The line of succession

I will begin with a a warning that this post might not be as topical as the usual material I put out and a little more speculative but I feel the need to stake my claim on this topic. The topic I intend to discuss below are the candidates I feel might make the cut as the next potential president of the United States. In discussing those candidates who I feel might have any chance of claiming the crown for themselves I will inevitably touch on some of the keystone topics that will define the electoral battleground within the USA and outside of it. I’m not quite willing to place a bet as to who the actual president will be just quite yet and for good reason, if the GOP nomination/candidates is/are anywhere near as farcical as last time round then my suggestions for that parties candidate might all be blown out of the water so I’m holding off on that one for now. Without further ado, read on to find my pick of those who I feel might make the team and why.

Democratic Party

Democratic Party

  1. Hillary Clinton – I’ll begin by saying that if I am a little dubious as to whether Clinton will stand at all with her having declined to pursue another term as Secretary of State. However there are factors on the other side of the weighing scale that lead me to believe that if she were to run that she would almost certainly gain the nomination of her party having come so close last time around and would certainly be a plausible candidate for President. Having left the State Department with high approval ratings and (moderately) successfully guided her department through a period of intense change on the world stage with regards the Arab Spring, Clinton has certainly demonstrated her competency in high office and her work while she was the First Lady with charitable initiatives would seem to suggest a keen awareness of political issues within the US itself. I also feel that a critical element that would aid Clinton if she did decide to run is that as well as being tremendously popular herself, she is also a part of a remarkably popular political family with a great deal of experience in running very smooth campaigns. All of the above being true there are a few issues that might hamper a Clinton campaign. Chief amongst the issues that harm Clinton’s potential candidacy is her involvement in some very shady financial dealings that have previously tarnished the family image almost as much as the activities of the philanderer in chief. While Clinton was never charged of wrongdoing over Whitewater or Cattle Futures, even the merest hint or allegation of corruption has previously proved enough to scupper a candidacy. Besides these issues though, I feel Clinton stands a good chance if she does come out of her semi-retirement and on reflection I am lead to wonder if perhaps the decision to not serve a second term as Secretary of State was a shrewd move to avoid any flack for poor decisions damaging an otherwise credible candidacy.

    perhaps one day she really will ...

    perhaps one day she really will …

  2. Joe Biden – Another member of Obama’s cabinet with a decent shot at the presidency if he were to run.  Biden has demonstrated a consistent support for his president and has arguably been a big help to Obama’s policy initiatives with for example, Obama leaving Biden in charge of drafting  a bill to go before congress in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, perhaps in doing so, acknowledging that in the increasingly partisan political atmosphere of US politics, Biden is seen as less toxic than had the suggestions come straight from Obama. Biden also played a critical part in ensuring that to some degree financial meltdown was avoided (albeit narrowly) in the 2011 debt ceiling debacle and the 2012 fiscal cliff fuck up through his good relationships with significant figures within the Republican Party. Biden has also been a strong supporter of the current administrations policy on equal rights and gay marriage which might make him the stand out candidate for LGBT voters in an age where said demographic is increasingly important and politicised. There are, like with Clinton, an issue that might prove to derail a potential Biden candidacy which is simply – his age. While he has demonstrated his ability and determination in repeatedly hitting the road in support of Obama, I do wonder whether 8 years of doing so will have seriously tired the man out, more so when we consider that if he were to run he would be 73 by the time the election season began.
Having attempted to run for the presidency twice already, I wonder if for Biden the third time might just hit the mark.

Having attempted to run for the presidency twice already, I wonder if for Biden the third time might just hit the mark.

3. Rahm Emanuel – A little bit of wildcard here admittedly but based on the continuing outlook of the Middle East as things stand, with Syria sinking further into out and out chaos, Turkey looking like its heading straight for a change of government if Erdogan doesn’t start to learn the lessons of the Arab Spring fast and Jordan and some of the gulf monarchies looking ready to crumble, I feel a potential president with a strong grounding in foreign policy as a result of his affiliation with Israel might be a strong bet. Whether the US is ready for a Jewish president is open to debate, but then so was the question of whether America was ready for a black president in 2008. And ultimately unlike other minority communities who hav to some degree been marginalized in political debate throughout the country as a group, Jews in the US do represent an effective pressure group and arguably exert a disproportionate amount of influence considering the size of the community. Who knows, maybe if the world political climate is right then Rahm Emanuel might just get the top job.

220px-Rahm_Emanuel,_official_photo_portrait_color

Maybe Chicago’s first Jewish mayor will become the countries first Jewish president.

Republican Party.

Republican Party.

