Mindanao Times » Aland Mizell http://mindanaotimes.net Wed, 19 Sep 2018 16:00:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.25 Paradigm Shift: Who are Fethulah Gulen and Andrew Brunson, the Imam and the Pastor prompting sanctions and threats against Turkey? http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-who-are-fethulah-gulen-and-andrew-brunson-the-imam-and-the-pastor-prompting-sanctions-and-threats-against-turkey/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-who-are-fethulah-gulen-and-andrew-brunson-the-imam-and-the-pastor-prompting-sanctions-and-threats-against-turkey/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2018 01:23:07 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=61677 ]]> The United States and Turkey have a long history of alliances, partnerships, and cooperation.
Today, the relationship between the two countries needs to develop and grow. Through mutual values and shared interests, they need to attend to security and stability in the region, beyond fighting terrorism and extremism, as well to economic collaboration. In recent weeks, however, the United States and Turkey have escalated tensions between the two countries with President Erdogan citing the Turkish police’s arrest of an American Pastor Andrew Brunson on charges of aiding a terrorist organization and the U.S.’s imposing sanctions. President Trump issued these sanction because of Turkey’s refusal to free Brunson, knowing that he is innocent of the charges. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the United States government to exchange the Pennsylvanian based Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gulen, with Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in jail in Turkey since 2016. According to Erdogan, Turkey has given Washington all the documents necessary for the extradition of Gulen, but the U.S. refuses instead demanding the return of the pastor who is now on house arrest after almost two years of incarceration. On September 28, Erdogan responded, “You have another pastor in your hands. Give us that pastor and we will do what we can in our judiciary system to give you this one.” The United States argues that we have a judiciary protocol not to extradite citizens or permanent residents (with Gulen being the latter) without sufficient proof of the charges, and Turkey retorts that it also has a judiciary process that sentences those charged. In Turkey’s view, the pastor they charged with terrorism who is in their hands is being tried, but the cleric in the U.S’s hands is not being tried. In Erdogan’s line of reasoning, it is easier for America to give Gulen to Ankara since he is not undergoing judicial review or sentencing and, thus, is not entangled in legal proceedings. So who is Turkey’s public enemy number one and what do we know about his organization?

The Fetullah Gulen Organization (FETO) is the name of one of the biggest and most dangerous, as well as probably the most sophisticated and large scaled, cults among religious groups around the world. The Turkish government considers this group to be a terror group. The organization has Turkish origins but has followers and sympathizers from many other nations as well, including from the Philippines. This is their façade, a carefully crafted image of themselves as civic education institutions and innocent charity organizations, such as the Integrative Center for Alternative Development (ICAD). This foundation is a private, non-profit, non-stock organization that currently has three schools in the Philippines and other NGOs. The Philippine Turkish Tolerance School offers elementary and secondary education in Zamboanga and ICAD distributes beef during the Eid Al Adha. The foundation perfected exemplifies FETO’s tactic, propagate Gulen’s ideology through an institution that purports to “to promote peace and understanding through education among people of diverse cultures.”

The Gulen organization talks about interfaith dialogue and civic participation, but they conceal their real identity. Most of their followers do not even realize that the group is a cult or considered a dangerous or terrorist group. The Fethullah group has two separate structures; they are like two sides of a coin. One structure is quiet like the World Wide Web of NGOs that is spread around the world. Most of the followers are religious believers in Islam, but even that is not a necessary criterion since a supporter may just be influenced by an NGO because of the cause it represents, not because of the religion. Most of these NGOs are in education, business, think tanks, trade associations, interfaith dialogue groups, or similar institutions. Through their network around the world, they make every effort to raise money, both via businesses they have and via direct donations from their followers. Sometimes they pressure their followers to give more money. By using these legal structures, they get grants from governments as well. Through their businesses in education, they pick successful students and make them loyal followers of Fethullah Gulen, the founder and leader of the organization. Slowly they brainwash the members, so that these successful students have two careers: participation in their community (hizmet) and infiltration in the government organizations.

Those who are imbedded in a government help these students find a job in the government as well as be fast tracked in their promotions to positions in the organization. Their moving up the group’s ladder also allows them to be effective in the government as well. Reciprocally, as they progress in their position in the government, they simultaneously move up in their position in the group. The government institution can be in any field from education, health, social welfare, finance, and police, to sports, military, and the judiciary because their goal and aim is to take over that entity, so that whatever governmental position is available, one of their members can move in to take it. The other students who have contact with the group via their training centers, private high schools, tutoring centers, language prep courses, and cultural presentations are brainwashed to be followers of the group. In the past the group took influential people on free trips to Turkey, but those largely successful bribes stopped because Erdogan and Gulen became arch enemies in 2013, when Erdogan accused Gulen of instigating the corruption investigations against him. Some of those who visited Turkey became sympathizers, viewing the organization and Fetullah Gulen in quite a positive way, which proved advantageous as group members received contracts and positions from the visitors later.

The other business that is important to the organization is media and publishing companies. Until a few years ago, the newspapers with the highest circulation in Turkey were in Gulen’s control. But the followers manipulated the subscription rate of the 12 main newspapers altering the number of circulation, so that it was estimated that his main newspaper was one of the most read in Turkey. In addition to the newspapers, they had TV and radio channels, news websites, and all other media related outlets. The result was that they could influence public opinion, probably much more than any other group in Turkey. They also had print media and television stations in Europe, the USA, and other countries. These businesses, educational institutions, and media outlets operated legally and created a legal image.

The other side of the coin, however, is quite different. Most of the group is aware of the legal side of this organization but do not know much about the illegal side, such as its manipulation, cheating on exams, stealing, slandering, eavesdropping, and especially that the group is recognized as a terror group by the Turkish government and by many individuals who have researched or tracked the organization. These duped members never have been informed about the activities of the other side of the organization. Also unknown to them, the organization does money laundering and forgery of documents. Deceiving local authorities, they bribe influential public figures giving them gifts, inviting them to their house, overwhelming them with free trips to Turkey or events, or other ways to convince the society that their aim is compatible with democratic, moderate values. But a closer investigation reveals exactly the opposite. Sadly, there is not a great deal of awareness in the Philippines among the public or the media about what the Gulen movement is. It is unfortunate that this revelation has not gotten media coverage or the official law enforcement attention that it needs.

Concerning the dark side of the group, neither many outsiders nor insiders know about it. Followers who have responsibilities in the government are quiet like sleeper cells. Day to day, they just do what they need to do, but when it comes to something related to the interests of the group, they do everything to make it happen; it can be accomplished via legal or illegal means. For example, one of the followers of the group is a policeman. He can fabricate evidence for the prosecution, even if there is no basis for an attorney to prosecute. The prosecutor, who is a follower of the group, can just fabricate a charge on demand. They can create a cult group, which does not even exist. Then they add the people whom they see as obstacles with their intent to get control of the whole government, so that upon inspection, it appears that this target is affiliated with this cult. An individual does not need to do anything to find that he has been determined to be a member of this newly contrived cult group, one now considered by the Turkish group as a terror group, but one the individual never heard of. The policeman can just fabricate the evidence.

Similarly, they can make up cohorts of spies in the military, via these prosecutions. Whether or not they are found guilty, their promotions in the military would halt for years since these military suits can take years to lead to a judicial decision. Even journalists who are quiet skeptics about the group’s process of writing books can find themselves in jail and will be slandered with everything being fabricated to destroy them.

