Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Hillary Clinton pushes more gun control: 'If you are too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun'
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday demanded that any strategy to fight terrorism at home and abroad must include making it harder for militants to buy guns and said she won’t “let the gun lobby or anyone else" get in her way if she is elected.
"If you are too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun, period," Clinton said referring to legislation that has been held up by gun-loving Republicans that would make it more difficult for people on FBI's "no-fly list" to purchase firearms.
“And I am not going to let the gun lobby or anyone else tell me that is not the right road to go down,” she said to thunderous applause during the talk, coming just hours before a GOP presidential debate was scheduled to begin.
“The phrase active shooter should not be one we have to teach our children, but it is,” Clinton added, before repeating calls to reinstate an expired federal assault weapons ban.
The 2016 Democratic frontrunner — whose three-point plan to take on ISIS that includes conducting airstrikes in Syria and Iraq; dismantling finance and arms networks that aid militants; and foiling plots at home and taking steps to disrupt radicalization — focused Tuesday mainly on the last point. The former secretary of state repeatedly stressed the importance of “empowering our Muslim-American community who are on the front lines of the fight against radicalization,” outlining a multi-pronged plan to work together peacefully with local Muslims leaders in the U.S. to fight radical elements.
“When people see respect and trust, they are more likely to work together with law enforcement,” she said.
Clinton, however, appeared to spend the majority of her time speaking rejecting the “bigotry” and controversial proposals being offered by many of the Republican candidates running for President, singling out lines iterated by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
“We cannot give in to demagogues who take advantage of our basest instincts,” she said.
Our political debate has been anything but serious. We can't afford another major ground war in the Middle East,” she added. “Shallow slogans don't add up to a strategy.”
“Promising to ‘carpet bomb until the desert glows’ doesn’t make u sound strong, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head,” she said, referring to words used by Cruz last week. “Bluster and history are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief,” she said, rejecting the numerous GOP proposals made to limit or altogether ban Muslims from entering the U.S. “It would be a cruel irony indeed if ISIS was able to force people from their homes and also prevent them from finding new ones,” she said.
“We cannot give in to fear. We cannot let it stop us from doing what is right and necessary to make us safe,” she said. “We cannot let fear push us into reckless actions that make us less safe. Americans are going to have to act with both courage and clarity.”
Clinton also touted the importance of cooperation between government officials and tech companies to help fight ISIS and other terrorist networks online. “We need a stronger relationships between Washington and Silicon Valley,” Clinton said. “American innovation is a powerful force and we need to put it to work.”
“We must work to deny (ISIS) virtual territory just as we work to deny them actual territory,” she added.
MONICA ALBA Hillary Clinton further detailed her plan to defeat ISIS Tuesday, and specifically spoke to the threat of homegrown radicalization in a city that has been on the front lines, while also warning that Islamophobia is not just offensive but harmful to American national security. "We are in it for the long haul and we will stand taller and stronger than they could possibly imagine," Clinton said of ISIS on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. National security has emerged as a top issue in the 2016 presidential election following terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and a mass shooting by a radicalized couple in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 earlier this month. Clinton acknowledged that Americans have a right to be fearful in this climate, while knocking Republicans for taking advantage of the country's collective anxiety. Without naming them, Clinton took clear shots at Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for stoking fears, while blasting Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslim immigration headon. "Shallow slogans don't add up to a strategy. Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn't make you sound strong -- it makes you sound like you're in over your head," Clinton said. "Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief." Tuesday marked Clinton's third speech on combating global terrorism in less than a month, underscoring her campaign strategists' recognition of the importance of this issue. At the Council on Foreign Relations in November, Clinton described her plan to "defeat and destroy" ISIS, and at the Saban Forum a few weeks ago, she urged Silicon Valley to take an active role in the dismantling of the terrorist network's communication operation. Stopping potential jihadists from getting training overseas is a critical part of a what she dubbed a "360-degree strategy" to keep America safe. She said the U.S. needs to target the "network of enablers" that help finance ISIS, in addition to combating the organization online to cutoff recruitment. Clinton also called for stricter screenings for visa applicants who had been to