The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865, reads as follows:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Contrary to popular opinion, the United States Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution did not end legalized slavery in this country. Convicted criminals are eligible to be subject to the condition as a part of punishment for their crimes. With the advent of prison privatization and the constant search for cheap labor, this glaring loophole in the 13th Amendment has been used to improve the bottom lines and profit margins of private businesses – not the least of which includes the private prison industry.
After all, prisoners don’t need to be paid a living wage (not that workers outside of prison don’t deserve one either – in the opinions of many corporate executives and shareholders). Their needs for shelter, clothing and sustenance are paid for by the taxpayers. It’s only fair that they work to repay their debt to society, right? Except for the fact that cheap prison labor is actually a way to funnel taxpayer dollars into private profits for those corporations, their executives and shareholders – at the expense of the taxpayers and the exploitation of the labor of a captive labor force.
Our criminal justice system has become bloated to the extent that our prison populations have become the largest in the world. The War on Drugs and preponderance of extremely harsh mandatory minimum sentences, often for less serious non-violent offenses, has led to prison over-crowding in many states. Extremely low pay for prisoners’ work, combined with harsh prison working and living conditions, has led to prisoner uprisings in the past. The most famous of such events was the one in Attica, New York in the early 1970’s. More recently, strikes have taken place in several states involving many prisoners. These events have been largely ignored by mainstream media.
Slavery was legal in this country from before it became an independent nation. It remained so through the Civil War in the Southern states whose economies were largely dependent on the forced labor of people who weren’t considered citizens, were owned as property by the slaveholders who bought or inherited them, and had no voting rights. They weren’t even counted as complete human beings for the purpose of representation in Congress by the US Constitution. Race relations have been forever tainted in this country as a result of this lengthy era of subjugation of blacks by whites.
Why was the prison loophole included in the 13th Amendment? Hasn’t the US berated forced labor camps in the former Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes? How is our system superior to those which we seemingly abhor? The private prison industry has been under fire, particularly at the federal level, in recent years. Making imprisoning people a profit-making enterprise is increasingly seen as a horrid use of taxpayer money, not to mention inefficient and inhumane. Judges have even been convicted and sent to prison for taking kickbacks for ensuring that prisons maintain a certain level of occupancy. This has even been the case in juvenile detention facilities in my own state of PA.
The makeup of our prison population is another glaring problem when it comes to the state of our criminal “justice” system. Why are our prisoners so disproportionately Black and Hispanic, from poor rather than wealthy backgrounds. Are we to believe that this is merely a coincidence or have our lawmakers managed to find ways to enslave many of the same people who would have been born to slavery in an earlier time? I don’t necessarily think this was all orchestrated in an elaborate charade by our ruling oligarchs to excuse their continued mistreatment of members of minority racial and ethnic groups along with impoverished whites in order to maintain their own privileged socio-economic status. I surely can see why many of those being stepped on by the system would see it that way, however.
To me, coming up with new ways to force people to labor for the material benefit of others with little or no personal incentive to do so other than to maintain their ability to breathe is on the same moral level as willingly to allow people to die because they can’t afford to pay the going rate for a medical procedure. Regardless of the reason someone is in prison, they should be afforded more human rights than our system used to afford slaves. The fact that we have reached a point in our society where most would agree that, in way too many cases, the punishment for an infraction far exceeds the severity of the crime committed, demonstrates a drastic need for reform in our criminal justice system.
Committing most crimes should not mean that a person will never again be able to get a good job once their sentence is completed, nor vote, nor do most of what someone never convicted of a crime can expect to be able to do. That is obviously currently not the case. The prison loophole permitting convicts to be used as slaves or involuntary servants needs to be taken out of the Thirteenth Amendment. Creating such a large force of cheap labor helps to drive down the wages of workers as a whole, leads to unfair exploitation of some people for the unwarranted and unearned benefit of a few and leads to an exacerbation of social and economic inequality that is not fitting the moral values of a democratic society which we are taught from a young age to venerate. That includes the guilty as well as the untold numbers of people unfairly convicted when innocent of any wrongdoing or those sentenced to life for a third strike caused by a relatively minor offense.