A cult, such as Gulen’s, can be more dangerous than terrorism. It does not use weapons to attack innocent people, but it uses its insinuations, allowing the government to destroy someone’s life. According to Gulen, the best way to defeat enemy is the use enemy’s weapon against enemy. When the group attacks an individual, the person may not even be aware of it. This person is not aware that it is a terror attack in the first place.

From time to time I have criticized some of President Erdogan’s policies toward Syria and toward the Kurdish people, but also I salute President Erdogan for standing up to Gulen’s cult and in so doing looking out for Turkey’s interests even if also his own in the process. I have never received an email from the Turkish Embassy nor has the Mindanao Times editor-in-chief had one that objects to my criticism of Turkey or President Erdogan. Instead, the denigration comes from one of Gulen’s group who uses a different name and sends my columns to the Turkish embassy trying to characterize me as an enemy of Turkey and charging that I write negatively about Turkey and President Erdogan.

From this perspective, the group is quite like an intelligence gathering agency. A conventional terror group uses techniques similar to the military and intelligence ones. FETO masterfully uses espionage techniques. Information is a weapon as is psychological propaganda, false facts, flag operations, and sting NGOs used for undercover purposes, to name a few tactics. The members of this group infiltrated the military of Turkey as well, just like it did other institutions; this infiltration had been going on since the 1970s. Through the years the imbedded members have been promoted to positions as high as three-star generals. They had full control of the personnel department of the military and authority over the whole Turkish air force. They used slander, forgery, and fabricated documents to get rid of the military personnel that they saw as obstacles to them in order to get the positions they wanted. The group even tried to get control of the Turkish national intelligence services. Through the tried-and-proved technique of fabrication, they arrested the head of intelligence agency.

At that time Erdogan saw their real face and their actual intentions. The President, who at that time was the Prime Minister of Turkey, acted quickly to prevent the head of the intelligence agency from being arrested without his permission. Subsequently, Erdogan tried to reduce the influence of the group. For this purpose, he decreed and enforced the closure of Gulen’s institution, which would effectively close down the training centers from which the group was generating large amounts of money and had secured a strong influence on young students.

Of course, the group used their extremely honed techniques; they devised attacks against the government officials, the ministers, their sons, and Erodgan and his son. Although some aspects of the cases were certainly not fabricated, others were conjured up as usual. Via their media, they managed to influence public opinion for a large segment of Turkish society and the international community as well. President Erdogan maneuvered to eliminate the attacks. This was time that Erdogan begin to call the group as “a parallel government” because they infiltrated all the governmental institutions to become a government inside the government.

Since they kept being defeated by President Erdogan in every scheme, the organization determined that the problem now had become Erdogan himself; consequently, they had to find a way to get rid of Erdogan, so they masterminded their last, but suicidal, act on the 15th of July 2016. The cult group attempted a coup to depose Erdogan and his family, but the coup failed. The plans leaked that afternoon, so the group had to start the coup earlier than they had initially planned. During the coup, they hid themselves as if they were a Kemalist faction in the military, in other words, a secular eminent of followers of the founder of the Turkish nation Ataturk.

But the Turkish people did not buy it. In the face of the resistance of the whole nation, the coup plotters sought to escape, but most of them were caught and arrested. In the attempt, however, they killed more than 250 Turkish men and women, they bombed the Turkish Parliament with an F-16, and targeted a police building that caused the death of 46 police officers. They attacked the intelligence agency with a military helicopter and killed innocent people with tanks and attack helicopters. That is why the Turkish government declared them as a terror group. Because none of the other terror groups had access to F-16s, airplanes, helicopters, or tanks. For that reason the Turkish government considers the FETO as one of the most sophisticated terror groups in the world and wants the leader of the group to be extradited back to Turkey to face justice.

My government and Brunson have a moral responsibility to respect the Turkish justice system. Brunson should tell both governments to stop exploiting his legal case for domestic, economic, and political gain. If Pastor Brunson innocent sooner or later he will be free. Yes, in the New York Times editorial, President Erdogan rightly charges that the United States has repeatedly failed to understand and respect the Turkish government’s concerns and that Washington must respect Turkish sovereignty and understand the danger that the Turkish nations faces.

(Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com )

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Paradigm Shift: Who are Fethulah Gulen and Andrew Brunson? (Last Part) http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-who-are-fethulah-gulen-and-andrew-brunson-last-part/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-who-are-fethulah-gulen-and-andrew-brunson-last-part/#comments Sat, 01 Sep 2018 07:28:55 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=61593 Read more ›]]> Similarly, they can make up cohorts of spies in the military, via these prosecutions. Whether or not they are found guilty, their promotions in the military would halt for years since these military suits can take years to lead to a judicial decision.

Even journalists who are quiet skeptics about the group’s process of writing books can find themselves in jail and will be slandered with everything being fabricated to destroy them.

A cult, such as Gulen’s, can be more dangerous than terrorism. It does not use weapons to attack innocent people, but it uses its insinuations, allowing the government to destroy someone’s life. According to Gulen, the best way to defeat enemy is the use enemy’s weapon against enemy. When the group attacks an individual, the person may not even be aware of it. This person is not aware that it is a terror attack in the first place.

From time to time I have criticized some of President Erdogan’s policies toward Syria and toward the Kurdish people, but also I salute President Erdogan for standing up to Gulen’s cult and in so doing looking out for Turkey’s interests even if also his own in the process. I have never received an email from the Turkish Embassy nor has the Mindanao Times editor-in-chief had one that objects to my criticism of Turkey or President Erdogan. Instead, the denigration comes from one of Gulen’s group who uses a different name and sends my columns to the Turkish embassy trying to characterize me as an enemy of Turkey and charging that I write negatively about Turkey and President Erdogan.

From this perspective, the group is quite like an intelligence gathering agency. A conventional terror group uses techniques similar to the military and intelligence ones. FETO masterfully uses espionage techniques. Information is a weapon as is psychological propaganda, false facts, flag operations, and sting NGOs used for undercover purposes, to name a few tactics. The members of this group infiltrated the military of Turkey as well, just like it did other institutions; this infiltration had been going on since the 1970s. Through the years the imbedded members have been promoted to positions as high as three-star generals. They had full control of the personnel department of the military and authority over the whole Turkish air force. They used slander, forgery, and fabricated documents to get rid of the military personnel that they saw as obstacles to them in order to get the positions they wanted. The group even tried to get control of the Turkish national intelligence services. Through the tried-and-proved technique of fabrication, they arrested the head of intelligence agency.

At that time Erdogan saw their real face and their actual intentions. The President, who at that time was the Prime Minister of Turkey, acted quickly to prevent the head of the intelligence agency from being arrested without his permission. Subsequently, Erdogan tried to reduce the influence of the group. For this purpose, he decreed and enforced the closure of Gulen’s institution, which would effectively close down the training centers from which the group was generating large amounts of money and had secured a strong influence on young students.

Of course, the group used their extremely honed techniques; they devised attacks against the government officials, the ministers, their sons, and Erodgan and his son. Although some aspects of the cases were certainly not fabricated, other were conjured up as usual. Via their media, they managed to influence public opinion for a large segment of Turkish society and the international community as well. President Erdogan maneuvered to eliminate the attacks. This was time that Erdogan begin to call the group as “a parallel government” because they infiltrated all the governmental institutions to become a government inside the government.

Since they kept being defeated by President Erdogan in every scheme, the organization determined that the problem now had become Erdogan himself; consequently, they had to find a way to get rid of Erdogan, so they masterminded their last, but suicidal, act on the 15th of July 2016. The cult group attempted a coup to depose Erdogan and his family, but the coup failed. The plans leaked that afternoon, so the group had to start the coup earlier than they had initially planned. During the coup, they hid themselves as if they were a Kemalist faction in the military, in other words, a secular reminent of followers of the founder of the Turkish nation Ataturk.