  1. Marco Rubio – We have here the shoe-in GOP candidate for 2016 I fancy with the Republicans perhaps finally learning the lessons of the past that just aiming at attracting the votes of  Christian, white, middle America isn’t going to cut it any more and that if they are to ever claim the highest office for themselves again that they need to widen their appeal. Arguably the most critical group which both parties will focus on in the years to come is Latino voters who have had something of a demographic explosion in recent years. With these facts borne in mind then it is perhaps easy to see why Rubio might just be the man for the job in some peoples eyes. His approval ratings are high and he’s tremendously popular in his home state, and on perhaps the cherry on top of this all is that he is seen as something of a crown prince of the Tea Party movement and any candidate that can hold appeal to such a disparate bunch of lunatics is certainly doing something right. Rubio is also young enough that it might be plausible for me to suggest that he would appeal to younger voters outside of the traditional GOP strongholds who have been faced in the last two elections with a candidate that looks like they might have been born in the last ice age. There are some issues that might hamstring Rubio’s candidacy if he does stand and these basically revolve around republican supporters. Rubio has previously supported (relatively) liberal policies on the topic of immigration and citizenship which might stick in the craw of some of the more simian republican voters, despite the increasing likelihood that the type of policies Rubio has supported previously will soon become law in some form or another.

    Perhaps 2016 will see another racial barrier in the US broken down with the election of a Latino president.

    Perhaps 2016 will see another racial barrier in the US broken down with the election of a Latino president.

  2. Chris Christie – My personal favourite for the GOP candidacy if nothing else is New Jersey’s governor. There are many reasons why I believe Chris Christie is a credible candidate for the presidency, certainly when we take into account some of the pituary morons that GOP wheeled out last time around. First of all, Christie has demonstrated a clear distaste for the partisan political wrangling that slows up much needed iniatives passing through DC. When I say that Christie has demonstrated a clear distaste for the partisan politics of national government I am perhaps lowballing the situation a little, when Christie went on record in front of the media in quite vigorously denouncing the house majority and speaker John Boehner for failing to pass legislation that would have helped victims of Hurricane Sandy. Such words demonstrate that if Christie were to make it to the White House that we might expect a far more pro-active government with far less time spent arguing over minor details in the houses of gvoernment, something we have unfortunately seen far too much of since Obama reached high office. Christie has a relatively moderate approach to many issues, and when this is taken into account alongside his carefully cultivated attempt to appear post-partisan then we are perhaps looking at a future president who realises that for GOP success lies in attracting wavering Democrats to cross the floor as opposed to pandering to the more right wing fanatics within his own party.  Therein lies the main problem with Christie’s candidacy, if he cannot attract voters from across the spectrum then his previous stances on certain issues will likely lead republican voters to ignore him as a ‘Republican In Name Only’.

    Or will it be the first fat president ?

    Or will it be the first fat president ? And if by some trick of nature, the photo for Christie is bigger than any of the other photos.

  3. Rand Paul – in the potential candidate of Rand Paul we have a republican who took a principled stand against the current administrations drone policy by leading a 13 hour filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination as the head of the CIA. In doing so, Paul marked himself out as a candidate with strong opinions on civil liberties within the US and foreign policy outside of it. I will admit that a Paul candidacy is perhaps the most unlikely of my selections, barring Emanuel, but given further opportunities to take apart the iniquities of the current administration Paul could easily ride the wave of public approval, at least to the point where he is considered a plausible candidate. As mentioned above, with the current world political climate looking at is, it doesn’t take too great a leap of the imagination to think of a situation where congress might be forced to hold a few more committees on foreign policy issues that Paul might sit on, his star rising commensurately with his number of appearances in the public eye. A Paul candidacy would also perhaps benefit a great deal from his father’s supporters amongst whom are many activists and donors that would help any campaign get off to a flying start. Whether some of Paul’s more libertarian policies might harm his chances remains to be seen as the great unknown when it comes to GOP is how far to the fringes it will pander or whether it will remain focussed on the centre. If GOP is leaning towards the  fringe elements then Paul’s libertarian philosophies might just carry the day but if it remains focussed on the mainstream elements of the party then he might just have to rely on those committees if he is to stand a chance.

    The father failed but might the son get the job ?

    The father failed but might the son get the job ?

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First they ignore you, then they silence you

Last week I read a highly interesting and thought-provoking essay on Al-Jazeera, albeit not the most interesting of stories I have ever shared with readers. I will elaborate a little further to make clear why my reading last week should be of interest to anyone on earth other than because, well I said so.  The article in question was a piece written by Joseph Massad for the Al Jazeera English service and was titled “The Last of the Semites”, in his article Massad discussed the racist nature of Zionism and demonstrated how as an ideology it is based on many of the  very same racist presumptions made by the most virulent anti-Semitists. This however, while explaining my own interesting in the article, is still not why this story is of interest to the reader. The reason I have discussed this story is that not long after the article was posted it was also pulled in a bizarre move by the senior editors to seemingly sate Israel’s baying hounds despite AJE’s reputation as being one of the few media sources which can be relied upon for a balanced discussion of Israel compared to many of the other leading sources of news outside of the region.