By the way, what’s the deal with those corrupt judges, corporate executives, and the like who are convicted of doing real harm to real people getting sentenced to country club prisons while people convicted of the mere possession of drugs do hard time under less favorable conditions? So many ills beset our criminal justice system. Ending the slave labor loophole and covering prisoners under minimum wage laws and other labor legislation would be a step in the right direction. Ending Prisons for Profit, something that has begun at the level of federal prisons, is another way to improve our system of justice, the goal of which should be to make society safer and people more productive, not to line the pockets of greedy capitalists by shifting wealth to the benefit of those already wealthier than most of us. I think most of us still prefer Robin Hood to Romney Hood (or, in this election season, Trump Hood).
Further Suggested Readings:
This is one of the finest speeches I’ve heard in a very long time.
Whoa. She flattens Donald Trump and his misogyny.
This past week, revelations were made public concerning Donald Trump’s attitudes towards women and sexual assault. To say that the recorded conversation the GOP nominee had back in 2005 on an Access Hollywood bus contained statements highly inappropriate for anyone, let alone a person aspiring to the highest elected office in the land, would be an understatement. To say that the existence of such a skeleton in the Trump closet is in anyway surprising to any politically aware person not awakening from a Rip Van Winkle nap is a bit far-fetched, however.
Donald Trump said nothing in that conversation that was in anyway out of character given the propensity he has demonstrated for outrageously offensive racist and misogynistic utterances since even before he announced his candidacy last year. That this is seen by many, particularly in GOP circles, as being the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in derailing Trump’s candidacy is itself verging on lunacy. It takes more than being a natural born American citizen of at least 35 years of age to be fit to occupy the office of President of the United States. Donald Trump does not pass the test. His character – as revealed by statements and actions throughout his life and those aspects of his life he has fought tooth and nail to keep hidden – has demonstrated his unworthiness of the trust he seeks for us to give him by voting for him.
The number of high-ranking Republican officials suddenly outraged into denouncing Trump’s remarks and coming out opposed to his election after previously endorsing him (albeit, in some cases, under considerable duress) makes one wonder what rock these people crawled out from under that they missed witnessing his character flaws for so long. Calls for him to step down as the party nominee have been heard far and wide, loud and clear. Many of the people who have become critical of Trump’s blatant sexism and misogyny are those involved in tight re-election campaigns. Kelly Ayotte, incumbent Republican Senator from NH, mere days after describing Trump as a role model for our youth, announced she would be writing in Mike Pence’s name rather than voting for her party’s nominee for President. House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from a joint appearance scheduled to be held in Wisconsin. Other political figures throughout the nation will be doing likewise soon, if they haven’t already. Rats fleeing a sinking ship?
The shear media circus which began Friday concerning the release of this recording by the Washington Post (didn’t know they were a TV outlet, or why NBC didn’t release it first, since they owned it) has been something to behold. Speculation is running rampant that the GOP is searching for a way to convince Trump to drop out, which he seems not inclined to do, at least not yet. Even if he did step down, state ballots have already been printed with him included and early voting has already begun in many states. A mechanism for replacing him (probably with VP nominee, IN governor Mike Pence, who IMO would probably be worse, considering his record a Congressman and Governor) is there, though uncertain, especially as it seems they can’t remove Trump involuntarily.
Tonight’s scheduled town hall style debate between Trump and Clinton will undoubtedly draw huge ratings, despite the scheduling conflict with an NBC NFL Sunday Night Football telecast – if only because of curiosity at what kind of train wreck the Trump campaign has become and uncertainty as to whether he will even participate. For his part, Trump seems to backed into a corner. If his candidacy is to move forward, he has to show up at the debate. How he reacts and what happens then is an open question, given his volatility and unpredictability throughout the campaign season and performance at previous debates.
