Trump Nominee for Homeland Security John Kelly Favors Draconian Immigration Policy
We could see a further militarized border and expansion of Guantanamo Bay, says journalist Dahr Jamail
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. President-elect Donald Trump has selected Retired General John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly is famously known for defending the force-feeding practices of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay under his Southern Command. Joining us to discuss this pick is Dahr Jamail. He is an award-winning journalist and he’s the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq. His upcoming book is titled The End of Ice, that is forthcoming from The New Press. Thank you so much for joining us today, Dahr.
DAHR JAMAIL: My pleasure.
SHARMINI PERIES: So, John Kelly, Retired General from the Marines is appointed as the Head of Homeland Security. Give us a sense of who this character is.
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, as you mentioned, I think one of the more egregious things that he’s known for is his open support of force-feeding of inmates at Guantanamo Bay and his rebuke of when human rights organizations and civil rights organizations have called him on that, he’s basically laughed them off and rebuked them and called their claims ridiculous, that that kind of thing is just not happening at Guantanamo Bay. He’s also in favor, of course, of not closing the prison, as well as expanding it and is a very hard-line person as far as his border policies go. And it’s important to bear all this in mind because now he’s going to be in charge of the almost quarter million border security personnel at his disposal and other internal security personnel at his disposal. And his policies are certainly in line with Trump’s where he’s obviously anti-immigration and going to be used as a very effective tool in making the border much more militarized, as well as his Draconian policies regarding Guantanamo. And then, I think, another important element to consider is what’s that going to mean with the private prison industry in the United States. Certainly, it’s going to be a bit of a boon for those investing in that. There’s a reason why the CCA stock — the company formerly known as the CCA, the Corrections Center for America — their stock literally went up almost 50% within days after Trump winning the election. So, there’s a reason for that and I think bringing in Kelly is certainly showing people why that’s happened and certainly what Trump’s policies are going to be regarding immigration and internal Homeland Security in the United States.
SHARMINI PERIES: Dahr, this is the third General that Trump has chosen to join his cabinet — James Mattis and Michael Flynn for Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor. Now how should we interpret this? The previous interview I had done with Vijay Pershad, he says this is shaping up to look like the junta rather than the cabinet — your thoughts on that?
DAHR JAMAIL: I would agree with that statement. I wrote an article very recently about Retired General Mattis because this is an individual, just to give you a flavor of where this is going, this is a guy whose name is “Mad Dog” and it’s because he’s consistently shown a blatant disregard for human life during all of his time as an individual very, very high up in the Marine Corps. He made the quote that’s now become famous in 2003, the year of the invasion of Iraq, where he said, “It’s fun to shoot some people, you know, it’s a hell of a hoot.” He also, when he was asked during the invasion of Iraq, what he was telling the marines under his command of which there was a large number, about how to behave in Iraq? He said, “Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” So, this is the type of individual that Trump is bringing into a position of power. It’s also worth noting that this is the guy who in the wake of the 2005 Haditha massacre which made international headlines when marines committed a massacre of 24 unarmed Iraqis — we’re talking about small children, women, elderly, even an old man in a wheelchair. All of which were shot at very, very close range multiple times. And then when the eight marines that were brought to justice, not justice, but were held responsible for committing the massacre, it was Mattis who was overseeing it. And he basically dismissed it and these guys, thus far, all of them have gotten off without any charges. There’s one that remains that could still theoretically be brought to justice. But we can now see where that’s going to go, as well. And then lastly on that is, I was reporting in Iraq at the time during both of the US 2004 sieges of Fallujah and many of the Marines involved in those sieges were under Mattis’ command. And so, that makes him responsible for giving orders and responsible for the behavior of those underneath him. And it’s worth noting that multiple war crimes were committed during both sieges of Fallujah. I personally saw women and children and elderly being shot, ambulances being deliberately targeted by snipers, as well as, missile attacks on them. Clinics and hospitals were being bombed by US forces during both of those sieges. Attacks on mosques, a long line of war crimes, including the use of white phosphorous which is not an illegal weapon but it’s certainly restricted under the UN and, if they’re going to use it where there’s possibly civilians, it would be a violation of international law to use it under those circumstances. And by the Pentagon’s own admission in the November 2004 siege of Fallujah, 50,000 civilians at least remained inside the city and yet the military went on and used it anyways. So, under his command, just what I’ve seen personally, multiple war crimes have been committed. And this is the guy, again, whose nickname is “Mad Dog” that Trump has brought into his cabinet.
SHARMINI PERIES: Pivoting to Kelly, one of the things as you’ve said, he’s going to be responsible for is border security, which would be presumably help build the wall that Trump’s been talking about throughout his campaign. Many agree that, actually, a wall already exists in areas that he’s talking about but the wall will also be largely ineffective. What do you think his reaction is going to be in terms of implementing Trump’s will on the southern border?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, it’s difficult to say at this point. I mean, because with Trump, literally, he’s speaking out of both sides of his mouth every sentence. So, in the immediate wake after he won the election, he was asked about the wall and then he already, at least at one point, appeared to backtrack saying, “Well, maybe parts of the wall will actually be a fence,” and you know, this kind of thing. So, it’s really difficult to say exactly what’s going to happen. I think under Kelly what we can see is certainly the private prison industry in United States will probably swell and we’ll see an expansion there. I think, obviously, any idea of closing Guantanamo Bay Prison can be left aside. That’s obviously not going to happen. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that expanded, as well, and certainly more Draconian measures on immigrants in the country. Even those who are here legally, I think, are going to be under threat and need to start taking some precautions of figuring what they might need to do to protect themselves, if they come under attack from this Administration. I think it’s not “if,” unfortunately, it’s going to be “when”.
SHARMINI PERIES: And then what’s the likelihood that his appointment would actually be rejected? Because I understand he has to go through a process to be confirmed.
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, that’s certainly a remote possibility. But given the way the government has reacted, certainly the Democrats specifically on this type of thing historically, where there tended to be a lack of backbone. And so, anyone even remotely qualified without what they would classify as egregious reasons to not have them appointed, I think, certainly are going to be passed. So, I don’t really expect any of these attempts to be thwarted, of course also helped along by the fact that the Republicans thanks to the last election now control both Congress and the Senate. So, I don’t really see any of these being rejected.
SHARMINI PERIES: Or challenged. I thank you so much for joining us, Dahr. I look forward to having you back more often on The Real News.
DAHR JAMAIL: Thank you.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.