World Review: 9/11, Trudeau, Putin and Patel

It is the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Two decades since 2,996 lives were lost in suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In New York the occasion will be marked by families of the dead reading statements about their loved ones. The event will be closed to the public. Elsewhere in the world, the anniversary will be marked with foreboding. The attack was carried out by Al Qaeeda and was planned and coordinated from its base in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Within weeks a US-led NATO force toppled the Taliban government. There has not been a Jihadist attack on US soil since. President Biden has now withdrawn US forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban is back in power.

Biden claims that the US-led occupation and long war against the Taliban was a success. It was, and now it isn’t. The current Taliban government is filled with faces who were thrown out in 2001. Some of them are on America’s Ten Most Wanted List. The leadership started off on the right foot promising to protect women’s rights (according to Islamic law), and most importantly pledged to prevent their country from again being used as a base for international terrorism. But do they have the power to prevent it?

The new cabinet has abolished the post of Minister for Women and it is widely believed that some of its members have linked to ISIS-K which was responsible for the bombing that killed 200 and wounded many more during the evacuation at Kabul Airport. Instead of denying the undeniable, President Biden should accept that American revenge on Afghanistan has been a failure and has most likely led to the re-establishment of terrorist groups in the Central Asian country and emboldened Jihadist organisations around the world. He pulled out because the twenty-year war was unpopular with the American electorate. But another 9/11 will be more so.

President Joe Biden this week signed a decree requiring all federal employees and employees of major US companies to be covid vaccinated—that is 100,000 people in total. Biden justified the move by saying that the crisis has moved from an everyperson pandemic to a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He has a point. Eighty million Americans remain unvaccinated. 476,000 have died so far. A large number of the roughly 1,500 new hospitalisations a day in America are victims of covid vaccine conspiracy theories. But not all. New Variants are emerging. The latest is the MU variant which appears to have originated in Colombia. Like its predecessors, MU is highly contagious. There is a fear that it may also be less susceptible to existing vaccines. A few months ago, Israel was hailed as the golden-boy of the anti-coronavirus brigade. Within a matter of weeks it had vaccinated almost its entire population. “We have beaten coronavirus,” the Israeli government crowed. Now it is in the middle of its fourth wave and preparing a fourth round of vaccinations. It is true that those who have had at least two vaccinations are less likely to contract the virus and, if they do, the symptoms are less severe. But Delta and MU are so highly contagious that it is working its way scythe-like through the unvaccinated or partly vaccinated population. In the meantime, libertarian-minded US Republicans are planning a legal challenge to the president’s decree on the grounds that personal liberties trump social responsibilities.

The possible fate of Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is an object lesson in the dangers of calling an early election. After the 2019 federal elections Trudeau emerged with a minority government. Like most political leaders, he wants a majority. The early summer opinion polls indicated that the votes were swinging his way and so he called a snap election two years before it was necessary. Canadians now troop to the polls on 20 September. They appear displeased that their prime minister has created a political distraction when they want him to get on with the job of dealing with the pandemic and the economic problems resulting from it.

As of this writing, Trudeau is tied with Canada’s Conservative Party. Assuming that the polls are correct and remain firm, his best hope is a coalition with either the French-speaking Parti Quebecois led by Yves-Francois Blanchet, the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Jameet Singh or the tiny Greens (currently three seats) led by Annamie Paul. But even that is going to be tough as Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is having some success portraying his party as a broad church. He has, for instance, cast himself in the role of Canada’s number one protector of LGBT rights.

There is also an election coming up in Russia. It does not directly involving President Vladimir Putin. They are parliamentary elections for the 450-seat Duma as well as elections to 39 regional parliaments. The three-day election which starts on 17 September has been billed by the English-language Russian newspaper “The Moscow Times” as the “least competitive in 20 years”. For “least competitive” you may substitute “least fair.”

So far 21 candidates not belonging to the ruling United Russia Party have either been banned from standing for election. Alexei Navalny’s Russia of the Future Party has been disbanded by the authorities and its leader and most members of its ruling council are now languishing in Russian prisons on various trumped up charges. But there is still a rump operating in the shadows and six of its members were planning to stand for office and have now been banned by the authorities from doing so. The Yabloko Party, which advocates the unthinkable policies of improving relations with the US and membership of the EU, has had seven members banned. Two independents are out and even the Communist Party has been told that one of its members—Pavel Grudinin—cannot stand because he allegedly owns foreign property. Putin is not officially a member of the United Russia Party which won 54.2 percent of the vote in the last election. The President is meant to be independent and above party politics, but he is a former party president and the party slavishly accepts every decree he passes. Therefore, election observers will be closely monitoring

  1. The performance of the United Russia Party
  2. The number of election abstentions
  3. Any Reports of ballot-rigging or intimidation.