Naturally, other GOP candidates down ballot of the Presidential contest are concerned with how all this will affect their prospects next month. How will the RNC, Senate and House GOP campaign committees react to the perceived implosion of the presidential campaign? How will voters react? Such questions will undoubtedly have a major impact on media coverage before, during and after this debate. The main issue of this campaign has become Donald Trump and his fitness, or lack thereof, to be President of the USA. Discussion of other extremely important issues will remain very much in the background if they are even broached at all. Once again, the American people will be treated to more of a media carnival than a political campaign seeking to inform us of how the candidates will deal with domestic and foreign policy issues affecting both our everyday lives and the future of the nation and world at large.
From the time when Donald Trump first started making a big deal about his false birther conspiracy theory, if not even before that, most people who even gave it a thought must have known that Donald Trump is not now nor ever has been fit to serve as President of this country. He flat out lies and constructs his own facts and reality out of thin air more readily than just about any politician I’ve been subjected to in my lifetime. Even fact checkers and journalists interviewing him have started pointing this out. Many don’t even think he is very good at what he prides himself of being an expert at – running a business empire. He has done nothing in the intervening years of his public career to persuade most Americans otherwise – a fact borne out in a multitude of polls even before this latest development.
As to the effect all this will have on tonight’s debate, most will know the answer to that before they read this, so any speculation on my part would be pointless. How various pro- and anti-Trump forces will react with the passage of time between now and November 8th is also difficult to forecast, but I doubt it bodes well for his prospects come election day. There’s still almost a month to go, and many more revelations about Trump and Clinton are likely to provide us with more than enough other “October Surprises” to last a lifetime. What news comes out as a result of future computer system hacks and other strategic information leaks may make both major candidates seem unelectable, yet one will most likely ultimately prevail.
I urge folks to try to remain focused on the fact that other very important races are also being decided, contests that collectively are just as important to the ability of our federal, state and local governments to do their jobs and protect our interests as the Presidential election. Clinton will be no more able to pursue enacting the platform passed by the Democratic National Convention with a gridlocked obstructionist Congress than Obama has been. Trump or Pence or some other even worse Republican President, with a Congress strongly dominated by Republicans, would be capable of quickly undoing the positive accomplishments of the present administration and wreaking havoc on the American people as a whole that would make the disaster caused by many Tea Party state administrations pale in comparison.
Don’t be satisfied simply to avoid the prospect of a Trump Presidency. Elect a Congress that will move this country in a more progressive direction – despite attempts by some to move us back to the nineteenth century both economically and politically. Make Congress and state legislatures constructive and productive rather than destructive and obstructive as we have witnessed of late. Fight to stop the fighting – both home and abroad. Our tax dollars need to be spent more wisely than perpetuating murderous wars on everything from terror to drugs to women’s, minority and LGBTQ rights. Export more life-enhancing goods and services and fewer weapons designed to kill.
We need to demand that our politicians and corporations start to accurately report on what they are doing for us instead of just doing stuff to us that serves the few too well and costs the many far too much. Presidential campaigns should be about building a better world, not merely avoiding a catastrophe. The candidates should have been vetted much more thoroughly by now than has been the case. The GOP process left us with Trump. Don’t reward that sort of incompetence with the West Wing as a reality show and a government that further enriches the undeserving rich while further impoverishing the rest. We deserve for the next four years to be a reprieve from the last six, not a continuation of it or worse.
I, too, find it mind-boggling that Gary Johnson is polling so well among former supporters. He certainly is not advocating they vote for him. Based on many of his utterances, he would probably be polling much lower if they were including him in the debates. Even his running mate and Ron Paul don’t seem that enthusiastic about him. Nonetheless, it appears Clinton has more to fear from him than Stein. – RJC
Why are so many Bernie supporters turning Libertarian?
Liberal and Libertarian sound alike, so they are alike?
Actually, the two parties are diametrically opposed!
Bernie and Libertarians are miles apart
Bernie is a Democratic Socialist, and Libertarians and Democratic Socialists are miles apart.
