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PolWorld, Author at POLSKA УКРАЇНА

US Defense Chief to Visit Jordan, Turkey, Ukraine

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will travel to Jordan, Turkey and Ukraine next week for talks with the leaders of all three nations.

Pentagon officials said Friday that Mattis aims to reaffirm Washington’s commitments to each of the countries.

Mattis will begin his trip by meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah as well as top defense officials. Jordan has been a key partner in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State terror group.

From Jordan, Mattis will head to Turkey for meetings with top officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Secretary Mattis will emphasize the steadfast commitment of the United States to Turkey as a NATO ally and strategic partner, seek to collaborate on efforts to advance regional stability, and look for ways to help Turkey address its legitimate security concerns — including the fight against the PKK,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The PKK, also known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has been leading an insurgency against the Turkish government since 1984. It is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and many European nations.

In Kyiv, Mattis is expected to meet with Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak and President Petro Poroshenko.

His visit comes amid reports the Trump administration is considering providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists.

“During these engagements, the secretary will reassure our Ukrainian partners that the U.S. remains firmly committed to the goal of restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Pentagon statement said.

The visits to Jordan and Ukraine will be Mattis’ first as defense secretary.

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Top US General Commits to Work With Tokyo to Strengthen Missile Defense

The top U.S. general and his Japanese counterpart have agreed to work together to strengthen missile defenses for Japan, as Tokyo announced that they will introduce the land-based Aegis Ashore system for additional protection against the North Korean missile threat.

General Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters in Tokyo that his meetings with Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed the “extraordinarily healthy military-to-military relationship” between Japan and the United States.

“I think this is probably about as important a place that I could be … in the wake of recent activity by Kim Jong Un, making sure our allies have no confusion at all about where we are in our overall policy [and] where we are with regards to the military dimension of that policy,” Dunford said Friday.

Dunford was visiting Japan after talks with Chinese and South Korean leaders in Beijing and Seoul earlier in the week. He said he offered Abe some of the perspectives picked up during his time in China, while also focusing on the challenge of North Korea and the trilateral efforts that the U.S., Japanese and South Korean militaries needed to deal with the threat.

“I think it’s important that allies and friends have complete transparency, so I wanted him to know the nature of my conversations in China,” Dunford explained.

New defense system

The Aegis Ashore will provide an additional land-based missile defense system on the archipelago nation.

Japan’s current ballistic missile defense system uses Aegis warships equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors that are used to stop missiles in the outer atmosphere. If those SM-3 interceptors miss, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air guided interceptor missiles can be launched from Japan to defend against missile attacks.

The U.S. is bound by treaty to defend Japan from outside attacks against the allied country.

Japan’s Defense Ministry says it will seek funding in the next fiscal year to cover system-design costs, after expediting the decision to deploy the Aegis Ashore amid the latest series of ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang. North Korea test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, each of which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

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Republican Romney Criticizes Trump’s Handling of Charlottesville Protest

Former U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized President Donald Trump on Friday for his handling of last Saturday’s violent white supremacist rally in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, that left three people dead and 19 others injured.

Romney’s comments were in response to Trump’s comments Tuesday that “both sides” were to blame for the violence at the rally.

In a posting on Facebook, Romney warned Trump to change his approach or face the possibility of further national unrest.

“Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated causes racists to rejoice, minorities to weep and the vast heart of America to mourn,” Romney said.

His post also warned that if Trump does not take “remedial action in the extreme,” there could be “an unraveling of our national fabric.”

The former Massachusetts governor said Trump should admit he was wrong when he equated the actions of counterprotesters with those of the white supremacists who organized the rally.

“Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis — who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat — and the counter-protesters who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armbands and Nazi salute,” he wrote.

Romney’s comments are the latest indication of a growing rift between Trump and his own political party.

Trump’s comments Tuesday, in which he said demonstrators from hate groups and counterprotesters shared the blame for the violence, unleashed unprecedented criticism of the president by Republican lawmakers. Some admonished Trump by name. Most released comments rejecting bigotry, though the timing of their messages indicated they were clearly responding to the president’s remarks.

On Thursday, Trump publicly attacked Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for criticizing additional charged remarks in the days following the racially motivated protests.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona also incurred Trump’s wrath Thursday for writing in a recently-published book that Republicans abandoned their principles by surrendering to Trump’s “politics of anger.”

‘Radical change’

Speaking to the Chattanooga Rotary Club on Thursday in his home state of Tennessee, Republican Senator Bob Corker called for “radical change” in the White House to avoid “great peril.”

