The Ideological Seeds of the Occuparty by Waris Husain

As the Occupy Wall Street protests slowly creep into every major city in the U.S., some have pointed to the futility of protesting, especially when the group is lacking a cohesive ideology. However, we know through the Tea Party that the energy generated from opposition protests can manifest into a new political force that can affect the American landscape. The entrance of the Tea Party has polarized the country’s decision-makers to a conservative angle, and it will take a focused effort by activists, lawyers, and writers alike as part of the OccuParty to challenge their effect. The formation of such a new party would require not only an attack on corporate domination, but also to force change in the government and require them to serve the interests of the “99%”, instead of the “1%”.

In this early stage it is dificult to surmise the ideology of Wall Street protesters, who range from labor union members to unemployed hipsters. However, there is a shared ideological message underlying demands by protestors for the government to increase taxes on corporations. This message controverts the Tea Party mantra, “Government can do no good” as the protestors are calling for more government to take more control over private actors. Such a demand is based on the belief that the government can indeed do “good”, but only when it is free from undue influences through lobbyists and corporate agents.

If one were only to focus on the financial institutions that have muted the voice of the 99%, this movement would have little effect on the decision-making in this country. It was democratic institutions, not companies, who passed laws that allowed for corporations to control the American landscape. It was the Supreme Court of this nation who created a legal fiction that gave corporations the same rights as an average citizen.  And thus, even if corporations are fostering corruption and buying favors, it is our democratic officials that are selling those favors.

While Tea Partiers point to this behavior as evidence that governments are inherently corrupt and can’t be trusted, their observation falls short. The central feature of a truly democratic government is that all decisions are based on the informed consent of the people. However, if there is a secret veil of corporate and lobbyist control over WashingtonD.C., then the public is no longer voting based on informed consent and is thus no longer engaged in a democratic process.

The secretive influence of corporations has further been set into law by the U.S. Supreme Court with the Citizen’s United decision that affirmed corporate personhood. This gives the same rights of political affiliation and free speech to corporations as average citizens receive under the Constitution. This means that Nike or McDonalds, worth billions of dollars, is considered a citizen just like you or I when it comes to campaign donations. Soon it will be impossible to run for elections without a corporate sponsor, and thus, it will also be impossible to serve the interests of voters when officials have corporate overlords.

Attacking these principles will serve the interests of the OccuParty by giving them a central unifying purpose: to restore our constitutional democracy by re-equipping citizens with informed consent. Such an action may be viewed as revolutionary by some, but is founded on the basic principle of the U.S. Constitution that requires the government to be subservient only to the people, not to secret interests. One should remember that eliminating corporate personhood would not violate the Constitution considering the document gave no rights or protections to corporations over common citizens.

Along with attacking the government for fostering corporate domination, the OccuParty will need to adopt an ideology concerning the rights of citizens. The protestors have by and large asserted that wealth must be redistributed, with greater access to social services like education and health care. The demands of theOccupy Wall Street protesters are diametrically opposed to the conservative world view that individual rights are supreme above all others. While some may assert that the demands are merely a fools hope, there is a political ideology that lies under the surface.

Germany’s constitution embodies a principle that may resonate with most of the protestors: as the State must respect the rights of the individual, but the individual must respect the rights of their community. From this basic idea, one can call for a redistribution of wealth because while one has the right to accumulate wealth, one does not have the right to do so without assisting their community. Under this perspective, one could advocate for individual rights like gay marriage because they do not negatively effect the rights of the community.

Though Tea Partiers tout Thomas Jefferson as a guardian for individual rights, they forget that Jefferson didn’t believe that the wealthy could accumulate wealth without owing a duty to assist their community. Rather, he purported that while the government cannot interfere with individual rights, people owe a duty to help their local communities. This means that the 1% elites should be required to assist their community by paying for programs like student loan forgiveness or universal health care, for example.