When are the parties FOR government? Here’s a chart:
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As election day, November 8, 2016, approaches, more voters begin to grapple with which candidate they will cast their ballots for President, Congressional Representative and/or Senator, along with a slew of statewide and local elected positions and various ballot measures. When it comes to electing the next President, the first of three face-to-face debates between Donald Trump, the GOP candidate and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, was held to (hopefully) better inform us as to the qualifications, policy positions and future aspirations of the two candidates and convince us to vote for them over their opponent.
To this point, the campaign has been marked by the unease of having two main candidates with low personal favorability ratings among the voting public as a whole. Clinton won the Democratic nomination after a spirited contest with Independent VT Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran a progressive campaign to her left politically. Allegations were made regarding how she ultimately ended up winning the nomination, some of which resulted in the resignation of the DNC Chair, but Senator Sanders has since endorsed her and campaigned on her behalf, particularly among his core constituency of progressives and younger voters.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, made his way through the Republican primary process in a much different fashion than Clinton. He specialized in using rhetorical bombast, personal celebrity (if not notoriety) and the resulting free media coverage, along with controversial policy proposals to rouse interest in his candidacy and support among many disaffected voters who have felt ignored by the party establishment for years. In particular, he has made many disparaging remarks concerning women, undocumented immigrants (primarily those from south of the border with Mexico), Muslims and every opponent he faced in the Republican primaries – including personal attacks against many of them and their loved ones.
Congressional Republicans, while wary of the attacks on themselves by Trump, dutifully expended ( read “wasted”) copious quantities of time and money holding hearings trying to discredit Clinton for her email improprieties and her handling of the Benghazi terror attack. Their inquiries have consistently come up empty, but Trump still regularly refers to her as “Crooked Hillary” and enjoys hearing calls for her arrest and imprisonment among his faithful supporters at rallies as well as the Republican National Convention.
Clinton has had detractors for decades, with much of the animosity starting when her husband was President. Many left-leaning Democrats see her as a Corporate Democrat defender of the status quo and being too willing to compromise with the GOP on important issues in order to make gradual progress on others in the future. She has also been seen as supporting positions her husband took as President, some of which led to deregulation of the financial sector that resulted in the economic meltdown of the great recession which faced President Obama as soon as he was elected. The distrust she faced from the left has, obviously, been more than doubled by the open hostility of her GOP opponents. She agreed to run with a party platform heavily influenced by Sanders supporters, but many remain wary that she will push for reforms embodied in that platform upon election.
Trump, meanwhile, parlayed his media savvy, name recognition and penchant for creating controversy into votes and delegates at primaries and caucuses throughout the land. His method of berating and belittling anyone and anything he saw as an obstacle to his winning the nomination on his way to the Presidency worked very well in whittling down the huge initial field of contenders until he had an insurmountable lead heading into the GOP Convention he dominated. Since then, most of his competitors have endorsed him in the name of party unity or in the hope that it will aid their future political careers.
Of late, some of Trump’s shenanigans have started catching up with him. Some in the media have begun fact-checking some of the more outrageous claims he has been making. The birther controversy he fed to anti-Obama forces for years (many still believe that President Obama was not born in this country) finally came unglued and he publicly announced that the President’s status was legitimate. Calls for him to make public his income tax records from past years have continued, undeterred by his claims that he cannot release them while facing an IRS audit. His trustworthiness as viewed by the general public has been under siege as his refusal to be more transparent makes more people wonder what, exactly, he finds a need to hide from public scrutiny.
The way Trump treats women, members of minority ethnic and religious groups, as well as his political opponents, has perhaps helped him to solidify his support among his core constituencies, but it has also strengthened the resolve of those he has been attacking to ensure his defeat in November. Several major publications that have been endorsing Republican Presidential candidates for decades have come out either endorsing Clinton outright or at least encouraging people to not to elect him President because doing so is too risky. The Clinton campaign and Super PACs supporting her have made ample use of Trump’s own pronouncements pertaining to women and minorities in their advertising.
