PEACE WORLDWIDE ORGANIZATION CIVILITY REPORT 2022

In Civility Report 2022, Peace Worldwide Organization Founder Mehdi Alavi reviews all countries within the United Nations and provides human rights, democracy, peace, and civility scores for 193 countries. We urge you to read Civility Report 2022 today.

PEACE WORLDWIDE ORGANIZATION CIVILITY REPORT 2022

In Civility Report 2022, Peace Worldwide Organization Founder Mehdi Alavi reviews all countries within the United Nations and provides human rights, democracy, peace, and civility scores for 193 countries. We urge you to read Civility Report 2022 today.

KEY AREA FOCUS: TUNISIA

Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. Africa covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area. With 1.0 billion people, it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population.

KEY AREA FOCUS: COSTA RICA

Americas are lands in the Western hemisphere of the world. In English, the plural form of the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions.

KEY AREA FOCUS: AFGHANISTAN

Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. With approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population.

KEY AREA FOCUS: ENGLAND

Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres or 2% of the Earth's surface and about 6.8% of its land area. Yet the borders of Europe, can incorporate cultural and political elements.

KEY AREA FOCUS: SYRIA

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey, and Egypt.

Colossal Corruption of the Two-Party System

The US has declared itself to be the global leader in democracy through its mass media, powerful economy and extensive military. However, the US needs many reforms before it can claim to be truly democratic. Disposing of the two-party system would be a good place to start.

Hand with ballot and wooden box on Flag of USA, party icon © Peeradach R / shutterstock.com

Despite its domineering international presence and resolute claim to democracy, the US has never been truly democratic. While the Western superpower does have some features of democracy, many authoritarian regimes, such as Russia, Egypt and Azerbaijan have democratic features as well.

In my previous article, I evaluated the ways in which the rich have US politicians under their thumbs, and how the American two-party system—which George Washington famously warned would become problematic—is more corrupt than ever before.

A Two-Horse Race

The mere fact that these two political parties enjoy many perks and privileges undermines democratic ideals. Democracy requires all parties to be treated equally. Democratic and Republican parties are funded generously by public, government, government political action committees (PACs), labor unions, corporations, and other associations. Other political parties, such as the Libertarian, Green, Reform, Constitution and Natural Law parties all struggle for recognition. These less powerful parties face many obstacles, including lack of attention by the media, minimal federal campaign financing, and a shortage in government funding.

Oftentimes, US elected officials dishonor their commitments and promises to their constituents, which has led to voter apathy. The presidential elections draw the most voters to the polls, but still fall short of obtaining popular eligible voter participation. From 1904-2016, voter turnouts have varied from 66% to less than 50%. Midterm turnouts are substantially worse. In 2022, the voter turnout was less than 46% in Texas, despite the mail ballot option. Apparently, many Americans are unhappy with the two-party political system and feel that their votes do not amount to anything. The US public is waking up to the realities of its corrupted government. According to a 2022 Pew survey, only 32% of American adults feel that the two primary political parties adequately align with their views. That means that an overwhelming majority of Americans are not happy with the current government and election process. To become democratic, the US political system must reform.

In a truly representative democracy, the people’s elected officials should be obligated to consider their constituents’ ideas, interests, concerns and welfare in rendering political decisions. In the US, the situation is totally different. Americans’ choices are chiefly limited to the candidates from two political parties who, at least superficially, represent completely opposite views. Many American voters are frustrated that there is no middle ground. To make matters worse, the champions of these polarizing elections are then indebted to the rich who funded their campaigns, rather than to the constituents they were elected to represent.

Hostility, Not Rivalry, Between the Parties

From the start, the two-party system was condemned at the highest level. “The alternate domination of one faction over another…is itself a frightful despotism,” warned the first US president, George Washington.

The French philosopher Voltaire held a similar view, stating that “If one religion only were allowed in England, the Government would very possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the people would cut one another’s throats; but as there are such a multitude, they all live happy and in peace”.

The same is true concerning a regime with two political parties. This limiting of political debate to a binary opposition encourages extremism from both sides and leads to the dangerous polarization of the public. In recent decades, tensions and violence have risen across the country. Both parties continue to adopt harmful tactics in an attempt to cut the other down and gain supremacy. The American public suffers as a result. As observed during the January 6 insurrection, when thousands of angry constituents stormed the capitol building in Washington, DC, the incessant bickering between the Democrats and Republicans has fragmented the nation and heightened the risk of dissolving the union.

The recent election of the US House speaker is a perfect example of the conflict and corruption that plagues the current government. It is an event that will go down in history as one of the most notorious examples of the inefficiency of American politics — a direct result of a system confined to  only two polarizing political parties.

It took 15 rounds of voting to elect Republican Kevin McCarthy speaker of the House of Representatives. In a very contentious election, McCarthy won with less than half of the House participation. Many officials abstained from the vote, including six of McCarthy’s fellow members of the Republican party. He was finally elected thanks to his endorsing the concession that any member of the House could call for his removal at any time. This was similar to what happened during the House election in 1859 before the Civil War. The event demonstrated the deep dysfunctionality of the two political parties in the US Congress. Their continuous bickering makes it impossible to pass meaningful bills in a timely manner. However, these competitors are united in their habit of catering to megadonors in the support of the military-industrial complex, despite the fact that president Dwight Eisenhower warned against it in his 1961 farewell speech.

As seen in the election of McCarthy as House speaker, America is run by two squabbling political parties. These politicians are more focused on shaming one another than addressing the overwhelming national problems that plague the country. 

 A Dangerously Divided Nation

It is not surprising that the nation is divided, and so many Americans are living every day in desperation and anger. Economic disparity and discrimination are national issues which are particularly oppressive to minority groups including Native Americans, blacks, Latinos, and Muslims. The gap between the rich and the poor is deep and ever-widening. Approximately 32% of all wealth in the US is held by only 1% of the population, an alarmingly disproportionate statistic. Even more concerning is that at the same time, over 11% of Americans live below poverty level. American politicians have not done nearly enough to address these issues.

The two-party animosity of the federal government has spilled over into the states. State level politicians often engage in a manipulative practice called “gerrymandering”, a redistricting scheme that intentionally marginalizes minorities, the poor and the least-educated citizens.

This endless bipartisan frustration leads to hostility between citizens, families, and friends. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that “72% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats” consider the other party to be more dishonest.

While many Americans abhor the two-party system, some fear that having more than two parties could result in a coalition, making the country even more unstable than it already is. However, this fear is unsubstantiated. Many Americans will continue voting as their parents had, and will remain loyal to one of the two major political parties that currently dominate. Furthermore, competition will force the Republican and Democratic parties to become more centrist in their policies, as extremism will no longer be advantageous. Investing in lesser-known political parties would benefit the US immensely. If this is not accomplished soon, the US is at risk for the first ever global social progress recession.

