First US Presidential Debate Review: A Worrying Night for Obama

Daniel Crump 

Image © yeimaya

Last night saw the first of a series of US Presidential debates between Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. Deciding who the winner is in any political debate is not exactly straightforward, but speaking objectively, Romney certainly put in the most convincing performance by generally coming across as more enthusiastic and prepared. What was clear about this debate, particularly for the neutrals and swinging voters among us, was that Americans are genuinely being presented with a clear choice in November. That popular observation that US politics is becoming so centralised that one cannot tell the difference between Democrat and Republican anymore, just isn’t ringing true this time around.

This was clear from the very start. Round one of the debates focused on Domestic issues, with questions on jobs, the deficit, healthcare and the role of government on the table. Unsurprisingly, the two men differed in their opinions about what is causing America’s slow recovery from one of the deepest recessions this side of the Second World War. Obama was keen to point out that the problems were started by the Bush administration, although he was careful not to use his predecessor’s name directly. There was one occasion where the Governor did acknowledge the role that Bush had played in building the US deficit, but decided to focus more on the fact that Obama has had four years in which to bring it down, and has failed.

The candidates genuinely disagree about the methods with which to eliminate the federal debt, and this is where we got our first good old fashioned Left/Right mini-debate. Obama prefers a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts, asking the top earners in America to pay a little more in order to protect the programs that ordinary Americans depend upon. Governor Romney would bring down the deficit predominantly through spending cuts. In a debate that focused so heavily on sticking up for the middle class, one would assume that Obama’s plan would have come across as the most sensible. In fact, Romney did an excellent job of explaining why raising taxes on the top 3% of business in America actually punishes the firms that hire the majority of Americans, thus threatening jobs at a time of weak economic recovery. Obama clearly wanted to use this section of the debate to portray Romney as a President for the very wealthy, and the incumbent seemed a tad shaken when his plan didn’t appear to follow through. It was always going to be crucial for Romney to come across as the more ‘pro-business’ candidate in this debate, and on the point of tax revenue, he seemed to do this with ease.  Read more of this post

For Afghanistan, Apologies are not enough

Dominic Turner

Image © U.S. Army

Last month saw a spate of terrorist atrocities in Afghanistan, a reaction to the unintentional burning of the Quran by American soldiers. I have no reason to cast aspersion on the claims this affront was entirely accidental. It seems it was, President Obama has apologised for the burning, and for this incident it should suffice. But the touch paper for this carnage was not lit merely by the destruction of Islam’s Holy book, however sacrosanct that is. The horror that has engulfed Afghanistan for the last ten years rises out of the fertile, festering swamp that we have created through occupying that land for over a decade. And for that, there is no apology great enough.

Make no mistake, these acts of extreme violence are obscene. But like all resistance to occupations, they are a cathartic endeavour against forces of aggression as we saw in India and Vietnam in the 20th century. It is hard enough for our own Government to cling to some far-fetched justification for the decade long occupation of Afghanistan.  Just think how hard it is for the Afghan people, 92% of them who do not even know of the events of September 11th. How would you react if an invading army occupied your country, flattened your town, and killed your family? This is without even considering the fact that the United States armed and funded Osama Bin Laden and the Mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, leaving the forces that they organised in power to slaughter and rape tens of thousands of civilians, a period that ‘Human Rights Watch’ characterises as the “worst period in Afghan history”.

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The Object of Torture is Torture:10 years of Guantanamo Bay

Dominic Turner

Image © U.S. Army

In the South-Eastern periphery of Cuba lies the province of Bahía de Guantánamo. Unlike the rest of the Caribbean island, its vegetation does not grow green and abundant. If only the signs of American imperialism were limited to the Cuban mainland’s only McDonalds and Starbucks. If only the crimes perpetrated in this naval base concerned the validity of the United States’ occupying lease, obtained under the threat of force.

Ten years ago, Guantanamo Bay received its first detainees and began an unending tale of human suffering and degradation for children as young as 13 and men as old as 98. Eye witness accounts detail a nightmarish existence of systematic beatings, torture, and humiliating treatment. But its not just the physical abuse that destroys the victims of Guantanamo. Its in every spiteful action, in every callous deed, the breaking up of families by denying prisoners even the right to exchange letters. By desecrating copies of the Quran and imposing unimaginable periods of solitary confinement.
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