Trump’s initial face-to-face “debate” with Clinton did not go particularly well for him, either in the minds of media pundits or in subsequent public polling. He appeared to fall prey to some of Clinton’s attempts to bait him on issues like his taxes and his treatment of a former Miss Universe, among others. His 3 AM tweet rants on the subject have probably not aided him in his quest to appear “Presidential”. Be wary of thinking he has totally blown his chance at the Presidency, however. I recall the aftermath of the first Obama-Romney debate, during which much moaning was expressed over the perceived weakness of the President during that performance. He bounced back well in subsequent debates and ultimately prevailed. Trump doesn’t seem to be in Obama’s league when it comes to debates, but October is a long month and plenty of time remains for unforeseen events to transpire.
Calls to include candidates from other parties in the debates have once again fallen on deaf ears – due to poor polling on the parts of the Libertarian and Green Party candidates (the ones with the most state ballot access). This, again, is sort of a Catch-22 situation, due to the fact that these other candidates have neither the free television airtime nor the financial resources necessary to purchase their own airtime to get the name recognition they would need to poll better. The incestuous relationship between the two major parties and the debate rules and conditions helps to ensure an exclusionary situation will remain in place for the foreseeable future – unless we can get another billionaire like Ross Perot to run as an independent or third party candidate. That doesn’t bode well for our future democratic prospects. It would be nice to have a non-millionaire in the Oval Office again someday, though.
As for the two most talked about minor candidates, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, has pretty much lost credibility as to fitness for the office by squandering what little media attention he has been afforded by being totally dumbfounded on national TV by questions about Aleppo and which foreign leader he admires. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate, has struggled to go above 1% in popularity polls. In 2000, Ralph Nader was accused of spoiling the election and giving the Presidency to Bush over Gore in Florida. This year, it seems Johnson may do that for Trump, though I can’t for the life of me understand why left-leaning Millennials would prefer him over Stein. He’s still polling much higher than she in most areas of the country, and that seems to be detracting more from Clinton than from Trump.
How the election will turn out is still up in the air. Attention needs to be paid to House, Senate and state gubernatorial and legislative races as well. Turning GOP dominated legislatures and Congress more Democratic and less reactionary would help alleviate some of the gridlock at the Federal level and anti-worker, pro-economic inequality and social intolerance being practiced over the past several years in many states. The anticipated turnover in SCOTUS in the near future should also play a role in determining who to vote for in November. While it may well be true that those most fit to serve as President of this country would never run for the office, let alone win the election, I find it hard to believe that Donald Trump would be anything other than the worst President of the United States of America in my lifetime. This would be made even worse if he Presided over a GOP-dominated Congress confirming his Supreme Court and other judicial nominees.
Suggested Further Readings:
by Ron Jacobs
The United States is in crisis. The world is in crisis. Inequality in all of its manifestations defines the economics that run our lives. For those in what we used to call the Third World, war or the threat of war is a fact of daily life. For those of us living in the rest of the world, those wars frame our existence in ways we accept as normal–militarized security, refugees in camps and detention centers, and the possibility of a terror attack in almost any public venue. Of course, the fact that there would be fewer war refugees if Washington and its NATO supplicants did not insist on instigating and fueling war is lost on most citizens of the northern nations. Meanwhile, the climate melts around us, a phenomenon exacerbated by an unsustainable pursuit of profit…
Source: A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Some aspects about Donald Trump not likely to be seen on the nightly news or even the upcoming debates. – RJC
Even as Trump says he wants to help the working class:
- He says US wages are too high
- He’s failed to pay small businesses who did work for him — bankrupting a few
- The fraudulent Trump University bilked many out of their savings
- He opened a modeling agency and hired illegal foreign women, then took all of their earnings — following the pimp model of doing business
- He takes from charities and gives to himself
- He wants less Wall Street regulation — meaning Main Street will likely bail them out again
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Recent days have continued on with the American Presidential Campaign Scripted In Wonderland. In many ways, the media have become more of the story than the candidates themselves. NBC sponsored a candidates forum for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to discuss national security issues. The main takeaway from this for many was the fact that Today Show host and event moderator Matt Lauer allowed Donald Trump to state bald-faced lies as fact without questioning their veracity. He did not, in fact, oppose invading Iraq from day one. The Trump campaign style thus far has done about as good a job of playing fast and loose with reality and facts as I can ever recall being subjected to in the course of an election campaign.