Crisis Demands Reforms

Most of the US’ infrastructure was built after World War II, and is rapidly deteriorating. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) rates US infrastructure near failing with D+ grade. Across the country, highways, bridges, tunnels, railways, clean water, electricity and other public services are either in complete ruin or are insufficient to accommodate population growth. Despite this undeniable infrastructure crisis, US politicians continue to overspend on the military.

In 2021, the US military spent a whopping $801 billion while its top adversaries, China, Russia and Iran, spent $293 billion, $65.9 billion, and $24.6 billion respectively. Thus, the US spent more than double on its military than the combined spendings of its global competitors.

To break it down, US military spending was around three times higher than China’s, over 12 times more than Russia’s and 32 times more than Iran’s. This unnecessary spending could have been better spent to help the poor, increase domestic production, and improve America’s dilapidated infrastructure.

Without standards in place to ensure equal opportunity and constitutional rights for all American citizens, democracy can easily be transformed into what John Adams called, “the tyranny of the majority.” Thomas Jefferson also purportedly claimed that democracy can often resemble mob rule, and in the case of America’s current political sphere, this saying has a ring of truth.

The biased and corrupt two-party system is not sustainable long-term. It is time to challenge the power of bipartisanism. To begin, I recommend the following steps:

1.   First, provide sufficient funding to less extreme political parties, to allow them to finally break through onto the political stage and permit them to have actual influence on elections.

Second, cut all federal campaign financing and government funding. When the government has such a powerful monetary hand in elections, corruption is inevitable. 

Third, provide free “equal air time” in broadcasting for all election candidates, not just the ones who can shell out the most money. Many quality candidates become overshadowed by wealthy extremists who can afford to disseminate more political advertising and propaganda.

Fourth, limit contributions from all sources to that which is equal to what the average American is willing to contribute to a candidate. PACs, unions and other associations can multiply that amount by the number of their active members. However, no member should be allowed to double-dip, individually or as a group.

Fifth, dismantle the “winner-take-all” electoral system, which has been rejected by many emerging democracies. Nebraska and Maine have already vowed to dismantle this system and allocate results proportionately instead.

Sixth, enforce the “Code of Official Conduct” in both government chambers. Insert a paragraph to ensure that members of Congress, their family members, close friends, and associates are unable to practice nepotism to accumulate wealth and power, or be favored for high political positions. 

Only when the United States takes steps to implement these changes will the nation begin its ascension to true democracy.

By By Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published by Fair Observer.


Scary CIA-MI6 Coup Destroyed Iran and Damaged the World

Mohammad Mosaddegh changed Iran and the world. He challenged the mighty British Empire, which then conspired with Uncle Sam to get rid of him. This 1953 original sin led to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and is the fundamental reason for US-Iran tensions.

flags of USA and Iran © danielo / shutterstock.com 

The recent protests in Iran are a product of many compounding factors. It is indubitably true that women want greater freedoms. What is often left unsaid that economic pain is driving these protests. Much of this pain is caused by US sanctions against Iran.

During these protests, some have chanted slogans in favor of the Pahlavi dynasty. Sadly, these protesters do not realize that both father Reza Shah and son Mohammad Reza Shah would have shot them dead or arrested and tortured if they were in power.

In our previous article, we analyzed Mohammad Mosaddegh and the golden age of Iranian democracy. For a 12-year spell from 1941 to 1953, Iran experienced freedom, reforms and the exercise of popular sovereignty. Mosaddegh cleaned up corruption and improved the economy. He invested in health, unemployment insurance and infrastructure. Mosaddegh also initiated programs to address women’s rights. However, this Iranian statesman is most noted for leading the nationalization of the oil industry.

The British Strike Back

The British had a monopoly over Iran’s oil since its discovery in 1908. Nationalization of the oil industry made Mosaddegh their worst enemy and British agents began working to oust him. They used every possible means to undermine his policies and question his competence. They resorted to disinformation, bribery, blackmail, murder and riots.

In June 1953, the British succeeded in winning over American support by painting Mosaddegh to be a socialist. By now, the US was paranoid about the spread of communism. The British also promised Americans a share of the oil. Nationalization was also a bad precedent for other countries and went against the interests of American oil companies. The US was also disappointed that Mosaddegh did not show any interest in the formation of the Baghdad Pact, yet another anti-Soviet military alliance of the Cold War.

Hence, the US agreed with the British to launch “Operation Ajax.” Its goal: remove Mosaddegh from power. Now, the CIA dispatched one of its stars to Tehran. This swashbuckler was Kermit Roosevelt and he worked with close coordination with MI6 for regime change in Iran. 

Together, the Americans and the British bribed politicians, military officers, government officials, warlords, and reporters. They also hired mobsters and hoodlums to pretend to be communists. These fake communists attacked people, broke into stores, torched buildings and used profanity as part of their shock and awe tactics to discredit Mosaddegh.

These tactics did not quite work. Mosaddegh remained wildly popular. When this Iranian statesman called for a referendum to dissolve the Majles (the Iranian parliament), he got 99% of the vote. However, the British and the Americans were infiltrating many powerful interest groups in Iran. The plot against Mosaddegh was thickening. In August 1953, even as Mosaddegh remained immensely popular, he was unaware that many of his enemies, including some in his own party, were conspiring with the British and the Americans to oust him. 

One Coup Fails but the Second Succeeds

On August 16, 1953, the Shah dismissed Mosaddegh. He appointed General Fazlollah Zahedi, a CIA agent, as prime minister. Some close associates of the Shah have taken the view that this was unnecessary. Mosaddegh would have resigned had the Shah asked him to do so.

Zahedi and his cronies began arresting Mosaddegh’s top aides. Mosaddegh saw Zahedi’s appointment as a military coup and refused to step down. The prime minister summoned loyal military officers to his defense. They arrested the party Zahedi had sent to capture Mosaddegh.

The Shah fled the country and Zahedi took refuge with the CIA. The CIA-led, MI6 first coup attempt miserably failed. Mosaddegh felt so confident that he did not take the opportunity to speak to the nation about the coup. This turned out to be a historic blunder.

The CIA and MI6 did not give up. They carried on their anti-government activities and instigated violence in the streets. Fearing communist attacks, Iranians withdrew to their homes. After three days of rioting, Ayatollah Abul-Qasem Kashani reportedly warned Mosaddegh about a coup attempt to oust him.  Mosaddegh dismissed the warning with his aloof reply, “I am supported by the Iranian nation.”