Liberals in America have long-complained about the lack of a viable leftist party that embodied the interests of Democrats and Independents alike, though the Green Party and Libertarians have tried in the past. In order to do this, the OccuParty should take actions both on the street and in court to challenge undue influence by elites on our democracy, and the subsequent lack of informed consent by the people. Further, the party should advocate for a hybrid individual-community rights system as an overarching ideology. Though politics in America has taken a conservative turn with the influence of the Tea Party, the OccuParty could serve as a bastion for liberal philosophy and restore democratic order to this nation at a critical time.

All Power to the 99%.

The Dehumanization of the Judiciary (via Wichaar.com)

By David Matthew and Waris Husain

The execution of Troy Davis this week was met with national uproar and protests in Washington D.C. Mr. Davis was to be executed for a crime he allegedly committed, even though most of the witnesses in the case recanted their testimony, indicating his potential innocence. The Supreme Court of the nation refused to stay the execution based on legal formalities that were not satisfied in this case. Instead of humanizing Troy Davis as a man about to lose his life to an unjust system, our courts employ a rigidly technical jurisprudence.

In America, the legal community has focused so greatly on upholding legal technicalities that judges and lawyers disregard the human impact of their decisions.  An undue reliance on legal formalism has pervaded in the Supreme Court, resulting in a mechanical application of the law that favors the law’s logical form over its ability to promote social well-being to the people it serves. A more pragmatic and humanistic approach to jurisprudence is needed to interpret law in its proper context, not as merely an end in itself but as a means to fulfill human needs and values.

The demand by the public for the judiciary to act even in the absence of precedent stems from two ideas: (1) the public’s discomfort with allowing a potentially biased system to take the lives of citizens, and (2) the lack of respect for human dignity implicit in the death penalty.  Either way, such contentions can only be addressed by a court that recognizes and upholds the principles of wisdom as much as it applies the rigid technicality of legal formalities, so as to value the human impact of the decisions made by the Courts.

I. THE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

            The continual use of the death penalty in the U.S. seems draconian when compared to the rest of the developed world who has banned the practice. But fundamentally, the continuation of the death penalty relates to the technical nature of legal analysis amongst lawyers and judges in the U.S. With a technical perspective, the courts have worked to uphold their own decisions, and since executions were commonly upheld throughout America’s history, the status quo has remained etched in stone.  Indeed, a vital function of the Court is to adhere to precedent – and Justice after Justice has largely done so in mechanical fashion.

The Supreme Court’s legitimization of capital punishment has created a particular culture surrounding the state-sponsored murder of citizens. Not only does a technical upholding of a barbaric practice allow for its continued use, it also has inspired a blood-lust amongst the people. This was especially apparent when a crowd at a Republican Primary Debate cheered Rick Perry for announcing that he has presided over more executions as governor of Texas than any other American governor in the past decade.  It is ironic that the same crowd of people who distrust the government from competently delivering health care or education, can trust that same State entity with determining the fate of someone’s life.

 

III. INJUSTICE IN ADMINSTRATION

Some were angered by the Troy Davis case because there were suspicions of racial discrimination, as Mr. Davis was African American. This classification alone exposed Mr. Davis to the death penalty more likely than a white counterpart, as 89% of defendants subject to capital punishment in the U.S. are either African American or Mexican-American. Several advocates have presented cases before the Supreme Court that used social science data to explain that capital punishment was being used discriminatorily against the nation’s minorities. In such cases, the court relied on its legal formalism to reject social science data, and maintained the practice of capital punishment despite the existence of information suggesting that innocent people were being executed by the State.

