Giovanni Pallotta

Pictures from Athens: a Greek sense of humor while queueing at ATM

20150629_Greece_ATMBy Giovanni Pallotta from Athens

The night between the 25th and the 26th of June will be remembered as one of the most dramatic nights in recent Greek history.

The announcement of Mr. Alexis Tispras, the Greek Prime Minister, during the Council of the Ministers, to ask the Greek people whether they want to accept or refuse the “Troika” proposal in order to pay the creditors of the Greek debt is something that no one could ever have imagined.

It is quite important to underline that the Greek Constitution does not allow referendums for Economic and Fiscal decisions, so, whatever the result of the July 5th vote, the Government can still move autonomously, however, Tsipras’s decision is something that has never happened before in European history.

Following Tsipras’s dramatic speech before Greek television cameras, other members of ΣΥΡΙΖΑ tried to explain that Prime Minister’s decision is to understand public opinion in order to decide the best political strategy to apply.

The other parties, Το Ποτάμι, Nεα Δημοκρατια and PASOK (the political “father” of ΣΥΡΙΖΑ) are convinced this was a last attempt of a desperate man who has lost all his allies in Europe (Tsipras identified Italy, another country facing bankruptcy, as Greece’s only ally) and as a leader who had disappointed all the citizens of his country.

In any case, Tsipras is quite sure that the Greek people will vote in favor of the agreement with the Troika.

Political polls show a situation where 70% of Greeks want to remain in Europe while 50% want to stay in Europe at “all costs,” and so he hopes to have the endorsement of the Country in order to sign the agreement without losing his personal consent, still it is a very hard bet.

Personally speaking, it is impressive to see what the reflections of the political decisions in everyday life are. Today, while I was taking my “Sunday walk” around Athens, it was quite upsetting to see how many people were queueing in front of ATM in order to withdraw money.

The fear that from Monday the Greek banks won’t have any cash is real and during this weekend the prevision is that people will withdraw up to 700 million Euros in cash from the banks instead of the average of 30 million during a typical weekend.

It was also alarming to see the increased number of Αστυνομία (the Greek police) officers and ΔΕΛΤΑ officers (the police special corps) patrolling the city; many more than I had seen in previous months. However, at the moment there isn’t any news about problems or disorders in Athens or in nearby cities, nevertheless the situation is closely monitored by the National Security System.

Over the next few days, political manifestations will be held all over Athens, and in particular, the actions of the Anarchists forces, who have their own core area in Exarchia Quartier (quite close to Syntagma Square and the Parliament Building) will create many worries for the public order.

In all this frightful situation, the Greeks have never lost their own particular, sense of humor; while I was drinking a coffee near Syntagma Square, I started speaking with an old man who made me laugh. He said, “Every day, in the newspaper, I read that we aren’t rich anymore, that the golden times are gone forever; well maybe I am too young, but I have lived here since I was born and I can’t remember any of these golden times.”

Whatever happens, and in this moment no one knows what will happen, it is pretty sure that Greeks won’t lose their own “Greek” attitude towards life.

Giovanni Pallotta

Foto The Guardian

Space Race Propaganda: USA vs URSS. A matter of posters

By Giovanni Pallotta

Today it is impossible to think of any scientific discovery that is not communicated via  Internet.  In this manner, millions of scientists and science-lovers are made aware of discoveries and new conquests almost live, with the use of videos that are ready to show in minute detail the latest developments in every scientific sector.  As we well know, mankind has not always been this fortunate in terms of communications and often scientific discoveries were made available only to small groups of elite scholars, who in any case were never updated immediately.  Paradoxically speaking, sometimes the diffusion of the discovery was more complicated than the discovery itself, physical distances and language barriers were sometimes the most difficult obstacles to overcome.

The event that marked the turning point  in the field of scientific communications took place during the so-called, “Space Race,” in other words that particular historic moment that coincided with the imposing development of human knowledge regarding space and celestial bodies. The “Space Race” was seen not only as a genuine quest for knowledge, but it soon became a “battlefield” of ideologies between the two superpowers  at that time to emerge at the end of World War II:  the United States of America and the Union of the Soviet and Socialist Republic.  A true and authentic scientific war fought on two fronts: scientific progress on one hand and the communication of such accomplishments on the other hand.  Both Washington, D.C. and Moscow tried in every possible way to boldly proclaim the scientific achievements of their own nation.  We can say that the posters which announced such scientific achievements played a very significant role in communications before the advent of television.

