible distances, unimaginable for most of us, and have survived innumerable deadly situations, simply for the chance to live.

What's left behind means there is only one option for them and their families, and that's to keep moving forward. To move forward is to live, with the dream of thriving. To go back, or to put it bluntly, to be shackled, chained and forcibly taken back against their will to certain danger, means the strong possibility of death.

All of us would do the same. In fact, many of us privileged Westerners often conveniently forget that many of our ancestors, who came before us, did indeed embark on similar journeys to create a better life. And in fact, this story is the backstory for many Americans, whose forefathers and -mothers struggled to be identified as American, and whose progeny now want to slam the door shut on those fleeing perilous situations back home.

The fact that we are now seeing thousands of Haitians with Black skin being treated like dirt by the system is not a story that's separate from modern contemporary America. It's a direct by-product of it. Black people built America by the labor forcibly extracted from those of African descent, and Haiti and its wealth was both a prize fought over by various European colonies in the period of slavery and beyond while remaining an island exploited by the United States.

The United States owes a debt to Haiti and Haitians.

I'll get to Title 42 in a moment, but the relationship of the United States (and its allies and competitors) in the past with Haiti adds an extra dimension of immorality to the way in which Haitian migrants are currently being treated by immigration authorities.

To put it bluntly, Black lives do not seem to matter, and Black lives still seem to be expendable. As I've written about at the Editorial Board previously, were the thousands of migrants gathering at Del Rio and elsewhere of a different background from that which they belong, they would be treated differently. But as the saying goes, for the Haitians in particular, they lack the complexion for protection.

Cynics might call you names and decry anyone like me demanding a change in US border controls and policies as a race-baiting liberal snowflake. But the truth is, that this whole nightmare is born of a basic lack of humanity and decency, something that the US and UK love to talk about in grand terms, but which is seldom enacted by the politicians we elect and the demands we make of them.

But the question of the treatment of migrants, mostly Haitian at Del Rio and elsewhere along the border, is a legal one, as well as moral.

It's not just the UN which has raised concerns about the Biden administration continuing the use of the controversial Title 42. A federal judge ordered the administration to stop expelling families who cross the border from seeking refuge. The judge has given two weeks to enact it, but in the meantime the deportations continue and are said to be being ramped up. The administration is also appealing.

This administration has repeatedly suggested, in the face of strong criticism, that it is not refusing refuge and the right to apply for asylum for those that need it, insisting that those entering the US need to do it the right way and that measures taken are about the safety of migrants and enforcing perfectly legal border controls. Human rights and legal experts, though, cast doubt on the legality of the expulsions and have slammed them as a cynical exploitation of the law.

Quite apart from the obvious connotations of the imagery of Black people being rounded up by men on horseback, reported to be US border agents enforcing the law, there are many claims of the law being broken too — of authorities forging documentation to justify expulsions, including suggestions that some of those deported to Haiti were not even from Haiti.

The methods used by Mexican and US border authorities, for those concerned with human rights at least, resemble less civil servants carrying out the law and more heavy set men, mostly white or identifying as white, relishing in rounding up, beating and detaining vulnerable people using disproportionate force and violence.

It doesn't have to be this way, and other options are possible.

And the Democrats in the Congress certainly have the power to change or influence the tide, rather than capitulating to it.

All the evidence shows that migrants do not threaten countries like the US, but bolster its economy and cultural landscape, ultimately enriching it. Donald Trump's policies shouldn't be pandered to; they should be smashed and relegated to the dustbin of history, forever. Migrants aren't any more dangerous than Americans already in America, and they aren't going to steal your job or homes. They'll often create jobs and are the ones who might build your home, or design it.

But racism and bigotry, it seems, remain powerful.

There's a need, argument and necessity for the US to produce sensible and fair border policies giving everyone the right to be processed safely. The White House must drop the pretence of continuing Trump's Title 42 with the excuse of covid when Haitians camped in dangerous conditions present a potential health crisis in itself.

