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To Ease the Horror: U.S. Elections, World History and the Withering Promise of Life on Earth

Marlon Brando in Apocalypse now

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“The horror, the horror,” mumbles the Marlon Brando character in Apocalypse Now. Though merely cinematic, this sentiment exclaims a brutally truthful observation: While each individual death must remain an integral part of species survival – after all, the laws of biology are not reversible by human intention or intervention –  we need not actively hasten the process.  This corrosive process includes war, crime, terrorism, genocide and overall neglect.

               “Overall neglect?” This last term of indictment is plainly not “parallel” to the other four listed transgressions. It represents a sort of composite dereliction, one concerning evident disregard of both science (especially climate change) and human dignity (especially inequalities of human rights and material well-being). In Donald Trump’s United States, scientific neglect now extends to the microbial assaults of viral plague or Covid19.[1] Ominously, the cumulative impact of these fearful harms is plausibly synergistic.

               This is not just another handy linguistic label. It means, by definition, that an injurious systemic “whole” is tangibly greater than the sum of its “parts.”[2] From the standpoints of both American and global survival, therefore, such synergies could prove urgent and determinative.

               What next? Soon, if it may be assumed that we should all prefer survival to disappearance, certain basic questions must be raised. Above all, we should ask promptly and candidly,”How much more pain and suffering can this long- tormented planet endure?” And as a corollary query: At what point do the inhabitants of any so-called advanced democracy willingly accept a more serious citizen responsibility than simple vote casting. This vital but limited validation is now being offered only after various devastating agendas of existential harms have already been put into place.

               At some point, all citizens must do much more. At a minimum, they must finally own up to a fundamental citizen obligation; that is, to restore intellect, education and genuine thought to their always-deserved pride of place.[3]

               These are not silly questions. A democracy constructed upon the inherently shallow preferences of “mass” is always a contradiction in terms. The “mass man,” we may learn from twentieth-century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses (1930), “learns only in his own flesh.”  In the similarly clarifying words of Swiss psychologist and philosopher Carl G. Jung’s The Undiscovered Self (1957), “The mass crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible with the individual, and this necessarily leads to doctrinaire and authoritarian tyranny if ever the constitutional State should succumb to a fit of weakness.”

               A timely and pertinent example of such corrupted “learning” is Donald Trump, an intentionally dissembling US president who has no use for science or any disciplined analytic thought. For him, among his other notable personal debilities, reading is extraneous to understanding and policy; that is, it represents an  altogether evident waste of time. In brief, whatever Trump needs to know about North Korea or China or Russia or the Corona virus can be gleaned more casually, effortlessly, from his own private feelings or “gut instincts.”

               Unsurprisingly, for the citizens of his substantially suffering and imperiled country, this manner of visceral calculation represents a prescription for  even greater national despair.

               There is more. To rise above mass[4] presents thesingle most important survival challenge before us all, a core obligation that comes before answering all other seemingly crucial questions about politics, technology, ideology, and education. In universities, where intellectual direction and fashion are now largely determined by numbing mimicry and a raw commerce – a condition now being exacerbated by viral “plague” –  our students will finally need to learn something  primal and incontestable: An individual’s personal success can make genuine sense only if the larger world itself has a foreseeable future.

               Ironically, this all too obvious conclusion has been conveniently pushed aside; perhaps it has never even been considered.

                Still, learning and survival are not necessarily all that complicated. This unhappy planet,  reflecting its myriad parts, faces stubbornly insidious problems. “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” observed the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and “everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” No one can any longer reasonably doubt the applicability of these portentous lines to current human life. In this particular connection, the “rich” nations are often in the very same ambit of mortal vulnerability as the “poor.”

               Like Covid19, a nuclear war could just as easily snuff out the lives of a privileged few as the unfortunate many.[5]

                There is more. Today, expanding global deterioration and chaos is much more a palpable symptom of pathology than an actual disease. Virtually all world politics hides an inconspicuous truth. This is the ubiquitous and determined unwillingness of individuals to seek serious meaning and comfort within the authenticating margins of science and intellect.[6]

                In consequence, America’s upcoming presidential election, though indispensable to liberate the beleaguered nation from a crowd-based president,  a quintessential “mass man,” will have  little serious bearing on the basic issues of human survival. This is because even if we can rid ourselves of this one specific source of deterioration, the forces that led to his selection in the first place would still likely be in place.