The very next day, large crowds suddenly appeared in the streets in support of the Shah. On this historic day of August 19, 1953, Mosaddegh was caught unawares. The second coup attempt succeeded. Zahedi came out of hiding and arrested Mosaddegh. On hearing about Mosaddegh’s fall, the then British prime minister Anthony Eden said that after a long time he finally slept well.

After the coup, Mosaddegh was put on trial as a traitor in a military court. Fearing popular reaction, Mosaddegh’s statements in his defense were all censored. Mosaddegh was sentenced to solitary confinement to begin with and then house arrest for the remainder of his life. At the age of 84, he died in 1967 while still in house arrest. 

Mohammad Mosaddegh in court martial

In the court, he said, “Yes, my sin – my greater sin – and even my greatest sin is that I nationalized Iran’s oil industry and discarded the system of political and economic exploitation by the world’s greatest empire…. This at the cost to myself, my family; and the risk of losing my life, my honor, and my property.” Then, he continued, “I am well aware that my fate must serve as an example in the future throughout the Middle East in breaking the chain of slavery and servitude to colonial interests.”

After the coup, the weak, narcissist and debauched Shah returned to Iran. From now on, he wielded absolute power. Tutored by US advisers, he became a cruel despot just like his father. He crushed all political movements. The opposition went underground, discontent simmered and eventually led to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Personal Memories and Consequences of the Coup

One of the co-authors still remembers the day of the coup. He was with his father doing errands in central Tehran. At midday, everything seemed peaceful. Suddenly, all hell broke loose. People appeared in trucks chanting, “Death to Mosaddegh, long live the Shah.” The co-author’s father instinctively cursed the British for engineering this ruckus. The very next day, Iranians such as the co-author’s father, friends and family knew that the CIA and MI6 had engineered the coup because Zahedi thanked the US for its support.

In the US and in Britain, the people did not realize the role the CIA and MI6 had played for years. They assumed that organic street protests led to Mosaddegh’s fall. One co-author has been in the US since 1965. He is married to an American. He has had numerous discussions with fellow Americans who resolutely believed that the US could never do as dastardly a deed as overthrow a democratically elected government through a coup.

The US mass media took the same line as uninformed American citizens. In 2003, The New York Times supported the Iraq War. In 1953, this venerable publication supported the coup against Mosaddegh. Time Magazine went further and claimed that “this was no military coup, but a spontaneous popular uprising.” 

In 2013, such claims were proved patently false. The CIA admitted that it carried out the 1953 coup with the approval of the highest levels of the US government. The British have yet to issue a mea culpa but numerous retired MI6 and CIA officers have remarked to the other co-author that this coup turned out to be a historic blunder. These officers maintain that this 1953 coup had unintended consequences and led directly to the 1979 revolution.

It turns out that the coup was planned, coordinated and directed by Cyprus-based MI6 agent Norman Darbyshire. The CIA’s Roosevelt merely executed Darbyshire’s plans. The 1953 coup was the CIA’s first exposure to covert operations that caused regime change. Since then, the CIA has replicated it in numerous other countries.

The dissolute Shah rewarded the US generously for installing him on the throne. In October 1954, Iran signed the Consortium Agreement, giving the “US, British, and French oil companies” 40% ownership of its nationalized oil industry. The management of the consortium was led by American oil companies for 25 years and many consider it to be “the largest commercial deal ever put together.”

Surprisingly, the Islamic Revolution took over the country in February 1979 about 7 months before the agreement was due to expire. In January 1979, one of the major concerns of the world leaders at the Guadeloupe summit was the flow of oil from Iran as revolution erupted in the country. The US and Britain had profited handsomely from the 1953 coup and the 1979 revolution was an unnecessary headache.

Why MI6 and the CIA Succeeded

Given Mosaddegh’s popularity, a question recurs repeatedly: Why did the coup succeed?

Mosaddegh was unlucky. The communist Tudeh Party was at least as powerful as Mosaddegh’s National Front. Tudeh could have come out on the streets to prevent the unrest and the coup. However, Joseph Stalin’s death in March 1953 left Tudeh in disarray. Just as the Shah was the lackey of the West, the Tudeh Party was controlled directly by Stalin. With the Soviet strongman dead, Tudeh was rudderless and useless.

In addition to bad fortune, Mosaddegh himself was to blame. He was an idealist who could be exceedingly na├»ve when it came to realpolitik. Mosaddegh believed deeply in democracy but failed to realize that many of his enemies did not. When he was informed about legislators, officials and military officers plotting a coup, Mosaddegh’s reaction was to ask for proof. Naturally, such proof was hard to come, which lulled this venerable Iranian statesman into a false sense of complacency.

https://youtu.be/mQFgmVgHCpU

Mosaddegh’s championing of freedom of religion annoyed many conservatives. In particular, it strained relations with his most powerful religious and patriotic supporter Kashani. This support was crucial for Mosaddegh because Kashani commanded a powerful base that could have countered those plotting a coup. To make matters worse, Mosaddegh ignored Kashani’s warning a day before the coup.

Mosaddegh lost some of his secular supporters because they feared communism. Furthermore, some parliamentarians were upset with the prime minister for dissolving the Majles. A few switched sides and supported the coup.

Mosaddegh fatally did not seize the moment after the first coup. This attempt was reported on the radio but the prime minister did not give a public address disclosing all the facts. He did not summon the masses to his defense. Mosaddegh was a sick man during much of his premiership and, particularly, at the time of the coup. He had lost touch with the masses, key interest groups and many members of his own party. Mosaddegh also failed to realize that success today gives no guarantee of success tomorrow.

Mosaddegh was a touch too credulous in trusting the US. He expected Uncle Sam to be an honest broker between Iran and Britain. During his visit to the US, the then president Harry Truman arranged for Mosaddegh’s medical care. Relations between the US and Iran continued to be cordial even when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president. 

As fear of communism rose in the US, Eisenhower turned against Iran. The sweet prospects of access to Iranian oil also facilitated this change of heart. Given the US stress on capitalism and securing oil for its energy-hungry economy, it was inevitable that Washington would look extremely unfavorably upon nationalization of the oil industry. Mosaddegh did not realize the stakes on the geopolitical chessboard and was unprepared to counter the foreign powers.

By Mehdi AlaviAtul Singh

Originally published by Fair Observer on February 12, 2023.




The Truth About US Democracy

The United States has declared itself to be the global leader in democracy through its mass media, powerful economy, and extensive military. However, much reform is needed before the US can become truly democratic.

Capitol Building 

Despite its domineering international presence and persistent claim to democracy, the US has never been truly democratic. While the Western superpower does have some features of democracy, many authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and Egypt, have democratic features as well. 

The US claims to be a representative democracy, meaning the people’s elected officials are obligated to consider their constituents’ ideas, interests, concerns, and welfare in making political decisions. However, the reality is that US politicians feel indebted to the megadonors who finance their elections, and as a result, choose to serve not the people who voted them into power, but the financiers who made their election to office a reality. 

