Britain Must Break Free from the Agrochemical Cartel

Agrochemical manufacturers are knowingly poisoning people and the environment in the name of profit and greed. Communities, countries, ecosystems and species have become disposable inconveniences. Corporate totalitarian tries to hide beneath an increasingly fragile facade of democracy. The agrochemicals industry lobbies hard to have its products put on the market and ensures that they remain there. It uses PR firms and front groups to discredit individuals and studies which show the massive health and environmental devastation caused and gets its co-opted figures to sit on bodies to guarantee policies favourable to its interest are secured.

From bought-and-paid-for science and public relations that masquerades as journalism to policy implementation and the lack of regulation, the argohemicals industry wallows in a highly profitable cesspool. Money wields power and political influence.

In capitalism, a private corporation is compelled to secure control of assets (in agriculture – seeds, land, water, soil, chemical inputs, etc) and exploit them for a cash profit, while removing obstacles that might hinder this goal. Concerns about what is in the public interest or what is best for the environment lies beyond the scope of hard-headed business interests and is the remit of governments and civil organisations. The best case scenario for private capital is to have toothless, supine agencies or governments.

Rosemary Mason writes to the chair of the ECP

The UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) “provides independent, impartial advice to the government on matters relating to pesticides.”

William Cushley is a professor of molecular immunology and chair of the ECP. Environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has just written an open letter to the professor requesting that he acknowledges genuine independent evidence about the toxic impacts of pesticides – not the studies or data being pushed and prioritised by powerful transnational corporations – and breaks the silence over the devastation being caused.

Mason felt it necessary to write to Cushley because the financial and political clout of a group of powerful agrochemical corporations ensures that their interests are privileged ahead of public health and the environment to the detriment of both. There is in effect a deeply embedded collusion between powerful corporations and public bodies. The agrochemical industry has corrupted public institutions, government policies and decision making.

Mason draws Cushley’s attention to some of the outcomes. For instance, she notes independent research that recognises the extreme toxicity of low levels of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, which have become widespread in the environment. They cause a virtually irreversible blockage of postsynaptic nicotinergic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the central nervous system of insects (to which the human foetus is also exposed). The damage is cumulative: with more exposure, more receptors become blocked.

In the Netherlands, the levels of imidacloprid in Dutch surface have been increasing since 2004 and such increases are correlated with a decline in invertebrates and in insect-feeding birds.

Mason then goes on to point out that in 2006 she set up a small nature reserve in Wales in response to the decline in birds and invertebrates such as bumblebees, butterflies, dragonflies and moths. However, even the reserve’s biodiversity soon began to witness a loss of biodiversity.

About that time, she received the article by US Scientists Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff ‘Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases’ and immediately suspected that Monsanto’s Roundup was destroying the reserve. That’s because for many years Monsanto’s contractors had been spraying Roundup on Japanese knotweed in the Swansea area where she lives, until it had become Roundup-resistant.

It was clear that the reserve was thus under threat from numerous agrochemicals, which have wide-ranging consequences, not least where human health is concerned.

In the UK, some farmers have been spraying glyphosate pre-harvest since 1980, and the US Center for Disease Control has found strong correlations between it and various diseases which have been increasing over the last 30 years. These include obesity, autism, type 2 diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver and kidney failure, hypercholesterolemia, stroke and various cancers such as kidney, liver, pancreas, thyroid, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma and leukaemia. In her previous documents, Mason has noted spiralling rates of illness in Wales and the UK in general and has indicated how they are linked to agrochemical use, especially glyphosate (as well as other toxins courtesy of Monsanto having used a quarry as a toxic dump).

Mason informs Cushley that detrimental health outcomes are caused by even small exposure to common chemicals like the ones found in pesticides as well as in plastics and air pollution. There are documented links between prenatal exposure to environmental chemicals, and adverse health outcomes span the life course and include impacts on fertility and pregnancy, neurodevelopment and cancer. The global health and economic burden related to toxic environmental chemicals is in excess of millions of deaths and billions of dollars every year.

The health problems are even greater for babies exposed in the womb, who face increased risks of cancer, reduced cognitive function and even miscarriage or stillbirth.

There has been a sharp increase over the past four decades in chemical manufacturing, which continues to grow by more than three per cent every year.

A system set up to serve corporate needs

As with all her numerous open letters and correspondence with various officials, Mason supplies Cushley with a lengthy fully-referenced document (Open Letter to the Chairman of the Expert Committee on Pesticides) that supports all the claims made and which sheds further light on the issues raised (readers should consult that document to access texts and links which are also relevant to the article you are now reading).

On this occasion, she outlines conflicts of interest within the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, the damning verdict of the judges of the International Monsanto Tribunal and a report presented to the UN Human Rights Council about the Right to Food. The disastrous effects of Roundup and neonicotinoids are also discussed along with the agrochemical industry’s hold on the UK government.

Mason’s evidence indicates the not-so-hidden hand of the agrochemical sector, including Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto, has conspired to cover up the damaging effects of its products. The power of the industry – underpinned by its ability to fund and thus slant research, to lobby government officials effectively, to infiltrate and co-opt institutions and to push people through the revolving door into key positions – has corrupted science and decision making and destroyed any notion of objective and independent regulation and policy formulation.

Industry-backed research has been favoured ahead of independent studies, directives are ignored, court rulings are overturned in favour of the industry and public bodies act more as product promoting agencies than acting in the interests of the public.

Cushley is informed that the UK government is being directed by the pesticides industry. Mason tells Cushley that he, as Chairman of the ECP, has the responsibility for giving chemicals authorisation and should realise he is being fed industry information.

For instance, Mason argues that the industry had known – but has consistently denied – that neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to bees. Tests and protocols that had allowed registration of the systemic pesticides were not adapted to assess potential hazard and risk from this type of pesticide. Despite knowing all this, protection agencies have allowed the pesticides industry to keep neonicotinoids on the market.

In discussing the International Monsanto Tribunal, Mason notes that Monsanto has violated human rights to food, health, a healthy environment and the freedom indispensable for independent scientific research. This corporation holds huge sway over governments and promotes a highly-profitable (but damaging and unnecessary) chemical-intensive model of farming.

To strengthen her case, Mason also presents Cushley with details concerning a report to UN Human Rights Council about the Right to Food. Global agricultural corporations (like Monsanto) are severely criticised by Hilal Elver the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and co-author of the report, which is highly critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions.”

The reports adds:

“It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”

Elver says:

“Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”

Whilst spouting platitudes about feeding the world, the increasingly globalised system of agriculture being rolled out by the transnational agritech/agribusiness cartel was never designed to do that. Part of that design it to undermine alternative, credible approaches that could feed the world sustainably without being dependent on the agrochemical cartel and its dubious products.

But that’s the problem: these independent alternatives are a threat to the prevailing business models of companies such as Monsanto and Bayer, which resort to the practices Elver outlines.

Mason proceeds by discussing in some detail the well-documented disastrous effects on the environment of Roundup and neonicotinoids, in terms of the destruction of biodiversity, ecosystems, environmental degradation and human and animal health, etc. Evidence is provided that shows pesticide residues on British food are increasing annually, and statistics show a massive increase in glyphosate between 2012 and 2014

Mason quotes Robert van den Bosch, writing in 1978 in ‘The Pesticide Conspiracy’:

“If one considers how dangerous these chemicals are, one would suppose that it would be Government policy to minimize their use by every possible means. However the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) notes, ‘there is… no such policy in the UK, nor does the possible need for it appear to have been considered, notwithstanding the great increases in the use of these chemicals.”

However, the agrochemical industry, on the contrary, seems to be under the impression it is government policy to encourage the maximum use of pesticides.

Mason notes Theo Colborn’s crucial research in the early 1990s into endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that were changing humans and the environment was ignored. In the 1996 book ‘Our Stolen Future: How Man-made Chemicals are Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival’, Colborn, Dumanoski and Peters revealed the full horror of what was happening to the world as a result of contamination with EDCs.

Mason concludes by stating:

“Britain will soon become a biological desert just as Craig Childs described in Apocalyptic Planet with reference to the fields of GM Roundup-Ready corn on a Farm in Iowa… “

“Few can avoid the pollution of water, soil and air by genotoxic and teratogenic herbicides, insecticides and other industrial chemicals. Governments and regulators only measure a small fraction of them. Human health depends on biodiversity. Food depends on natural pollinators.

“The devastating effects of these silent killers on us and our environment do not distinguish between farmers or city dwellers, the wealthy or the poor, between media moguls, editors or their reporters, Monsanto or Syngenta executives, prime ministers or presidents. Humans and the environment are being silently poisoned by thousands of untested and unmonitored chemicals.

“What will your grandchildren experience in the way of wildlife? Nothing. It will all have been poisoned by chemical biocides just to make money for the agrochemical corporations and the British government. They should be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.”

Mason encourages Cushley to break the silence and inform people what is happening.

Trump and the Rush to Deploy the THAAD Missile Defense System

The Korean police swarmed onto the golf course in Seongju, just 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, just before dawn on April 26. The officers pushed aside the dazed protesters and escorted a group of US Army military trailers that carried the critical parts for the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense system.

The deployment of THAAD in Korea has become extremely contentious since China expressed its strong opposition. The sudden deployment of the AN/TPY-2 radar system and two missile launchers and interceptors a week before the Korean presidential election on May 9 has created even greater controversy. It looks for all the world like a bid to make deployment a fait accompli even as the liberal candidate Moon Jae-in, who is the frontrunner in several polls, suggests that the system requires further debate.

Although the incident did not grab the headlines around the world, it was an obvious effort to circumvent the Korean political process. It also marks a fundamental shift in Korea-US relations .

But that’s not all. President Donald Trump also went on to demand that Korea pay one billion dollars for the cost of the deployment, even though the Korean military is not actually purchasing the missile defense system and has agreed to deployment in the face of strong opposition.

President Trump went on to condemn the KORUS Free Trade Agreement, calling it a “horrible deal” and threatening to “terminate” it. Trump has linked together security issues with trade issues in an aggressive manner, hinting that the crisis might be resolved if Seoul were more accommodating in trade negotiations.

This mix of trade issues with security issues goes against the grain of the entire shared-values strategy that the United States has employed since the Second World War. Trump suggests, in so many words, that the military alliance is an economic exchange and that THAAD, or just about anything, can be modified or even eliminated if the price is right. Though this approach may seem like common sense to Donald Trump, the implication is that the United States military is a mercenary force whose purpose is not determined by a commitment to democracy and free markets but rather the balance in the national treasury.

And lo and behold, on May 1, Trump stated that he would be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, a country that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has refused to engage in discussions, despite numerous offers by the Chinese. At other times, the Trump administration has suggested that military action against North Korea was imminent.

Korean Politics

Because of all these zigzags in U.S. policy, South Koreans perceive the Trump administration as irrational, self-centered, and impulsive. The demand for a large payment for THAAD has increased Moon Jae-in’s skepticism of the system and boosted anti-American sentiment in the election. Moon is now openly critical of THAAD early deployment even in the face of conservative criticism.

The shift in Korean perceptions of the United States is driven by the complete lack of concern for procedure in the decision on THAAD. Acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn is not authorized to make such a critical decision. Also, former President Park Geun-hye agreed initially to THAAD without consulting with the National Assembly.

There has been literally no debate among legislators on THAAD. The issue is simply not a matter of a North Korean threat. China perceives THAAD as an effort to undermine its own defensive capabilities. Although experts can debate the fine points, deployment will trigger an arms race in Northeast Asia that could draw in Korea, Japan, Russia, and perhaps other nations. China currently has under 300 nuclear weapons (as opposed to the United States with almost 7,000). Worried that THAAD could neutralize this relatively small arsenal, China could increase that number to a thousand or more.

We do not know how the rapid deployment of THAAD was decided upon. Most likely it was an agreement reached between Kim Kwan-Jin, head of national security office in the Blue House, and Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command. Both are famous for their bellicose declarations and their close ties to military contractors. It seems less likely that Donald Trump was involved in the process.

But Donald Trump has just thrown oil on the fire with his recent comments that Korea had once been a part of China—according to Xi Jinping. He has eliminated all Asia experts from the State Department and has no one around him who has any expertise on the region. This lack of actual understanding combines with the astonishing capacity of the U.S. president to reverse himself on North Korea.

A New South Korean Policy?

A Moon administration is likely to pursue improved relations with North Korea, in contrast to the last ten years of conservative government. It will also encounter at least the same hostility that the Roh Moo-hyun administration encountered from the George W. Bush administration.

Moon is likely to try to bring back some version of Kim Daejung’s “sunshine policy,” which promoted diplomatic, economic, and cultural engagement with the North. Conservatives thought they’d put a stake through the heart of this engagement policy last year when they shut down the last vestige of cooperation, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, run jointly by the North and South. Such efforts to reopen dialog with North Korea will likely be combined with a push for the transfer of operational wartime control of the military to Korea over the next few years and a Korean foreign policy that is more independent of the United States.