But the Turkish people did not buy it. In the face of the resistance of the whole nation, the coup plotters sought to escape, but most of them were caught and arrested,. In the attempt, however, they killed more than 250 Turkish men and women, they bombed the Turkish Parliament with an F-16, and targeted a police building that caused the death of 46 police officers. They attacked the intelligence agency with a military helicopter and killed innocent people with tanks and attack helicopters. That is why the Turkish government declared them as a terror group. Because none of the other terror groups had access to F-16s, airplanes, helicopters, or tanks. For that reason the Turkish government considers the FETO as one of the most sophisticated terror groups in the world and wants the leader of the group to be extradited back to Turkey to face justice.

My government and Brunson have a moral responsibility to respect the Turkish justice system. Brunson should tell both governments to stop exploiting his legal case for domestic, economic, and political gain. If Pastor Brunson innocent sooner or later he will be free. Yes, in the New York Times editorial, President Erdogan rightly charges that the United States has repeatedly failed to understand and respect the Turkish government’s concerns and that Washington must respect Turkish sovereignty and understand the danger that the Turkish nations faces.

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com

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Paradigm Shift: Who are Fethulah Gulen and Andrew Brunson? http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-who-are-fethulah-gulen-and-andrew-brunson-2/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-who-are-fethulah-gulen-and-andrew-brunson-2/#comments Thu, 30 Aug 2018 16:00:07 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=61554 Read more ›]]> Those who are embedded in a government help these students find a job in the government as well as be fast-tracked in their promotions to positions in the organization. Their moving up the group’s ladder also allows them to be effective in the government as well.

Reciprocally, as they progress in their position in the government, they simultaneously move up in their position in the group. The government institution can be in any field from education, health, social welfare, finance, and police, to sports, military, and the judiciary because their goal and aim is to take over that entity, so that whatever governmental position is available, one of their members can move in to take it.

The other students who have contact with the group via their training centers, private high schools, tutoring centers, language prep courses, and cultural presentations are brainwashed to be its followers.

In the past the group took influential people on free trips to Turkey, but those largely successful bribes stopped because Erdogan and Gulen became arch enemies in 2013, when Erdogan accused Gulen of instigating the corruption investigation against him. Some of those who visited Turkey became sympathizers, viewing the organization and Fetullah Gulen in quite a positive way, which proved advantageous as group members received contracts and positions from the visitors later.

The other business that is important to the organization is media and publishing companies. Until a few years ago, the newspapers with the highest circulation in Turkey were in Gulen’s control. But the followers manipulated the subscription rate of the 12 main newspapers altering the number of circulation, so that it was estimated that his main newspaper was one of the most read in Turkey. In addition to the newspapers, they had TV and radio channels, news websites, and all other media related outlets. The result was that they could influence public opinion; probably much more than any other group in Turkey, They also had print media and television stations in Europe, the USA, and other countries. These businesses, educational institutions, and media outlets operated legally and created a legal image.

Concerning the alleged dark side of the group, neither many outsiders nor insiders know about it.

Followers who have responsibilities in the government are quiet like sleeper cells. Day to day, they just do what they need to do, but when it comes to something related to the interests of the group, they do everything to make it happen; it can be accomplished via legal or illegal means. For example, one of the followers of the group is a policeman. He can allegedly fabricate evidence for the prosecution, even if there is no basis for an attorney to prosecute.

An individual does not need to do anything to find that he has been determined to be a member of this newly contrived cult group, one now considered by the Turkish group as a terror group, but one the individual never heard of. The policeman can just fabricate the evidence. To be continued
Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com

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Paradigm Shift: Who are Fethulah Gulen and Andrew Brunson? http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-who-are-fethulah-gulen-and-andrew-brunson/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-who-are-fethulah-gulen-and-andrew-brunson/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2018 16:00:24 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=61498 Read more ›]]> The United States and Turkey have a long history of alliances, partnerships, and cooperation.

Today, the relationship between the two countries needs to develop and grow. Through mutual values and shared interests, they need to attend to security and stability in the region, beyond fighting terrorism and extremism, as well for economic collaboration. In recent weeks, however, the United States and Turkey have escalated tensions between them with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan citing the Turkish police’s arrest of an American Pastor Andrew Brunson on charges of aiding a terrorist organization and the US’s sanctions. President Trump issued these sanctions because of Turkey’s refusal to free Brunson, knowing that he is innocent of the charges. President Erdogan has called on the United States government to exchange the Pennsylvania-based Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gulen, with Pastor Andrew Brunson who has been in jail in Turkey since 2016. According to Erdogan, Turkey has given Washington all the documents necessary for the extradition of Gulen, but the US has refused, instead demanding the return of the pastor who is now on house arrest after almost two years of incarceration. On September 28, Erdogan responded, “You have another pastor in your hands. Give us that pastor and we will do what we can in our judiciary system to give you this one.” The United States argues that there is a judiciary protocol not to extradite citizens or permanent residents (with Gulen being the latter) without sufficient proof of the charges, and Turkey retorts that it also has a judiciary process that sentences those it charged. In Turkey’s view, the pastor they charged with terrorism who is in their hands is being tried, but the cleric in the US’s hands is not being tried. In Erdogan’s line of reasoning, it is easier for America to give Gulen to Ankara since he is not undergoing judicial review or sentencing and, thus, is not entangled in legal proceedings. So who is Turkey’s public enemy number one and what do we know about his organization?

The Fetullah Gulen Organization (FETO) is the name of one of the biggest and most dangerous, as well as probably the most sophisticated and large scaled, cults among religious groups around the world. The Turkish government considers this group to be a terror group. The organization has Turkish origins but has followers and sympathizers from many other nations as well, including from the Philippines.
The Gulen organization talks about interfaith dialogue and civic participation, but they conceal their real identity. Most of their followers do not even realize that the group is a cult or considered a dangerous or terrorist group. The Fethullah group has two separate structures; they are like two sides of a coin. One structure is quiet like the World Wide Web of NGOs that is spread around the world. Most of the followers are religious believers in Islam, but even that is not a necessary criterion since a supporter may just be influenced by an NGO because of the cause it represents, not because of the religion. Most of these NGOs are in education, business, think tanks, trade associations, interfaith dialogue groups, or similar institutions. Through their network around the world, they make every effort to raise money, both via businesses they have and via direct donations from their followers. Sometimes they pressure their followers to give more money. By using these legal structures, they get grants from governments as well. Through their businesses in education, they pick successful students and make them loyal followers of Fethullah Gulen, the founder and leader of the organization. Slowly they brainwash the members, so that these successful students have two careers: participation in their community (hizmet) and infiltration in the government organizations.

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com

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Paradigm Shift: Pastor Brunson must tell President Trump and others not to politicize him and his work http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-pastor-brunson-must-tell-president-trump-and-others-not-to-politicize-him-and-his-work/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-pastor-brunson-must-tell-president-trump-and-others-not-to-politicize-him-and-his-work/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 01:58:44 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=61293 ]]> Turkish relations with the U.S. are at a low point over the detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who, amazingly, Turkey has accused of being involved in an attempted coup in 2016. Further, President Erdogan has called the ongoing currency crisis an aggressive action against the Turkish economy, which he described as an attack on the Turkish flag and on the Islamic call to prayer.