               In the end, says Goethe, we depend upon creatures of our own making. Ultimately, what is needed to fix a broken planet must lie far beyond the fragmented unities and feuding tribes of  life on earth. Only when we are finally allowed to see ourselves as parts of a single species, an insight closely understood by Sigmund Freud,[7] can we humans credibly entertain any hopes for progress and survival.

               On the surface, encouraging “diversity” is nice, fair, and most assuredly democratic. Indisputably, such encouragement always makes ethical, social, industrial, and political sense.  It is a good thing in itself. Nonetheless, it is not enough. What is also needed is a concurrent awareness of human oneness, of an undifferentiated species that finally acknowledges its core interrelatedness and interdependence.

               In principle, at least, well-intentioned emphases on diversity need not represent a contradiction of our overriding species singularity, but this would require an explicit and prior affirmation of diversity as an intermediate step toward an eventual human solidarity. To be sure, all of this is far too much to expect from the current inhabitants of planet earth. At the same time, human progress if generally incremental, and longer term visions must be built upon short-term improvements. “The visionary,” observes Federico Fellini, the Italian film director, “is the only realist.”

               There is more. In one form or another, tribal conflict has always driven world affairs. Without a clear sense of an outsider, of an enemy, of an inferior, of an “other,” most people will feel altogether lost. Still drawing our critical sense of self-worth from membership, in the state, or the faith, or the race -we humans still cannot satisfy even the most minimal requirements of coexistence.

               This incapacity is simply not tolerable or sustainable.

               Surprisingly, our species’ very considerable progress in technical and scientific realms has no recognizable counterpart in basic human relations. Sure, we can fly to the moon, take extraordinary pictures of Mars, and prepare to put cars on the rod without drivers, but we still can’t get beyond the sheer ecstasy of demeaning and slaughtering “others.” For now, as for millennia before, the greatest pleasure of civilization is still the “freedom” to  oppress hordes who allegedly don’t “belong.”  

                The veneer of civilization continues to be razor thin.[8]  To wit, substantial portions of humankind remain dedicated to sacrificial practices that are conveniently disguised as “revolution,” “national liberation,” or “national self-determination.” 

               Our entire system of international relations and international law[9]  is rooted in a deeply etched pattern of  “horror.” The sanitizing name that we assign to this endlessly recurring pattern is “history.” Perversely, within its seamless litany of grievous harms, it can sometimes seem “rational” to defile and destroy those who would have the temerity to express contrarian beliefs and affiliations.

               Such calculations of “rationality” need not be even marginally decent or moral, but that raises a separate issue entirely.

                The calculated destructiveness of human “tribes” has been most evident when one tribe encounters another that is seemingly seeking alternative paths to immortality. This becomes a fundamental problem in world politics because in this broadest possible realm of inter-communal activity, there can be no greater power than immortality. Though almost never deeply understood by statesmen or politicians, a presumptive power over death must represent the absolutely preeminent form of human capacity.

               Seeing requires distance. Up close and personal with leader-fed gibberish, entire civilizations glance greedily over mountains of fresh corpses, and announce, without apology, that “life is good.”  Set in motion by “herds” or “crowds” that flee serious analytic thought, our competitive mass societies continue to suck out the very marrow of human wisdom, reverence, and compassion. In essence, this is done in a desperately oblivious dash to outdo and outlive all others.[10] 

               In this frenzied adversarial rhythm, breathlessness is de rigueur. Accordingly, the cascading horror of life on earth creates a deafening noise, but it is still possible to listen for more transient sounds of grace and harmony.  To begin, however, we must first pay closer attention to our most intimate human dispositions of empathy and compassion. In any concluding analysis, these private feelings could prove more important to species survival than the comfortingly mysterious promises of individual immortality.[11]

               With regard to human durability, the citizens remain grievously unprepared.  From a survival standpoint, the critical time for politics is already over. To survive, together, all of us, as interlinked members  of one embracing species, must learn to rediscover a life that is detached from “tribal” manipulations. Today, in the United States,  these manipulations include variously contrived promises of  “greatness.