In fact, Korea could well be the one of the most independent-minded of all the United States allies under a Moon administration. Obama’s “strategic neglect” of North Korea and inaction in the face of nuclear tests has caused enormous frustration for South Korea. A Moon administration could forge its own policy toward the North that would be substantially different from Washington’s.

North Korea is fully aware of the manner in which outside power overthrew governments in Libya and Iraq because they lacked sufficient deterrence. As a result, Pyongyang is unlikely to make any easy compromises, especially as Kim Jung-un has staked his legitimacy on the nuclear program as an assertion of national autonomy.

But for all the rhetoric of the need to stand up to North Korea, American engagement in Korea is in retreat. Increasingly China offers the real economic opportunities to Koreans, and Chinese language schools are popping up all over the place. By contrast, Citibank announced the closure of one-third of its branches in Korea in April, and the percentage of Americans among foreigners in Korea has declined significantly.

Astonishingly, in the face of threats of war with North Korea, the United States not only no longer has an ambassador to the Republic of Korea—the last ambassador Mark Lippert was asked to step down on January 19—there is not even a candidate. Korea was essentially left out of the conversation between Trump and Shinzo Abe at the White House in February and also between Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. The failure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to have dinner with acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn when he visited Korea in March only added insult to injury.

Ultimately, the THAAD anti-missile system is part of a long-term relationship with the United States that dates back to the late nineteenth century. Overall, although North Korea is getting front-page coverage in the mainstream media, South Korea has not registered as a major player for the Trump administration. If steps are not taken to find common ground and engage Koreans about some other topic than the North Korean threat, there is a danger of a rise in anti-American sentiments and a corresponding drop in American influence.

Raekyong Lee is president of The Tomorrow, a leading progressive think tank in Seoul, Korea, dedicated to economic and security issues. He was deeply involved in the democracy movement in the 1970s and 1980s in Korea and writes frequently about international relations and politics.

This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus.

​Resisting the Politics of Fear

Some time ago I attended a “know your rights” workshop sponsored by an immigration rights organization near my home in Los Angeles.  The attorneys conducting the workshop offered a broad array of ideas and suggestions, but one piece of advice stood out for me.  It dealt with potential workplace raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, and the attorneys’ advice was straightforward:  if you are told at your workplace to get into two lines – one for those “with papers” and one for those “without” – simply refuse.  Stay in one group.

I thought about that suggestion when reading the text of a recent address by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly at George Washington University.  In his address, Kelly hammered home a basic theme:  “we are a nation under attack,” and this attack, he claimed, is directed at us from many quarters:  from transnational criminal organizations, and from “failed states, cyber-terrorists, vicious smugglers, and sadistic radicals.”  As he declared, “we are under attack every single day.  The threats are relentless.”  And, as Kelly also maintained, the policies and approaches of the Trump administration represent a new level of support for Homeland Security personnel, a support that finally allows them to “do the jobs they were hired and trained to do, and recognize them for doing it.”

In an editorial published a few days later, The New York Times editorial board criticized the address for its ominous, apocalyptic tone, maintaining that this kind of fearmongering – and the policies it justifies – actually make us less safe, “driving segments of immigrant communities underground, making them fearful of any encounters with law enforcement.”  The Times board rightly chastised Kelly for this fearmongering and the threat it poses to civil society.  But they also neglected to take two important additional steps:  naming the political functions performed by this rhetoric and exploring the deeper implications it carries.

One function, of course, is to distract.  If crafted skillfully enough, the rhetoric helps draw attention from the administration’s utter incapacity and unwillingness to address the needs of citizens, whether these have to do with health care, job growth, the ensuring of workers’ rights and benefits, or the protection of our air and water.  A fear-based rhetoric also helps divert attention from the administration’s various efforts to promote the Trump brand worldwide while it helps out wealthy allies and friends.

But fearmongering doesn’t simply distract.  It also casts a veil of complicity over unwitting listeners and readers.  Nowhere in his long address does Kelly once mention the new rules on immigration enforcement promulgated this past February by the Trump administration, rules that vastly expanded the government’s potential net for detention and deportation.  No longer is the emphasis on individuals who have committed violent crimes; now anyone who has committed a crime, including the “crime” of illegal entry, is subject to this new regime of enforcement.  And it is this regime that has inflicted untold suffering upon families wrenched apart by detainments, deportations, and fear – families I know, or know of, personally through my affiliations with immigrant rights groups in Los Angeles.

In his omissions as much as in his declarations, Kelly presents a persona more sophisticated than that of race-baiting, scapegoating candidate Trump in last year’s presidential election.  Yet Kelly’s words and omissions are just as repressive as those of his boss insofar as they enable the criminalization of people not on the basis of crimes they’ve committed against others but simply on the basis of who they are.  We don’t expect Secretary Kelly to recount the events leading up to this benighted moment, but some attention must be paid to a history of intentional, conscious disenfranchisement.  Only four years ago, the US Senate passed an immigration reform bill (Senate Bill 744) providing some kind of path, albeit a tortuous one, to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people, and it wasn’t long after that Speaker John Boehner, under pressure from the Tea Party and others, allowed the bill to languish, then die, in the House of Representatives.  There is a direct link between the nativist, anti-migrant politics that long pre-dated Donald Trump and the suffering and fear experienced by so many people today.

This is why the sanctuary movement – and the kind of workplace solidarity strategy I mentioned above – are so critical in resisting the politics of fear and the complicity it can easily induce.  But as the rhetoric of fear gets more sophisticated, it is equally important to take it on frontally and expose it for what it is.  To do so means that one recognizes that citizenship is not simply bestowed by a protective piece of paper (a birth certificate, a “green card,” a certificate of naturalization) but by the fulfillment of one’s responsibilities to one’s fellow human beings and to their rights – and to the democratic institutions that sustain those rights.

Nuclear Waste: Planning for the Next Million Years

Berlin.

It’s been over 60 years since the first nuclear power plant was switched on in Russia and now 31 years (last week) since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Yet despite the decades-long history of nuclear power, most countries still haven’t agreed on a way to safely store nuclear waste.

Leading the way is Finland with the world’s first permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel. High-level radioactive waste is to be buried 400 metres deep in the granite bedrock of Olkiluoto Island off the Finnish coast, where its operators claim it will be secure for the next 100,000 years.

Governments, on the whole, aren’t good at long term planning though. And this is a major problem for the nuclear industry where eventualities must be planned for in terms of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of years.

Teams of artists and philosophers are even debating how to mark repository sites to warn off future generations who may be as removed from us as we are from the first homo sapiens to arrive in Europe.

Even the more easily grasped timescales involved in nuclear waste disposal pose huge technical, economic and social challenges. Finland is to start loading the Olkiluoto repository in 2020 and the process is expected to take 100 years. That may seem like a long time, and it is considering that the first observed nuclear reaction was made less than 100 years ago in 1919.

Sweden, which is pushing forward with the same technology as Finland, is the only other European country close to such an advanced stage of planning. Favourable geological conditions and relatively small quantities of just one type of waste – spent fuel, without the additional problems of reprocessed waste – mean both countries have advantages over other nuclear nations.

For the most part,says Stephen Thomas, Emeritus Professor of Energy Policy at Greenwich University, high-level radioactive waste is lying around waiting for a solution.

“Around the world, everybody is extending the spent fuel storage and reactors. Find me a reactor that’s been in operation for 20 years and I’ll find you a plant which has had its spent fuel facility increased. Every one. There’s nowhere to put it”, says Thomas.

Public resistance

In 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a full phase out nuclear power by 2022, making Europe’s largest economy a trailblazer in renewable energy.

Back in 1977, Germany was seen as a pioneer of disposal solutions when it began exploring a former salt mine at Gorleben as a possible repository. From the start, locals protested vehemently. A decades-long battle ensued with intense debate over whether the site was geologically suitable.

Some experts claimed that with its location in a sparsely populated area close to the then border with East Germany, the site was selected more for political than scientific reasons. In 2000 the government put a moratorium on the investigation.

A bill passed this year will see Gorleben back on the agenda as a possible waste site, in a search that views the country as a ‘blank map’, with salt, granite and clay sites all to be considered.

Officially, a site is to be identified by 2031 and built by 2050. But the state of Saxony is already pushing to be excluded from the process and some experts say this bid looks highly optimistic.

In the UK, exploration of a potential site conveniently close to the Sellafield decommissioning and reprocessing site – home to by far the country’s worst nuclear waste problem – stalled and was cancelled following a public and scientific consultation process.

In France, the plan for a clay repository near the village of Bure is more advanced than most. French nuclear agency ANDRA plans to have it ready by 2035. But observers say there has been a lack of public consultation and public protests are heating up ahead of an upcoming parliamentary vote over the site’s future.

Unknown costs

Besides the technical and political issues surrounding final disposal there are also massive economic challenges.

In the UK, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority forecast that the current cost of clean-up is somewhere between £95 billion (840 billion yuan) and £219 billion (2 trillion yuan), based on the data available. The total planned expenditure for 2017/2018 is £3.24 billion (20 billion yuan), of which £2.36 billion (20 billion yuan) will be funded by the government and the taxpayer; £0.88 billion by income from commercial operations.

In Germany, nuclear power plant operators are largely responsible for decommissioning reactors once they are switched off – this is where spent fuel is removed and sites dismantled – a process that takes decades in itself.

Under an agreement reached last year, waste disposal is now the responsibility of the state. Utilities are to pay 23.6 billion euros (177 billion yuan) into a state-administered fund to cover this. But experts worry that ultimately, taxpayers will be left footing the bill.

“For all the waste management and disposal of waste there is no technical concept and so you cannot estimate costs“, says Wolfgang Irrek, professor for energy management at Ruhr West University of Applied Sciences in Germany. Instead, the calculation is based on 20-year-old estimates for the Gorleben site.

Long-term intermediate storage

Some experts say final disposal is a bit of a red herring in any case. As appealing as the idea of settling the matter once and for all might be, questions have been raised about the long-term security of even the Finnish project.

“It’s very arrogant, scientifically, to say today we have safe disposal for tens of thousands of years”, says Mycle Schneider, an independent nuclear policy analyst and lead author of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report. “I am not convinced geological storage is good forever – I have not seen the argument made conclusively. It’s too early to say.”

Instead, Schneider advocates a focus on ensuring that interim storage is up to the job, which, for the most part, it isn’t.

“We have got into problems with waste because it has been packaged on the assumption that it would go in the ground at a certain time, and it hasn’t, and the packaging has degraded”, Thomas says.

The UK and France have used wet storage for spent nuclear fuel, meaning the waste is kept in pools for long periods of time. Schneider says if there is anything to be learned from the European experience with nuclear waste it’s to take the German route of getting the cooled waste out of the water and into dry storage as quickly as possible.

“There is absolutely no doubt that dry storage is much safer and much more secure than pool storage”, says Schneider. “If you lose the water you are in trouble because the fuel will heat up. Depending on the age of the fuel, you might get fuel fires that will dwarf the nuclear accidents we have seen so far.”

He points to the Fukushima disaster, where it was initially unclear if a spent fuel fire was on the cards; a scenario which would have called for the evacuation of at least 10 million people.

In the UK, Andrew Blowers of independent expert group Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates says the locations of planned reactors pose their own set of problems.

“A lot of dangerous spent fuel is going to be stored on new-build sites which are in vulnerable coastal locations, which stacks up to a huge problem for the next century with climate change”, says Blowers.

Tip of the iceberg

And all this concerns only a tiny fraction of the overall radioactive waste problem. “High-level waste represents the smallest volume”, says Schneider. “The biggest volumes are [found] the lower you go in the contamination levels. A single uranium mine, like the German Wismut, can generate hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste.”

Decommissioning generates huge volumes of contaminated material. Intermediate-level waste storage repositories in Germany have also been fraught with technical and public acceptance problems, while decommissioning in the UK has seen costs spiral out of control.

“Britain is an example of how to make provisions for decommissioning wrong – we have made every mistake it is possible to make and have ended up with a nuclear authority that has no money”, Thomas says.

Germany has decided to phase out nuclear power altogether. Having defined volumes of material to deal with should give it some advantage, but Thomas says there is still too little experience of decommissioning to really know what the country is in for.

“The amount of decommissioning that has gone on in the world is negligible. I think there are six plants that have been fully decommissioned that operated for a decent amount of time.”

Still, Blowers says Germany’s got one thing right. “What we don’t want is more nuclear waste created when we are not at all sure what we are going to do with what we’ve already got.”

Ruby Russell is a Berlin-based journalist whose work has been published by Deutsche Welle, Clean Energy Wire, the Guardian and the Ecologist, among others

This article was originally published here by openDemocracy under Creative Commons’ Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License and 2.5 China License.

Empty Values: the Australian Concept of Citizenship

It has been a lowering conversation, and one that Australia’s politicians have been engaging in with various degrees of discomfort. The Australian prime minister, for one, doesn’t seem to know where to place his feet on this one, showing considerable trouble in navigating the term “Australian values” before probing questions.

