The long-term impact of the migrant crisis in Germany

The International Organisation for Migration contend that the volume of individuals living outside their country of birth has risen from 80 million three decades ago to approximately 180 million people. These vast demographic changes to a state’s population frequently result in many differing threats to the nations societal, economic, political and security structures. A key example of the negative impact interstate migration can have on a state’s status quo is the ongoing societal and political fallout to the Syrian migration crisis in Germany. Traditionally migration into Germany had been steadily increasing in accordance with global migration trends, however the ongoing Syrian civil war resulted in the state’s net migration increasing by 49% through 1 million individuals forcibly migrating into the state in 2015. Stemming from this dramatic rise in population has been a wave of political and social disturbances linked to xenophobia, crime, and far-right nationalism, leading to questions surrounding the stability of the state.

After all, despite the involuntary nature of these individual’s migration, they are often equated as security threats to the presumptive receiving state and its citizens. Primarily, this perception is formed through the idea that vast numbers of refugees will increase both the speed and likelihood of multiculturalism and the breakdown of the German identity. Consequently, in response to this belief Germany has seen a drastic increase in the distribution of anti-migrant rhetoric and has even seen its number of hate crimes targeted specifically against refugee’s double between 2014 and 2015. The overall sentiment of mistrust and fear of refugees was clearly observable during the Leipizig riots in 2016, in which over 200 right-wing extremists where arrested for various crimes linked to weapons, explosives, narcotics and the German right to assemble, thus displaying a sense of lawlessness within Germany.

Unfortunately, the actions and ideas of far-right extremist takes the focus away from the vulnerabilities and human rights of the refugees seeking asylum and gives it to concerns regarding the security of the state, resulting in increased social anxieties and instability towards migration. In this sense, it is therefore not so much the refugees directly contributing to societal tension but rather the inability to consider them not to be security threats.

Significantly, the political structures within Germany have also experienced disturbances resulting from increasing flows of refugees. Correlating with trends throughout Europe, Germany has seen an exponential rise in support for far-right nationalist parties. The Alternative Für Deutschland (AFD) who support an intrinsically anti-migrant agenda have seen their share of the national vote grow from 4.7% in 2013 to 15% according to polls in 2016, which places them as the third biggest party in Germany. The rapid growth in support for the AFD can be considered to be a societal reaction against both potential racial assimilation within the state and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to give all Syrian refugee’s the ability to apply for asylum in Germany. Although the AFD does not currently have a realistic chance of becoming the dominant party in Germany, it’s success does force the more mainstream parties to engage in uneasy and unproductive coalitions in order to prevent the AFD gaining further support. These coalitions threaten to fragment the German political landscape through the slowing of the long-term productivity of the German political system.

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Reflecting upon the article, one can contend that Germany is being negatively impacted by the migrant crisis in two ways. Firstly, the increasing flows of migration into Germany has led to the formation of a xenophobic and combative society, creating instability through race riots and racial discrimination as seen in the rise in hate crimes being committed against refugees. Secondly, because of xenophobia within society the political establishment is made unstable through a rise in support for anti-immigration parties. The rise in support for far-right parties increases the pressure on the ruling party to enact more nationalistic policies, however the enactment of such policies would only serve to legitimise claims that migration should be perceived as a security issue and that refugees are a threat to national stability.

To conclude , it is worth noting that these impacts stem from negative reactions to refugees rather than the refugees themselves. In this sense, is it possible that these repercussions would not exist if there was an absence of xenophobia within society? And, additionally would there be such reactions if the hardship and human rights of the refugees were recognised and focused upon?

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How has America avoided paying compensation for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims

During my time in Vietnam, I found myself to be deeply moved by both the warmness of the Vietnamese people and the long-lasting influence of the war over fifty years later. The most recognisable by-product of the American war in Vietnam is the social, cultural and economic impact of the US’ use of Agent orange. Over the course of the war, in order to decimate Vietcong supply lines and food, America is thought to have dropped roughly 12 million gallons of the defoliant covering 12% of Vietnam’s land area. Alongside its ability to remove the leaves from trees and plants, Agent orange also contains dioxin which is widely considered in the scientific community to be the deadliest toxin known to man. It is therefore of no surprise that roughly 400,00 people were killed as a direct result of the distribution of Agent orange.