To him, the purpose of the pastor’s arrest and of the financial crisis is not different. It aims to bring Turkey and the Turkish people to their knees. In this declaration, Erdogan indirectly mentions President’ Donald Trump’s warnings of more sanctions if the U.S. pastor is not released soon. For the U.S. administration, Turkey’s imprisonment of Brunson has been a problem for a long time. According to Trump in his August 17th statement, “We are not going to take it sitting down,” openly threatening Turkey with more sanctions for the continued detention of the pastor. The Treasure Secretary Steven Munchin supported Trump’s declaration by assuring that Washington had further sanctions ready to implement if Brunson were not released. “We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly,” said Munchin.
In the last month the Turkish lira has lost around 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar. In response to the threat of more repercussions, Turkey said it would retaliate against any U.S. sanctions imposed, blaming the Trump administration for using the Brunson case for its international political objective as the midterm congressional elections ensue. President Erdogan reminded the public that the Turkish people could avert all attacks against the country thanks to their ability to unite in difficult times, recalling the coup attempt in 2016. He underlined that those who think that they can make Turkey give up through the exchange rate will soon see they are mistaken. From the Turkish point of view, the detention of Andrew Brunson is just an excuse for the U.S. to punish Turkey.
The current crisis between Ankara and Washington is both political and economic. There has been a crisis in the Turkish-U.S relations for a while now. In addition to the Brunson case, Ankara and Washington disagree strongly over other issues, such as Turkey’s buying the Russian S-400 missile system, America’s support in Syria for the Kurdish militia that Turkey views as a terrorist group, as well as the continued U.S. residence of Fethullah Gulen, who Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan claims was behind the failed coup that attempted to oust him two years ago. Ankara and Washington disagree on the future of Jerusalem and of the Palestinians, and in general support opposite camps in the Middle East. In the last couple of years, President Erdogan has been maneuvering to make new friends and allies. Consequently, President Erdogan finds Russian President Vladamir Putin and Chinese Presiden Xi Jinping easier to deal with than their Americans and EU counterparts.
President Erdogan suggested that Turkey could free Brunson if the United States handed over Fethullah Gulen, who is living on American soil. When America demands, “Give us the pastor back,” Turkey responds, “You have one pastor (Gulen). Well, give him to us.” Erdogan rationalizes, “Then we will try him (Brunson) and give him to you.” “The pastor we have is on trial. Yours is not; he is living in Pennsylvania. You can return him easily.” Gulen has denied any role in the coup attempt that killed 250 people and injured a thousand. The U.S. officials claim that Turkey has yet to provide enough evidence for the U.S. Justice Department to act. The problem is that the U.S. government fails to appreciate the Turkish public ‘s position on the July coup attempt and on Gulen’s imbedded organization, FETO. Disheartened by Brunson arrest, the U.S policy makers do not seem to understand how deep anti-Gulen sentiments run in Turkey. The U.S. concerns about the imprisonment of Brunson go hand in hand with Turkey’s frustration over what it perceives to be the U.S.’s harboring of an enemy of the Turkish state.
Yet another reason leading to the crisis between Turkey and the United States is the looming punishment for the Turkish Halkbank, a state owned Turkish bank accused of helping Iran and of breaking the sanctions. While Turkey’s policies on Syria and Iran, its relations with Russia, and its approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict underpin Washington’s attitude toward Ankara, those outside the U.S. view the immediate reason as having more to do with American domestic politics and the upcoming mid-term elections.
President Trump’s style of negotiation keeps the world guessing with his unpredictability, threatening with outrageous outcomes, ratcheting up tensions, magnifying conflict with tweets and taunts, and then compromising by taking a fairly conventional middle ground. For example, initially he planned to withdraw from Syria, but later he ordered missile strikes in Syria. He stated that the U.S. would withdraw from Afghanistan, but then he acquiesced and aligned more or less with the previous administration. His rhetoric incited fear that war with North Korea was eminent, but tater he met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore having kimchi with him; he withdrew from the U.S–Korean trade deal; and later he negotiated with the South Koreans announcing a modest change in the agreements. He questioned the U.S. commitment to its NATO allies and withdrew from NAFTA; he incited a trade war with China threatening China with $100 billion in tariffs. Trump negotiated a very good business deal with Germany, but now he is threatening Iran and imposing sanctions on Iran, even trying to have an Arab NATO in the Middle East. His fickleness leaves the world guessing.
When Presidents Edogan and Trump met last month at the NATO summit, Trump thought he and President Erdogan had made a deal: President Trump would call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ask for the release of a Turkish woman held in Israel, and Turkey would release Brunson. Ebru Özkan was released immediately, but Brunson was moved to house arrest, not released. President Trump took personally Turkey’s reneging on its agreement, and now he is demanding Brunson’s unconditional release. Turkey will sooner or later find a way to release the Brunson while saving face, but the damage has been made between Turkey and USA as well as the future Christian status in Turkey. President Erdogan wanted to use Brunson as leverage to reduce the punishment on Halkbank and discourage further investigation of the bank by the U.S. Treasure Department. For sure, President Initially, Erdogan wanted to establish good relations with the Trump administration and did not want to have this conflict with him, but now he is looking at how he can resolve the crisis he faces.
The problem with the Turkish people, especially those in the region, is that if anything bad happens to them, they readily blame foreigners or foreign countries, most notably the long anticipated economic crisis, which President Erdogan is now blaming on the U.S sanctions, in spite of it largely being caused by his own economic policies. President Erdogan is a master at turning situations to his advantage and blaming America. President Erdogan will most likely find a way to release Brunson, but until then the relationship between the countries will be tense.
President Trump has responded by turning the Pastor Brunson issue into a showcase to win the millions of evangelical votes in the upcoming mid-term elections, putting a high level of pressure on Turkey, a strategy that has done more harm to Turkish Christians than good, putting them in danger. The Turkish citizenry take it as a reason to attack evangelicals who are willing to convert Turks, and perhaps the strategy has even led to a growing Christophobia in Turkey. Turkey will sooner or later release Brunson, and after twenty-two years of serving there, Brunson will leave Turkey, but other Christians will stay there so many will be affected after him. Brunson’s high profile has already left many Turks asking questions. “We are Muslims; what is Brunson doing in Turkey in first place? Why did we even allow Brunson to live in Turkey for 20 years?” it is good to have U.S. advocacy for its citizens’ release, but not good to exploit a case politically.
If the Turkish economy runs into more troubles, anti-American sentiments in Turkey would grow even stronger, compelling the government to take an even stiffer stance against the USA. If, on the other hand, Turkey is able to ward off a deepening crisis in its economy, then diplomacy between the two allies could resurface. President Trump threatens additional sanctions, particularly the exercise of a U.S. veto against extending credit or providing facilities to Turkey in international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Ultimately, however, the relationship all depends on the actions and decisions of the leaders of the two countries. The Turkish economy will not collapse, despite the deep problems it is facing. The fundamentals of the economy are strong enough to avoid a melt-down. In fact, Turkey has already taken a number of steps to shore up its economy.
A world-wide reaction against the U.S., both in the East and the West, is leading perhaps to alternative international arrangements to mitigate the effects of American behavior. Not just because it dislikes Trump’s policies, Europe has been supportive of Turkey because they understand that a failed Turkey would also have serious consequences on their economies. Turkish cooperation with Europe and with others will work to Turkey’s benefit. As an opponent of the U.S., Iran has also been very understanding toward Turkey, criticizing American policies. For the stability and prosperity of both countries as well as of the region, continuing cooperation and solidarity between Turkey and Iran is important.
Pastor Brunson’s return to his American home would be welcomed, but this escalation may hurt his cause rather than help it. Economically destabilizing Turkey is not in anyone’s interest. The singular focus on Brunson in the Turkish press among other media, voices the narrative that America only cares about the American Christians, and not all of its citizens because not only is Brunson a prisoner in Turkey, but also, greater damage may be done to others of his faith even if the advocacy for him succeeds,
Pastor Brunson must not let President Trump or any other policy maker use his case as a political scapegoat. If Brunson was called to share his faith with Muslims, then he should not let this commitment to Muslim people be used for any political reason. If Brunson is what he says he is, then he should not forget the Apostle Peter’s response to his persecutors, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” I am sure Brunson knows very well that being a pastor among the Muslim people is a dangerous business. This is nothing new. Most assuredly, he knows that it is a very life-threatening enterprise, especially in Muslim countries, to convert a Muslim to a Christian in an Islamic context, who often will be persecuted and may even be martyred. Brunson is aware that throughout history suffering has been part of his faith but witnessing vital to the growth of the Church, not just among Muslims. Is this the message from Brunson that Muslims and Turks want to hear, and if so, is he willing to lay down his life for his faith? He should not forget to count the cost. Finally, Brunson, who purports to be innocent of involvement in the coup, has a moral responsibility to respect the Turkish Justice System and to tell the U.S. government to stop exploiting his legal case for domestic, economical, and political gain. Most importantly, he must remember that he must exhibit an attitude that is constructive and Christ-like, which he has probably said in words, but in the application this is a opportunity for him to be faithful. Brunson should show the Turkish people he has a “crucified mind” instead of a “crusade mind.” Many Turks believe they are under threat from the United States. Pastor Andrew should live out his message, and Trump should desist from politicizing Brunson’s suffering.
Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may e-mail the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com

