Tag: US

Trump Lifts Requirement to Report Civilian Victims of Drone Strikes

Indri Schaelicke | @ISchaelicke

President Trump issued an executive order Wednesday that revoked a requirement for intelligence and military officials to declare certain unclassified information about foreign drone strikes.

Former President Barack Obama first established this policy via executive order. The order mandated that intelligence officials provide an “unclassified summary of the number of strikes” as well as “assessments of combatant and non-combatant deaths resulting from those strikes” each year.

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Government Shutdowns and Debt Ceilings

Craig Axford | Canada

Government shutdowns and flirtations with default by putting off raising the federal debt ceiling have become regular occurrences in Washington, D.C. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised given the number of representatives and senators regularly expressing disdain for the very institution they were elected to run, but still.

Americans like to believe their nation is exceptional, and it is: it’s the only developed nation on the planet that doesn’t guarantee all its citizens healthcare, higher education is more expensive there than just about anywhere else, it has the only government that it’s possible to shut down without having to resort to violence, and it’s the only nation that flirts with suicide by requiring votes on its debt ceiling.

That’s right. No other governments have even one, let alone two, kill switches built into their system. And why would they? What’s the point? Unless the intent is to erode public confidence in government it makes no sense for elected officials to even contemplate closing down popular national parks or giving all the people in charge of enforcing our public health and safety regulations an extended unpaid holiday?

The habit of shutting down the government now and then (as well as the continuing resolutions passed to avoid them) is an unintended bug in the American system rather than a feature of it. So too is the necessity to authorize more borrowing periodically once the national debt has reached a predetermined threshold. Both of these bugs are extremely dangerous but, unfortunately, they are likely to remain unfixed for the foreseeable future.

America’s founding fathers were revolutionaries. As such, they were no fans of the British government, which by the late 18th century was already well established and quite recognizable to any citizen of the 21st century. Though King George III was the titular head of state, like his contemporary successor Queen Elizabeth II, he had very little actual power to match the privileges that came with his hereditary title. Parliament was already very much in charge.

Nothing like what took place in Philadelphia following the American Revolution had ever been seriously considered, let alone attempted, in London. To intentionally sit down and craft rules for a new government quite literally being built from scratch was a radical idea if ever there was one. To call America an experiment is not an exaggeration. As with any experiment, the outcome is unknown until it has come to a close. The American experiment hasn’t ended, but so far it certainly has produced some unanticipated results.

In creating the modern world’s first republic, America’s victorious rebels were faced with the task of establishing rules for a country that no longer had centuries of tradition to fall back on. The norms of the mother country they had just abandoned had evolved over hundreds of years of power struggles between the aristocracy and the crown, with a nascent merchant middle class increasingly making its own demands over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. The newly independent colonies wanted to distinguish themselves from the nation they had just liberated themselves from, but how?

The US Constitution settled for a president instead of a monarch, while the House of Representatives took the place of the House of Commons and the Senate stood in for the House of Lords. Each elected member of these respective branches is subject to regular fixed terms of office, with the power balanced more or less equally between them rather than resting largely in the representative branch (i.e., parliament) alone. With the exception of the extremely rare and difficult case of impeachment, the US Constitution provides no opportunity to hold any single officeholder accountable for failure during the period between elections, let alone the government as a whole. Federal judges receive lifetime appointments, something else not seen in any other developed representative democracy to this day.

In a parliamentary system, the failure to pass something as routine as an annual budget triggers a crisis. Under the Westminster parliamentary model followed in the UK, Canada and several other members of the Commonwealth, this crisis brings down the government and forces the monarch or her designated representative to dissolve the government and call an election. In unstable periods when minority governments are common, elections tend to be relatively more frequent, while in less turbulent political times a majority government can persist for five years or so before facing a vote.

Likewise, when a parliament authorizes spending beyond the government’s anticipated revenues, it is understood they have necessarily approved an increase in the national debt. Therefore, there is no need to consider raising the debt limit independently. From the perspective of citizens living in parliamentary countries, it makes no sense that the same Congress that approved deficit spending one month can spend time the next flirting with a refusal to allow any borrowing. It’s like having a government that doesn’t know its own mind.