               Now, for Americans in particular, it is only in the midst of this suitably awakened human spirit that they may finally learn something beyond the suffocating clichés and defiling banalities of current presidential politics.

                Too many still turn away from  wisdom amid the persisting  triumph of pain, death, and decomposition. The spreading horror of life on earth can never be undone by improvingeconomics, by building larger missiles, by naively fashioning unenforceable international treaties, or even by standing steadfast for “democracy.” Inevitably, easing the horror requires all peoples to see themselves as inter-linked parts of an organic whole.

                Traditionally combative expressions of  belligerent nationalism can never be authentically patriotic. Even among the most evident antinomies of this world, any truly promising spirit of patriotism must first acknowledge (1) the core singularity or “oneness”[12] of our species[13] and (2) the corollary interdependence of all nation-states.[14] In the end, any serious and decent forms of national interest must affirm that all human beings are indissolubly interconnected.

               From the standpoint of  rapidly converging planetary dangers,[15] we can learn ways to ease the “horror,” but only if we can first learn to reject unworthy national leaders.

               Resoundingly.


[1] Not only Trump himself, but his many servile imitators, have magnified the harms of Covid19..An obvious example is Florida Governor Ron Di Santis, who has so wittingly abandoned science in favor of a presumptively more palatable political gibberish. For this inexcusable leadership abandonment, many in Florida are now paying with their lives.

[2] See, by this author, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School:  https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/  See also, by Professor Beres, at Modern War Institute, West Point:  https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[3] Back in the 17th century, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked prophetically, in his justly-celebrated Pensées: “All our dignity consists in thought….It is upon this that we must depend….Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.” Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Pascal’s 17th-century contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics, Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing from Descartes – strives to define a comprehensive theory of learning and knowledge.

[4] The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would prefer the term “herd;” Sigmund Freud, a Nietzschean-derivative “horde;” and Danish existentialist Soren Kierkegaard a “crowd.” In essence, all these terms have the same conceptual referent; that is, a coming-together of individuals that is easily manipulable by political  leaderships, and that represents a subversion of once-latent potentialities for excellence and progress. Famously, Kierkegaard sums up the problem with this succinct declaration: “The crowd is untruth.”

[5] For informed assessments of nuclear war consequences by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018);   Louis René Beres,  Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed.,  Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[6]  In terms of Jose Ortega y’ Gasset’s 20th century classic, The Revolt of the Masses (1930): “The mass does not wish to share life with those who are not of it. It has a deadly hatred of all that is not itself.”

[7] Sigmund Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. In essence, he most objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this country’s “shallow optimism” and its seemingly corollary commitment to a crude form of materialism. America, thought Freud, was very evidently “lacking in soul.” See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[8] Fyodor Dostoyevsky comments about such aspects of civilization: “What is it in us that is mellowed by civilization? All it does, I’d say, is to develop in man a capacity to feel a greater variety of sensations. And nothing, absolutely nothing else. And through this development, man will yet learn how to enjoy bloodshed. Why, it has already happened….Civilization has made man, if not always more bloodthirsty, at least more viciously, more horribly bloodthirsty.” See: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground 108 (Andrew R. MacAndrew, trans., New American Library, 1961)(1862).

[9] One must also remember here that pertinent obligations of international law are also generally obligations of US law. In the precise words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).Moreover, the specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[10] See, on this point,  Ernest Becker, Escape From Evil (New York: The Free Press, 1975). In a similar vein, says Otto Rank in his Will Therapy and Reality: “The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the Sacrifice, of the other; through the death of the other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of dying, of being killed.”

[11] Says the twentieth-century German philosopher Karl Jaspers in his Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952); “There is something inside all of us that yearns not for reason but for mystery – not for penetrating clear thought but for the whisperings of the irrational….”

