From The Final Call Newspaper

KOBE: His Life, Legend and Legacy of Excellence

By Richard B. Muhammad, Charlene Muhammad, Michael Z. Muhammad and Brian E. Muhammad Final Call Staff @TheFinalCall

The world mourned the passing of legendary professional basketball player Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others, who died in a tragic helicopter accident near Calabasas, Calif.

Condolences poured in from around the world as the basketball great was remembered as a doting, loving father, talented entrepreneur and an example of Black drive and excellence.

His final time with his daughter, a basketball player, was spent en route to a Jan. 26 practice at his Mamba Academy, where he coached and his daughter played. Kobe was 41 years old and daughter Gianna Maria Onore was 13.

“The death of Kobe Bryant is both shocking and sad not only for Laker fans, but really for all of the world,” said Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., the chairman and executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, a weekly Black-owned newspaper in the city where the teen phenom made history. “This tragic death is a reminder of just how precious life really is and how we must embrace life, love and family and never forget what is really important.”

In a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Kobe inspired, amazed and thrilled people everywhere. “He will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes,” Mayor Garcetti stated.

The helicopter, an S-76 owned by Kobe, crashed and caught fire at about 10 a.m. Pacific time, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Rescue crews were on location within moments, but officials said it was too late to save anyone aboard.

“He’s way too young,” Laker legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson stated. “I was supposed to pass away before him. He’s gone way too soon. It’s a devastating loss for all of us.”

Another Lakers legend, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who played against Kobe’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, said he was stunned.

“Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players,” Mr. Abdul Jabbar tweeted. “But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete.”

Born in Philadelphia in 1978, Kobe was initially drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 NBA draft, but forced a post-draft trade to the Lakers, stating it was the only team he’d join.

He spent his entire career with the Lakers, winning five NBA championships and the 2008 MVP Award. He topped Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA all-time scoring list in December 2014 and retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final game.

His uniform numbers 8 and 24 were both retired by the franchise, making him the only NBA star to have two numbers retired with the same team. In 2018, Kobe earned an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball.

The late superstar supported at least seven charities and foundations, including After-School All-Stars, Aid Still Required, Cathy’s Kids Foundation, and the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, where he and his wife are dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families in need, both domestically and globally.

The foundation provides financial resources and develops unique programs that serve to strengthen communities through educational and cultural enrichment opportunities.

Kobe is survived by his wife, Vanessa Laine Bryant, and children Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.

Memories and media failures

Thousands gathered outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to pay homage outside the house that Kobe built the night of his death. That evening the star-studded Grammy awards Jan. 26 were held inside the arena and the entertainment industry offered its tributes to Kobe. National Basketball Association games were played that night around the country and included remembrances of one of the league’s greatest players. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban retired Kobe’s jersey number 24, which will never be worn again by a player for the franchise.

Shaquille O’Neal, who won three NBA titles with Kobe and the Lakers from 2000 to 2002, tweeted that his late and former teammate was much more than an athlete. “He was a family man. That was what we had most in common,” Mr. O’Neal wrote. “I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter, Me’Arah.”

Current Lakers star LeBron James was seen leaving the team’s airplane in tears. He didn’t address reporters.

Ken Miller, the publisher of the Inglewood, California-based Black newspaper, Inglewood Today, was in shock and devastated by the news.

Mr. Miller covered Kobe for years for the Los Angeles Sentinel.

“When Jerry West drafted Kobe at the age of 17, no one knew exactly what the franchise was getting,” Miller stated. “I was so star struck by him by his air, by his intelligence, and he had a reclusiveness to him as well, that I just walked up to him and asked him for his personal cell phone. He gave it to me, and it was at a time when Shaquille O’Neill was gone, and the Lakers had just won three championships. He ultimately wanted to connect with the African American community.”

Kobe’s death brought up the ugly specter of race with spectacular failures in White mainstream media: It started when many viewers were sure MSNBC anchor Alison Morris described Kobe as a member of the “Los Angeles ni--ers” instead of the “Los Angeles Lakers.” Her words broadcast Jan. 26: “Seems like he was just the kind of athlete, the kind of star that was perfectly cast on the Los Angeles ni--ers,” she appeared to say, then repeated the “Los Angeles Lakers.” A backlash came quickly and the broadcaster said she flubbed words and said “Nakers.” She insisted she was trying to talk about the pro basketball’s New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers at the same time.

“Earlier today, while reporting on the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, I unfortunately stuttered on air, combining the names of the Knicks and the Lakers to say ‘Nakers,’” she tweeted. “Please know I did not & would NEVER use a racist term. I apologize for the confusion this caused.” But Kobe spent his entire career with the Lakers and had little connection to the Knicks.

Then BBC “News at Ten” used video of LeBron James instead of Kobe while reporting on his career. British lawmaker David Lammy tweeted, “Kobe Bryant and LeBron James don’t even look similar. If the BBC hired more black producers and editors, appalling mistakes like this simply would not happen.” The BBC later apologized for the “human error.”

More anger exploded after a White, female Washington Post reporter dredged reports of a 2003 case in which accusations of rape against the basketball star were dropped and a settlement reached. The star athlete, who lost endorsements at the time, said the incident was consensual. Post writer Felicia Sonmez, via Twitter, put out a link to a 2016 news article about the incident.

The Post put her on leave and was reviewing whether the tweet violated the newspaper’s social media rules. But Post managing editor Tracy Grant added, “The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.” The reporter, who later deleted the posts, said she received 10,000 responses and some death threats.

Black Twitter was incensed and many saw it as another racial double standard and example of how Black athletes and stars are denigrated.

“A couple things stand out to me about Kobe, that says a lot about who he is was when he made the statement that ‘if I’m known for being a basketball player only, then I have failed,’ ” said Reggie Williams, a Charlotte, N.C.-based professional sports consultant.

He recalled Kobe saying in 20 years he wanted “to be known for investing,” which for Black athletes in an industry where sports figures end up broke is visionary. “He understood the business of it all and (that) it’s all business when it breaks down,” said Mr. Williams. “He was speaking of portfolio and investing financially, but also investing in people.”

Mr. Williams spoke about the level of enthusiasm that Kobe displayed about moving to a new professional career post-basketball, which young athletes need to learn.

