Washington has embarked on a risky course in Iraq that may lead to a new US war. In the face of the swift advance by a Sunni coalition headed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which captured a large swathe of northern and western Iraq, the Obama administration has sent 300 soldiers back into the country. This force, referred to as “observers” or “advisers”, are there to shore up the US-installed Baghdad government in a situation of developing civil war.
Since the Obama administration arranged for the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the last US prisoner of war held by the Taliban in Afghanistan, there has been a firestorm of outrage from the right wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Bergdahl has been pilloried as a traitor. His father has been denounced as a Muslim. Senators called for him to be court-martialed and thrown into the military stockade. What is Bergdahl’s crime? While deployed in Afghanistan, he became disillusioned with the war and said so in emails to his family.
On the evening of May 23, the United States suffered another massacre of the type that has become all too familiar. Elliot Rodger, a 22-year old student at the University of California campus in Santa Barbara went on a killing spree that left seven dead, including himself. He left a video and a manifesto that made clear his motive was hatred of women.
The way the United States government treats soldiers returning from its wars of imperial conquest indicates its priorities. There have been many reports of failures to adequately treat all the cases of mental illness resulting from the wars of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. High levels of alcoholism, drug use, depression and suicide have been reported by veterans and their families.
A racist rant by billionaire Donald Sterling, owner of professional basketball team the Los Angeles Clippers, was broadcast on national TV last month, sparking widespread discussion lasting weeks. Sterling's views eclipsed another racist rant that got national attention just before that by Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy. For years, Bundy has grazed his cattle on land in Nevada owned by the federal government. Normally, the government charges a modest fee for such practices. But Bundy, who holds far right views, has not paid that fee for years as he does not recognise the government.
The United States Supreme Court ruled on April 22 that states can ban affirmative action in admissions to their public universities. At issue was a constitutional amendment passed in Michigan that banned consideration of race in admissions to the state’s education institutions. States that have banned affirmative action in higher education, such as Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have recorded a significant drop in the enrollment of Black and Latino students.
When Barack Obama was elected President in the 2008 election, it marked an historic first. An African-American was elected in the country noted for its oppression of Blacks since the time of slavery. My next door neighbour, an African-American who knew my history as a supporter of the Black liberation upsurge of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, raised his fist in celebration when he saw me the next day.
Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, lashed out against the CIA on March 11 in a sharply worded 45-minute speech that took other Senators by surprise. President Barack Obama’s appointee to head the CIA, John Brennon, issued a denial a few hours after Feinstein’s speech, virtually charging her with lying. It is no wonder that her speech was a bombshell. Feinstein has a well-earned reputation of being little more than a shill for the CIA, NSA and other spy agencies over the years.
The dangers of global warming due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is well-established. But there is more damage done by the capitalist system of production, including the release of toxins into the atmosphere, water and the rest of the biosphere. Two notable examples have occurred in the first months of this year in the United States. In January there was a huge spill of 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM, a chemical mixture used in the coal production process, into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia.
In a closely-watched election, the United Autoworkers Union (UAW) tried to break into the anti-union South to organise a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The union lost the February election among the plant’s 1550 production workers. There were 626 votes in favor and 712 against. The negative vote was something of a surprise, because Volkswagen management did not threaten workers’ jobs if they voted yes, and was officially neutral. Generally, bosses intimidate workers and pay for a barrage of anti-union advertising to stop workers voting in favour of unionising.
In his State of the Union address on January 28, United States President Barack Obama highlighted growing inequality in the US. He also pledged to take steps to cut greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So what has the Obama administration done recently on both counts?
Division among ruling circles in the United States and internationally about what to do about the revelations of wholesale NSA spying continues to deepen. A January 17 speech by US President Barack Obama, which was supposed to move the discussion forward, was a flop. Polls indicate it failed to change people’s minds. He gave his usual “on the one hand, and on the other” type speech trying to appease both sides, but came down in defence of the NSA program.
A major rift has developed in the ruling class over the revelations by Edward Snowden of the huge spying by the NSA of every American and hundreds of millions worldwide. On December 16, Richard Leon, a conservative federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, ruled that the vacuuming up of phone “metadata” of US citizens was most likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure.
On Christmas Eve, the Queen of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Commonwealth deigned to pardon one of the 20th century’s most important mathematicians of the crime of homosexuality. In 1952, Alan Turing was tried and convicted of engaging in sex with other men. He was presented with the choice of prison or chemical castration. He chose the latter, estrogen treatments that caused him to grow breasts, made him impotent, and drove him to depression.
Of the six nations that reached a preliminary deal with Iran concerning its nuclear program, five ― the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China ― have nuclear arsenals. Atomic weapons were first developed by the US, the only country to have used them against large urban populations twice, over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two war crimes killed hundreds of thousands of people. The hypocrisy is compounded by the fact that the strongest opponent of Iran in the Middle East is Israel, which has hundreds of fission and hydrogen bombs.
Kshama Sawant, an openly declared socialist, was elected to the city council in a major United States city, Seattle, in November’s ballot. You need to go back to the first half of the 20th century to find anything similar in the US. The Indian-born Sawant ran as an activist. She first drew attention as part of the Occupy Seattle protests that included taking over a downtown park and a junior collage campus in 2011.