The rich have US politicians on a leash. In 2017, the then president, Donald Trump, was accused of meeting with his 2016 campaign megadonor, Sheldon Adelson, for counsel on how to address the mass shooting in Las Vegas, a horrific attack that killed 59 people and injured over 500 at a country music festival. That was two days before Trump finally arrived in Las Vegas to meet with the surviving victims and the families mourning the dead. Trump has denied these allegations, claiming that the timing of his meeting with Adelson was purely coincidental, and had nothing to do with the fact that Adelson had major investments in Las Vegas.

The US electoral system is incredibly corrupt, as demonstrated by its recent election of the House Speaker, an event that will go down in history as one of the most notorious examples of the inefficiency of American politics. The country seems to be exclusively run by two conflicting political parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. Consequently, the nation has become extremely politically polarized, and many Americans experience daily frustration and anger over conflicting political beliefs. 

Economic disparity and discrimination are particularly oppressive to minority groups including Native Americans, blacks, Latinos, and now Muslims. The gap between the rich and the poor is deep and ever-widening. Approximately 32% of all wealth in the US is held by only 1% of the population, an alarmingly disproportionate statistic. Even more concerning is that at the same time, over 11% of Americans live below poverty level.

A 2020 article by The New York Times described the economic disparities in the United States quite accurately, stating that, “Americans may be equal, but some are more equal than others.” Even when the US is in a deep deficit, the government tax policy consistently favors the rich, despite the fact that 60% of Americans believe the nation’s wealthiest should pay more taxes.

The United States government (USG) is entangled with the rich, the “deep state” of America. By definition, any government whose power, either overtly or covertly, is controlled by a small group of wealthy constituents, is called plutocracy. Former US president Jimmy Carter once alluded to the plutocracy of the US political system, describing it as, “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”

The Incentive for Corruption

Because political candidates in America require substantial funding to run their campaigns, they become obliged to the rich. To win a Senate seat, a candidate spends an average of over $10 million. According to The Washington Post, the 2016 presidential candidates, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, spent a combined sum of over one billion dollars on their political campaigns.

The wealthy also use their power to manipulate the media, flooding broadcasting platforms with polarizing advertisements and persuading the American public that the only votes that count are votes for either the Democratic or Republican parties. 

This sort of propaganda makes many Americans feel overwhelmed and confused about  which candidate they  should be voting for, and some even choose to abstain from voting at all because they don’t support either candidate. Many Americans are ignorant that the elections are a scheme to make them think about having a voice in the government. However, the choice of who ultimately becomes president, congressman, or other official is usually left to the two political parties at the mercy of the rich. 

Even at the state level, wealthy Americans control political candidates and elected officials by donating to their campaigns. The rich also use their financial power to marginalize certain communities through a process called gerrymandering, in which the boundaries of electoral districts are strategically drawn in a way which favors one political party over the other. . Minorities, the poor, and the least educated are usually the victims of this unethical practice.

A Call for Reform

Without ethical standards in place to ensure equal opportunity and constitutional rights for all citizens, democracy can easily become what John Adams called, “the tyranny of the majority.” Thomas Jefferson also purportedly claimed that democracy can often resemble mob rule, and this comparison has a ring of truth.

The USG must reform. The country’s current system is riddled with corruption and will not be sustainable long term, as evidenced by the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. capitol building. At the very least, steps must be taken to make sure that campaign funding is democratic and fair first by cutting all  government funding to individual campaigns and political parties, and instead requiring the media to allocate “equal air time” at no cost to candidates. Second, the USG must create and enforce regulations to limit campaign funding and prevent “megadonors” from manipulating elections and government policy.

To alleviate the megadonors’ influence, the USG could limit all contributions from all sources equal to what an average-income American is willing to contribute to a candidate. PACs, unions and other associations can multiply that amount by the number of their active members. However, no member can be allowed to double-dip, individual and in group.

Only when the United States takes steps to implement these changes will the nation begin its ascension to true democracy. 

By Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally edited by Hannah Gage and published in Fair Observer on February 7, 2023.

Why Do You Need to Know About Mohammad Mosaddegh?

In 1941, the British deposed their lackey Reza Shah for cozying up with the Germans and placed his callow, decadent, opulent and worthless son on the throne. This led to a pro-democracy movement and the rise of Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran’s first-ever democratically elected leader.

Courtesy of the International Court of Justice

In 1941, World War II was in full swing. Thanks to its oil reserves, Iran was a key piece on the geopolitical chessboard. Reza Shah Pahlavi was in-charge as an absolutist ruler. The British had backed his rise but were uncomfortable with his flirtations with Nazi Germany. In 1941, the British decided to get rid of Reza Shah and install his son Mohammad Reza Shah. He was a weak 22-year-old who was putty in British hands. His rise to power had a silver lining though.

From 1941 to 1953, Iran experienced a golden period of freedom. During this era, seven political parties emerged in the Iranian parliament Majles. Mohammad Mosaddegh emerged as the most important leader during this period. He became prime minister in 1951 and initiated significant reforms.

Before 1941, Reza Shah ruled Iran with an iron hand. If people dared to protest, they were shot on the spot or tortured to death or whisked away to a brutal prison. From 1941 to 1953, free speech, democracy and rule of law emerged in Iran. Mosaddegh was a key figure in democratizing Iran. 

The Brief Story of Iranian Democracy

Educated in France and Switzerland, Mosaddegh came from a patrician family. However, he was a reformer who believed in democracy. In 1925, Mosaddegh voted against Reza Khan taking over as the Shah. Once in power as Reza Shah, the monarch exiled him from public office. With Reza Shah out of power in 1941, Mosaddegh emerged from the shadows to play a key role in Iranian history.

In 1944, Mosaddegh was re-elected to the Iranian parliament, the Majles. As a patriot, he wanted a strong Iran. Mosaddegh aimed to build an Iran with rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, parliamentary democracy and a strong economy. Above all, this Iranian leader opposed foreign interference in the internal affairs of Iran. In particular, he did not want the British to exploit Iranian oil for London’s imperial benefit. He was also against concessions to the Soviets in northern Iran.

Mohammad Reza, the new Shah, and Iran’s comprador elite were beholden to the British for their hold on power. So, they did not take kindly to the rise of Mosaddegh. This corrupt and absolutist elite was also against democracy because they would have lost power. They tried the age old trick of rigging elections.

As a result, protests erupted in 1949. People came out into the streets to rally against voter fraud. Mosaddegh led a group of delegates to the Shah’s to protest the “lack of free elections.” That forced Mohammad Reza to promise “fair and honest” elections. Mosaddegh and some other leaders founded a party named Jebhe Melli, which literally translates to National Front, to contest the elections.