Federal law, countless legal experts, the United Nations and huge swathes of the international community make a compelling argument that must be heeded. Give the Haitians a chance to live their lives.

They are fleeing a crisis, in part created by the US. The US must now deal with that with a plan grounded in law, reason and basic simple humanity. It's not a question of means or resources. It's a matter of political will, and such political will needs to stem from the top.

The UN Human Rights Council calls on the US and its allies to stop 'the punishment of innocent civilians'

Following President Joe Biden's plan for the US military forces to withdraw from the 20-year war in Afghanistan, it's worth reminding ourselves that war and the devastating impacts of it are not only represented by boots on the ground and the presence of military.

Days before the exodus began, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a statement calling on nations to cease punitive sanctions on countries with a plea that "the punishment of innocent civilians must end." If there's one country this statement applies to more than any, it's the US. It's worth noting that new economic measures were imposed against Afghanistan almost immediately, adding to existing sanctions, following the US withdrawal.

Billions of dollars' worth of Afghan government reserves held in US bank accounts have been frozen, and will not be made available to the Taliban, in a move said to be backed by the White House.

In addition, Executive Order 13224 signed by former President George Bush after the September 11th attacks restricts any dealings with any organizations on the US list of designated terrorist organizations, including the Taliban. This means that in the midst of a grave humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, and in the midst of a refugee crisis, it will potentially be even more difficult for humanitarian aid to reach the country.

While such measures will ultimately put yet more pressure on ordinary Afghan people, they will also no doubt feed continuing anti-US sentiment. And, as is the case in Cuba and Venezuela and among other nations elsewhere, ultimately, US sanctions punishing ordinary Afghans will simply make a bad situation even more desperate.

According to John Sopko, Inspector General on Afghanistan Reconstruction, about 80 percent of the Afghan economy is funded by foreign donors, the largest of which is the United States. In addition to existing sanctions coupled with increasingly punitive measures against Afghanistan, the influence and control of the United States will remain strong. Perhaps stronger than ever. The military might be leaving (for now) but the presence of the US remains steadfast. In fact, billions of dollars have now been pledged over the next few years, apparently in the name of security, to bolster the police and Afghan military.

Also worth remembering at this point is that while Afghanistan remains economically at the mercy of the US, it's believed that during the 20-year failed war, billions of dollars pumped into the country, largely unmonitored, fell into the hands of corrupt officials and foreign contractors. This is not a past record that bodes well for the future. Nor does the fact that Afghanistan is said to be sitting on trillions of dollars' worth of untapped natural resources, like rare earth metals.

All of this paints a murky picture with regular Afghan people likely to feel the end result of sanctions and the inability of money to flow into the country where it is needed. The UK's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has suggested that Britain would not rule out imposing further sanctions against Afghanistan. Some sanctions, according to the UN, despite the debate around legality, are justified if targeting individuals.

But one thing the UN Human Rights Council is also clear on is that sanctions are unacceptable when they compromise human rights and development, which the recent report describes as "inalienable rights." And compromising human rights and the basic ability to survive is the overarching impact of the kind of sanctions imposed by the US.

The report highlights the impact of secondary sanctions, whereby individuals, organizations and third-party nationals are punished due to their alleged interaction with sanctioned governments or organizations. This affects humanitarian organizations and the intended beneficiaries of their aid. Of course, any aid organizations doing important work have no choice but to work and communicate with whichever government might happen to be in place at the time.

The report cited examples of sanctions imposed against Syria, Venezuela, Iran and Cuba, emphasizing how ordinary people have fallen into poverty due to the increasing inability to access housing, electricity, food, water and medicine, among other necessities.

While the UN uses carefully worded statements when discussing the impact of sanctions on ordinary people, critics argue that such consequences are by design and are not unexpected. The US and its allies have a long documented history of waging sanctions against other nations to push for regime-change or to exert influence.