Race, reality and amplifying voices

With the 2012 killing of Black teenager, Trayvon Martin in Florida, other police shootings and the 2014 killing of Mike Brown, an unarmed Black teen in Ferguson, Mo., by a White cop, who was not charged with anything, race relations were heated in America and Black athletes spoke loudly.

The entire Miami Heat basketball team was photographed with heads down wearing hoodies in honor of slain Trayvon Martin. Later, the Los Angeles Clippers wore their warm-up jerseys inside out and then prior to the start of the game, left them balled up at center court as a symbolic protest of racist comments by then-owner Donald Sterling in 2014.

Kobe was criticized for comments about race attributed to him in a March 2014 New Yorker article, which he later clarified. In other statements, including the last interview before his death, he acknowledged the problem of racism and, in a heated time, the targeting of Black males.

“The system enables young black men to be killed behind the mask of law #Ferguson #tippingpoint #change,” Kobe tweeted in 2014.

Trayvon Martin’s mother, father, their attorneys, celebrities, community leaders, and youth marked the one-year anniversary of the verdict freeing their son’s killer with a Peace Walk and Peace Talk at Los Angeles’ Crenshaw High School in July that same year.

They strategized about ways to stop violence against Black youth, raise awareness about Trayvon Martin Foundation efforts to help mothers and fathers cope with the murders of their children, register voters, raise awareness about the importance of jury duty, and reach out to families suffering from tragedies.

Kobe joined rapper Nipsey Hussle, actress Jurnee Smollett Bell, actress and Reverend Omarosa Manigault for the program organized by Trayvon Martin’s parents hosted by Big Boy of Power 106 FM.

Crenshaw High erupted into applause and a standing ovation when Kobe was introduced. He shared his personal battles as a pro basketball player to overcome adversity, injuries, pressures and challenges and how it could seem like the most significant thing in the world.

“However, when you step outside of that, and you look at Sybrina, Tracy and what they had to go through as a family, what they’ve come out of, that’s true adversity. That’s responding to true conflict and being true inspirations,” Kobe said, as the room exploded into applause.

Athletes and those with influence have a responsibility to raise the voices of others, like Trayvon Martin’s parents, he said.

Later in December 2014 in the aftermath of the killing of Eric Garner, a Black man in New York choked to death by White cops, Kobe took a stand. During a game he led his teammates to replace their Lakers jerseys with black “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts. Mr. Garner was on video pleading the words while being choked out by the N.Y. police.

The action was in unity with other NBA players around the league making the same statement.

“I think it’s us supporting that movement and supporting each other as well as athletes,” Kobe told ESPN after the game. “I think the beauty of our country lies in its democracy. I think if we ever lose the courage to be able to speak up for the things that we believe in ... we really lose the value that our country stands for.”

“First of all, I have to give my condolences to the family on the tragic loss of our dear brother Kobe and his daughter, Gigi, and also the rest of the members that were on the helicopter,” said Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin.

“It just shows that Kobe didn’t feel he was bigger than life and that at the height of his career, he wanted to be engaged with the social injustices that were happening across the country, and Kobe certainly expressed his sentiments and how he felt about things that was happening to our young Black and Brown boys and girls,” observed Mr. Martin.

Though one of the world’s greatest athletes, Kobe didn’t shy away from injustices like some do, he said. Whether it was happening in or outside of Crenshaw, or across the country, he was there, and that speaks volumes, Mr. Fulton said. “It was just a testimony to Kobe just to see that he was standing with us. It was just a testimony of who he was and it’s just devastating, not only to the basketball world, but Kobe certainly touched the lives of many people outside of the basketball world just by being a fierce competitor,” Mr. Martin said.

“Kobe certainly had that same tenacity, that drive to want to get justice served and so for that I’m forever in debt to Kobe. I’m forever grateful for crossing his path and doing some work with him. It’s still unbelievable right now,” stated Mr. Martin.

“He was very genuine, loving, kind, compassionate, and Kobe did a lot for not only the game of basketball. Kobe opened the eyes of so many people, near and far,” Mr. Martin told The Final Call.

“It’s just a tragic, tragic day. It’s such a tragic loss,” he continued, as he expressed thoughts about a historic photo from the Peace Talk, which included Kobe and Nipsey Hussle, the 33-year-old hip hop artist, visionary, entrepreneur and community builder, who was born Ermias Asghedom. He was killed assassination-style in front of his Marathon Clothing Store on March 31, 2019.

“I was looking at the photo and I was just saying that were there in Crenshaw in honor of Trayvon and many who have lost their lives, and as I looked at the photo, I just said, ‘wow!’ The same superstars that were there in honor of Trayvon have now perished, and I think the photo is just iconic,” Mr. Martin concluded.

“Kobe Bryant actually did a lot to defy the odds at 17 years old. He bypassed what most Black athletes normally do and that is go straight into college and he defied the odds by going straight to the NBA,” said Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, Nation of Islam Western Region Representative and student minister for the Los Angeles mosque.

“And many of the big college coaches actually developed a serious dislike of Kobe Bryant, and many NBA players, as well as coaches,” he added. “Kobe Bryant is just the proof that there’s nothing more powerful than a made up mind, and so I think he took over into his game. He put every effort and energy into getting better, and he was blessed to come up with this slogan that people love today, the Black Mamba.”

He recalled impact at the 2014 Peace Talk, which occurred after participants marched around the Crenshaw High School neighborhood. It was his first time meeting the star basketball player.

“I was shocked that Kobe Bryant came to the ’hood, because I never, and it was just unheard of that Kobe Bryant would come to the hood to deal with ’hood affairs, and hang with the community, and I was totally shocked and somewhat apologetic because I was a critic,” he stated. Min. Sayyid Muhammad was impressed by Kobe’s genuine concern and desire to help the community unite.

“Kobe Bryant will truly be missed you know because again he wasn’t a flashy brother. When he did good; he didn’t seek to be seen of men. When he did good he wanted to do good because it was in his heart, so he will truly be missed in the Los Angeles area. He was truly a Black giant icon for all races,” he added.

Dennis Freeman, longtime L.A.-based sports writer and publisher and editor of, exhaled deeply as he spoke about a young man he said he covered since 2004 until Kobe retired.

“He was just more than a basketball star breaking barriers. He was out fighting against the homelessness, before it became trendy. He was always meeting with young people, talking to young people, kids that were on Skid Row or kids living on the streets. Kobe’s a once-in-a-generational individual,” Mr. Freeman told The Final Call.