Once the Majles convened after the elections, Mossadegh emerged as the most powerful parliamentarian. As leader of Jebhe Melli, Mossadegh pushed for major reforms. The Majles approved a development plan with agricultural and industrial reforms. The plan required financing, which was only possible through oil revenues. Sadly for Iran, most of these revenues were going to Britain.

Oil Catches Fire

Unsurprisingly, oil revenues were a hot button issue in the 1949 elections. Once the Majles assembled, many of its members were duty bound to renegotiate the patently unfair agreement imperial Britain had forced a subservient Iran to conclude. In the words of the fictional character Michael Corleone, made famous by the 1972 movie The Godfather, the British had made the Iranians an offer they couldn’t refuse. Led by Mosaddegh, Iranians now mustered the gumption to reject that British offer.

Mosaddegh promised to end the British control of Iran’s oil industry. He demanded renegotiation with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), the British oil giant now known as BP. Note that the AIOC was supposed to pay a mere 17.5% of oil revenues to Iran. In contrast, its American counterpart was paying Saudi Arabia 50% of oil revenues in 1950. To rub salt in Iranian wounds, AIOC practiced creative accounting and did not even pay the 17.5% it owed Iran. In fact, they paid more in taxes to London on their profits from Iranian oil than to Tehran. Led by Mosaddegh, Iranian patriots resolved to get Iran’s fair share from AIOC.

Iranian Oil Nationalization Rally

Iranian pressure made the British offer slightly better terms in 1950. Mosaddegh was key in rejecting this unfair offer and demanded a 50-50 split, the same enjoyed by Saudi Arabia. Naturally, the British opposed Mosaddegh tooth and nail. They claimed that revision of their agreement with Iran would amount to a breach of contract. The British very conveniently ignored their own common law idea of duress as grounds for invalidating a contract. Simply put: if Winston puts a gun to Rumi’s head to get his signature on a contract, that legal document is null and void. Such legal principles were moot for AIOC, which tried every trick in the book to safeguard its extortionate illegitimate profits.

British intransigence fueled Iranian patriotism on oil revenues. The public swung behind nationalization of AIOC. By the time the British belatedly agreed to a 50-50 split in February 1951, the ship for renegotiation had sailed. In March, the Majles passed legislation to nationalize the oil industry. True to form, the Shah did not sign this bill. This British lackey stayed loyal to his imperial masters, not the Iranian people.

By not signing the nationalization bill, the Shah frustrated the Majles and the Iranian people. In April, the Majles made Mosaddegh prime minister, with around 90% voting for him. A few months earlier, Mosaddegh had turned down the prime ministerial position. This time, he took charge with a single-point agenda: cut out foreign powers from Iran’s oil industry. 

With Mosaddegh in-charge, the Shah reluctantly signed the nationalization bill. This dramatically changed Britain-Iran dynamics. The AIOC left Iran, dismantling even the massive Abadan Refinery and associated facilities. For the first time in two centuries, Britain was on the backfoot. Unsurprisingly, this mighty imperial power fought back. It went to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to appeal against Iranian nationalization. Mosaddegh cannily disputed the court’s jurisdiction. Months later, the ICJ decided in favor of Iran.

The Empire Strikes Back

The British did not just resort to legal measures though. Their fabled intelligence agencies started conspiring to oust Mosaddegh through hook or crook. The British courted American support to do so. Their task was not easy. After World War II, the US had been siding with Iran on the oil issue. It had its own strategic interest to break into the Iranian oil market. Mosaddegh was well aware of the importance of the US. In November 1951, the Iranian prime minister visited Washington to meet President Harry Truman. Mosaddegh had a good reception and returned to Iran positive that the US would act as an honest mediator between Iran and Britain.

Mosaddegh’s successful US trip and rising international popularity unsettled the Shah. Vainglorious and insecure, the Shah resented Mosaddegh. When the prime minister appointed a minister of war, the Shah vetoed him. In response, Mosaddegh resigned.

This act in July 1952 led countrywide protests. People poured into the streets, chanting “Give me death or give me Mosaddegh.” Hasht Subh, a leading Iranian newspaper, published the headline: “Salaam to Hero Mosaddegh, We Swear That We Stand by You to Our Death.” In keeping with the tradition established by his brutal father, the Shah ordered a crackdown. On July 21 — 30 Tir in the Iranian calendar — the Shah’s forces killed hundreds of people. This bloody day in 1952 is still remembered as the 30 Tir Uprising.

The very next day, on July 22, the ICJ decided in favor of Iran. This fueled popular support for Mosaddegh. Despite his brutal actions, the Shah was unable to establish control over Iran. He was forced to recall Mosaddegh. The Majles now firmly backed the prime minister. Iranians were euphoric. They believed that they could now move forward towards a new future.

The British had other plans. They refused to accept the ICJ decision. They saw Iranian insubordination as a danger to the British Empire and imposed a worldwide embargo against Iranian oil. They froze Iranian assets and banned exports of all goods to Iran. Britain acted against Iran in much the same way as the US is doing today. Like the US today, Britain planned a regime change in Tehran: Mosaddegh had to go.

British covert operations against Mosaddegh were savage and sophisticated. Misinformation, bribery, blackmail, murder and riots were all part of the toolkit. On April 20, 1953, news broke out that General Mahmood Afshar Tus, Mosaddegh’s chief of police, had been kidnapped and killed. Investigations revealed that generals sidelined by Mosaddegh were responsible for this brutal killing.

By now, the British had Americans on their side. The zeitgeist in the US had changed. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, Richard Nixon was vice president and Joseph McCarthy was the most powerful voice on Capitol Hill. McCarthy saw a communist under every bush and feared the Soviet Union would take over the world. The British found US paranoia against communism fertile ground to sow seeds of doubt about Mosaddegh. Bit by bit, they convinced Washington to join them in their conspiracy to overthrow Mosaddegh.

British and American efforts in weaning support away from Mosaddegh in the Majles forced the prime minister’s hand. Mosaddegh asked the Shah to dissolve the Majles. Now both a British and an American lackey, this weak ruler declined. Mosaddegh called for a referendum on the dissolution of the Majles. Over 99% of Iranian voters supported him. On August 15, 1953, Mossadegh dissolved the Majles

This proved to be the highpoint of Mossadegh’s power. Events would soon overwhelm him. His political enemies were now conspiring with the British and the Americans to get rid of him. Yet Mosaddegh had changed history. He had challenged autocratic rule at home and deepened democracy. At the same time, he had taken on imperial powers and won back Iranian sovereignty.

