Editorial Roundup: United States
Sep 12, 2023, 9:30 PM
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on changes to how to handle allegations of sex crimes in the U.S. military
Few things at the Pentagon happen quickly, but rarely have its powers of delay been as regrettable as in its decades-long reconsideration of how to handle allegations of sex crimes in the ranks. For years, the military insisted that decisions about whether to investigate and prosecute alleged sexual harassment, assault and rape were best left in the hands of unit commanders, who are responsible for the readiness and morale of their sailors, Marines, soldiers or airmen. The Pentagon stuck to this position even as reports of mishandled sex crimes dogged the services and recruiting flagged.
But thanks to the concerted efforts of a few members of Congress, justice now has a chance. Though it took years of pressure and two acts of Congress to make it happen, allegations of sex crimes are being removed from the hands of unit commanders and given instead to a team of specially chosen military lawyers. The organization, known as Offices of Special Trial Counsel, will have sole responsibility for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and murder. signed an executive order in July that formalizes the changes.
This is a welcome development. Taking cases out of the chain of command removes the influence of local commanders who might favor other priorities or who might have fostered an atmosphere that made equity and fairness inside their units a secondary concern. The reforms should also increase reporting of sexual misconduct, if only because there is little point in reporting wrongdoing if there is no independent third party to investigate it.
Certainly, the military culture needs to change. In an update last September, the Pentagon reported that sexual assault across all the services rose 13 percent between 2020 and 2021. The report also estimated unwanted sexual contact, according to a confidential survey, nearly doubled, from 20,000 incidents to some 36,000. A top Pentagon official called the results “tragic and extremely disappointing.”
While our hunch is that the services might need to train more lawyers for this organization than they imagine — and make that work a favored career inside the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force — this outcome is a case study in compromise and determination. It is also one the Editorial Board has long favored. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was right to move the Pentagon off the dime. But the biggest share of the credit goes to Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who worked together to build bipartisan support in the Senate for these reforms. We hope all involved will monitor the progress of these reforms to ensure the Pentagon, when it comes to its men and women in uniform, keeps moving toward justice for all.
The Wall Street Journal on Bernie Sanders backing a second term for Joe Biden
The 2024 election is promising to be one for the ages, and an underplayed story so far is how the left wing of the Democratic Party has so easily fallen in behind President Biden. Far from challenging Mr. Biden, Bernie Sanders has emerged as one of the President’s most vociferous supporters.
The Vermont socialist has been hitting the airwaves and hustings to tell progressive voters to back the President. He’s trashed the idea of a third-party run by the black left-wing professor Cornel West. You might even say Mr. Sanders is Mr. Biden’s leading surrogate, and no doubt he’s acting with the blessing of the White House.
“President Biden and his administration have made some real progress in addressing issues that have not been dealt with in decades,” Mr. Sanders said Sunday on CBS ’s Face the Nation. He cited drug price controls and public-works projects in particular before pivoting to say that Democrats have to do much more to win back the “working class.”
He said Mr. Biden has to campaign for “real Democrats, not corporate Democrats, like (Joe) Manchin and (Kyrsten) Sinema,” so he can get full control of Congress. “I think if he runs on a strong progressive agenda, he’s not only going to win, he’s going to win by a strong vote.”
In other words, Mr. Sanders is betting on a second Biden-Bernie administration. In 2020 Mr. Sanders lost to Mr. Biden in the primaries but he managed to win from Mr. Biden a joint policy task force that embraced much of the Sanders-Elizabeth Warren agenda. And Mr. Biden has governed that way, embracing student-loan forgiveness, vast new climate regulation, and record federal spending, among other progressive priorities.
Ron Klain, the former White House chief of staff, made the calculation that Mr. Biden needed to unite Democrats as President, rather than uniting the country as he promised as a candidate. Now Bernie’s full-throated endorsement is important evidence of what Biden II (or Biden I1/2 and Kamala Harris I) would look like.
This is the reason Mr. Biden faces no serious Democratic challenger despite his manifest decline and anemic popularity. But the results of that agenda are the reason Mr. Biden is vulnerable to a Republican, especially anyone other than Donald Trump.
