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The Political Perils Of A Wartime Presidency

The new coronavirus has been one of the worst moments of Donald Trump’s presidency. A crisis erupted, and he spent weeks downplaying and dismissing before finally conceding the urgent need for action. If things go badly, he will get a lot of the blame for his tardy, ineffectual response.

But in some ways, the pandemic puts him in the position he always imagined the office would be. He gets to stand in front of the cameras every day, issuing directives, invoking emergency powers and commanding a platoon of subordinates who praise his inspiring leadership. It’s a Hollywood image of a president in action.

Trump had an air of satisfaction in declaring himself a “wartime president.” But this is the same guy who in 2015 insisted, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” Once in office, he mused, “I think I would have been a good general.”

In fact, Trump has been a wartime president since he arrived, but he had reservations about the military conflicts he inherited, which lacked strong popular support. With COVID-19, he obviously hopes the citizenry will rally behind him in the sort of national unity seen during previous wars.

He is not the first president to see the upside of such challenges. President Bill Clinton, noted Todd Purdum last year in The Atlantic, “sometimes lamented that he was serving in times of broad peace and prosperity, because true presidential greatness was granted only to those leaders who governed in war or crisis.” Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, Clinton knew, owe their heroic reputations largely to the critical wars they fought — and won.

George H.W. Bush saw his approval rating soar to 89 percent after the coalition victory in the 1991 Gulf War. George W. Bush attained a 90 percent approval rating after standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center and vowing to strike back at “the people who knocked these buildings down.”

It’s not hard to believe that Trump sees this as his chance for the public to see him as the hero he admires in the mirror. On Wednesday, he channeled FDR: “To this day, nobody has ever seen like it, what they were able to do during World War II. Now it’s our time. We must sacrifice together, because we are all in this together, and we will come through together.”

Those words lacked any stirring quality, though, because they are so at odds with his habit of smearing his critics and inflaming his supporters with venomous rhetoric. Even now, he can’t put aside his petty, bitter resentments.

Trump’s appeal for common sacrifice came on the same day he tweeted: “95 percent Approval Rating in the Republican Party, 53 percent overall. Not bad considering I get nothing but Fake & Corrupt News, day and night. ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’, then ‘the Ukraine Scam (where’s the Whistleblower?)’, the ‘Impeachment Hoax’, and more, more, more….”

You can’t ask people to come together when your chief concern is how popular you are with the 30 percent of Americans who identify with your party. You can’t expect solidarity when your favorite political strategy is stoking division. If you want citizens to rise above their selfish concerns, you need to do likewise. Trump is incapable.

A president who expects to get credit for taking steps that help in a crisis has to be accountable for mistakes as well. But Trump has said, “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the administration’s failures in preparing for this outbreak. As for the charge that he closed the White House office that dealt with pandemics, he suggested that others were to blame, claiming, “I don’t know anything about it.”

When I asked presidential historian Richard Norton Smith (who is currently writing a biography of Gerald Ford), about Trump’s posture, he had a tart response: “He wants to take credit for D-Day without accepting responsibility for Pearl Harbor.”

Trump, with his notorious ignorance of history, also fails to see the perils of being in charge during a crisis. He has made no effort to learn from Lyndon Johnson, whose fortunes fell so low that he abandoned his 1968 reelection campaign during a losing war. As Smith says, Johnson failed “in large part because of the gross discrepancy between what he was claiming and what people were seeing every night in their living rooms.”

Trump thinks the coronavirus pandemic will be his World War II. It may be his Vietnam.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

VIDEO: US Forces Still Fighting ISIS As Trump Claims ‘100% Victory’

Within hours of the Trump administration declaring that ISIS had been “100 percent” defeated in Syria, CNN aired live video showing American forces in a new firefight with ISIS in Syria.

Aboard Air Force One, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made the premature announcement about the supposed defeat. As part of the propaganda effort, she handed reporters a map purportedly showing that the territorial holdings of ISIS in Syria had been completely eliminated.

But ISIS apparently didn’t get the memo.

Within a few hours of Sanders’ statement, CNN aired live video of reporter Ben Wedeman, who is in eastern Syria.

“The White House now says ISIS is 100 percent defeated, is that what you’re seeing?” asked anchor Brianna Keilar.

“No,” replied Wedeman, “For the last two and a half hours we’ve seen airstrikes, repeated air strikes, and these of course are American airplanes.”

The reporter then pointed out, as it was visible on camera, that flares had been fired as part of the combat operations, along with tracer fire.

“There has been gunfire coming out of the ISIS positions,” he added. “The fighting is not over.”