Why Mosaddegh Matters

Mosaddegh was a great statesman. He was honest, hardworking, idealistic and resolute. He made immense personal sacrifices in his political life. Mosaddegh steered Iran in a new direction despite the odds. In 27 months as prime minister, he achieved more than any other Iranian leader in the last two centuries.

In the land of absolutist Shahs, Mosaddegh championed rule of law, creating an independent judiciary to check the powers of the executive. Mosaddegh also supported freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. An ardent democrat, he tried to increase political participation and organize free elections.

Mosaddegh’s economic reforms were significant and are often overlooked. A frugal man, he balanced the budget and focused on increasing Iran’s economic output. The tiff with the British was as much about economics as politics. Mosaddegh invested in health, unemployment insurance and infrastructure. Unlike the Shah who believed in ostentatious consumption, Mosaddegh was a believer in long term investments that would have a major multiplier effect.

Mosaddegh curtailed the culture of corruption fostered by the Shahs. He removed corrupt ministers and appointed honest ones. He got rid of generals who served British interests. He redistributed lands illegally seized by Reza Shah. 

One of Mosaddegh’s last attempts in power was to give women the right to vote in municipal councils. He also wanted to provide women maternity leaves and give them the same rights as men in social insurance, benefit, and disability allowances. He had little success but that was not for lack of trying.

In 1952, Mosaddegh was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. As American media often does, they painted this unfamiliar foreign figure as a villain. In contrast, Mosaddegh was hailed in colonies and newly independent colonies. In Yugoslavia, Egypt and India, he was hailed as a liberating hero. Remember, this was a time when almost all of Africa was still under European rule and the US still practiced race segregation. In his far-sighted reforms, Mosaddegh was far ahead of his time. Noted American diplomat Henry F. Grady called Mosaddegh “a man of great intelligence, wit and education—a cultured Persian gentleman.”  To Grady, the Iranian leader reminded him “of the late Mahatma Gandhi.”

By Mehdi AlaviAtul Singh

Originally published by Fair Observer on January 27, 2023.




British Genocide in Kenya: Time for a Reckoning

 

During the colonial era, Britain routinely committed ethnic cleansing and applied genocidal policies in Kenya. It is time Britain apologized and paid reparations to millions of Kenyans who suffered under British rule.


On August 20, a group of Kenyans filed a case against Britain at the European Court of Human Rights. They were seeking justice for the atrocities the British committed against them during the colonial era. They are seeking $200 billion in reparations for the crimes perpetrated in the tea-growing regions in the Kenyan Highlands. Unsurprisingly, Britain has failed to address, leave aside apologize for, these atrocities in Kenya.

To be fair, the British have apologized for one of their darkest acts in Kenya. In 2013, the government “finalized an out-of-court settlement with thousands of Kenyans who were tortured in detention camps during the end of the British colonial reign.” The British were crushing the Mau Mau — Kenyan rebels from the Kikuyu tribe — who fought in the 1950s and 1960s. It took years before the historic apology and the unprecedented settlement was finalized in 2013.

In 2022, Kenya is back in the news for seeking justice for another brutal British act. With nearly 56 million, Kenya is a dynamic East African country. It now has a literacy rate of 78% but its per capita income is barely $1,879, ranking lowly 144 in the world. Many argue that many of Kenya’s current problems are a legacy of British colonialism.

British Colonization

For millennia before British colonization, the people we now call Kenyans comprised many tribes. There was sporadic violence but these tribes lived in relative peace and harmony. Some communities farmed, others raised livestock, while others practiced a combination of both activities. Some were hunters and those by Lake Victoria fished. Production served the needs of communal survival. Family and clans shared ownership and cooperated in production as well as distribution. These communitarian societies ensured that no one fell into abject poverty. Boundaries between different ethnic groups were fluid. Trade and intermarriage were prevalent. Notably, communities generally operated without the modern version of the chief.

British colonization ripped apart the social fabric of the communities who now live in Kenya. British rule kicked off with the 1884/85 Berlin Conference, which deprived Kenyans of their natural, territorial, and political rights. In 1894, Britain declared  Kenya a protectorate of the Crown. Its officials created Kenya and drew the nation’s boundaries without ever consulting the Kenyans themselves. These new boundaries divided existing communities and brought disparate ethnic groups into a new country. The British created an atmosphere in which communities had to compete for resources and survival. They ruled over the communities with an iron hand. Their military expeditions stole people’s lands and forced many to migrate in a genocidal campaign.

The British confiscated the land they coveted. They instituted forced labor, turning Kenyans into the property of the British settlers. In 1902, they inaugurated the hut tax, which forced the natives to work for the British to pay the tax or be forced to serve the British settlers. In 1913, they introduced the land bill. This gave British settlers a 999-year lease and effectively confiscated nearly all Kenyan land. In 1919. they required all native men to wear identity discs, more than a decade before the Nazis adopted the same policy with the Jews. In the 1920s, natives were forced to live on reservations and subjected to flogging, much as the British had done to the indigenous peoples from North America to Australia.

Mau Mau Uprising

After World War II, India gained independence in 1947. This inspired the African independence movements. In 1952, the Mau Mau movement for self-determination began. When Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip visited Kenya that year, Elizabeth reportedly went up into a treehouse as a princess and came down as Queen Elizabeth II

Whilst the royals were putting up a pretty face, British forces were planning one of the world’s worst ethnic cleansing operations. They went on to smash the Mau Mau through brutal methods. When Kenya achieved independence in 1963, the British destroyed all their official records. In this Cold War era, the US was aware of British atrocities but looked the other way.

Supported at the “highest levels”, the British purged the capital city Nairobi of Kikuyu people, placing them in “barbed-wire enclosures”. They interrogated thousands of detainees. Their interrogators resorted to all types of torture, including forced labor, beatings, starvation, and sexual abuse. Records show that one of those “tortured was the grandfather of former US President Barack Obama”.  

In a span of 18 months, the British dropped “6 million bombs into Kenya’s forests to disrupt guerrilla activity.” Then, the British “dusted Kikuyu areas with photographs of mutilated women to intimidate the populace.” 

In her book, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in KenyaCaroline Elkins observes that thousands of Kenyans  fought alongside British forces against Germany in World War II. The British repaid the Kenyans with barbarism, not gratitude. They locked up around 1.5 million Kenyans in detention camps and barbed-wired townships in response and killed thousands.

In her 70-year reign, Elizabeth never acknowledged or apologized for British atrocities. Neither did any prime minister. Winston Churchill was then prime minister. Lionized in the UK even today for taking on Adolf Hitler, Churchill escapes scrutiny for his racist, imperialist and ruthless actions in the colonies. In 1919, he wrote that he was “strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes.” He ordered that British forces put down the 1920 Iraqi rebellion with an iron hand. Churchill advocated spreading “a lively terror” among the natives so that they would come to heel. In Iraq, the Royal Air Force flew missions for 4,008 hours, dropped 97 tons of bombs and fired 183,861 rounds. They used chemical weapons on Iraqis, over 60 years before Saddam Hussein who targeted Iranians, Shia Arabs and Iraqi Kurds. Under Churchill, the British government unleashed similar brutality upon the Kenyans.

