International politics is facing a tumultuous time. Across the West, governments are polarizing, as centre-moderates lose their seats to more radical candidates on both the left and right. It’s clear that we are living in an uncertain time, and the public vote is reflecting that anxiety. Threats from terrorism, the teetering economy, and environmental changes all play a role. However, by far the greatest offender is the universal lack of government transparency. The people know they’re being lied to, and they’re sick of it!
Exaggeration and falsehood have long been tolerated in the world of politics. This culture is so ingrained that removing it from the system is no straightforward task. On the other hand, the internet has provided the world with an invaluable tool; information is no longer a privilege of the rich, and political claims can be corroborated or refuted in mere seconds.
These two factors both act as fuel to the Grassroots movement. In numerous countries, people are disregarding the political class and, instead, looking to each other for the truth. Social media, blogs and an increased number of camera phones all allow the everyday person to be part of the political discussion unlike ever before. The question now is whether that conversation can translate into systematic change.
Most government systems are set up so no one person can truly affect change. In the US, this can be seen in the division of power between the Executive Office, Congress and the Supreme Court. While this is essential to ensure true democracy is never overthrown, it also has an adverse effect. If a Government official is faced with controversy, he merely disappears from the cabinet and out of public vision. Take, for example, the UK Parliament expenses scandal of 2009, which saw Conservative MP, Lord Hannington, quietly reinstated to the House of Lords, 12 months after he was convicted of false accounting. This glaring systemic flaw is only magnified by the ruling elites’ tendency to look after their own.
Scott Bloch was a controversial member of the Bush Administration who was accused of manipulating the system many times before he was finally charged with contempt of Congress in 2013. Alongside allegations that he wiped incriminating information from his computer, his sexist newsletter content and claims that he threw away legitimate whistle-blower cases also surfaced. Initially, Bloch faced voluntary resignation and 30-day prison time but was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea when he discovered this fact. Instead, Bloch received probation and, after complaints from watchdog groups, spent one day in jail, received a $5,000 fine and 200 hours community service.
Bloch’s case is not a rarity. The legal repercussions for misuse of power are hardly ever severe. This lack of accountability has created a culture in which lies and deceit are often overlooked. As average citizens have watched the incarceration rate grow by 20 percent worldwide since 2000, this inconsistency of justice has not gone unnoticed.
The last few years have seen this rise of political parties and candidates whose extreme views and controversial beliefs would not have been tolerated a decade ago. The far right has restarted a conversation about race, which harks back to eras long passed. However, with increasing lives lost to terrorists performing acts in the name of Islam, it’s understandable that many feel this dialogue is necessary.
In the UK, the effects of the migrant crisis saw citizens of port towns struggle to get their children into schools and doctor’s practices. It was this strain that resulted in places like Margate, Nigel Farage’s constituency, vote for UKIP MP’s in the 2015 general election.
Similarly, following an increasing number of devastating ISIS attacks in France, the support for National Front leader, Marine La Pen, grew significantly. Nowhere is this mounting feeling clearer than in the US, where Donald Trump and his controversial ‘Muslim ban’ secured one of the most surprising political victories in recent years. While accusations of racism surround all of these politicians, it’s clear that the majority of their followings are not voting on pure prejudice. In reality, this increasing support is an expression of fear, and a call for the political class to pay attention to these issues.
On the other side of the fence, many countries are seeing a rise in far-left candidates as a protest against the continual austerity. The international economy has been under strain since the banking crash of 2008. While many countries have seen ongoing cuts to public services, many people don’t feel any richer. Simultaneously, they can’t help but note the luxurious lifestyle many politicians lead, complete with tax cuts, expense accounts, and hefty bonuses. In the UK, the public sector has seen pay stall, while MP’s continue to enjoy an exponential increase.
Unsurprisingly, this has inspired significant support for socialist Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for an end to offshore accounts and tax breaks. It was similar crippling financial conditions that prompted Greece to vote in the radical-left party, Syriza. This lean towards socialism/marxism is a clear protest vote; a cry of disgust at the fact that everyday people are the ones paying for the government and banker’s mishandling of the country’s financial affairs.
Another key issue for both sides of the fence has been Government snooping. Since the Snowden leaks showed the world the true extent of the violations of our online privacy, many have highlighted the hypocrisy. While politicians and secret services grossly abuse their online power, citizens in some part of the world are being arrested for using proxy services to protect their privacy. US nationals rated blocks on illegal wiretappings as one of the most important issues under the Obama administration, yet no changes in legislation have occurred.