However, legal formalists would argue that despite discrimination that might exist in society, we can trust the courts enough to adequately determine a person’s guilt and subject them to death as a penalty. The South African Supreme Court rejected this very idea, stating that no court in the world should be able to put a person to death when inequality or discrimination existed in that society. They stated that,

“the outcome (of a capital punishment case) may be dependent upon factors such

as the way the case is investigated by the police, the way the case is presented by

the prosecutor, how effectively the accused is defended, the personality and

particular attitude to capital punishment of the trial judge and, if the matter goes

on appeal, the particular judges who are selected to hear the case. Race and

poverty are also alleged to be factors. – S v. Makwanyane

Even though Europeans had slaughtered thousands of innocent black citizens using the death penalty in South Africa, the new Supreme Court chose not to exact revenge on their colonial masters. The Constitutional Court correctly raised concern over the very real possibility that circumstantial factors of societal inequality may lead to incorrect judicial rulings.Understanding the inherent fallibility and imperfections of the legal system, South Africa refused to accept capital punishment as being an appropriate solution that imperfect courts of law are capable of responsibly administering. The U.S. shares a similar history of discriminatory behavior towards certain minority groups, yet formalists argue that the U.S. system can somehow fairly administer the death penalty. Unlike South Africa, where the judges had the wisdom to understand the potential human cost of allowing the death penalty to continue in a discriminatory society, American judges have dehumanized our judiciary with their undying allegiance to formalism.

III. HUMAN DIGNITY AND THE DEATH PENALTY

There is another group of people who wish to repeal the death penalty based on the idea that executions violate the modern concept of “human dignity,” even if administered perfectly by the courts. This principle is acknowledged in several constitutions around the world and is a basic right in most international human rights treaties. In Germany, Article II of the Basic Law states that “every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity. Freedom of the person shall be inviolable.” This has been interpreted to prohibit the use of capital punishment against any citizen.

Germany’s constitution and courts draw on their scarred history of the Holocaust and World War 2 as inspiration for the abolishment of the death penalty.  During the reign of Nazi dictatorship an estimated 40,000 death sentences were handed down.  In response to this atrocious abuse of power, in 1949 German’s Parliamentary Council emphatically articulated its commitment to abolishing the death penalty:

“As the extent of Nazi atrocities and abuse of the death penalty became clear,

everyone was horrified, and the founders of the Federal Republic of Germany

decided the State could never again be allowed the power to kill.”

This acknowledgement of past atrocity empowered a modern Germany to learn from its grave mistakes and seek to never repeat them. They understood the real human impact of the loss of life, which is completely disregarded in the United States with its rigid maintenance of the death penalty. If one looks through the history books of the U.S., the nation was built on the genocide of a native population as well as the enslavement and abuse of African Americans. Yet, unlike the Germans, the American legal community had no such self-realization allowing the society to progress forward with the changing times. This is partially the reason why the execution of Troy Davis was so disheartening to so many across the world.  Once again, it reminded us of America’s arrogant refusal to correct past wrongs, and once again our poisoned judiciary shrunk at the opportunity to stand up to its moral obligations.

Predictably, few in the Supreme Court have acknowledged the importance of human dignity in their legal analysis.  Justice Brennan explained how the death penalty relates to the newly developing ideals of “human dignity”, when he stated “the country has debated whether a society for which the dignity of the individual is the supreme value can, without a fundamental inconsistency, follow the practice of deliberately putting some of its members to death…the struggle about this punishment has been one between ancient and deeply rooted beliefs in retribution…. on the one hand, and, on the other, beliefs in the personal value and dignity of the common man.”

IV. WISDOM IN THE COURT

            Thus, we can now come back to the situation of Troy Davis, whose appeal to the Supreme Court was denied even though many of the witnesses in his case recanted their story. The reasoning behind the court’s decision was lauded by some legal formalists, as the court upheld the prior decisions allowing for capital punishment in the face of abject discrimination. While legal formalists rely on case law, the ultimate law of any nation is its constitution and the basic feature of all constitutions, we argue, is that they protect human dignity and equality.