“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful,” Corker said.

No Republican lawmakers have appeared on television to defend Trump’s stance, and there has been silence from the White House.

Some political observers contend Trump cannot and will not change, and that could lead to serious consequences for Trump, as well as the party. 

“This is who Trump is, what he believes and what is natural. The more people see that, the more it shapes the picture of who Trump is,” Georgetown University Assistant Professor Hans Noel said. 

The political scientist told VOA this “may have electoral consequences in the future if things continue down this road.”

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US Helping Clear ‘Historic’ Amount of Explosives in Mosul

The wires protruding from the small, misshapen stuffed animal revealed the deadly booby trap tucked inside.

For the people of Mosul, the sophisticated bomb was a reminder of how difficult it will be to return to homes littered with explosives hidden by Islamic State militants and dotted with the remnants of undetonated bombs dropped by the U.S.-led coalition that still could blow up.

Washington at least is trying to ease a bit of the massive cleanup burden.

On Thursday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said for the first time that the American military will help contractors and other officials locate unexploded bombs dropped by the coalition. U.S. Embassy officials have asked the coalition to declassify grid coordinates for bombs dropped in Iraq to help clear the explosives.

It may not be that simple, Gen. Stephen Townsend told a small group of reporters, “but we’ll find a way through that.”

“We’ll find a way to help them,” he said.

The coalition’s unexploded bombs are only a small part of Mosul’s problems. The bulk of the explosives have been hidden by IS fighters to be triggered by the slightest movement, even picking up a seemingly innocent children’s toy, lifting a vacuum cleaner, or opening an oven door. The effort could continue wreaking destruction on Iraq’s second-largest city even as IS was defeated after a nine-month battle.

Decadeslong problem

U.S. Embassy officials and contractors hired to root out the hidden explosives use the same words to describe the devastation in western Mosul: Historic. Unprecedented. Exponentially worse than any other place.

“We use broad terms like historic because when you enter a dwelling, everything is suspect,” said the team leader in northern Iraq for Janus Global Operations, a contracting company hired to find and remove hidden explosive devices and unexploded bombs from Iraqi cities recaptured from the Islamic State group. “You can’t take anything at face value.”

The team leader asked that he not be identified by name because he and his teams continue working in Mosul and the company fears for their safety.

Some estimates suggest it may take 25 years to clear west Mosul of explosives. The bomb-removing team leader said those estimates understate what is sure to be a long, enduring problem.

Normalcy may return to parts of west Mosul in a year, and perhaps after a decade many of the obvious explosives will be found. But other unexploded bombs and hidden devices will surface at construction sites and other locations for years and likely decades to come, he said.

As much as 90 percent of west Mosul’s old city has been reduced to ruins, destroyed by the IS militants who occupied it for nearly three years and by the campaign of airstrikes and ground combat needed to retake the city.

Booby traps

For Muhammed Mustafa, a restaurant owner from west Mosul, the disaster is very personal.

“In the beginning we thanked God we had been liberated from our oppressor,” said Mustafa, 54, who had lived in Mosul’s old city.

Mustafa escaped IS territory as Iraqi forces pushed through western Mosul earlier this year and is now living with extended family in the city’s east.

“When my neighborhood was liberated, I wanted to return and gather some belongings. On my street all I saw was destruction, except my home, thank God, but I found a written statement on the wall warning it was booby-trapped,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “When I saw it, I couldn’t stand. I fell to the ground.”

Security forces in the area barred him from entering due to the risk.

“They said there were many houses like it and many people had already died trying to inspect their homes when a bomb inside exploded,” he said. “Can you imagine, the house I grew up in, now I can no longer enter?”

David Johnson, vice president for the Washington office of Janus Global Operations, said his workers are finding explosives where local residents would be most likely to trigger them, and are “seeing a level of sophistication and a number of improvised explosive devices that is literally without parallel.”

‘Something we’ve never seen before’

Over time, the officials said, the improvised explosive devices — or IEDs — have become far more innovative and sophisticated. They range from basic pressure plates in the roads or doorways to small devices, similar to ones that turn on a refrigerator light when the door is opened. They’re tucked into dresser drawers or smoke detectors, or buried under large piles of rubble that were pushed aside as Iraqi forces cleared roads to move through the city.

The devastation is so extensive and the danger so high that government and humanitarian agencies have been unable to get a full assessment of the explosives threat or a solid estimate of how much money and effort is needed to make the city safe and livable again.

The team leader painted a grim picture of the city where his workers have spent the last two weeks trying to clear explosives from critical infrastructure, including the electric grid.