As one commentator, Ali Abunimah at Electronic Intifada highlighted in the wake of this event the decision seems even more bizarre considering that of the channels few red lines as far as the owner, the Emir of Qatar, is concerned – Massad has crossed all of these previously by previously publishing articles critical of both Qatari Foreign policy and the the Emir without once being censured. That the straw that broke the camels back in this case was pressure from Israel will come as no great surprise to anyone who has seen figureheads of world opinion operate against other dissenting voices on the countries policies in the past. Take for example Ali Abunimah, one of the editors in chief if not THE editor in chief at Electronic Intifada who is regularly slandered with every term that forms the varied spectrum of insults that Israel’s defenders will use to try through a policy of attrition to make something stick in the hope of rendering the victims opinions null and void. This policy is so school yard it is at times hard to believe that a country with perhaps the worlds most effective PR team (our of necessity rather than skill) is its chief user. If for example – I became engaged in an argument as to whether apples are better than oranges with my arch enemy and instead of offering evidence I simply shouted swear words at my enemy at the top of my voice until people in the audience began to agree with my shouted opinion – have I really won the argument ? or simply stopped myself from losing by being unable to present any relevant facts that backup my opinions. Much as this has been in the policy used against Abunimah and various other voices in the past, it was also the policy used by the attack dogs against Massad in the wake of this articles publication on the AJE website. Here are two choice examples in tweet form from just two of Israel’s most prominent public defenders:

“Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory”

and

“Congratulations, donors to Columbia University, for paying this monstrous fuckhead’s salary!”

what we can see here is fairly typical of this approach in that there is no balance attempted (granted its twitter and characters are limited but the point stands as balance on twitter can appear in tweets that follow an original) and there’s an appeal to a third party rather than directly to Massad himself asking him to clarify what his post meant which I presume aims at raising hackles over criticism in the press in an attempt to get third parties to self censor so to speak.

Since writing these paragraphs AJE have made a rather humiliating about face on the Massad article and restored it to its rightful place on the website. While this makes some of the statements above mildly irrelevant the overall theme of this post has remained unchanged and so I will continue without drastically altering the piece itself.

However unique this story is in many ways, it is also fairly atypical of the media’s relations with Israel as a whole which is problematic only in the sense that the representations that the lions share of the media present of Israel are utterly false in their one-sidedness. Take for example the discussion of any forces that are involved in the conflict as a clear demonstration of the media’s cognitive and seemingly inherent bias in Israel’s favour. It is true as the media should report that there is armed conflict between the Israeli army and Palestinians. Notice what words didn’t follow Palestinians then, here are a few that spring to mind as notable for their lack of an appearance “Army, Units, Regiments, Squads, Forces”. The media chooses, seemingly through omission, to neglect to inform the audience of the massive disparity in the forces involved in the conflict with “battles often consisting of whole armed brigades of the IDF on one side facing off against one or two Palestinians who may or may not be militants. When the Media chooses to neglect these details in its reportage of conflict between the two parties it presumably does so for two reasons:

  1. To actually reveal troop numbers to audiences around the world might finally put the final nail in the coffin of the deluded fantasy that the Israeli Defence Force is anything of the sort.
  2. Again, to reveal troop numbers to audiences around the world might also put paid to the Zionist myths that Israel is surrounded by hordes of rabid enemies, just waiting to pounce on the innocent jews, that has helped them to achieve so much support and recognition in the wider world.

What we can see in these justifications above are just two possible examples that the Western media might have for self-censoring their content in favour of Israel, although I am not saying that these are the concrete reasons behind every bizarre editorial decision that is made that seems to support Israel. No, I won’t suggest that as I know there is an equally pressing force which defines a worrying amount of what is and isn’t reported in the worlds media and that is… money.

The whole money aspect was something I was going to touch on anyway as it does define a lot of what is covered or not covered in the case of Israel but, after the Massad article was reposted on AJE, as if to prove my point Electronic Intifada did some digging and found financial reasons to be behind the original censorship of the article. According to research conducted by EI, the manager of the new US branch of Al Jazeera was concerned about the impact that such an article would have in US markets which are extremely sensitive to criticisms of the Zionist state. While these concerns perhaps warrant some thought they certainly do not in any way validate the decision to remove the article as to do simply demonstrates that the US market for information (amongst many others) is dictated by Zionists and that truly no source is free of the immense stifling effect Israeli power has on free speech. As a parting thought I would simply ask the reader to think about the veracity of any information they have ever received from the mass media about Israel when it has proven powerful enough to censor the one network that has prided itself in the past on providing a counter argument to the usual points made in the countries defence.