Unfortunately, the kind of crises that bring down governments in parliamentary systems has become commonplace in the United States. Budgets go years without being approved, with Congress lurching from one continuing resolution to the next while various factions hold federal employees and the citizens dependent upon their services hostage until some pet project or favorite policy or another is approved in exchange for keeping things running for a while longer. A Prime Minister Donald Trump would either be facing a vote of the people at this point in the budget process or a leadership challenge by members of his own caucus. One year in office would be unlikely, but four would almost certainly be impossible.

I’ve been living in Canada for the better part of a decade now. On most days I find myself feeling pretty ambivalent about the monarchy if I even think about it at all. That’s not because I can see equal merit in both sides of the argument regarding having someone born into the role of head of state. It’s because I recognize all societies require a sense of continuity and for some countries that can take the shape of a monarchy that has existed in one form or another for centuries. A woman that appears on our money while playing an entirely ceremonial role is harmless, if not for the actual person forced into the job by an accident of birth then at least for the rest of us.

I’m not feeling so ambivalent about having a parliament, however. I have strong opinions about the two Canadian prime ministers I’ve lived under so far. But the extent of my approval or disapproval aside, at least I know that the nearby Pacific Rim National Park will, weather permitting, always be open and that with the exception of national holidays at the local Services Canada office the door will never be locked. Even the UK Brexit debacle hasn’t convinced me parliaments are less effective or ultimately less democratic than the divided governments that have become the norm in the US.

If for some reason, it turns out parliament can’t do its job there will be an election lasting a little over a month while the people try to vote one in with a sufficient mandate to do it. In the meantime, things will go on pretty much as before without any nightly news reports about government employees unable to pay the rent because someone got it into their head they wanted to build a wall. I know it’s incredibly unAmerican to say so, but if you were to put me in a time machine and send me back to 1776, I would tell the founding fathers to get rid of the monarchy if they must, but at least keep the parliament.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com


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It’s Time the United States End its Saudi Arabian Alliance

Shiam Kannan | United States

The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is only one more entry in a long list of human rights abuses by the Saudi Arabian Government, which also includes their suppression of religious freedom, sponsorship of terrorism, and complicity in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen. However, Khashoggi’s murder is significant because it has brought mass attention to Saudi Arabia’s actions, and has given the United States a window through which to exit its relationship with them. Now is the time to utilize this window and end our partnership with the Saudis. Due to the Saudi Government’s involvement in some of the most abhorrent human rights violations present in the modern era, it is imperative that the United States terminate its friendship with Saudi Arabia if it wants to remain a nation looked up to by the rest of the free world.

Unfortunately, President Trump has refused to censure the Saudi government for its actions and has seemingly taken it for its word that the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, had nothing to do with the assassination, despite the fact that the CIA has concluded that Salman had indeed ordered the killing. Essentially, Trump’s utilitarian view on foreign affairs has led to his favoring a foreign regime over our own intelligence agencies. President Trump’s cozying up to Saudi Royalty merely punctuates his view of foreign relations as business deals, rather than interactions with moral implications.

However, regardless of the Khashoggi assassination, there are many, many, other reasons why America ought to terminate its alliance with the Saudis, not least of which is the Yemeni Civil War. Over half of all the civilian deaths in Yemen have been due to Saudi airstrikes, and a recent UN report has concluded that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has been responsible for recruiting child soldiers, some as young as 8 years old, and even raping civilians. Saudi Arabia indiscriminately conducts bombings throughout Yemen, which have hit targets such as hospitals, funerals, and even refugee camps. And worst of all, Yemen is on its way to experiencing the “world’s worst famine in 100 years” if the Civil War continues. Saudi Arabia, in coordination with the US, is engaging in a blockade of food and supplies to Yemeni civilians. Approximately 12 to 13 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen right now, which could begin as soon as 2 to 3 months from now if the war does not end.

