Thursday, 29 March 2012

British Monarch vs U.S President: Then and Now

In 1776, at the time of the declaration of Independence, the British Monarchy was the most splendid, the grandest, the most formidable political institution known to man. At its peak the British Empire spanned a quarter of the globe, and a mere change in gesture of a single King would determine the fate of millions around the world.

It was in the wake of the absolute reign of the British King, the founders risked, as they would have liked to tell us, "Their Lives, Their Fortunes, and Their Sacred Honors" to craft a revolution, a struggle which would eventually culminate into the foundation of an independent and sovereign American Republic, not of subjects, but of a prosperous, free and self-reliant body of citizens. At the very heart and purpose of these United States of America was the fulfillment of two noble promises: to its own people, an oath of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" and to the rest of mankind of, "Peace, Commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."

 Yet both vows have been broken. People have been deprived of their Life, Liberty and Happiness. So far and distant does the federal government stand from "Peace and Honest friendship" with other nations, that propping foreign dictators, brutal suppression of the liberties of its own people, Economic coercion, perpetual and endless wars seems to be the Federal Governments only known language of conduct and discourse. 

In the Federalist Essay 67, guaranteeing the faithfulness of the executive branch, Hamilton writes,

" There is hardly any part of the system which could have been attended with greater difficulty in the arrangement of it than this; and there is, perhaps, none which has been inveighed against with less candor or criticized with less judgment."

"Here the writers against the Constitution seem to have taken pains to signalize their talent of misrepresentation. Calculating upon the aversion of the people to monarchy, they have endeavored to enlist all their jealousies and apprehensions in opposition to the intended President of the United States; not merely as the embryo, but as the full-grown progeny, of that detested parent. To establish the pretended affinity, they have not scrupled to draw resources even from the regions of fiction. The authorities of a magistrate, in few instances greater, in some instances less, than those of a governor of New York, have been magnified into more than royal prerogatives. He has been decorated with attributes superior in dignity and splendor to those of a king of Great Britain. He has been shown to us with the diadem sparkling on his brow and the imperial purple flowing in his train. He has been seated on a throne surrounded with minions and mistresses, giving audience to the envoys of foreign potentates, in all the supercilious pomp of majesty."

Fast-forward 200 years and the world seems to be turned on its head. The reality of the 21st century, ironic as it is, has vindicated the anti-federalists in almost every aspect of the constitutional debate. Whereas, the British Empire has long disappeared and the monarchy largely ceremonial, with the crown being vested in a harmless old lady who spends her days merely giving slick speeches to keep up the well dressed image of a fast fading past; the U.S president has usurped and furnished himself with majesty and powers of such great magnitude that juxtaposed with the then King of Britain, ruler of a quarter of the globe, the U.S president may very well be said to be the King of the ENTIRE Earth.

"The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. The person of the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable; there is no constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable; no punishment to which he can be subjected without involving the crisis of a national revolution."

Now, what good is a provision of impeachment which is simply hardly ever used and that too for the wrong reasons?

In our times there is only one president who has been impeached in the United States. Oddly enough Bill Clinton wasn't put on trial for giving a false testimony under oath, nor for taking bribes, not even for his bombing of Iraq, something which Mr. Clinton even continued even on the very day of the House impeachment vote. Instead he was impeached, in the words of Hamilton, for his "ministers and mistresses"- more specifically his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Ironically, he was acquitted of even this charge of misconduct.

It is worth reiterating that Mr. Bush and Obama stand unimpeachable even despite all their unconstitutionality while their war crimes are simply glossed over by congress. So, in practice, if U.S presidents can get away with all such truly 'impeachable' offenses then there is hardly any difference between the pomp of King of Great Britain and the his highness the U.S president. Either one of them can get away with acts of treason and bribery, the former due to inviolability and the latter in open and flagrant breach of constitutional statute.

Moreover, it is worth noting that every presidential campaign is run on charity from lobbyists and large corporations, and although such money acquired maybe conveniently termed as "donations", taking sums from wall street banks and passing bailouts in their favor is in effect BRIBERY.

But perhaps the most important difference between the English King and the U.S president outlined by Hamilton is on the issue of declaring war. 