A global brand, a global presence

The world lost a giant in the death of a basketball legend and entrepreneur in a helicopter crash in dense fog on mountains of Southern California. Kobe was involved in global business and built a wide-ranging empire that includes a venture capital fund, multimedia production company, athletic training centers and books.

He was purposeful in his on court life and it translated into his off court life whether in business or philanthropic efforts, said analysts, admirers and commentators.

Kobe’s star was still rising after he retired from basketball. He is among cultural icons whose contribution propelled them to a space where only a first name is needed. The Queen of Soul, “Aretha,” the King of Pop, “Michael,” in jazz it’s “Miles,” in hip hop “Biggie” and “Tupac” and now “Kobe.”

“He embraced the power of sport to change people’s lives,” said Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president. Kobe won gold medals in 2008 and 2012 leading the U.S. Olympic basketball teams. The first was in Beijing China where his presence brought popularity to basketball adding to the Olympics’ purpose of breaking down barriers between nations. “After retiring from the game … he continued to support the Olympic Movement and was an inspiration for the Olympic Games LA 2028.”

Kobe engaged the IOC body and was credited for successfully advocating Los Angeles being the official 2028 Olympic site.

“To have the Olympics here, and to have so many different cultures represented, would be a beautiful story to tell,” Kobe told the media at one point.

Kobe was exposed internationally growing up by his father, a former NBA player who held professional coaching positions in Europe and Asia. The exposure resulted in Kobe becoming multilingual, and able to seamlessly flow between English, Italian and Spanish.

Shock gripped regions of the world over his death.

Japan has enormous respect for Kobe. Besides basketball, he touched the hearts of Japanese people when he donated money toward the Great Hanshin Earthquake recovery efforts in 1998. Then, in 2001, he traveled to Kobe, Japan, and was honored as friendship ambassador.

“This is so sad,” said Dai Oketani, the head coach of the Sendai 89ers, a Japanese professional basketball team.

“Kobe not only played hard, but he also tells us how to work hard and how to get tougher. We just lost a special guy. R.I.P,” he told the Japan Times.

In Africa, expressions of sadness came at the passing of their brother in America. “The EFF joins the international community in mourning the death of Kobe Bean Bryant,” said South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters political party in a Jan. 27 statement. The EFF noted how basketball, once dominated by Whites, has become a showcase for Black achievement.

“Against all the racism, collective humiliation and constant dehumanization of black people, Bryant and his generation of Sportsman stood for Black excellence,” said the EFF statement. “He is a flag that Blacks across the world will continue to raise at the face of all White Supremacy that doubts our ability & humanity.”

In a Jan. 26 tweet, Liberian President George Weah, a former soccer star, sent condolences to Kobe’s family and colleagues. “This is not only a sad day for them, but for the entire sports world, as we are all devastated by this tragedy,” said the West African president. He added that “the world has lost a great soul whose legacy will live on and serve as an inspiration for generations to come.”

(Stacy M. Brown of the NNPA Newswire and Final Call staff contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Targeting Our Children? A dubious gang database and demands for an end to targeting Black, Latino youth

By Richard B. Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad The Final Call Newspaper @TheFinalCall

LOS ANGELES—When a mother got a letter from police saying her son was in a gang and was being included in a gangbanger database, she knew something was wrong.

Her son had no gang affiliation.

Now, after months of investigation, 20 Los Angeles officers are under investigation into wrongly entering youngsters into a major gang database. Field interview cards, which cops use when talking to people, may have been filled out wrong and tagged youth as gangbangers who aren’t.

Probes, promises and police violations?

The investigation and police chief Michel Moore’s promises to deal with any misconduct rekindled anger and suspicion about how officers target Black and Latino youth and dump them into the criminal justice system.

Blacks say such police behavior goes back as far as the 1980s with misuse of so-called gang databases. Entry into the gang database can be done if the youngster hasn’t committed a crime or openly declared a gang connection. Officers may catalogue young people based on clothing, tattoos, geography, acquaintances or other dubious reasons, said activists.

The mother in the San Fernando Valley who challenged how her son was labeled and complained to a supervisor last year opened the door and larger problems loom. In her son’s case, body cam footage didn’t jibe with the field report.

Her son was removed from the database but trouble continues for the Los Angeles Police Department, which has a long history of misconduct, violence and has been trying to rehabilitate its image.

Some aren’t convinced or impressed.

It took two months for Demetra Johnson to get her then-16-year-old son Kevin removed from the California gang database. “We called down and told them that that was impossible,” she said. “They said we had to show written proof. We had to produce school records. We even informed them that at that point, he had graduated from the L.A. Police Academy Cadet Corps.”

The cadet corps is like an official junior police program run by LAPD.

“That wasn’t enough! They sent a response saying that we need to bring him into the station and show that he didn’t have any tattoos,” said Ms. Johnson.

Seeing no tattoos, Kevin was finally removed from the database, she said. But that experience and the death of his brother at the hands of Los Angeles County Sheriffs soured Kevin, who joined the military, she said.

“At the time I feel like I lost both my boys. One left to go to join the service and one was taken from me. I still got a 13-year-old here with me, and he’s like a hybrid of them both. He’s doing well as can be expected,” Ms. Johnson said.

“I think we should really put that in perspective, that we’re talking about the same unit that was proven to be stopping Black people more, proven to be searching Black people more, even though we’re found to have engaged in criminal activity less,” she added.

The gang database trap snared her son Kevin in 2016—again raising fears targeting isn’t new or happenstance.

Chief Moore has promised video from police cams will be regularly reviewed when encounters don’t involve crimes or arrests to detect problems.

In December, LAPD went public about a nine-month-old probe of three officers in the Metropolitan Crime Suppression Van Nuys Division that kicked up the controversy. The LAPD investigation grew to include officers who may have worked with the initial trio.

The number now includes other officers who could have falsely added names to the database, with some 20 officers under scrutiny for inconsistencies in their reports.

Ten have been reassigned, sent home, suspended or relieved of their peace officer powers pending the investigation outcome.

Another 10 were put on desk duty because of suspicions or allegations of wrongdoing to protect the officers and public as investigations take place, said Chief Moore.

That’s not enough, many complain.

“This is tyranny! This is suppression! We have to take some responsibility—Black leadership—and we’ve allowed this enemy to pass policies, ordinances, all kinds of crap that is against our cultural expression,” said Abdul Malik Syeed Muhammad, Nation of Islam Western Region student minister based in Los Angeles. He was formerly known as Tony Muhammad.