[12] Apropos of such unassailable “oneness,”  we may learn from Epictetus, the ancient Greek Stoic philosopher, “You are a citizen of the universe.” A still-broader idea of human singularity followed the death of Alexander in 322 BCE; with it came a coinciding doctrine of “universality” or interconnectedness. By the Middle Ages, this political and social doctrine had fused with the notion of a respublica Christiana, a worldwide Christian commonwealth, and Thomas, John of Salisbury and Dante were looking upon Europe as a single and unified Christian community. Below the level of God and his heavenly host, all the realm of humanity was to be considered as one. This is because all the world had been created for the same single and incontestable purpose; that is, to provide secular background for the necessary drama of human salvation. Here, only in its relationship to the universe itself, was the world considered as a part rather than a whole. Says Dante in De Monarchia: “The whole human race is a whole with reference to certain parts, and, with reference to another whole, it is a part. For it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, as we have shown; and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, which is evident without argument.” Today, the idea of human oneness can and should be fully

justified/explained in more purely historical/philosophic terms of human understanding.

[13] Says the Talmud: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.”

[14] “The existence of ‘system’ in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature,” says French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man, “no  matter whom….Each element of the cosmos is positively woven from all the others….”

[15] To the extent that such dangers may be genuinely apocalyptic, the underlying idea of apocalypse seems to have been born in ancient Iran (Persia), specifically, with the Manichaeism of the Zoroastrians. At least one of these documents, The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, found in a Qumran cave, is a comprehensive description of Jewish military tactics and regulations at the end of the Second Commonwealth. The “Sons of Light” were expected to prevail in battle against the “Sons of Darkness” before the “end of days,” and the later fight at Masada was widely interpreted as an apocalyptic struggle between a saintly few and the many wicked.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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America’s Two-Tiered Justice System

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The Constitution states only one command twice. The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states. These words have as their central promise an assurance that all levels of government must operate within the law and provide fair procedures to all its citizens.

In this politically divisive climate, the central promise has been broken with little to no assurance that one can trust the American democratic system where some courts have disavowed their responsibility to uphold the Constitution’s meaning of the laws passed by Congress. For instance, the Bill of Rights was passed because of concepts such as freedom of religion, speech, equal treatment, and due process of law were all deemed so fundamental to protect every legal resident in the nation; yet we are now witnessing politically charged judicial appointments eradicating these principles under which all persons and entities are accountable to equally enforce and independently adjudicate, as well as being consistent with international human rights.

On the heels of the Chinese coronavirus, there is an escalating epidemic of unequal justice and character assault where much of the news media is politically aligned with the rulers in turning a blind eye or complicit in the coverup; and in some cases, ravenously endorses the demise of what has essentially now become political dissidents falsely accused, intimidated, and jailed. While many Americans are attempting to scrape by in difficult times, they remain astute to the moral failure of the elites in power as well as the tacit elected opposition’s assiduous silence in whitewashing the legal duplicity. Historical trends over centuries of betraying the peasants eventually succumbs to a reckoning where the privileged corrupt politician and their corporate fascists will be exposed and held accountable in some fashion.  

Americans are confounded by the coronavirus decrees requiring masks to be worn for thee and not for me double standards. The politicians hammer away at enforcing mask mandates on the common folk, yet they do not adhere to their own edicts while attending fine dining with their elite backers. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Californian Governor Gavin Newsome, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot all violated their own mask mandates in public venues while the masked servants waited on them.

President Biden was caught on video walking maskless through a swanky Washington restaurant in violation of the District’s laws on facial coverings, yet regular citizens are subject to civil penalties which result in fines of $1000.00 or revocation of licenses during the COVID-19 emergency. In defending the emperor, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said we should ‘not overly focus on moments in time that don’t reflect overarching policy.’ These double standard by the progressives are a far cry from Americans being punished and ostracized all over the country for not wearing a mask.