"The one would have a right to command the military and naval forces of the nation; the other [King], in addition to this right, possesses that of DECLARING war, and of RAISING and REGULATING fleets and armies by his own authority."

There was hardly any other topic which was more deliberated upon in the constitutional convention than the question of declaration of war. Calculating upon their experiences with the colonies and the English Monarchy the founding fathers had judged that in any government it is always the "Executive Branch" which has the greatest appetite for war; therefore, they had deliberately reserved the power of declaring wars explicitly with congress ONLY.

Therefore, would it not be a 'real' impeachable offense if the president declared war without  express permission from Congress ?

Yet, President Obama all by himself and by his own initiative declared an unconstitutional war in Libya without congressional approval. Instead of seeking congress, he went to his cronies at NATO, the Arab League (a bunch of Arab dictators) and the UN Security council. After that the troops were sent in, CIA officials were sent in, the drones were sent in and the bombing commenced for so called "humanitarian purposes". Sixty days passed and the deadline for the War Powers resolution passed by without Obama seeking permission for the No Fly Zone; after which Pres. Obama in classical despotic fashion told the congress " That NO authorization was needed."

In one public statement he even went on to say, "I'm not going to go around putting my constitutional lawyer hat on."

By engaging in this illegal war, President Obama has once again showed us that the congress is merely ceremonial and that a President, very much like the King, may commit the country into war whenever he feels like without reproach or the risk of impeachment. Certainly, Obama isn't the first president to have done this, nevertheless he has setup one more precedent for future Presidents to do the same.  

Monday, 26 March 2012

A few quotes from Prince Machiavelli

"A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise."

"A son can bear with equanimity the loss of his father, but the loss of his inheritance may drive him to despair."

"Before all else, be armed."

"God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us. "

"Hence it comes about that all armed Prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed Prophets have been destroyed. "

"It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both."

"It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver."

"It is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope."

"Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain."

"The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present."

"To understand the nature of the people one must be a prince, and to understand the nature of the prince, one must be of the people."

"Whoever conquers a free town and does not demolish it commits a great error and may expect to be ruined himself."

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Machiavelli and Democracy

A lot has been written about Nicolò Machiavelli, the notorious Florentine politician, philosopher and Renaissance man. Best known as the author of the handbook for tyrants, The Prince, he also wrote Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy, a much more republican affair. Both are considered classics of political thought, especially for the use of the ‘inductive method’ – the idea of grounding knowledge on the collection, collation, and analysis of what we call facts’ (Femia, Page 151-152). While many sought ‘explanations by a long process of inference and deduction’ about which system would be the perfect one for humans to exist, Machiavelli employed a different tack, using history to make his argument. In this essay, I will discuss his inductive conclusions about democracy being the best political system of all, comparing and contrasting them with the views of others.

What is democracy? There is no universally accepted definition for it and is open to interpretation. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as ‘a government in which supreme power is vested in the people.’ Aristotle was the first to classify the various different types of political constitutions in Politics, building on Plato’s question ‘Who would rule in an ideal society?’ (Burns, 81-82). He theorised that there are six types: kingship, tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, polity and democracy. Plato preferred aristocratic rule by benevolent ‘philosopher-kings’, the product of an intensive education system. He argued that democracy was akin to ‘mob rule’, and that that the democratic man is anarchic and disordered as his desires compete with each other (Reeve, 56). Aristotle endorsed democracy, because ‘man is by nature a social and political animal. A fully human life is one of harmonious fellowship with others, living together in a community, or polis’ (Burns, 76-77), and democracy is the most just way of distributing political power. Machiavelli took the idea further:

‘There are six types of government, of which three are very bad, and three are good in themselves but easily become corrupt, so that they too must be classed as pernicious.....for Principality easily becomes Tyranny. From Aristocracy the transition to Oligarchy is an easy one. Democracy is without difficulty converted into Anarchy’ (Machiavelli, Discourses, Book 1, Chapter 2)