a country in Islamic State-controlled areas in the last five years. In addition, the former secretary of state highlighted the importance of working closely with Muslim-American communities and the location for the speech was no accident. The Twin Cities have been at the forefront of the fight against radicalization from terrorist organizations and Clinton praised the work of the law enforcement in Minnesota as a successful model for combating homegrown radicalization. "We must all stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric,' Clinton said. "These Americans might be our first, last and best defense against homegrown radicalization and terrorism." She said comments by people like Trump are not only anti-American but "dangerous," since they erode trust with the Muslim-American community at home and Muslim allies abroad. The Democratic presidential frontrunner invoked an unlikely figure to make the point. "George W. Bush was right," she said, referring to his warning just says after the September 11 terror attack against vilifying Muslim-Americans. But some of her biggest applause lines came when Clinton directly connected terrorism and the need for gun control. Acknowledging that Republicans would disagree with her, Clinton said it was simple: "Terrorists use guns to kill Americans. I think we should make it harder for them from to do that." Saying "the phrase 'active shooter' should not be one we have to teach our children," Clinton said, "It defies common sense that Republicans in Congress refuse to make it harder for potential terrorists to buy guns." In recent weeks, Clinton has implored Congress to pass an updated authorization to use military force, stressing that the "time for delay is over." She has repeatedly said that the fight against ISIS needs to take place in the air, on the ground, and in cyberspace, but stressed that a full-scale war with American troops in the Middle East would not be wise. And she used the speech as another opportunity to push for the reauthorization of the Zadroga Act, which pays for health care for 9/11 first responders, saying it's "disgraceful" for Republicans to say they want bolster law enforcement to fight terrorism while also opposing the bill. Minneapolis has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, especially refugees from Somalia. That's made it fertile ground for recruitment, with the tenth arrest of a Minnesota man planning to join ISIS occurring just last week. At least 22 young men left the Twin Cities area to join the Somali militant group Al Shabaab between 2007 and 2009. Before the speech, Clinton met with local Muslim leaders, including the first Somali-American member of the Minneapolis City Council, where her campaign says she discussed efforts to combat radicalization. Republicans have sought to portray Clinton as weak on terrorism, since she served as secretary of state in the administration that witnessed the rise of ISIS after it pulled American troops out of Iraq. While Clinton has sought to present tougher rhetoric on ISIS than Obama, she is also facing criticism from her left. Sen. Bernie Sanders, her top rival for the nomination, has charged that Clinton's support for the War in Iraq, as well as for the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, make her overly hawkish and too quick to intervene. Foreign policy and terrorism are expected to be central topics at not only tonight's GOP debate in Las Vegas, but Saturday's Democratic debate in New Hampshire.
To honor those killed one year ago, Islamabad must fully enforce a bold plan to curb terrorism and increase security.
On Dec. 16, Pakistan will observe the first anniversary of the massacre at an army public school in Peshawar that left over 140 people dead, most of them schoolchildren. Mullah Fazlullah, the chief of the near-defunctTehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack. While four of the militants who carried out the attack were captured and executed, Pakistani officials say that Fazlullah remains in hiding across the border in Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan province. The failure to find justice after the school massacre highlights key questions about Pakistan’s war on terrorism, which has claimed over 50,000 lives.
Altaf Hussain will never forget his 6-year-old daughter's first day of school on Dec. 16, 2014. Seven Taliban gunman attacked the Peshawar Army Public School in Pakistan’s unruly north, and killed the girl and 131 classmates. “Who knew that my daughter Khaula’s first-day at school will be her last day?" he lamented. A year later, grief lingers over the loss of 141 people along with outrage over thePakistani government's failure to curb terrorist rampages that continue to plague the region.
Violence continues unabated along the Afghan-Pakistani border that Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters routinely cross, analysts say. Just this past Sunday, a bomb exploded in remote Parachinar, killing at least 23 people and wounding dozens more. Police arrested two Taliban suspects after the attack.
“Both Pakistani Taliban head Maulana Fazlullah and his leading commander, Omar Mansoor, are based in Afghanistan and are forever planning and executing new attacks,” said Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Peshawar-based expert on Afghan affairs. “The presence of the safe havens of the Pakistani militants in Afghanistan is an undeniable fact.”
After the school massacre, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif swore to crack down on the Pakistani Taliban fighters who staged the attack with a raft of measures that included lifting a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism.