But looking at a fairly recent example, a 2019 report suggested that since 2017 at least 40,000 Venezuelans have died as a result of US sanctions. The US might not have a military presence in Venezuela, but the sanctions imposed are cruelly creating innocent casualties of an economic war designed to force a change in government.

It's also believed that many Venezuelan cancer patients have been denied vital medical treatment due to being caught up in the excessively strict sanctions imposed by the US. This is exactly the kind of impact the UN is trying to draw attention to and hopes to end. The continued sanctions against Cuba, which each year the UN demands be lifted, continue to add to hardships faced by the Cuban people.

Talking about concerns for human rights in countries while imposing the very measures that impede human rights, human survival and development is not merely hypocritical. It's a callous form of cynical "soft warfare" and a tactic that doesn't get nearly as much attention and headlines as an all-out military invasion. Some describe sanctions as one of the more effective methods of modern day neo-colonialism.

And it's interesting that while the US government sees fit to punish certain governments on the basis of their human rights records, there are no similar sanctions placed elsewhere against other governments also allegedly guilty of human rights transgressions. Saudi Arabia, for example, has one of the worst human rights records in the entire world. Yet we're unlikely to witness the United States or the United Kingdom impose sanctions or financial restrictions on Riyadh. On the contrary, investment and hugely lucrative arms sales will continue, fuelling the war on Yemen, which itself constitutes one of the gravest human rights catastrophes and crises in the world at present.

Israel continually breaks international law, violates countless UN resolutions and disregards the human rights of the Palestinians on a daily basis. Will the government be sanctioned? Don't bet on it.

The US, too, is facing intense scrutiny by the UN, which is investigating human rights breaches of Black people in the country, dealing with longstanding structural racism. Based on the UN's conclusions, should the rest of the world sanction the US as a result?

In an increasingly changing global landscape, it's ever more obvious the US and its allies cannot wage war and pressure countries through cynical punitive economic measures. Not without continuing to seriously damage the very human rights they claim to revere.

Other economies and superpowers are emerging, competing and long gone are the days when the US can behave as the world's policeman, using the justification of democracy and concern for human rights without consequences while adding perhaps further irreparable damage to an already damaged international image.

Military occupations need to end, but so do economic sanctions that do nothing but immiserate the lives of ordinary people. The UN report on the very real impact on the daily lives of those already suffering hardships needs to be widely heard, but ultimately acted on. How many more reports and consultations must be written before the US government takes into account the extent to which its own policies impact the very human rights it claims to cherish and uphold?

On Cuba, Biden must keep his promise

Talk is cheap. For President Biden's words "The US stands firmly with the people of Cuba" to mean something, America must take a monumental step, and kick-start the process of lifting the embargo imposed on the Caribbean island nation once and for all. But, of course, given the fragile electoral coalition the president is holding together, and with the midterms just around the corner, he is unlikely to do so. Playing politics will take precedence over what is actually needed for the Cuban people.

The scenes over the last few weeks caught the world's attention, and Biden as leader of the so-called free world had little choice but to offer some sort of statement, which was never going to square with the decades' old stance the US has taken toward Cuba.

To be clear, there needs to be some nuance when examining the cause of the protests. Because the mass demonstrations that we have seen likely reflect a plethora of views with multiple origins, as is the case with many protests all over the world. And for sure, there are anti-government protesters. Others would have assembled, not necessarily with an agenda, but rather gathered en masse out of necessity in reaction to everyday hardships experienced in the form of food, medicine and water shortages. Anti-government middle-class white-collar workers were no doubt in the fray, too. And you can also be certain of the presence of counter-revolutionaries, no doubt backed by the US government, likely yielding a disproportionate measure of influence.

But regardless of the makeup of the protesters, including the staunchly anti-government ones, and even the reactionaries, by no stretch can we deduce that they represent the entirety of the 11 million population. Millions of Cubans, too, from all walks of life, are critical but also supportive of the government and the revolution.