A retired Navy explosives specialist who served multiple tours in Iraq and Syria, he said his team is “facing something we’ve never seen before.”

In the Navy, he said, his worst day involved finding 18 explosive devices. On Wednesday, on the outskirts of Mosul, his team cleared 50 explosive devices out of a pipeline. He estimated as many as 300 in that one area alone.

There are five such teams, totaling 130 people, working in Mosul. So far, no one has been injured. In Ramadi, however, company workers were killed and injured as they tried to eliminate explosives. Janus wouldn’t provide details.

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Widening Rift Between Trump, His Party Seen as Unprecedented

A rift between the U.S. president and his own political party widened Thursday as Donald Trump publicly criticized two Republican senators, and another senator from the party questioned the president’s stability and competence.

The latest targets of the president’s wrath are Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Graham, a former presidential candidate, has accused Trump of stoking civil tension with his comments on the racially motivated protests several days ago Charlottesville, Virginia.

​“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists,” Trump said on the Twitter social media platform Thursday, adding that such a characterization is “a disgusting lie.”

Flake, who sits on the Senate judiciary committee, is incurring presidential wrath for writing in a recent book that Republicans abandoned their principles by surrendering to Trump’s “politics of anger.”

​Takes to Twitter

Trump responded on Twitter Thursday by essentially endorsing Flake’s 2018 primary election opponent, saying the incumbent is “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in the Senate. He’s toxic.”

The latest outbursts on social media by the president, as he continues a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, also included opposition to the removal of statues and other monuments honoring Confederate generals and soldiers from America’s Civil War in the 1860s.

“The president’s tweets speak for themselves,” White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said.

For some, Trump’s tweets and recent statements speak volumes about the state of the relationship between the president and the Republican Party, founded in 1854.

Most notably, Trump finds himself increasingly isolated from the leadership of Congress, both chambers of which are controlled by the Republican Party.

Trump’s comments Tuesday, in which he said demonstrators from hate groups and counterprotesters shared blame for the Charlottesville violence, unleashed unprecedented criticism of the president by Republican lawmakers. Some admonished Trump by name. Most others released comments rejecting bigotry, though the timing of their messages indicated they were clearly responding to the president’s remarks.

‘Radical change’

Speaking to the Chattanooga Rotary Club on Thursday in his home state of Tennessee, Republican Senator Bob Corker called for “radical change” in the White House to avoid “great peril.”

“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful,” Corker said.

No Republican lawmakers have appeared on television to defend Trump’s stance, and there has been silence from the White House.

“The rift between the president and the GOP is unlike any other American example that I know,” Ted McAllister, associate professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, said.

The historian notes that early U.S. President John Adams — and his son, President John Quincy Adams — “had serious challenges from within their parties that prevented them from accomplishing much of anything,” and President Andrew Johnson’s experiences with Congress during Reconstruction might have some similarities, but “the parallel is not strong.”

McAllister, a frequent and prominent lecturer on American conservatism, told VOA that Trump was brought to power as a “rebel yell” by supporters who wanted an outsider, but had no third-party candidate from which to choose.

“The GOP is still run by those who believe in the old ideology from the 1980s and whose own interests are tied to the institutional matrix, the policies, the political arrangements, that had evolved during this new age of globalization,” McAllister said. “The GOP is currently incapable of abandoning those connections, and so they are constitutionally formed in such a way as to reject a rebel. Trump, meanwhile, can only connect with those who voted for him by being a rebel.”

Tied ‘at the hip’

For some analysts, there is only so far Trump and party can diverge.

“The Republican Party and President Trump remain tied together at the hip,” Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Jamie Metzl said.

“Even though Republican critiques of the president are increasing, too many Republican lawmakers remain unwilling to support the aggressive measures required to reign in America’s out-of-control president for fear of alienating their base,” Metzl, a former director for multilateral affairs on the National Security Council, told VOA. “Until this changes, America’s democracy and role in the world will increasingly be at risk.”

Some political observers contend Trump cannot and will not change, and that could lead to serious consequences for Trump, as well as the party.

“This is who Trump is, what he believes and what is natural. The more people see that, the more it shapes the picture of who Trump is,” Georgetown University Assistant Professor Hans Noel said.

The political scientist told VOA this “may have electoral consequences in the future if things continue down this road.”

Natalie Liu contributed to this report.

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Confederate Statues Explained: Why and When They Rose

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday stirred a long simmering debate about Confederate statues, with many people demanding their removal and many arguing history should not be erased.