Soon after the national security forum, Mike Barnacle of MSNBC fired the shot that scored the biggest hit of this sordid campaign to date when he asked a totally dumbfounded Gary Johnson (former governor of New Mexico and current Presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket) what he would do about Aleppo if elected. Like most Americans – including those who depend on MSNBC for their political news – Johnson wanted to know what Aleppo was before responding. How would Donald Trump have responded to the same question at the same time? Clinton, I am sure, would’ve at least come up with a reasoned response with ease. Would Trump bluff his way out of it with his normal bluster, or would he have been as flustered as Johnson?
This is the last American Presidential election for which all eligible voters were born prior to 9/11/2001. Hopefully, subsequent campaigns will include candidates somewhat better informed about world affairs affecting our lives. I certainly hope they don’t make such a mess of the selection process as was done this go around. Perhaps journalists will also ask pertinent questions of all the candidates – and question the responses when they are comprised of pure garbage and made up out of thin air. In this day and age of 24/7 news coverage, the instantly televised media wields an increasing importance in terms of how voters become informed and what they learn regarding the candidates, their policy proposals and personal styles. Shortcomings in this coverage to date, on the part of both the candidates and the media, leave me wondering just how informed American voters will be when casting their ballots (or not, as may be their choice) in November. In depth and accurate reporting of facts us tremendously important in avoiding costly mistakes like electing someone president who fancies themselves a monarch or autocrat.
Minor party candidates, such as Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, rarely have the financial resources necessary to gain the national name recognition and prominence required for conducting a campaign competitive with those of the two major parties. Free airtime (which is what Donald Trump has been more heavily dependent upon than any other candidate in recent memory) is extremely scarce for candidates other than Republicans or Democrats. CNN had specials showcasing the Libertarian and Green candidates, but that sort of coverage pales in comparison to the huge media entourages accompanying each of the major party candidates – starting with early primaries and moving on through the general election. Chances of them overcoming a weak, bumbling response such as Johnson’s last week are slim to none – despite the fact that Trump has done far worse in nearly every public speaking engagement he has engaged in since announcing his candidacy.
The fact that MSNBC was able to spotlight what it perceives as a shortcoming in the candidacy of Gary Johnson is not so surprising as its unwillingness to see similar or even worse shortcomings in the ideas/policy proposals/moral character of the candidates most likely to end up winning the election. Other than some cursory references to party platforms during their respective conventions, issues have primarily been framed by the candidates themselves. Trump has been the main beneficiary of not being pressured for specifics by the media (refusal to release his tax returns leads the way here, followed closely with the lack of any specifics concerning his immigration, economic and trade policies – if they exist at all other than as figments of his imagination). Clinton, it should be pointed out, has had to deal with seemingly endless Congressional and other inquiries leading to nowhere regarding Benghazi, email security and the Clinton Global Initiative. Unlike Trump, she has not had the luxury of being able to tell somebody “none of your business” when pressed on these issues.
If the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates, starting later this month, are to be useful as a means by which voters may make an informed decision as to how to ultimately cast their ballots in November, the moderators need to do a much better job than Lauer did last week in keeping discussion rooted in reality. New renditions of the tragic comedies that comprised the Republican debates during the primaries would further insult our intelligence. Being able and willing to call out an obvious falsehood and not letting either candidate get away with preposterous statements may make good political theater, but it does nothing to elevate the level of political debate that has spiraled downward ever since the party conventions concluded.