“We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name…”

In a now famous speech that he delivered in 1998 in the city of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, William Jefferson Clinton uttered the words that I have chosen to use as the title for this week’s post. He used these words in a section of a speech where he apologised to the Rwandan people for the failings of the world political system to prevent the most intensive killing of human beings to take place within the 20th century. The 20th century no less that saw the building of Auschwitz, and therefore barring events that history had no way to accurately record the Rwandan genocide was the most intensive slaughter of human life ever to take place.

Before he did not have sexual intercourse with that woman, Bill Clinton went to Rwanda to apologise for never sending aid in the countries moment of need

Before he did not have sexual intercourse with that woman, Bill Clinton went to Rwanda to apologise for not sending aid in the countries moment of need.

The reason that I have decided to highlight these choice words from that speech and to discuss that speech at all is that I, and many other commentators besides me are concerned that we are seeing a pattern of disregard for human suffering emerge, in both the discourse of governments and the media, which is almost identical in nature to that which preceded the crisis in East Africa. The crisis I refer to in this case is that of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar who are currently the victims of what can only be termed ethnic cleansing and it is my lasting concern that without a greater deal of awareness in the wider world that they will in time face the same fate as the Armenians, Jews, Romani and Tutsis who survived the early attempts at persecuting them only to die in the more systematic slaughters visited upon their houses. I will start by discussing the Rwandan genocide and the reasons that I believe it was widely ignored at the time despite the scale of the loss of life. I will then compare this to situation that is currently emerging in Myanmar and in all likelihood show that for many of the same reasons this story is being consistently under-reported in the media and left unspoken in political debate despite attempts to increase awareness of these massacres by online movement, Anonymous.

It really does come to something when a hacktivist group is doing more for human rights than the entire UN.

It really does come to something when a hacktivist group is doing more for human rights than the entire UN.

The year is 1994, the world is in the throes of post cold war uncertainty and it is in the climate that the travesty that was the worlds response to the genocide in Rwanda takes place. In light of the worlds hideous failure to respond, many politicians who might have been implicated as having in some way and in some cases knowingly abetted the crime of mass murder rushed to offer justifications for their governments lack of involvement. I will now list some of the common ideas (I have taken my initial cues for some of these from Black Star Journal who can be found here) that were bandied about in the aftermath as justification for sitting on the side lines watching mass murder take place, and then I will separately argue that every justification offers is based upon false premises and therefore demonstrates the clear responsibility of the international community in failing to prevent the genocide:

  •  The war that preceded the genocide and the genocide itself were based on “ancient ethnic rivalries” meaning that intervention was pointless as the violence would only flare up again in the future.
  • The genocide was spontaneous so that even if we had intervened nothing could have been done to prevent the killings.
  • The US administration at the time did not know fully what was going on in Rwanda.
  • Atrocities were committed by both sides in the conflict.
  • The UN was present and failed to prevent events from taking place.

Each one of these attempts to cover the tracks of those who neglected to involve themselves is a flawed reason which does not hold up to any great degree of scrutiny and I will now demonstrate statement by statement where the flaws in reasoning lie.

The first statement that was also the primary excuse offered for non-intervention during this crisis is seemingly a go-to statement for western nations to dismiss crises in the third world that were not directly related to their strategic interests. There are several inherent flaws with the argument that what we saw in Rwanda was the culmination of centuries of ethnic hatred. Perhaps most troubling is that this excuse had already been used to try and justify the lack of western intervention in the Balkans crisis that also saw ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed, but in time the pro-intervention camp gained some traction and UN forces intervened in an attempt to prevent wider scale genocide from taking place in spite of the “ancient” nature of the hatred that was being acted upon. In this case that the charge can be ignored in a European case but is the main reason for not intervening in Africa which speaks volumes about the the racist double standards of western geopolitics.  Another issue with this contention is also that it is patently false. While it is true that during the genocide Rwanda was polarised along ethnic lines, the notion that such divisions in the country were centuries old carries about as much weight in educated circles as the notion that the Turin Shroud is anything other than a hoax. The divisions between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi were much more issues of class than they ever were issues of race or ethnicity. This idea however was bound to be hidden in plain sight amongst coverage as the truth would have revealed that the root cause of this division of Rwanda along ethnic lines was actually Belgian colonists who had used this idea as a tactic of divide and rule 100 years previously.