The Charlottesville protests centered around Emancipation Park, where there is a statue honoring Confederate general Robert E. Lee. White supremacists say the reason they wanted to hold their rally in that park was to protest efforts to take the statue down.

According to Slate magazine, there are about 13,000 Confederate statues and other commemorative items around the United States, and they’re not solely in the former Confederacy.

Inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington there are statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Vice President Alexander Stephens, along with one of Lee and other Confederate military figures. Each of the 50 U.S. states picked two statues to contribute to the Statuary Hall collection.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Tuesday for lawmakers in her state to replace the statue of a Confederate general. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said Wednesday he will introduce a bill to get rid of all the Confederate statues in the Capitol.

Confederate statues

About 5 kilometers west of the Capitol, overlooking Washington, D.C., from the Virginia side of the Potomac River and right in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery sits Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Lee, the South’s leading general, owned the plantation there before the Civil War.

In the surrounding Virginia suburbs, there are schools named after southern Civil War figures, such as Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, who were prominent Confederate generals. Local officials recently voted to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School.

Just a 90-minute drive from Washington, in Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy, a major thoroughfare called Monument Avenue, is lined with statues and memorials to Confederate soldiers and politicians.

How did this happen, especially considering the South lost the Civil War?

​The ‘Lost Cause’ movement

Historians told VOA the memorials are the result of an organized effort by some groups in the South, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), which set about revising the history of the Civil War, starting almost immediately after hostilities ended.

The UDC website, says the group seeks to “collect and preserve the material necessary for a truthful history of the War Between the States and to protect, preserve, and mark the places made historic by Confederate valor” and to “assist descendants of worthy Confederates in securing a proper education.”

“The South reversed the dictum that the winners write the history books,” Brian Matthew Jordan, an associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Texas and author of the book Marching Home about Union veterans in the postwar era told VOA in 2015. “They won the battle over the peace.”

Called the “Lost Cause” movement, it set out to divorce the Confederacy from slavery and make the war about states’ rights and self-government.

In turn, Confederate soldiers were portrayed as heroes for fighting with honor and courage in the face of overwhelming numbers on the battlefield — ideals that all Americans admire and respect.

Much of that was a revisionist interpretation, but Jordan says there was enough of a kernel of truth in the Lost Cause myths to spur its widespread attraction. And in the North, too, there was a desire to put the war behind the country as quickly as possible.

“The Lost Cause took effect immediately,” Jordan said. “It was a mainstream historical memory for at least the first half century after the war.”

Statues rise years later

It was during this time that many of the statues and memorials went up.

“In the years after the war, there was a concerted effort, made by mostly children of Confederate veterans to try to memorialize the war their fathers had fought, and to valorize and glorify the Confederate cause,” said Carole Emberton, a University at Buffalo history professor and author of the book Beyond Redemption, which is about the early postwar years in the South.

Groups like the SCV and UDC collected money to build memorials and commemorated famous battles, while giving Civil War history a spin more palatable to Southerners.

Reconstruction in the immediate postwar years helped galvanize the Lost Cause movement because it was seen by Southerners as an attempt by the north to destroy their way of life.

Nation wanted to move on

“By and large, Americans couldn’t agree on exactly how treasonous secession was,” Emberton said. Jefferson Davis was never charged with treason and was released from prison after two years. Among those paying his bail were prominent Northerners, including abolitionist Horace Greeley.

In 1870, five years after the war, the funeral of Robert E. Lee was attended by prominent politicians from the north and, according to Emberton, Lee was “talked about like an American hero.”

Now, as the city of Baltimore in Maryland and New Orleans in Louisiana have removed Confederate statues, there are those who say honoring those who fought for the South shouldn’t be seen as offensive or racist. They also argue that removing the statues could have unintended consequences.

“What’s next, burning books with offensive content?” wrote author Cheryl K. Chumley in a recent editorial in the conservative leaning Washington Times newspaper. “Burning books written by those who used to own slaves? At the very least, museums will have to go.

“The problem with revising history based on a standard of ‘feeling offensive,’ as this anti-Confederate craze is rooted, is that someone, somewhere will always take offense at something,” she added.

In a fiery news conference Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump weighed in on the issue.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

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Republicans Join Democrats in Denouncing Trump Comments on Charlottesville

President Donald Trump finds himself in a political firestorm this week after his shifting stance on who is responsible for Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, stemming from a protest organized by white nationalist groups. Trump’s remarks Tuesday, blaming both sides for the violence, have drawn condemnation from Democrats and Republicans and come at a time when the president’s poll rating continues to weaken. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

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