Identity politics has resulted in two systems of justice – one where BLM rioting and looting is described by the media as peaceful demonstrations and where assaulting police has no criminal consequences; yet the January 6th actions at the Capital has resulted in the largest round up of protesters ever seen in America. It is estimated that the Federal Government has upwards to 70 rioters/trespassers in solitary confinement and they are only let out in a larger area for one hour at 2 am due to COVID. Some of those being held in detention have been charged with trespassing on restricted grounds, others with assault and obstruction, and some haven’t been charged with anything. There are no bail hearings for these political activists yet BLM and Antifa rioters typically spend one night in the brig and let out the next day to rejoin the frontlines of carnage.  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vocally pushed for the January 6th ‘insurrectionists’ to be added to the TSA no-fly list. Civil liberties are being trampled by exploiting insurrection fears with people in attendance no longer permitted to take a flight in their own country and they have not been convicted of a crime. This action by the government had previously only happened to suspect foreign terrorists, and now it is happening to Americans under suspicion. We see no similar actions taken against the militant Antifa anarchists who attacked and torched federal buildings in Portland.

Washington DC has essentially been abusing these inmates in captivity. There have been complaints on the nourishment of their fellow Americans where they are served white bread and a packet of tartar sauce. This is ultimately a violation of the 8th Amendment that prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, nor cruel and unusual punishments, and from inflicting unduly harsh penalties. Some judges are expressing concern at the length of these pretrial incarcerations, however they’ve largely deferred to the Justice Department. Meanwhile anarchists who burn down buildings and shoot projectiles at police officers and federal buildings have charges dismissed. Justice is not equal.   

One female trespasser was shot dead by police during the Capital unrest and there was no outcry or charges against the officer. She was white and a Trump supporter. Federal prosecutors are not seeking criminal charges against the police lieutenant whose single shot killed Ashli Babbit, the 14-year veteran who served four tours with the US Airforce. If the unarmed Babbit committed any crime, it would have been for trespassing, a misdemeanor that should have seen her arrested and not slain. The lieutenant’s life was not at risk nor was he saving the lives of others as he stood with numerous police officers in riot gear and strapped with submachine guns. If a member of BLM was shot dead by police during an unlawful riot, there would have been an immediate racial outcry from political elites and from across the news media for justice followed by looting local retailers and ransacking a police precinct. The action by BLM is considered righteous violence whereas the slain Babbit had it coming to her.  

On a very disturbing and new level of injustice is the threatening actions being taken against parents of schoolchildren by the Department of Justice. Most Americans are familiar with the Patriot Act following 9-11 where the National Security Division conducts counterterrorism operations against foreign adversaries planning suicide bombings and stealing nuclear secrets. Now the Biden Administration, under Attorney General Merrick Garland, has turned the NSD’s crosshairs against everyday Americans conducting their civil duties and free speech as school board meetings.

Garland’s actions followed the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) claim that American public schools and its education leaders are under immediate threats and intimidation as parents grow frustrated over the divisive neo-Marxist Critical Race Theory being injected into their children’s curricula. This is clearly an injustice to weaponize the DOJ and FBI investigators to intimidate and arrest parents under the same counterespionage to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Parents may be angry, but they are certainly not domestic terrorists in taking on the powerfully partisan school unions who somehow believe they are justified to influence civilization by indoctrinating their children.        

Garland’s poster boy for his hideous partisan support of the NSBA is a Virginia father who was arrested at a school board meeting when he attempted to raise the alarm over his young daughter being raped in the school washroom. The father became the symbol of angry parents confronting school officials when he was taken down by several police officers and apprehended for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He became vocally upset when school officials denied the attack on his daughter, but he was not physically confrontational.

The father said it is scary that our government will weaponize themselves against parents and they’re using my video across the nation to spread fear; while the school officials did not seem to want to listen to him regarding his daughter being assaulted by a boy wearing a skirt who took advantage of transgender rules to access the girl’s washroom. The boy has now been charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, one count of anal sodomy, and one count of forcible fellatio related to the incident at that school. At a later date, the same boy was charged for a similar attack at neighboring school where he allegedly forced a victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her.  Regardless of the raped daughter, Garland and the NSBA still have their video of the father being wrestled down to support the use of the FBI against parents and send a chilling effect on harmless dissent.  