However, it is arguably the long-term impacts of Agent orange that a far more harrowing and saddening. You see, the toxin dioxin in Agent orange has been found to cause rashes, skin irritations, various forms of cancer, psychological disturbances and extreme birth defects which can last from at least the first to the fourth generation of families exposed to the defoliant. Currently there is roughly 3 million people living with cancer or other diseases due to agent orange exposure and since the war half a million children have been born with serious birth defects. Yet whilst America veterans and their next of kin have been paid a total of $180 million of compensation from the US Government and seven companies which manufactured the weapon, the hardship and ongoing struggle of the Vietnamese have been consistently ignored. Is it therefore possible that there is a lack of interest from both America and the wider international community in acknowledging the extreme suffering of the Vietnamese as a direct result of agent orange exposure? And is it possible that America has once again been able to publicly disobey international law, this time relating to chemical weapons, and has been able to get away with it purely because they are America?

Indeed there is plenty of evidence that supports this claim. For instance, as previously noted in 1984 chemical company Monsanto and several other companies agreed to a compensation package of $180 million to be paid to American veterans who may have suffered personally or their families have subsequently suffered from medical complications linked to Agent orange exposure. The conclusion reached within this court case seems to signify both an acceptance of Agent orange as a chemical weapon and an acknowledgement of guilt and responsibility from the companies hired to compose the defoliant. Yet, when a virtually identical case was finally raised on behalf of the 3 million Vietnamese suffering from the consequences of Agent orange exposure, the judge dismissed the case and sided with the chemical companies, despite the previous ruling in 1984. To justify his decision, Judge Jack Weinstein from Brooklyn, the same judge who heard the 1984 case, argued that the dropping of Agent orange did not amount to a war crime and therefore the companies held no responsibility due to their being no treaty, express or implied in the United States that conceived herbicides to be a weapon of war.

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The conclusion reached within the 2004 case enabled the chemical companies such as Monsanto to deflect blame on the US government and continue to not acknowledge and pay victims of a chemical weapon they created. The narrowmindedness of the judge in this instance is staggering if he truly believes a defoliant which not only killed 400,000 people but has also detrimentally changed the lives of 3 million people can only be considered an herbicide. The discrepancies within the judicial process in America in cases related to Agent orange is clearly evident when you consider that the only two differences between the two cases in 1984 and 2004 is the nationalities of those seeking compensation and the conclusion.

Worryingly, the lack of interest in acknowledging and compensating Vietnamese victims of Agent orange is not limited to the judicial system in America. The United States Congress repeatedly heard and repeatedly struck down proposals on legislation which would give compensation to Vietnamese victims towards the end of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the flows of legislation relating to Agent orange has drastically slowed, with the most recent example being the proposed Victims of Agent orange relief act 2013 which died in Congress. The act would have directed the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Veterans affairs to provide assistance for Vietnamese individuals affected by exposure to Agent orange. However, the passing of such a bill would be an admission of guilt by the US government that they knowingly released a chemical loaded with poison on civilian populations. Of course, this is the case as even at the beginning of the Vietnam war dioxin was known to be the most toxic chemical known to man, yet justice will never be given to Vietnamese victims as an admission of knowledge by America would violate the rule of law that requires a distinction between military and civilian objects which is enshrined through The Hague Convention, Nuremberg principles, Geneva Conventions 1949, Optional Protocol of 1977 and the International Criminal Court statue. Therefore, making America completely guilty of war crimes against the Vietnamese public and yet America will never admit guilt, nor will any other country hold the US too its crimes due to its influence over the global economy, leaving victims of Agent orange uncompensated and unheard.