Would such values, posed Leigh Sales of the ABC to the squirming Malcolm Turnbull, include those traditionalists celebrating Hanukkah?  Could you still pass muster as an Australian wearing the headscarf? “Of course!” retorted a clearly exasperated prime minister.

Left stranded on high ground, Turnbull has had to propose a kindergarten list of what those values would look like: “respect, the rule of law, commitment to freedom, democracy.”[1]  His colourful deputy, Barnaby Joyce, adds the “fair go” and a form of attire: shorts.

The topic of “Australian values” need never have arisen, given the sheer paucity of detail as to what they entail, but the Turnbull government is that desperate for electoral mileage it is liable to politicise the air if it senses a chance for survival. Political desperation is palpable, and can either place you into a coma of boredom or befuddle the strategists.

To that end, proposals that may never make it to the bureaucrat’s desk have been spun suggesting that the Australian citizenship test incorporate a greater component of “Australian values”.  Highly problematic to begin with, it is a chance for committees and challenged experts to concoct an arbitrary list of what, exactly, these might be.

The absurdity of the suggestion becomes clearer on an examination of some proposed values potential candidates for citizenship will be queried upon.  Would you, for instance, gleefully approve the practice of genital mutilation?  Would you have been involved or propose to engage in acts of genocide?

This meaningless debate tends to spike when the emotional barometer is jarred on special occasions.  When that great, murderous folly known as Anzac Day finds expression in marches and rum-laced milk in the morning, a call is made to refine the nature of those values and apply them to prospective Australians.

One Australian MP with much time on his hands, Andrew Laming, has gone so far this year as to argue that a new national anthem should reflect those “values”. At the very least, there should be a new verse reflecting “our jocular sense of humour”, how we “come from blends of many backgrounds”, and how Australia is “a young nation”.[2] (Presumably, when longer in the tooth, the Australian state would have to find a new verse.)

The social psychologist fraternity has also made efforts to identify what it terms “cultural values”, though treating these as objective indicators of anything can be problematic.  Shalom Schwartz has a stab at a finite number, coming up with seven dimensions or orientations: harmony, embeddedness, hierarchy, mastery, affective autonomy, intellectual autonomy and egalitarianism.[3]

Unsurprisingly, there are two that stand out for the pundits: that of embeddedness, where the whole is valued more than the individual; and autonomy, which is pretty straight forward in its individualistic suggestiveness. Schwartz’s work is praised to the heavens as being “the outcome of decades of empirical research around the globe.”[4]

Playing around in such academic undergrowth enables Professor Nick Haslam of University of Melbourne to suggest that Australia is far from distinctive, let alone exceptional its paraded values.  By the metric of how far Australia deviates “from the international average over seven dimensions”, the seekers of exceptionalism will be disappointed.  Australia “is the second least distinctive culture of all, beaten to the gold medal by Brazil” (The Conversation, May 1).

The debate has also provoked some much needed satire. Ben Pobije insists that the PM and his colleagues have missed the key points.  One is the “gift of the nature strip”, the innate Australian tendency to recycle appliances and items abandoned on the grass in front of a house.  “Council regulations might say otherwise, but the freedom to gather up strangers’ garbage whenever opportunity knocks is a vital Australian value and one we do well to safeguard.”[5]

Pobije suggests other value indicators that could be codified: a deep suspicion of the imagination, a latent anti-Americanism despite surface affection for those from the land of the free, and any chance “to take a day off from work for literally any reason.”

Unfortunately, this particular issue tends to be less one to satirise than one to observe with mute insensibility.  This is bound to lead to humbug, where values become less a matter of virtue than sin, a facile and shallow assertion of crude patriotism.  As a letter to The Age put it, “It might be hard to wax lyrical about our treatment of asylum seekers, the reduction in foreign aid or the growing divide between rich and poor, for example.”[6] On the point of values, take your pick.

Notes.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-20/migrants-to-face-tougher-tests-for-australian-citizenship/8456392

[2] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/coalition-mp-andrew-laming-calls-for-new-national-anthem-verse-to-reflect-australian-values-20170425-gvs49l.html

[3] http://kodu.ut.ee/~cect/teoreetiline%20seminar%2023.04.2013/Schwartz%202006.pdf

[4] http://theconversation.com/australian-values-are-hardly-unique-when-compared-to-other-cultures-76917

[5] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-28/these-are-our-core-australian-values/8476902

[6] http://www.smh.com.au/comment/smh-letters/plenty-of-suggestions-for-australian-values-addition-to-anthem-20170426-gvsk8e.html

America’s Part-Timers Deserve Sick Days Off, Too

By the end of this year, workers in seven states and the District of Columbia as well as those in more than two dozen cities will have guaranteed access to paid sick days, joining a handful of areas, including San Francisco and Connecticut, that have made it the law to provide millions of workers with the security of knowing their pay or job is not at risk if they or their child fall ill. Such policies gained traction during the past three years, but recently an unlikely source is moving to stop that progress. The HR Policy Association – a trade group of chief human resource officers from multinational companies – asked Congress to shield employers from paid sick day laws.While the majority of large US corporations offer paid sick leave, data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 36% of workers don’t have such protections. Employers may provide paid sick days to workers they care about retaining, but that leaves many behind.

Who exactly? More than half, 70%, of part-time employees go without paid sick leave. What’s more, 61% of low-wage workers aren’t paid if they take a sick day off, while 42% of those who work in retail lack access to paid sick days. It’s even worse in the hotel and food services industry, as a whopping 69% don’t have even one day they can use when sick without losing pay.

So just as more cities and states create laws to protect employees who fall ill from work, some companies are asking Congress to exempt them from these laws, saying that their firms already provide generous leave benefits and so they “should have safe harbor” from state and local mandates. As the data show, this means leaving millions of employees that do not meet their company’s definition of ‘talent’ with no paid leave benefits at all.

And just because a company says they offer paid sick leave, not all employees are treated equal. Research that I conducted with Professor Ruth Milkman at the City University of New York found that while 87% of employers in New York City provided paid sick days to workers, only 58% provided these leaves to all of their employees. The 42% that denied paid sick days to some categories of employees tended to exclude workers employed less than full time. If Congress passes a national safe harbor law, employers would receive immunity from prosecution under the city’s paid sick days law.

What’s interesting is that this and other research we conducted with employers shows that it is relatively easy for companies extend paid sick leave to part-time employees. Workers typically view these paid days as a form of ‘insurance’ and tended to save them for when they might really need them, according to employers we surveyed. Abuse, they reported, was rare, as a large share of workers used no paid sick days at all in the previous year. And among those that did use them, most used less than the five paid days they had available, suggesting that the one-time cost increases associated with paid sick days mandates were relatively small.

The Trump administration must make it clear that there can be no safe harbor for employers. Access to paid sick days must be available to all workers, not left to employers’ determination of who deserves paid time to care for themselves or a loved one.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.

France: Sulk or Swim

In a few days France’s version of Hillary Clinton, a bland young Rothschild investment banker named Emanuelle Macron faces off in a crucial presidential election against France’s lovely blonde fascist Marie Le Pen the daughter of an outright Nazi lover.

It’s a sexy election, literally.  Unprecedentally, the current socialist president Francois Hollande (Macron was his deputy) is ducking re-election due to a pile of women troubles. His long time mistress and mother of his four kids, Segelene Royal, a formidable politician in her own right, angrily split from pudgy Hollande when he brazenly took a new mistress into his palace while also chasing – on a moped!  – a young actress.  Oh, those hypersexualite French.

Meanwhile, “centrist” Macron – technocratic, pro Europe and indifferent to the immigrant suburbs, deaf like Hillary to blue collar workers – has the most intriguing marital setup.  As a 16 year-old student he fell in love with his 39 year-old drama teacher whose eldest daughter was also in Macron’s class. Despite fierce parental objections and vicious small town gossip, they’ve stayed married for 24 years, he now 39 she 64.  If that doesn’t get him the vote of mature women like Isabelle Huppert and Juliet Binoche then nothing will.

May 7’s spoiler is France’s Bernie, the egoistic, ex-Trotskyist Jean Luc Melanchon who, like Macron, seemed to “come out of nowhere” and in his case excite and galvanize youngsters.  He got a lot of votes, but not enough for the final round.  At the moment he is sulking in his tent by refusing to support either “liberal” Macron or fascist Le Pen.  The practical result is that about 1/5th of Melanchon’s resentfuls will probably go to the fascist who is angling for their votes, and many once-reliable left voters in the immigrant quarters, disgusted by broken promises, will also abstain.

(The German communists similarly shot themselves in the head – and paved Hitler’s way – by denouncing rival socialists as “social fascists”).

As in our own recent election formerly leftwing miners’ and factory towns voted for Le Pen.

This is the way to defeat fascism?

Sex aside, the 7th May presidential election (voting for the Assembly is in June) is a teaching moment for us here.

The question is, as it was for us in November, do we lay aside political principles – our virtue – to unite with ANYONE –to defeat a fascist?  My dream coalition can include pro-life women, evangelicals, second-thought racists and Limbaugh rednecks – the deplorables temporarily willing to join hands, gingerly, with us adorables if we drop our clannishness to make some sort of opening.

What’s wrong with promiscuous openness?

As we bitterly learned in November there were enough grumbling youth and anti-Hillary abstentions and pro-Bernies  paralyzed by rage to conceivably throw the election to Trump. We’ll never know.

Faced with a nightmare in the White House – the NYT keeps calling the little hitlers “right wing populists” – do you throw your biases out the window?  Or have the integrity to  follow that great American labor radical Gene Debs who advised,

“It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.”

Welcome, enemy.

 

The Duplicitous U.S. Constitution

Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.

— Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

We live in a nation founded within a prevailing story line that characterizes the United States as being an exceptional, enlightened and charitable nation. A nation that is a “beacon of light…in every corner of the globe,” generated by the ethos of the American Dream, based on the values and ideals of liberty, justice, fairness, equality and democracy for all.

We also live in a nation that was established to be an empire, whereby imperialism and settler colonialism are endlessly justified and promulgated by an underlying cultural narrative which ascribes whiteness to morality, and by extension a nation bestowed with a divine right to lay claim—at will—to the lands, resources and bodies of Black, Brown and Indigenous people. A nation where private property rights are akin to natural rights, therefore framing capitalism, no matter how brutal, with benevolent intent and thus inviolable. These structural foundations, which are rooted within the barbarism of chattel slavery and the brutality of gender oppression, constructed an enduring national culture defined by genocide, dispossession, white supremacy, anti-blackness, heteropatriarchy, misogyny, social inequity and wealth inequality. Over three centuries later, despite significant efforts by resistance movements to transform it, this underlying national culture persists; entwined within an era where mass surveillance, mass incarceration, unprecedented wealth inequality and unending militarism are perversely justified as imperatives to preserve freedom, democracy and the mythical “American Dream.”

The contradictions between the nation’s mythologies and actual practices are inherent to—and effectively serve to preserve—the cultural, political and economic foundations of the United States. They are indicative of a nation that was founded by an opulent minority of white men who believed that they alone had a God-given right to freedom and prosperity and thus constructed the structural means to protect their wealth and power from a dispossessed demos and to justify the subjugation and exploitation of entire groups of people. Their design for the new nation was based on what economist Joseph Stiglitz refers to as the “interplay between ideologies and particular interests.” As such, the white supremacist and patriarchal ideologies of the wealthy, slave-owning Christian men who founded the nation were fused with free market ideology, the engine for the emerging interests of industrial capitalism. Within this design and from the outset, the founders intended for government to serve as the executor of these violent and undemocratic ideologies and interests.

As many political, legal, and history scholars have acknowledged, the U.S. Constitution was constructed to be an ideological and legal document intended to secure the interests of the virtuous and enlightened gentry who—like royalty—considered themselves to be ordained with a natural right to rule the nation in perpetuity. The founders’ declarations and ensuing constitution promoted an overriding myth or “origin story” that defined the new nation as a unified whole, engaging in a virtuous republican mission whereby, according to John Adams, “all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws.” Democracy was therefore (falsely) equated with the ideology of republicanism, whereby the nation’s citizenry was promised equal rights under the law and the inalienable rights to liberty. It is within this context that individual sovereignty and private property were intended to be protected, according to John Adams, from the “tyranny of the majority” (i.e., the “mob rule” of a direct democracy).

In effect, the founders constructed the intersecting cultural, political and economic instruments that would permanently advance the interests of a wealthy white minority through institutionalized and impervious methods of domination and extermination. Thus, the origin story generated by the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and have “inalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were never intended to be all inclusive. This also holds true to Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, which states:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Instead, the civil and political rights within the U.S. Constitution were restricted to focus exclusively on individual and property rights—for some. This design sought to undermine the possibility for the establishment of universal and equal participation in all spheres of life (participatory parity), not only between the ruling elite, their agents and those they subjugated, but more importantly amongst and between subjugated groups. Thus, complex interdependencies, chains of democratic equivalences, meaningful deliberative processes and solidarities that could threaten the power of the ruling elite were intentionally defused. The founders’ discourse and origin story myths were intended to serve as empty signifiers, having very different meanings and values with regard to who they apply to and how they were to be operationalized. Thus, the discourse of republicanism was ascribed with the interests of the nation’s white male Christian aristocracy and to a lesser degree to their citizen agents who occupied the white middle-class. However, the narrative of life, liberty and equality was never intended to pertain to everyone else.