The second statement that the genocide was a spontaneous act and that nothing could’ve been done to prevent the killings is a weak attempt at covering ones tracks at best as there is actually a wealth of evidence that demonstrates the level of premeditation that was involved in these genocidal massacres. Take for example the fact that certain state owned newspapers were openly advocating the killing of Tutsis for years prior the events of 1994. In fact the merchants of such anti-Tutsi propaganda were so well prepared that they even had time to switch their messages of hatred for the Tutsi to the radio in an attempt to negate the illiteracy in the country. Further evidence of the premeditated nature of the massacres would include the handing out of ID cards to identify who was a Hutu and who was a Tutsi, the importation from China of over 500,000 machetes  (the main weapon of mobs during the genocide) after a peace deal had been signed in 1993 and perhaps mostly clearly of all the open discussion by members of the Rwandan cabinet government of an idea to get rid of all Tutsis in an attempt to rid Rwanda of its problems.

Rwandan victim of machete attack. From an order placed by a military general for over 500,000 such implements. The scale of such an order hardly spells out impulse buy.

Rwandan victim of machete attack. The weapons used likely from an order placed by a Rwandan general for over 500,000 such implements. The scale of such an order hardly spells out impulse buy.

The next statement that was offered as an excuse for the lack of western intervention was that the US administration (as the worlds lasting superpower at the time) did not know what was going on in Rwanda at the time which is to infer that therefore the administration can hardly be blamed for not intervening as it did not know such events were taking place. Were this actually the case then we would have to begrudgingly accept this excuse. Its not the case though, there is documented evidence that was reported by elements within the media that the US administration WAS in possession of clear evidence of the events taking place in Rwanda and simply chose to do nothing. As Brian at the Black Star Journal points out one Australian newspaper has shown that elements within the US government knew enough to use the G word within 16 days of the start of the crisis in Rwanda and also evidence exists that all members of Clinton’s administration were briefed on the situation daily so the charge that they did not know what was going on in the country is absolutely farcical.

The penultimate reason that I want to discuss that was genuinely offered for the lack of intervention in the Rwandan crisis was that both sides had committed atrocities. Also true, but then so what ? Am I genuinely supposed to believe that if I kill one person and my neighbour kills one hundred people that because we both committed the crime of murder that we both are unworthy of prosecution as we are as bad as each other? I wouldn’t expect leniency if I was to ever find myself in such a situation but I would expect a far greater effort to be expending in stopping the greater criminal than the lesser one. What is true in instances of petty crime arguably also holds true in the case of genocide when the scale of the atrocities is comparable to the hypothetical I just presented the reader with. This same type of moral equivalence had been used to try and justify inaction in the Balkans but rightfully had been ignored so why should such a pathetic excuse be acceptable the second time round when again there was clear evidence that one party was disproportionately responsible for atrocities. unless of course those advocating for action felt that the lives of Europeans held a greater intrinsic value

Listed last but by no means any less important than the other justifications is the idea that because the UN had failed so would anyone else have failed to protect Rwandans in their place. The key flaw with such a concept is the assumption that the UN forces were in a place, politically or militarily to prevent the genocide when the peace keeping force in the country had been reduced drastically despite the request of  their commander Romeo Dallaire to double the existing force. The truth of the matter is that the UN forces were in a position to do something but due to the machinations of the Security Council were prevented from their duties which puts the lie to the notion that if the UN were unable then no-one could have prevented the genocide when the truth of the matter is that it is precisely because of its international character that the UN could not intervene and that a somewhat disinterested party such as the US was much better suited for the same job.

We can see then at this juncture then that every justification that was offered for the shameful indifference of both western governments and western media was based on falsehoods and arguably mask far more sinister truths. That the governments of the west, primarily the US but also France and the UK chose to not do anything to help is a troubling fact. The fact that these powers chose not to help in an African conflict which ultimately claimed far more lives but deployed forces to prevent smaller scale massacres in Europe as I have already suggested demonstrates a callous disregard for the lives of non-Europeans which I believe cuts to the heart of why the world sat by and watched Rwanda burn. Another worrying connection between both Rwanda and the Balkans and also an earlier US intervention in Somalia which many cite as part of the reason that Clinton decided to not involve the US in Rwanda was that the public’s sympathies for the people of Rwanda had been exhausted by the crisis in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia and so the impetus to intervene in Rwanda was sufficiently drained.

The current situation in Myanmar bears a striking similarity to that which emerged in Rwanda all those years ago for the two reasons I have highlighted above. Firstly I believe an aspect that has caused a significant lack of interest in and the under-reporting of the Rohingya crisis is the ongoing crisis in the wider Middle East region. the media and governments are locked into discussing the crisis which has slowly unfolded over the course of the last two years and it is because of this I feel that, willingly or unwillingly I am not sure, there is a subsequent lack of interest in regaling famously fickle TV audiences with yet another story of an impending humanitarian disaster. In saying this, I am not for one single moment suggesting that the lives of Syrians, Libyans and Egyptians dying on daily basis are any less worthy that those of the Rohingya Muslims being slaughtered on a daily basis in Myanmar. All I intend in highlighting this is to draw attention to another atrocity taking place, as if Rwanda has taught me anything it is what governments can get up to in the shadows when the glare of the media and the world is trained elsewhere.