This is not to say the Cuban leadership, like any government, is beyond reproach. But the Cuban people, much like the majority of people around the world, and certainly most member states of the United Nations, clearly see the elephant in the room, which cannot be avoided. The inhumane embargoes imposed by the US are a form of longstanding economic warfare. Without it, Cuba would look very different.

Whatever your analysis of the Cuban government, the United States maintains an economic heavyweight's choke-hold on the country that has been thoroughly exacerbated by covid, considering Cuba's heavy reliance on tourism. Cubans need dollars. But under Donald Trump's leadership, restrictions on financial institutions, including Western Union, and on the diaspora's ability to send money home, has had a devastating effect. Studies suggest that more than half of Cubans rely on money sent from abroad. That's a lot of families from across a broad church of society.

Trump's punitive measures and sanctions against Cuba resulted in the closure of more than 400 Western Union locations across the island, which for many was the sole means of receiving funds. Some might say that despite sanctions, Barack Obama at least gestured toward the potential for a different tone toward Cuba when he became the first president in 88 years to visit. He didn't get Guantanamo closed. But the symbolism of him setting foot on Cuban soil was not lost on the global stage.

But here's the thing. At the time of this writing, the Democratic House leadership has just stifled an amendment designed to reverse the previous administration's restriction on the amount of money Cuban émigrés in the United States can send back to Cuba.

So let's be clear. The president has the opportunity and even the responsibility to use his bully pulpit to press for changes that would ease the suffering of the Cuban people. Biden promised to reverse Trump's measures of which he himself was critical. But in much the same way as he is in many ways echoing Trump's archaic policies on immigration, the president is pretty well continuing Trump's restrictions on Cuba.

He doesn't want to poke the hornet's nest in Congress by softening the tone toward Cuba, but he does have the power to do it. And he might well be mindful of bygone fears—that the perception of a better stance on Cuba will reignite old fantasies about pandering to the imagined threat of Communism, the red dog in the backyard.

But Biden cannot claim he stands with the people of Cuba while continuing to back sanctions and measures inflicting misery on them. And the entire world is acutely aware of this paradox. Whatever problems Cuba might be dealing with, the Cuban government puts the United States to shame with free health care and education, and higher rates of literacy and life expectancy than many American citizens possess.

Cuban doctors around the world alleviating suffering among those living in some of the worst conditions imaginable command global respect. One can only wonder what else Cuba might have achieved, without the constant hostility from the US, both overt and covert. Millions worldwide demand sanctions against Cuba be lifted and Trump-era measures reversed. Most member states of the United Nations demand it, too.

At a time when the United States is under the spotlight for human rights abuses against Black people within its own borders, it is simply not enough for Biden's government to express concern for the human rights of Cubans while doubling down on the very policies that deny them a means of survival. Far from offering a break from the Trump era, Biden is in danger of becoming a legacy of it. Lifting the sanction against Cuba is the only way the US can support freedom for the Cuban people. And the US government certainly cannot talk about human rights and solidarity while Guantanamo Bay remains open. If the paradox is clear, the hypocrisy is laid bare, too.

As of late July, Cuba reportedly has more than 300,000 Covid-19 cases. It has received humanitarian aid from Nicaragua and Bolivia, among others. Now is not the time to play politics. Now is the time to save lives. History will record this moment. Biden has to decide if he wants to be remembered as the president who took steps to reverse damage done under previous administrations or as a weak president who broke his promise on Cuba and maintained the status quo for the sake of his own skin.

Journalist Richard Sudan is based in London. His reporting and writing have appeared in The Guardian, Independent and others. His reporting has taken him across Europe and to Palestine. He focuses on racism, police brutality and human rights. Find him @richardsudan.

There's little difference between Biden and Trump from the view of Haitian migrants

At least two US citizens as well as mercenaries said to be trained by the US are among those allegedly involved in Haitian President Jovenel Moise's assassination. Also in the mix is the suggestion the FBI knew.

