“They save lives!” General John Meyer said of drones in 1972.
“The only reason we need (UAVs) is that we don’t want to needlessly expend the man in the cockpit”, explained General George Brown – also in 1972 – the year before public admission of the existence of a drone program in the U.S. military.
In a practical sense, if an aerial vehicle is to be lost, that loss is very much preferable if not accompanied by the loss of an airman in the process.
Unfortunately though, for a certain 16 year-old born in Denver, Colorado, the inverse turned out to be the case. Abdul-Rahman al-Awlaki – American-born citizen – was specifically targeted and killed via drone attack in Yemen apparently for his crime of having radical kinfolk.
“Due process and judicial process are not one and the same,” according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, “Citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted.” Apparently not.
We learned recently of a so-called kill-list: photos and stats similar to baseball cards of the top 30 al-Qaeda members, and charts resembling year-book pages of the targets and their likely companions. “How old are these people?” Obama is said to have queried, adding “If they are starting to use children, we are moving into a whole different phase.” Indeed.
The POTUS himself reportedly identifies targets to be pursued, and hopefully eliminates any mistakes involved in delegating such responsibility. Added national security advisor Thomas Donilin, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”
According to the CIA, since May 2010, there have been exactly ZERO accidental civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes. This thanks, in no small part, to our policy of posthumously declaring all military-aged males as militants. Which of course, makes it very difficult to appeal those charges.Identity strikes, like those on al-Awlaki, target a specific individual. There may be a certain level of collateral damage, but the attack is focused in it’s intent. The signatures strike, however, is a tactic which identifies targets whom display suspicious behavior. Unfortunately though, traveling in a caravan might look a bit suspicious. Outdoor group activities, especially calisthenics and the occasional wedding party (sadly, it’s happened), might look a bit suspicious.
Hopefully unfounded for the repulsiveness of content, there are now reports (by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism) of strategic double-tap tactics being carried out by UAVs. This double-tap is the second attack, which occurs once the responders arrive on the scene of the initial attack. Also, follow-up attacks of mourners and funeral processions. Hopefully these incidences have been coincidental and not strategic.
In 2009, President Obama’s initial UAV endeavor wound up accidentally killing 19 people with all of five missiles, and all of whom turned out to be civilians. By July 2012 – nearly 300 drone strikes later (after 52 under Bush) – upward of 3000 people, including around 800 civilians, had been killed (BIJ).
The USAF 100th Strategic Reconnaissance wing flew nearly 3500 drone missions in Vietnam. Today, at least 50 countries worldwide are advancing drone warfare. We enlist Reapers, Predators, Ravens, Shadows, Hawks, and their brethren; which are deployed in Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan & Afghanistan. The Pentagon currently counts some 7000 UAVs among it’s fleet.
Collateral Damage & Toxic boots
The use of combat drones allow opportunistic circumvention of the political toxicity surrounding boots-on-the-ground conflict, while further disconnecting the majority of the populace from the 1% representing us overseas in combat. Rather than dealing with the hassle of being open with the public; rather than dealing with the political calculus of gaining Congressional for approval of war; rather than uprooting troops from their families and shipping them off into harm’s way on foreign lands… Instead we can simply deploy an army of flying robots. And the best part? The drone pilot can carry out ordered assassinations, and then go home and play with the kids in the yard. What’s not to love?
Let’s not forget about the money. We can never forget about the money. An RQ-1 Raven has a unit cost of $35,000, with a program cost of $250,000 (GlobalSecurity.org). The MQ9 Reaper has a $36.8 million unit cost and $11.8 billion program cost (Department of Defense). The MQ1Predator is $4million and S2.38 billion (DofD), and the RQ-7 Shadow is $750,000 and $15.5 billion (Aeroweb).
Drones are relatively inexpensive compared to the B-2 Spirit, with a $1.07 billion unit cost and a whopping $44.75 billion program cost (or $2.1 billion apiece) through 2004 (US General Accounting Office). Or the F-22 Raptor with a $150 million unit cost and $66.7 billion program cost (USAF). In other words, the price tag on a single B-2 bomber equals the cost of 65 of even the most expensive drone unit.