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Paradigm Shift | The spy who came out from the cold war http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-the-spy-who-came-out-from-the-cold-war/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-the-spy-who-came-out-from-the-cold-war/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2018 07:25:19 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60829 ]]> Recently The Guardian reported that the U.S. has arrested a 29 year old Russian redhead for alleged espionage. Maria Butina follows a formidable list of beautiful femme fatales who have lured away state secrets for their countries’ government.

Whether through male or female operatives, the history of spying is long. From ancient history to the today’s use of drones and satellites to gather intel, knowing the opposition by spying seems to be a human behavior. Moses commissioned 12 spies, a leader from each tribe, to Canaan to spy out the land— to determine the strength of the enemies and the fortification of their cities. During the American Revolutionary War, the British Major John André conspired with the American General Benedict Arnold to sell a Continental Army fort, West Point and was hanged when caught. The World War I Dutch-born exotic dancer, Mata Hari, served as a courtesan to the high ranking military and politicians in Paris gaining vital information for Germany before she was caught and shot by a firing squad. In the 1940s and 50s the KGB recruited Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, American Communists, to steal classified documents and designs. They also met an untimely demise in an electric chair in Sing Sing Prison. Seemingly, scandals and consequences accompany secrecy and duplicity.

Films and novels, documentaries and non-fiction works alike draw the public into the intrigue and drama of clandestine activity. Whether early American writer James Fenimore Cooper’s Harvey Birch in The Spy or Ian Fleming’s Agent 007 James Bond character in his series, the “spy as hero” remains a part of the infatuation. In reality, however, cultural and social prohibitions against spying remain in place, especially when it endangers the nation’s operatives abroad or civilians at home. Espionage activities range from gathering classified documents, swapping state secrets, and recruiting insiders to hiding concealment devices, engaging in electronic surveillance, or more dramatic selling sex for secrets. Drops, stakeouts, agent handlers, and encryption are all terms of the trade that draw out intelligence while simultaneously drawing in the public’s fascination.

Even though gathering of state secrets comes in myriad forms today, evidently, human intelligence sources are still vital because nothing replaces the embedded spy. Although Russian spies seem a chapter in the U.S.-Russia Cold War history, the latest discovery leads to another scenario. Alleged Russian spy Butina infiltrated upper level U.S. political candidates, particularly conservative elites, even posing with them for photo ops during the 2016 elections. Candidates such as Bobby Jindal, Rich Santorum and Scott Walker were photographed with Ms. Butina, not suspecting that she was the former assistant to Putin’s ally, the Russian Senator Aleksandr Torshin. Her brashness included attending a conference in Las Vegas where she asked then candidate Trump about his view on sanctions on Russia, President Trump’s inauguration, and the National Prayer Breakfast, where the President spoke. Succumbing to her plot to imbed herself in the gun advocacy branch of the Republican party, the Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association proved game for her novel machinations.

Now, the U.S. has charged this self-proclaimed gun activist, one who heralds from a country that has no right to bear arms, with trying to influence American politics to advance the interests of her native country, which included infiltrating the NRA. Perhaps in the twenty-first century, the Cold War of the atomic age, the space race, and the collapse of the Soviet Union is heating up. As Butina sits incarcerated in a U.S. jail without bond because of the risk of her fleeing, American intelligence-gathering agencies are tracing her heavy footprint on social media, her string of posts of photos ranging from her student activities at the American University to attending conferences and meeting with government actors. American counterintelligence is probing to determine if Ms. Butina has emerged as a low level operative in a grander scheme.

The Philippines is not without its spies, both heroic and despicable. Initially dedicated to become a nun, Magdalena Leones instead volunteered as a corporal during World War II, working with the American Philippine army as an intelligence agent. Although the Japanese arrested her three times, she played a vital role in providing supplies, radio parts, and data to the guerrillas, in one case allowing them to assist General MacArthur in his landing at Leyte. In a quiet different narrative, the Manila elite, Josefina Guerrero, married and had a daughter, but contracted leprosy causing her husband to take the child and leave her; she subsequently volunteered for the resistance forces to provide critical information and to serve as a courier for the American forces to defeat the Japanese. Less admired, Leandro Aragoncillo, a Filipino retired from the U.S. Marines and a former FBI intelligence analyst, leaked classified information about the 14th Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, giving it to the French operatives in Manila. Convicted in the U.S. in 2007, Aragoncillo served only seven years in a New Jersey prison for his espionage activities, having entered a plea bargain.

With the public’s simultaneous captivation by and revulsion at spies, discovery of an undercover agent arrests immediate attention. But the charm wears off as the headlines fade and the routine of life continues. Charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government, Maria Butina adds to the chronicles we love to read yet leave repulsed. While her unconventional tactics, those her attorney argues were part of her college life in America, point to an intent to gain intelligence for not just her handler Torshin, but also to infiltrate influential conservative political camps presumably to sway their attitude toward and thus policies involving Russia. The American public was caught off guard because Russian spies seemed a relic of the Cold War. However, the case against this recently charged secret agent triggers the question, “Are there other Maria Butinas?” With Putin’s KGB background, the current revelation is fraught with possibilities for U.S.-Russian relations.

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Paradigm Shift | NATO divided http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-nato-divided/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-nato-divided/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2018 00:53:17 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60383 ]]> ANNUALLY, leaders of the 29 North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) countries meet in one of its member countries to discuss critical issues and agenda items of the alliance, but summits are held for special changes. Although the NATO is considered the most successful military alliance in modern history, this year its summit met in Brussels under a cloud of pessimism because of the major disagreement among the member countries. President Donald Trump’s criticism of NATO allies and his trade wars with the European economies raised concern over the future of the transatlantic alliance.