In order to understand the importance of the “Space Race,” it is necessary to place ourselves in the historical  and political context following World War II.  In 1945, the Americans having dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, decreed the end of the Second World War and showed the whole world their immense military and above all scientific supremacy.  On the other hand, the Soviets, did not waste time  and immediately started an impressive  scientific research programme which led to creation of the first Soviet atomic bomb, thanks to the “collaboration” with Nazi scientists and the theft of American knowledge and documents.  The knowledge of the fact that the “Atomic Bomb” formulas were also in the hands of the Soviets caused a great feeling of panic among the Americans who subsequently decided to increase their production of nuclear arms. In this manner, the two world superpowers began a constant escalation of  nuclear arms that brought about the accumulation of enormous nuclear arsenals, with the force to cause terrible damage to the whole world. Once the projects regarding nuclear arms were completed, the attention on military strategies inevitably moved towards gaining knowledge on the place/places to launch atomic weapons.  So with the passing of time, it became more and more necessary to learn  about outer space, seen as an area for military manoeuvres and experiments of utmost importance.  A need for to learn about outer space also led to the construction of better built and more powerful atomic arms.  From this military starting point , research was also conducted that enabled man to conquer space. The USSR was the first nation to send man into space. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin on the spaceship Sputnik was the first man to go into orbit around the Earth. It took the  United States eight  years to match and pass the Soviet move, so in 1969 in the spaceship called Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong was the first man to land on the Moon.  The battle between the two superpowers regarded not only scientific supremacy but also ideological and communicative dominance.  Differences in terminology immediately emerged, for example the Soviets preferred the term, “Cosmonaut,” while the Americans coined the work, “Astronauts.” This may appear as a subtle lexical variation, but it actually underlines the deep ideological differences that separated the two blocs.

The communications departments from both the Soviet and the American blocs worked just as hard as the scientific research teams to announce to the rest of the world the progress that each side had been making in the Space Race.  Many different means of communications were used.  The Americans were actually able to broadcast Neil Armstrong’s historical landing on the Moon live, thus forever changing the concept and procedure of how events would be transmitted  in the future.  Even though, television broadcasting was the most obvious means in this subtle war of communications.  Exchanges also took place using other means, such as press releases issued from the various press agencies and most insidiously through the use of posters which were tangible proclamations that announced the various scientific developments that were taking place on both parts.

The Soviets, confident due to the fact that they had been the first to send a man into space took  a  psychological advantage of their supremacy by using very aggressive forms of communications towards the Americans.  However, it is interesting to note that the counter attacks by the United States and the National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA) were just as strong.

In the poster n.1,  the public could see that the globe (recognizable by the meridians and parallels designed), surrounded by outer space (understood by the representation of many stars). In the foreground, we see the triumphant pose of a gigantic Soviet cosmonaut announcing Soviet power and supremacy.  It is interesting to focus on the cosmonaut’s expression- it is not a look of neither joy, nor awe nor incredulity but it is one of a person who knows and recognizes his own strength and power. He is not smiling; he is simply telling  the world that he knows that the mission that had been set by the Soviets has been accomplished and that the Soviet bloc is ahead of the Americans. We can say that he is gloating about his country’s accomplishments. In this context, the point is clear, starting with the symbol of the Communist party , in other words the hammer and the sickle that stand out in the image. The two symbols emerge in the Cosmonaut’s taut muscles which underline the strength of the Russian people, who with their predominance will take Communism to heights that had never been reached before that moment; making it a type of world symbol (if we look carefully, we can see that the two symbols were placed ABOVE the earth and this was done with purpose).  The image is then completed with  a caption in Cyrillic that encompasses the world which states, “long life to the Soviet population, the space pioneers!”  The message that Soviet opinion makers wanted to diffuse was very clear; the presence of Yuri Gagarin in orbit was not his own personal victory  nor was it the victory of the scientific team that worked on the project, but it was the victory of the whole Soviet population.  Upon a closer look at the poster, it is important to reflect on the cosmonaut’s face.  He cannot be recognized, he does not depict a specific person, but he represents the whole community of the Soviets that has imposed its scientific discoveries on the rest of the world.

The Soviet propaganda machine however, could be even more straightforward.  The second poster was issued on the third anniversary of the Sputnik launch and it shows a Sputnik (soviet spaceship whose propulsion comes from the symbol of the regime, the ever present hammer and sickle). The spaceship leaves behind a “hot spot” which we presume is well-known and recognized and it propels itself with great arrogance towards the unknown world of outer space.  The writing or caption, in cursive Cyrillic script states, “We were born to make your dreams come true.” The dreams that the poster cites seem quite obvious, in other words the conquest of outer space. However, upon a closer look, we can interpret the caption in another way, in other words, the dream of uniting the world under the command  of Communism[1].  So we can say that the missile does not depart from a specific geographical area but from an indistinct orange-colored mass, that represents the planet Earth.  Above the Earth we find the rising imperial and imposing symbol of Communism itself, projected towards a new era and towards a new future after having resolved the conflicts on the planet Earth, making it a safe and peaceful place to live.

After suffering such an affront, the Americans commenced their counter-attack.  It began with President, John F. Kennedy’s speech in 1962 where he declared:  “We choose to go on the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one  that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”[2]

Obviously, following Kennedy’s speech, NASA knew that they could no longer make any mistakes and succeeded in the feat that represented the apex of the so-called “space race,” in other word, putting man on the Moon.

This time it is the Americans turn to issue a victory poster. The message that the  American poster  represents their supremacy over the Soviet forces, who had failed in their endeavor.  As we can see in poster number 3, the image celebrates Man’s landing on the Moon.   We immediately note the aggressiveness of the image. The three astronauts are standing in a warrior-like position after winning  a victory on a battlefield; two of them are holding rifles, while the third one is engaged in planting the American flag on lunar soil, obviously after having removed and ripped up the Soviet banner.  In the distance, we can see the Earth and we can clearly identify the North American continent, the homeland of the victorious soldiers involved in the fight against Communist forces.  There is no need to interpret the caption as it is self-explanatory, clear and highly aggressive towards the Communists.  The Moon must be saved from Communist threat and in order to do this, the only solution is the presence of the invincible US SPACE MARINES.   In the poster, we can almost feel the United States pride, the  flying flag is the perfect testimonial in the fact that the nation was able to win forever the scientific battle against the enemy.  It represents a county that is ready to fight its enemy on any field and in any sector especially when the nation’s superiority is questioned.  Adversaries are eliminated without any mercy.  To continue the parallelism between American and Soviet propaganda (communications) it is also correct to take into consideration the commemorative poster of the 1969 accomplishment, as we looked at the Sputnik success in an earlier paragraph of this paper.

Poster number 4 represents the final results of the concepts previously stated in poster number 3, in other words, in the long run, the United States always win.  This poster is highly significant, in the background we can see the waving American flag, while in the foreground we can see six figures, in the right we can see one of the American founding fathers recognizable from his style of clothing and hairstyle, telling the viewer that America’s past is a vital part of the country’s present.  In the lower left-hand corner, we can see young people and children that represent America’s future; it is important to highlight that among the children there is a black child, that exemplifies the fact that the United States is the land of opportunity for all.  In the center we see the States’ present, in other words the country’s victory in the “Space Race.” A soldier is shown saluting the flag.  All the figures are gazing upwards in a trusting way, aware of the fact that the nation’s future will be full of glory and victory in the eternal battle against the forces of evil, that is to say the Soviet forces.  It is a poster that makes a strong impact on viewers, there is no need for a caption as we saw in the previous three posters that we took into consideration and analysis.  This poster shows the majesty, the power and the history of the Nation, without wasting time to give explanations that  in any case would appear superfluous. In order to understand what the United States represent, the viewer only needs to look at the Nation’s flag, past,  present and  future in its most splendid form.

Having given a brief analysis of the various images, we can now look at analyzing the similarities and differences between them.   First of all, both the American and the Soviet posters are characterized by a heavy use of political symbols: the hammer and sickle on one hand and the Stars and Stripes on the other.  Both emphasize the main characters involved in the Space Race, in other words the astronaut or in Soviet terms, the cosmonaut.

Let’s now look at some differences, for the Russians, the cosmonaut represents the population (the face is unrecognizable), for the Americans the astronaut is a part of society, in other words, a warrior who has been called upon to fight in a war for scientific and technological supremacy.  Hidden behind this initial observation is the basis in itself for the ideological differences between the two super powers.  On one hand, man is seen in his totality and therefore a metaphor of his nation which is united in imposing its scientific  knowledge on others.  While on the contrary, the Americans give importance to the individual, first seen as a warrior and then as an example for future generations.

At a first glance, what appears to be a slight difference actually sums up eloquently the main differences of the opposing ideologies.  Another difference that emerges regards the use of colors and light/shadow images.  In the Soviet posters the image is clear, surrounded by celestial obscurities, almost underlying the efforts made by the Russians to guarantee their cultural superiority.  However, in the American posters, brilliant colors (reds, oranges and blue) are used to recall the feeling of celebration to underline the Americans pride in obtaining their victory and their first step on the Moon.

In conclusion, each nation tried to assert its supremacy using every available means.  In particular, communications and mass media were the best method to make any message readily widespread.  Through the use of posters that concentrated on the “Space Race,” both the Soviets and the Americans also wanted to diffuse not only their scientific advancements, but to also communicate their ideological differences.  This means of communications  was extremely effective in a period spanning from the late 1950s to the early 1970s when diffusing a message was so much more complex than it is today.  Posters were immediate and clearly delivered their message using symbols that were readily understood by millions. In today’s face paced communications industry, those posters would have very little influence or impact, but at that time in history they were the most efficient and effective means of conveying the countries’ messages, both in terms of scientific discovery and above all in terms of ideologies.

Giovanni Pallotta

[1] The exporting of Communism in the world is the main aim of Soviet policy since
the days of Trotsky (1879-1940)

[2] John F. Kennedy, Speech at Rice University, Houston, September 12, 1962

Foto: il Pianeta Terra è del Telegraph, le lmmagini dei poster sono state fornite dall’autore

La “risorsa Mediterraneo”: l’unico obiettivo di interesse nazionale che ci è rimasto

By Giovanni Pallotta

Il capoluogo isontino sicuramente non è la prima meta balneare cui si pensi, eppure per un giorno è stata la città marittima più importante d’Italia; non per uno spostamento delle acque bensì per l’incontro “Il ruolo strategico del mare per la sicurezza e l’economia dell’Italia”, organizzato dall’Università di Trieste [lo scorso 2 dicembre, ndr] e che tra i vari relatori di altissimo livello ha visto un oratore d’eccezione, il Capo di Stato Maggiore della Marina Militare, l’Ammiraglio Giuseppe De Giorgi.

Le sue parole sono state molto dirette, lasciando poco spazio a interpretazioni: il Mar Mediterraneo è una risorsa imprescindibile per il sistema Paese, sia economicamente che militarmente, nessuna politica estera seria può prescindere da questo assioma e per sostenere una tale politica è necessario dotarsi dei mezzi adeguati.

Nel corso del suo intervento, durato circa un’ora, l’Ammiraglio ha analizzato con lucidità la situazione di estrema crisi in cui versa la Marina Militare; per dare qualche numero basti pensare che il numero totale delle navi italiane ammonta a 60, ponendo il nostro Paese a grande distanza dalle più numerose e “pesanti” marine storiche del Mediterraneo, come quella inglese, francese e spagnola. La situazione è ancora più complessa considerando che di queste 60 navi, solo 20 sono effettivamente operative, diminuendo ancor di più le possibilità di intervento e di efficacia della Forza Armata.

Considerando la situazione, il piano di investimenti che si pone la Marina è estremamente ambizioso: investire 10 miliardi di euro in 10 anni.

Le navi da costruire sarebbero tutti progetti rigorosamente “Made in Italy” permettendo, in caso di vendita dei progetti, ulteriori introiti che consentirebbero di alleviare ulteriormente lo sforzo per l’investimento sostenuto.

Le nuove navi saranno dotate di propulsori eco-friendly e saranno tutte idonee a condurre sia operazioni militari che in soccorso in caso di calamità o per interventi umanitari.

La conclusione dell’Ammiraglio è stata tuttavia amara, arrivando a paragonare il marinaio italiano al panda simbolo del WWF; in sintesi perdere quest’ultima possibilità di rilancio e di investimento strategico rappresenterebbe la fine stessa della Marina, destinata di fatto a non aver futuro.

Nelle difficilissime sfide che attendono a livello geopolitico l’Italia, il sorgere del Califfato in Libia, il deteriorarsi dei rapporti con la Russia, l’aumento esponenziale dei traffici illegali di persone, siamo sicuri che il nostro Paese possa permettersi di rinunciare definitivamente all’unica Forza Armata capace di presidiare l’unico obiettivo di interesse nazionale che ci è rimasto, ovvero il mare?

Al Parlamento italiano l’ardua sentenza.

Giovanni Pallotta

Articolo correlato:

Marina Militare: un seminario dell’Università di Trieste a Gorizia sul ruolo strategico del mare per la sicurezza e l’economia dell’Italia (2 dicembre 2014)

Foto: Marina Militare

Romanian Lessons: ambitious foreign policy in the Black Sea Region, G.Pallotta

By Giovanni Pallotta

Upon my arrival, on March 2014, I had the impression of being behind the front line of a war.

At Henri Coanda International Airport, there were hundreds of U.S. soldiers moving to the north of Romania, and they weren’t going on holidays, that is for sure.

My first walk in Bucharest was to Palatul Parlamentului and I saw the NATO flag waving near the Romanian and the European flag, in my whole life I had never seen such a thing anywhere.
These are just a few examples about what the Romanian attitude is towards the new International situation.

After 2004 Romania became one of the most important strategic partners of the Alliance in the Black Sea region and today represents the pivot for all American actions in Ukraine, not only military actions but also economic and, above all, diplomatic.

It is particular to note that all political parties approve of the function of their country; Romanian political history is full of disagreements, also today the relations between the President of the Republic, Traian Basescu, and the Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, are highly charged but in Foreign Affairs it is impossible to find a politician that is against U.S. policy and supports the Russians.

Of course, the communist past of the country represents a nightmare and a Russian reinforcement is seen as a warning but this doesn’t explain the current situation at all.

Probably Romanian will is to become the European bastion against the Russian neo-imperialism but not for an idealistic reason but for a pragmatic program; above all to reinforce their control over Moldavia, and, in the long run,  the reunion of Romania and Moldavia under Bucharest.

Romania has made important efforts to preserve its presence in Moldavia, through the construction of schools and cultural facilities, a clear example of “public diplomacy” and by advocating  that Moldavia will join the European Union.

Regarding economic aspects, Romania hasn’t been touched by the sanctions to Russia, its  most important partners are Germany, Italy and Hungary, so  Romania can continue to be inflexible without facing  any exporting problems.

It will be important for the International Community to consider how much Romania is involved and trusted in European and Atlantic project or is it simply a free rider that is trying  to use the situation to obtain political and economic advantages.

In  November/December 2014, the presidential elections will take place; regardless of the winner, we are quite sure that Romania’s  ambitious foreign policy to revamp its position with NATO and EU  and to revive past dreams will continue.

Giovanni Pallotta

Articoli di Giovanni Pallotta in Paola Casoli il Blog

Foto: la mappa della Romania è dello US Department of State

Ukraine: USA war machine is heating up its motors, 1600 Marines are headed for Kogalniceanu AFB

Giovanni Pallotta in Bucharest

With the southern area of Eastern Europe  causing worry and trepidation for many Chancellor’s offices around the world, and the whispering of so-called political encounters and negotiations (both public and private) have not helped to ease tensions, USA and its Allied war machine are heating up its motors.

If worldwide opinion is fully aware of Russia’s military exercises causing worry and fears, the manoeuvres and exercises by the Allied forces are a well-kept secret. Since the middle of March, in the areas situated near Ukraine, military and air force exercises has been regularly conducted by American, Romanian, Polish and Bulgarian military forces.

The first important military exercise took place in the Black Sea area on March 12th and involved the destroyer USS Truxtun, the warship Queen Mary, escorted by Romanian corvettes, Vice Admiral Eugeiu Rosca and Second Admiral Eustatiu Sebastian, and by the Bulgarian battleship Darzki.