Trump has repeatedly insisted that ISIS is completely defeated, seeking to take credit for the fight against the terrorist group that began long before he was sworn in. Pence echoed the claim on the same day ISIS-aligned forces claimed responsibility for an attack killing four American troops.

Military officials have also contradicted Trump’s claims.

“They are dispersed and disaggregated, but there is leadership, there are fighters there, there are facilitators there,” Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), recently testified to Congress.

CENTCOM has authority over the Middle Eastern theater, and certainly has more operational knowledge of enemy actions and American military strategy than Trump and his public relations team does.

The American intelligence community has also said Trump’s claim is false. In the January release of their annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, intelligence officials said, “ISIS still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, despite significant leadership and territorial losses.”

ISIS “is transforming into an asymmetrical warfare force. And this, of course, is a threat,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently noted.

ISIS isn’t 100 percent defeated. And Trump and his administration are foolish to claim otherwise when ISIS is still firing at American soldiers on live television.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

‘Our City Is In Ruins’: Crushing Wars Are Raging On In Syria And Iraq With No End In Sight

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

On 10 July 2017, Iraqi’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in the city of Mosul to declare it liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesperson of the Iraqi forces, told Iraqi television, “Their fictitious state has fallen.”

Prime Minister al-Abadi has been a senior member of one Iraqi government after the other since the illegal US invasion and occupation of that country in 2003. He was dismayed by the privatization plans of the US Viceroy in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and he participated in the lawsuit against the US mercenary army – the private company called Blackwater. At the same time, al-Abadi participated in governments led largely by his Islamic Dawa Party (which he joined in 1967 at the age of fifteen). This party has overseen – with US aid and encouragement – the breakdown of Iraqi society. The brutality of the US invasion and occupation as well as the sectarian policies of the Islamic Dawa Party drove the creation of ISIS in 2006 and then its expansion by 2014. This is a man with a front-row seat for the unraveling of his country.

What did al-Abadi see when he looked across the expanse of Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities? He would have seen not only the violence visited by ISIS upon this historic city – including destroying a large part of its Great Mosque of al-Nuri – but also the destruction of the city by this current onslaught that has lasted nine months. A million civilians fled Mosul; many thousands of civilians have been killed. They live in nineteen emergency camps – each wanting in basic needs. “The levels of trauma we are seeing are some of the highest anywhere,” said Lise Grande of the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. “What people have experienced is nearly unimaginable.” The UN requested nearly $1 billion of the international community. It has received just over 40 percent of what is required. With oil prices down, Iraq simply does not have the revenue to rebuild this destroyed city. It will need help.

Humanitarianism wars are easier to fund than the humanitarian peace.

“Our city is in ruins,” said Ayman who lives in the western part of Mosul. “They have treated us like we are absolutely nothing.” Who is the “they” in Ayman’s statement? ISIS surely, but also the Iraqi military and its US allies.

Ayman’s statement appears in an Amnesty International report that was released on 11 July – At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul. It is a careful report, but with a point that should not be ignored. Amnesty suggests that the United States and the Iraqi forces “carried out a series of unlawful attacks in west Mosul.” The report further says, “Even in attacks that seem to have struck their intended military target, the use of unsuitable weapons or failure to take other necessary precautions resulted in needless loss of civilian lives and in some cases appears to have constituted disproportionate attacks.”

The United States government attacked Amnesty for its conclusions. Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said, in Washington, “I reject any notion that coalition fires were in any way imprecise, unlawful or excessively targeted civilians.”

Airwars, the group that studies aerial bombardment, shows – in a new report – that the US aerial bombardment of western Mosul increased by 21 percent in the past month, with the munitions concentrated on certain neighborhoods. This has led, Airwars says, to increased civilian deaths. Chris Woods of Airwars says, “The speed and intensity of these attacks – which the US now describes as a war of ‘annihilation’ – have placed civilians at far greater risk of harm. Heavy weapons also continue to be used on densely populated areas. The consequences are inevitable.” Lt. General Townsend has not commented yet on the Airwars report. The term “annihilation” is chilling.

The numbers put out by Airwars are deflated. “It is highly probable,” the report notes, “that the death toll is substantially higher than this Airwars estimate, with multiple reports referencing thousands of corpses still trapped under the rubble.” Reports from the ground suggest the use of illegal weapons – including white phosphorus (although the US has denied this) – as well as “horrific scenes of bodies scattering the streets.” It will take a great deal of investigation to piece together the full-scale of the human tragedy first in the ISIS capture of Mosul and then in the US-Iraqi assault on the city.