Eastern Gateway Community College?
As the war in Afghanistan inevitably winds to a close, domestic drone use is on the verge of an explosion. The Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act (2012) welcomes commercial drones onto the scene, as the FAA projects 30,000 domestic drones and has reportedly approved 82 drone models (including nano/hummingbird drones) and issued 285 licenses while streamlining the process. Mostly utilized as Patriot Act surveillance apparatus, Seattle PD, WSDOT, & Eastern Gateway Community College (?) are all “permitted drone operators.” A Reaper MQ-9 drone recently assisted North Dakota sheriffs in apprehending suspected cattle-rustlers.
Imagine, if you will, a future in which patrolling UAVs are so commonplace as to become unnoticed. Or quiet enough to go largely unheard, and small enough to remain largely unseen. Thirty-thousand approved drones potentially patrolling the country-side. What happens when Wal-Mart’s seemingly inevitable drone fleet (I’m kidding) falls prey to cyber-terrorists? What about a single drone armed with chemical weapons?
An airliner was not generally seen as a potential form of munitions until 9/11.
So yes, it’s a nuanced issue – what determines the palatability are not the drones themselves, but the manner in which drones are used. Are drones programmed with Geneva Convention rules acceptable? Would we rather have tens of thousands of boots on the ground in Yemen and Pakistan? I get that. But the drone program further separates the public from sacrifice of battle. And by incessantly reigning down death from the sky upon civilians, we just create more and more backlash in the form of terrorism.
There is a compromise to be made here, by much more intelligent folks than myself, and it lies somewhere between the need of surveillance for public safety, and the privacy concerns of individual citizens.
Two American journalists were beheaded, so President Obama took to the Cross Hall of the White House to declare that the US would ’degrade and destroy’ ISIL. ISIS. IS. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the ‘caliph’ of DAASH (Dulat al-Islam fi al-Iraq wal-Sham), so that‘s what we‘ll call them. Google it.
Daash are despicable. They’ve beheaded journalists and aid workers. They’ve enslaved hundreds (at least) of women and sold them into slavery/forced marriages. They’ve shot rows of blindfolded, kneeling men in it the back of their heads, filling mass graves along their way. They kill Christians, they kill Yazidi, they kill Shia. Their message is: convert, or die.
So, what do they want, how did we get here, and what should we do? Luckily, I have answers.
First, we need to know what Daash wants – they’re aim is to unite under a single political border, all majority-Muslim areas of the world, to be ruled by their religious leader.
To that end, they want to bait the West into more war on the ground in more Arab countries, in an effort to unite the Muslim world against the West in a world-wide religious holy war.
What makes them think that this is a reasonable goal to be attained?
The Prophet Muhammad ruled the first Islamic caliphate (state led by religious leader) for 10 years before dying in 632. They were of course in need of a successor (caliph). Some (Shia) wanted a blood-line caliph (Ali, cousin/son-in-law), while others (Sunni) believed that the Prophet had personally appointed his close companion, Abu Bakr. Hence the Sunnia-Shia divide.
By 750, the caliphate grew to include basically the entire Middle East – as far as modern-day Pakistan to the east; Syria, Iraq, much of Turkey to the north; and all of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman to the south – and west to include the entire southern coast of the Mediterranean (Egypt, Libya, Algeria…), even Spain.
What got us to this point?
Well, it goes back to the post-WWI, Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916. Westerners (Britain and France specifically) ignored all religious, ethnic, and tribal borders – and scratched out their own Middle Eastern borders, likely (kidding) on the back of a napkin over a cup of Starbucks…
Of course, this only served to push local tensions to the fore. By 1949, the US had little choice (…) but to force regime change in Syria. A few years later, Iran’s democratically elected leader was ousted via coup d’etat, again pushed by the US (CIA specifically, and admittedly).
The Iraq-Iran War began in 1980. President Reagan decided that Saddam Hussein was the more preferable/moderate option, so he had Iraq removed from the ’State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list, and sent Rumsfeld over to shake Saddam’s hand and reaffirm US intelligence and material support for Iraq. In the process, Reagan illegally traded weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages (Iran Contra).