            In Furman v. Georgia, Justice Brennan argued that all capital punishment should be banned in the U.S. because the society no longer accepts it as an acceptable form of punishment (which is true today as 60% of Americans want to ban the death penalty). However, he explained through the Constitution, that the Eighth Amendment banned the use of cruel and unusual punishment, and that the definition of “cruel and unusual” would change over time.  Justice Brennan stated that Constitutional protections “must draw [their] meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Therefore, the judges are tasked with the job of monitoring the “evolving standards of decency,” which cannot be done purely through a scientific legal rigidity and upholding past decisions.

            This requires that a judge display one characteristic: wisdom. A judge embodies wisdom when he/she recognizes the human impact of the decisions they make and understands the spirit of the laws. It is an obvious contention that laws and constitutions, at least nominally, were created to maximize human happiness and ensure equality, but a focus on legally formalistic arguments lends to decisions that result in injustice and misery.

Thus, a judge espousing higher law principles of wisdom possesses the ability to apply the law in a manner contextually related to the human experience.  A judge shouldn’t apply the law as if it is an infallible science, but rather should acknowledge imperfections in the law that have led to inequalities and socially manufactured economic and ethnic divisions. More generally, lawyers must possess the courage to pragmatically address such inequalities and divisions in restorative fashion, in an attempt to make society whole again by reconciling the past, not ignoring it.

V. CONCLUSION

While we train our lawyers and judges to be skilled in the technical facets of the law, we do not value an independently developed internal wisdom that a judge possesses by way of experience and inner-reflection, as opposed to external study and recitation of doctrine. This doctrinal formalism has dominated our Courts – and trickled down into our lower courts and judicial methodology in general. Thus, courts will continue to exact injustice and take the lives of innocent people if it does not adjust its decisions to the environment / characteristics of each specific case and value human dignity and life above all else.

If a wise judge were given the chance to examine capital punishment with regards to the gross racial disparity in execution rates, they would immediately work to ban the punishment all together. Alternatively, a wise judge could also assess the development of society’s values, which have redefined human dignity to include a protection against state-sponsored murder. The American legal system must catch up to progressive constitutional mandates that prohibit the death penalty.

Waris Husain Editorial: Double-Standard Defense

As the protest movement in Bahrain gains strength, authorities have responded with massive arrests and sentenced four protest leaders to death. This brutal repression has been exercised with the help of mercenary defense contractors fromPakistan’s Fauji Foundation and Bahria. These organizations follow the same model as the much-despised American contracting firms like Blackwater and CACI. And while there is indignation at the thought of these companies operating within Pakistan, the same resentment does not follow when Pakistani contractors are used against peaceful protestors abroad. This reveals the Double-Standard Defense strategy adopted byPakistan, where it lambastes the U.S.military, while adopting some of its strategies.

            During last week’s protests, Bahrani dissidents chanted “The Police are Pakistani,” and there have been several instances of Pakistanis being attacked by mobs, leading to a few deaths. Though some Pakistanis who travel to the Gulf have long-complain about the racist undertones against non-Arabs, these have exploded into an all-out assault on some Pakistani communities. Such behavior is as unacceptable as the discrimination practiced by the al-Khalifa Royal family against Shiites inBahrain, because it is based on an individual’s background instead of their actions.

            However, the Bahraini protestors are angered by Pakistani presence in their nation, as Pakistanis reject the presence of the U.S.in theirs. They both produce similar arguments as well, the first of which is that foreign militaries are engaging in secretive operations to influence the events of the other country. These claims gained credibility in Pakistan after the Raymond Davis incident, where a CIA agent’s identity was revealed after he shot two people. The U.S.government felt the ire of the Pakistani Army and populace for several weeks thereafter, as tensions between the two partners have worsened since the incident.
            Yet,Pakistan’s military fails to find the irony of decrying CIA presence in their country, while training and sending secret agents to subvert the events of another. Allegations have been made that the ISI has stationed agents and trainers inBahrain, as a product of Pakistan’s subservient relationship to the Saudi Arabians. As the Saudis feel they have much to lose if Bahrain’s regime falls, their Pakistani servants are dispatched to arrest and detain protestors. Due to the fear of a domino effect in theGulf States,Saudi Arabia has deployed several thousands of its own security forces toBahrain, many of whom are directly trained by Pakistani military personnel. Though a Raymond Davis-type situation has not revealed the interference of Pakistan’s military against the democratic protests, there is a high likelihood thatPakistan is acting under its alliance to the Saudis in assisting repression in one way or another.

