Trump Considers America's Will to Give
Most of us wouldn’t donate to an unethical group, so why should the U.S.? That’s the idea behind a new policy being hatched in the Trump administration, where officials are mapping out a way to incentivize international religious liberty. If countries want humanitarian aid, shouldn’t they at least prove that they’re capable of recognizing on of mankind’s most fundamental rights? This president thinks so.
As far as proposals go, it’s a brilliant one. America shouldn’t be giving billions of dollars to regimes that are turning around and oppressing their own people. And according to two White House sources, that’s the motivation behind an effort to prioritize funding for nations that promote religious tolerance. Although the concept is still in its early stages, President Trump is considering an executive order that would withhold dollars from nations that are persecuting their own people. “Its mere consideration,” Politico points out, “shows how much the White House prioritizes religious freedom.”
As if Americans needed more proof! The Trump administration has been the biggest ally of our First Freedom in the history of this country. Now, by tying dollars to demonstrations of sincerity, the president might finally have found the leverage he needs to convince more leaders to protect the vulnerable. Former Congressman Frank Wolf, who authored the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that encouraged America to make this fundamental right a priority in our foreign policy, couldn’t be more pleased. “I think what the administration is doing is very, very positive,” he told listeners on Tuesday’s “Washington Watch.”
“A lot of members [of Congress] care deeply about this. They care about this religious minority here. Or this group over there. [And this] would give them leverage… They would be able to say, ‘You know, Mr. Ambassador of Country X, if don’t release or stop persecuting the Hindu, or stop doing this to the Buddhists, for instance, in Nepal… you can lose your foreign aid… That helps the embassies, helps the religious minorities, helps the [U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), helps the needy, helps every member of Congress, Democratic member, Republican member. Doesn’t matter. I mean, they all have their own group that they want to help. It’s a very, very positive thing.”
As Congressman Wolf points out, a lot of these decisions would rely on the annual USCIRF reports that details the countries of particular concern. As chairman, I can tell you that in the 28 countries we track — and the ones that end up on our watchlists don’t want to be on it. “Your commission,” Frank explained, “would be empowered… People would be coming in and saying, 'We want to get off that list. You know, Mr. Chairman, please take us off. We’re going to do whatever you want us to do.’ So if you care about persecution of Christians, Catholic and Protestant, Buddhist Muslims, Falun Gong, this is a very powerful thing.”
Of course, some people will throw cold water on anything the Trump administration proposes — including this. Politico talked to some critics who thought hitching our foreign aid to something like religious liberty would be “detrimental” to our international relations. But this is our money, in my view — and we ought to have strings attached to it. If people want to come along with us on such fundamental human right as religious freedom, we can reward that behavior. And if they refuse to protect the innocent people being persecuted — even by third parties and non-state actors — we should hold them accountable. “I don’t see how it would be hurtful to anybody except the people who were doing the bad things.”
And, as Congressman Wolf explains, America wouldn’t have to resort to this a lot for it to be effective. “Once it’s used once or twice, the message gets out.” Leaders around the world would have to know: They either shape up — or watch their money ship out. “I don’t see any downside, frankly.” And neither should anyone in this country — Left or Right — who truly cares about the world’s victims.
Originally published here.
Turks and Chaos: A View from the Frontlines
“It’s a zone of death, of murder, of ethnic cleansing and displacement. The people here call it a zone of genocide. And right now, the U.S. has done nothing to stop it.” — Dave Eubank, on the ground in Syria
An ocean away from the meeting between Turkish President Erdogan and Donald Trump, the reports from Syria’s frontlines are a mix of horror and chaos. Whatever assurances Erdogan is offering American leaders comes with a bloody backdrop — a 30-kilometer trail of carnage, tanks, and terror. Dave Eubank, founder of the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers, knows. He’s seen it with his own eyes — Erdogan’s proxies marching on villages, just miles from where they are. And the losses are personal. One of Dave’s own medics was taken out, another casualty of the “ceasefire.”
“There hasn’t been one single day of ceasefire since this invasion started,” he said on “Washington Watch.” “Not one… I’ve seen their tanks, leopard tanks, smaller tanks, armored personnel carriers, crew-served weapons…They have airstrikes every single day from drones… I’m looking on my board right now. And just what our medics have treated and taken care of. I see 149 wounded. Eighty-three killed. That’s just what we’ve taken care of. The hospital that we’re in partnership with, the Kurdish Red Crescent, they’ve got about 1,000 dead and more than that, maybe four times that many wounded.” There isn’t even a no-fly zone. “Last night, it took us about four hours hiding from drones to go out in the field to drag two dead people and three wounded back.”