During the nation’s infancy, when disorder and uncertainty were widespread, the founders’ myths served to define in totality a positive and fully sutured national identity, establishing a foundation for social practices and ideological representations that were instrumental in the social construction of reality and subjectivity for the nation’s white citizen subjects. This set forth a process whereby socialization and identity formation were based on the ideological shaping of a cultural imaginary, constituted through what political theorist Chantel Mouffe referred to as the logic of equivalence, which is “to create specific forms of unity among different interests by relating them to a common project and by establishing a frontier to define the forces to be opposed, the ‘enemy.’” Initially this “common enemy” was the tyranny of the British monarchy, and subsequently took many forms—the tyranny of majority rule, the threat of the “savage Indian,” the emancipation of slaves, Blackness, Mexicans, recognition rights for women and notions of equity and equality in general. Over time and as the empire expanded, the enemy would include any group—or any idea—that posed a threat to the nation’s prevailing power structures.

Despotic ideologies such as this reject the historical conditions by which social relations are constructed, instead representing them as outside of history, as inevitable and natural, while disguising their underlying belief systems as common sense facts. According to Anne Makus, presenting events and practices as ahistorical truths allows problematic events to be framed as unproblematic and a “natural” consequence of society. By losing their postulational status, beliefs are transformed into narrative truths that are immune to differing accounts of events.

Ultimately, the ideological function of the founders’ origin story myths, cultural imaginaries and their corresponding discourse or “narrative truths” resulted in a what Cultural theorist Raymond Williams describes as a “complex interlocking of political, social and cultural forces” known as hegemony.

A Revolution for “Great and Overgrown Rich Men”

Historian Gary B. Nash documented how, for over a century prior to the American Revolution, an elite class of white male landowners, slaveholders and large-scale merchants dominated the political, economic and cultural landscape of the thirteen British settler colonies. In 1770, Boston’s top 1% of the population owned 44% city’s wealth. In the late 17th century the wealthiest 10% of all colonists owned approximately 47% of all the wealth; and by 1775 the wealthiest 10% owned roughly 65% of all the wealth. During the 18th century approximately 30% of all British colonists were free white men, with about 50% of those men owning land, though most of them did not own enough land to be considered wealthy. Approximately 20% of all colonists were Black slaves, and 50% were poor white indentured servants.

At the outset, the privatization of land in the British settler colonies occurred through the genocidal project that is settler colonialism and later through the transfer or privatization of state (“public”) land. According to historian Meyer Weinberg and economists Engerman & Gallman, seized land was often awarded to individuals and families based on their location to power and influence within seats of government and became the basis for commercial pursuits and further accumulation of private wealth. Increasingly during the 18th century, land acquisition and allocation was sold for profit and speculation.

As documented by historian Howard Zinn, the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, the first and second Continental Congress and Continental Army Officers primarily came from the landed gentry of British settler colonial society. With high unemployment and hunger fueling class upheaval following the French and Indian War (1754-1763), aristocratic colonial leaders faced the prospect of waging war against Britain, while also “maintaining control over” the discontented “crowds at home.” During the delegates elections for a convention to frame a Pennsylvania constitution in 1776, a Committee of Privates (composed of white working class enlisted militiamen), “urged voters to oppose ‘great and overgrown rich men” for “they will be too apt to be framing distinctions in society.” According to historians Young, Raphael and Nash, these sentiments led the Committee of Privates to draw up a bill of rights for the convention stating, “an enormous proportion of property vested in a few individuals is dangerous to the rights, and destructive of the common happiness, of mankind; and therefore every free state hath a right by its laws to discourage the possession of such property.”

According to Zinn, the populist discourse of the Declaration of Independence, which declared the right to “popular control over governments, the right of rebellion and revolution, indignation at political tyranny, economic burdens, and military attacks,” proved to unite large enough numbers of white settler colonists to actively rebel against Britain. This propaganda-based document was highly effective in shaping popular opinion by appealing to the yearnings of disenfranchised white settler colonists as a means to unite against a common enemy. Of course, large populations were left out of the populist cause elicited by the Declaration of Independence; namely Black slaves, Native people and in many regards white women. This reality would only become further institutionalized following the War of Independence. It would also turn out that the aristocratic founders were indeed “apt to be framing [class] distinctions in society” as many white working class militiamen had feared.

As Historian Gordon S. Wood explained, in 1776, immediately after issuing the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, a committee of the Second Continental Congress was charged with drafting the first U.S. Constitution known as the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. It was signed by Congress in 1777 and ratified by representatives from all thirteen states in 1781. The Articles established the U.S. to be a confederation of sovereign states, with appointed representatives from the thirteen states making up a national government. Under the Articles the national government was composed of a legislature consisting of one house in which states had equal voting power. There was not an executive branch or a general judiciary. This new national government was charged with overseeing domestic relations with Native tribes, international diplomacy and conducting the war with Britain.

According to Charles A. Beard, at the end of the War of Independence in 1783, establishing a cohesive economy and infrastructure overseen by common laws proved to be difficult under the decentralized system of government outlined by the Articles of Confederation. This was especially challenging during a time of economic instability due to immense war debt. Congress lacked the authority to tax and collect debt directly, to stabilize legal tender and regulate commerce since state legislatures were often unresponsive to these demands, operating without legal restrictions or judicial oversight.

For many former colonial noblemen known as Federalists—who made up a majority in most state legislatures and the Continental Congress—the Articles of Confederation were failing to secure the protection and advancement of their personalty or personal property (movable assets). Many southern plantation owners were also Federalists since their wealth was also largely held in personal property (including slaves) and therefore tied to the same economic interests as northern merchants and financiers. According to Beard, this aristocratic class of large-scale farm owners, merchants, shippers, bankers, speculators, and private and public securities holders believed that a more powerful federal government was required to protect their economic interests.

A minority coalition within the Continental Congress whose economic interests were primarily tied to real (landed) property were known as Anti-federalists. This group of white wealthy male freeholders, small business owners and middle-class, tenant and debtor settler farmers equated concentrated federal power with British rule and therefore preferred a weak central government that would not “tread” on individual rights and state sovereignty.

A Constitution for “The Minority of the Opulent”

As Michael Cain and Keith Dougherty documented, the eruption of Shay’s Rebellion in 1786 only strengthened the Federalist cause. This indebted settler farmer rebellion against the state of Massachusetts was fueled by high taxes and farm foreclosures in western Massachusetts, a mounting crisis that was sweeping across the new republic. Noah Brooks chronicled how General Henry Knox, a major public securities holder, wrote to George Washington in response to this “desperate debtor” rebellion of farmers, laborers and Revolutionary War veterans:

The people who are the insurgents have never paid any, or but very little taxes – But they see the weakness of government; They feel at once their own poverty, compared with the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter, in order to remedy the former. Their creed is ‘That the property of the United States has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property of all. And he that attempts opposition to this creed is an enemy to equity and for justice, and ought to be swept from off the face of the earth.’ In a word they are determined to annihilate all debts public and private and have agrarian Laws, which are easily effected by means of un-funded paper money which shall be a tender in all cases whatever.

As Beard explained “the southern planter was also as much concerned in maintaining order against slave revolts as the creditor in Massachusetts was concerned in putting down Shays’ ‘desperate debtors.’” This proved to be a precarious time for the new nation’s elite, which was exalting the virtues of freedom, liberty and democracy while simultaneously taking action to establish new and improved systems of domination. Insurrection was indeed a clear and present danger to the post-war aristocracy within this decentralized and tumultuous landscape.

In 1787 the Federalists in Congress called on state legislatures to send delegates to a Convention in Philadelphia for a single and stated purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation. Members of Congress quietly went to Philadelphia, with a majority of them intent on constructing a federal government powerful enough to protect their class interests. The first order of business, according to Gerald J. Fresia and Robert W. Hoffert, was for the convention delegates to agree to a secrecy clause concerning their decision-making deliberations. As reported by Beard, the delegates were not only acting to protect their personalty interests from foreign competitors, but as importantly, against the threat the domestic unpropertied masses posed to their wealth and power.

James Madison receives endless accolades for his enlightened roles in the founding of the United States, including the title of “Father of the Constitution.” Like most of the founding fathers, Madison was explicit in his undemocratic aims for the new nation. As documented by Steve Coffman, during the construction of the U.S. Constitution, when deliberating over two of the pillars of a substantive democracy—universal suffrage and the equal distribution of resources— Madison argued, “if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure,” and “agrarian law would soon take place,” one that distributes land to the landless. Therefore, according to Coffman, Madison argued, “our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country” through the protection of property rights. More explicitly, Madison went on to pronounce, “Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests” thus making the charge of government “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”

According to the Yale University political theorist Robert A. Dahl and author Daniel Lazare, under the terms of the Articles of Confederation, which was the law of the land during the Philadelphia Convention, the 1787 Constitution was, in fact, an illegal usurping. The Articles were clear in stipulating that there had to be unanimous approval of all thirteen states to approve constitutional change. Yet those who attended the Philadelphia convention unilaterally changed the ratification rule to nine states, which was by no coincidence the number of states that initially ratified the Constitution of 1787. This strategic and unconstitutional move on the part of the Federalists in Congress was an attempt to work around the significant opposition from Anti-federalists. Lazare went on to claim, “the assertion that ‘We the People do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America’ implies a right not only to create new frames of government but to abrogate old ones when they are no longer serving their purposes.”

Dahl and Beard point out that when it came to choosing delegates for the Philadelphia Convention, a large body of aristocrats were selected by state legislatures that were elected according to suffrage laws requiring “high property qualifications” relating to taxpayer status aligned with the amount or worth of one’s real property and/or personalty holdings. According to Beard, when delegates for the Convention were chosen, “representatives of personalty in the legislature were able by the sheer weight of their combined intelligence and economic power to secure delegates from the urban centres or allied with their interests.” Beard went on to explain, “Thus the heated popular discussion usually incident to such momentous political undertakings was largely avoided, an orderly and temperate procedure in the selection of delegates was rendered possible.” In essence, the majority of the new nation’s inhabitants and citizens were intentionally excluded from participating in the construction of the United States Constitution.

According to Coffman, when voting rights for citizens of the new nation were being decided, James Madison expressed his concern that if they were extended “equally to all…the rights of property or the claims of justice may be overruled by a majority without property.” John Jay, a Federalist “founding father” and a member of Congress who went on to become the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is famous for making the intent of the Constitution even more explicit by boldly stating, “The people who own the country ought to govern it.” During deliberations on voting rights, James Madison expressed his belief that “freeholders of the country would be the safest depositors of republican liberty.” Within this context, Madison went on to caution his peers to consider the imminent rise of the industrial working-class and the threat they would pose to the nation’s “opulent” minority:

In future times a great majority of the people will not only be without landed, but any other sort of, property. These will either combine under the influence of their common situation: in which case, the rights of property & the public liberty, will not be secure in their hands.

Madison also expressed his concerns that if given suffrage rights, the ominous industrial masses could be coerced or bribed into doing the bidding of divergent ruling class political ambitions. As Madison put it, the unpropertied, “will become the tools of opulence & ambition.” Clearly one of Madison’s primary concerns was how the expansion of suffrage could undermine his desires to create a republican fiefdom.

Gouverneur Morris was an influential “founding father” and close ally of Madison who is often called the “Penman of the Constitution.” According to legal scholar Jennifer Nedelsky, Morris’s vision of the new nation was similar to his peers in that “public liberty” should not involve “direct participation in government.” Instead, according to Nedelsky, in Morris’s plan “the people… were not, in effect, to govern… they would choose their representatives and have the influence over them that frequent elections brought… [and] ‘in the course of things’ people would elect the great and wealthy as their representatives.”

An enthusiastic student of political economy, Morris was known for tirelessly working to ensure that the interconnected pillars of economic and political power of the new nation would be impermeable. In doing so, Morris envisioned and aggressively advocated for a market economy, one with a federal government that was constituted with the legal framework to ensure its permanency. Nedelsky went on to document how Morris was known for his “unqualified positions” that:

illuminate some of the most important and contested issues in American political thought: the status our Constitution accords… to private property, the relation between the values of republicanism and those of capitalism, and the distribution of economic and political power our system fosters.