            The second claim of double-standard defense is made by Pakistanis and relates to the existence of private defense contractors around every corner and behind terrorist attack. Companies in theU.S.like Xe, formerly called Blackwater, and CACI have earned billions of dollars from the government by employing a cadre of ex-soldiers.  Due to their lack of affiliation to theU.S.military, these groups often act with in violation of international and local laws, and have been rejected by Afghans and Pakistanis alike.

            Yet,Pakistan’s Fauji Foundation office for Overseas Employment Services has adopted a similar strategy: creating contracts withGulf Statesto provide ex-servicemen who can assume the responsibility of actual soldiers and security officials. This has resulted in claims of terrible brutality by mercenary soldiers; where protestors inManamaclaimed that many of the security officials slaughtering citizens were speaking Urdu. Indeed, this claim can be more easily verified than the claims of direct ISI involvement because the Fauji Foundation printed advertisements in March in Dawn, one of Pakistan’s largest newspapers. These advertisements requested up to 800 ex-servicemen to sign up for deployment as “riot-police and trainers” working under the Bahraini security authorities.

The plan to involve Pakistanis in a brutal repression in a foreign land will carry grave effects due to the economic significance of Bahrainand otherGulf StatesonPakistan. Much of Pakistan’s economy is based on remittances from workers inGulf States. However, if Pakistanis are seen as the face of the regime’s oppression, survival in the country will be far less likely for them. If an exodus of Pakistani foreign workers does occur from the Gulf States due to increased discrimination, this would greatly harmPakistan’s economic future.

Thus, even thoughPakistanabhors the actions of theU.S.military and its associated corporations, it adopts these same practices itself.  Pakistani military leaders criticize the CIA for stationing secret agents in the nation and expound upon the threat posed by private mercenary contractors. The same allegations have been made by protestors inBahrainwho say they are facing the bullets of ISI agents and Pakistani mercenaries. Yet, if Pakistan’s leadership  reflects on the damage done to its relationship with theU.S.due to the actions of the CIA and American mercenary contractors, it should realize that a post-Khalifa Bahrain will be an instant and enraged enemy.

Russia’s poor are in worst condition than 1990’s while the rich double thier wealth

Published in the Guardian

rish russian women shopping
The richest slice of Russian society has doubled its wealth in the past 20 years, while almost two-thirds of the population is no better off and the poor are barely half as wealthy as they were when the Soviet Union fell, according to researchers.

Experts at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) found that the purchasing power of the average Russian has grown by 45% since the early 1990s, but income disparity is widening by the year. The report reinforces a widely held view that oligarchs got rich quick by snapping up the country’s choicest assets in the turbulent post-Soviet period.

Yevgeny Yasin, scientific director of HSE and a former economics minister, said: “The principal issue for Russia‘s economy and society today is the level of inequality. Only the best-off 20% of the population is successfully participating in the rise in prosperity which became possible as the result of creating a market economy.”

Food is slightly cheaper relative to income and simple pleasures have become more accessible. The average adult buys more vehicles and televisions and can afford more alcohol and cigarettes than at the beginning of the 1990s. “Drinking, smoking and burning around in a car have become a lot cheaper,” the report found.

But most Russians can only stare in envy at the super-wealthy with their Bentleys and dachas. According to the report, income inequality between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s has increased eight times more than in Hungary, and five times more than in the Czech Republic. The huge gap between rich and poor “largely negates the economic and social achievements of recent years,” the HSE report said.