At last week’s NATO meeting, President Trump urged members to contribute more in terms of finances, troops, and capabilities, just as the alliance is on the verge of making strategy changes. In his customary blunt straight talk, the President accused the allies of treating the U.S. like “a piggy bank” by not paying their fair share of NATO’s costs. President Trump said that if Europe is afraid of Russian expansion, international terrorism, and an uncontrolled influx of migrants from other countries, they should share the burden more proportionately. Trump shocked NATO members further by saying they should not wait until 2024 to reach the goal of spending 2% of their GDP on their defense, but they should pay equitably now.

It is not clear whether the NATO allies will maintain their solidarity in the face of a significant threat to its relevance and sustainability; furthermore, the Brussels summit was unable to clarify its primary concerns, and the allies did little to brush over their disagreements causing the summit to be divided. The main problem with NATO is the threat perception among the principle partners in the alliance. For example, for Turkey and the Baltic states it is not clear whether NATO countries will be committed to their obligations to defend their allies in case of a threat.

For President Donald Trump, the main problem related to NATO is the financial cost of defending Europe. Currently only three NATO countries, other than the US, are meeting their 2% share. Trump argued that NATO is not sustainable unless European countries increase their share in defense of the alliance. President Trump sees these nations as free riders. He strongly criticized Germany with its massive trade surplus and high productivity. According to the World Bank’s measurement of the GDP of some NATO members, Germany is the world’s fourth richest nation; U.K., the ninth; France, the 10th; and Italy, the 11th. But they are very stingy in barely spending 1% of their GDP on their militaries, and instead have relied on allies to subsidize their defense against other countries. Meanwhile their at least nominal enemy, Russia, spends nearly 5.5 or 6% out of a GDP of nearly $1.5 trillion, less than half of Germany‘s nearly $3.8 trillion GDP, meaning that Moscow invests a much higher percentage on its military.

NATO’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, air to air refueling, ballistics missile defense, and airborne electronic warfare are all paid for by the American taxpayers. It is a very legitimate objection from the President of the United States, so that he is rightly asking questions about why rich countries like Germany, which enjoys a $65 billion annual trade surplus with the U.S and the nearly $4 trillion GDP, cannot afford to pay more so that American taxpayers can spend less to defend them Solutions to these problems need to be sorted out to strengthen cooperation among the members and to invest further in the security infrastructures of the alliance.

In a divisive move, Germany has contracted with Russia to build the Nord Stream II pipeline for pumping 55 billion square meters of natural gas into Germany. In this deal with Russia the pipeline would bypass the Ukraine and leave other Eastern European countries more dependent on Moscow’s energy and thus more vulnerable. Having secured between 50 to 75% of its natural gas from Russia in 2017, Germany is playing it smart by objecting to Trump’s idea of increased defense spending and by cozying up to Russia. German Foreign Minister said in an interview, “We make free, sovereign decisions about our budget, our energy supplies, and our trade relationships on the basis of facts.” That position is based on national, not transnational interests thus showing signs of unraveling commitments.

Furthermore, among NATO members the U.S., Germany, the U.K., Turkey, and France no longer have similar lists of threat perception. The spread of communism and nuclear proliferation are no longer the shared threats that caused the establishment of NATO. Trump’s administration does not consider Russia as its archenemy or rival; even more to the point, Turkey has started to see Russia as one of its key partners with regard to the war in Syria, trade, tourism, and even its purchase of missiles from the former Soviet Union. Germany has a long-standing strategic energy cooperation with Russia. But at the same time, the Baltic states are very skeptical about Russian military activity in the Baltic Sea and in the regions. Georgia and the Ukraine remain vigilant about Putin’s intent to encroach on their sovereignty.

After World War II American leadership in transnational institutions, like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and NATO, created ruled-based order, so that interstate relations could be based on international cooperation. This cooperation was guided by shared principals, thus broadening the parochial interests of sovereign nations. Seemingly, giving national sovereignty to transnational leaders would create a more peaceful and orderly world, but in reality real peace and prosperity resulted not from the rule-based order, but from American military might stopping the Soviets and Communism. Today, if Russia becomes a real threat to NATO, then the alliance will need more forces on the ground to counterbalance Russian influence over the Baltic, Poland, and Eastern Europe, but theU.S.is not willing to invest more in European security.

NATO members’ perspective concerning Russia, which used to be seen as a shared threat in the past, is just one example of the lack of consensus on threat perceptions. Views of the member countries concerning terrorist threats, ethnic cleansing, and cyber security have widened even more. The U.S. does not see Russia as a major challenge to its global supremacy. Russia may eventual threaten the European Union’s power, but the major challenge for the United States is rising Chinese power. The fast rise of China in its economy and trade seem to be drivers of growth in the world economy. This growth does not insure security in the region. The next initial zone of confrontation will be the South China Sea. In the meantime, China is eyeing military bases in Pakistan, even if its economy growth is peaceful. The Trump administration feels that if they cannot do anything to stop China now, it will be very hard later to stop the giant later, and Europe will be too weak to help the U.S. against China. Global trade wars are the best strategy to confront China.

President Trump’s disagreement with NATO shows the growing weakness of the international order. At this 28th summit since NATO’s inception in 1949, the question of whether the Heads of State were able to evaluate and provide strategic direction for the NATO allies remains unanswered. Generally, the summits are held to launch new initiatives or policies or to welcome new members, but President Trump’s criticism of the inequity of defense spending and of the transnational alliance’s relevance superseded such issues as terrorism or cybersecurity. Yet, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who chaired the summit, wrote that same week in the Financial Times that defending against cyber-attacks matters as much as defending air, land, and sea spaces. Whether a cyber-attack would trigger Article 5, Stoltenberg could not say, but he declared, “NATO is taking necessary steps to keep our nations and people safe,” a statement perhaps as rose-colored as President Trump’s assessment that the summit was “really great.”

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may e-mail the author at aland_mizell2@hotmail.com

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Paradigm Shift | Counterfeit medicines and prescription painkillers confound narcotics agencies and the public http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-counterfeit-medicines-and-prescription-painkillers-confound-narcotics-agencies-and-the-public/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-counterfeit-medicines-and-prescription-painkillers-confound-narcotics-agencies-and-the-public/#comments Wed, 04 Jul 2018 16:30:07 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=59880 Read more ›]]> We hope that President Rodrigo Duterte will continue his war on counterfeit drugs. His policies may tackle the cultivation, distribution, and consequences of illicit drugs.

For example, those fighting against counterfeit medicines complain that those prosecuted for this offense receive a comparatively light sentence compared to the sentences given to criminals peddling narcotics. Yet, counterfeit drugs are very dangerous because they threaten national security by endangering the health of a vast majority of the people. Fraudulent operations, nevertheless, continue to operate and flourish in countries with weak drug regulatory bodies because of the dual accountability problem of poor funding and staffing and weak or corrupt customer services and policy agencies.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the counterfeit drugs business accounts for about 10% of the annual $300 billion global drug industry. This figure includes such pharmaceuticals as fake birth control pills, cough syrup for children laced with a powerful opioid, and malarial pills composed of just potato and cornstarch. The WHO lists these as examples of poor quality, falsified medicines identified in recent years, all of which ignore the possible consequences for the public— health risks for and potential death of the users. Furthermore, some drugs that are not classified as illegal or dangerous may become so if purchased from an online site that proves not to be legitimate or even a trusted pharmacy that unknowingly receives a shipment of untested and illegitimate drugs. Because this counterfeit trade is so lucrative, the growing supply has caused great damage around the world.