“All of these kinds of policies come right up out of the Jim Crow laws. Nothing has changed,” he said.

“We didn’t know this? When Chief Moore reached out for me and explained that he was upset about it and was going to get down the bottom of it, I said to him, ‘Getting down to the bottom of it is eradicating it all together!’ ” said Min. Syeed Muhammad.

“Where is your gang list of Caucasian children? Are White children being placed in that database, or is it just people of color?”

The police chief apologized for any actions undermining public trust, vowed to correct current problems and prevent future problems during an annual year end press conference Jan. 15 at LAPD headquarters.

Later members of the Southern California Cease Fire Committee, a coalition of gang interventionists, mothers of murdered children, and other grassroots activists who promote peace on the streets, questioned Chief Moore on his plans. They expressed concern about the continued criminalization of youth. They also offered solutions.

Community members across the board, from youth to activists to faith-based leaders and legal experts, said the LAPD’s own admissions confirm what they have complained about and fought against for decades: Police have been fabricating information with no factual basis whatsoever, they said.

Davey D, hip hop journalist and activist, took the problem back to “Operation Hammer” during infamous LAPD Chief Daryl Gates’ war on gangs. He waged war through mass arrests, SWAT raids, and mandatory curfews.

His initiative started in April 1987 under C.R.A.S.H. (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums), a specialized unit of Rampart Division officers trained to combat gang-related crime from 1979 to 2000. The C.R.A.S.H. unit was disbanded after the notorious 1990s “Rampart Scandal.” It involved widespread corruption within C.R.A.S.H. Approximately 140 settlements in civil suits cost the city of Los Angeles over $125 million.

“The gang database or the concept behind it has always been used as a weapon by the police against the community, and it was most glaring in the late ’80s under Operation Hammer, when Daryl Gates was around,” said Davey D.

“In this case, in L.A., them doing this first of all, one would have thought that they would have learned the lessons from Rodney King,” said Davey D regarding widespread protests after a predominantly White jury in Simi Valley, then a predominantly White suburb of Los Angeles, acquitted officers who mob-style brutalized the Black motorist during a 1991 traffic stop.

“I think by the time you have the Rodney King uprising, you had damned near half of L.A.’s Black male population under a certain age that were put into the gang database. Now that should have just been alarming unto itself, but here we are 25, 30 years later, and this is still happening, with no consequences,” Davey D told The Final Call.

If cops are being placed on desk duty but not charged with falsifying information, that’s cause for concern, he added.

A faulty system with documented problems

A 2016 California State Audit found the CalGang Criminal Intelligence System’s weak oversight structure does not ensure law enforcement agencies collect and maintain data in a manner that preserves individual privacy rights.

In “Tracked and Trapped—Youth of Color, Gang Databases and Gang Injunctions,” preliminary research found most people were added to the gang database without having been arrested or accused of criminal conduct.

Gang officers in neighborhoods and school districts could question anyone, starting in elementary school, about nicknames, family members, friends and where they hung out or lived, according to the first comprehensive report about how CalGang impacted communities and youth.

People had no way of knowing or opportunity to appeal, the report added.

Advocates, including the Youth Justice Coalition and Black Lives Matter, sent letters of recommendation and demands for reforms and eradication of the gang database to California Attorney General Javier Becerra.

LAPD is working with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to determine if there was criminal wrongdoing by the first three officers in the initial probe, and similar conversations regarding other officers they worked with have begun, according to Chief Moore.

Chief Moore expects to make a decision in about a month after the investigation is complete.

Cops who made a mistake will be disciplined and retrained, both those who lied stand to face harsher penalties like termination, said police officials.

Gang database never helped increase peace

Ansar Muhammad, co-founder of the gang intervention H.E.L.P.E.R. (Help Establish Learning Peace Economics and Righteousness) Foundation, never found the gang database useful. The falsification of data hurt the work of peacekeepers on the streets, he said.

“There was never any community input. It was always law enforcement-driven, but if community folks were in the conversation, then maybe yeah, it’s okay. But the community was never involved in that decision-making process,” said Ansar Muhammad, who is also a coordinator of the Nation of Islam Study Group in Lancaster, Calif.

Half of Black men were put in the gang database

CalGang began as a way to simplify the process of storing and sharing street gang data.

Each law enforcement agency had its own way of gathering and filing such data, and not all agencies used the system, because it was not mandated.

LAPD started a database too, according to Sean Garcia-Leys, senior staff attorney for the Urban Peace Institute. The District Attorney’s Office assessed the programs, made them combine the systems into one countywide network it could access, he recalled.

“That’s the study that found that 50 percent of all young Black men in Los Angeles had been put on one of those two databases as gang members,” Atty. Garcia-Leys told The Final Call. “It is a shocking number.”

Placement in the database is like having a scarlet letter. It prevents people from getting jobs if cases go to court and the information is made public, activists said. In addition, people in the database can face tougher laws, called gang enhancements, and greater scrutiny from police for minor offenses or when innocent.

But, some activists added, the system is doing what it was created to do.

“They literally see Black people with targets on our backs, and that’s what the data is showing here. There’s a history that we can actually go back, not just to the ’80s and ’90s, but we can go all the way back to the 19th century, 18th century even and look at who they were as slavecatchers,” said Dr. Melina Abdullah, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and professor of Pan African Studies at California State University Los Angeles.

The remedy isn’t a kinder, gentler police, but community responses to police, activists said.

Black Lives Matter and community partners want Chief Moore to disband the Metro Division, release all names of the suspect officers, and then put the cops on a do not call list to prevent city and district attorneys from using corrupt officers as witnesses in cases.

All charges should be dropped against those prosecuted as a result of arrests by the officers accused of corruption; the officers prosecuted; there should be the immediate release of those incarcerated as a result of the officers’ corrupt practices, and their convictions overturned, said activists.

“And then, finally, we want the mayor of Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti, to establish and fund what we’re calling a Reparations Unit, because what they’ve been doing in South Los Angeles causes harm—not only to those who were arrested, those who were criminalized as a result of these corrupt practices—but to the entire community, so we want remedies for those individuals. But we also want the rest of the community to receive remedies and not thorough the police. We need more resources in South L.A., not more police,” Dr. Abdullah said.

A prophetic voice and warning about the war on Black youth

While activists and advocates have worked on the problem of police misconduct and targeting of the Black community, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan has provided a prophetic warning about the plans of the U.S. government to go to war against a small Islamic nation, Black people and Black youth in particular.

His warning began following a 1985 vision-like experience in Mexico, involving the “Wheels” prophesized in Ezekiel in the bible and commonly called UFOs by this world with a message from the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad that the president and his Joint Chiefs of Staff had met to plan a war. Initially, he understood the war to be with Libya, which was bombed by the U.S. in 1986. Min. Farrakhan warned Libyan officials of the bombing before it took place. But as the vision unfolded, it was clear the war was a domestic war against the budding Nation of Islam, Black people and an assault on Black youth under the guise of a war on drugs and gangs.

While the California gang database is an important example of this assault on Black youth, the federal government recently announced targeting of several cities, Attorney General William Barr has warned communities who don’t respect police could find themselves without protection and the president has recommended being less gentle during arrests of suspects.

“I have been among you a long time, and I have not failed in warning you of what the government of the United States of America has been planning against Black people generally, but Black youth, in particular, and the Nation of Islam,” said the Minister in a special November, 2017 message directed to President Trump from the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“We’re at the end of it now: the plan is genocide and to kill you all. I’m going to drop it in the president’s lap, because he is the last one,” said Min. Farrakhan.

“We went from a small prison population, and the Clinton crime bill was directly against Black people. … Once we are called a ‘felon,’ they knew we couldn’t vote anymore. They were killing us at the voting booth by putting us in prison—and it all was a plot,” he continued.

“Mr. Trump: The consequences of America’s evils over time have fallen in your lap. … And they know they have a genocidal plot against all Black America … . Now, I have delivered a message, and a warning, Mr. Trump; because I don’t have an armada—I come to you, no army, no navy. These brothers that are around me, they don’t carry any weapons. We are forbidden to carry weapons; we are forbidden to store weapons in our home. So if you want to kill us, we are here: I’m not running from you, I’m running to you.”

From The Final Call Newspaper

U.S.-Iran war on hold amid Trump’s changing stories, murky motives?

By Askia Muhammad and Barrington Salmon The Final Call @TheFinalCall

Hundreds of anti-war with Iran protests have been held across the country, including this demonstration in downtown Chicago. Activists say an apparent step back from the brink by the United States and Iran doesn’t mean everything is alright. Tensions are still high and activists plan more anti-war protests on Jan. 25 to push back against U.S. warmongering and express concern about instability in the Middle East. Photo: Haroon Rajaee U.S.

WASHINGTON—Despite open rejections as false by Republicans as well as Democrats of President Donald Trump’s justification for the killing of Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and his impeachment trial looming in the Senate, the president still claimed victory in the showdown with the Islamic Republic, a showdown which barely averted a catastrophic outcome.

Mr. Trump claimed without offering a shred of proof that Gen. Soleimani—a military leader of a country not officially at war with the U.S.—posed an “imminent danger,” who had to be murdered because he planned to strike “four U.S. embassies.”

The confidential information provided to members of Congress a week after the strike was, “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told reporters Jan. 8 after the session, complaining that the Trump administration wanted to silence all dissent. “It is not acceptable for officials within the executive branch of government” to “tell us that we can’t debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran,” Sen. Lee continued.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper added more confusion. On Face the Nation Jan. 12, Mr. Esper said that while he “believed” that there “probably, could have been attacks” that put Americans in the Middle East in immediate danger as the president claimed, he “didn’t see” specific intelligence indicating an imminent attack on multiple embassies.

Meanwhile, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Mr. Trump told associates that he assassinated Iran’s top military leader in part to appease Republican senators who’ll play a crucial role in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

“Trump has reportedly now confessed that he ordered the assassination of General Soleimani in exchange for the votes of war-mongering Senators (Lindsay) Graham and (Tom) Cotton in his impeachment trial,” said prominent British journalist Nicholas Davies. Mr. Trump reportedly entertained Sen. Graham at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, who revealed that the president told him of the raid on the golf course.

But Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the prime minister of Iraq, told a very different story about the ambush. Mr. Abdul-Mahdi told reporters he had planned to meet Gen. Soleimani on the morning the general was killed to discuss a diplomatic overture that his office was brokering between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister said that Mr. Trump personally thanked him for the efforts, even as the U.S. was planning the assassination–thus creating the impression that the Iranian general was safe to travel to Baghdad.

After more than one million mourners poured into the streets of Iraq and Iran for Gen. Soleimani’s funeral, many observers trembled at the prospects of a military retaliation which might escalate into a full-fledged shooting war between Iran and the U.S. But Iran chose only to launch missiles onto an unoccupied space on a military base where U.S. personnel are housed, after giving the Pentagon a warning that the non-lethal strikes were to be launched. Mr. Trump claimed victory. Iran, he said Jan. 8, “appears to be standing down,” in the wake of its missile strikes on American bases in Iraq that he said resulted in “no casualties.”

“The American people should be extremely grateful and happy,” Mr. Trump said, in an address to the nation from the White House the morning after the attacks. “No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.”

His administration announced additional new sanctions in the aftermath of the Iranian response. The Islamic Republic has been under crippling sanction already for years. According to AP the new sanctions will target eight senior Iranian officials involved in “destabilizing” activities in the Middle East and the retaliatory missile strike.

It was announced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that Mr. Trump will issue an executive order imposing sanctions on anyone involved in the Iranian textile, construction, manufacturing or mining sectors. They will also impose separate sanctions against the steel and iron sectors.

“As a result of these actions we will cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian regime,” said Mr. Mnuchin. The administration has already reinstated all the U.S. sanctions that were eased under the 2015 nuclear deal, which has caused significant economic hardship in Iran and cut its oil exports to historic lows.

Tensions continue

While Mr. Trump is probably its most flamboyant practitioner in some time, the U.S. has long been guilty of “imperial overreach,” according to Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher of The Nation.

“Imperial overreach is a major expansion of U.S. foreign policy goals and power, beyond what is good for common sense or for security. I think the overreach goes back decades, let’s be honest, but we’re looking at this decade,” Ms. Vanden Heuvel told this writer in an interview for WPFW-FM.