The other way in which there is a noticeable similarity between the cases of Rwanda in 1994 and Myanmar in 2013 is that as I have already pointed out above is that I believe there is a greater urge on the part of governments and the media to intervene in humanitarian crises when the victims are fortunate enough in this case to have been born with an ideal amount of melanin in their skin, finding them similar in looks to westerners. In the case of Rwanda in sub-Saharan Africa the lack of ethnic similarity between audiences for the potential messages of intervention and the the black African victims was striking and I believe that this same dynamic is part of the reason why, some might say morally compromised, audiences are more receptive now to images of suffering Syrian children than they are to identical images of Rohingya children whose facial features are decidedly more Asiatic than they are Caucasoid. While this bias may prove to be a deeply held unconscious view it is still worth highlighting as it does clearly affect the way in which we view the world.

Also problematic is that anyone of the excuses that were offered for the lack of intervention in Rwanda 19 years ago could quite conceivably be used again in the case of Myanmar to cover the backs of those who have a responsibility as our elected leaders to deal with issues we as constituents feel matter and yet are declining to discuss said issues. If the world continues to ignore the slowly unfolding crisis in Myanmar, which as things stand it is perfectly equipped to do, it would cause no surprise for me to find out that events similar to Rwanda are taking place in the current day and age.

In highlighting the striking similarities between the cases of Rwandan Tutsis and Myanmar’s Rohingya I hope if nothing else that I along with Anonymous have helped to illuminate that the situation is critical right now and that every effort to raise awareness and provoke action is important as otherwise there is a serious risk of this crisis escalating while the media and governments fiddle and say that they didn’t know what was going on in the country or that intervening in pointless as the conflict is the result of ancient hatreds and means that the conflict is inevitable. I hope that we will not see such a day ever happen but it is our responsibility to do all in power to prevent it if we are able, as Desmond Tutu once said when discussing such matters If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. It is the awareness and actions of concerned citizens that will help us to fulfil the promise of never again that is often uttered when discussing genocide.

Disclaimer – Throughout this article I have chosen to use the name Myanmar (pronounced ‘mee-an-ma’) for the country that many others have chosen to call Burma in their respective discussions of this topic. My reason for choosing to continue using the name Myanmar instead is firstly that the name Burma itself is a troubling relic of the colonial history of the country. Secondly the reason many have chosen to continue using the name Burma is that Aung San Suu Kyi, a famous Burmese politician who has long opposed the military dictatorship that rules the country does not recognise the legitimacy of those who changed the countries name to Myanmar, however I am unwilling to hold Suu Kyi’s opinions as the legitimate source on the issue when she has consistently weaselled around the issue of the continuing slaughter of Muslim minority groups in the country now that she has been removed from house arrest. Hardly the doyenne of South-East Asian political reform that see is often portrayed as in the same media that sees no moral issues in promoting for military intervention in Syria or Libya to save lives but is unwilling when it comes to somewhere where the people look more Asiatic or African.

Paper Tiger, Seething Dragon

This post will aim to debunk the hype around President Obama’s much discussed gun controls and how ultimately they do not cut deep enough to help protect US society safe from itself. I will then suggest that even if these policies had been enough to remove the scourge of guns from American streets that the seething behemoth that is the NRA will drag this initiative to its knees before seeing it passed, thus ending another one of Obama’s hollow promises.

I will begin this post by reminding readers of the executive orders that Obama passed and the more sweeping legislature that is dependent on passing through the US Congress in future, the details of which can be found here . It is my central argument that rather than being a change for the better these proposed changes to US law represent needlessly divisive initiatives that aim at being historic rather than being acceptable in a bi-partisan atmosphere. To clarify, in and of themselves I believe the proposals are arguably a step in the right direction, however I do not believe for a moment that anywhere near enough has been done to address the route causes of violence and gun related deaths that is so systemic in the US. Consequently any message from Obama that he is serious about cutting gun crime has to be considered an essentially hollow promise from another paper tiger.