Boris Johnson’s global Britain is becoming a farce. For it to succeed requires the British government to successfully work with other countries and follow international law—most of which it wrote. The antics of Home Secretary Priti Patel (officially now the most heartless person in the British cabinet) is another example of British failure on both counts. A key issue in the 2016 Brexit debate was immigration and Ms Patel is determined to put a stop to the growing number of refugees flowing across the English Channel from France to England. She tried to secure French support by paying for the French police to increase their surveillance of the French coast. That didn’t work. No amount of money would enable the police to be everywhere every time. So now she has announced that the British Coast Guard and possibly also the Royal Navy, will intercept any refugee-laden boats and tow them back to French waters. She has also said she will probably stop funds to the French police.

In one fell swoop, the British Home Secretary has infuriated the French and broken international maritime law which says those in danger at sea must be rescued. Global Britain is beginning to look increasingly like the Emperor’s new clothes.

* American expat journalist Tom Arms is LDV's foreign affairs editor and Campaigns Chair for Wandsworth Lib Dems. His book “America: Made in Britain” is published on 15 October.

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7 Comments

  • John Marriott 11th Sep '21 - 8:35am

    ‘Trudeau, Putin and Patel’? Sounds a bit like a 1970s Tamla Motown pop group. They all appear to be singing off key at the moment!

  • Brad Barrows 11th Sep '21 - 8:50am

    I wonder if the international community will refuse to recognise the result of the Russian Federal elections due to 3 of the 225 territorial constituencies being in Crimea which most of the world continues to recognise as part of Ukraine?

  • New Variants are emerging. The latest is the MU variant which appears to have originated in Colombia. Like its predecessors, MU is highly contagious.

    In the US, Mu prevalence peaked in mid-June at 3.7% of all infections and has since been comprehensively outcompeted by Delta. At 0.1% of cases Mu has now almost vanished. Delta is dominant worldwide and absent the emergence of a more infectious variant is likely to become fixated (near 100%). For details of variant progression in the US scroll over this barchart…

    COVID Data Tracker: Variant Proportions:
    https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#variant-proportions

    …Delta and MU are so highly contagious that it is working its way scythe-like through the unvaccinated or partly vaccinated population.

    Current vaccines are at best around 50% effective at preventing infection with Delta and do little to prevent onward transmission once infected. In Israel where most of the population have been double vaccinated for several months, the majority of their hospital admissions are fully vaccinated…

    ‘A grim warning from Israel: Vaccination blunts, but does not defeat Delta’ [16th. August 2021]:
    https://www.science.org/news/2021/08/grim-warning-israel-vaccination-blunts-does-not-defeat-delta

    Israel has among the world’s highest levels of vaccination for COVID-19, with 78% of those 12 and older fully vaccinated, the vast majority with the Pfizer vaccine. Yet the country is now logging one of the world’s highest infection rates, with nearly 650 new cases daily per million people. More than half are in fully vaccinated people, underscoring the extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant and stoking concerns that the benefits of vaccination ebb over time.

  • Steve Trevethan 11th Sep '21 - 5:03pm

    On 15/10/2001 President Bush rejected an offer from the Taliban to hand over to a neutral county. (Washington Post)
    In late November the Taliban leader’s offer to negotiate a peace deal was rejected..
    The attack 9/11 attack was not an attack by a state but an attack by a group of individuals none of whom were Afghans: 15 of the 22 were from Saudi Arabia.
    https://truthout.org/articles/as-biden-threatens-more-war-dont-forget-the-afghanistan-invasion-was-illegal/

  • Steve Trevethan 11th Sep '21 - 5:10pm

    Apologies!
    The first sentence should include the fact that the Taliban offered to hand over Mr. Bin Laden to a neutral third country. This was the offer that was refused.

  • Though elections matter to politicians and their parties, ordinary people want fairness, transparency and accountability, whoever is elected. This emphasis on elections is distracting of the disasters many Parties make of governing. This is why we and other countries need a modern people led constitution that is administered by a constitutional court and is answerable to the electorate.

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