The month the Iraq-Iran cease-fire was signed (Aug ‘88), our main man Saddam turned the chemical weapons he had used to defeat the Iranians, toward ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq. Two years later, he invaded Kuwait. At that point, we realized that the guy we thought was cool so we helped him, wasn’t so cool so we had to drop some bombs on his head.
While the Iraq-Iran War was being waged, Russia was fighting jihadis in Afghanistan (1979-1989). You know – enemy of your enemy. So, we (US) launched Operation Cyclone, and armed the Mujahideen. It worked in the short-term, Russia was bled financially, which led Gorbachev to seek the end of the Cold War with the US. Success!
Nineteen Saudi hijackers, plotted out in Germany. So of course, President George W. Bush lied (well, Halliburton gave Cheney a $34 million exit bonus quid, so he lied to Dubya), and we went to decade-plus wars in both Iraq & Afghanistan (whilst Halliburton made a $40 billion quo). Not Saudi Arabia, where the attackers were actually from, but Iraq & Afghanistan. Bin Ladin? Bin Ladin was Saudi, was funded by Saudis, and was captured in Afghanistan by JSOC via Seal Team Six. Not by declared war or 100k boots-on-the-ground, but by intelligence and special forces.
Our main man from the 1980’s, Saddam, wound up being decapitated by way of hanging at the hands of his own people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in the process of deposing him. Eventually, Iraqis decided it was time for us to leave, so they refused to allow our military personnel legal amnesty for their actions. Dubya had little choice, and agreed to pull out. Obama was elected, and had little choice but to follow through with Dubya’s forcedwithdrawal. Luckily, we spent 7 years training and arming Iraqi gov’t forces…
Our new main man in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, took over in 2006. His predecessor, Saddam, was Sunni, and ruled with an iron fist. Al-Maliki is Shia, and when forming his gov’t, chose not to include Sunni representation, but to simply turn the tables. The entire country was torn asunder. And we were the instigators.
The most vile of these groups has apparently turned out to be Daash, excommunicated from al-Qaeda, the previous ‘worst guys on the planet‘ . How have Daash risen above the rest, at least in the minds of the West? (I’ll take this time to note Boko Haram.)
Well, Daash are good at social media. They’ve adopted some Capone or Pablo-esque tactics – they publicly do nice things for folks in order to curry local favor, and to distract from their blatant abhorrence and brutality.
Meanwhile in Syria, ongoing civil war has seen the deaths of hundreds of thousands, as President Bashar al-Assad has unleashed chemical weapons on his own people (sound familiar?). Just one year ago, Obama was calling for the ouster of Assad, and calling on Congress to let him drop some good-ole American freedom-bombs on Assad’s head. Congress said no, so we worked with Russia, and confiscated/disposed of Assad’s chemical weapons cache.
As per usual, US success in the Middle East could only be short-lived. Given the power vacuum in Iraq, and the rise of rebels in Syria, numerous militant/rebel groups have risen like phoenix from the ashes.
Most importantly, they’ve taken oil fields. Ah yes, Texas tea. Daash is making $2-3m/day off of stolen oil. Given Daash’ income, they can afford to pay tens of thousands of mercenaries to join their cause. And of course, winning breeds band-wagon support (there‘ve been reports of ‘Islam for Dummies‘ being shipped by Amazon to Daash recruits en route). Daash’ social media aptitude also includes video of beheadings and mass killings.
These public displays of brutality have dissuaded the Iraqi (Shia) gov’t forces – which, again, the US spent 7 years training and arming – from risking their literal necks to defend Sunni territory in Iraq. Thus, Iraqi gov’t forces have simply dropped their (made in the US) equipment and tucked tail, rather than defend people they don‘t particularly care for.
Here inlies one of our bigger problems – Iraq is really three countries in one.
Ethnic Kurds are the majority in northern/northeastern Iraq, bordering Turkey and Iran. Shia are the majority in eastern Iraq, along the Iranian border and south to the Persian Gulf. Sunni control the majority of Iraq, including the entire western and southern regions.