The Russian collusion narrative against then President Donald Trump may seem dated, however it can never be swept aside or forgotten in what may well have been the biggest political scandal and injustice to a man in American history. The country endured four years investigating Russian collusion into the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 presidential win with senate and congressional impeachment hearings over a Clinton-paid-for fake dossier, the biased Obama hatchet men overseeing the FBI and CIA shirking the law, a frenzied media that never let up on Trump’s guilt, and a special counsel comprised of Clinton partisans that turned over every leaf that eventually found the nearly crucified Trump to be innocent of the false charges. The former president had to withstand an incessant blitzkrieg of injustice through his entire presidency while leading the most powerful country in the world.   

On the hand, there is compelling evidence that President Joe Biden spent years while in government enriching himself through family ties, specifically his son Hunter, to the tune of millions of dollars in foreign money from China, Russia, and Ukraine. The foreign players simply used the unqualified son to leverage access to Biden while satisfying Hunter’s greed and questionable lifestyle. Biden has little to no ability to stand up to China or Russia knowing they are holding damaging transactions over his head. There have been no investigations into Biden’s quid-pro-quo against Ukraine or the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to Biden family members, no impeachments, and the news media buried these stories; including damaging information found on Hunter’s laptop during the 2020 presidential election. Had Trump and his sons engaged in these activities, there would have been a very different level of justice.   

What of this injustice that is making its mark on history? If we take a moment to think through the confusion of the moment and see the morale issue involved, then one may refuse to have this sense of justice distorted to grip power rather than for the good of the country. Those who have sown this unjust wind may eventually reap a whirlwind that provokes reform by convulsion of the people instead of a natural order of business. We must all remember that democracy lies with the people of this land and whether the nation will be stirred to stand for justice and freedom in this hour of distress and go on to finish in a way worthy of its beginning.  

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Biden’s Department of Justice: parents as domestic terrorists

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In recent developments in the United States, US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, and the FBI have put under the FBI radar parents as potential domestic terrorists. You heard it right. This is now a new formal legal policy contained in memos of the Department of Justice trying to reign in parents discussions on Biden’s new school curricula. They are not going after potential outbursts but outright terrorism. 

This is an attack on freedom of speech in the sense that parents have the right to discuss and disagree with the new Biden school curricula. This is where the issue originated: parts of Biden’s new school curricula are not accepted by many parents and if they disagree, the FBI treats them now as potential domestic terrorists as a matter of policy. Apart from a First Amendment case, this is also a case for international human rights law and I reported the development to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech this week hoping to get a statement.

The Department of Justice is referring to some constitutional provision on “intimidation of views” to override and take down one of the most firmly established rights, the right to freedom of speech, in quite frankly a ridiculous interpretation. Those parents that dare to speak up against controversial parts in the new text books could be investigated for domestic terrorism. This is the most incompetent interpretation on limitations of freedom of speech I have seen in awhile. 

Garland and the FBI have totally lost their marbles. The woke discussion is not funny to me anymore. It increasingly looks like a woke tyranny that has nothing to do with rights and equality anymore but simply serves as a vehicle to empower the FBI to run wild against regular people. This lunacy needs to be stopped.

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Iran poll contains different messages for Biden and Raisi

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“It’s the economy, stupid.” That is the message of a just-published survey of Iranian public opinion.

However, the substance of the message differs for newly elected hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the Biden administration as Mr. Raisi toughens his negotiating position and the United States grapples with alternative ways of curbing the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme should the parties fail to agree on terms for the revival of the 2015 international agreement.

Iranians surveyed last month by Iran Poll and the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies were telling Mr. Raisi that they are looking to him to alleviate Iran’s economic and other problems and have little hope that a revived nuclear agreement will make the difference, given lack of trust in US and European compliance with any agreement reached.

The Iranians polled seemed in majority to endorse some form of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s notion of a “resistance economy” as a way of blunting the impact of the US sanctions imposed by former President Donald J. Trump after he walked away from the nuclear agreement in 2018. Some 65 per cent of the responders said they favoured a self-sufficient economy; 54.2 per cent expected the economy to at least improve somewhat in the next three years.

A large number expressed confidence that Mr. Raisi would significantly lower inflation and unemployment, increase Iran’s trade with other countries, control the pandemic and root out corruption.