Reflecting upon the article, you can truly feel the hopelessness for Vietnamese victims of Agent orange seeking some form of compensation or even an apology for their suffering from America and the chemical companies. Unfortunately, however the 3 million Vietnamese living with deformities or cancer due to Agent orange exposure have joined the long list of war crimes committed by America stretching back to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima that will never be recognised, apologised or compensated for. The true irony of this unfortunate situation is that had a different country dropped Agent orange on civilians then America would likely lead the prosecution. Yet, as has become evident over time America abides by a different set of international rules and laws making it exempt from prosecution for war crimes.

 

 

Can abortion restrictions be justified?

Abortion within the first trimester of pregnancy has been legal in America since 1973 due to the 7-2 decision reached within the Supreme Court case, Roe v Wade. However, with the infamously anti-abortion Republican party holding the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House, there has been renewed pressures and regulations placed on abortions at a national and state legislative level. Coupled with this has been a dramatic increase in the enactment of limitations on a woman’s right to an abortion. However, when one considers the decisions reached within Roe v Wade the legitimacy of the implementation of such limitations becomes questionable. Can abortion limitations be justified by pro-life supporters? And more importantly, can they be considered constitutional?

The primary debate between the pro-choice and pro-life supporters is whether the procedure of abortion should be considered a public or private matter. Pro-choice supporters argue that abortion is intrinsically a private matter due both to its relationship with bodily integrity and the individual’s right to freedom from governmental intervention in their private lives. The second argument is significant as it relates abortion with the right to privacy inferred within the fourteenth amendment and thus condemns any regulations and limitations as being unconstitutional.

Alternatively, pro-life supporters offer the arguably weak argument that abortion is a public matter due to the operation being conducted in the presence of a state certified medical practitioner in a regulated health facility. Therefore, they argue that increased access to abortion invariably requires more governmental regulation in order to maintain health and safety standards. Additionally, the maintenance of high health and safety standards will alleviate the risk attached to abortion, thus making it safer and lowering the chance of death.

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However, it is worth noting that the continued implementation of abortion restrictions on both a state and national legislative level will likely force women into using less reputable practitioners without governmental regulation, which inevitably increases the risk of injury and death. Therefore, the argument that abortion limitations are justifiable due to both the procedure being a public matter and requirement to uphold safety standards is incorrect as the implementation of restrictions increases the threats to the woman’s health.

Equally, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade nationalised the issue of abortion, as well as drastically increased the judicial oversight given to legislation relating to privacy and abortion restrictions.  In this sense, the enactment of limitations not only becomes unjust, but also unconstitutional. Primarily, as the supremacy of the Supreme Court’s decisions means that congress cannot interpret the constitution in a way contradicting the decision in Roe v Wade. Therefore, the argument that national and state level legislation limiting abortion is justified due to them both having a right and a responsibility to regulate can be considered unconvincing.

Therefore it becomes clear that there is minimal justification for the enactment of abortion limitations. Mostly this is due to both abortion being a private matter meaning it should be free of governmental intervention, and also the fact that the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade legislatively outranks any decision reached on a national and state legislative level.

Far-right Virginia attacks: Why Trump did not single out the alt-right

In the wake of the racially-motivated violence in Virginia as well as Trump’s condemnation of the attacks from ‘many sides’, new questions and criticism have arisen about the President’s relationship with the so-called alt-right. Thought to have emerged in the wake of Pat Buchanan’s failed bid for Republican Presidential nomination in 1992, the alt-right is comprised of individuals who are frustrated by political correctness, feminism, immigration and the ‘suppression’ of the white identity. The final characteristic frequently linked with the alt-right relates the movement to groups seeking white supremacy such as the Ku Klux Klan, thus making Trump’s willingness to be associated with and unwillingness to criticise the alt-right questionable. Therefore, one must seriously wonder why Trump was not able to solely criticise the alt-right for the blatant racially motivated violence that occurred in Virginia.