While the Constitutional Convention’s secrecy clause conveniently provided cover for its authors’ anti-republican and anti-democratic intentions, Madison’s unapologetic and forthright style reveals how the Constitution was, in its own words, “a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.” Accordingly, Gordon S. Wood, explained, “the source of their difficulties came from too much local democracy, and that the solution was to limit this local democracy by erecting a more aristocratic structure over it.” The designers did allow for a semi-popular lower house of congress, yet counterbalanced with the advent of the U.S. Senate, which was to be elected by state legislatures with rotating terms of six years. The Senate should then be composed of, as Madison put it, “a portion of enlightened citizens whose limited number and firmness might seasonably interpose against impetuous councils.” According to Parenti, the founders often referenced the virtuous qualifications of “enlightened citizens” and “men of substance,” which served as code for those with the right race, gender, aristocratic breeding, wealth, education, and experience that bestowed one with a God given right to rule.

In all, seventy-four delegates were appointed by states to attend the Constitutional Convention while only fifty-five showed up, with many anti-federalists refusing to attend and a number leaving as it progressed, with others refusing to sign in protest. Rhode Island declined to send a delegate. Anti-federalists accused the Federalists of working to reproduce an order similar to the British Crown. In the end, this small group of opulent white men proceeded to draft the U.S, Constitution, which according to historian Gordon S. Wood, “was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period.”

As documented by Wood, a number of Anti-Federalists agreed to ratify the U.S. Constitution only on condition that a bill of rights was included as a means to put limits on federal power. Federalists in Congress begrudgingly agreed, despite their opposition to the idea. Federalists were concerned that by making certain rights explicit “the people” would expect protections for those rights alone, thus limiting future interpretations of the Constitution. James Madison in particular felt that a declaration of such rights would be “parchment barriers” (superficial protections) and wanted to rely on the sturdier measures already in place. According to professor of political science Michael P Federici, by parchment barriers, Madison meant:

…the relationship between the written and unwritten constitutions. There are paper boundaries and limits, what the Framers called “parchment barriers”, and there are unwritten boundaries and limits that are not so much legal as they are cultural, ethical, and religious. The preservation of a constitutional order depends, to a great extent, on the preservation of the unwritten boundaries and limits.

From Madison’s perspective, the great protectors of the private rights of the opulent against an organized majority included the “extent of territory” spelled out in the Constitution which separated people geographically; along with the “multiplicity of interest” between the classes. To Madison these classes included, “those who are without property…those who are creditors, and those who are debtors… [a] landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest…actuated by different sentiments and views.” According to Madison:

If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure…the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.

Always the brilliant political operative, Madison took on the task of drafting a bill of rights with the belief that the disorderly demand for such rights was on the one hand a grave problem, yet also presented an opportunity for a strategic solution. His proposed amendments were jubilantly ratified in 1791, effectively thwarting Anti-Federalist efforts to alter the Constitution while successful garnering loyalty for the Constitution from “the great mass of the people.” According to the U.S. Constitutional scholar Robert A. Goldwin, by engendering a sturdy “national sentiment” in support of the Constitution, Madison:

…took the decisive step toward establishing an independent force in the society, a devotion to the Constitution powerful enough to restrain a malevolent majority. Madison saw that the proposed amendments could make the Constitution universally revered…he saw the Constitution itself, not the amendments, as the sturdy barrier to fend off majority oppression and defend private rights. A bill of rights added to the intact Constitution would bring to it the only thing it presently lacked – the support of the whole people.

Madison not only outwitted the Anti-Federalists, but more ominously, he constructed a highly effective hegemonic instrument whereby the Bill of Rights would be widely considered as a sacred and uncontestable scroll embodying the epic virtues of U.S. democracy.

A Government “Over the People”

According to Goldwin and Kaufman and Blau and Moncada at its core, the U.S. Constitution outlines all the things the federal government cannot do, known as negative rights. Paul Finkelman describes the difference between negative and positive rights as being “freedom from” versus “freedom to.” According to Charles Fried, “a negative right is a right that something not be done to one, that some particular imposition be withheld.”

Simply, the founders encoded negative rights into the U.S. Constitution to ensure that government would protect the property rights bestowed upon “the minority of the opulent” by divine authority. In doing so, according to Cass Sunstein, negative rights bolster the ideology and rule of law of free-market capitalism. In terms of the founders’ Constitution, Sunstein interprets the intent of negative rights in important ways:

Most of the so-called negative rights require governmental assistance, not governmental abstinence. Consider, for example, the right to private property. As Bentham wrote, “Property and law are born and must die together. Before the laws, there was no property: take away the laws, all property ceases.” As we know and live it, private property is both created and protected by law; it requires extensive governmental assistance. The same point holds for the other foundation of a market economy, the close sibling of private property: freedom of contract. For that form of freedom to exist, it is extremely important to have reliable enforcement mechanisms in the form of civil courts.

Cornell professor of law Laura Underkuffler also emphasized in 2003 that the “idea of the Constitution as a charter of negative rights – and of the right to the protection of property as simply one of those rights – is an entrenched feature of American political and legal discourse.” New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Gezim Bajrami confirmed in 2013, “Time and time again, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government has no affirmative constitutional obligations to the public.”

According to Finkleman, positive rights necessitate “affirmative obligations on the part of government to fulfill the right.” Therefore, positive rights enable a nation-state’s constitution to guarantee a political economy that prioritizes egalitarianism in the social, political, cultural, economic and environmental realms. Positive rights enable government to proactively intervene to ensure universal and equitable access to a living income, housing, holistic education, health care, nutritious food, clean water and a healthy and sustainable environment. Positive rights can empower (not hinder) government to forcefully protect individuals and groups of people from forms of domination and targeted violence. As CeÂcile Fabre emphasizes, a nation-state constituted by positive rights would need to guarantee “that a democratic majority should not be able to repeal these rights and that certain institutions, such as the judiciary, should be given the power to strike down laws passed by the legislature that are in breach of those rights.”

Instead, the founders constructed the U.S. Constitution to forever deter emancipatory strivings and collective interests that are inherent to egalitarian societies.

The Bill of Rights only reinforced negative rights based prohibitions on Congress concerning intervention in the press, speech, religion, assembly, bearing of arms, etc. By doing so, these purported “civil liberties” fortify the Constitution’s undemocratic foundations and its primary function of harnessing the majoritarian menace to further buttress, both legally and ideologically, the primacy of property rights. As Judge Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals stressed in 1983, “the Constitution is a charter of negative rather than positive liberties… The men who wrote the Bill of Rights were not concerned that Government might do too little for the people but that it might do too much to them.”

According to Daniel Lazare, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights assign responsibility for civil liberties to the Supreme Court, essentially relieving the semi-elected branches of government, chiefly Congress “institutionally irresponsible” and civil liberties “de-politicized.” Lazare went on to explain:

Thus was born the peculiar rhythm of American politics in which politicians or the people at large go on periodic rampages in which they lynch, terrorize, and generally trample democratic rights until they are finally brought up short by the courts. Then everyone involved congratulates themselves that the system has worked, that the abuse has been corrected, that the majority has been reined in— until some new eruption sets the cycle going again.

Furthermore, the rights of speech, press, assembly, etc., are the means by which the commercial and propertied class instills their ideological, political, economic and social agenda via a free-marketplace of ideas; whereby access is determined by one’s wealth, race, gender, religion and influence. Not coincidentally, the Bill of Rights only applies to federal and state government action, not to the actions of private business and its agents. All in all, “the commons” became the property of the opulent.

According to Michael Parenti, the U.S. Constitution created a form of government and a political system that prevented “the people” from finding horizontal cohesion and instead “was designed to dilute their vertical force, blunting its upward thrust upon government by interjecting indirect and staggered forms of representation.” To do so, according to historian Morton White, a system of checks was constructed to safeguard against Madison’s expressed fears of “agrarian attempts” and “symptoms of a leveling spirit” by “the proportion of those who will labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings.”

The Autocratic First Amendment

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is widely heralded as the foundational gem of the Bill of Rights and the unambiguous signifier of “American Freedom and Democracy” It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

However, it can also be regarded as one of the most duplicitous instruments of U.S. hegemony.

In 1799, Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth made it clear that based on English common law, “this country remains the same as it was before the Revolution.” Eight years earlier, with this understanding, the founders applied English common-law when drafting the First Amendment, specifically in terms of the doctrine of “no prior restraint.”

In 1769 William Blackstone, the celebrated “compiler of English law” and major influence on the founding fathers, explained the doctrine of no prior restraint:

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every free man has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequences of his own temerity.

Thus, the First Amendment follows the directive of no prior restraint by prohibiting government from forbidding a “free man” from expressing the “sentiments he pleases before the public.” Yet, if the government determines such “sentiments” to be seditious libel after the fact, prosecution is permissible under the U.S. Constitution. As Howard Zinn put it, to this day the First Amendment under no prior restraint has an important caveat in that:

You can say whatever you want, print whatever you want. The government cannot stop you in advance. But once you speak or write it, if the government decides to make certain statements “illegal,” or to define them as “mischievous” or even just “improper,” you can be put in prison.

This little known yet significant twist on American freedom of expression not only criminalizes dissent after the fact, it also serves the purpose of having a powerful chilling effect in advance. Zinn goes on to explain how, “An ordinary person, unsophisticated in the law, might respond, ‘You say you won’t stop me from speaking my mind–no prior restraint. But if I know it will get me in trouble, and so remain silent, that is prior restraint.”

Yet, in the subsequent two centuries, the U.S. federal government (including the Supreme Court) has also successfully restricted freedom of expression in advance under the rationale of “national security,” most often relating to those who attempt to expose the nation’s nefarious covert and undemocratic activities around the globe. While the First Amendment is explicit in that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech,” just seven years after Congress passed the amendment, Congress turned around and did just that in 1798 with the Alien and Sedition Acts.

President John Adams and other Federalist leaders expedited the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts under the rational that French and Irish revolutions would spark an egalitarian revolution at home, incited by French and Irish immigrant agitators and foreign spies. Feeding this narrative, a Federalist newspaper of the time claimed Jacobin (egalitarian) French tutors were attempting to corrupt America’s youth, “to make them imbibe, with their very milk, as it were, the poison of atheism and disaffection.” Long-time Massachusetts politician and Federalist Harrison Gray Otis declared in 1797 that he “did not wish to invite hordes of wild Irishmen, nor the turbulent and disorderly of all parts of the world, to come here with a view to disturb our tranquility, after having succeeded in the overthrow of their own governments” and landing in the U.S. “to cavil against the Government, and to pant after a more perfect state of society.”

The Alien Acts included “An Act Concerning Aliens” (enacted June 25, 1798, with a two-year expiration date) which authorized the president to deport any resident alien considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States.” The Alien Acts also included “An Act Respecting Alien Enemies” (or Alien Enemies Act), which was enacted on July 6, 1798 (with no expiration date), authorizing the president to detain and deport resident aliens whose home countries were at war with the United States.

Enacted July 14, 1798, with an expiration date of March 3, 1801, the Sedition Act applied to U.S. citizens, authorizing the prosecution, imprisonment or large fine of any person who:

…shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against United States, their people or government.

As Zinn pointed out, “the Sedition Act was a direct violation of the Constitution. But here we get our first clue to the inadequacy of words on [“parchment”] paper in ensuring the rights of citizens.”

The Alien Enemies Act of 1798 was revised and further codified by Congress with the passing of the Espionage Act of 1917. This reaffirmation of the duplicitous nature of the founders’ Constitution and governing structures was intended to stifle growing resistance against social conditions domestically and the expansion of U.S. imperialism, particularly on the eve of the U.S. entry into World War I. The Espionage Act of 1917 in part read:

Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall wilfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies and whoever when the United States is at war, shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall wilfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, to the injury of the service or of the United States, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.

As a means to more effectively crush growing dissent domestically, in 1918 (after the U.S. entered WWI) the Sedition Act was passed as an amendment to the Espionage Act, further restricting free expression. It read in part:

Whoever, when the United States is at war… shall willfully make or convey false reports, or false statements… or incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct… the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, or… shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States… or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully… urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production… or advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated and whoever shall by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war or by word or act oppose the cause of the United States therein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both.

During World War I, federal prosecutors enacted the Espionage Act in over 2,000 cases. While no convictions resulted from charges of spying or sabotage, 1,055 convictions resulted from prohibitions on free speech under the Espionage and Sedition Acts, largely targeting labor leaders, civil rights activists, Black and leftist journalists and publishers, war critics, pacifists, anti-conscription activists, socialists, communists, anarchists and civil libertarians.

In 1919 the Supreme Court actively safeguarded the Espionage Act against constitutional challenges in Schenck v. United States. This case involved Charles T. Schenck, the secretary of the Socialist Party of America, who was convicted by a lower court under the Espionage Act after engaging in counter military recruitment activities by distributing leaflets that encouraged prospective military draftees to refuse military service. The first side of Schenck’s leaflet argued that the Conscription Act (the draft) violated the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibition on involuntary servitude and was a “monstrous wrong against humanity in the interest of Wall Street’s chosen few.” It urged recipients to “petition for the repeal of the act” because the war was being spun by “cunning politicians and a mercenary capitalist press.” Schenck appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court, arguing that his First Amendment rights were violated. The Court ruled against Schenck, with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. stating:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic… The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.