“The 2010s began during the Obama years,” she continued. “You saw regime change in Libya and Syria, increased containment of Iran, a country very much in the news now, the global war on terror expanded to more countries in the Middle East and Africa. So, this overreach has only accelerated under President Trump.

“Instead, what he’s done is, a sanctions happy expansion; more deployment of troops around the world; direct military strikes against Syria; and we’ve now sent 3,000 troops deployed to the region (near) Iran.

“So, it’s a moment to take stock of how this expansion, this overreach certainly doesn’t bring us more security or economic wellbeing; doesn’t end well as we’ve seen in history. And with this a military offensive against Iran in the last week, it’s important to bring attention to this overreach because the United States is clearly not retreating under Trump. It’s expanding in stupid, militaristic and dangerous ways,” said Ms. Vanden Heuvel.

“Tensions in the Middle East are escalating, and the Iran nuclear issue is facing grave challenges,” Geng Shang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters in response to the Trump administration’s latest aggression. “The United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), turning a blind eye to international law and international obligations, imposing maximum pressure against Iran and obstructing other parties’ implementation of the JCPOA are the root causes of the Iran nuclear tensions and should be the basic starting point for all parties to deal with the issues in an objective and fair manner.”

The assassination of Gen. Soleimani was condemned for sparking an “unnecessary crisis” according to retired colonel and Vietnam veteran Andrew Bacevich, who’s president and co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

“Well, the assassination was an act of great recklessness,” he told “Democracy Now!” “I mean, in some respects, it was typical of this president’s decision-making. It appears that he acted very much on impulse. There’s no evidence that he had thought through the consequences of assassinating Soleimani. You know, what would be step two, step three?

“And so, this reckless act plunged us into an unnecessary crisis, that, thankfully, both the administration and the government in Tehran found a way to back away from. So, we’ve avoided war, I think. That said, I think it would be a mistake on our part, everybody’s part, to sort of breathe a sigh of relief and say, ‘OK, everything is fine now,’” he said.

Domestic pushback

Steven Warner, Michele Watley and Roxanne Gupta have not been shy about saying how nervous and unsettled they are in the aftermath of the Soleimani killing and subsequent chain of events between the U.S. and Iran.

The trio said there’s little that they’ve seen from the Trump administration that gives them any comfort that retaliation from Iran and American counterstrikes won’t ignite a global conflagration that draws in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and other countries in the so-called Middle East.

“It’s terrible. They’re killing people. My biggest concern is escalation to World War III,” Ms. Gupta said. “The planet is ripe for this. It’s so stressful. The gap between the government we’re stuck with and the people is getting wider. The rich and powerful have been able to change laws behind people’s backs and now they say what they do is legal, that it’s okay. When did it change? Now, they pursue policy and say its American interests.”

Ms. Gupta, an educator, yoga teacher and peace activist who lives in upstate New York, has been a fierce and vocal critic of the Trump administration and a political system she says is corrupt, unresponsive and sometimes hostile to the people it purports to serve. President Trump, she said, lies with ease and to her dismay, many Americans accept what he says because of his position.

“This is a spoiled country. There’s no more spoiled country on the planet, so the seriousness of what’s going on escapes people who want entertainment and fun,” she said. “In this case, Trump ramped up the anxiety then people went back to sleep. They think nothing will happen to them because they’re American. That psychopath in the White House is giving people a false sense of security although he has created a dangerous global situation.”

Analyst Aaron David Miller, a former State Department adviser and Middle East negotiator, asserted that killing Mr. Soleimani has significantly weakened rather than strengthened the U.S. in the region. Americans are less safe, Iran’s regional influence, especially in Iraq, has been boosted, not weakened; and U.S. influence is at its lowest ebb in a decade and a half. Mr. Warner, a South Florida resident, and radio personality, said it’s fortuitous that this happened 10 months out from the 2020 presidential election and not last year.

“I think based on the time remaining between now and then, we’ve dodged a bullet,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to openly declare war. There’s posturing back and forth and talk that will go into the election. Time is on our side.”

That being said, Mr. Warner added, America isn’t out of the woods. “Iran has egg on its face (because it mistakenly shot down a passenger plane) and may chill for a while, but in the next couple of months I think there will be strange alliances and partnerships that will be formed, said Mr. Warner, host of “Wake Up and Live,” a daily syndicated program of music and commentary that is carried on at least 41 online stations around the world and has more than 200,000 listeners.

He was speaking about the eventual acknowledgement by Iran that it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner by accident, killing all 176 people aboard not long after launching its missiles at U.S. targets.

There has been pushback politically as the Democratic-controlled House on Jan. 9 approved a resolution asserting that President Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. The war powers resolution is not binding on the president and would not require his signature.

Danger, uncertainty still looms

Republicans have accused Democrats of “supporting terrorists” while Democrats accuse Republicans of failing to utilize a system of checks and balances to rein in a president with no clear, cohesive foreign policy strategy for the Middle East.

Ms. Watley spoke of the trepidation and uncertainty she felt when it appeared evident that Iran and the United States would go to war.

“The question is what happens next? Are we going to be in a war? How will it play out?” she said. “It’s scary because we don’t know what’s next. We have a leader who is inconsistent and incapable of handling the job of the presidency. It’s scary because we have this type of leader at the helm.”

What is unfolding is a lot for Americans to grapple with and consume, she explained. Ms. Watley, a Kansas City, Missouri native—and founder and owner of The Griot Group LLC, a strategic communications and political advocacy consulting practice—said she usually gets her news from CNN, MSNBC and Fox News but the polarization and fragmentation of news makes it harder to distinguish fact from opinion.

“Back in the day, like five to 10 years ago, you could watch the news and get the news,” she said. “But the news isn’t what it used to be. You keep hearing the same old stuff, they over-sensationalize things and it’s a 24-hour news cycle with breaking news that’s not breaking news. I’ve not been a Twitter fan but following pundits, influencers and journalists has helped me know what’s going on,” she said. “If you want to be up on news, you have to be on Twitter.”

She said she was heartened by the vigorous pushback from Democrats, especially Bernie Sanders and others running for president.

“This administration does what it wants unchecked. Trump doesn’t care about the consequences,” said Ms. Watley, who served as the director of African-American Outreach for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. “But the Democratic candidates have been staunch in their rebuke, strong in their response. They haven’t waffled or wavered.”

Veteran activist and anti-war protestor Medea Benjamin told The Final Call that tensions remain high and the real possibility of war still looms.