The Los Angeles Times on abortion laws in the U.S. and Mexico
The Mexican Supreme Court of Justice decision decriminalizing abortion last week is a landmark ruling in a country that has historically outlawed the procedure with harsh penalties for the women who sought it and the healthcare professionals who provided it.
The ruling, which governs federal law in a nation of states, makes abortion legal in federal health institutions and requires the public health service to offer it. The decision does not automatically make abortion legal in all of Mexico (the way that the Roe vs. Wade decision had made abortion legal in all of the United States). But it could speed up a movement by Mexican states to legalize the procedure. Currently, 12 out of 32 states have decriminalized abortion.
The battle for the right to control one’s own body continues, but the Mexican judicial ruling is a significant victory for reproductive rights and the increasingly influential feminist movement in Latin America, which has historically been socially and religiously conservative. Argentina, Colombia and other countries in the region have also legalized or decriminalized abortion in the last few years.
Yet, as Mexico and other Latin American countries demonstrate remarkable progress toward protecting the right to bodily autonomy, the U.S. is going backward. Our Supreme Court undid protections for abortion last year when it overturned Roe vs. Wade. And now a growing number of states are working to erode protections of individual rights as their legislators search for more harrowing and surreal ways to criminalize abortions. So much for the USA being a beacon of freedom.
In Texas, where abortion is illegal unless the pregnant person’s life is in danger, a number of cities are considering “trafficking” laws to make it a crime to help a pregnant person travel on roads in that city to get an abortion in another state (like neighboring New Mexico, where abortion is still allowed). Just as the infamous Texas Senate Bill 8 allowed a private citizen to sue someone suspected of having helped a person get an abortion past about six weeks of pregnancy (before Roe vs. Wade was overturned),a private citizen would have the right to sue someone they suspected of helping a person travel on Texas roads and highways out of town for an abortion.
The idea that you could sue someone for legally driving a person to get a procedure that is legal in another state is preposterous and possibly a violation of several constitutional rights, including due process. But as with SB 8, if it’s enforced only through citizen lawsuits, there’s no government official to sue for a constitutional violation. The point is to scare people into not traveling on roads in Texas to get abortions.
Even scarier, in Alabama, where abortion is banned unless a person’s life is in danger, Atty. Gen. Steve Marshall recently said that groups providing financial or any other kind of assistance to Alabama residents seeking an abortion out of state could be prosecuted on conspiracy charges. No one has been charged yet, but his threats have already caused one abortion assistance fund to stop providing financial help to low-income Alabama residents seeking abortions elsewhere pending a lawsuit it filed asking for court protection from anti-conspiracy laws.
These efforts are as cruel as they are mind-boggling. The Dobbs ruling, which overturned Roe, returned the decision on abortion rights to the states. That didn’t mean it gave states the right to thwart its residents’ travel plans. Pregnant people leaving the state are not fugitive slaves escaping the plantation.
It’s heartening to witness the progress Mexico has made in restoring rights — and it’s maddening to see the destruction of those rights continue in the U.S.
The Guardian on the shadow of Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile
Three decades before the 2001 al-Qaida terror attacks on the US, September 11 was infamous for another bloody event which ended one era of history and brought forth another. The 1973 military coup in Chile installed General Augusto Pinochet as the dictator of a regime that tortured, killed and disappeared thousands in the name of fighting communism. Salvador Allende, the first socialist in the Americas to take office via the ballot box, killed himself as troops stormed the presidential palace. Under Pinochet, parliament was closed, political parties outlawed, and media outlets shut down. Chile became a test-bed for the “ shock therapy ” policies of the University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman.
The death of democracy was undoubtedly hastened by the actions of leading powers, including the UK and Australia, but most notably the US. Shamefully, Conservative governments led by Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher resisted helping Pinochet’s victims because of sympathetic attitudes towards the coup. The Labour governments of 1974-79 ran a more ethical foreign policy, accepting Chilean refugees and imposing sanctions on the junta.