Notwithstanding the other ways in which the US has influenced instability in Haiti, if these claims are true, at best the US security apparatus, the world's most sophisticated, has failed abysmally.

The official investigation is of course ongoing. But the worst-case scenario implicates the US in a far more sinister picture raising serious questions that may yet prove to elicit incredibly damning conclusions.

While Moise is dead, the chaos and desperation that preceded his murder has worsened. As the official investigation continues, many are pointing the finger at the US. The waters remain murky and uncertain.

But whatever questions are raised about the role of the security services, or as some argue, the complicity of US citizens in the murder of the Haitian president, this chapter of Haitian history has occurred under Joe Biden's administration. There's no getting away from that.

Therefore, some might think, Biden, who is widely hailed as offering the opposite of Trump, might seize the moment and offer a different approach to Haiti and to the plight of Haitian refugees now seeking to reach the sanctity of the US as a direct result of the turmoil.

Sadly, the opposite is true. Not only is the opposite true, but research indicates that Haitian refugees who are seeking asylum in the US as it stands, arguably have it worse under Joe Biden than Donald Trump.

According to a report by the think tank Invisible Wall, a dangerous trend has been established. In the first few weeks of 2021, the administration has deported more Haitians than the previous administration managed for all of 2020. Yes, you read that correctly.

Under Trump, Title 42 within the Public Health Service Act was implemented as a justification to increase the removal of Haitian migrants already in the US, suggesting they posed a public health risk due to the pandemic. But experts have argued, what's being done under the law in the name of public health is little more than a ruse to ramp up deportations of Haitians. It's also believed that such moves trample on the legal rights of those seeking potential asylum.

Ironically, the hike in expulsion of Haitians runs in tandem with increased arrivals, particularly via the Mexican border, fuelled by the false perception that Biden's presidency would mean more relaxed border controls. If Biden is attempting to counter such a notion for political expediency, US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkasis is the latest government official to quite brutally hammer home the messaging. Bear in mind Mayorkas himself was born of parents who once fled Cuba for the safety of the US.

But echoing Vice President Kamala Harris' recent words in Guatemala, Mayorkas, addressing Haitians (and Cubans), stated: "Allow me to be clear, if you take to the sea you will not come to the US."

These chilling words are compounded by the fact that the US Coast Guard is patrolling US waters and US territories to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from reaching US soil. They are policing the borders at sea. They turn boats around, while sending other migrants to third countries, and some to immigration detention centers.

While the Mexican border is a favored route, Miami remains an option as does Pueto Rico, or even passage via other Caribbean islands. These routes are taken because once you've set foot on US soil, asylum can be claimed regardless of the method used to get there. This right, like the universal freedom of movement, is enshrined in international and domestic law. And that's exactly how it should be in an ideal world.

Any idealism and pretty rhetoric espoused by the current administration regarding human rights and national security is apparently eclipsed by ruthless political pragmatism and the appeasement of America's unfounded border paranoia.

The sad truth is that those fleeing to the US are often doing so as a result of the mess often created, and contributed to, by the US. Legal experts argue that the Coast Guard repelling boats full of migrants, while others are deported from the US mainland, is quite simply a breach of international and domestic law as well as human rights. There have been legal challenges over the years, but the inhumanity toward Haitians continues and, according to the data, is worsening.

Some might point out that the hostility faced by Haitians and other migrants to the US is not new. They are exactly right. Biden alone is not responsible for it. Existing policies toward Haitians, and also Cubans, were worsened under Trump and preceded his presidency.

But numbers don't lie. More Haitians are being deported under Biden than under Trump while the Coast Guard acts as the mobile border wall in the sea, which Trump could never build on land.

There's nasty twist. Groups working with Haitian migrants say that not only are they dealing with all sorts of hostilities at the border, but that they face anti-Black racism from other migrant communities. They are often last when receiving food, medical care and support. Put simply, the conditions faced by Haitians are unimaginable for most of us.

The Coast Guard has the capacity to act as the most formidable search and rescue operation in the world if it really wanted to. This happening, though, is probably the fantasy of another universe.