Though concurring with Aristotle, he presents them as a cycle, instead of six separate systems, explaining that hereditary corruption would lead to one mutating into the next. According to him, this inherent instability results in the state being ‘subject to a neighbouring and better organised state’ and eventually loses its freedom. To have the best possible regime, an amalgamation of the three should be adopted by legislators. The principality, the aristocracy and the democracy would cancel each other out and prevent corruption, resulting in a much more stable ‘republic’. The Romans, he said, had hit upon the perfect formula. ‘The Discourses are an attempt to elucidate the first four hundred and fifty years of Roman history in such a way that a modern reader might see why Rome was great; how it remained for so long incorrupt’ (Anglo, 92-93) and his main objective is ‘to explain how Rome developed in to the greatest polity the world had ever known, and thereby demonstrate the faults of modern polities.’ (Anglo, 90)

While Plato and Aristotle believed in a utopia, Machiavelli was of the opinion that a political system is always in flux. There are several factors that affect a republic, of which ‘liberty’ is the most significant. The importance he attaches to this is apparent by how the first few chapters of the Discourses deal with liberty.

‘Those who have displayed prudence in constituting a republic have looked upon the safeguarding of liberty as one of the most essential things for which they had to provide’ (Machiavelli, Discourses, 1, 5)

In a principality, because the prince holds all the power, as the nobles do in an aristocracy, the general population suffers from a lack of freedom, their desires contradicting those of the rulers. In a republic, where all the different classes have representation, liberty is easier to obtain. ‘The Roman republic achieved a perfectly moderate constitution only when the plebs obtained their place in institutional life of the city through the Tribunes, along with the nobility, represented by the Senate and the consuls. It was precisely in virtue of this moderation that the Roman republic qualified as the ‘perfect republic’’ (Viroli, 167). An issue with of power-sharing is who gets more, the people (plebs) or the nobles.

‘Whether the Safeguarding of Liberty can be more safely entrusted to the Populace or to the Upper Class’ (Machiavelli, Discourses, 1, 5)

Machiavelli acknowledges the dilemma. If the guardianship is in the hands of the nobles, their ambitions are satisfied. It also keeps the plebs from ‘acquiring a sense of power’. On the other hand, he argues, power should be in the hands of people less likely to use it for personal benefit, i.e. the plebs.  To solve this dilemma, he compares Sparta and Venice, where power lay with the nobles, to the Romans, where it was in the hands of the plebs. Since the former lasted much longer, common sense would dictate that they employed the better system, but there are distinctions to be made between both cases. If ‘one is content to maintain the status quo’ and not expand its borders, then the case of Sparta and Venice is ideal. But, if a republic wants to grow and become an empire as Rome did, power must reside in the hands of the people. By this argument, the plebs should be the guardians of liberty.

Civil discord is an aspect of liberty. Where most classified it as chaotic and detrimental to peace, Machiavelli considered it essential.

‘Discord between the Plebs and the Senate of Rome made this Republic both Free and Powerful’ (Machiavelli, Discourses, 1, 4)

He also discusses this at length in Chapter 6 of Book I in the Discourses, debating whether Rome could have functioned under a government without hostility between the classes. Again, he uses the examples of Sparta and Venice. ‘Rome had a large population and employed it in war, and consequently though Rome acquired a great empire, there were also endless opportunities for rebellion amongst the plebs. Venice did not employ its populace in war and Sparta kept its populace small and did not admit foreigners into this city. When they tried to enlarge their territories, they failed and collapsed’ (Viroli, 159) If a republic is to maintain freedom and expand, it must tolerate social conflicts. He recommends this despite witnessing the time of Girolamo Savonarola (Kreis, The History Guide), the anti-Renaissance preacher. He had seen mobs support the purges of the puritanical monk, and then turn against him, hanging and burning him. In spite of these threats of violence, he saw more benefits to sacrificing the peace than keeping it.

Another significant factor is ‘virtù’ in the populace. ‘The term is used to describe the range of capacities that each one of us as a citizen needs to possess: the capacities that enable us willingly to serve the common good, thereby to uphold the freedom of our community, and its consequence to ensure its rise to greatness as well as our own liberty’ (Skinner, 303). This includes courage and determination, for self-defence from external threats. Prudence and other civic qualities are also needed so as to be able to play an active role in public life. Lack of these leads to corruption, ‘a failure of rationality, an inability to recognise that our own liberty depends on committing ourselves to a life of virtue and public service.’ (Skinner, 304) Machiavelli holds a very cynical view of the nature of men, and says that corruption is inevitable.

‘It must needs be taken for granted that all men are wicked and that they will always give vent to malignity that is in their minds when opportunity offers’ (Machiavelli, Discourses, 1, 3) and ‘How easily men are corrupted’ (Machiavelli, Discourses, 1, 42)

This is a view echoed much later by Hobbes in Leviathan, with his concept of ‘egoism’, arguing that individuals are ‘motivated by self-interest’ (Baumgold, 164-165). As opposed to Machiavelli, he advocated monarchy as the best method to counter it, appointing a leader in whose interests it would be to ensure everyone’s needs are met. Machiavelli also held Christianity, or its interpretation, partly responsible, despite agreeing that religion has the power to unify a state. It ‘demands of its adherents the fortitude to bear suffering, not to achieve great things...this has come about from the baseness of men who, interpreting Christianity according to sloth and not according to virtù, have not considered how it permits us to exalt, honour, and defend our fatherland’ (Anglo, 111,112). He suggests a civic religion to get the best out of men, though he does not clarify what he means by it. Virtù is necessary to stop corruption and combat the inherent human condition that ‘the natural selfishness of men will regularly subvert the state, reduce it to chaos, and transform it into something different’ (Femia, 154), which leads to the instability mentioned earlier.

Hobbes and Locke thought that ‘the image of the social contract makes it apparent that we are looking for the functionality of government in the benefits it confers on individuals’ (Waldron, 185), that governments are born out of a moral need to overcome man’s nature. Machiavelli, on the other hand, believes that it is for the good of the whole state, not just one individual.  It should aim for greatness, and only a democracy can fulfil that aim.  This is reinforced in the Discourses:

‘...a republic has a fuller life and enjoys good fortune for a longer time than a principality, since it is better able to adapt itself to diverse circumstances owing to the diversity found among its citizens than a prince can do. For a man who is accustomed to act in one particular way, never changes, as we have said. Hence, when times change and no longer suit his ways, he is inevitably ruined.’ (Machiavelli, Discourses, 3, 9)

He explicitly states that a prince would find it difficult to alter his approach to ruling. This shortcoming would be ultimately detrimental to the state, whereas in a republic, those with virtù and suited to the situation would be nominated to lead according to the prevailing circumstances. He gives an example of the benefit of elections.

‘For, if the immediate succession of one virtuous prince by another suffices for the conquest of the world, as it did in the case of Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great, a republic should be all the more successful, since, thanks to its practice of electing its rulers, it has not merely a succession of two highly virtuous rulers, but an infinite number each succeeding the other; and this virtuous succession may always be kept up in a well-ordered republic.’ (Machiavelli, Discourses, 1, 21)

As Alexander had no clear successors, his death prompted civil wars, fracturing the Empire. This would not have been the case in a democracy, like the Roman Empire. After one virtuous leader, another would be elected to lead the republic forward.

Hence, of the six kinds of regimes described by Aristotle, Machiavelli believes in not one, but all of them, combined together to form the ideal administration, and compares the Roman Empire to others to prove his point. Even though Machiavelli concedes that the Spartan/Venetian model is better, having lasted much longer, yet he still puts forth democracy as what a republic should endeavour for, giving it the ability to expand its borders, as in the case of Rome. This argument is used to prove that plebs should be the guardians of liberty. The only aspect that Machiavelli seems confused about is religion, as his views are contradictory. As they say, Rome was not built in a day, but took a long time to perfect. This is the advice he gives to all governments: implement a democracy with liberty and virtù. Thus, greatness will be assured, as it was for Rome.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Hassan Nisar Explains Pakistani Immigration

Hassan Nisar rips apart Pakistanis on the issue of immigrating to European countries. English subtitles included. BTW....The terrible music isn't my fault. Blame the Uploader !

Western Imperialism Exposed

In this video, Hassan Nisar, one of the best columnists in Pakistan dispels the myth of "western imperialism" within the Sub-continent, Pakistan and India

Since critics often make use of western colonial history as a pretext for demonizing Western European culture, for those of you who don't understand Urdu or Hindi, I am posting a translation of what he is saying about this key and often misunderstood issue.


Just think about it; who are the ones that have carved the world that we live in today ?

Let me call it upon your attention, that the first and only railway station in the country [built by the British] went operational in Lahore only 149 years ago in 1860. Then the British went on to introduce the first motor car just 114 years ago; then, 101 years ago, they introduced the first aeroplane; 109 years ago, they introduced electricity; and just 47 years ago the west introduced the first television set.

Please, try to conceive your life without these few utilities. Minus these few things [the above and injections], have you even thought how people used to live before that ? Even a genius like Ghalib [the most famous poet in sub-continental history] was left perplexed and bewildered when he saw the British using Match-Sticks.

"What kind of nation has appeared before us, which carries fire within its pockets ?!!!", Ghalib asked in astonishment.

Have you even ever thought how people used to clean their clothes 70-100 years ago ? What did they have when there were no soaps, or when there was no shampoo or any tissue papers ?....And these are very minor things.

Today, when the lights go out for load-shedding, there is just so much tumult, clamour, noise and objection against the limited supply of electricity in this country. Electricity is something your grand-parents didn't even know about !

So, the world that we are living in today is all the product of Western-European labour and hard-work.

I am not joking here; often, when I turn on a light bulb, I pray to God, asking the Lord to grant Thomas Edison mercy and compassion. People like him are a blessing to all of man-kind.

In the old days when people used to go do the Hajj, it took ages to go to and from Mecca; and for those that did embark on this journey, it wasn't even expected that they would ever return back [He said this because of the risks involved in such a long and treacherous journey].

Have you ever contemplated how comfortable and easy it has become today to go and do the Hajj ?  How blessed are these westerners who have taken all these Non-European nations [sub-continent, Africa, Middle-East e.t.c], who were using nothing more than mere donkey carts for transportation just half-a-century ago, and have given them the utilities of modern day technology like trains, cars, planes e.t.c.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Marine Le Pen Slams Caller on the Iraq War
[Embedding is Disabled]

A caller by the name of chantel calls in live television to ask Marine Le Pen about her father's seemingly controversial remarks on 9-11.

Marine SCHOOLS her in one single lesson.

Friday, 9 March 2012

U.S Marines Urinate on Afghan Corpses

The moral depravity of America's war in Afghanistan has yet again furnished another perverse and repugnant incident.  An anonymous individual has posted a video of what appears to show U.S marines urinating on the corpses of Afghan bodies. The video was first uploaded onto YouTube with a caption indicating that the marines belonged to a Scout Sniper Team.

In this case, the legitimizing claim happens to be that the dead men were Taliban insurgents and not Afghan civilians. In the video it's very hard to tell whether there are any guns lying beside the corpses, however a rolled over construction cart is clearly visible, so it's anyone's guess whether these individuals were simply construction workers caught in the cross-fire or actual Taliban members. 

Midway through the video, one of the marines, contrary to every sense of human dignity, and much to his joy and amusement can be heard saying: "Have a great day buddy" while his other colleagues laugh and joke: "Yeah !.....Golden like a shower."

Department of Defence spokesman Captain John Kirby remarked, "Regardless of the circumstances or who is in the video, this is egregious, disgusting behaviour." 

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta condemned these acts saying, " This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military " and vowed that a full investigation would be carried out.

Then Lady Clinton followed suite and went on to repeat the same old exhausted cliché, " This is absolutely inconsistent with American values. " 

Now, unlike George Galloway I don't even want to get in the whole history of the never ending list of U.S wars, human rights abuses and the ridiculous notion of "American Values". Even casting aside all wrongs of this despicable act and giving admittance to the fact that in war bad things do happen, I think all of these public statements and the entire incident itself is kind of a distraction from the main issue.

Here U.S politicians are going around offering condolences and apologies for an incident which, although deplorable, is more or less a trifle, yet no apology is offered for the millions dead in Iraq and absolutely nothing is learned from one's policy and failures. I mean what good is a statement of "sorry" for something of so small and little a value compared to the huge pile of problems that the United States has created in the Middle-East.

Ron Paul is absolutely right when asking the question, " What about the whole idea of invading a country, occupying a country, disturbing a country and creating hundreds of thousands of refugees and suffering. Does it ever get to a point where apologizing about these things [this incident and others] is minor compared to the other problems we have created in these countries ? "