Al-Abadi would also know that ISIS was able to expand in 2013 and 2014 partly because the Iraqi government crushed any attempt by ordinary Iraqis to get a better deal. A major political uprising from 2011 brought together groups such as the Union of the Unemployed of Iraq with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Their demands were for the recreation of their destroyed society, for an economy that benefits Iraqis and for a political project that unifies the people and does not tear open sectarian divides. The government did not listen to them. The path of nonviolent resistance was blocked in 2011, and then sent backwards when Iraqi security forces massacred peaceful protestors in al-Hawija in April 2013. After the massacre, ISIS scouts came into al-Hawija to recruit fighters. They said, “You tried the peaceful route. What did it bring you? Now come with us.” Many did. Al-Hawija remains in ISIS hands. In fact, after the apparent death of ISIS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of al-Hawija – Abu Haitham al-Obaidi – declared that he was the new caliph. His forces are arrayed in the western part of al-Hawija, ready for a major battle.

Little wonder that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – Zeid al-Hussein – said that “dialogue between communities needs to begin now to try to halt the cycle of violence.” Much water has slipped under the bridge. Not only the history of the brutality of the US invasion and occupation – which razed many of the cities in Anbar Province such as Fallujah and Ramadi – but also the ruthlessness of the Iraqi government as well as of the US-Iraqi war on Mosul. The way one fights a war suggests to the defeated the terms of the future. A brutal war can only mean that there will be no real “dialogue” to prevent precisely the “cycle of violence.”

ISIS fighters fled Mosul for other parts of Iraq as well as for Syria. The battle is far from over. US aerial assaults on the Syrian cities of Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir Ezzor continue, increasing with great ferocity. Airwars suggests that the number of civilian deaths from the US-led air war in Syria is at the highest it has been for a long while. What is most startling is the assertion by Airwars that “casualty events attributed to the [US-led] Coalition in Iraq and Syria outpaced those reportedly carried out by Russia in Syria” for the sixth consecutive month. That means that the civilian toll from US airstrikes has been greater than the casualty toll from the Russian strikes. Yet it is the latter that gets the attention by the Western media, while the former is largely – if not entirely – ignored. There is a theory, as I have written about previously, that Western bombing is benevolent, whereas Eastern bombing is malevolent. This seems to operate for the Western media.

US bombing in Raqqa has hit civilian infrastructure – including internet cafes and swimming pools, shops and mosques. There are reports of civilians being killed as they flee Raqqa. Lt. General Stephen Townsend, who derided Amnesty’s allegations about war crimes in Mosul, told the New York Times’ Michael Gordon a few days ago, “And we shoot every boat we find. If you want to get out of Raqqa right now, you’ve got to build a poncho raft.” This is a violation of the UN’s 1981 Protection of Asylum-Seekers in Situations of Large-Scale Influx.

Meanwhile, the de-escalation zones continue to be formed in Syria to the great relief of the population. It is the only glimmer of hope in the region. Most of these de-escalation zones are in western Syria, with the most recent declared along the Jordanian border, including the provinces of Dara’a, Quneitra and Sweida. The UN Refugee Agency – UNHCR – said that 440,000 internally displaced people have returned to their homes during the first six months of this year. Over 30,000 Syrians who had left the country have now returned home. Some of these ceasefires relied upon discussions between Iran and Qatar. It is clear that one of the reasons for Saudi Arabia’s annoyance with Qatar is that it has participated actively in the creation of these de-escalation zones. Expansion of this zone is essential for the well-being of the people.

It would be valuable if this example of the de-escalation zones would set the ethical foundation for peace-making in Iraq as well as in northeastern Syria. Total warfare wins battles, but it can often prolong the war.

Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of 18 books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press, 2012), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013) and The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016). His columns appear at AlterNet every Wednesday.

Officials: Trump Revealed Intelligence Secrets To Russians In Oval Office

By Jeff Mason and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister about a planned Islamic State operation, two U.S. officials said on Monday, plunging the White House into another controversy just months into Trump’s short tenure in office.

The intelligence, shared at a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, was supplied by a U.S. ally in the fight against the militant group, both officials with knowledge of the situation said.

The White House declared the allegations, first reported by the Washington Post, incorrect.

“The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, told reporters at the White House, adding that the leaders reviewed a range of common threats including to civil aviation.

“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known…I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” he said.

The White House also released a statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said the Oval Office meeting focused on counterterrorism, and from Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, who called the Washington Post story false.

Still, the news triggered concern in Congress.

The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, called Trump’s conduct “dangerous” and “reckless”.

Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the allegations “very, very troubling” if true.

“Obviously, they’re in a downward spiral right now and they’ve got to come to grips with all that’s happening,” he said of the White House.

The latest controversy came as Trump’s administration reels from the fallout over his abrupt dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and amid congressional calls for an independent investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

One of the officials said the intelligence discussed by Trump in his meeting with Lavrov was classified “Top Secret” and held in a secure “compartment” to which only a handful of intelligence officials have access.

After Trump disclosed the information, which one of the officials described as spontaneous, officials immediately called the CIA and the National Security Agency, both of which have agreements with a number of allied intelligence services around the world, and informed them what had happened.

While the president has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified information at will, in this case he did so without consulting the ally that provided it, which threatens to jeopardize a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement, the U.S. officials said.

Since taking office in January, Trump has careened from controversy to controversy, complaining on the first day about news coverage of his inauguration crowds; charging his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, with wiretapping; and just last week firing the FBI director who was overseeing an investigation into potential ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Trump, a Republican who has called allegations of links between his campaign team and Russia a “total scam,” sharply criticized his 2016 election rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for her handling of classified information as secretary of state, when she used a private email server.

The FBI concluded that no criminal charges against Clinton were warranted, but Comey said she and her colleagues had been “careless” with classified information.

In his conversations with the Russian officials, Trump appeared to be boasting about his knowledge of the looming threats, telling them he was briefed on “great intel every day,” an official with knowledge of the exchange said, according to the Post.

Some U.S. officials have told Reuters they have been concerned about disclosing highly classified intelligence to Trump.

One official, who requested anonymity to discuss dealing with the president, said last month: “He has no filter; it’s in one ear and out the mouth.”

One of the officials with knowledge of Trump’s meeting with the Russian called the timing of the disclosure “particularly unfortunate,” as the President prepares for a White House meeting on Tuesday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, an ally in the fight against Islamic State.

Trump’s first foreign trip also begins later this week and includes a stop in Saudi Arabia, another Islamic State foe, and a May 25 NATO meeting in Brussels attended by other important U.S. allies. He also has stops planned in Israel and the Vatican.

The president’s trip and latest uproar over his meeting with Russian officials come amid rumors that he might shake-up his senior staff in a bid to refocus his administration.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander, Mark Hosenball, Susan Cornwell, Ayesha Rascoe and Steve Holland; Editing by Kieran Murray and Bill Tarrant)

FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) walks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting at the State Department in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas /File Photo

Travel Ban: Why Trump (And Bannon) Mirror ISIS So Perfectly

What if the purpose of the Trump administration’s travel ban is not to protect America from terrorist infiltration, as the president and his top advisers insist? What if the true aim of their anti-Muslim rhetoric, articulated over and over again, is instead to offend Muslims and intensify their alienation from the West?

Those questions are salient because the newly revised restrictions, announced on Monday, are certain to accomplish only that: They will inflame resentment in the Muslim world, without improving security in this country at all. According to actual experts on terrorism, as distinct from the ideological amateurs in the White House, the ban is not just ineffectual but provocative.

And again, countries long implicated in Islamic extremism and terrorist activities remain exempt from restrictions (possibly because some of those same regimes also host Trump Organization enterprises).

Only days ago, the Trump flacks argued strenuously that Iraqi immigrants are dangerous, but now the revised travel ban exempts Iraq too, after protests from our military — whose officers were enraged by the White House betrayal of Iraqi translators and others who had aided them in battle.

Backing down on Iraq doesn’t answer the real riddle, however: Why would Trump provoke conflict with a Mideast ally, whose army has courageously charged into battle against the Islamic State? And why would he seek to fracture that alliance when Iraqi forces, advised and supported by our military, were headed toward a major victory over ISIS in Mosul?

Perhaps “chief strategist” Stephen Bannon, White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and all the Trump aides who have conceived and defended the travel ban are simply too dense to understand that bigotry doesn’t work as policy. But although they often appear incompetent, they aren’t quite that stupid.

As we learn more about their extremist ideology, an alternative explanation emerges: Bannon, Miller, Sessions, and presumably the president himself understand very well that attacking Muslims and Islam must exacerbate divisions between the West and the Muslim world, as well as between Muslim-Americans and the rest of American society. Intensified conflict is the only foreseeable result of their actions and outbursts — and appears to be the only result they want.