Yasin added that the study indicated there were “two Russias”. The wealthiest fifth of the population received a pay cheque equivalent to 198% of its value in 1991, while the poorest fifth made only 55% in real terms. In total, 60% of the population has the same real income or less than the average 20 years ago.  “Many things are required to change this,” said Vladimir Gimpelson, one of the authors.

“We need more political and market competition, enforcement of property rights, rule of law, systemic change in labour market institutions and stronger social protection for the needy.”  The widening gulf comes as the World Bank recorded an overall drop in poverty. A report by the bank published on Sunday found the percentage of people in Russia living below the poverty line – meaning those who earn less than 5,900 roubles (£130) per month – fell from 13.2% in 2009 to 12.7% last year. It attributed the fall to increased pensions, public sector wages and benefits for job seekers, and predicted that continuing economic growth would push the figure down to 11.2% this year and 10% next year.

However, the report repeated a past admonition that Russia must diversify its economy to reduce its reliance on oil and gas exports. Two prominent Russians much richer today than they were 20 years ago have published income declarations, showing their earnings dropped between 2009 and 2010. Prime minister Vladimir Putin declared £104,000, compared with President Dmitry Medvedev’s £70,000.

Libyan revolutionary council rejects African Union’s peace initiative

Published in the Guardian.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil

Libya’s revolutionary leadership has flatly rejected an African Union peace initiative because it does not require Muammar Gaddafi to immediately relinquish power.  The rebels’ interim ruling council met an AU delegation from five countries – led by three presidents and two foreign ministers – the day after Gaddafi endorsed the African “roadmap to peace”, which included an immediate ceasefire, the suspension of Nato air strikes and talks towards a political settlement.

But Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the revolutionary council chairman, said the rebels had told the AU its proposal had been outdated by events, including the UN security council resolution authorising air strikes, and was in any case unacceptable because it left Gaddafi in power while both sides negotiated.

From the very beginning we have been asking that the exit of Gaddafi and his sons take place immediately. We cannot consider this or any future proposal that does not include this peoples’ requirement,” said Jalil. “He leaves on his own or the march of the people will be at his doorstep.”

That view was strongly backed by thousands of demonstrators outside the Benghazi hotel where the talks were held. They waved revolutionary flags and carried signs saying: “No solution with Gaddafi staying”. Jalil said that the AU peace proposal was drafted a month ago and had been overtaken by the UN security council resolution requiring Gaddafi to halt his attacks on civilians. “Colonel Gaddafi did not recognise this resolution and continued bombing civilians from the air and shooting them, and surrounding cities with his forces and put his forces inside cities. There is not any way the Libyan people can accept such a situation,” he said.

Although the AU proposal included a ceasefire, the rebels said it did not go far enough. They want one that requires Gaddafi to withdraw his forces from towns where they have been used to suppress the revolution, particularly Misrata and Zawiya, and the allowing of unfettered public protest in the hope that Libyans in cities still under Gaddafi’s control will seize the opportunity to rise up.

The British foreign secretary, William Hague, backed the revolutionaries’ position saying that Gaddafi must go and that a new ceasefire would have to meet the UN requirement for a withdrawal of his forces from cities they are attacking.  “Anything short of this would be a betrayal of the people of Libya and would play into the hands of the regime, which has announced two utterly meaningless ceasefires since the fighting began without its vicious military campaign missing a single beat,” the foreign secretary said.

Jalil also rejected the AU’s proposal for a cessation of Nato air strikes. “If it were not for the air strikes carried out by the coalition forces and Nato we would not now be at this meeting,” he said. The AU’s proposal for an end to the air strikes was also met with scepticism by Nato. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general, said that for a ceasefire to work it would need to be “credible and verifiable”, suggesting that international monitors would need to be deployed on the ground in Libya, but that it was “too early” for this.