Biggest problem with a three-state solution? Iraq is largely land-locked, with a scant 36 mile coastline along the Persian Gulf. This renders control of the sister oil terminals of Al Basrah & Khor al-Amaya a matter of great import. The Kurds would certainly be land-locked, and the Sunni & Shia could conceivably fight ad infinitum over control over the all-important port cities. Sunni and Shia have never been in agreement, and aren’t likely to be. But as they say – you can disagree without being disagreeable.
So how can there be peace?
We can be certain of a few things: the US/West dropping freedom-bombs on Middle Eastern heads, and the US/West placing our thumbs on the scales where political rule is concerned, does not produce desired results. We overthrow democratically elected rulers, it turns out poorly. We defend brutal dictators, it turns out poorly. We prop up strong-men, it turns out poorly. We arm the rebels, it turns out poorly. We assist the supposed moderates, it turns out poorly.
We need to stop.
Since we have a lot to do with the current situation, it could be argued that we cannot simply wash our hands of it. And of course, the world is dependant upon their oil. The solution to that problem is the same as before, we need to stop. Unfortunately, moving away from oil-guzzling autos and single-use plastics, and toward renewables & advanced energy storage/portability are not exactly short-term propositions.
Moreover, Daash itself is a symptom. Daash could be wiped off the face of the planet, but another worst of the worst would simply take it’s place. Employment is low, poverty is high, and foreigners have been occupying their land for over a decade.
So what do we do now?
There is a possible ‘wash our hands’ solution. Daash could have their own Islamic State (apart from Kurdistan and say, Shiastan or what-have-you). Just because Daash is good at beheadings and social media, does not mean that they are capable of governing. Governing requires roads and schools and assisting the poor, elderly, & disabled. Daash forbids soccer and music, movies and dancing – all are distractions from faith. If allowed to govern, Daash would collapse under their own weight.
Of course, there is still the matter of the 40-odd journalists/aide workers held by Daash. Personally, I don’t think 40 hostages demand a full-fledged war. But simply wishing that the Kurdish Pershmerga, the Free Syrian Army, and the Iraqi gov’t forces are capable of taking back Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah, Raqqa, et al does not make it so.
So how do we get them back? By currying support among Arab nations.
Daash has a hit list. It includes Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, the UAE. We need Egypt, whom we give $1.5b/year in aid, to step up. We need Qatar, with their vast wealth (natural gas), to stop funding terrorists and get on the right side here. Same goes for Kuwait. Most importantly, we need our A#1 ally, Saudi Arabia, to get right. Not only have they funded extremists, possibly including Daash specifically, but the Saudi gov’t beheaded 31 people in August alone! (Cut to Rick Perry sighing with envy…)
Arab states must figure out how to stand up for themselves. If they require air-support, let them (plural, not just Iraq) ask for it explicitly before we go jumping in head-first to yet another perfectly avoidable, decade-plus debacle that we cannot afford.
In the summer of 2014, a group known as ISIS was reported to have acquired, either by force or payment, roughly forty Western journalists & aid workers. ISIS (Daash, Dulat al-Islam fi al-Iraq wal-Sham) was also reported to be threatening genocide against a group known as the Yazidi. Daash believed the Yazidi to be devil worshippers, and were forcing them to convert or die. Tens of thousands of Yazidi fled atop Mount Sinjar, and were dying from lack of sustenance.
And whom emerged from the sky to answer the prayers of the Yazidi? Good ole Uncle Sam, that’s who. Uncle Sam came to air-drop aid for a dying people. Unfortunately, food and water didn’t change their being trapped on a mountain, with certain death lurking below. So, President Obama announced that the US would begin air attacks on the Daash fighters at the foot of the mountain, so that the Yazidi could flee to safety in neighboring Syria.
And that, folks, is what it means to be a superpower. This is what superiority is supposed to look like.
Alas, Obama thwarted any goodwill earned by helping the Yazidi, by using their plight as cover for his broader mission. In the very same speech Obama said ‘America is coming to help’ the Yazidi, he also announced that the US would be launching additional strikes against Daash apart from the mission to save the Yazidi.