Pain cannot be avoided because it is part of our human experience. Whether we experience it as the result of an injury from a car accident, infection, surgery, or other health issues, pain can interfere with our ability to sleep, work, and enjoy our life fully; yet, there are ways to treat pain. Unfortunately, rogue operations take advantage of this need to alleviate pain. In addition, a psychological pain can result from seeing a loved one suffering, for example, from malaria, one of the biggest killers of children across the globe. Filling a prescription for a loved one may bring temporary comfort because with the medicine to combat the disease purchased from a local drug market or from online, the care giver thinks relief is at hand. Yet, many experience the horror of seeing their loved one die because the drug was fake. That is the brutal reality of the annual multi-billion dollar global fake drug trade.

Opioid drugs are one of the ways people use medicine to avoid pain. Now experiencing an opioid crisis, America is the number one country in use of prescription drugs and painkillers. Part of the problem is that a person can develop a tolerance to those drugs. Over time, higher and higher doses may be needed to achieve the same degree of pain relief. As a corollary, the problem of widespread use of poor quality and increased dosages of medicines will increase antibiotic resistance. Addiction to opioid painkillers is also the biggest risk factor for heroin addiction, according to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. For some time now, the abuse of illicit substances, such as marijuana or other cannabis production, methamphetamine (shabu), cocaine, and heroin has been a persistent international problem. These potentially dangerous and sometimes fatal pharmaceuticals have been found in over 100 countries. Awareness of drug traffickers and offenders has captured the limelight. But in more recent years, few people realize that prescription drugs have become a leading cause of death, disease, and disability. Prescription drug abuse is a bigger problem worldwide than previously thought.

Prescription painkillers as well as herbalism, used for thousands years to overcome a myriad of maladies including tiredness, are victimizing Asian communities, and yet are totally legal. Currently sharing media attention with illicit street drugs, some controlled substances, such as those prescribed to relive pain and anxiety, are proving dangerous. While the demand for amphetamines, opiates, and cocaine continues to surge in the region, it is the abuse of everyday over the counter medications that has triggered alarm in health systems, according to the World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

For example, Tramadol, an opioid used to treat moderate pain in adults, and sold under brand names like Ultram, ConZip, Rybix ODT and Ultram ER, has caused a wave of addictions in Asia and Africa. Similar to morphine, it can create a dependency after only two or three weeks of consumption and may have lethal effects when combined with alcohol or other drugs. Low cost supplies of the drug are being shipped from Asia, where the drug is often manufactured, to the Middle East and to Africa. It is very difficult to counter it because no international control exists. International collaborations are needed to monitor prescription drug abuse, identify its scope, and develop targeted interventions.

To complicate the problem of overmedication, increasingly, prescription drugs, such as Xanax, Percocet, Vicodin, Lortab, OxyContin, have recreational uses or even superfluous ones. Access to prescription drugs in America is easy. A clean cut college student complains to the doctor about test anxiety and asks for something to relieve stress. He leaves the office with a prescription. Also, students share these pills in their dorm house or at a party. While initially seemingly limited to the US, the prescription drug epidemic extends well beyond there. Whatever the country, we are living in the age of prescription drugs being used for party purposes, for light concerns, or out of habit. The legal ambiguity of drugs also frustrates efforts to contain these drugs.

Curtailment of some drugs proves elusive, as in the case of kratom, a natural stimulant from the mitragyna specious plant in Southeast Asia that boosts alertness and energy levels when its leaves are chewed, when it is used in tea or smoked, or when it is ingested as a capsule. Kratom is available as a capsule through legitimate pharmacies in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Papua Guinea. Usually sold as leaves, the most illicit production comes out of Indonesia. To the point, the US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, warned that kratom, which is still being legally marketed as a diet or nutrition supplement, has a potential for abuse, addiction, and serious health consequences, including death.

Prescription drug abuse can affect all age groups, but it is more common in young people. According to the Mayo Clinic, the prescription drugs most often abused by this age group include opioid painkillers, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants. The initiation into drug abuse, particularly among youth, results in part from the ease of acquiring them from family, friends, or personal prescriptions. The early identification of prescription drug abuse and early intervention may prevent the problem from turning into an addiction. To ward off a crisis, some countries are taking action even though the drug or plant is not listed as illicit by any United Nations Drug Control Convention.

Even in the face of this world crisis of fraudulent manufacture and bogus consumption of drugs, some people have an inherent desire to make money although it compromises others’ well-being, causes addictions, or results in death. However, on the preventive side, because it is hard and expensive to make quality drugs, large pharmaceutical companies have taken up the fight against fake drugs. Their sales depend on the public’s trust. If buyers take a drug that does not work, they would not consider that it might be a counterfeit drug, but instead would think Pfizer is making ineffective medicines. With the exception of the fraudsters, everyone is a victim. Large pharmaceutical companies argue against fabricating generic copies of their formulas that they have spent billions of dollars on researching. Yet, sometimes the companies that make low cost generic drugs pirate that research, often in the name of affordability for the poor to have quality drugs at affordable prices.

In conclusion, the black hole of accountability from governments, drug companies, and consumers, should cause us to demand systems to ensure that a medicine is what it is labeled, that it is prescribed only for a real need, and that buying it demands legitimate prescriptions. Legislation should clearly define crimes so that narcotic agencies can pursue real offenders. As part of the war on drugs, the penalty for fraudulent manufacturers should be in keeping with the sentence for other drug offenses.

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com.

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Political Islam won the Turkeys presidential election http://mindanaotimes.net/political-islam-won-the-turkeys-presidential-election/ http://mindanaotimes.net/political-islam-won-the-turkeys-presidential-election/#comments Fri, 29 Jun 2018 03:57:49 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=59692 ]]> POLITICAL Islam made history again on Sunday evening by winning a landslide victory in the first round of Turkey’s June 24 presidential election. Despite the attempts aimed at deposing President Erdogan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made history again on Sunday evening by his Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has been in power since 2002. He received approximately 51.79% of the votes in the first round of the presidential elections and won the presidency again. President Erdogan made history by becoming Turkey’s first executive president and leading his party by an unprecedented number to rule for the next five year until the Republic‘s centennial in 2023. Erdogan has thus been elected as the first president of the new system. Having been in power for 16 years and with 13 elections and referenda wins, Erdogan overcame his closest rival.

The President’s hard fought re-election campaign focused on two important factors that led President Erdogan to be reelected: one was national security and the other the religion factor. Erdogan steadily increases the hold of Islam on the nation, squelching other faiths as well as remnants of those supporting the founder of the Republic who held to a pillar of secularism. The Turkish public did not care much about the economy in spite of the Turkish currency being at an all time low. Many citizens apathy about the economy was because they believed that the economic and financial problems were instruments used by foreigners to weaken Turkey.

In April when Erdogan called for the snap elections, the country’s opposition parties were caught off guard, A combination of the fresh military victory in Afrin with the Turkish war on Kurdish “guerrillas” (PKK) and of the war on Fethullah Gulen’s FETO organization easily gave the upper hand to Mr. Erdogan with a renewed presidency, but more importantly, it resulted from his newly expanded presidential powers acquired by abolishing the post of Prime Minister. This troublesome scene is compounded because the Turkish society is in a defense mode with a kind of war in Syria, in Iraq, and on the homeland after the failed coup attempt.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rose from humble beginnings to become Turkey’s most powerful politician since Ataturk. His supporters adore him as a transformative figure who modernized Turkey and was sent by Allah to save  the Turkish and Muslim nations, but critics see him as an increasingly authoritarian and despotic leader who harbors ambitions to establish a “one- man” rule. His carefully strategized reelection campaign highlights his strong track record, national security, and religion. Making campaign stops across the country, he asked for support from conservatives and religious Turks. There is no doubt Erdogan’s dream is to expand his powers to become more like the US executive presidential style but to eliminate all weak parties and have only two strong parties to compete in future elections.