Indeed, it seemed obviously out of place for President Trump to refrain from using his vicious rhetoric that we have seen so frequently through his attacks of Hilary Clinton, John McCain, mainstream journalism and fellow Republican politicians. Instead, his response to the violence in Virginia appeared vague and unwilling to give his true opinion out of fear of receiving widespread criticism or losing support. After all, Trump’s campaign as an insurgency outsider nomination was often tied and supported by various alt-right groups which most commonly were linked with white supremacy. Support from these groups as well as Trump’s tailor-made policies and rhetoric to target white Americans enabled the President to gain 63% of the white male vote and 52% of the white female vote in the 2016 Presidential election according to the Independent. In this sense, it would be unsurprising that Trump would be unwilling to singularly condemn white supremacists and risk losing their votes and support, thus framing the President as a man willing to put his career aspirations over the lives of the electorate.

830783084A second explanative factor to consider could be the President’s wish to not create further confusion and divides within his administrative staff. Although, Trump’s presidency has been marked by constant resignations or sackings of high level administrative staff, the dismissal of the disruptive Anthony Scaramucci from communications director after eleven days seemed to signify the end of the period of confusion. Therefore, when one considers the number of individuals tied to the alt-right within the Trump administration, most notably White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, it should be expected that Trump would resist outright criticising the movement. However, this argument again highlights the President’s intention to place unity within his administration over the recognition of the victims of the attacks in Virginia.

Reflecting upon these arguments, the violence in Virginia and the President’s response, one must truly question whether Trump is fulfilling the role of President. After all, as stated in the constitution the role of the President includes being the chief of state and chief citizen of all citizens of the United States. In this sense, the President is obligated to place the requirement to represent the electorate over his career aspirations and desires for re-election. Considering his comments in the aftermath of the alt-right violence in Virginia, one can conclude that Trump has failed to achieve this requirement.

Behind the hire & fire approach of President Trump

There are few things one can count upon in the Trump administration. Of course, there are a couple of items which can be considered regular such as accusations of Russian involvement in the Presidential election, anti-press rhetoric and obviously a regularly update twitter feed. One such item used to be the entertaining and arguably hostile daily press conferences held by Sean Spicer, who joined the already lengthy list of white house resignations when he left his post as press secretary on July 21st, 2017. Despite holding a greater household name recognition than most press secretaries, Spicer frequently appeared out of his depth in his role by using improper language (referring to concentration camps as ‘holocaust centres’), engaging in the selective banning of certain news outlet’s (BBC, CNN, New York Times, La Times) from white house press briefings and of course the now infamous ‘facts’ about the size of Trump’s inauguration audience.

However, it is the basis of Spicer’s resignation which should be so concerning to the rest of the world. According to the New York Times, Spicer informed President Trump that he ‘vehemently disagreed’ with the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communication director. Arguably, Spicer’s protestations are entirely justified when one considers Scaramucci has no previous experience within the political media aside from the odd appearance on Fox News, served as a fundraiser for former President Barrack Obama, previously supported the Republican nomination of Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and holds a liberal position on social issues with him tweeting in the past that he has ‘always been for strong gun control laws’ and that ‘Republicans should support gay marriage’. Yet despite the mass of evidence suggesting Scaramucci is the antithesis of many of the Republican parties values, Trump proceeded with the appointment anyway. The assigning of Scaramucci to White House communications director against the advice of the more experienced and qualified Sean Spicer suggests that Trump’s approach to governorship is slightly dictatorial and that not supporting or agreeing with him may cost you your job. The undertaking of such an approach can be argued to be entirely against the vision of the founding fathers as it leads to the diminishment of democracy as the majority of the decision making as well as the political agenda is set by one man. To further support this argument, the article highlights three more executive resignations/dismissals caused by disagreements with President Trump.