This year, authorities have hanged more than 300 people on terror-related crimes and other offenses, according to Amnesty International. Last week, the government put to death four terrorists charged in connection with the school attack and on Wednesday it executed eight convicted murderers.
Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general and independent defense expert in Islamabad, said the military has succeeded in clearing militant sanctuaries in the northwest and forced some Taliban to flee.
But the police force and the judicial system remain very weak, he adds, and oversight of religious schools that teach extremism and mosques that preach militancy is practically non-existent.
Some critics say the government has used the death penalty to target political opponents instead of just extremists. “The end of the moratorium on the death penalty has resulted in more executions of non-terrorists than terrorists,” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States and a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. "Several terrorist groups ...and the Afghan Taliban still flourish.”Afghanistan has little reason to help Pakistan with the problem because Pakistani leaders aren’t controlling Islamic militants who plan their attacks in Pakistan and go across the border to target Afghan cities and troops.
The Afghan government in Kabul "has been countering Islamabad’s allegations on this point by pointing to the presence of the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network leadership in Pakistan,” said Yusufzai.
Pakistani leaders are reluctant to crush Afghan terrorists on their territory because they hope the militants might become peaceful, join mainstream politics in Kabul and become Pakistan’s allies in the future, said Haqqani. Those leaders are misguided, he said.
“Attacking one group but hoping another will just become a political party means that we are allowing some Jihadis (warriors) to become dormant to fight another day,” said the former ambassador.
Failure to end the terror attacks infuriates Hussain, who taught at the Army school and was shot by gunmen as he tried to fight them. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he learned of his daughter's death. “A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of Khaula,” he said. “I just wish I had got a chance to see her one last time.”
One year after Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people, mostly students at a school in northwestern Pakistan, victims remain haunted by the memory while parents are still looking for answers from the government. SHOW MORE
One year since the Taliban attacks on a school in Pakistan's Peshawar city, the families of slain students are still struggling to come to terms with the tragedy. Have the authorities learnt any lesson from the incident?
"I can never forget that day. We are still traumatized. There were dead bodies all over the place. I was fortunate to have escaped the massacre, but my brother couldn't," Zakariya Aijaz, a student of Peshawar's Army Public School, told DW.
It's been one year since the Taliban stormed the school and killed over 141 people, mostly students, in one of the most heinous and barbaric terrorist attacks in Pakistan's history, but the wounds are still fresh. The Pakistani Taliban claimed the responsibility for the school siege and attack and said the assault was a "response to the military's 'Zarb-e-Azb' offensive."
"They shot my son Shehzad eleven times. What was his crime? How can I ever be at peace in this life?" Zakariya and Shehzad's father, Mian Aijaz Ahmed, spoke to DW in a broken voice.
"I don't care what the government has done to punish the culprits. My son won't come back," he added.
Dissatisfaction with the government's efforts
The victims' families are not satisfied with the government's response. They say that the perpetrators of the massacre are still at large, and the authorities have only taken half-hearted steps to eradicate terrorism.
DW's Peshawar correspondent Faridullah Khan says the parents of the slain students have decided to boycott all government ceremonies on December 16 that will be held to commemorate the attacks' first anniversary.
"We've been told that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants to meet us on December 16. Isn't it sad that the premier realizes it only now, after one year, that he should come visit us?" Zahoor Ahmed, father of a slain student, told DW.
Fazal Khan, who heads a committee of the victims' families and relatives, says the government still seems to be in two minds about who to hold responsible for the assault.
"The Army Public School is situated in the most secure area of Peshawar. There are troops all over the cantonment. Then how did the terrorists succeed in launching such a massive attack?" said the mother of Mubin Shah. "If my son was not safe in the army cantonment, then nobody is safe anywhere in the country," she told DW.
Zahoor Ahmed believes the Peshawar attacks could not have happened without the support or connivance of some security officials. "The government should also punish the terrorists' accomplices and supporters."
The December 16 attacks led to widespread condemnation of the Taliban both locally and internationally. A large number of Pakistanis demanded the government take decisive action against all Islamist groups in the country once and for all.
Many hoped that the Peshawar attacks provided an excellent opportunity for the Pakistani authorities to do some introspection and re-evaluate the country's decades-old security policies. Islamabad, however, chose to put the blame on "external elements," yet again.
