October 6, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) On September 29, the United Nations and the United States Department of Justice announced the creation of a new program designed to help local communities combat “violent extremism.” Called the Strong Cities Network (SCN), the plan calls for “systematic efforts” to “share experiences, pool resources and build a community of cities to inspire local action on a global scale.”
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U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said, “The Strong Cities Network will serve as a vital tool to strengthen capacity-building and improve collaboration,” and will “enable cities to learn from one another, to develop best practices and to build social cohesion and community resilience here at home and around the world.”
The SCN is comprised of an International Steering Committee of approximately 25 cities, as well as subnational entities from different regions. The SCN also consists of an International Advisory Board. The organization will be run by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). The ISD, originally known as The Club of Three in the 1990s, was established in January 2006 with Lord George Weidenfeld as its president. The policy organization claims to work with global leaders in the private and public sectors to “challenge the long-range threats to international and communal peace.”
“To counter violent extremism we need determined action at all levels of governance,” said Governing Mayor Stian Berger Røsland of Oslo. “To succeed, we must coordinate our efforts and cooperate across borders.”
The Strong Cities Network will be used to quickly disseminate policy ideas and communication from the local level up to national and international levels. This will be done through “practical workshops, training seminars and sustained city partnerships.” Participating cities will be granted access to an “Online Information Hub” of “municipal-level good practices and web-based training module.” Member cities will also be eligible for grant money to fund “new innovative pilot projects.”
The creation of the Smart Cities Network comes after the Justice Department announced it would revive a task force on domestic terrorism in an attempt to stop violence within the United States. Last summer, former Attorney General Eric Holder stated the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee would work to eliminate dangers from violent individuals who may be motivated by anti-government or racist views. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Division of the Justice Department, and the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee are in charge of the efforts. The committee was originally launched to focus on right-wing extremism in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Two of the major problems with these types of initiatives are the fact that U.S. officials ignore the role of Western intervention in creating “extremism” around the globe, and the broad definition of “extremism” itself.
The United States simply refuses to acknowledge that its pursuit of ending terrorism is actually responsible for creating more terrorism, and thus we should expect nothing but continued silence from U.S. officials. Al-Jazeera recently questioned the motives of another United Nations initiative: the Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism. The youth summit also took place on September 29, culminating in the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Barack Obama. Al-Jazeera’s Rami G. Khouri wrote,
“Such attempts to address extremism fail because they evade rather than address the central causes of the ongoing expansion of terrorism and political violence around the world, especially in the Arab world. This way of framing the legitimate battle against terrorism through the lens of countering violent extremism is simply another hapless twist to the American-driven global ‘war on terrorism’ that has spurred perhaps the greatest expansion of terrorist organizations and attacks in modern history.”
As far as the pursuit and defense against “extremism” is concerned, the United States government has failed to adequately define the term, and by doing so, is allowing for perfectly legal behavior to become taboo or even criminalized. In June 2014, TruthInMedia’s Jay Syrmopoulos wrote about this trend:
“First there was the MIAC report, which claimed that potential terrorists include people who own gold, Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, and even people who fly the U.S. flag.
Then in 2012, there was a leaked Homeland Security study that claimed Americans who are ‘reverent of individual liberty,’ and ‘suspicious of centralized federal authority’ are possible ‘extreme right-wing’ terrorists.”
More recently, there is a Department of Defense training manual, obtained by Judicial Watch via a FOIA request, that lists people who embrace “individual liberties” and honor “states’ rights,” among other characteristics, as potential “extremists” who are likely to be members of “hate groups.”
This document goes on to call the Founding Fathers extremists, stating, “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements,“ including “[t]he colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule.”
If the United States government cannot clearly define who it is targeting in its war on extremism, should we trust that the United Nations will do any better? Is the creation of the Smart Cities Network a useful safety tool, or just the next step towards a localized global police force?
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