“The U.S. is in danger. There’s a rumor that he did this to appease conservative senators,” said Ms. Benjamin, a longtime political organizer and co-founder of Code Pink, a women’s anti-war group founded in response to growing American involvement in the Middle East. “It’s remarkable that he’s been able to get away with killing an Iranian general. He is such an arrogant warmonger and has the world cowed and unwilling to challenge him. It’s really horrendous that there’s one person who’s putting us in danger.”

Ms. Benjamin said anti-war groups such as Indivisible and MoveOn organized 82 rallies around the country on Jan. 4 and since then, they and other organizations have held 300 more rallies.

“There’s a call for rallies and demonstrations on Jan. 25 across the country and globally,” she explained. “Different groups have signed up globally.” She said Trump saber-rattling has re-energized the anti-war movement.

“The anti-war movement fell apart under Obama. No one wanted to oppose the nation’s first Black president,” said Ms. Benjamin. “It was very hard to build in those days and few organizations were involved in the anti-war effort. But there has been a resurgence of the movement at nearly every level, but that needs to be more sustained and widespread. It will be hard though, because the (immediate) threat of war has subsided.”

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Marching Toward War? Anger, resentment, danger rise

By Barrington Salmon and Brian Muhammad The Final Call @TheFinalCall

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians turned out in the streets mourning the killing of Qassem Soleimani in early January. Thousands more did the same in other parts of the Middle East. The crowds were so large in Iran the coffin carrying the remains of the national hero was delayed several times in moving to different parts of the country. Finally, the casket arrived in his home village for burial.

Protesters chant anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration against the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, close to the United States consulate in Istanbul, Jan. 5.

With a state funeral level ceremony, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei conducted Islamic prayer rites over the late general’s remains.

Meanwhile, the U.S. assassination Gen. Soleimani on Iraqi soil was met with condemnation from Iraq’s foreign ministry and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who called the drone strike a violation of national sovereignty.

“What happened was a political assassination,” Mr. Mahdi said. “Iraq cannot accept this.”

Mr. Mahdi said Gen. Soleimani was in Baghdad to meet with him about a Saudi request for dialogue to relieve tensions in the region—not, as the U.S. has claimed, to plan attacks against Americans.

Iraq’s parliament voted Jan. 5 to expel all American troops and file a United Nations complaint against the U.S. for violating Iraq’s sovereignty with the assassination. U.S. soldiers have been stationed across bases in Iraq since an invitation by the Iraqi government in 2014 to support the Iraqi military against ISIS forces. Now, fear is a U.S. withdrawal could mean an ISIS revival and greater destabilization in the Middle East.

Media reports said only 173 of the 329 Iraqi Members of Parliament were in attendance. The measure was backed by most Shiite members of Parliament, who hold a majority of seats. Many Sunni and Kurdish legislators were absent, indicating a divide over the proposal.

President Trump responded by threatening massive sanctions on Iraq, including demands Iraq repay America for some military costs. He has also directed thousands more U.S. troops into the region.

If Iran retaliates, America has targeted 52 Iranian sites, including cultural sites, for destruction, the U.S. president declared. The sites represent “52 American hostages taken by Iran” during the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed puppet regime of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, tweeted Mr. Trump.

Critics and Iranians called his threat reckless and the destruction of cultural monuments a war crime. Iran’s information and telecommunications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, denounced Mr. Trump as “a terrorist in a suit.”

“Like ISIS, Like Hitler, Like Genghis!” Mr. Jahromi said on Twitter. “They all hate cultures. Trump is a terrorist in a suit. He will learn history very soon that NOBODY can defeat ‘the Great Iranian Nation & Culture.’ ”

Protesters demonstrate over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 4. Photo: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

Fearing the worst, most world leaders called for de-escalation and dialogue. European-U.S. relations are already strained with Mr. Trump acting alone on important geopolitical issues. The assassination left European allies thinking about the safety of their own troops in the Middle East. Some complained once again they weren’t given any warning before the deadly strike at Baghdad’s airport.

In a Jan. 6 briefing with reporters, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of miscalculations with global tensions “at their highest level this century.”

These tensions are “leading more and more countries to take unpredicted decisions with unpredictable consequences,” he said.

“Stop escalation. Exercise maximum restraint. Re-start dialogue. Renew international cooperation,” urged Mr. Guterres.

‘Reckless, foolish and unnecessary’

The assassination sparked fears a vast, unpredictable conflict could flare up in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen or elsewhere. A possible early casualty was a young Black servicemen from Hazel Crest, Ill., 23-year-old Army Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr., who died in a Jan. 5 attack by Al-Shabaab targeting Americans in Kenya.

“Are we going to have war? I don’t know but it means that we’re much closer than we should be,” said political scientist, author and talk show host Dr. Wilmer Leon, III. “What Trump did was reckless, foolish and unnecessary. There is no endgame. There is no win here. If Trump thinks that this win results in regime change, he doesn’t know his history.”

“Imposing sanctions on a country doesn’t work. Pressure, for the most part, creates a sense of nationalism and allows the government to say, ‘You see what the U.S. is doing?’ Assassinating a beloved general does the same thing. The U.S. has empowered the radicals and weakened moderates” (in Iran).

Protesters gather during a demonstration against the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qas- sem Soleimani, close to the United States consulate in Istanbul, Jan. 5. Protests also erupted in Iran in the aftermath of the killing.

“The U.S. is Israel’s proxy. Trump is giving (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu what he wants,” Dr. Leon asserted. “He’s behind the scenes making all the noise. He thinks war will then position Israel to run roughshod over the region. We also have to see what role Saudi Arabia plays in this. Fragile monarchies and governments could fall if this thing expands into a regional conflict. The House of Saud and Bahrain are at risk. When the dust settles, these monarchies and governments could go the way of the Ottoman Empire.”

Dr. Leon continued, “It’s not American troops or facilities being attacked but also oil. All of a sudden, you can stay there for the next 55 years protecting Standard Oil. The problem is, no one really comments on that and asks what that means.”

President Trump told reporters Jan. 3 he ordered Gen. Soleimani killed to prevent future attacks on Americans.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said President Trump “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.” Michael Morell, former acting and deputy CIA director and CBS News senior national security contributor, told “CBS This Morning” the drone strike on Gen. Soleimani will lead to “dead Americans, dead civilian Americans.”