The British forced the natives away from their ancestral lands and into reservations. Only a few years after the Holocaust, the British locked up 1.5 Kikuyu people in concentration camps, torturing, beating, and starving them to death in large numbers. This was an egregious act amounting to naked genocide. Their signature on the UN Charter did not hold them back.

An example of British brutality was revealed in court in 2012. Four Kenyan victims appeared before the High Court in London. Jane Mara, one of the victims, was 15-years-old at the time. She was repeatedly beaten by the interrogators. They pinned her down on her back while four guards held her thighs wide open and kicked a heated glass bottle into her vagina. After that excruciating pain, she witnessed the same torture inflicted on three other young women. Men were not spared either. The British designed pliers to squeeze male testicles. 

The US Supported the UK

After World War II, the US became top dog. The Cold War began. The UK was now a trusted ally. Therefore, the US overlooked British atrocities in Kenya. Washington was well aware of the British conducting genocide in Kenya. Just as in the Congo and in Vietnam, the US sided with the white imperial powers against the colored peoples of the colonies. Remember this was still a time when the US itself was segregated along racial lines. The US wanted to free Eastern Europe from Soviet rule but it wanted to perpetuate British, French or Belgian rule elsewhere.

In the first half of the 20th century, Vanderbilt University scholar Juan M. Floyd-Thomas observed in the Journal of American History that Americans thought of East Africa as “a real white man’s country.” They believed that Kenya deserved Western imperialism and white supremacy. Over centuries, the US practiced ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, enslaved African Americans and subjugated ethnic minorities. These races were deemed biologically and intellectually inferior to the white race.

As is their habit, the US mainstream media, including The New York Times, followed the official US narrative. They painted a picture of the African continent described as  “synonymous with terror, hopelessness, and conflict.” The media represented the Mau Mau fighters as terrorists and criminals with communist connections. They failed to recognize that Kenyans were involved in a liberation movement. Just like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, they too were fighting for independence.

UN Failure and Case for Reparations

After World War II, the UN has consistently failed to stop genocide, prevent ethnic cleansing or rescue victims. It has been unable to bring the guilty to justice. The UN has failed all around the world from Cambodia to Sudan.

The UN represents the interests of powerful nations. Five of them have veto power in the Security Council. Naturally, the Peace Worldwide Organization considers the UN a failed institution, and gives it a mere 12 out of 100.

The UN has failed to deliver justice to the Kenyans too. Despite British denials and cover-ups, evidence of their atrocities is overwhelming. So, an International Court of Tribunal for Kenya (ICTK) would be a good first start. Just as Holocaust victims have been compensated, their properties restituted, Kenyans must also get compensation and restitution.

The British must acknowledge, apologize and make reparations for the genocide and atrocities they committed during colonial times. Importantly, reparation payments should go directly to victims and their descendants, not into the coffers of Kenya’s corrupt government. A sum must be set aside for education and infrastructure to compensate for the ravages of colonization.

What’s Holding Kenya Back?

No sum can ever wipe out the suffering of the Kenyans people. However, reparations are important for three reasons. First, victims get justice. Second, poor countries and poor victims get valuable financial support. Third, they set an important precedent of imperial masters being held accountable. Germany paid compensation to Jews who suffered unspeakable tragedy during the Holocaust. This has made the country less likely to repeat the atrocities of the past. The UK must be held to account so that the British do not repeat the colonial misadventures of Kenya and India in places like Iraq and Libya.

Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published in Fair Observer on January 2, 2023.


The Worrying Consequences of the January 6 Insurrection

 

The January 6 insurrection on the US Capital can only be compared in severity with the 1814 British burning of the White House. The aggravation of the rivalry between Democrats and Republicans represents an existential threat to US democracy.

3D render of Democrats Donkey vs Republicans Elephant symbols on dark blue background © pryzmat / shutterstock.com

The United States (US) is on a perilous path that has a potential to end in tragedy, pulling apart the nation. As January 6 demonstrated, a few thousand resolute individuals can initiate the fragmentation of the union, a process that began with the bickering between Democrats and the Republicans. If it hopes to survive, the US must change its course.

In contrast to popular belief, life in the US is not as rosy as it may appear in the popular media. Americans suffer from inequality in gender, income, and wealth. They receive poor healthcare and face frequent violence. Minority groups are routinely subjected to cultural and racial discrimination. Poverty and homelessness are visibly growing. Minorities and the poor disproportionately die from the COVID-19 and its variants.

In the US, human rights have deteriorated. Nepotism, corruption, racism, and impunity of much of the criminal class persist. Former US President Donald Trump retained his immediate family members among his top advisors. He threatened and harassed political opponents, whistleblowers, and others. He pardoned criminal associates and friends. His administration continued promoting discrimination and xenophobic nationalism. US President Joe Biden is still unable to explain how his son Hunter secured a high paying directorship in Ukraine’s largest privately owned gas producer Burisma Holdings Ltd when his father was the White House’s point man for that country. US presidents often enjoy impunity with regard to such arrangements.

The list of human rights’ concerns is impressive in a nation that accuses other nations of not living up to the highest standards. It includes violence against women and girls, an increasing number of hate crimes, the tolerance of gun violence and mass shootings, abuse of Native American women and girls, permitting an environment of Islamophobia, a carceral system that reduces 1.3-percent of the population to modern-day slavery, and international trafficking of women and children.

In particular, the judicial system rather than reducing injustice perpetuates it. 

The US possesses the world’s highest criminal incarceration rate, disproportionately imprisoning Native Americans and blacks. The justice system routinely excuses law enforcement guilty of excessive force employed against minorities, protesters, detainees, and prisoners. The US by far leads all other democracies in “police killings”. A high number of detainees die in custody and abuse of migrant workers and asylum seekers is rampant. In 2022, a major blow to women’s rights was especially initiated by the US Supreme Court’s reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade, which gave rights to abortion for nearly 50 years.

January 6 Insurrection

Many of the problems derive from the competitive political rivalries between the two dominant parties. Both have developed the reflex of serving the rich at the expense of other segments of the population. The bickering between Democrats and Republicans peaked on January 6, 2021 in the attack on the US Capital in Washington, D.C. That assault could only be compared with the 1814 British attack on Washington DC when they set the White House on fire.