Clinton has been waging a traditional campaign, complete with numerous policy proposals and paid political advertisements highlighting them. Trump has done little of that, depending mostly on media coverage of stump speeches and contrived events such as his trip to Mexico to gain attention without paying for commercial TV and Radio ads to get his message out. Got to hand it to the guy, he has been playing the media better than just about any candidate I can remember. He has intentionally ticked off more different groups of people with minimal backlash than most pundits ever thought possible. Gaffes more severe than those which have doomed previous campaigns to he dustbin of history seem to have left him unfazed.
Personally, I would have preferred to see candidates more likely to serve the interests of humanity and society as a whole to remain competitive at this point in the campaign. The campaign remaining must be made to address real human issues and present prospective solutions to the dilemmas that face us now and have the potential to overwhelm us in the near future. We’ve heard enough schoolyard bullying and name-calling to last several lifetimes. Get down to telling us what you intend to do if elected and how it will improve our lives. Once the dust settles and a president elected, along with a new (and hopefully more diligent) Congress, our jobs will have just begun. We must then hold the new political leadership accountable and make them work for us, whether that was their original intention upon deciding to run or not.
This November, American voters will cast ballots for the fourth consecutive election while at war in the Middle East. Not a war in the conventional sense, where our military fights against easily identifiable opponents with a defined set of objectives and preferred outcome marking the end of hostilities, but definitely a shooting war with killed and wounded combatants and innocent civilians alike. Over a trillion dollars have been spent by US taxpayers so far, with thousands of dead Americans and allied soldiers, many thousands more injured and hundreds of thousands of casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Like every war the US has participated in since the end of the Second World War, these wars were never officially declared by Congress as prescribed by the Constitution, but were enabled by resolutions and funding approved by that branch of our government. An Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was passed in the wake of the tragic terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 which has basically been used ever since as authorization for the resulting madness which has been perpetrated on that part of the world ever since.
The war(s) have ebbed and flowed with the passage of time, and American casualties have slowed since Obama has taken office, but the overall political situation in all of the above named countries is far from stabilized. The advent of ISIS has muddled the situation further, resulting in more political chaos and drastic changes in the American response and further conduct in the war effort, as well as expanding the participants to include Russia, Iran and now Turkey. Meanwhile, the situation has also deteriorated in Yemen, with the Saudi military taking on adversaries in that country.
To his credit, President Obama did seem to resist capitulating to the voices of hawks in his Administration and Congress who sought to expand operations and bring a lasting victory amid even greater death and destruction. He even sought a new AUMF from Congress to address the changed situation regarding ISIS. Congress, true to form, came up with nothing once again. They simply keep approving requested funding to maintain an ambiguous status quo hoping for the situation to improve without their having to stick their necks out politically.
Oddly, all this war and its attending political chaos, along with the Arab Spring and the upheaval that has taken place in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and much of the rest of the Arab world, has seemingly had little effect on American political campaigns, even during Presidential election years. Some anti-war candidates have come forth in previous years (Dennis Kucinich is one who readily comes to mind), but never was there really an attempt to convey the notion that we needed to make a major change in our policy pertaining to these conflicts which was taken seriously. Bush was able to win re-election in ‘04, pretty much everyone was agreed that things weren’t going well in ‘08, but that we were winding things down, and in ‘12 Obama was re-elected handily with only mild modifications of the script handed him by Bush.
Since the shift to using Special Operations forces, arming and training forces in Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, tactical and strategic gains seem to be made slowly in some areas, but the main political fight here has shifted once again to fighting terror, not creating any sort of stability in the part of the world where our drones and missiles and bombs are detonating, whether it be our forces pulling the triggers or those of people we’ve trained and supplied them with. While our military is still over there trying to gain control over the situation on the ground, we have major political figures here spending most of their time verbally blasting Radical Islamic Extremists and seeking to solve the world’s problems by rolling up in a ball and keeping all Moslems out of the country. No debate of any kind is coming out of Congress or Presidential campaigns calling for a comprehensive peace process to stabilize the situation over there.