Thus, the well-known legal rationale against “falsely shouting fire in a theatre” became a metaphor for the limits of free speech in America, namely serving as code against dissent that disrupts U.S. hegemony. Schenck went on to serve six months in a federal prison.

During the same period, the U.S. Supreme Court also upheld the conviction of labor leader and Socialist Party of America presidential candidate Eugene Debs, who was charged under the Espionage Act for making an anti-war speech in 1918. Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison. This was not the first time Debs had been imprisoned for his “un-American” activities, yet the Espionage Act served its purpose in making it easier to silence Debs (and other dissidents), hopefully once and for all.

The Supreme Court case of Stokes v. United States (1920) involved the prosecution of reproductive rights and labor activist Rose Pastor Stokes, who was given a ten year prison sentence for simply writing in a local newspaper, “No government which is for the profiteers can also be for the people, and I am for the people, while the government is for the profiteers.”

In 1917 Chandler Owen and A. Philip Randolph, the publishers of the Black political and literary magazine The Messenger, were arrested under the Espionage Act when they wrote:

Our claim is to appeal to reason, to lift our pens above the cringing demagogy of the times… Patriotism has no appeal to us; justice has. Party has no weight with us; principle has. Loyalty meaningless; it depends on what one is loyal to. Prayer is not one of our remedies; it depends on what one is praying for. We consider prayer as nothing more than a fervent wish; consequently, the merit and worth of a prayer depend upon what the fervent wish is.

Some Supreme Court decisions that reinforced the Espionage and Sedition Acts did not target radicals or dissidents. One such case involved the United States v. Nagler in 1918, which led to the conviction of the Assistant Secretary of State for the State of Wisconsin, Louis B. Nagler. Nagler was prosecuted after simply telling a group of YMCA or the Red Cross canvassers for the war effort who showed up at his office door, “I am through contributing to your private grafts. There is too much graft in these subscriptions. No, I do not believe in the work of the YMCA or the Red Cross, for I believe they are nothing but a bunch of grafters.”

In the case of the United States v. The Spirit of ’76, Robert Goldstein, the producer of the patriotic Revolutionary War movie The Spirit of ’76, was charged under the Espionage Act in 1917 for his film’s graphically unfavorable portrayal of Great Britain, which was America’s primary World War I ally. Federal prosecutors charged that Goldstein had deliberately made a pro-German movie to impugn America’s ally, incite disloyalty and obstruct military conscription. Goldstein who was Jewish (Anti-Semitism was rife in the U.S.) and of German descent, claimed that his intent in making the film was to make money and boost the patriotic mood of the country. He was given a ten-year prison sentence and fined $5,000.

The Sedition Act was repealed in 1921 while the Alien Enemies Act of 1798 and the Espionage Act of 1917 have endured into the 21st century. According to Emily Peterson, “The Espionage Act is so vague and poorly defined in its terms, that it’s hard to say exactly what it does and does not cover.”

Diluting the Impact of Popular Sentiments

The Constitution dictates that an Electoral College, not the general electorate or a majority of citizen voters, will choose the U.S. president. Within this undemocratic scheme, voters are actually casting a vote for presidential “electors” tied to the major elite political parties of each state, the numbers of which are based on the number of state Congressional seats. These electors are collectively known as the Electoral College. According to Article II of the Constitution, “Each state shall appoint, such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress.” Translation: state legislatures, not citizens within a state, decide which presidential candidate will receive the state’s electoral votes. These appointed electors, who make up the anonymous Electoral College, are in essence political establishment insiders, who are subject to lobbying efforts, and in many states can roguely decide who they vote for, or if they will even vote at all. According to FairVote, for a presidential candidate to win an election within this system, one must receive over half of the Electoral College votes (in the 21st century, that would be 270 electoral votes out of the 538 national electors). The result is that presidential elections are largely symbolic exercises intended to keep the masses tied to the established order, where the democratic principle of one-person one-vote is prohibited.

As Dahl and Lazare point out, the U.S. Supreme Court was established to exist outside of any form of democratic deliberation and public scrutiny. Instead, imperious and impervious Supreme Court justices are appointed for life by a president and confirmed by a semi-aristocratic Senate (to this day), of which was chosen by state legislatures until 1913. The more popularly elected (yet also largely wealthy) House of Representatives were excluded from these deliberations. This leaves the Supreme Court—the least democratic branch of government—responsible for deciding if and how the rights of the masses are recognized and dispersed, while “elected” representatives stand idle. Accordingly Lazare notes, “rallying behind the Supreme Court” means “rallying behind the Constitution in toto” and “ignoring the constitutional system’s many unsavory aspects.”

The founders’ crafty and abstruse power-sharing arrangement made it difficult to determine where true authority lay, be it in Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme Court or the citizenry at the municipal, state or federal level. As Lazare put it, instead of having a form of government that would serve as “an instrument that ‘We the People’ would create and shape to further our own rule” the Constitution solidified a system of government intended to “create and shape the people in order to further its own rule.” Instead of being a government “of the people” it would be a government “over the people.” Parenti goes on to explain that in keeping with their desire to disenfranchise the majority, the founders included these “auxiliary precautions” that were “designed to fragment power without democratizing it.” Parenti goes on to explain:

In separating the executive, legislative, and judiciary functions and then providing a system of checks and balances among the various branches, including staggered elections, executive veto, Senate confirmation of appointments and ratification of treaties, and a bicameral legislature, they hoped to dilute the impact of popular sentiments. They also contrived an elaborate and difficult process for amending the Constitution.

Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution plays a crucial role in the founders’ undemocratic design by requiring a process whereby a proposed Constitutional amendment has to first pass a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, or through a convention called by Congress based on a request from two-thirds of the states. If a proposed amendment successfully traverses its way through either pathway, it then has to be ratified by three-quarters of state legislatures. As University of Chicago Law School professor Eric Posner describes it, “Any proposal to amend the Constitution is idle because it’s effectively impossible… an amendment requires a supermajority twice—the pig must pass through two pythons.” Two hundred years later, after 11,539 proposed amendments, only 27 have been ratified. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments which expanded status rights to former slaves, passed only because the defeated and occupied South was strong-armed into ratifying them, yet as examined later, were not compelled to enforce them. Between 1870 and today only 12 amendments have been enacted, with the last one taking 203 years to be ratified. Posner goes to point out how this labyrinth has led to a reliance on begging the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution in new ways by hiring “lawyers to formulate their proposals as already reflected in the Constitution rather than argue that the Constitution got the position wrong and so should be changed.” According to Gordon Wood, the very concept of democracy was hijacked and appropriated by the U.S. Constitution in that:

By the end of the debate over the Constitution, it was possible for the Federalists to describe the new national government, even with its indirectly elected president and Senate, as “a perfectly democratical form of government.” The houses of representatives lost their exclusive connection with the people. Representation was now identified simply with election; thus, all elected officials, and, for some, even those not elected, such as judges, were considered somehow “representative” of the people. Democracy rapidly became a generic label for all American government.

In addition to the undemocratic federal government, all 50 states would, in time, establish state constitutions modeled after the federal constitution (to varying degrees), with legislative and executive branches that are semi-popularly elected to develop and administer policies and laws; with state Supreme Courts that preside over legal appeals. State constitutions also establish mechanisms for local governance at the county, municipal or township level where voters popularly elect some variation of town or city managers and/or councils to make and administer local policies and ordinances. It is at the municipal level that the more direct forms of democracy were possible, at least for white men. The town meeting model, where all eligible voters meet to make local governance decisions and elect officials to implement their decisions, was a common form of local governance during the 18th and 19th centuries. State and municipal governments also have a sordid history concerning suffrage rights, often disenfranchising groups of people based on race, ethnicity, religion, class and gender.

The original Constitution left complete discretion to individual states in determining voter qualifications, rules on absentee voting, polling hours and election funding. In most states there is a lot of leeway given to counties in crafting their own ballots, designing and implementing their own voter education programs, deciding how they will handle overseas ballots, the ability to hire and train poll workers, choosing polling locations and in how to maintain their voter registration lists.

Over time (between 1870 to 1972), with the enactment of the 14th, 15th, 19th 23rd, 24th and 26th Constitutional Amendments, various forms of legal discrimination were explicitly prohibited when establishing qualifications for suffrage. It is still legally permissible for states to deny the “right to vote” for other reasons and many have effectively done so as a means to continue to disenfranchise groups of people based on race, ethnicity and class. The 17th Amendment, which enabled U.S. Senators to be directly elected, did not result from popular democratic strivings. Instead, it resulted from pundit and legislator frustrations over corruption, instability, conflict and deadlock due to the indirect process hampering legislative efficiency. In her book Electoral Dysfunction: A Survival Manual for American Voters, Victoria Bassetti sums up suffrage rights this way:

The original document establishing our government acknowledges and weaves slavery deeply into our society. Women cannot vote. Two of the three major federal officers, President and Senator, are not voted on by the people. And there is not a right to vote in the Constitution. The word ‘vote’ appears in the Constitution as originally drafted only in relation to how representatives, senators, and presidential electors perform their duties. Representatives vote. But the people’s vote is not mentioned.

The Bill of Rights did not change this fact. Over two hundred years later the Supreme Court appointed George Bush to be president, and in the process reaffirmed this point in their decision by stating, “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” The double rub here is that the court was referring to a citizen’s rights to vote for Electoral College electors, not the right to vote directly for a presidential candidate.

While allowing citizens to feel as though they have a voice in the political system, the form of “democracy” outlined in the Constitution is clearly designed to impede the citizenry from determining both domestic and foreign policy. Ultimately, the founders crafted a system that allowed select groups of people to have the right to citizenship, privileging a smaller proportion of them to indirectly choose the best “men of substance,” filtered through narrowly prescribed partisan commitments as a means to preserve the wealth and power of the post-revolutionary ruling class. Within this constitutional framework, hegemonic cultural scripts tied to institutional authority perpetuate systemic inequities. In a constitutional republic without positive constitutional rights that mandate parity of political participation and economic redistribution, whilst remedying existing cultural prohibitions on recognition and representation rights; social equity and economic equality will persistently be denied, undermined and contested.

“Unfit to associate with the white race”

One can choose to believe the various cultural myths about how the freedom loving founders despised slavery, but did not work to end it based on a variety of factors, including: timing, not wanting to disrupt a widely accepted and profitable institution, and the need to accommodate the southern plantation system. No matter the rationale, the truth is that it was not in the founders’ political and economic interests to do so, nor is there evidence that they had the moral capacity to end one of the most horrific enterprises in human history. What is clear is that the U.S. Constitution was written to protect slavery while empowering slaveholders in numerous ways. This was demonstrated by General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney’s boastings in front of the South Carolina House of Representatives following the Constitutional Convention about how slavery was secured within the Constitution:

We have a security that the general government can never emancipate them [slaves], for no such authority is granted and it is admitted, on all hands, that the general government has no powers but what are expressly granted by the Constitution, and that all rights not expressed were reserved by the several states.

As documented by Barbara Fields, the Constitution’s three-fifths clause, states were allowed to count three-fifths of their slaves in apportioning representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College. This effectively increased the political power of southern states and thus granted greater protections for the institution of slavery. This disproportionate political power through the Electoral College led to Thomas Jefferson’s 1800 presidential win. The Constitution also had a provision (fugitive slave clause) that aided slaveholders in recovering fugitive slaves, particularly those who sought sanctuary in “free” states and territories. It protected slave-owners rights to human property and made the act of aiding a fugitive slave a constitutional offense. The Second Amendment is also considered to have been, in part, a means to protect slave-owners from slave insurrections.

Another Constitutional provision focused on the highly lucrative enterprise that was the Atlantic slave trade. It read in part, “[t]he migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808.” It also allowed for “a tax or duty” to be “imposed on such importation…” for as long as the trade remained legal. This did not mean that slavery was to be abolished in 1808, but only that the import of new slaves would be discontinued.

As with settler colonialism, America’s domestic slave trade is the story of the founding of the United States. As many scholars have documented, including Du Bois, McInnis and Finkelman, the slave trade was a major economic engine, which fueled the prosperity of the new nation, with profits from enslaved people flowing to many locations in the North and South. Traders and slave owners throughout the South profited by selling human property while others profited from the forced labor it provided in the cotton and sugar fields. So did intermediary suppliers along with carriers in the steamboat, railroad and shipping industries. Naturally, northern capitalists profited as investors in banks in the exchange of money for people as did the companies that provided insurance for the owners’ investments in enslaved labor. So did foreign investors in Southern securities, some of which were issued on mortgaged slaves. The hub of the nation’s cotton textile industry was based in New England, where “enlightened” gentry enriched themselves from the misery of southern slave labor.

