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Jan Oberg: Biden’s Flawed Democracy Summit

By Jan Oberg

December 29, 2021

The Summit slogan by Biden was: ”Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.” The first sentence is empty of meaning. The rest is confrontational – fight, be strong; someone – guess who? – threatens our democracy. And renewal was absent.

With no intellectuals or other thinkers invited, the Summit was theoretically and philosophically void. The hours I browsed didn’t reveal any new concepts or visions of democracy – but instead platitudes, tired metaphors, self-congratulatory words by governments leaders on their own achievements and how they meet ”challenges.” Plus the repeated, extremely unfair, appeal to young people to fix what the present generation has so irresponsibly destroyed.

A summit could be used to sum it up: Diagnosis + Prognosis + Solutions: What must we do differently in the future? It wasn’t.

We learned that democracy is in crisis – some of us have known that for long – but no discussion of what has gone wrong inside the West’s democracies. Why, for instance, 52% of young Americans believe that their democracy is either “in trouble,” or “failing” according to a new Harvard study. Or why populism has emerged.

Without a diagnosis, no treatment and recovery. One problem is that the West does not implement real reform with a long-term vision. Instead, governments pump money into often already dysfunctional systems.

Further, we need a new type of democracy, adjusted to the needs of humanity – a global democratic governance. While corporate, technological and military leaders are thinking globally, democracy is still a national system of voting for representatives of parties in a national parliament – parliaments that decide less and less of their society’s future.

This wasn’t even mentioned because incompatible with US leadership. Virtually all leaders spoke in front of their flag – a very telling parochial/national(istic) signal to a global summit.

The Summit was boring: Everybody speaking with a teleprompter, no eye contact, panel roles seemed pre-planned. No spontaneity, emotions or sparks of innovative thinking: What if? Could we try to…? Let’s imagine! Only statements. No brainstorm – no brains and no storms. The whole affair was about as exciting as a conference in Eastern Europe prior to the falling apart of the Soviet Union.

The structure was top-down: The US-led Western elites have much more in common than each has with her/his citizenry. Therefore, no emphasis on the eradication of poverty, literacy, education, health, de-militarisation and adherence to the UN Charter’s provision as fundamental conditions for democracy to flourish.

And what about peace? Peace – its concept and possible policies – has been cancelled in research, media and politics. But human rights are ”in” – Western concepts only – because they can be used as a political weapon. The West usually brags about democracies not fighting wars on other democracies but omit that they gladly attack everybody else they think lacks it and attempt regime change with the Sword and the Democracy Bible.

Did the cruel irony strike Summit participants that Julian Assange’s life, after 11 years of torture*, is even more at stake with the December 10 decision of the court in London that he can be extradited to the US where he may get 175 years in prison (or be killed or commit suicide) for not having done anything illegal?

It’s a threat to all free media reporting security affairs? This should be important, I believe, for the head of Amnesty International Mme Agnès Callamard who was the first speaker on Day Zero. But didn’t say a word.

Did it strike them that the Nobel Peace Prize was simultaneously awarded to two Western-funded media people (Maria Ressa also with grants from the CIA front NED, National Endowment for Democracy), in total violation of the words and spirit in Alfred Nobel’s crystal clear anti-militarist will – to please the West but not to support peace?

Ressa and Muratov, of course, both participated in the Summit.

If democracy advocates do not even mention militarism, interventionism, armament, nuclearism, mass-killings, and the violations of the UN Charter and international law that they all cause – their other points have, in my view, no interest.

They don’t address what virtually all citizens in this world want, need and deserve: Civilian conflict-resolution (conflicts we shall never get rid of but violence we can reduce), cooperation as a violence-risk reducing mechanism, nonviolent thinking, reconciliation, forgiveness and a culture of civilised, not militarised, peace.

This omission alone made this Summit irrelevant. Because as Gandhi stated: ”I believe that true democracy can only be an outcome of non-violence.”

On Summit Day Zero – December 7 – Secretary-of-State Antony Blinken announced ”the biggest contribution by any government to the recently launched International Fund for Public Interest Media” (IFPIM) – via USAID of US$ 30 million. Add to that other media support also part of Biden’s Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, about 50 million in all.

Add to that the US$ 1500 million already set off in Washington to train and educate media people in writing negative stories about China and Belt & Road Initiative, BRI. And add the other US government/state-funded media such as Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia via the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) – and you begin to see a growing political control, in synergy with that exercised through corporate-owned media.

The free media that are considered fundamental in democracies are long gone. The very idea of the freedom of the press has hardly been more deliberately and severely undermined since 1945 than today.

US/NATO states set up all kinds of support programs to ”independent” media to secure uniformity and one-narrative (dis)information and also to cancel and omit stories, analyses, angles, and expertise that just do not fit their political agenda.

One notices that CIA – which has been media-active since Operation Mockingbird in the 1950s – is still active and that NED (see above) is one funder of the IFPIM and that NED’s director chaired a panel during the Summit. And that Maria Ressa is IFPIM’s Board co-chair. Oh, connections!

Finally, the Summit was a public relations disaster. A few thousand viewers in total on YouTube and 857 views when Biden closed the Summit. Even large Western media ignored it.

In conclusion, I think Mohandas K. Gandhi summarised the situation of today’s Western democracy and this Summit quite precisely in 1940: ”My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. That can never happen except through non-violence. No country in the world today shows any but patronizing regard for the weak… Western democracy, as it functions today, is diluted Nazism or Fascism. At best it is merely a cloak to hide the Nazi and the Fascist tendencies of imperialism…”

* The title of the book by Nils Melzer, the UN Rapporteur on Torture, is The Trial of Julian Assange: A Case of Persecution (Forthcoming on Verso, February 2022). It’s a meticulously researched analysis in which he argues that Assange has been the victim of many years of psychological torture.

Do you feel that a free discussion about Western democracy and peace is essential? Then please use this opportunity. Thanks!

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