“We need to establish an effective monitoring mechanism if a ceasefire is to be credible,” he said.  Jalil said that the revolutionary council had confronted the AU delegation with evidence that mercenaries from several African countries were fighting for Gaddafi, particularly from Algeria.

The AU delegation – made up of South Africa, Uganda, Mauritania, Congo-Brazzaville and Mali – left the talks looking glum, without making a public comment and to the derisive shouts of the protesters outside the hotel.  The revolutionary leadership was distrustful of the AU initiative from the beginning. Gaddafi used Libya’s oil wealth to buy greater influence in Africa after his aspirations to forge an Arab union were spurned. The AU delegation included the leaders of countries that have taken money from Gaddafi as well as South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, whose party, the African National Congress, has accepted considerable donations from the Libyan leader.

The rebels were disturbed to see Zuma refer to the Libyan dictator as “brother leader”. The South African leader did not travel on to the Benghazi meeting.  While Gaddafi told the AU he was ready for a ceasefire, his forces continued their onslaught against Misrata. Unicef warned that thousands of children in the city were in grave danger.

At least 20 children, mostly under the age of 10, have been killed in the besieged city in the past month, according to Unicef. Many more have been injured by gunfire or shrapnel from mortars and tank shells. “More and more children in this city are being killed, injured and denied their essential needs due to the fighting,” said Shahida Azfar of Unicef. “Until the fighting stops we face the intolerable inevitability of children continuing to die and suffer in this war zone.”

At least 250 people in the town, mostly civilians, have died in the past month according to two doctors interviewed by phone by Human Rights Watch (HRW). “The Libyan government’s near-siege of Misrata has not prevented reports of serious abuses getting out,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW. “We’ve heard disturbing accounts of shelling and shooting at a clinic and in populated areas, killing civilians where no battle was raging.”

Waris Husain: From Washington to Tripoli- Lessons in Revolution

            In discussing the options to intervene in nations like Libya where political dissidents are attempting to free themselves from despotism, the American Revolution provides several lessons for the Jasmine Revolutionaries. The first correlation one can draw between the two movements is the similar tyrannical and imperial rule that preceded them. Secondly, Arab revolutionaries should understand the significance of the American Revolutionaries having created the Declaration of Independence at the outset of their agitation. Finally, the French intervention which assisted the U.S. in its war against the British monarchy shows us how a self-serving intervention by a foreign power can still net a positive result for the nation it is helping.

            The first similarity between the revolutions taking place across the Middle East / Africa and the American Revolution was that they were both inspired by the tyranny of their ruling power. One must draw a distinction as the U.S. was ruled by an English Monarchy who lived thousands of miles away while places like Libya are ruled by their own home-grown dictators. While post-colonial leaders like Ghaddafi are home-grown despots, they have used the same techniques to rule the people as their colonial masters.

The favorite method of the English and French during their colonial hay-day was the ‘divide-and- conquer’ strategy, which has been adopted by many African and Arab dictators. This strategy aims at stoking tensions and internal wars between tribes or ethnicities, in order to divert attention from the Colonial powers’ unjust exploitation of the colony. The British attempted this with the American colonies in order to distract people from realizing the increasingly steep levels of taxes being levied on the colonists without any representation awarded to them in Parliament. Dictators like Ghaddafi and Mubarak used these tactics to hide their own system of corruption, nepotism, and tyrannical violence.

Though both the revolutions in America and the Middle East share a common despotic environment from which they grow, the strategies of the two revolutionaries differ radically. By drafting the Declaration of Independence, the American revolutionaries were forced to come together and agree on the reasons for separating from the British crown and the modes by which to do it. The process of creating the document itself required there to be a shared purpose at the outset of the insurgency against the British amongst all participants which created cohesion and order. The Mid-East revolutions have happened at such a faster rate, that such planning and drafting of documents has not taken place, and the opposition forces have suffered due to this lack of shared vision,

The American Declaration began with a phrase to explain why such a document even needed to be written, as “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they [the revolutionaries] should declare the causes which impel them to the separation [from the English monarchy].”  This respect for the “opinions of man-kind” has not been shown by the Arab revolutionaries, who have not produced cohesive manifestos to let the world know exactly why they are revolting and how. This becomes especially important with regards to foreign intervention, as we see a squeamishness amongst the Western world to support an opposition group that has not expressed their motivations or plans for the future. 