Erdogan’s allied rebels are taking out innocent people on the ground, while the Turkish drones hover menacingly overhead. “We’ve been driven backwards,” Dave tells me from his location, “losing men every day, all the way to here outside of town of Tal Tamer, which is in the Khabur River Valley’s historic Christian area.” Only now, just 200 Christians are left. “And they will not stay if the Turks get here,” he says soberly. “The Turks and the Free Syrian Army are about four to five kilometers outside the town. That’s two to three miles. That’s where they are now… They’ve [already] taken out six ambulances, including a strike right behind ours which killed one of my team members…”
When he treats kids in the refugee camp that Free Burma is trying to help, Dave has asked them why they left. “They said, ‘The Turks will kill us.’ That’s what they said. ‘The Turks will kill us.’ These are jihadis.” And they leave no doubt of it.
“The Free Syrian Army — when they capture people, they torture them. They beheaded Syrian Army troops that came up to try to plug the gap. It’s on many different videos now about three weeks ago when they captured two women fighters then mutilated them. And then we have civilians — an old couple in their 70s whipped and left on the ground, Kurds, [who] didn’t run away fast enough. So you’re going to have the same things that ISIS did when they came to an area: beheadings, torture, rape. These are war crimes. And I think Erdogan is responsible directly for these crimes by unleashing this attack and supporting it by air artillery and other support. And we as United States… we knew this attack would come when we stepped out of the way.”
Not only has the conflict jeopardized the containment of ISIS, Dave points out, but a rare haven of religious tolerance in the Middle East — a place where Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds have all lived together in peace. Obviously, the U.S. can’t solve all of these problems, “but our presence gave them a chance to solve these problems,” he insists. “So we needlessly threw away a wonderful partnership. We needlessly gave away the moral high ground and betrayed these people, [our allies]. I think we can regain that by one saying we’re sorry [and by] pushing our troops back up here.”
But are apologies on the agenda in the meeting between Erdogan and Trump? Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) wouldn’t count on it. While the Turkish president sits down with GOP leaders to “clear the air,” the former Navy SEAL had some advice for President Trump. “I think we should take a hard, hard line with them,” he insisted. “I think it should be made clear to them that they haven’t been acting as good allies — not a good NATO ally or a good ally in the fight against ISIS in Syria. If anything, they’re making the situation worse now…” Not to mention, he told listeners on “Washington Watch,” “comfortably operat[ing] alongside Islamic terrorists.”
“I was supportive of sanctions against Turkey for their actions. I still am. …Allies act like the Kurds acted… They trusted us and we fought alongside them. The Turks have not acted in that same way. And so we want to hear how they’re going to make that right…” So does the rest of the world — some of whom, if the hostilities continue, won’t live to see it if they do.
Originally published here.
Ellie Goulding: All Hat, No Kettle?
It’s two weeks until Thanksgiving, but the NFL’s halftime singer is already calling time out. Ellie Goulding, the musician who was scheduled to perform the turkey day game, is threatening to pull out of the show if the Cowboys’ spotlighted charity — the Salvation Army — doesn’t fold on its Christian beliefs. Either give a donation to an LGBT group, Goulding demanded of the nonprofit, or I’m out. In that case, some say, don’t let the arena door hit you on the way out.
For Goulding, who’d just posted a glowing endorsement of the Salvation Army on Instagram, the threat was a complete surprise. A smiling Ellie, wearing a red apron at a homeless shelter, had nothing but good things to say about the organization two days earlier, insisting that the Salvation Army helps “Americans overcome poverty, addiction and economic hardships through a range of social services.” She says she sat and spoke to “several people who had come in from the bitter cold for some food (they serve to over 150 per day here), warmth and perhaps a chat with one of the volunteers.”
All it took was one follower, replying with a ridiculous lie that the Salvation Army “let[s] queer homeless people die,” and Ellie snapped to attention, willing to throw millions of needy people under the bus to prove her LGBT loyalty. “Upon researching this, I have reached out to The Salvation Army and said that I would have no choice but to pull out unless they very quickly make a solid, committed pledge or donation to the LGBTQ community,” she wrote. “[S]upporting an anti-LGBTQ charity is clearly not something I would ever intentionally do. Thank you for drawing my attention to this.”
No one is quite sure what “research” Ellie actually did, since even members of the gay community have insisted that the charity helps all people. In fact, Madeline Fry points out in the Washington Examiner, one LGBT group (the Prairie Pride Coalition) decided to test the theory — encouraging people to rate the Salvation Army’s tolerance at local shelters. The response was so positive, the organization endorsed them. “Given this information and the sincere, earnest efforts by the staff and leadership at our local Salvation Army, we feel comfortable recommending that members of our community support our local Salvation Army.” Too bad no one drew Goulding’s attention to that.
Meanwhile, David Hudson, the national commander of the Salvation Army, is used to the Left’s harassment. “With an organization of our size and history, myths can perpetuate. An individual’s sexual or gender identity, religion, or lifestyle has no bearing on our willingness to provide service. We stand firmly behind our mission to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a “hate group” feeding, housing, and treating 23 million people a year. What I have heard are plenty of liberals willing to let families starve in the name of a “fairness” they don’t practice.
“If you can’t handle the Salvation Army,” Tim Carney tweeted, “then you’re the totalitarians.” He’s right. It sounds like the Dallas Cowboys could use some change — on the stage and in the kettle.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.