All of these situations paint the same picture: the people are trying to hold the government accountable on certain issues, but their only forum is to vote for radical candidates. The grassroots conversation is an essential voice to have in international politics, and appropriately cultivating it has already significantly affected the government front line. Perhaps the best example of this is in the recent UK general election. Jeremy Corbyn began the race as a laughing stock but ended up prompting the biggest Labour swing seen since 1945. The election also saw record numbers of voters, including an incredible 72 percent of young people.
This incredible surge by the youth vote was largely a result of Corbyn utilizing the full force of grassroots. After speaking with many underground musicians and counter-culture artists the #Grime4Corbyn campaign saw rappers and other street icons break through apathy in some of the most politically disenchanted parts of society. Bernie Sanders made a similar attempt during his race to be the US Democrat candidate. Although he could not ensure the same hold on power, his use of volunteers and financial contributors saw a campaign that was grassroots to its very core.
Both of these examples demonstrate the increasing need for more grassroots opportunity. As citizens continue to be turned off by the status quo, more and more and willing to put their money and their time into their political beliefs. This voice is one that politicians can no longer ignore; if that can’t properly cultivate its power, it could mean the end of their reign.
The End Of Political Apathy
It’s clear we live in a time where conventional politics is no longer tolerated. After decades of most Western governments hovering around the center, voters and politicians are demanding a change. Whether this has been a direct result of the current world problems – or a repercussion of the internet age and its ability to spread information and ideas – our political future has never looked so unsure.
However, for the ordinary voter, this time of uncertainty is a valuable opportunity to make your voice heard. You can opt to join local groups and parties, get involved with your preferred candidate or even just continue the political dialogue on social media. Each of these tactics has already proved successful for many groups and ideologies, and our culture of connectivity suggests that many future campaigns will also look to harness the power of grassroots. We have entered an era having your say has never been so important, and the chances of actually being heard have increased significantly.
The time for bottom-up politics is approaching, and expressing your beliefs is only going to become increasingly important as we continue to face a world of evolving threat and instability. Political decision-making is no longer isolated to the four walls of government; distrust of the system is starting to facilitate change on an international level.
‘Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People’: Time to retire
Again, another mass shooting, again a school, again a troubled teen, a racist, a white supremacist, a Bloods or Crips gangster, a refugee, a war veteran, a mad policeman, a terrorist from al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front or from the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Daesh) terrorist outfits … what difference does it make and again dead bodies lying on the ground in their blood. Who believes they were alive seconds ago. The story goes on and to my surprise it is having less effect than it used to have years ago. Why?
We are getting bad. We are not hurt anymore. Too much violence has made us numb.
What does the motto on the entrance of the United Nations building says? A poem by the Iranian influential poet Sa’adi, from the 13th century, the medieval period. The poem has many translations however one is this:
The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.
Give it a thought, try to put it in practice, politician and statesmen in the United Nations, New York, United States. It is ludicrous that almost all of them call for end of wars, urge foe peace and tranquil but at the same time produce and sell arms.
War, violence and killing is simply unacceptable, nasty and painful in any kind and form, whether it occurs in a house, street, city, countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine or the United States of America.
U.S. teen confesses to mass shooting at Florida Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
A troubled teen with alleged ties to a white supremacist group confessed on Thursday to murdering 17 people at his former high school in Florida, as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) admitted it had received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman yet failed to stop him.
As Americans reeled from the country’s worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, the U.S. President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health — and defied calls to address gun control.
Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.
Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appearing on Thursday afternoon before a judge who ordered him held without bond.
After being read his legal rights, “Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” court documents showed.
Cruz also admitted he discarded his rifle — which he bought legally in Florida — and tactical gear in order to blend in with the crowd to flee the campus, the documents showed.
The recent mass shooting at a school in Florida is the latest reminder that the United States is a “very violent country,” a journalist in Detroit says.
After the shooting, he stopped at a Wal-Mart store and then McDonald’s, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters. He was detained 40 minutes later, after police identified him using school security camera footage.
Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.
In a somber televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump vowed to make mental health a priority — after tweeting about the “many signs” the gunman was “mentally disturbed” — while avoiding any talk of gun curbs.
Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that “neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
But U.S. authorities themselves were under scrutiny, after the FBI confirmed it was alerted last September to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
In a statement, the FBI said it had carried out “database reviews and other checks” but was unable to identify the person who made the post.
Trump cites mental health, not guns, in speech on shooting
Declaring the nation united and grieving with “one heavy heart,” Trump promised on Thursday to tackle school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health” in response to the deadly shooting in Florida. He made no mention of the scourge of gun violence.
Not always a natural in the role of national comforter, Trump spoke deliberately, at one point directly addressing children who may feel “lost, alone, confused or even scared.”
“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be,” Trump said. “You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you.”
However, the ones killed were alone when they were shot in cold blood in fear and hope. The ones who lost their precious lives had many hopes and ambitions.