Patrick Kennedy, Joyce Anne Barr, Michele Bond & Gentry O. Smith – resigned January 26th, 2017:

The Trump administration did not have to wait long to have its first causalities as Patrick Kennedy (Under Secretary of State and Management), Joyce Anne Barr (Assistant Secretary of State for Administration), Michele Bond (Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs) and Gentry O. Smith (Director of the Office of Foreign Missions) all resigned under the advice of newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just six days after the inauguration. Now, usually a mass resignation a couple of days after a changing of administration would likely be due to disagreements with the new direction of the executive department as well as loyalties to the previous president, however seven months on the roles served by Kennedy, Anne Barr, Bond and Smith have still not been filled. In fact, there is a multitude of executive positions currently available due to Trump’s unwillingness to select a nominee, with CNBC reporting that Trump has nominated just 63 out of the 559 jobs classified high priority by the Partnership for Public Service and only 39 of those have been approved by the Senate. Moreover, a number of differing media outlets consider trust and loyalty to be the main characteristics sought after by Trump and therefore the minimal executive appointments suggests the President feels that he cannot trust anyone and is thus isolated. This is a dangerous mindset to undertake as it frequently results in the hiring of individuals less qualified for the position and leads to the formation of a siege or us versus them mentality. In this sense, Trump will only hire those who swear complete loyalty to him and his policies leading to a lack of differing opinions on the direction of the political agenda and legislation.

Sally Yates – dismissed January 30th, 2017:

The dismissal of Sally Yates as Acting United States Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General is a prime example of the dangers posed to your career by disagreeing with the decisions and policies of President Trump. Intriguingly, like Kennedy, Anne Barr, Bond and Smith, Yates was appointed Deputy Attorney General by former President Obama and therefore it could be argued that Trump was always suspicious of where her true loyalties laid. Although, it should be noted that Yates objections to the so-called ‘Muslim’ travel ban had nothing to do with loyalty, but rather the legality of the legislation. After all, Yates’ position required her to ensure the Trump administration remained within the law and was thus simply fulfilling her duties by ordering the justice department to not defend President Trump’s executive order on travel and immigration’. Regardless of this, later that day Yates’ was dismissed from her role and was stated to have betrayed the justice department and risked the safety of US citizens by refusing to support the executive order. The decision was met with widespread condemnation from the media, the Democrats and even Trump’s own party, as congressman John Coyners (R.) likened the dismissal to that of a reality show such as the Apprentice. In this case, the fire and hire policy used by Trump was shown to know no limits as even the highest-ranking position in the Justice department was deemed expendable. Moreover, the Yates’ dismissal further highlights Trump’s true desire to have an executive made up of yes men who will instigate his policies and beliefs without question.

Craig Deare – dismissed February 17th, 2017:

The final resignation/dismissal focused upon arguably went under the radar amid the numerous scandals and leaks following the dismissal of Michael Flynn three days prior. However, the dismissal of Craig Deare from Senior Director of Western Hemisphere Affairs again shows the dangers of criticising Trump and his advisors, along with highlighting any problems within the administration. Deare lost his position following a speech given at the Woodrow Wilson centre in which he reportedly criticised the handling of Latin American affairs by the Trump administration and noted the overall dysfunction within Washington generated by a high turnover of staff in high priority positions. In response to this criticism, the Trump administration proved its dictatorial/siege mentality approach to governorship by issuing a warning to the remaining staff that ‘if you don’t support the President’s agenda then you shouldn’t have a job in the White House’. The use of such rhetoric would suggest that any individual who opposes or even suggests improvements to any of Trump’s policies would be at risk of losing their job, therefore resulting in an administration which is intrinsically in opposition to the desires of the founding fathers who made the constitution and designed the structure of American politics in such a way to avoid a dictatorship. Thankfully, opposition within the House of Representatives and the Senate (mainly from Trump’s own party) means that America is not currently living in a dictatorship, however should Trump’s approach to hiring those who are loyal rather than qualified continue one can suggest that by the end of Trump’s term in office American politics will be the executive in constant opposition to the judiciary and the legislators.