Pinochet cheated justice through death in 2006, though he died in disgrace in Chile after judges charged him with human rights abuses. He spent 16 months of ignominious house arrest in London. But his ghost still hovers over his country. Last month, Chile’s president, Gabriel Boric, formally launched the nation’s first plan to search for the victims of forced disappearance and political execution under the dictatorship. Mr Boric, who invoked Allende in his inauguration speech, is Chile’s most leftwing president since 1973 and rose to power after a “ social explosion ” against inequality.
An unequal nation has produced polarised politics: Mr Boric’s main opponent is a far-right Pinochet apologist whose party controls a decisive bloc on the committee the president set up to rewrite Chile’s dictatorship-era constitution. A decade ago, polls suggested that one in eight people in Chile did not see the ousting of a democratically elected leader as wrong. That’s now more than one in three. Some accept human rights abuses happened under Pinochet but believe these were excused by superior economic performance. This is false. Chile’s free-market transformation should not be considered a success.
In September 1973 this column saw Allende as a “well-meaning man” who failed because he made powerful political enemies, mismanaged the economy and fatally put “ideas into the heads” of generals by appointing them to his cabinet. What was not known then was the extent of a covert US intervention. That only emerged a year later when the head of the CIA admitted spending $8m (about $45m in today’s money) between 1970 and 1973 to make it impossible for Allende to govern. Self‑determination was for like-minded friends.
The US government continues to keep secret records about its role. Washington should come clean, as the Chilean coup is seen as part of a decades-long attempt to destabilize leftwing governments in the region. Clearly US national security doctrine was indifferent to dictatorship and legitimated dirty wars. This was wrong. Washington should say so. The US remains self-interested, inspiring fear in the continent. Whether it is sanctions on Cuba, claims that aid is being used against the Mexican government or an IMF-forced depreciation in Argentina, the shadows cast by September 11 1973 are lengthening.
China Daily on Chinese firms’ response to US sanctions
While US sanctions have choked the supply of US chips to Huawei, they have made it almost impossible for Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp to obtain US technology. So when Huawei launched its flagship device, Mate 60 Pro, which reportedly includes a new 5G Kirin 9000s processor, the domestic market and consumers seemed to hail it as a major breakthrough.
US Congressman Michael McCaul’s demand at a briefing at the US embassy in The Hague on Wednesday that the SMIC “warrants investigation” explains why both Huawei and the SMIC have kept a low profile on the issue. While US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said he needed “more information” on the precise “character and composition” of the Kirin chip, McCaul asserted, without having any evidence, that “it sure looks like it did” violate US sanctions — a premise that is based on presumption of guilt.
True to its colors, and based again on presumption of guilt, the US administration is seeking more information on Mate 60 Pro, according to CNN, possibly to take legal action against Huawei or the SMIC or both.
Both Sullivan and McCaul should know that the SMIC was put on the US Entity List in December 2020 during the last days of the Donald Trump administration, limiting the supply or transfer of US technology to it. That means it is almost impossible that the SMIC’s 7 nm foundry was made using US technologies. Or are the US political leaders suggesting the United States will use long-arm jurisdiction to target the legal business of the two Chinese companies?
The US used long-arm jurisdiction to cripple Japan’s Toshiba in the 1980s, enfeeble France’s Alston in 2013 and deal a big blow to Germany’s Siemens in 2018, all on flimsy grounds and to protect American enterprises.
In 2019, the Trump administration targeted Huawei with even harsher measures, banning all US enterprises from supplying advanced chips to the Chinese company. Against this background, Chinese researchers’ breakthrough, as demonstrated by Huawei’s Mate 60 Pro, is a fitting reply to the US’ beggar-thy-neighbor policies.
The most effective resistance against the US’ long-arm jurisdiction is to invest in research and development and produce one’s own high-tech products.
For too long the world has been suffering from the US’ vicious long-arm jurisdiction. It’s time now for Chinese companies to make more technological breakthroughs and break the US’ monopoly in different fields and end its global hegemony.