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US Supreme Court no longer credible arbiter of national policy

Jun 29,2022 - Last updated at Jun 29,2022

Last week, the US Supreme Court took three decisions which finished off the court as a credible arbiter of national policy and a brake on executive and legislative power-grabbing.

On Tuesday, the Court ruled that the state of Maine violated the US Constitution when it banned state funding to schools providing religious instruction/indoctrination to pupils. This ruling was broadened to mean that when subsidising secular private schools, they must also use taxes to fund religious schools. Although this ruling upends the division between church and state which has been in force since 1787 when the Constitution was signed, the six conservative justices voted for this measure while the three liberals opposed it.

On Thursday, the Court struck down a century-old New York state law that restricted carrying concealled firearms in public for self-defence by ruling against state requirement that a license must be limited to applicants who can show the need to bear a concealed weapon. While New Yorkers afflicted with rising gun violence condemned the ruling, it was expected to be adopted by other states with lax gun control measures. The spilt in the court was the same as with the Maine decision.

On Friday, the Court cancelled the 50-year-old Roe V Wade decision which granted women in the US the right to terminate a pregnancy. This ruling allows US states to severely restrict or ban abortion and will have a chilling impact on millions of women, their families and their lives. Women living in conservative states will have to travel to states still allowing abortion, rely on medications that terminate early pregnancies, or return to dangerous, illegal backstreet operators. Again, the divide was between six conservatives and three liberals.

These three rulings, championed by radical conservatives, have eviscerated the Court at a time both the legislative and executive branches of government are deeply dysfunctional. The US legislature has for decades failed to act in the interests of the "American people" by adopting bipartisan domestic initiatives on providing national healthcare, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, restricting weapons of war in private hands, reducing costs of essential medicines and regulating electoral campaign expenditures.

On foreign affairs, US lawmakers have also toed lines set by pro-Israel, pro-Taiwan and anti-Russian, anti-Arab and anti-Iran lobbies; US arms exporters; US importers of goods produced by slave or poorly paid labour and a host of other influential actors. While claiming to uphold the "rule of law" on the international scene, US legislators have chosen when and if this should be applied, Russia's invasion of Ukraine — and when not — Israel's occupation of Palestine and Turkey's occupation of northern Cyprus.

The presidency has fallen into disrepute because incumbents have focused increasingly on getting themselves and their parties reelected rather than internal policies serving the country's people who are in need of education, healthcare, gainful employment, housing and curtailment of extreme weather episodes caused by climate change.

US presidents have used their external powers to wage unjust, unpopular wars from the 1960s in Vietnam through 2003 in Iraq. While the Vietnam war was meant to prevent that country from falling under Communist rule, the US used chemical and other prohibited weapons against civilians in flagrant violation of international law. This began with the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower and continued through that of Richard Nixon.

Waged by George W. Bush on the basis of outright lies and fabrications, the unprovoked Iraq war also killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, destroyed civilian infrastructure, and replaced the secular Iraqi government with a pro-Iranian sectarian regime. Iraq has been divided into Arab and Kurdish spheres and transformed into an oil-rich failed state.

US wars of intercontinental aggression have been driven by personal "crusades". Some presidents have sought to make up for flagging poll ratings by currying public favour by becoming "war presidents".  George W. Bush wanted to prove himself to his father, ex-President George H.W. Bush, who apparently did not think all that highly of his eldest son. Papa Bush took a tough line with Iraq and mounted a war on that country in 1991 rather than negotiating over its withdrawal from Kuwait to demonstrate to US voters that he was not a "wimp", a weakling. This did not help him during the 1992 election when he became a one-term president as he lost to Bill Clinton whose slogan was: "It's the economy, stupid."

The presidency was finished off by Donald Trump, the worst and most dangerous and desructive presidents the US ever had. Since he decided to run for the office of president in June 2015, he has exploited existing racial, cultural, economic and political divisions in the US and created confrontation between mainly conservative southern and mid-western red Republican states and largely liberal urban, east-west blue Democrat states. On the international scene, he alienated Washington's Western allies, disrupted trade with China, withdrew the US from international organisations and killed off the “two-state solution” for Palestine-Israel, consigning Palestinians to unending Israeli occupation and destabilising the Levant.

Thanks to Republican control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Trump was able to get his legislative programme through Congress and to elevate three conservative justices to the Supreme Court. They joined Clarence Thomas who was appointed by George H.W. Bush and who, along with another radical conservative, Samuel Alito, has set the agenda for the court and determine its retrograde intervention in the affairs of the country. Chief Justice John Roberts, a less radical conservative, tried and failed to moderate the radicalism of the other five, leaving only three justices to defend measures which drag the US into the 21st century.

Eager to "Bring America Back" from Trump's follies, incumbent Joe Biden has had some success with his domestic agenda. However, seeking to boost his poll ratings, he ordered a chaotic US/NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving its people at the mercy of the Taliban, COVID, poverty and sanctions.  He has tried to make up for this misadventure by committing the US, NATO, and Western Europe to provide Ukraine with the weapons to conduct a disastrous war with Russia which is having negative consequences for countries and peoples the world over.  This conflict could have been avoided if Ukraine had been encouraged by Biden and allied leaders to renounce Kyiv’s ambition to join NATO and conduct negotiations with Russia on other contentious issues.

Meanwhile, Trump is crowing over the radical conservative victory at the Supreme Court and taking credit with the objective of running for a second presidential term in 2024. If he wins, he could finish off the “United States” as an entity by deepening its already deep divisions and cancel its credibility and clout on the international scene.

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