But long before the civilian government could reach a political consensus on how to deal with home-grown Islamists, a number of conservative political commentators, religious parties, and members of the security establishment had already begun talking about the alleged role of New Delhi and Kabul in the attack.
Zeenia Shaukat, an activist working for a labor rights institution in Karachi, does not find the Pakistani reaction surprising. "The 'Indian agents' thinking is deeply entrenched not only in the mindset of our policy-makers, but also among the general public. Unfortunately, the media too promotes the 'foreign forces-did-it' narrative," she told DW.
Former DW Urdu journalist and Islamabad based analyst Agha Sattar said that Pakistan needed a long-term policy to eradicate terrorism. "It might be true that some external elements were behind the Peshawar attack, but Islamabad needs to look internally as well," he told DW.
Military back in driving seat
Instead of punishing the school attackers and going after the Taliban, the Pakistani military used the incident to increase its political clout in the country, experts say. The army created a parallel judicial system in the country and established military courts, arguing that the civilian justice system was incapable of dealing with terrorism-related cases.
In the aftermath of the December 16 school massacre, Pakistan also lifted a seven-year-long moratorium on death penalties. More than 8,000 Pakistanis, including juveniles, are currently on death row, according to rights group Amnesty International (AI), which has sharply condemned the recent executions.
The South Asian country's National Action Plan (NAP), which was introduced after the Peshawar attacks, has given the army an upper hand in the security affairs, which in a democratic set up should have been the domain of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
The December 16 attacks led to widespread condemnation of the Taliban both locally and internationally
"The militarization of counter-terrorism policy puts at risk Pakistan's evolution toward greater civilian rule, which is itself a necessary but not sufficient condition to stabilize the democratic transition," said ICG. "The NAP looks far more like a hastily-conceived wish-list devised for public consumption during a moment of crisis than a coherent strategy," it added.
The ICG paper advises PM Sharif to take matters into his own hands and democratize the anti-terrorism strategy "in order to replace an overly militarized response with a revamped, intelligence-guided counter-terrorism strategy, led by civilian law enforcement agencies, particularly the police."
Islamabad-based civil society activist and researcher Salim Shah believes the authorities are "hanging or using the hanging as a means to harass political opponents such as the nationalists in the western Balochistan province, or other political parties that are disliked by the military."
"The Taliban have been weakened, but retains the ability to carry out attacks like this. It would probably be harder for them to launch attacks further away from their area of operations, say in the eastern Punjab province, but Peshawar is very accessible from the tribal areas and would be an obvious target, as the army formation running the operation is based there," Omar Hamid, head of Asia Pacific Country Risk at the global analytics firm IHS in London, told DW.
Islamabad-based journalist for Dawn newspaper, Irfan Haider, says that the ongoing North Waziristan military offensive has not been effective due to a lack of coordination between the civil and military intelligence agencies.
"The militant organizations are operating with different names, making it difficult for the federal and provincial governments to deal with them," Haider told DW.
However, analyst Abdul Agha is of the view that his country's powerful army is responsible for the continuing strength of the Islamists. "They are nurturing and supporting a number of militant groups. The result is that they are still very active," he told DW.
Commenting on the army operation, Agha said "the government is going after the [militant groups] that have turned against the state, or who don't agree with its long-term plans vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Pakistan wants to eliminate some and will preserve some for the future."
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has paid glowing tributes to 132 children among 140 innocent people who were martyred in a horrific terrorist attack on Army Public School, Peshawar a year back on December 16.
In his message on the first anniversary of the APS Peshawar terrorist attack, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that these innocent souls had united the entire nation through their blood and sacrifices. This attack brought, even those who wept at the deaths of notorious terrorists, to the page created by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto through her first salvo of fight against terrorism, he added.
The PPP Chairman said that the best way to pay homage the APS martyrs and others is maintaining the unity among entire people and all the institutions to eliminate the monster of terrorism once for all to save our children and masses from falling victims to such carnages in future.
Bilawal Bhutto said as a Chairman of the PPP he has instructed his Party government in Sindh province to rename an educational institution and a library with the APS students and teachers martyrs and construct a monument in their memories in Provincial capital.
He said the nation and the PPP will never forget the innocent children of Peshawar school and saluted their parents for standing as rocks; inspiring the nation’s commitment to the war against terrorism.