I start my argument briefly by attempting to appease the baying hounds of pro-gun support by saying from my own perspective that I do understand the right of each citizen to bear arms is enshrined in  US law. The manner in which it is written into the law is in the form of the Second Amendment, which states that “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. This amendment was passed into law in the 18th century and I agree wholeheartedly that at the time of its ratification there was undoubtedly a need for a well regulated militia to protect the state. Further more this particular amendment is often cited as a necessary right of the American people as a protection against tyranny. While understanding that both of these reasons for the Second Amendments existence were once completely valid I would argue that the passage of time  has meant that they are now superfluous and as a result cannot bring myself to be of the opinion that the right to carry guns is sacrosanct.  I cannot conceive of any of the founding fathers of US democracy arguing that a well armed populace is still a necessity to the effective running of the state given the existence of many branches of the current state which are responsible for the security of the people . Further to this, the argument that gun ownership is an effective defence against tyranny seems to fall down when we see how often the civil liberties of American people have been violated, such as when a decision was made that the murder of american citizens without a fair trial was allowed and that this information could be kept secret . When we compare the ratio of times that the US government or one of its agencies has acted tyrannically with the number of times that armed uprisings have overturned the tyrants who have so infringed on the peoples rights we see the ratio is firmly in favour of the former rather than the latter. It is in light of these facts that I came to fall on the side of those in favour of gun control, however unlike many of my counterparts within this camp I do not believe the attempts by Obama to be anywhere near enough to counter the problems that guns cause in the US and it is from this viewpoint that I wrote this post. While the reader has every right to disagree with my opinion the facts that the US has one of the highest rates of gun related violence in the world speaks for itself and consequently so does the need to address this level of violence speak for itself.

I will now start by studying the key proposals that the Obama is hoping Congress will pass which he revealed earlier this month. Before I do so however, I would like to stop for one moment to discuss the manner in which Caesar unveiled his proposals to the people. Now I am no fool, I accept that as a business politics comes with a lot of baggage and I would agree with many that part of that baggage is showmanship. What we saw here  however goes far beyond the realm of showmanship. This is an outright attempt at emotional blackmail which already begins to make the playing field for these laws a more partisan arena, imagine how quickly all support for abortion would disappear if a particularly radical pro-lifer had demonstrated for the House of Congress the horrors of a botched abortion. Such a cheap trick is below the belt of many of the rest of the world’s worst politicians and this is a great indication of how the proclamations  that followed the unveiling of the figurative holy virgins, were a case of show over substance. Either way I digress. First up of the recommendations Vice President Biden offered Obama to curb gun violence is ” Extend FBI background checks to all gun sales” as according to current data around 40% of sales currently go through with minimal to no background check taking place. This on the surface seems like a highly sensible proposal, but even this is fraught with more pitfalls than such a simple proposal should really allow. As Feilding Cage at the Guardian points out  “Many states require background checks … but a person could become ineligible between the time the state issues the permit or license and the sale of the firearm … some states do not have a formal process of revoking licenses or permits once a person becomes ineligible. Also, transactions between private sellers have fewer regulations and make it possible in some states for a sale to occur without the buyer having to undergo a background check”. In this first proposal that I have picked to look at we can already see the potential for supreme court lawyers to pick the idea apart and more worryingly the ease with which someone determined to game the system could manipulate these loopholes to gain access to firearms. 

The next key proposal is the revision of  “the 1994 federal ban on military-style assault rifles which lapsed in 2004, while at the same time strengthening the prohibition to make sure canny gun manufacturers cannot circumvent it as they did last time round.” Again on the surface an excellent idea as it is often the case that in the high profile cases which can drive the gun control agenda in the US that the weapons that are used are those better suited to the battlefields of the world rather than on the street of a world superpower. However like the first proposal when we look into the real life situation we will see that actually that the wonderfully titled “assault weapons” are as a general rule not the weapon of choice in many of the US’ daily shootings.  No, the illustrious mantle of weapon of choice falls to the humble handgun, a weapon many would argue that is equally capable of “assault”. While you may chant and cheer at the suggested banning of military style machine guns as a great step forward, Any gun control proposals that do not address the dangers the common handgun poses to the average American are fundamentally missing the target, pun viciously intended. When we look at a recent article by Ed Pilkington at the Guardian he tells us that nowhere in Obama’s 2400 word address did he mention the word handgun, which in itself should surprise the reader given that of the on average 33 gun related deaths that take place in the US daily the majority will involve a handgun.

The next two key recommendations are closely intertwined so I will look at these together as I believe they too like those I have already looked at are fundamentally flawed and are indicative of just how empty Obama’s promises to make US streets safer really are. the two measures which will ultimately depend on congressional support are to “Reinstate the federal limit on the number of rounds that can be held in high-capacity magazines, with 10 rounds as the maximum” and further more to “Introduce  the new crime of possessing or transferring armour-piercing bullets to anyone other than military personnel or police”. Where to start here ? Well to begin with, reread the first proposal about banning high-capacity magazines. That’s right, it says “Reinstate”  rather than create, which means that this already has been part of US law and,  for a multitude of possible reasons, has fallen out of favour and lapsed, which surely gives a strong indication of how successful this proposal is likely to be when it comes up in front of congress. The second point, also addressing an ammunition issue is the banning of armour piercing bullet ownership by civilians, once more on the surface an excellent idea which might even see it passed by congress as its difficult to imagine many backing the legality of a type of ammunition specifically designed to kill human beings. While I think that of the key points this is the most likely to be made law I also believe wholeheartedly that this will be easily circumvented by criminals who have connections across that most porous of national borders where drug gangs execute elected officials with guns, guns no less, that were bought in the USA.

