By Minnie Apolis
Have finally picked up the book by the chess champion, Garry Kasparov, called “Winter Is Coming” -- which is a critical look at American failings when dealing with post-collapse Russia and with other authoritarian regimes like Yugoslavia.
Even more disappointing is that the current administration is not even going to try to promote democracy! That is the latest news from the Common Dreams website in an article titled, “Tillerson’s State Department Drops Stated Mission to Promote Democracy” (SOURCE)
It is ominously subtitled with a quote, “It's a worldview similar to that of Putin.”
Of course with a stripped-down workforce in the State Department, it would be difficult to promote anything, much less a loaf of bread, if no one is there to carry out the policy.
In keeping with a recent trend of abandoning key tenets of its stated mission, State Department is rewriting its statement of purpose without any mention of promoting "justice" and "democracy."
According to internal State Department emails obtained by the Washington Post, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered the department to redefine its stated mission. A draft that was circulated within the department on Friday read, "We promote the security, prosperity, and interests of the American people globally" and said the department will strive to "lead America's foreign policy through global advocacy, action and assistance to shape a safer, more prosperous world."
This contrasts with the department's mission statement from 2016, which defined its purpose as shaping and sustaining "a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster[ing] conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere."
Some shrugged at the news, noting that the U.S. government has not always truly acted as a promoter of democracy on the world stage.
But many Trump administration critics expressed alarm over the State Department's change in direction as it follows other signals of a shift away from concerns about worldwide justice. Last month, Tillerson proposed shuttering the Office of Global Criminal Justice, charged with helping to bring war criminals to justice. The department also eliminated its website dedicated to human rights issues, and in March Tillerson did not attend the department's meeting where it unveiled its annual report on human rights.
Former State officials were also alarmed at the change to the department's ambitions.
"It's a worldview similar to that of Putin, who also thinks that great powers should focus exclusively on self protection and enrichment, rather than promoting democracy," said Tom Malinowski, who served in the department under President Barack Obama. "By removing all reference to universal values and the common good it removes any reason for people outside the United States to support our foreign-policy."
As one commenter on the site wrote: “Makes sense when they're killing it at home.”
Maybe the administration is just giving up on trying to foster democracy, having failed so poorly at nurturing the tender shoots of promise after the Arab spring, for example, or during that brief window of opportunity after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Getting back to Garry Kasparov's book, he relates his view of how Putin dismantled the supporting structures of democracy in only eight years after being elevated to the presidency in 2000. The balance between the branches of the government, a free media, fair elections, an independent judiciary – all were destroyed in favor of what Putin cutely calls “managed democracy.”
When Putin's legal term limit loomed, he aimed to keep up democratic appearances while still hanging on to power. So instead of changing the constitution, he merely arranged a little job swap, trading the presidency to Medvedev for the the role of prime minister. Medvedev then dutifully changed the constitution so that Putin could run for two six-year terms as president. That first term will end in 2018 (actually his third term, but who's counting anymore?).
Donald Trump is worse, because he does not bother to change any laws that inconvenience him. He just ignores them. That line in the Constitution about emoluments? Pish, does not apply to him. He has said it, it must be true... or so he wants us to think.
In addition we citizens are facing the sharp restriction of civils liberties with a proposed bill to criminalize civil protest, among other things.
Snopes verifies that several states have proposed bills creating harsher penalties for protesters, especially those that block traffic or highways. But it says nothing about the most serious one that is masquerading as a change in anti-Israel protests. SOURCE
In July American lawmakers in Congress proposed a change to existing law re anti-Israel protests or boycotts.
But now, a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.
The proposed measure, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), was introduced by Cardin on March 23. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year ...
The fear is that this law once passed would be used as a pretext to arrest anyone organizing a boycott of ANYTHING, whether related to the Israeli issue or not. Boycotts have been virtually the only weapon that ordinary citizens had to force changes regarding many issues. We boycotted tuna until the fisheries adopted nets that let dolphins go free. We boycotted grapes in support of rights for migrant workers. And countless other issues. So we cannot afford to have our best tool for democratic change be under attack, especially a sneak attack.
I could go on with several related issues that buttress the claim made in the headline, but that would strain your attention and your free time. I know that Newsvine readers are generally avid readers of the news and of progressive sites so I know you can back me up on this even better than I could.
Democracy does not have an automatic pilot button. We have to keep steering it towards freedom of expression and a strong judiciary to back the rights of the people.