FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

After the Fourth: Some Reflections on the State of the USA

Independence Day was a time for many of us to celebrate a triple victory in the Supreme Court: decisions upholding affordable health care, same sex marriage and fair housing.

Yet some US policies and practices continue to violate the traditional norms of justice, law and democracy that Americans applauded in July 4th speeches.

Guantanamo.  The US prison at Guantanamo Bay continues to shame Americans, while helping to boost Al Qaeda and ISIS recruitment.  Taking into account recent prisoner releases, there are still 116 men at Guantanamo, 51 of whom have been approved for release.  Beyond considerations of legality and cost, there are serious humanitarian cases that warrant immediate attention.  For example, one of the cleared-for-release prisoners, Tariq Ba Odah, imprisoned in Guantanamo since 2002, held in solitary confinement and tortured with repeated forced feeding, has been on an uninterrupted hunger strike since February 2007. Now weighing just over 74 pounds, half his normal body weight. His lawyer says he looks like “a Holocaust survivor.” Is this who we are?

Targeted killing. US drones routinely kill both suspected militants and innocent civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and other places.  Without regard to the UN Charter, international humanitarian law and human rights law, the Obama administration feels free to send its attack planes to any place on the globe and to assassinate suspected terrorists (including American citizens).  Is this who we are?

State terrorism.  The Obama administration supports Saudi Arabia’s bombardment of Yemen, with its massive destruction of urban areas and heavy loss of civilian life.  The ongoing sea blockade implicates the US in that escalating humanitarian crisis.   Our government was even more complicit with Israel in its devastating attacks on Gaza last summer.  US weapons and military support helped the IDF kill more than 2,000 Palestinians (including over 500 children).  The US Congress voted additional military aid to Israel during the bloody conflict and is now attempting to block countries and corporations from joining the BDS movement .  It also opposes Palestinian resort to legal remedies, including the International Criminal Court.

Racism.  Recent cases of police brutality across the country toward unarmed African Americans and the murders of nine black churchgoers in Charleston evidence the continuing blight of racism, especially toward African Americans.  As Michelle Alexander has shown in her brilliant and revealing book The New Jim Crow, the disproportionate incarceration of black youth is a modern version of early 20th century racism.  Is this who we are?

Political corruption.  Federal elections require huge expenditures for what have become drawn- out and personally vindictive campaigns.  Negative TV ads are expensive and destructive, but also effective.   With only a two-year term, newly elected members of the House of Representatives must begin campaigning for reelection from their first days in office.  For both House and Senate members and candidates, relentless fundraising is a high priority. Corporate and billionaire contributors expect to receive favors from their investments. The Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for anonymous contributions through political action committees. Political corruption is the result.  When money buys representatives in Congress, it dilutes our democracy and erodes citizen trust.

We can best pay homage to America’s July 4th heritage by working to fulfill the dictates of justice and morality that characterized post-WW2 America.

 

 

More articles by:

L. Michael Hager is cofounder and former Director General, International Development Law Organization, Rome.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail