A Battle for Democracy

on two fronts and more

By Anil Madan

The attack of January 6, 2021, on the United States Capitol provoked by then President Donald Trump while the House and Senate were in joint session to certify the results of the electoral college in the 2020 presidential election, and the unprovoked attack on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin have marked two major battles for Democracy that America faced in a short span of time, one domestic, the other international. These challenges do not lessen the threats on multiple fronts posed by China, Iran, and North Korea or terrorists, known and unknown.

US President Joe Biden (right) meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 1, 2021, in Washington. Pic – AP

Both battles to save Democracy have been marked by unease. On the domestic front, despite ongoing prosecutions of those who invaded the US Capitol and attacked police officers and destroyed property, Republican supporters of Trump, particularly Congressional Representatives and even Senators have remained brazen in their denials of reality and refusal to condemn Trump. They have instead condemned the House Select Committee investigating the events of the day and refused to cooperate in helping the committee to accomplish its mission. They have declined to participate, refused to testify, and even refused to produce relevant documents and records of communications. Trump himself has been the most brazen, ignoring a subpoena, labelling the whole process a witch-hunt, and even declaring his candidacy in 2024 to regain the presidency. Whether the Committee would accomplish anything was not clear.

On the international front, the war in Ukraine has continued to rage. Whereas Ukraine’s forces have shown unimaginable resistance, fortitude and valour, there has been the foreboding sense that the sheer mass of the Russian forces will wear the Ukrainians down. Most recently, the grinding attrition that sustained missile and artillery attacks on the electric grid, heating systems, water supply, and other critical infrastructure have heightened the sense of unease. There has been a reluctance by both the US and other NATO countries to provide Ukraine offensive weapons to attack targets in Russia. Perhaps doing so is viewed by both President Biden and the NATO countries as crossing a red line drawn by the Kremlin. But for ought we can tell, the Kremlin already views that red lines have been crossed as it regularly accuses the West and NATO as being engaged with Ukraine in a war against Russia.

Two days in December saw a distinct shift on both fronts. First, the House Select Committee held its final hearing on December 20th and voted to make criminal referrals against Trump and others to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Whereas the referrals are not binding on the DOJ which makes its own independent decisions on whether to charge a crime and, if so, what charges to bring, the action is significant because it puts a large body of evidence before the DOJ.

The DOJ may already have uncovered the same evidence and more in its own investigation, but the Congressional committee’s referral leaves no doubt that the DOJ now has sufficient evidence to bring charges. This increases the pressure to act and certainly, the pressure to explain why no charges are brought if that is the ultimate decision. Attorney General Garland’s recent appointment of an independent counsel has increased the likelihood that a decision to prosecute will be based solely on the facts and law, not on political considerations.

Trump reacted with one of his typical childish tantrums, screaming “I did nothing wrong!” and even labelling the prospect of charges by the DOJ as constituting double jeopardy. Certainly, the Select Committee got Trump’s attention.

A day later, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President arrived in Washington, DC for a meeting with President Biden and then to give a speech to a Joint Session of the US House and Congress. Zelensky’s message that his nation is engaged in an existential battle for Democracy not just for itself but for the world was unmistakable. Aid to Ukraine is not charity, it is an investment he declared. In a masterful outreach, he embraced the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian soldiers, as well as the US Congress and the American people as his allies. As many have already pointed out, Zelensky’s visit and his pleas echoed those of Winston Churchill about 80 years ago.

House Republicans have been threatening to shut down the hearings on the January 6 insurrection and even to shut down more aid to Ukraine. It may be too late as the Democrat-led committee stole their thunder on December 20 and Zelensky thundered into America’s conscience and stole the American people’s hearts on December 21.

Putin who has delusions of being another Peter the Great or Prince Vladimir (or Volodymr) the Great, has run into the reality that he will more likely be known in history books as Putin the War Criminal or Putin the Fool. If Zelensky’s appearance in Washington accomplished anything, it was to underscore that this is not the time for America to quit the effort to save Democracy in the world. It is possible to defeat Russian forces, to save Ukraine, and indeed, to bring about a reconciliation between the rest of Europe and Russia with the US looking on approvingly.More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 23 December 2022

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