The airstrikes in Yemen are, for the most part, conducted using weapons purchased from the United States. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is America’s number one arms customer, as they give the US billions of dollars in exchange for laser-guided missiles and other destructive technologies. American-made bombs utilized by the Saudis have led to the deaths of many innocent people in Yemen, such as the 40 students on a school bus in Yemen which was bombed by the Saudis earlier this year. Essentially, this means that by selling the Saudis the weapons they want, which they subsequently use to murder Yemeni civilians, the US is just as complicit in their slaughter as the Saudi pilots dropping the armaments. The blood is not merely on Mohammed Bin Salman’s hands, but America’s as well unless it stops providing the Saudi Government with the tools they seek to massacre civilians in Yemen.

Despite all this, then, why is Trump so ardently supportive of the Saudis? One claim he frequently makes is that arms sales to Saudi Arabia boost American jobs in the defense industry. However the American private defense industry, which only accounts for 0.5% of the American labor force, does not rely on Saudi money; rather, its main client is the American military. Only approximately 8,000 workers in the United States make bombs, including the ones sold to Saudi Arabia, and it does not seem like their jobs are dependent on Saudi sales. Nonetheless, even if arms sales to Saudi Arabia are economically beneficial, the benefits are not worth the lives of innocent women and children on America’s conscience.

Another explanation for Trump’s warm relationship with Mohammed Bin Salman is merely the reason why America has been a Saudi ally for over 80 years: oil. Saudi Arabia has a great influence on global oil prices and thus is of great significance to American foreign policy and the US economy. But our addiction to foreign oil has clouded our moral judgment. Khashoggi’s murder should spark a moment of self-reflection at the very least: we should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is truly worth the betrayal of every single one of the values we seemingly espouse. We should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is worth the assassination of a journalist for exercising his right to a free press. We should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is worth the 7,000 civilians killed in Yemen since 2015. And if we reflect deeply enough, we should all be able to realize that the answer is “no.”

America has been regarded as the leader of the free world for the last century for only one reason: our values of liberty, equality, and democracy make us uniquely morally qualified to lead. We cannot maintain this moral authority so long as we remain allies with a government which openly and brazenly shows contempt for the very ideals we stand for. America’s soul should not be sold in exchange for cheap oil. Our ideals are worth more than the extra dollar at the pump, or the extra workers employed at Lockheed Martin. It’s time that we sent a loud-and-clear message to the Saudi Government that its egregious assaults on human rights, dignity, and equality will not be tolerated by the United States. Khashoggi’s murder has given us the perfect opportunity to end this relationship. It is now up to the President and Congress to do it. Let us all hope they make the moral choice.


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How China Overtook the USA Where The USSR Couldn’t

Daniel Szewc | Poland

There are multiple reasons why China, a country which had to endure the dictatorship of a communist even worse than Stalin, Zedong Mao, managed to lift itself from the ashes, whilst Soviet Russia couldn’t do it.

Geography

To get the elephant out of the room, the only variable that is inherently more favorable to China than it is for Russia is geography. After WW2, the USSR’s access to warm water ports was the best in all of Russia’s history, yet it is undeniable that there was a muzzle on the bear. The Greenland-Iceland-UK triangle in the North Atlantic, Bosphorus, and Dardanelle, and the Danish straits being controlled by NATO all stood in the USSR’s way. The American Navy, which stood ready to invade the Eastern Russia coastline, also prevented the USSR from having complete territorial control.

In contrast, the People’s Republic of China had a better situation- an underperforming India busy with Pakistan to the South East, impoverished people to the South, and devastated Japan to the West. This allowed the Revolutionary Army of China to concentrate less on defending its borders than the USSR had to.