On January 6, 2021, the US President Donald Trump gave a speech before a large crowd of his supporters in Washington, D.C.. He persisted in promoting his conspiracy theory claiming that Democrats had stolen the presidential election. He repeatedly asserted that Democrats rigged the Presidential election in favor of their candidate. This inspired his supporters to march to the Capitol to threaten the US Congress as it was about to certify the election of Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s victory. “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical-left Democrats,” said Mr. Trump. He urged the supporters to take action. “Together, we will drain the Washington swamp and we will clean up the corruption in our nation’s capital,” he said.

Inspired by Trump’s bombastic rhetoric, his supporters broke into the Capitol and rampaged through its corridors, forcing the US Vice President Mike Pence and the members of the US Congress to flee to save their lives. Several people died before it was brought under control. That assault on the Capitol did not make Mr. Trump damp down his rhetoric. Instead, it impelled him to repeat that the election was fraud and rigged by the Democrats. His position fortified his standing among Republicans, many of whom question the validity of the 2020 election results and demand for more restrictions on voting rights.

The insurrection could have turned into a revolution, and proved fatal to American democracy.

Power of the people

We must not underestimate the power people have to change things. We should remember, for example, that the Soviet Union headquarters in Moscow was not attacked by resurrectionists but fell apart under pressure from generally peaceful nationalist protesters. The Soviet fall simply began when some small nationalist groups in Latvia and Lithuania demanded independence for their republics. Other republics gradually joined the movement with similar demands, leading, within 2 years, to the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

In the case of the January 6 resurrection, we might imagine what would have happened if the police had faced an aggressive confrontation from the insurrectionists. Camouflaged federal police might have responded heavy-handedly in Humvees as the local police had done in the 2014 Ferguson crisis. The assembled crowds were protesting the killing by a white police officer of an unarmed African-American 18-year-old, Michael Brown., At the moment the fatal shots were fired, the teenager was reportedly “trying to surrender”. As the protests grew, the police didn’t hesitate to greet the crowd with “teargas and stun grenades.” 

If Trump had ordered something similar by calling out the National Guard, it would have resulted in a large number of the insurrectionists being brutally killed. That in turn would have incited large numbers of people across the country to come out in support of the insurrectionists. Trump would then have been in a position to declare a national emergency. That would then serve as an excuse for remaining in the White House and canceling Mr. Biden’s coming inauguration. Protest movements would have expanded and intensified, pitching Democrats against Republicans. General mayhem would have followed and the US and its famed constitution, could have become history.

Superpowers are not invincible

In 1985, people assumed that the Soviet Union, the other superpower that shared a claim to global domination, was invincible. In March of that year, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. A year later in February 1986, he introduced a policy orientation known as glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”).

Focused on opening the prospects for world peace, Gorbachev enthusiastically proposed the concept of a new world order at the UN General Assembly in December 1988. His initiative played out in unanticipated ways. In November 1989, the Soviets under Gorbachev allowed the Berlin Wall to fall. That would eventually lead to the unification of East and West Germany in October 1990.

In March 1990, the Soviet Union’s Congress of the People’s Deputies elected Gorbachev as its president. He pushed for an amendment to the Soviet constitution intended to strengthen his position as president. That month, Lithuania declared its independence, and Latvia followed in May.

By November 1991, nationalists in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kirgizia Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and other Soviet republics arose to declare their independence from the Soviet Union. To Gorbachev’s credit, in contrast with his predecessors, he refrained from using brutal force to restore the dying order.

In December 1991, to the disbelief of even the foreign policy experts in the US, the Soviet Union, a global superpower collapsed. Much of the old Soviet world collapsed with it.

The US World’s Superpower

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the world’s unique superpower. With such power goes immense ethical responsibility. It creates the opportunity to collaborate with other nations in enhancing human rights, freedom from oppression, and global peace.

The US found itself with a chance to redefine its role in the world. The most obvious urgency was to fill the void that the Soviets had left behind by saving the former republics of the Soviet bloc from falling into economic collapse, ethnic tension, and political instability. This would have played a major role in leading the world towards the ideals of freedom and peace. 

President George H. W. Bush hadn’t forgotten Gorbachev’s call for a “new world order.” Appropriating it for his own purposes, he referred to it over forty times thereafter, turning it into a personal slogan. But like most slogans, the repeated declarations were little more than talk. Since then, the US has persistently contributed to global conflicts by venturing military into various countries and threatening others with either invasion or sanctions. Instead of becoming a global peacemaker, the US has become the world’s worst troublemaker.

Following the US invasion of Iraq and the fiasco of Afghanistan, the standing of the US even among its allies has reached an historic low. Furthermore, the position of the US as the world’s unique superpower is being challenged by its adversaries, most notably China, Iran, and Russia. If the US intends to remain a major player in international affairs, it will need to change its course. To start, it must first clean up its house.

An action plan

“The time is always right to do the right thing,” said Martin Luther King. The US should learn the major lesson from the fall of the Soviet Union: being a superpower is no guarantee for survival when people begin to rise and challenge its authority. As January 6 has shown, the biggest threat to the US appears to be domestic. For its own good, the US must seriously address its own internal issues.

To carry out its ethical responsibilities, the US could start with two important steps. The first would be to give opportunities to more than the two established parties that function as a permanent duopoly. So long as there are only two favored parties, the rivalries between them to govern the nation will continue, polarizing the electorate with the risk of dissolving an ever more fragile union.

The second would be to reverse the trend of outrageously funding the military and spend more generously to improve domestic prosperity. Both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were built on strong, advanced military forces. People thought both of them were unbeatable, yet neither exists today.

But there is more to do. To ensure domestic tranquility the US should provide more opportunity to nearly 35 million Americans who live in poverty.  It should begin to implement programs to elevate women and halt widespread and alarming violence against women and girls. It should have the honesty to refrain from labeling — on the basis of ethnicity, race, and religion — some crimes as terrorism while dismissing others simply as a personal psychological disorder.

It is also time to make right certain obvious historical wrongs by addressing the question of persistent cultural and racial injustice against Native Americans, African-Americans, and other minorities. And for a country that claims to believe in human rights, the US should make a real effort to provide intensive training for judicial and law enforcement personnel on how human rights play out, notably by respecting fellow human beings regardless of gender, race, religion, and ethnicity. 

As for US citizens, to function in an increasingly complex world, instead of hiding behind a superficial idea of “exceptionalism,” you should take seriously the responsibility leadership implies. What are the buzzwords and propaganda patterns of your news station, your peers, your president? Instead of repeating them blind, try another approach. Think. Reason. Criticize. Elect ethical people who truly represent your interests. It is only then that you can bring to overcome inequalities, to prosper, and go boldly forward on the world stage in unison. Then, you can proudly say, “America is great”.

Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published on Fair Observer on November 12, 2022.