Finally, many have criticized the American intervention in Libya as merely a political move not based on principles of democracy-promotion, especially as the U.S. ignores the plight of democracy promoters in oil-rich allied states like Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. Yet, as the world focuses on the hypocrisy of the U.S. action in Libya, one should take note that there has always been a self-serving hypocrisy amongst nations who assist revolutions in other nations.  

The American Revolution could not have been possible without covert support of the French, who were themselves ruled by a king at the time. Why would one king wish to aid insurgents hoping to topple another monarchy? The answer is simply that the French had less of an interest in the democratic cause of the American revolutionaries, and more of an interest in bleeding out their arch nemesis, the English.

While there was a shared belief amongst the elite of France and the U.S. in the Great Enlightenment and in principles of democracy, the French made a purely pragmatic foreign policy decision in assisting the American revolutionaries. It was this rivalry between France and England that provided the American revolutionaries with the guns, money, and supplies needed to defeat the British. Therefore, it didn’t matter what self-serving interests existed for the French, because the net result of their intervention was that the Americans freed themselves from colonial rule.

Thus, there are several lessons that can be learned between the American Revolution of 1776 and the upheaval across the Middle East. The inception of both movements comes from a tyrannical rule, whether in the form of Arab/African dictatorship or British colonial rule. The drafting of the Declaration of Independence by the American revolutionaries should be a model adopted by dissidents across the world as a means to join together under a singular document as well as express their views to the rest of the world. And while the world debates intervention, some will look to the French involvement in the American Revolution and will realize that the motivations of the interveners are less important than their actions. Most importantly, America should look at her own history before continuing to ignore the plight of activists in nations like Saudi Arabia, who are imprisoned and tortured for the doing exactly what the founders of our nation did.

Sovereign Of the Week: Anna Hazare (Fasting against corruption)

Hunger striking Indian activist Anna Hazare has called for mass protests by his supporters against corruption. The 72-year-old campaigner is on the fourth day of a fast to push for stringent new anti-corruption laws. He wants his followers to “fill India’s jails” in a mass campaign of non-violent civil disobedience on 13 April.

Thousands of people have joined Mr Hazare’s protest. In recent months India has been rocked by a string of corruption scandals. On Thursday, the government agreed to include civil society members in a new panel which Mr Hazare is demanding be set up to draft tighter anti-corruption legislation. But differences remain over who will lead the panel and whether it will have legal powers.

Mr Hazare has said he wants the “jail bharo” (fill the prison) movement to take place across India. “But you should participate in the agitation keeping in mind Mahatma Gandhi. There should be no violence anywhere,” he told his supporters.

India’s governing Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi has urged Mr Hazare to give up his fast. She said his views would receive the government’s “full attention” in the fight against corruption. Doctors are checking Mr Hazare twice a day to monitor his health. The 72-year-old says he will refuse food until the government accedes to his demands.

There has been widespread support for Mr Hazare with protests and hunger strikes reported across India. Some 2,000 people have joined the activist at the historic Jantar Mantar observatory in Delhi, where he is conducting his fast. Correspondents say Mr Hazare has rallied people across the country disillusioned with the recent spate of scandals – he is highly respected as a social activist with an untarnished reputation.

Some of the recent corruption scandals to have angered Indians include a multi-billion dollar alleged telecoms scam, alleged financial malpractices in connection with the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and allegations that houses for war widows were diverted to civil servants.

Last month the head of the country’s anti-corruption watchdog was forced to resign by the Supreme Court on the grounds that he himself faced corruption charges.