More certainly, acting as an intimidating deterrent to those who need help, prowling US waters, turning migrants away and sending them back to poverty, detainment, persecution or worse, means the US forfeits the moral high ground regarding human rights and decency.

The same phenomenon, too, is happening in the Mediterranean as migrants try to reach Europe. They are being left to fend for themselves or worse while politicians describing themselves as modern democrats politely explain to millions of Black and Brown migrants why they can't benefit from the democracies that were built from the wealth and human labor extracted from their homelands.

Bold action by Biden could have a significant influence around the world. God knows, with Boris Johnson here in the UK, we need something to turn the tide. But rather than forge a different path from previous administrations, and show some new leadership, Biden is doubling down on the very policies that he pitted himself against, and That helped him into office. The president's migration policies are not offering any break from Trump's, but are simply accelerating them.

Richard Sudan covers human rights and American foreign affairs for the Editorial Board. Based in London, his reporting has appeared in The Guardian, Independent and others. Find him @richardsudan.

A report called for a crimes against humanity probe into the United States. Why was it ignored?

For many years, the United States condemned crimes against humanity in a global setting. Such claims were often a pretext for military invasion, regime change or installing so-called democracy while, of course, securing control of resources. We've gotten so used to hearing it, especially over the last few decades, that the phrase "crimes against humanity" has become part and parcel of the political lexicon.

When hearing the same claim thrown back at it, you'd think the US would be all ears given its track record of concern and swift action when such crimes are allegedly committed in other parts of the world. Well, that's exactly what has happened. Just one problem. Rather than "all ears," the charge seems to have fallen on "deaf ears."

A report released in March, called The International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States, was produced by a panel of human-rights lawyers from 11 countries. It determined that the cycles of murder and violence against unarmed Black Americans at the hands of (often white) police officers fit the international legal definition of "crimes against humanity." Its authors say the United States should be investigated under international law.

The commission report demands accountability from the United States, over the conduct of law enforcement, highlighting the violation of human rights obligations, with added scrutiny also examining the laws around policing. The commission also suggests that the International Criminal Court conduct an immediate investigation.

Now, this is unlikely to happen. The significance of the report, however, should not be lost. No longer can America simply accuse other countries of human rights abuses while ignoring similar accusations on its own doorstep concerning its own citizens. The report refers to "police murders" and contextualizes the pattern of killings as part of a broader history and continuation of racism and racial injustice.

The report initially emerged after the family of George Floyd and other victims petitioned the United Nations to launch a probe into deadly racist policing in the United States, following Floyd's murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. (Chauvin was convicted on all counts last month, including murder in the second degree. Last week, a federal grand jury indicted Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers for violating Floyd's constitutional rights.)

While a draft resolution was eventually passed, the UN Human Rights Council merely adopted it after weeks of intense pressure by the US and its allies. That saw any specific mention of America and an investigation dropped from the final wording.

The US and former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had also accused the United Nations of hypocrisy, urging a more general investigation into systemic racism internationally, focusing instead on countries like China. In other words, racism didn't exist in Donald Trump's America. You can't investigate something that doesn't exist.

The watered down plan, however, prompted the group of international legal experts to step in and conduct their own investigation, culminating in the recent report, which at the time of writing, has received no official acknowledgement from the White House. During his first address to joint-session of the Congress, President Joe Biden pledged to "root out systemic racism" within the United States criminal justice system.

The new report focusing on US police killings of unarmed Black people could certainly help. It has a number of strong recommendations for the government to follow. The commission emphasizes, moreover, that it did not reach its conclusions lightly. The report is a serious, thorough and comprehensive examination of the problem. It is forensic and uncompromising. It deserves to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the report has gone almost totally unnoticed by the national press corps. It has gotten only a smattering of English-language coverage in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Again, an investigation by the International Criminal Court is unlikely. That said, the report does reflect intense focus around the world on the US that's acutely aware of and universally horrified by police violence and institutional racism. Many hope Chauvin's conviction is a watershed in US history, though that remains to be seen.

