The President of the United States is often referred to as the ‘leader of the free world’, instrumental in the narrative of the US as the world’s foremost democracy and the nation in which citizens enjoy the most freedoms and protections. While one can debate if this were ever the case, it is irrefutably not the case today. Here are just 5 from a potentially far more extensive list of reasons why the US is not a democracy.
A recent study conducted by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page of Princeton University examined 1,779 policy outcomes over two decades, and came to a stark conclusion: the collective opinion of ordinary citizens doesn’t matter.
The study ‘Affluence and Influence’, found that:
“economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
So is this just an inflated statement to make more nuanced findings more sexy to news editors? Sadly not.
The statistical analysis revealed that the collective views of ordinary Americans have a negligible impact on the policies rolled out by government. In fact, the collective sentiments of the economic elite (defined here as the richest 10%) are 15 times as important.
You can read more on that study here.
In 2012, aircraft hovered over the city of Compton surveilling every person, residence, business and vehicle — in complete secrecy.
As Conor Friedersdorf writes for Atlantic:
In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a civilian aircraft* over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality.
Compton residents weren’t told about the spying, which happened in 2012. “We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story
This gives police and security forces the same blanket surveillance capability over regular citizens that the US and NATO exercise over occupied cities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, Maryland has also installedsurveillance blimps above the city which have panoramic monitoring capability of a 300 mile radius.
Combine this with the telecommunications surveillance exposed by NSA whistleblower and fugitive Edward Snowden and you have a population under the constant eye of the authorities.
Across the US, there are repeated high profile cases of police killing or causing violence against citizens and either escaping punishment, or worse, the victims of violence ending up behind bars. Here are some of the most egregious cases in recent months:
Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were charged with attacking homeless, schizophrenic Kelly Thomaswith a baton and stun gun so severely that Thomas was left in a coma, and died in hospital of his injuries five days later. The officers were found not guilty of Thomas’ murder, despite being caught on camera inflicting the injuries that it took him five days to die from.
New Mexico fatally recently shot and killed a homeless man who was illegally camping in the foothills near to Albuquerque. The incident was caught on camera and posted to You Tube, yet the officers are unlikely to face justice.
After Occupy Wall Street activity Cecily McMillan reacted to a police officer allegedly grabbing her right breast by raising her elbow, she was charged with assaulting a police officer. The judge in this case worked hard to prevent any context for the panic and widely reported police violence against protesters that night from forming any part of the case, and Cecily was convicted. She now faces up to 7 years in prison.
You can read more cases like this here.
The US government was become increasingly belligerent in its attempts to suppress journalists and whistle blowers seeking to make Americans aware of the security state being built around them.
The soldier, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when she gave the pro-transparency site WikiLeaks 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts.
The trove included a 2007 video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people, including two Reuters news staffers. Instead of receiving protection as a whistle blower and the state going after these newly exposed human rights violations and war crimes, Chelsea was arrested, imprisoned, tried and sentenced to 35 years in jail. Her treatment was described as “cruel and inhuman” by the UN special rapporteur. This included: being held in solitary confinement for almost a year, locked up alone for 23 hours a day, and being made to strip naked each night.
Edward Snowden — after revealing the breadth of the US and UK surveillance systems against innocent civilians, Snowden was made stateless by the US government, who revoked his passport. The US is seeking his extradition to try him on a strong of terror and security offenses that would see him behind bars for most of his life.
Barret Brown — The journalist has been in jail since September 2012. A Guardian profile of Brown states that “before he crossed paths with the FBI, Brown was a prolific writer who had contributed to publications including Vanity Fair, the Guardian, the Huffington Post and satirical news site the Onion.” After working on theStratfor Leaks and other high profile corruption cases, Brown was arrested and charged on 17 counts that could see him behind bars for a very long time.
While the US is undemocratic at home, its actions abroad make it a rogue state in the eyes of much of the world. The US frequently engages in the following acts which, if undertaken by any other state, would be a matter for UN intervention or even war:
Extraordinary rendition: This process whereby any citizen, anywhere in the world that becomes suspected of involvement or possession of information relating to a threat of terror against the US can be kidnapped, flown to a friendly state or Guantanamo Bay for imprisonment or torture without charge, extradition proceedings or trial.
The Drone Program: Against all international conventions and laws, the US continues to operate unmanned, weaponized drones that take out military, civilian and infrastructure targets in sovereign states without a declaration of war. You can find a full list of the countries in which the drones operate, and the numbers of civilians killed and injured here.
The Assassination or Toppling of World Leaders: The US has attempted to assassinate no fewer than 50 foreign leaders in efforts to impose regimes more favorable to US interests. It is generally accepted that the US has been directly responsible for the removal of 7 governments; Iran (1953) , Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Dominican Republic (1961), South Vietnam (1963), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973). But in recent years the US has led invasions under the pretext of humanitarian interventions that have removed political opponents across the Middle East in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali and Libya.