Now they are dead, and it could be every and each one of us, at a school, stadium, concert hall, cinema, home, Middle East, Americas… anywhere, it could be.
Such incidents are cause of sorrow and pain, I cannot explain how I felt when I saw the horrible pictures of the Florida High School shooting, just like how I felt when I saw the massacre committed by the ISIL terrorists killing cadets in Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. At the time of the attack there were between 4,000 and 11,000 unarmed cadets in the camp. ISIL terrorists singled out Shia and non-Muslim cadets from Sunni ones and murdered them.
Who arms and supports terrorist groups like ISIL? No one can be so naeive to believe that they have just popped out. I recall the U.S. President Trump as saying on his election campaign to Hillary Clinton that the U.S. created ISIL. Well done!
While Trump stressed the importance of mental health and school safety improvements, his latest budget request would slash Medicaid, the major source of federal funding for treating mental health problems, and cut school safety programs by more than a third. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.
Trump’s silence on guns was noted with displeasure by many who are seeking tougher firearm restrictions. But the White House said the president wanted to keep his remarks focused on the victims.
Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favored some tighter gun regulations. But he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the National Rifle Association spent $30 million in support of his campaign.
During his brief, televised statement, Trump said he wanted to work to “create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life,” a phrase likely to resonate with his conservative base.
In contrast, former President Barack Obama tweeted out a call for “long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws.” Obama wrote: “We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job.”
In reacting to previous mass shootings, Trump has largely focused on mental health as a cause, dismissing questions about gun control. After a shooting at a Texas church in November left more than two dozen dead, the president said, “This isn’t a guns situation.”
The US has averaged one school shooting every 60 hours since the beginning of 2018, data shows.
Trump was criticized in early August for saying that both white nationalists and counter-protesters were responsible for the violent clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
While Trump has offered somber responses to some tragedies, he has also drawn criticism for other reactions.
After the Orlando shootings at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead in June 2016, then-candidate Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” In the wake of a deadly terror attack in London last June, he went after Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter.
Sadiq Khan compares the US president’s rhetoric against Islam to tactics used by ISIL to inspire terror attacks in Western cities.
First published in our partner Tehran Times
On Jettisoning Failed Leaders and Mass Shootings in the U.S.
The scene is the House of Commons; the date May 7, 1940. A simple motion to adjourn for the ten-day Whitsun recess is of little concern to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who has a comfortable 213 seat majority. Then things take a turn. A plan approved by the first Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to land troops in Norway and engage the Germans directly has been a disaster with huge losses, and the eventual naval evacuation of the expeditionary force — an Arctic Dardanelles planned by the same man.
Chamberlain rises to defend Churchill and the conduct of the war in what has now come to be known as the “Norway Debate”. In the most unlikely of scenarios and with no evidence of Winston trying to put his name forward — in fact the opposite — when the tide turns against Chamberlain, within three days as more favored candidates are shed, he has become prime minister. Such is the parliamentary system. Margaret Thatcher is another example, toppled shortly after success at the polls.
The American system, however, puts the president beyond such reach other than through a laborious impeachment. Analogous to the third Roman Emperor Caligula, Donald Trump, too, has no military or political experience. Caligula made his horse a senator or some say consul; Trump has the equivalent running government departments and agencies. Caligula declared himself a god; Trump tweeted he is a ‘stable genius.’ If Caligula’s reign ended with assassination, Trump’s will be more prosaic — just disaffected voters.
Another mass shooting this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen are dead and many more injured. The gunman, identified as Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 assault type rifle, a weapon far deadlier than a pistol — perhaps he watched the coverage of the Las Vegas shooting. He was a former pupil who had been suspended from the school, and who students recalled as disturbed and scary.
President Trump in his remarks following the incident did not bring up the obvious question of why an AR-15 was so easily available for purchase. Gun owners and the gun lobby are part of his constituency.
Following a mass shooting in April 1996 when a man armed with two semi-automatic rifles killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian government put together strict gun laws. They were supplemented with a mandatory gun-buyback program through which 650,000 firearms were destroyed. Did the program work? The data tells the story more vividly: From 1979 to 1996, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings; since 1997 it has had none.
Under his usual theme of ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’, President Trump continues to talk about finding ways to deal better with disturbed people. The sure Australian way is to stop them acquiring guns.
Lost in the Florida school story was another shooting the same day when trigger-happy guards let loose at a National Security Agency entrance. The forested area is a confused mass of entries and exits. It has happened before that somebody inadvertently makes a wrong turn and panics when faced with shouting armed guards. In this incident, bullet holes can be seen in the windshield and the three men in the car were injured.
Introducing the Gates Foundation’s annual philanthropic letter a few days ago, Bill and Melinda Gates appealed to Donald Trump to not cut foreign aid — “even a 10 percent cut could lead to 5 million deaths in the next decade”, Bill Gates warned. Will President Trump listen?