We attacked them. Not just to save the Yazidi, we attacked them under the guise of helping the Yazidi. They were but a pawn.
In response, American journalist James Foley was executed. Daash wanted a $132 million ransom for Foley. The US does not negotiate with terrorists*, and the Foley family was advised that paying ransom equates to funding terrorism. So he was beheaded, and the US was warned that there would be further beheadings should the US continue air strikes against them. Which we did. And they did. Steven Sotloff was beheaded next.
At which point, the US media went into a state of hysteria from which they‘ve yet to escape.
Fear sells. War sells. War equals ratings. Ratings equal ad revenue. US media, from television networks and newspapers, from movie studios to books and magazines – it’s all owned by six mega-media conglomerates. And they’re hungry. They get fed when we get scared. And boy are we good at being scared. (We have an entire political party in this country that is based upon a perpetual state of fear.)
So, on September 10th, 2014, Obama gave address which had the distinct look and feel of a war declaration. We would be launching attacks against Daash, in an effort to ‘degrade and destroy’ them. However, he also assured us that Daash posed no imminent threat, and that there would be no boots-on-the-ground.
Why the obfuscation? (Obamafuscation?) As a constitutional scholar, Obama was well aware that an official declaration of war would put him on the clock. The War Powers Act authorizes the executive to deploy military force on an emergency basis, but demands the Congress formally & affirmatively approve and deployment beyond 60 days. Sixty days from September 10th is roughly a week after the midterm elections.
Obama doesn’t want to be on that clock. He was turned down last time he asked Congress for permission to go into Syria. Not all Congressfolk are nincompoops, some of them remember that Hillary lost to Obama because of how she voted on Iraq.
Speaker Boehner has said that the House doesn’t plan to vote until next year. In fact, Boehner called upon Obama to call upon Boehner to call for a vote. Leader Reid neither seems to have any inclination to hold a vote any time soon. Those 60 days will be long-passed come 2015.
What’s a president to do? Lie and obfuscate.
There’s no immediate threat, and there won’t be ground troops. We’re going to war, but not call it war.
For two days. Day-and-a-half. On September 12, White House surrogates were sat in front of cameras and microphones to drone on the brand new talking point: We’re at war with ISIL, in the same way that we are at war with al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda? The president said ISIL. Apparently, Obama and his legal team have determined that the 2001,3 Authorization(s) for Use of Military Force in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively, were broad enough to authorize force in Syria over a decade later. Oh by the way, the same AUMF this same President said just last year should be repealed. Funny that.
And more importantly, since when do underlings get to declare war? Especially against a group that the president himself poses no immediate threat to the homeland?
Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head about the Constitution. There was yet another twist: Khorasan. Dun-dun-dun.
A group which no one had ever heard of. A group which no one in Syria had ever heard of. Khorasan was the new worst of the worst. Even more worse that the other worst of the worst: ISIS. Which was even worse than the previous worst of the worst: Al-Qaeda.
Khorasan was supposedly an elite offshoot whom were plotting an imminent attack on the homeland.
Of course they were. Hindquarters legally covered.
Then miraculously, the leader of Khorasan was killed seemingly the next day. Threat averted. Phew, that was a close one. Thanks Obama!
In the weeks following, we learned that Khorasan is an ancient term, which US intelligence used generically. We also heard that if there was an actual Khorasan group, their threat was simply aspirational, they had no imminent plans on the homeland. Other reports told of a rogue French agent, whose name was found on a list of 13 individuals, under the heading of Khorasan. Regardless, either the bad, bad boogeymen simply didn’t like us, or a single rogue agent was on the loose, hence legal basis for war in Syria. See how that works?
Maybe Obama doesn’t care about traveling to Switzerland, but he needs to be concerned about his job security.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) lost his primary. He won’t be returning to Congress in 2015. He can finally afford to tell the truth.
“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later.’ It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”
Hear that Obama?