Getting to the root of the problem requires a radical plan and a commitment to seeing it through. The same energy that was felt over the case of George Floyd now needs to reverberate and translate into all of the other similar cases that require justice, and into a vast overhaul of the system all across America. It's no easy task but millions upon millions around the world are watching, hoping, and ultimately demanding, that the unjust killing, maiming and humiliation of Black Americans come to an end.

The secrets of the Proud Boys

The so-called Proud Boys are a white supremacist militia. They pose a clear and present danger to Black Americans and the security of the United States. They were part of the insurgency that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6 in an act that FBI Director Christopher Wray stated was clearly an act of domestic terror.

The Proud Boys fit the definition—political violence, motivated with the desire to take control of the Capitol building, believing they had God on their side. That surely meets any reasonable criteria. One Proud Boy, known as "Milkshake," was recently arrested for his role in the insurrection, and allegedly shouted, "Let's take the fucking Capitol," while wearing a hat with the words "God, Guns and Trump" emblazoned on it.

Why then has the United States thus far failed to designate officially the Proud Boys as a domestic terror group? Canada did. But the US hasn't. It's surely a fair question.

Firstly, it's worth remembering it took until 2017 for the KKK to be designated domestic terrorists despite their reign of terror beginning in the 1860s. That's a long stretch. Also worth noting are the Klan's well-documented and deep historical links to law enforcement. In the civil-rights era, southern police officers and senior officials actually coordinated with the Klan while many cops were active members of it.

Since the early 2000s, the FBI and other federal agencies have issued a number of reports warning of the deep infiltration of local law enforcement by white supremacist groups. It isn't limited to the American South. Police forces all over the country have members linked to the Proud Boys and other white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

There's even an unofficial database for Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies believed to be members. Indeed, in one case in 1991, it was revealed that a "neo-Nazi gang of deputies" actually operated using "terrorist-type tactics" in the knowledge of their colleagues and superiors. The problem is deep-rooted, long-standing and deadly.

When Capitol Police turned their attention away, and diverted resources from the 200 or so Proud Boys who were convening near the Capitol on January 6, one must wonder why. We've all seen the videos of police officers gesturing with the "OK" hand signal meant to symbolize white power to other white supremacists. But seeing Capitol Police appear to open the gates to allow the insurgents to swarm the buildings, and seeing one officer pose for a picture with one of the seditionists, was illuminating.

But the links go deeper. Many feel groups like the Proud Boys, and other groups like the Oath Keepers, have acted as unofficial paramilitary for members of the Republican Party. At the presidential debates, Trump telling the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" was pretty much akin to a military command. To what extent this played into the climate of violence that produced the riots themselves is an important question.

Trump's long-time advisor Roger Stone has been investigated for connections to the Proud Boys and others, even pictured with a number of far-righters who acted as his bodyguards. He's alleged to have been involved with or have had connections to people charged over the Capitol riots. (Also worth flagging is a notorious picture of Roger Stone believed to be taken with Proud Boys members.) If another adviser to another sitting president had been pictured with any extremists who were, say, Muslim or Black, or both, one can imagine how loud the outcry would be. Meanwhile, white supremacists also allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Yet the Proud Boys are not officially designated as domestic terrorists. Why?

What's also interesting is the Republicans blocking an independent commission into the events of January 6. What are they afraid of? What's the big deal in acknowledging the Proud Boys for what they are, and examining fully, their role in January 6?

Acknowledging January 6 as an act of domestic terror might be one thing. But taking the next step of calling the Proud Boys domestic terrorists has wider implications. Law enforcement officials and politicians potentially being linked to a terror group might force a political reckoning and conversation in the US that some want to avoid. But much like accounting for the history and roots of white supremacy in the US, and the wider impact this has in 2021, it's the Pandora's Box that should be opened.

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