Despite the many wonderful aspects the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, when it comes to jettisoning incompetent leaders, it is difficult to best the parliamentary system for immediacy.
Trump’s new nuclear doctrine just rhetoric
Recently the US President Donald Trump unveiled his new nuclear doctrine which had remained unchanged since 2010. Many experts consider Trump’s new doctrine which enjoys many ambiguities as just campaign rhetoric. To shed more light on the issue we reached out to Prof. Filip Kovacevic, University of San Francisco geopolitics.
The US new nuclear doctrine was published several days ago. This document had remained unchanged since 2010. What are the reasons for new changes?
According to the US military establishment, the most important reason for changes is that the world has been a more dangerous and geopolitically unstable place. What the generals are not saying, though, is that it was their own actions which are responsible for this state of affairs. The hegemonic US foreign policy, the attempt to force a neo-liberal Pax Americana on the diversity and richness of the world’s cultures and traditions, is the cause of the present world problems.
Of course, you won’t find this stated openly in the doctrine. What you will find there, in a typical manipulative fashion, are the accusations of others for the problems that the US foreign policy has caused itself. In fact, this hypocritical pattern of behavior, where you take the legitimate reactions of others to your own provocations and aggressive moves as the main cause of tensions and conflicts, goes back many decades into the past.
What is the most significant difference between the new doctrine and the previous one?
In my opinion, the most significant difference is that a lot more money will be poured into the development of nuclear weapons. This will inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race with other states and to the proliferation of nuclear weapons as more and more countries will want to acquire them. But it will bring tremendous profits to the US military-industrial complex. In fact, the Trump administration is completely under the control of this section of the US corporate oligarchy. Trump is essentially breaking down all the institutional checks and balances in the US political system and paving a way for a military dictatorship. I have no doubt that the next US president will be a military officer. This means that we are about to see more wars and more deaths around the world, including in the Middle East. Many old, frozen conflicts will be re-opened across Asia and, apparently, the US is also setting a stage for the first-time use of a low yield nuclear weapon. Let’s not forget, though, that the bombs with depleted uranium have already been extensively used in the US /NATO conflicts, starting with the attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, causing horrific public health and environmental problems for generations to come.
In new doctrine, the use of nuclear weapons is allowed in extraordinary situation. There are some ambiguities around this. What are those extraordinary situations exactly?
The fact that the US reserves the right to respond with a nuclear weapon to a non-nuclear attack is nothing new. In fact, the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though there was no nuclear threat from the Imperial Japan. However, what is new in this doctrine is that now the US considers the potential use of a nuclear weapon against a large-scale cyber-attack. This is extremely worrying, because, as is well known, it is very difficult to correctly attribute the source of a cyber-attack. This could make a false-flag attack by some rogue terrorist faction or by the inside provocateurs misinterpreted as an attack by another nuclear power and lead to the nuclear annihilation of all life on Earth.
As the US considers the first strike on Russia acceptable, it means the spirit of the cold war is governing this new doctrine. Why has the US taken this approach?
Provoked by the rapid and aggressive expansion of the US political, economic, and cultural influence in Central and Eastern Europe under the umbrella of NATO, Russia has embarked on the campaign of re-arming and strengthening its defense and security apparatus in recent years. It appears that the US thought that Russia would cave in under its demands and accept to be a third-rate power in Eurasia. However, this was a serious misunderstanding of the Russian history and tradition. Now that Russia pushes back, the US establishment does not know what else to do but to make threats. However, these are empty threats because any kind of use of nuclear weapons against Russia or against its allies within the Collective Security Treaty Organization would quickly lead to mutual destruction. The spirit of the old Cold War has returned, and it will be with us for a long time to come. Accordingly, we will see the flare-up of proxy conflicts and covert actions across the world.
How do you assess the US new doctrine toward Iran? What are the new points?
Iran is one of only four states separately mentioned in the doctrine. The others are Russia, China, and North Korea. Iran is given the least coverage because it is not seen as an immediate nuclear danger to the US .The main emphasis is on what will happen after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ends in 2031. It is stated that after this period, Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon within a year. Interestingly, there is no mention of the US getting out of the JCPOA before that time, which is in contradiction to what the US president Donald Trump has been saying recently. It appears that Trump’s statements are just campaign rhetoric intended to please some important and wealthy interest groups, but that, in reality, it will be difficult for the US to get out of the JCPOA, considering that all other signatories are still backing it. However, this is not to say that the US will not use all other means at its disposal, including its vast media and intelligence resources, to sow discord within the Iranian political elite and create an economic and political crisis in the country.
First published in our partner Mehr News Agency
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