Following its Constitutional mandate, the Act of 1807 was the legislation that officially ended U.S. participation in the international slave trade, but not the domestic slave trade. It levied heavy fines and possible imprisonment on those who attempted to import slaves to the United States. This piece of legislation was underfunded and often not enforced, and when it was enforced, it was another source of revenue with its stiff fines and valuable legal merchandise. These realities enabled a smaller yet profitable human smuggling industry to exist in the U.S. until the middle of the 19th century. When illegal smugglers were caught, their human merchandise was seized and sold to U.S. slave owners (Du Bois, Fehrenbacher and Finkelman). The Constitution would continuously be used until the Civil War to defend the institution of slavery from federal intervention and actions taken by an increasingly militant abolition movement.

In 1857 the Supreme Court ruled on the Dred Scott v. Sanford case, based on Scott’s lawsuit to gain his and his family’s freedom in the slave state of Missouri after they had previously lived in a free state and territory. In delivering the majority decision against Scott, Chief Justice Roger Taney held that under the terms of the U.S. Constitution, Black people “could never be citizens of the United States.” Taney explained that when the Constitution was ratified, Blacks were “regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights that the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his own benefit.”

The standing of free Black Americans under the Constitution remained vague for decades to come. The Bill of Rights did not defend free Black Americans from municipal and state laws intent on depriving them of (parchment barrier) Constitutional rights. This cultural and legal reality set the stage for Jim Crow laws in the South and its manifestations nationwide into the 21st century.

In an 1852 Fourth of July speech, the formidable Fredrick Douglas called out the true nature of the institution of slavery in the United States:

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

Conclusion

While the Bill of Rights and a few subsequent amendments have provided some democratizing effects, they have strictly been limited to affirmative remedies for injustices (instead of transformative remedies associated with dismantling). These tend to be reformist in nature and as Nancy Fraser frames such measures, are “aimed at correcting inequitable outcomes of social arrangements without disturbing the underlying framework that generates them.” Affirmative “remedies” are thus akin to negative rights and often come from state and private powers making limited and ultimately temporary accommodations to justice-seeking collective struggles, frequently through the utilization of disruptive tactics and strategies. In contrast, the inherently violent cultural, political and economic structures that are protected by the U.S. Constitution prohibit transformative remedies intended (analogous to positive rights) to eliminate the root causes of social inequity and economic inequality. According to historian Howard Zinn the American Revolution and its resulting Constitution, “was a work of genius” in that it “created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times, and showed future generations of leaders the advantages of combining paternalism with command.”

At its core, the U.S. Constitution was designed to safeguard a settler colonial society overseen by the supreme laws of capitalism, Christianity, white supremacy and heteropatriarchy. By doing so, it entrenched deep structural disparities in participation that subvert collective strivings for social, economic and political justice. This denial of the basic means and opportunities for all inhabitants of a society to directly contest and deliberate as equals violates the very nature of public reason, the principle by which liberal democracies define themselves (as the U.S. defines itself). Moreover, for a society to be authentically democratic—as an essential determinant of justice—parity of participation is required to serve as the idiom of public contestation and deliberation whereby status equality and the equitable distribution of wealth can be attained. This would require a constitutional framework derived from the principles and practices of participatory parity, where positive rights as well as equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are indisputable.

With the advent of the U.S. Constitution and its consolidation of cultural, political, and economic power; slave owners and “captains of industry” alike were made to feel more secure knowing that a state or territorial governor could rely on a swift federal response when domestic disturbances was beyond the control of local police and state militia (Beard).

With the arrival of the 19th century, mercantilism and the smaller agrarian economy of the settler colonies of the U.S. were quickly being toppled, largely influenced by the 1776 publication of Scottish economist Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Smith’s magnum opus became the recipe for free-market capitalism, and is said to have been enthusiastically embraced by the founders of the new republic, and became the ideological and structural framework for the U.S. political economy. In Wealth of Nations Smith affirmed, over a decade prior to the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, that a, “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

Decades after the drafting of the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams proudly declaring, “from 15 to 20 legislatures of our own, in action for 30 years past, have proved that no fears of an equalization of property are to be apprehended from them.” Indeed, the U.S. Constitution was serving its purpose in guaranteeing that inequality would remain the supreme law of the land—at an increasing rate—far into the future. In the decades ahead, as industrial capitalism flourished and the settler colonial empire expanded, so would U.S. nationalism, constructing a base and superstructure Jefferson and his peers could have only dreamed of; one that would perfectly buttress the despotic structures they deeply embedded within their beloved Constitution.

What Are They Hiding about the USA Attack on Syria?

What are the events that led to the first direct military attack against the Syrian government by the USA? We are told that “on the morning of the 4th of April, in the Khan Shaykhun region, the Syrian airforce bombarded civilians with chemical weapons.”

Video montage and Gebelism

This was the accusation put forward by the jihadists who control the region. They presented a video, a product of malicious editing, with somebody presented as a volunteer doctor, who was later identified as a criminal known to the British justice for his involvement in terrorism and abductions.

In the video that appeared on the Internet (where else?), there appear tens of victims of the supposed attack with chemical weapons. The main protagonists were little children, even babies, supposedly the main victims of this attack by the Assad regime. There has been no other confirmation of this incident or of these accusations whatsoever.

Nevertheless, the western media of mass misinformation went wild against Assad to a degree that they really exceeded all extremes. A characteristic example is the front page of the next day (5th of April) of the French Libération, where they presented a collage with dead underage children as victims of Assad. When the obvious question was put to the director of this leftist and supposedly progressive newspaper as to how she knew that it was really Assad who murdered these children, and by using chemicals, she replied that she considered this fact to be more or less a given and that, consequently, the objective of the front page was to enrage people, and to turn them against the regime that stubbornly denies having committed such an atrocious crime.

Of course if newspapers like Libération worked in a civilised state that respected its citizens, justice would immediately have intervened, at least for deliberate instigation of hate and provocation of war. But even today, France is under a modern Dark Age dictatorship, where Big Brother slogans dominate: Truth is lies. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength!

The decision for the attack

The next day, the 6th of April, Reuters broadcasted that the results of an autopsy confirmed that chemical weapons were actually used at the attack. Where did the autopsy take place? In Turkey. What’s more, the results of the autopsy showed that chemical weapons were used in the attack – that killed at least seventy people in the region of Idlib in Syria – according to announcements of the Turkish Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdağ. Thirty two victims of the Tuesday attack were supposed to have been transported to Turkey, where the autopsy also took place.

But even if there really was an autopsy proving that the dead were victims of a chemical attack, how is it inferred (or deduced) that the Syrian Airforce is responsible for this attack? Certainly not due to the autopsy of the victims. In order to find those accountable for the attack with chemicals, an autopsy of the spot where the attack took place is required, and this has not happened so far. But this is just small letters and useless details for the stupid journalists and their bosses. These announcements (through the video) were sufficient for the president of the USA, Donald Trump, to directly accuse the government of Syria and Bashar al-Assad personally, of crossing the ‘red line’ with the poison gas attack against non-combatants, and he announced that his handling of the case of Syria and Assad had changed. Since then, the road has been wide open for the first military strike against the official government of Syria.

Using 59 tomahawks…

The next day, 7th of April, at 3:40 early in the morning (local time), the attack against Syria began, with fifty nine Tomahawk missiles, launched from the guided missile cruiser USS Ross (DDG 71) and USS Porter (DDG 78), class Arleigh Burke, that were located in the Mediterranean. The target was the Shayrat airbase of the Syrian air force, which was according to the USA announcements, the one that launched the attack with the chemical weapons. Once more there no evidence was presented.

At this airbase, which was not in the first line of the military operations of the Syrian airforce and the Russians, targets were hit, including mainly the two runways as well as the hangars housing airplanes of the Syrian air force that had been grounded for a long period. According to the Syrian government, there were fourteen dead, half of them civilians.

However, the damage to the airport was not significant, since twelve hours later it was again ready to operate. Videos taken the day after show that the runways were operational. Even the images that the Pentagon released of the attack on Sheyrat airport do not show extensive damage, which would be expected after an attack with fifty nine Tomahawks.

The Pentagon insists that all the Tomahawk missiles found their target. However, this is refuted not only by the images that the Pentagon itself released, but also by the announcements of the Russian Ministry of Defence that only twenty three Tomahawks found their target. What happened to the rest? They certainly did not hit other targets: neither the Pentagon claims such a thing, and nor have the Syrian authorities shown any craters created by Tomahawks, apart from those at the airport.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres expresses his concern

The same day on which the USA launched the attack against Syria, the UN Security Council delayed a vote for a resolution regarding the incident with chemicals in Syria. Three competing plans for a resolution were submitted to the Security Council. The joint resolution put forward by the United Kingdom, the USA and France asked the Syrian authorities to provide the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with all the information regarding the flights of their military air force that took place on the day of the incident, and to allow free access to their military establishments around the specific region where the attack took place.

It is worth noticing that the plan of the three does not mention any specific military establishment, despite the fact that the USA announced that they have some precise information that the attack with chemicals was launched from the Shayrat airport, the one that they hit with their Tomahawks. And of course it does not ask for the obvious: to extend the investigation in order to confirm the incident in the area that was hit with the chemicals. Why is that?

The plan that Russia proposed asks exactly for this extension. It asked for a complete investigation into the incident to be conducted by UN and OPCW specialists, first and foremost in the area that is claimed to have been hit by chemicals, and it asks for all the participants in the conflict to cooperate. The third plan was proposed by the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council in an attempt to reach a compromise between the differences of the two other plans.

Unprecedented unilateral action by the USA

In this way, Trump made a unilateral decision to hit Syria without any trace of evidence that the Assad government was responsible for the supposed attack with chemical weapons in the Idlib region. Even more, he took this decision without any kind of international justification from the UN Security Council, not even a resolution with misleading terms, as in the case of Gaddafi’s Libya.

Trump invoked as an excuse for the missile attack on Syria the “vital national security and foreign policy interests of the USA,” as he characteristically mentioned in the letter he sent to inform the Congress on the 8th of April. And in order to present himself as legitimate he invoked the authority to start military action based on a common resolution of the Congress and the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148 of 1973), even though this resolution only authorises the president of USA to start military action after an official declaration of war, or in the case of a direct military threat against the integrity of the USA.

It is the first time since George Bush – and his ‘coalition of the willing’ – who declared the Third World War, that a president of the USA goes ahead with a military action against a sovereign state in such a shameless manner and lacking any shred of even a pretext of legality, even invoking the ‘vital interests’ of his country, when there is not even a virtual threat against the USA. This has not been officially heard on the international scene since the Hitler era, who entered into the Second World War in order to defend the ‘vital interests’ of his country.

Mrs. Hina Shamsi, director of the powerful and quite regime-oriented American Civil Liberties Union, wrote regarding the legality of the attack on Syria:

Nobody questions that the use of chemical weapons by Bassar al-Assad against Syrian citizens is illegal, immoral and unacceptable. But Assad’s lawfulness is not an excuse for an unlawful reply. By ignoring not only the constitutional law disapproving of using violence without the congress’s approval but also the international law which does not allow the unilateral use of violence except in case of self defence, president Trump has started a unilateral attack against a state that did not attack us, and without any congressional permission. This violates some of the most significant legal restrictions on the use of violence. (“U.S. Strikes in Syria Are an Illegal Response to Atrocity,” Speak Freely, American Civil Liberties Union, April 7, 2017).

The first target of the attack

Well, that’s the first real target of the missile attack in Syria; to enable the president of the USA to get rid of every strict legal restriction deriving from both the Constitution and international law, in terms of provoking and conducting war according to how he himself estimates the vital interests of his country. And this is unprecedented, even for an American president.

Before Trump, nobody else had dared to do so. They always looked for a legal pretext of a supposed ‘national emergency’ for the USA, or at least some kind of international backing from the Security Council. No need for alibis and feelings of shame any more.

Whoever is arbitrarily considered by the president as a threat to the ‘vital interests’ of the USA may be hit by a military attack. Without even needing to apply the typical procedures that are required by the USA constitution, nor even more the procedures required by international law. This is about the imperial right to declare and conduct war, solely on the emperor’s judgement. And this makes the world more dangerous than ever.

In other eras there would be many people rising and demanding the resignation of the president, because he had committed what no post-war president dared to commit. There would be organisations of civil and political rights, judges, senators and members of parliament rising up. But now they are all dead silent. But there are none of the famous system of checks and balances of the so called American democracy, supposed to exist in order to limit this kind of presidential behaviour.

No measures have been taken against a president whom, not long ago, almost everybody had risen against and of whom they were demanding that he step down for forbidding the entrance to the USA of citizens from certain states. The most arbitrary bombardment of a state was needed in order for everybody to calm down, make peace with Trump and recognise his imperial right to make war. And in this way they prepare the ground in order to prove that Trump is the most dangerous president of the USA for international peace.

The second target of the attack

The second real target was Syria itself. In Syria the Assad armed forces, with the contribution of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah but also the Kurds, have in essence predominated against the mercenaries of the ‘armed opposition’ and the jihadists. And this predominating was the first big defeat of the policy of involvement against sovereign states and breaking them up, that Washington and Brussels have followed since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early Nineties.