Economy and Ideology

From the era of Xiaoping Deng seizing power in the Middle Kingdom, China was an active participant in the global market, since they accepted revisionist Marxist doctrines. In practice, they became communist in name only- the gray market was allowed to flourish, and redistribution was minimized, but the authoritarian control maintained. Gorbachev’s, Jaruzelski’s and Kohl’s “opening to the West”, meant a lack of accepting Western cultural demoralization and the slow economic shift to the left, that is still making its way to this day. China, on the other hand, became America and Europe’s supplier of goods, therefore a complete blockade of them would drastically lower the living standards in America and Europe, and cause Westerners to rise up against their governments. Extreme tariffs against goods produced in the USSR would have a minimal effect, simply because Americans did not prefer Soviet products, and the USSR’s products were unfit for American consumption.

To further explain in how much of an disadvantage China was originally, it is enough to say that they didn’t enjoy de facto home rule for the period of European colonisation, even though the Chinese emperor did de jure administer most of it’s territory- in comparison, the only era that could be remotely called “non-home rule” since the Dimitriadis (an era of Polish foreign rule in Russia during the early 17th century) was the Bolshevik rule- most of the party’s presidium was Jewish during that time, even though most people may not know it- Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) and Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov) for example, were the grandkids of Orthodox Jews and changed their surnames to aliases to hide their roots.

China’s line of attack based itself upon prior experiences that they have learned from- as Otto von Bismarck said: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others”


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Are People Too Blind to Know Their Government is Lying to Them?

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Comfort breeds apathy. Most people live simply to work to make a living for themselves and their families. We get focused on our career goals and stick to that path. Anything that distracts us from those life objectives (even when it is a major issue) prevents us from possibly feeding our family, providing housing, and all of the daily comforts of life. So, instead of delving into the serious topics of government abuses (lies, thefts, murders, wars, etc.), we prefer answering only to the immediacy of our direct needs and desires rather than a long fought battle against people that are lying to us.

This may also answer why so many people prefer getting their news from social media and comedians, rather than opening books and discussing things that make people uncomfortable. When we get comfortable with our lives, we tend to shield ourselves from things that will disrupt that comfort.

Likeability is at the forefront of most people’s relationships. Being liked by people, especially your family and friends, is important to most people, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, since most are concerned about being agreeable and liked, they tend to shy away from discussions that could lead them to be viewed in a different and bad light. No one wants to be that crazy conspiracy theorist relative, so they accept mainstream political opinion as fact. Some people also just want to continue positive relationships with those they know they will disagree with any non-mainstream thinking in a positive way.

Education also plays a role in turning a blind eye towards government lies. This may have more to do with public schools being the primary source of education for most Americans. It is ingrained in the public school system not to question your government. It teaches you to admire the Presidents as gods that have come to save us while dismissing all of their corruption, abuses, and lies within a generation or two. Furthermore, when public schools are paid for by states and the federal government, as in the US, with every dollar comes a regulation and control of that schooling system. This is because the state has a monopoly on the use of force. So, public schools will paint the State in a positive image, and many continue to believe that without question.

Philosophy is an ongoing battlefield. For many Americans, the idea that government officials are “just doing their job,” is constantly prevalent in their initial responses. Even when the actions of the government go against the Constitution or laws in place, many shun from contesting. This is the ever-pervasive philosophy that helps to destroy the very questioning of government itself.

Many have come to believe that, although an action such as murder or stealing is wrong for the individual, it is collectively permissible if done behind the guise of government. This also echoes throughout political debate where the majority of the political right only questions and badgers the political left, and the political left does the same only to the right, rather than individuals staying philosophically consistent in questioning everyone. These philosophies perpetuate tribalism, identity politics, and collectivism rather than instilling the reason of the individual to rationally and empirically question authority and philosophies themselves.

A systematic benefit is given to the government itself. When people have found lies within government, it turns against the whistleblower. Oftentimes, it may threaten their property, life, and liberty on the grounds of treason or whatever other charges that can be put on the person. Then, if the person goes to court, who will win? When the government is judging the case, the judges, the lawyers, the politicians, those involved in the charges being brought against them by the whistleblower are typically protected from the highest levels down by the government itself. If a state is suing the federal government, we can only hope that the Supreme Court will respond justly, but there is no guarantee.

How well can we actually use the system in place to charge politicians, military personnel, and other government officials for their crimes against God, Nature, and even the Constitution itself?


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