Those 60 days will pass. The election will pass. More specifically, those 60 days will be up a week after the mid-term elections. Those in the know expect Mitch McConnell will be Majority Leader come January. Sending us to war on shaky legal grounds, with the prospect of the GOP controlling both the Upper and Lower Chambers in a few months? The moment anything goes awry in Syria, the Republicans will pounce. Democrats will want Hillary to come fund-raise for them on the campaign trail, and Hillary will be running against Obama nearly as much as against the republican nominee. The democrats won’t save him.
Obama is playing a dangerous game.
Despite the escalation of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, international sanctions are being lifted – most recently by the European Union.
Hundreds of thousands displaced, thousands of homes burnt, thousands thrown in interment camps, and scores of murders.
How could this be? It’s simple – and it comes down to the money.
The CIA estimates Myanmar is sitting on 50 million barrels of oil & 283 billion cubic meters of natural gas. State run Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE) puts those estimates at 226 million barrels of oil and 457 billion cubic meters of natural gas. This oil is worth an estimated $29b over three decades for Myanmar.
In 2011, Myanmar granted approval for deep-water oil exploration covering nine ocean blocks in the Bay of Bengal. In April 2013, Myanmar accepted bids on 30 offshore blocks for exploration from (but not limited to) Chevron, Total (France), PPTEP (Thailand), EPI Holdings (Hong Kong), Geopetrol International (Malasia).
All of this crude needs some place to go. Thus, MOGE and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) began the Shwe Gas Project to construct a pipeline. This 500 mile pipeline transects 21 Burmese townships between the Arakan state port of Sittwe and the Shan State northern border to the Yunnan Province in China. The Shwe Gas Project is going forward despite there being no environmental impact or social impact studies.
As result, the Rohingya feel the brunt of progress. Daily “fighting” occurs along the Shwe pipeline. Mass killings have been levied upon the Rohingya in June 2012, October 2012, and most recently in March 2013. Mass graves have been uncovered. Rohingya are subject to curfews and land seizures.
While multinational corporations stand to profit the most, are they culpable?
Ethnic tension has been felt in Myanmar (formerly Burma) dating at least to World War II, when Rohingya Muslims sided with Allied forces and served as spies – many Rohingya were killed in the aftermath.
A 1982 law Citizenship Law identified eight “national races” of Burma (not include the Rohingya) in the wake of the 1978 cleansing of 200,000 Rohingya. Another 250,000 Rohingya fled in 1991-92. As result of the Citizenship Law, Rohingya (who once accounted for one third of the population) are not legally permitted to open a business or even to marry – 800,000 Rohingya have no rights as citizens of Myanmar, and account for only two percent of the population.
These are a people without a country; without a home. Neither neighboring Bangladesh, Thailand, nor India seem willing to accept any more refugees.
“Well, why we should allow to enter our country?” – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh
While numbers are hard to pin down – at least 125,000 Rohingya have been displaced (as of July 2012), at least 500 have drowned.
The Rohingya are forced to choose between starving in internment camps, and taking their chances at sea. 1800 Rohingya “boat people” washed up on Thailand beaches in January 2013 alone.
Why is the world – and the media – casting a blind eye toward the Rohingya? Why are international sanctions being lifted in spite of an ongoing campaign of human rights violations?
Perhaps the money is the cause. Certainly oil money is behind the vanishing sanctions and the absence of President Thein Sein.
Perhaps it is because the Rohingya are Muslim. Perhaps the western world has accepted the narrative that all Muslims are guilty of terrorism simply by association.
Surely this cannot be the case. Surely we would not view all world issues through a lens of religious-based bias. Surely we would not condemn 1.5 billion people as terrorists – simply because of who they pray to.
Perhaps it seems strange to us that Buddhists would display such violence. Burmese Hindu have taken to sporting the bindi so as to not be mistaken for Muslims – as the violence has spread to non-Rohingya Burmese Muslims as well.
The Dalai Lama has expressed that he is “deeply saddened.”
One very big question remains; where is that great bastion of hope and democracy – Aung San Suu Kyi?
President Obama & Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar in November, 2012 and Obama specifically lauded Suu Kyi’s “courage and determination.”
He added – “I believe deeply that this country can transcend its differences, and that every human being within these borders is a part of your nation’s story.”