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The tragedy in Ukraine and James Madison

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. . . we have more wealth and income inequality than any major country on earth. We have one of the highest childhood poverty rates and we are the only country in the industrialized world which does not guarantee health care for all. We once led the world in terms of the percentage of our people who graduated college, but we are now in 12th place. Our infrastructure, once the envy of the world, is collapsing

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) from "An Economic Agenda for America," OpedNews, Dec. 14, 2014


From flickr.com/photos/54545503@N04/6172451166/: Ukraine: Population Density, 2000
Ukraine: Population Density, 2000
(image by SEDACMaps)

James Madison wrote, in Federalist 49, that "the people" should have a "road" to use in making decisions during "great and extraordinary" situations. Two days before the 1787 convention ended, he suggested such a "road." This article comments on our present great and extraordinary situation. Then it discusses the "road" Madison left us to use in dealing with such situations.


We are presently in a state of political, economic and moral decline. Our decline is not only continuing. It is accelerating. In 2012 we were ranked higher among the countries of the world in "corruption" than in "democracy." In large part due to our declining democracy and governmental honesty, we are becoming less moral and less free. In a recent survey, a country's democracy and governmental honesty were found to be the two factors most closely associated with its quality of life. [1] They are also two factors that do not thrive in a nation governed by a few very wealthy people.

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Our economic decline is illustrated by the ever-widening gap between our rich and our poor. One evidence of our moral decline is our use of torture. The United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report in November of 2014 assessing the performance of the 156 countries whose governments have ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee found the US in violation of this treaty.

Our political decline affects all aspects of our lives. For example, we are unable (or unwilling) to choose peaceful foreign policies. Our out-of-control government persists in supporting fascist governments in other countries (for only two examples, Nicaragua and Ukraine) and leaving these countries in ruins..


Our decline comes into focus when we compare our reaction to events in Nicaragua during the 1980's to our present reaction to analogous events in Ukraine today. In 1979, the people of Nicaragua overthrew their dictatorial government. In 1984 they elected a president from the revolutionary party. (the Sandinistas). The US organized a counter revolutionary army (the Contras) and fought (by proxy) a 10-year war in the Nicaraguan countryside. Our government justified this war on the grounds that the Sandinistas, by accepting Russian aid, were making communism a threat to our hemisphere. The mainstream media accepted the US position, supported the Contras and referred to them as "freedom fighters."

During the 1980's an estimated 40,000 Americans, in small groups sponsored by churches and peace organizations, traveled to Nicaragua to see for themselves whether the mainstream media's characterizations of the Contras as "freedom fighters" and the Sandinistas as brutal communists (armed by Russia) were accurate. These groups traveled about Nicaragua talking to its inhabitants and to combatants from both sides. Upon their return to the US, they were instrumental in (eventually) persuading Congress to stop funding the Contras.

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Recently, a coup in Ukraine deposed the elected president. Crimea held a referendum and voted to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, but the coup government, supported by the US, moved militarily to prevent eastern Ukraine from following suit. Our mainstream media supports the official version of this conflict. They refer to the coup government as "Ukraine" and the war as provoked by Russia. Our alternative media take a different view of the matter. They report that there has been no Russian provocation and that "Ukraine" consists of a coup government created by the US, a reluctant army and volunteer battalions largely led and manned by Neo-Nazis and other extremists. [2]

In part, this situation is "great and extraordinary" because of the possibility that it may escalate into a nuclear war with Russia. Our lack of reaction to the conflicting versions of the tragedy in Ukraine is also troubling. While it is no doubt impractical for churches and peace-oriented NGO's to sponsor small, truth-seeking visits to Ukraine similar to those that visited Nicaragua in the 1980's, we could urge them to join together in sponsoring an unbiased non-governmental inspection commission. As James Iredell said in the NC ratification convention on July 28, 1788, "The only real security of liberty in any country is the jealousy and circumspection of the people themselves. Let them be watchful over their rulers."

William J. Bennett noted in his 1990 book, The Death of Outrage, that our collective sense of justice has been numbed. Since the 1980's, we have had to come to terms with further government encroachments and with a multitude of complex and disturbing events, both at home and abroad. However, we should not take our government's view of the situation in Ukraine at face value. One of the journalists that told us the truth about Nicaragua in the 1980's is now writing about Ukraine. Robert Parry, whose reporting on Nicaragua was confirmed by the Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran-Contra Matters (1993), can be read on such alternative internet newspapers as opednews.com and consortiumnews.com.

However, our decline cannot be stopped solely by attending to one of its symptoms -- such as the on-going tragedy in Ukraine. It can be stopped only by eliminating its root cause: the dominance of our domestic and foreign policies and actions by a few very wealthy people.

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Neal Herrick is author of the award-wining After Patrick Henry (2009). His most recent book is (2014) Reversing America’s Decline. He is a former sailor, soldier, auto worker, railroad worker, assistant college football coach, (more...)

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