Meanwhile, 63 per cent suggested that Iran’s economic situation would be the same, if not better, if there were no return to the agreement and the government continued to pursue a civil nuclear programme. The figure seemed at odds with the 80 per cent who said Iran’s economic situation would improve if Iran and the United States returned to the agreement and both fulfilled their obligations under the deal.

The divergence may be a function of the fact that the poll, unsurprisingly, indicated that Iranians (64.7 per cent) had little trust in the United States living up to its commitments even though they expected the Biden administration to return to the deal (57.9 per cent). As a result, 73.1 per cent of those surveyed said Iran should not make concessions given that world powers would not live up to commitments they make in return.

At the same time, 63 per cent blamed the troubled state of the economy on domestic mismanagement rather than US sanctions. Only 34.4 per cent believed that the sanctions were the main cause of their economic difficulty. Iranians pointing the finger at the government rather than external forces was also reflected in the 60.5 per cent of those polled blaming Iran’s water shortages on mismanagement and bad policies.

The poll suggested that by emphasising domestic mismanagement, Iranians were going to judge Mr. Raisi on his success or failure in countering the debilitating effect of the sanctions even though 77.5 per cent of those surveyed said that the sanctions had a negative or somewhat negative impact on the economy.

Implicitly, Iranians were holding former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responsible for the mismanagement given that Mr. Raisi only took office in August. Rated very favourable by 61.2 per cent of Iranians surveyed in 2015, Mr. Rouhani’s favorability dropped to 4.6 per cent in the most recent poll. By contrast, the favourable views of Mr. Raisi soared from 38.3 per cent in 2014 to 77 per cent last month. IranPoll and the Center have been conducting annual of surveys since 2014.

Mr. Raisi may have taken pleasure from that but more importantly, the poll implicitly suggested that he does not have much time to produce results before his significant public support starts to wane.

Of those polled, 66.7 per cent expected Mr. Raisi to improve Iran’s international standing, 55.7 per cent said he would be in a better position to negotiate with world powers, and 45.2 per cent predicted that he would enhance Iran’s security. Those expectations may have been to some degree validated in the public’s mind by last month’s acceptance of Iran’s application for membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that groups China, Russia, India, Pakistan and several Central Asian states.

The survey results seemed to suggest that ordinary Iranians were framing their message to the United States differently from the assessment of prominent scholars and analysts. The divergence may well be one primarily of timing but nonetheless has implications for policymaking in Washington. The message of the respondents to the poll was one of immediate impact while analysts and scholars appear to be looking at the middle term.

Without referring to the poll, Vienna-based economist and strategic consultant Bijan Khajehpour argued this week, seemingly contrary to the poll, that “mismanagement and the Covid-19 pandemic have both contributed to Iran’s poor economic performance in recent years, but it remains that US sanctions…will be the key factor in determining Iran’s future prospects.”

Mr. Khajehpour went on to say that “high inflation, capital flight and the erosion of household purchasing power alongside mismanagement of resources and the deterioration of the country’s infrastructure have the potential to spark more protests and further undermine the already faltering legitimacy of the Islamic Republic in the eyes of the public.”

No doubt, the jury is out on how Iranians respond if and when Mr. Raisi fails to live up to their expectations. If the past is any indication, Iranians have repeatedly taken to the streets at often substantial risk to liberty and life to make their discontent with government performance evident as they did with the low turnout in this year’s election that brought Mr. Raisi to power.

The risk of renewed protests was reflected in the fact that responses to various questions regarding the electoral system, the limited number of presidential candidates (because many were barred from running), and the public health system showed that it was often a slim majority at best that expressed confidence in the system.

Add to that the fact that 68 per cent of respondents to the poll said that the objectives of past protests had been a demand that officials pay greater attention to people’s problems.

Yet, at the same time, they were telling the United States that its efforts to generate pressure on Iranian leaders to moderate their nuclear and regional policies by imposing harsh sanctions had for now backfired. Iranians were backing a tougher negotiating position by the Raisi government.

Ultimately that could be a double-edged sword for Mr. Raisi. He has to prove that he can be tough on the United States and simultaneously improve the lives of ordinary Iranians. Failure to do so could have in Mr. Khajehpour’s words “unpredictable consequences.”

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