This fact put the legitimate Assad government and the coalition of the political forces that support it, back as the leading factor of the future developments in post war Syria. Assad’s predominance was such, that the return of refugees from neighbouring countries was already on its way.

It is characteristic that the financial market sharks, masking themselves as capital donors, had already started discussions with the Assad government for the fast rebuilding of Syria. Only two days before Trump’s attack on Syria, it became known that donors from all around the world had promised 5.5 billion euros in financial aid for Syria, with Germany declaring that Europe should be ashamed that it does not do more, given the efforts by the Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey (EUObserver, April 5, 2017).

The vultures smelled the burned flesh, an unprecedented destruction amounting to close on 70% of Syrian infrastructure, and in addition 13.5 million refugees, according to the UN, who have to return to their homeland. This is the time of incredible profits for the building industry.

But this cannot happen with Assad at the steering wheel, and with a sovereign, intact and undivided Syria. This is what neither the USA nor Europe are able to accept. Syria must be broken up by whatever means, and Assad can at most remain ruler only of Damascus and its surroundings. But the breaking up operation could any more materialise with the mercenary jihadists from the USA, Europe and Turkey. The USA military forces had to take action. On Syrian soil.

The military intervention of the USA in Syria

The pretext is there. It is the war against Al-Qaeda and the Caliphate. Using the war for the retaking of Mosul as a pretext, about two months ago the Pentagon released military vehicle units outside Raqqa, supposedly for the occupation of the Caliphate capital inside Syria.

Raqqa is of strategic importance for the break-up of Syria. It is the epicenter of the biggest surface and subterranean water deposits of Syria. At the same time it is close to the M4 highway, which makes easy access from Turkey and Iraq, and the the road that passes from Raqqa itself in essence divides Syria in two.

Therefore, both for the Syrian military forces and the Americans — for entirely different reasons — Raqqa is of top strategic importance. But the Americans are unable to operate in the region without the help of the Kurds. For this reason Washington has already had an agreement with Kurdish chiefs for the creation of a Kurdish state with parts of Syria and Iraq.

Great Kurdistan

According to documents revealed by the Inside Syria Media Center on the 24th of March the authorities of the USA and Kurds of Syria reached an agreement last week regarding the borders of the Kurdish autonomous region on Syrian soil, that the Americans guarantee to the Kurds, provided that the Kurds help them to occupy Raqqa and Al-Tabqah (thirty four miles west of Raqqa). In addition, Washington has already defined the borders of the new state of Great Kurdistan on Syrian and Iraqi soil, which must be created after the defeat of the Caliphate and the final collapse of the Syrian Arab Republic.

But contrary to the American plans, the forces of Assad, with the help of Russia, Hezbollah and Iran, are now much closer to capturing Raqqa as well as Al-Tampa. In that case, even the Kurdish chiefs will be forced to negotiate with Assad. And the USA is already in a very difficult position.

How could this possibility be overturned? In two ways: the first possibility would be to reinforce the USA military presence on Syrian soil; however, the transfer of powerful ground forces without air cover and protection is not possible. The second possibility would be to push the Kurds against Assad. However, this would leave the Kurds exposed to Erdogan, who does not want in any way to be left out of the division of Syrian and Iraqi territory. And the Kurds know this better than anybody. What is left? The immediate reinforcement of the American army on Syrian soil. The Americans already have a motorised brigade ready to operate in the Raqqa-Tampa region, using Iraq as a base. But this is not enough. They urgently need additional forces as well as air cover.

The Russian A2/AD system

But how is it possible to send more military forces, ignoring the Russians, the Iranians and most importantly the Anti-Access/Area Denial system A2/AD that the Russians have installed in Syria? The system A2/AD is a weapon used in order to prevent an opponent from capturing or passing through a ground, sea or air region.

This specific method that is used is not necessary to be absolutely effective on preventing the passage of enemy forces. It is sufficient to delay drastically, retard or put in danger the enemy. The fear of great losses is keeping the enemy away from the ground, sea and air that is protected by A2/AD.

The Russians have the most advanced A2/AD systems in the world. They are so advanced, that the USA and NATO do not have a satisfactory countermeasure, at least for the present.

Russia developed these systems in response to the supreme ability of NATO to operate air strikes on a massive scale. Therefore, Russia has created large Anti-Access/Area Denial zones or ‘bubbles’ around the countries of the Baltic, the Black sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Arctic. These ‘bubbles’ allow Moscow to deny the use of airspace, ground and sea in these regions and to limit drastically the transit of airplanes, ships and ground forces in case of a crisis.

At the official announcement after the Warsaw Summit at 8-9 July 2016, NATO expressed its concern at these developments, declaring that it will not accept limitations on the free transit of alliance forces from Anti-Access/Area Denial zones. And the reason is simple. This way NATO loses its advantage of massive surprise air strikes from big distance as a preparation for ground operations.

Tomahawks have tried the system A2/AD

This was therefore the basic USA military target: to test the capabilities of the A2/AD system that has been installed in Syria; and to check what will be the percentage of losses and to evaluate operationally how they can penetrate the system’s net, without prohibitive losses.

This way Trump did what Obama did not dare to do in 2013, using as a pretext a similar attack with chemical weapons at the eastern Ghouta region in August of the same year. Several countries, including France, the UK and USA examined the possibility of intervening militarily against the Syrian government forces. On the 6th September 2013, the US Senate adopted a resolution for the use of military force against the Syrian army as a response to the Ghouta attack. On the 10th of September 2013, the military intervention was prevented when the Assad government accepted the USA-Russia side agreement to give up all its stock of chemical weapons for destruction, and declared its willingness to enter the Chemical Weapons Convention.

This is the convention that the Syrian army supposedly violated with the attack on the 4th of April. Despite the various controlled voices that wanted then to blame the Assad government in order to legitimise a direct strike, finally the investigation proved that the jihadists were responsible for the attack with chemical weapons in Ghouta. On January 2014 a team of specialists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published its results. The essay, by Richard Loyd, an ex-UN armaments inspector, and Theodor Postol, an MIT professor, was entitled ‘Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence’. It examined the missile’s design and calculated all possible orbits based on its useful load.

The authors concluded that it would be impossible to launch the gas sarin from territory under the control of the forces of the Assad government.

You cannot fail to notice the similarity of the two incidents regarding their management and propaganda. And despite the fact that today we know exactly who and why of the ‘armed opposition’ mercenaries set up the provocation using chemical weapons in order to create a pretext for military intervention by the USA and NATO against Syria, the stupid journalists and the mass media continue to attribute to Assad this attack with chemical weapons.

What stopped the military intervention at the time, especially since Obama had ensured the Congress’s agreement. The main reason was the A2/AD that Syria already had, with Russia’s help. At that time Obama wanted to send the British and French air forces first, in order to test the effectiveness of the ‘bubble’. But the two US allies did not oblige.

The political cost of a failed military operation forced Obama to rethink and forget for the moment a military attack against Syria; and what Obama did not dare to do, Trump arbitrarily dared to do.

Russia advances its Integrated Air Defense System (IADS) in Syria. (Institute for the Study of War)


Backed by Crete

What was the result? Only twenty three of the fifty nine Tomahawks found their target. The rest fell in the sea due to the A2/AD system. This is 39% accuracy, or better expressed 61% losses. For an accurate weapon such as the Tomahawk these percentages are utterly unacceptable and may well depress the Pentagon and NATO headquarters.

Suppose that the USA were trying to hit its target with an airplane raid. Out of one hundred aircraft, at least sixty one would not return to base; and in fact it would be even worse, as the A2/AD system is much more effective against aircraft than against Cruise and Tomahawk missiles. Imagine the cost of such an operation for the USA and its allies.

The Tomahawk missiles were launched two thousand kilometres away from their target in Syria. The USA cruisers involved were in the sea region of Crete, so in the case of a Russian counterattack they could be protected by the Souda American Military Base in Crete.

In Crete the most powerful radar exists. It is currently being upgraded by the Israeli army, and is out of Russian range. Of course, the reinforcement of the Russian fleet near Cyprus with frigates and cruisers from the Black Sea fleet gives Russia the ability to extend the denial zone up to Crete in order to hit targets even at its proximity. All this in case Trump carries out his threats to continue with his attacks.

From a military point of view, the operation was a complete failure for the USA, not only because they were unable to penetrate the ‘bubble’ of A2/AD with reasonable losses, but because they were also unable to provide efficient air cover for a possible ground operation of their own in Syria. Neither it is easy, due again to the ‘bubble,’ to remove sufficient ground forces of tanks, artillery and helicopters from Iraq to Syria inland. They can only do that with the agreement of the Russians and Assad.

All this of course does not mean that Trump will just sit waiting. His aggressiveness will increase. The hits next time will have greater dispersion and will be from air, sea and ground. Israel is already preparing to contribute. With them also the Greek air force, which is an easy target for the Russians, is trying to find a way of penetrating the A2/AD system.

This is why Greece has regular joint air force exercises with Israel and the USA. Even above Athens’ air region, for the first time ever. And we have the suitable political system for this to take place. Crete has already been surrendered in order to become an unsinkable aircraft carrier for Israel and USA, as the Greek Defence Minister, Mr. Kammenos, has already announced.

And all of us are waiting for the inevitable fate, even having stupid journalists in our country as well as various analysts (not named here but known to all) preparing the next step of the military attack on Syria from Greek ground, air and sea territory, trying at the same time to reassure the idle and naïve with stupidities regarding the ‘failure’ of the Russian and Syrian air defence.

They are obviously aiming to persuade fools of their kind, who believe that the Americans will protect us and the Russians will leave us alone, to send the hawks from Greek territory to infiltrate their own A2/AD security zones. You see, stupidity is contagious.

The Tories’ Election Campaign: Empty Rhetoric Repeated Ad Nauseam

Just in case you missed it, “strong and stable leadership” repeated ad nauseam is the campaign mantra of the Tory party for the incoming General Election. So just before our brains cease to function by the repetition of this empty slogan, let us unpick this mantra: strength in itself is not always good. One could be strong and wrong. Strength could be used by a bully to intimidate, and oppress the weak and vulnerable. As for “stable leadership”, well, the most stable leadership is a dictatorship. Do we want that? We, the electorate, should engage our brains, before we get swept away by these advertising tricks, that are coined to numb our senses, and overwhelm our intellect by shear repetition.

It is now clear how the Tories are going to run their election campaign, empty slogans and rhetoric. Negative campaigning, and the demonisation of a principled sincere leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. It is a campaign based on fear, telling the voters “stick with us because the alternative is worse”. They don’t want us, the voters, to examine their records of economic incompetence, meanness and cruelty to the vulnerable and the poor.

The lives of the many are now characterised by worry and insecurity in essential aspects – insecurity at work, zero-contract hours, wages not keeping up with the cost of living, debt, and fear of homelessness. That is the reality of the many, particularly our young. Yet the country seems to be paralysed by fear, hopelessness, and a resignation that there is no alternative to this way of running things.

Our public services and infrastructure are deteriorating visibly due to lack of investment. The education of our children and grandchildren is being compromised in spite of the efforts of our excellent teachers to mitigate the cuts in school budgets. The NHS is desperate for more money to keep it afloat as the need for health and social care increases with an ageing population.

In foreign affairs, this government has created an atmosphere where simply to question the wisdom of firing missiles and bombs in foreign countries is branded unpatriotic, and a danger to the security of the country.

As for the grotesque inequality between the 1% and the rest; yes, you can say it is not good. But try to suggest remedies to address it such as higher taxes for the very rich, higher corporation tax, oh no, that is anti-business and an attack on the entrepreneurial spirit. We should all be grateful to all those billionaires as they create jobs and we mustn’t do anything to inconvenience them.

Suggesting that trade unions should be strengthened to bring some balance of power between bosses and workers is considered too left-wing and radical. The whole thing then boils down to, yes, you may criticise inequality but don’t take any action that may help to reduce it. Anyone who suggests such things is a dangerous, Marxist lefty that should be demonised and ridiculed at every opportunity.

The media is not helping to promote another vision distinct from that of the Tories. Let us put the tabloid press aside, our broadcasting media is not being fair either. Every utterance by the Green Party or the Labour party is forensically examined and scrutinised while the Tories are given an easy ride. Journalists, please be fair and do your duty. The defeatist talk, combined with doom and gloom expressed by many Labour MPs and grandees, is sapping strength and morale from the enthusiastic young who joined the Party, energised by Jeremy Corbyn leadership, who passionately believe a better Britain is possible.

This alternative vision of Britain is articulated by the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and the Green Party. It envisages a Britain that can truly work for the many and not the privileged few, with policies to make it happen, a Britain that works to reduce the nationalistic aggressive tendencies that are ratcheting tension worldwide, a Britain that concentrates on the rule of law, negotiations, and discussions to bring understanding and peace between nations and within nations.

We must hope that the British electorate is sophisticated enough to see through the empty xenophobic rhetoric of the Tories, and to embrace the alternative, and with it hope for a better future for all.