Erdogan’s critics say he aims to destroy Turkey’s secular democracy, imposing his conservative Islamic values on society by silencing his rivals and critical media. For example, to prevent Kurdish Party leader Selahattin Demirtas, the Pro Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP)’s presidential candidate, from competing in the elections, he had him imprisoned and allowed his own friend to be elected to the parliament in 2015. He arrested and jailed so many democratically elected mayors in spite of all their challenges. Selahattin Demirtas is still imprisoned by the ruling party, along with a good portion of the HDPs Parliamentarians and mayors. But the  HDP managed to pass the electoral threshold with 70 Parliamentarians in the Turkish Meclis, the Grand National Assembly.

Many Turks believe that Islam should guide the State rather than the State corralling Islam. These Turks have been gaining power over the decades despite efforts by the ruling elites, like the secular CHP party, to block them at the ballot box and even to keep them out of politics all together. In 1996, an Islamist party, the Welfare Party, in which Erdogan used to be a member, managed to enter the ruling government, but Kemalist secular leaders overthrew the Islamic government and banned the party from the politics. Then, Erdogan tried another strategy and established a political party, the Justice and Development Party, in 2001, one that formally disowned any programmatic religion but caused a religious political divide in Turkey. The divide is real and  even widened during this election. Erdogan did not neglect exploiting the Islamic religion, shouting from the top of the campaign bus telling the crowd, “These are enemies of Islam, closing the mosques and not allowing Muslim women to wear head scarves.”

This is not the first or the last time Erdogan has used or will use religion for votes. Erdogan is considered to be a good Muslim; meanwhile, opposition candidate Muharrem Ince who was fielded by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), appears primarily to be an enemy of Islam and a bad Muslim. Consequently, wherever Erdogan goes on his campaign trail, his rhetoric appeals to the conservative focusing on religious symbols, such as mosques, minarets, and mihrabs.

There was no doubt that opposition party candidate Muharrem Ince had a strong performance, but most of the conservatives do not trust the CHP because of its past history and see the party as the main obstacle to conservativism. In fact, most of the religious groups have already issued a fetva to vote for Erdogan even if they know Erdogan and his party are full of corruption; however, they cannot see themselves voting for someone from the CHP party because most of Turkey’s Islamists openly resisted secularism through grassroots organization and appropriation of the democratic system. In spite of their dissatisfaction with he AKP party and its corruption, most of the religious movements have reacted to the secular CHP party.

Like many religious cohorts in Turkey, Erdogan attached a special significance to the Ottoman Empire because he considers it as a major chapter in both Islamic history and the history of the Turks. Indeed, Erdogan believes that Turkish civilization peaked with the Ottomans in the 16th century. Many Muslims cast a skeptical eye on the achievement of Mustafa Kemal and the founder of the Turkish Republic and by extension the CHP party. Although Ataturk may have salvaged a sovereign Turkish State from the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and thwarted direct colonization by the  West as in Iran, Syria, and Iraq, they adopted too much from the western culture in the view of many opposing secularism. President Erdogan knows how to appeal to the hearts of his followers. Thus, whenever his status gets politically difficult for him and his party, he reads from the Quran next to his mother’s grave, sometimes prays at the mosque, sometimes teaches the Quran to his grandchildren, and sometimes goes to kaaba.

Turkey is entering a transformation period in its governing system. It will be very important to observe the 48 percent who did not vote for Erdogan and to assess how they will fare under the new presidential system. The political struggle in Turkey will certainly continue under this new system. Whether the election campaign was unfair and the result rigged or whether the national media celebrated only Erdogan with other media being squelched does not matter anymore. In appearance the majority of the  Turkish people have made up their minds, and foreign countries have no choice but to respect the outcome of the elections.

(Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com)

 

 

 

 

 

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Paradigm Shift | ASEAN AND America-China’s Trade War http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-asean-and-america-chinas-trade-war/ http://mindanaotimes.net/paradigm-shift-asean-and-america-chinas-trade-war/#comments Thu, 10 May 2018 03:15:07 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=57581 ]]> THE CURRENT trade war between China and the USA ensures that relations will continue to be difficult because China is about to overtake the world as the number one power.However, the United States does not want to admit that they will slide to second place. During Donald Trump’s election campaign before he became the U.S. President, Trump criticized China by announcing, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.” He also declared he would not let the United States be taken advantage of anymore and would always guarantee that America was first. According to President Trump’s view on US relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it was not important. ASEAN, in fact, is very important to the United States for many reasons. Perhaps most importantly, ASEAN has successfully pursued good politics alongside good economics. The United States badly needs regional powers that can counterbalance China’s growing geopolitical power. With its motto of “One vision, one identity, one community,” ASEAN welds great power because collectively the ASEAN countries have an intergovernmental force. According to an ancient Asian proverb, “When elephants fight, the grass suffers.” Undoubtedly, the trade war between America and China will have victims. Most likely, ASEAN will be one of the victims.

One of the reasons that China is being careful and pragmatic in the short term is because for China time is the best aspirin, thinning the blood stream to avoid clots. China knows that in time its economy will become number one, and especially neighboring countries will very carefully adjust to the new reality. While America is wasting money in wars that drain its economic resources and lives, China remains vigilant and keenly aware that each regional conflict gives America an opportunity to step in; the debate over the South China Sea is a great example of this. America strongly supported the judgment of the international tribunal, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, when it came to the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines. One of the reasons why ASEAN started very strong at its inception was because America and China strategically worked together to make sure it had clout. But now, America and China are trying to use ASEAN as an instrument for their regional rivalries.

The interdependence of the world’s economy creates challenges as well. President Duterte made important strategic decisions in terms of the South China Sea. Everyone knows that nothing will deter China in its claim to the South China Sea, but if ASEAN joins America’s campaign, then that union will have very bad consequences in the region for China. Both America and China are working hard to lure ASEAN into joining their camp, because ASEAN is important for both China and America. In the near future China will be leading the economy and power. As a sign, some of the ASEAN member countries have already adapted to China’s pragmatism and have recognized China as the most powerful; that’s why the Philippines has maneuvered to have a closer relationship with China than with America. China is ASEAN’s largest external trade partner. America is the third or fourth largest when it comes to the trade. President Obama began sinking America’s ship, and President Trump is expediting the plunge.

Similarly, America left the Middle East under the fate of Iran, Russia, and Turkey, and now is leaving Asia under the fate of China. As a key part of his election rhetoric, President Trump abandoned a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with ASEAN countries, an alliance which would bring some of the members of ASEAN countries and the United States into a free trade zone.

With all fairness, there is no doubt that for decades China has engaged in a one-sided trade war with America that does not involve tariffs but does involve widespread and wide-scale stealing of copyrights and intellectual property. For decades China has exported its goods without any tariffs while America’s goods have to have tariffs. It is true that America’s consumers get cheaper things from China and thus have caused the demand side to support this practice. Nevertheless, a mutual relationship makes for good relations, but a one-sided relationship ensures a bad one. ASEAN countries will have to develop innovative new strategies to deal with the current regional rivalries between China and America. In this regard, James B. Steinberg, professor of international relations in Syracuse University and former Deputy Secretary of State of the United States, points out that China and the US do not necessarily have to agree on everything. The US, however, would benefit from more cooperation with ASEAN in addressing transnational issues.

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com

 

 

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