Third party candidates and some progressive Democrats in Congress aside, the main thrust in this Presidential campaign cycle has consistently ignored the Middle East situation, except, perhaps, for Trump’s bellicose ranting about bombing the hell out of the Islamic Extremist Terrorists and building a wall to keep out Mexicans. Clinton seems content to further the policy given her by Obama, which is a continuation of that of Bush, which has, in the view of many, achieved little more than spending lots of money killing tons of people and creating millions of refugees that nobody knows what to do with or how to help.
The time is long past due for the American people to call this BS for what it is. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, we should move to get it under control and stop the bloodshed. Maybe I’m a bit naive, but it seems that our foreign policy is acting just a tad too callously when we seemingly ignore the plight of the millions of innocent men, women and children who have become victims of not only violence perpetrated on them by their own leaders, but by our own incompetence and the failure of our weapons to adequately discern whether their victims are deserving of their destructive power.
This War on Terror is being used as an excuse to conduct all manner of immoral behavior against our “enemies”, foreign and domestic. Bush and company used it to justify creating the terrorist prison at Guantanamo, where people are detained indefinitely without charge or trial. Torture was used and excused as a means to avoid future 9/11 – style attacks or worse. Obama has seemingly stopped that, but nobody has faced prosecution for conducting or ordering it in the first place. Trump wants us to use more of it. Media coverage of war in this country has deteriorated dramatically since Vietnam. When people aren’t being shipped home in body bags, it’s as if no war is going on at all to most Americans. Self-censoring media coverage doesn’t help matters.
Hopefully, the Presidential Debates will delve more deeply into foreign policy and war than rallies and stump speeches have so far. Clinton’s foreign policy role as Secretary of State and before that as a Senator in the run-up to the start of the invasion of Iraq do not indicate that she will change our approach to future conduct in the region or world as a whole. She may even turn out to be more of a hawk than Obama or even Bush. Bill certainly did plenty of bombing in Yugoslavia and Iraq when he was President.
Forget Trump. After he builds his wall and extorts payment from Mexico for it, he only wants to know why we have nukes if we can’t use them (Actually, I have the same question, but I doubt seeking the same answer). His temperament is such that I wouldn’t want him negotiating in situations where millions of lives lie in the balance.
Congress is unlikely to change its non-participant status when it comes to this endless war. There have been numerous opportunities for Congressional action to affect the situation. The House and Senate as a whole have steadfastly deferred to the President (whichever one it was). Some dissention has been voiced, but by too few Senators or Representatives to make a difference. In the absence of a viable and vibrant antiwar movement in this country, the situation could continue indefinitely, interminably even. If we truly want to wage peace, this isn’t the way to do it. Making millions of our fellow human beings destitute, homeless and without hope of redemption is shameful.
How much more good could the trillion plus dollars have done than being spent on this futile effort to bomb people into submission? For that matter, how could that money have possibly been more wastefully spent? The time has long since passed to stop the incessant destruction and begin trying more constructive ways to deal with conflict. Our retaliating for wrongs done us by others – both perceived and real – will not be effective if it continues to cause more “collateral damage” than it prevents. Early in his first term, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Hopefully, our next President can do likewise – and actually achieve peace in the process.
Further Suggested Readings:
Something needs to be done to stop the price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps this would be a good place to start.
By now, you’ve probably heard about Mylan Laboratories’ massive price hikes in the EpiPen, which is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. You might have even heard how the EpiPen technology is entirely the result of federally funded research. Perhaps you even read about the possible (who are we kidding, probable) anti-trust violations that Mylan has committed. But this is simply par for the course (boldface mine):
EpiPen price hikes may be causing outrage, but those pale in comparison to the huge increases that Mylan Laboratories took on dozens of other medicines earlier this year.
For instance, the company raised the price of ursodiol, a generic medicine used to treat gallstones, by 542 percent. There was also a 400 percent boost in the price for dicyclomine, which combats irritable bowel syndrome, and a 312 percent increase for metoclopramide, a generic drug that treats gastroesophageal reflux disease.
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