Beyond Trump’s own clumsy attempts to isolate and demonize Muslims — against the advice of his military advisers — there is much documented evidence of his administration’s chilling outlook. Recently, the Huffington Post revealed that Bannon sees the modern world through the prism of a frankly racist and Islamophobic French novel, The Camp of the Saints, which envisions a dystopian future when the Christian West is overrun by millions of savage migrants from the East and South. That novel’s hero, who slaughters the migrants and their white sympathizers, “harkens back to famous battles that fit the clash of civilizations narrative,” from Vienna and Constantinople to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Cited often by Bannon and promoted by other right-wing extremists, the book is “nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict.”

Maybe that is why Trump and his gang felt no shame in expressing their callousness toward the suffering of Muslim refugees, including small children. That may also be why they felt no compunction in disrespecting a Muslim Gold Star family — and why they showed so little concern over the president’s blatant call for a “Muslim ban,” until that became a legal liability.

Of course Bannon, Miller, Trump and company aren’t alone in adopting the cataclysmic belief that an inevitable war between civilizations has already begun. By rejecting tolerance and ecumenism, the Trump White House mirrors the Islamic State and every other jihadist group, whose shared objective is to incite enmity between Western and Muslim societies by every available means. So even as our true enemy is pushed back and obliterated on the ground — by Muslim soldiers! — Trump’s aggressive policies will advance the jihadist cause worldwide.

.If this is the secret Trump plan to defeat ISIS, they could have written it themselves.

IMAGE: Iraqi soldiers gather to go battle against Islamic State militants south of Mosul , Iraq, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer 

The Double Standard On White Terrorism

White terrorism is not as bad as Muslim terrorism.

That, believe it or not, was the crux of an argument Sean Duffy, a Republican representative from Wisconsin, made last week on CNN. What follows has been condensed for space, but it unfolded like this:

Asked by anchor Alisyn Camerota about the Trump regime’s failure to condemn a recent massacre in which six Muslims were killed by a white extremist in Quebec, Duffy allowed that, “Murder on both sides is wrong,” but insisted, “There is a difference.”

That difference, as he sees it: there’s no white extremist ISIS or al Qaida fomenting terrorism. What happened in Canada, he said, “was a one-off.”

And the Oklahoma City bombing?

“So, you’ve given me two examples,” said Duffy.

And the Charleston church massacre?

“Look at the good things that came from it. [Then-South Carolina Gov.] Nikki Haley took down the Confederate flag. That was great. But … there’s no constant thread that goes through these attacks.”

Of course there is.

“Domestic right-wing terrorist groups often adhere to the principles of racial supremacy and embrace antigovernment, anti-regulatory beliefs.” So said Dale L. Watson, then the executive assistant director of the Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence Division of the FBI, in Senate testimony way back in 2002.

Duffy is wrong about pretty much everything else, too. No white extremist groups fomenting terror? What do you call the Aryan Nations and the Ku Klux Klan? The Southern Poverty Law Center has tied one group, Stormfront, to acts of murder and terror that have killed nearly 100 people.

As for Duffy’s belief that white extremist terror is somehow rare, well, the 1996 bombing of the Atlanta Olympics, the 1999 attack on a Jewish community center near Los Angeles, the 2000 killing of five people in greater Pittsburgh to protest “non-white immigration,” the 2009 murders of three Pittsburgh police officers to oppose a supposed national gun ban, the 2012 murder of six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin., and the 2015 killing of three at a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, (to name a few), argue otherwise.

Go further back and there is the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four little girls. Go beyond these shores and there is the 2011 attack in Norway in which 77 people died.

Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of violence to coerce or intimidate a government or a people in furtherance of some social or political cause. But for Rep. Duffy and others that seems to apply only to swarthy individuals with difficult names. When white people do it, it is less likely to be perceived — or reported by news media — as terrorism.

This double standard reflects not simply America’s xenophobia, but also America’s maddening insistence upon the blamelessness, the fundamental innocence, of whiteness, even when the evidence screams otherwise. “Look at the good things that came from,” the Charleston church massacre, chirps Duffy, as if lowering that odious flag somehow — what? — balances things out?

Imagine how offensive that must be to anyone who lost someone in that church. The lengths to which some will go to protect the fiction of innocence are staggering.

White terrorism is not as bad as Muslim terrorism?

Well, because of white terrorism, Emily Lyons lost an eye, Abdelkrim Hassane’s three young children lost their father, and Cynthia Wesley, age 14, had her head torn off.

So they might beg to differ.

IMAGE: June 17, 2015: A white supremacist gunman kills nine black churchgoers during a Bible study session at a historic, predominantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The suspect Dylann Roof is awaiting trial. REUTERS/Jason Miczek/File Photo