The War on Terror

We have recently had a request for a post on the war on terror… Anyone is able to request a post idea by emailing me at¬†digestiblepolitics@gmail.com – thanks ūüôā This topic is clearly very extensive, but of great interest and importance, so please read, enjoy and share!

This phrase, the war on terror, has been popularised by ex-president George Bush as a result of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. These attacks mobilised many countries to eliminate a number of terrorist organisations, including Al-Qaeda. This term is no longer used by Obama’s administration, but they have a similar objective of combatting terrorism by using a different phrase: Overseas Contingency Operation.

Terrorism before 9/11

Al-Qaeda can be seen to have originated from the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1979-89). In this war the USA, UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and China gave their support to the Islamist mujahadeen guerillas who were fighting against the Soviet Union and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In the 1990s Al-Qaeda developed following sponsorship by Osama Bin Laden in the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders (WIFJAJC). In 1998, Bin Laden declared war on the West and Israel. Later in 1998, the embassies of Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, leading to Bill Clinton Рthe then US president Рcommenced Operation Infinite Reach which aimed to bomb locations in Afghanistan and Sudan where members of WIFJAJC were believed to be. However, this operation was deemed a bit of failure as no leaders of WIFJAJC or the Taliban were killed. Just before 9/11 there was the 2000 millennium attack plots, which included an attempted bombing in LA airport and the USS Cole (a military ship) bombing. 

Objectives

The Authorisation for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) was brought into US law within a week of the 9/11 attacks. It allowed the American military to use any necessary force against those responsible for the attacks.  Bush defined the war on terror as having the following objectives:

– Defeat terrorists and their organisations

–¬†Identify, locate and demolish terrorists along with their organisations

–¬†Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists

–¬†Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit

– Defend citizens at home and abroad

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Military Operations

Operation Active Endeavour = NATO operation to stop movement of militant/weapons in mediterranean

Operation Enduring Freedom = this is what the Bush administration called the war in Afghanistan, alongside 3 smaller global conflicts explained below:

Afghanistan = US demanded the handing in over Bin Laden, but they refused after the US did not give evidence that Bin Laden was linked to 9/11. So, war was commenced with Taliban in Afghanistan, forcing the Taliban out of the cities to the more mountainous areas of the country. Operation Anaconda set up to kill any remaining Taliban in certain mountainous regions leading to heavy Taliban casualties. The Taliban regrouped in west Pakistan and have since kept the pressure on the USA, UK and other coalition forces. In 2010, Operation Moshtarak established to finish off the Taliban. Today, it is hoped forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Philippines = In 2002 forces were sent out to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their conflict against Filipino Islamist groups.

Horn of Africa = Although there is no specific goal, forces have been deployed here to prevent disruption and militant activity. A group called Task Force 150 was set up to control, inspect and stop shipments, if they wish, from entering the Horn of Africa. It was reported in 2006 that Bin Laden was said to have told militants to set up an Islamic state in Somalia and if anyone intervened Al-Qaeda would fight against them. Issues of terrorism (especially linked to Al-Qaeda) have continued to this day with far too many incidents to report here.

Trans Sahara = Counter-terrorism efforts and the control of arms/drugs trafficking has been set up. January 2012 saw the start of the conflict in northern Mali with islamic militants trying to overthrow the government. In January 2013 France sent troops to the area and launched Operation Serval, which aimed to remove the radical Islamists from the area.

Iraq

Since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait countries have dramatically increased their concerns of terrorism in Iraq. A no fly zone was set up by US forces but after Operation Desert Fox (1998) Iraq said they would no longer respect the no fly zone and simply shoot down US aircrafts. Ex-president G.W.Bush sent people into Iraq to locate weapons of mass destruction and destroy them. However, it was said that they could find no weapons of mass destruction. In 2003, war was declared on Iraq. Although the main combat was believed to be over within 2 months, terrorist groups contributed to an even greater number of casualties than the initial invasion. At the end of 2003 Hussein was captured and was later killed in 2006.

Pakistan 

After the 9/11 attacks the then president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, declared he was on the side of the USA against the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 2002, Musharraf gave a speech stating his opposition to Islamist extremism and said he would contribute to stop it. A number of US-Pakistan operations led to the capturing of a number of terrorists. In 2004, the Pakistan Army sent int 80,000 troops to one location of Pakistan to remove Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations from that region. Drone attacks and on-foot conflict still exists in this region with an estimated 15 US deaths here. On 2 May 2011 Bin Laden was killed by the US special operations forces in Pakistan.

Yemen

Al-Qaeda are also prominent in Yemen and a number of military strikes have been made against members of the organisation there.In counter terrorism efforts the US government has provided millions of dollars of support to combat terrorism here.

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International military support

The war in Afghanistan began with the USA, UK and the Afghan Northern Alliance. Later Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway (amongst others) joined the war. Less than 24 hours after 9/11 it was said the attacks were against all 19 NATO member state countries. NATO also set up Operation Active Endeavour explained above. Pakistan also joined the US on the war on terror, especially seen in the Waziristan War in Pakistan.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)

NATO set this up in 2001 to assist the establishment of the first post-Taliban elected government. In 2006 ISAF said they would replace US forces in the area as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Attacks since 9/11 by Al-Qaeda (non-exhaustive list)

– 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia

– 2003 Istanbul bombings

– 2004 Madrid Train Bombings

– 7 July 2005 London bombings

– 2007 Glasgow International Airport Attack

– 2011 Marrakech bombings

– 2012 US Consulate attack in Benghazi

Failed Attacks

– 21 July 2005 London Bombings

– 2006 Hudson River bomb plot

– 2007 John F. Kennedy International Airport attack plot

– 2010 cargo plane bomb plot in USA

– 2013 VIA Rail Canada terrorism plot

Post 9/11 in the USA

In 2002 the US Department of Homeland Security was set up to protect the USA. The USA Patriots Act 2001 allowed law enforcement agencies greater access to personal information, ease intelligence gathering, and makes it easier to deport immigrants etc. However, some interest groups have said such powers encroach civil liberties. In 2005 Bush gave a speech stating that over 400 people had been charged, with over half being convicted, of offences as a result of the Patriots Act. By 2003, 12 major conventions/protocols were set up to continue making changes to combat terrorism. A Continuity of Operations Plan was established so the country/government could continue to run smoothly in case any major event happened.

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Casualties

There are no exact number of casualties since the war on terror began but there are some predictions:

– In Iraq it is estimated that between 100,000 and 1 million people have died – a clearly very wide estimate coming from a wide number of sources! E.g. compare the statistics of the Iraq Body Count Project to the Opinion Research Business poll.

РIn Afghanistan it is estimated between 10,960 and 49,600 people have died

РIn Pakistan it is estimated between 1,467 and 2,334  were killed in drone attacks since 6 May 2011, whilst tens of thousands have been killed by terrorist attacks

– In Somalia there has been an estimated 7,000+ deaths

Costs

Official documents are not often – if at all – released. But in a congress report in 2011 estimated spending on the war on terror in the 2011 fiscal year at $1.2 trillion. However, a different academic report estimated it to be closer to $2.7 trillion.

Is the war on terror over?

Some said that Obama’s speech on May 23, 2013, marked the end of the war on terror as it appeared to sound like a speech declaring the mission had been accomplished. One analyst, Peter Beinart, suggested that most people thought the war on terror was over.

Do you think the war on terror is over? What are your views/concerns about terrorism?

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Prisoner Sentencing

How long a sentence should a murder get in prison?

In the UK life sentences rarely actually mean life, whilst in the USA this is fairly common. Currently in the UK only about 50 people are subject to a whole-life sentence, most recently Dale Cregan for murdering 4 people. In the USA, however, approximately 40,000 people are imprisoned without much hope of release. Furthermore, this figure does not include those American prisoners who have been given extremely long fixed term sentences. For example, one Alabama man was sentenced to 200 years for kidnapping and armed robbery.

Prison Visitor Fee

America’s ‘sentencing inflation’ began in the 1980s when the Democrats and the Republicans wanted to show how tough they could be on crime. The increased sentences also saw a rise in states like Michigan where the death penalty does not exist, so the increased sentence was an alternative punishment.

However, there have been recent calls to have US-style, lengthy fixed life sentences in the UK. This is being considered after the European court ruled in 2013 that whole-life sentences were breaching the European Court of Human Rights. These proposals would allow the court to give sentences of hundreds of years. But, unlike whole-life sentences, these sentences can be reviewed and reduced (an aspect of sentencing less available in America).

Although many people say this move will “restore Human Rights” by enabling sentences to be reviewed along the way many others still argue that the sentence changes is dangerous and unnecessary, especially as the UK has seen increased sentences being given out year on year for the past decade.

How should a murderer be sentenced? How does it differ in your country? What sentencing proposals do you want to see?

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Win an Apple Macbook Air and a 32GB Ipod Touch!

For your chance to win an apple macbook air and a 32GB ipod touch either share our Facebook photo and like our facebook page or RT our photo on twitter and follow us.

The winner will be announced next thursday and we must have over 50 shares or 50 retweets! So get sharing/retweeting now and you could have these 2 fantastic items by the end of next week!

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The links are:

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Prism – Are You Being Watched?

What is Prism?

It is a secret government organisation run by the National Security Agency (NSA). They had access to data held by major internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

What data can it obtain?

Detailed information about online activity, crucially including the contents of emails and live chat. The documents revealed Ed Snowden suggested they had access to chat logs, stored data, voice traffic, file transfers and social networking data of individuals. The government also confirmed they had asked for millions of phone records.

When was it set up?

It is believed to have been set up in 2007 under the US surveillance laws passed by George W. Bush and renewed by Obama in 2012.

How has it emerged?

Through a secret NSA presentation to staff which talks of ‚Äúcollection directly from the servers‚ÄĚ of internet providers.

abc_edward_snowden_2_jt_130609_wg

 How have companies responded?

They deny knowledge of the programme despite the detail of the NSA presentation.

How does it other countries?

As the primary sites of all the world’s major internet companies are in the United States, it means every communication by another national can in theory be read by NSA agents.

The BBC said: “User data (such as emails and social media activity) is often not stored in the same country as the users themselves – Facebook for example has a clause in its privacy policy saying that all users must consent to their data being “transferred to and stored in” the US.”

Is it legal?

This is uncertain and many privacy campaigners are investigating whether there are grounds for a legal challenge. Experts say the legislation covering the issue  is sketchy. Many argue that protecting the country from terrorism is more important than individual privacy.

Are you concerned? Or do you agree that security is more important than individual privacy?

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Please Help Us If You Can – Thank You!

Digestible Politics is a blog with a big ambition to help you become more informed with politics and current affairs in an easy-to-understand format. In the short amount of time we have been running we have already had hundreds of comments, thousands of page views and likes.

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The American Constitution

For our American readers, a lot of this, if not all of this, will probably be something you have known since your childhood. But, I feel that it is necessary that we write a blog on the fascinating constitution: how it was formed, what it involved and how different people view it!

How and why was the Constitution formed?

In 1776, thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain by signing the Declaration of Independence, making them ‘free and independent’ states. Consequently, this lead to the War of Independence between the former colonies and Britain from 1776-1783. The colonies had to pay tax to Britain, even though they had no representation in the British Parliament, so wanted to form their own system of government. In 1781, the newly independent colonies established a confederacy through the Articles of Confederation – a confederal government has a lot of power given to the states but little to the national government. However, this confederacy almost turned their victory in gaining independence into a defeat because it proved to be a disaster as their was little power for the national government, thus they failed to make a nation. In 1787, a group of people (now collectively known as the Founding Fathers) agreed to meet up at the Philadelphia convention to amend the Articles of Confederation. In the end, they scrapped the Articles of Confederation and created a new constitution with a number of compromises as to the allocation of powers.

Washington_Constitutional_Convention_1787

What were the compromises?

Three key compromises were the formation of government, state representation and choosing the president. Under British rule there had been a central government (unitary) with a lot of power for the national government, but the Articles of Confederation created a confederal government which gave a lot of power to the states (not the national government). The compromise was a federal government where the states and the national government had equally important powers. Representation for the states varied depending on their size. Large states wanted proportional representation where they would have more representatives compared to small states, but small states wanted equal representation regardless of state size. The compromise was to have a bicameral system (two houses): the House of Representatives would be proportional and the Senate would have equal representation. Finally, some people wanted a directly elected president and others wanted him/her to be appointed. The compromise was to have an indirectly elected Electoral College who would be elected by the people (in the Primaries) who then go on to choose the president (at the national party convention).

How liberals view the constitution

Liberals (such as the Democrats) would argue that the constitution creates a lot of gridlock (difficult to pass laws) and little accountability. Liberals also believe the Bill of Rights (defines citizen’s rights) is very important, but the system allows for the erosion of civil liberties during times of emergency. Finally, to a liberal, the courts have shown themselves slow and unwilling to intervene on a number of issues – especially social issues such as guns, abortion and gay rights.

How conservatives view the constitution

Conservatives (such as the Republicans) believe that the federal government exploits the vagueness of the constitution at the expense of states right and powers. The vagueness of the constitution can be seen through the ‘elastic’ clauses, such as the ‘necessary and proper’ clause, which allows the government to make laws which are ‘necessary and proper’ – conservatives wonder what laws are necessary and proper. They also question the growth of the courts through their power of judicial review, which allows the court to interpret the meaning of the constitution

const

From a non-partisan view

The American constitution is the longest serving constitution in the world and the fact that compromises were made from the left and right meant that that there should be a good balance between the federal government and the state governments. Also, the difficulty of amending the constitution means that it requires broad based support for changes to be made to it.

Questions

  • Does the constitution fulfil its main functions?
  • Does the constitution need changing?
  • What are the pros and cons of the constitution?

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Guns In America

Gun policy has been a very contentious issue in recent years, especially in the light of the incidents at Sandy Hook and Aurora. As a result Obama has made some key proposals:

  • Reintroduce an expired ban on “military-style” assault weapons
  • Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds
  • Background checks on all gun sales
  • Ban on possession and sale of armour-piercing bullets
  • Harsher penalties for gun-traffickers, especially unlicensed dealers who buy arms for criminals
  • Approve the appointment of the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

american-flag-gun

Here are some statistics on guns in America which sparked Obama’s desire to propose such changes”

  • ¬†9,960 people were killed by a gun in the USA in 2010, a rate of 3.2 per 100,000 people.
  • They have the 26th highest death rate by guns annually in the world
  • Gun ownership is declining – In 1990¬†46% of households and 29% of individuals said they owned a gun, today this has fallen to 32% and 21

The second amendment of the constitution gives American citizen the right to “bear arms”. As a result, the reforms proposed by Obama has created arguments, feeling that he is becoming ‘imperial’ in manner, taking the law into his own hands and becoming to dominant – something the Founding Fathers wished to prevent through their implementation of a series of checks and balances on the executive.

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Obama’s 2014 Budget

President Barack Obama is proposing a $3.77 trillion U.S. government budget for 2014 that would change taxes for the wealthy and adjust how Social Security benefits are calculated, a plan that fails to satisfy members of both parties.The proposal intends to reduce the deficit by nearly $2 trillion during the next decade, through a combination of new revenues and budget cuts.  It includes a minimum 30 percent tax on people making $1 million or more a year. Obama is pushing for a compromise between Republicans who refuse to raise taxes and Democrats who are seeking to protect popular programs that provide pensions and health care to the elderly and poor.

budget 2014

The president says his proposed budget is not his ideal plan to cut the deficit, but an effort at compromise to end what he says has been a cycle of short-term, crisis-driven decision-making. Competing budget plans have already been passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate, setting the stage for tough negotiations.

Republicans are opposed to raising more government revenue, after a deal with Democrats earlier this year that increased income-tax rates on wealthy Americans.¬† And lawmakers in the president’s Democratic Party are angry over his suggestion to switch to a modified formula to measure inflation, which will lower annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients.

President Obama’s Proposed 2014 Budget Overview:

  • Includes $1.8 trillion of additional budget deficit reduction over 10 years
  • Closes tax loopholes and reduces tax benefits for the wealthiest
  • Includes $400 billion in health savings
  • Includes $1 billion investment to launch manufacturing innovation institutes
  • Provides $50 billion for infrastructure investment

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Ban On Women On Front Line Lifted

Leon Panetta, the US Defence Secretary, has decided to lift the military ban on women who fight on the front line. This is a move that could allow thousands of women to get positions on the frontline in far more prestigious positions. It overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to small ground-combat units, yet the military have until 2016 to work out whether any positions should remain closed to them.

Some jobs are expected to be opened to women this year, while others – including for special forces such as the Navy Seals and the Delta Force – could take longer. However, in total 230,000 jobs are expected to become open to women in the military.¬†Senate armed services committee chairman Carl Levin welcomed the decision:¬†“I support it,” he said. “It reflects the reality of 21st-Century military operations.”

The decision should be finalised today. What are your views on this?

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Ex-Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin Indicted

Ray Nagin, the ex-mayor of New Orleans, has faced a series of charges including fraud, bribery, filing false tax returns and money laundering. So far two former city officials and two businessmen have pleaded guilty for similar charges. The ex-mayor, Nagin, is accused of abusing his power and position in office for personal gain and of accepting bribes while the city of New Orleans reeled in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nagin had been mayor from 2002-2010 but had been facing his indictment in the case for a while. According to the federal indictment, Mr Nagin accepted more than $160,000 (£100,000) in bribes for his family business.

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Do you fear that people with power abuse their position and authority?

Although this article is to do with America, it is clear similar situations occur elsewhere on a daily basis and we shall create a post on similar situations around the world soon. We fear that abusing powers is one of the greatest fears in politics and democracy.

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