The Trump administration was still on the offensive, with reports of air strikes on Iraqi militia members and questions about where else the U.S. might hit.

John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, who has long sought the overthrow of the Iranian government, exulted over the assassination. He tweeted his “congratulations to all involved in eliminating” Iran’s top general. He added hope “this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

Demands for peace amid ‘de facto’ war

“Everyone recognizes that this is a dangerous escalation. The assassination was, in essence, an act of war that could spin out of control,” warned anti-war and social justice activist Ajamu Baraka, an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and former 2016 vice-presidential nominee for the Green Party. “The question is what does this all mean? A de facto war is already going on. What happens next depends on what Iran does, how it responds and then the U.S. response. This is a formula for the inevitable escalation and conflict.”

Mr. Baraka, national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace, thinks Iran will be cautious while the U.S. is creating scenarios and conditions for a massive assault.

“The U.S. will not put troops on the ground, but they have an enormous capacity to inflict damage on Iran’s economic and civilian infrastructure,” said Mr. Baraka, an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and a writer for Counterpunch.

Americans should not expect establishment Democrats to confront or hold President Trump accountable for his actions or steer the country away from the brink of war. That responsibility falls on ordinary Americans and the anti-imperialist, anti-war movement which “is still recovering from the demobilization that occurred under Barack Obama and was sidelined thereafter,” said Mr. Baraka.

“U.S. imperialist policies have been accepted and become the norm,” said Mr. Baraka, founding executive director of U.S. Human Rights Network. “This situation has proven to be an opportunity for our movement to recapture anti-war Black people and those opposed to the global lawlessness of America. Republicans and Democrats are united in expanding the U.S. global presence and hegemony. Democrats aren’t willing to countermand the laws. There’s no force out there able to stop the U.S. from acting as rogues.”

He told The Final Call he expects the anti-war position to get attention and expects the U.S. to bomb Iran in the coming weeks. Thousands turned out in U.S. cities for Jan. 4 anti-war protests. It was an impressive outpouring in a short time, said protest organizers. (See story page 4)

A Common Dreams story authored by staff writer Eoin Higgins reported that MoveOn, a liberal advocacy group launched a petition asking Congress to halt the march to war.

Progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) demanded congressional action to rein in the administration after the air strike, while calling for restraint and a return to diplomacy.

“Right now is the moment to decide if you are pro-peace or not,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Congress now has a moral and legal obligation to reassert its power to stop this war and protect innocent people from horrific consequences.”

“We must reject retribution and military action towards all-out war that endangers the future of Iranians and Americans alike,” said Uzra Zeya, president and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding. “Peacebuilding—in the form of de-escalation, dialogue, restraint, and diplomacy—is now more important than ever.”

Foreign policy analyst Asha Castleberry, an adjunct professor at George Washington University, said the targeting and assassination of such a high-value target surprised her. It had appeared as if Iran-U.S. relations were getting incrementally better until the U.S. imposed “maximum pressure” sanctions that severely harmed Iran’s ability to conduct business globally and provide for its citizens, she said.

“Big picture, we don’t want to be in any more damn wars. Trump miscalculated and shouldn’t be escalating anything with Iran,” said Ms. Castleberry, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq in 2015 and 2016.

“After he scuttled the Iran deal, diplomacy and communications were cut off, which is a big problem. I’m hoping and praying there is no war but what he’s doing is high risk and he gambles a lot of the time. It’s nothing but endless wars which completely wipe out our budgets and takes money away from education, housing, social programs and other needs Americans have.”

Sanctions, threats typify Iran policy under Trump

Aggression and threats from the U.S. since President Trump took office have been accompanied by sanctions that seriously crippled Iran’s ability to conduct business with the U.S. and other countries.

On April 2, 2015, the Obama administration and Germany, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom signed an agreement that would severely limit Iran’s nuclear programs over 10 years in return for lifting of sanctions. The final agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was adopted Oct. 18, 2015. UN sanctions were lifted Jan. 16, 2016. President Trump, a persistent critic of the agreement, announced May 8, 2018 that the U.S. would withdraw from the deal.

Human Rights Watch has detailed pain and suffering caused by the sanctions, including harming Iranian health. Although the U.S. allows exemptions for humanitarian imports, the report noted, broad U.S. actions against Iranian banks, coupled with aggressive rhetoric from U.S. officials have drastically constrained Iran’s ability to finance humanitarian imports.

“The consequences of redoubled U.S. sanctions, whether intentional or not, pose a serious threat to Iranians’ right to health and access to essential medicines—and has almost certainly contributed to documented shortages—ranging from a lack of critical drugs for epilepsy patients to limited chemotherapy medications for Iranians with cancer,” the report said.

“On several occasions, U.S. officials have indicated that the pain U.S. sanctions are causing for ordinary Iranians is intentional, part of a strategy to compel Iranian citizens to demand their autocratic government to ‘change behavior’—a recipe for collective punishment that infringes on Iranians’ economic rights,” the Human Rights Watch report said.

Political analyst and commentator Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever said Mr. Trump’s decision “is kinda predictable.”

“The unredacted emails came out the same day as the bombing showing that he directly ordered that the military aid money to Ukraine be held up,” she said. “It’s no coincidence that they launched to airstrikes when they did. It’s very cheap way to try to inject ‘the rally round the flag’ effort.”

“He dodged the draft several times. He is a self-confident coward who will do anything to stay in power … this is an act of aggression on the part of America. Wait until people die then that will have an effect,” she said.

Mainstream media is complicit, she said, because its soundbites and messaging reverberate and reflect the strategy of deflection from the evidence that caused President Trump to be impeached in the first place.

“All he thinks about is what he can do for himself today,” Dr. Jones-DeWeever said of Mr. Trump. “He is impulsive and doesn’t look at the consequences and he cannot control the domino effect. It is a ridiculous and short-sighted decision.”

“Now, America is provoking Iran,” said Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan. And, he continued, “the world is not afraid of America, but our president wants the world to fear him. … America’s about to go to war. And when she goes to war, she wants Black and Brown bodies. Now, you’re useful. They don’t give a doggone about how Black Lives Matter until they want to use Black Lives to accomplish their wicked ends. They’re trying to provoke Iran. I would like to say to the president, Mr. President, it would not be a wise move for you,” he warned. 

(See page 20 for an article by Min. Farrakhan on this important subject.)