Former US Senators call for defending democracy, national security

Abdur Rahman Chowdhury | Published: December 13, 2018 21:25:13

Forty-four former US Senators belonging to both Democratic and Republican parties have signed a letter addressed to the present Senators and the newly elected Senators voicing grave concern on the current state of affairs. They are concerned that national security and democracy are at stake and urged the Senators to act on bi-partisan basis and steer the country from the precipice. They did not highlight issues that are threatening national security, but it is not hard to imagine what troubled them so much that they came out on non-partisan basis and made a passionate plea to the members of the Senate.

In the letter, they wrote, "We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and the House's commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability."

 President Trump, during the past two years, has nurtured a political culture that gave rise to racism, bigotry and discrimination against the minority. His malevolence against the immigrants, contempt for the Muslims and lack of respect for women stained the image of the country.

In pursuit of his "Make America Great Again" nationalist goal, Trump lost sight of the global leadership role the United States acquired since the end of World War II and eventually abdicated the role.

Trump's contempt for everything that his immediate predecessor had done enervated him personally and downgraded his administration politically. Failing to abrogate Affordable Health Care Act (AHC), popularly known as Obamacare, he went on defunding the integral components of the programme. The defunding made Obamacare smaller in coverage and expensive in maintaining. Consequently, a large portion of 20 million people, who were brought under health insurance for the first time through AHC, lost insurance coverage. Planned Parenthood, which has been providing urgent and essential maternal health care services, was forced to shut down its clinics for lack of funding.

Over 12 million undocumented immigrants have been in the US for years. Many of them have been providing basic and essential services in their neighbourhoods. Given their size, it was deemed impossible, inhuman and, above all, un-American to deport them to their countries of origin. Obama administration offered them concession and allowed them to stay but obligated them to register, prepare to pay taxes and learn the language. Those found compliant and having record of good behaviour were assured of citizenship. Trump reversed this process and began rounding them up for deportation. In the process, many families were segregated from their American-born children and were deported. This created a humanitarian crisis.

To stop entry of refugees to the USA, Trump has resolved to build a long and huge wall along the Mexican border. The Senate is not agreeing to meet his demand for funding of the bill. Infuriated, Trump has threatened government shutdown with effect from December 21. Should that happen, 850,000 federal employees would be deprived of pay checks.

Trump promulgated travel ban for the people intended to fly from six Muslim countries to enter the United States in March 2017. The ban was issued without prior notice and hundreds of people from predominantly Muslim countries got stranded in major airports in the United States. ACLU, a civil rights organisation, moved to the courts on behalf of the stranded passengers. The court dismissed the executive order and allowed the people with valid documents to enter the country. The administration issued a revised executive order with little alteration. The lower court issued "stay order" but on appeal the Supreme Court upheld the travel ban.

Trump's decision to cut taxes for the wealthy and raise taxes for low and middle-income earners and increase spending for the military has increased the budget deficit. The debt has now reached well over $ 19 trillion.

On the international front, Trump has berated the United Nations and threatened to slash funding alleging that the organisation is hostile to Israel. Trump has recognised Jesrusalem as capital of Israel and defunded UNWRA which has been providing humanitarian assistance and services to thousands of vulnerable Palestinians since they became displaced from their homes seventy years ago. Mideast peace process has been stalled.

Trump has repudiation Paris Climate Agreement and withdrawn from Iran nuclear deal. His admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his fondness for the dictators from the Middle East, Central Asia and East Europe branded the American president as a fascist leader.

Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on likely collusion between Trump's campaign team and Russian operatives has moved to an advanced stage and is soon likely to cause shocks most Americans can't take.

It is in this backdrop that the 44 former Senators have reminded the members of the Senate, "Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else. At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defence of our democracy. Today is once again such a time. Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace our national interest."

People in the United States and all over the world will be intently watching how members of the Senate conduct themselves in the crucial times that lie ahead.

Abdur Rahman Chowdhury is a former official of the United Nations.

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