After looking at these key recommendations it should be painfully evident to my reader just how I feel about these recommendations and the likely lack of meaningful impact they will have. I have also given much thought as to what I believe would have made for far more substantial attempts at addressing the issue of gun violence in the US, and I’m sure to the eyes of Americans it is relieving to see that none of them ban guns, all are in fact societal changes that the US government could enable that I am adamant would reduce significantly the level of gun violence.

First amongst them would be the decriminalization of drugs and the immediate cessation of the war on drugs in Latin America. I am no advocate for the use of drugs and neither am I someone who blindly believes that their legality would solve every national economies woes but I am a student of a history in a round about way and I know a little about the levels of violence that went hand in hand with alcohol during the times of prohibition. Compared to the current day levels of crime that are related in some manner to the production and sale of alcohol people looking at the figures for the 1920s would be forgiven for thinking that the US was in meltdown at this point in its history. That prohibition was a drastic failure of a policy is of course a well documented history, and modern day politicians would do well to learn the lessons of the relationship between how vigorously prohibition is enforced  and the rewards reaped by the criminals involved which for the reader is wonderfully summed up by Art Carden here. In my opinion the legality of drugs would allow for a significant impetus to leave the drug market which would then exponentially reduce the numbers of violent criminal elements involved in the drugs trade which in theory would further more reduce the level of violent conflicts between members of the drugs trade at every level, from petty street dealer to international drug lord.

The next idea of mine that I believe would significantly reduce gun violence is serious and meaningful attempts to reduce poverty and break the poverty trap. In my mind whenever I picture a shoot-out in the US, my mind defaults to an image not of the Wild West but to that of a gritty inner city. I know that this does not accurately represent the realities of gun violence in the US which is frankly far more widespread, but to deny that the inner city areas of many of the USA’s great metropolis’s aren’t marred by high levels of crime and specifically gun crime is to deny that on times the sky is blue. By offering  people that live in such conditions ways out that break the desperate mindset of poverty rather than perpetuate it, such as the efforts of Cure Violence who have  done sterling work in Chicago, violent crime in these areas can be drastically reduced. And with a drop in the overall levels of violent crime it follows that there would be an overall drop in the levels of gun violence.

Last but not least of my own suggestions for more valid methods of gun control than those offered by Obama is that serious attention needs to be given to the issue of mental health in the USA. On the surface those who have read Obama’s full list of edicts as linked here will no doubt wonder why I am addressing this particular issue when one of the proposals was for increased mental health funding for the victims of school shoot-outs similar to the Sandy Hook killings. However what I am agitating for is a far more widespread attention to mental health throughout US society and greater finances afforded to it. While researching this post I stumbled across the fact, as written up by Ana Marie Cox at the Guardian here, that actually those who are suffering from a mental illness are far more likely to be the victim of gun violence rather than be a perpetrator of it. This is, if there is one thing to be thankful for not a result of rampant discrimination against those who suffer from mental health, but actually because over half of the recorded deaths as a result of guns in the US are suicides and not, as I was expecting to read, homicide. That such a high level of gun suicide exists in one of the world’s leading nations is surely an aberration of what we picture as a thriving nation in peace time. Such high levels of gun assisted suicide exist also in a time during which US states have collectively cut $4 billion from mental healthcare and with overall economic growth still looking poor it is not unrealistic to expect further cuts to healthcare leaving it more and more likely that with the passage of time, more and more fish will slip the net, reaping havoc as they do.

All of Obama’s proposals to my mind are ultimately nothing more than the hollow overtures of a paper tiger towards creating greater safety for US citizens that would systematically treat select symptoms of this blight rather than the aiming to cure the underlying malady. And on top of the words of this paper tiger there’s another colossus abetting this illness that that US suffers from, it’s called the NRA. I won’t waste my time writing in too great a level of detail about them or the readers time that would be spent reading about them. For a snap shot of their willingness to compromise with Obama and reach an agreement that might see the streets of America safer see these two headlines from The Guardian “NRA promises ‘fight of the century’ over Obama’s bold gun control plan” and “NRA’s LaPierre accuses Obama of trying to steal gun owners’ weapons“. What we have here is a group that loves to portray itself as acting purely in the interests of the american people when the reality is that like the Israeli lobby I mentioned in my previous post, it is a corporate special interest lobbying group that has the testes of American democracy in one hand and a mallet in the other. Even if I did believe that Obama sincerely thought his gun controls were enough to protect Americans he is still endangering every last citizen of the USA by lying prostrate for these corporate dragons who long ago hijacked the American democratic process.