This line-up may appear modest, if we take into consideration the forces that Russia can count upon in its naval base in Sebastopol; where Russia boasts a submarine, a cruiser, two destroyers, two battleships and an air float of 22 Sukhoi 24M and the famous Soviet Sukhoi 24 attack aircraft.

Regardless of this fact, the presence of four naval units from three different nations has evoked upsetting feelings for various reasons. First of all, the Romanian naval base of Constanta, situated 220 nautical miles from Sebastopol has become the departure port of operations. Furthermore and above all, the presence of a task force which includes the American air-craft carrier, George Bush, escorted by destroyers, Roosevelt and Philippine Sea, with 1700 marines and 90 Hornet and Superhornet all placed near the River Bosforo has evoked tension and worries.

Taking into consideration all these factors, one can understand the feelings of extreme anxiety and worry in Russian military and information sectors. These feelings can be summarized in the English foreign affairs journal Russian Global Affairs Director, Mr Fyodor Lukyaov. In a statement to Reuters, Mr Lukyav affirmed that concerning  American provocations, Mr Putin has every reason to be concerned about the Russian float in Sebastopol.

The exercises terminated at the end of March, however the tense situation in the Black Sea area has not been placated. On Sunday, April 13th, Romanian President, Mr Traian Basescu, visited the American destroyer, Donald Cook (which had been patrolling Romanian waters in the Black Sea since April 1st) and declared that he and his country opposed Putin’s political stance. During his visit on board, a Russian attack aircraft, the Sukhoi 24M, circled twelve times at a low altitude causing tension to the personnel on board while counter measures in case of an air raid were activated. Subsequently, this act was condemned harshly by the Pentagon that defined the action as a provocation without precedence and against all military protocol.

If the Black Sea area has been a hot spot during these last few weeks, the situation in the Eastern European skies is not much better. Meanwhile, during the last two weeks of March, American and Polish aviation have been carrying out joint operation actions. If, at the beginning of the crisis in the Crimean area joint operations had been foreseen only for the bombers, the Polish command has now asked for twelve F16s to be sent over. These aircrafts are not only able to respond to air fire, but they can also be used as fighter-bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. Simultaneously, with the end of the operations, the Commander of the American Air Force in Europe has received orders to set up patrols along the borders of Polish, Romanian and Ukrainian air space using planes equipped with Airborne Warning and Control Systems. The decision was confirmed by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a press conference on 18th April.

The picture that is emerging seems to be quite evident. Some NATO nations and the United States are gearing up to react to whatever scenario may appear on the horizon. On one hand, diplomacy is being used, thus taking on the role of Protectorate of regional order, while on the other the forces are getting ready to show Moscow that in case the stakes get higher, they are ready to take counter measures regarding the whole  area and in a very vast arena. In this “match”, Washington will be aided by its Eastern European allies, in particular Romania and Poland that have realized that they will have the opportunity to play an active role as real regional powers. It is important to remember that the Romanian authorities, in particular, are pressuring the American military forces to maintain a stable and constant presence of NATO forces in Romania, in particular it is important to consider the political efforts made by the former Romanian minister of Foreign Affairs, Mircea Geoana (he was minister in 2004 when Romania joined the NATO).

This pressure received tangible results on March 27th when the American government formally pointed out the need to reinforce American presence in the Air Force base of Kogalniceanu near Constanta. By the end of April, 1600 Marines airborne trained will be sent to the Romanian military base. With this increase of this contingent, an increase in logistic support, particularly, amphibious operation ships are also foreseen. These are all signs that let the reader understand that the game in Eastern Europe is still a long way from being over.

Giovanni Pallotta

See also:

Operativo in Romania l’hub di ingresso e uscita dall’Afghanistan per i militari americani. Sostituisce Manas in Kirgizistan (4 marzo 2014)

Photo credits

Ukraine: Mr Putin and the non-presence of Mr Obama, the winning side of international public opinion

The difficulties in being the most powerful man on earth

By Giovanni Pallotta

Today’s international political stage is now dominated by the figure of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladmir Vladimirovic Putin. His power has been written about more than once in various magazines and newspapers, and he was crowned as the most powerful man on Earth by Forbes magazine. All this publicity serves as proof of how much appeal the ex-army colonel of KGB has on international media and political affairs. Meanwhile, the non- presence of the figure of the American President Barack Obama seems to stand out as well. When Obama was elected to his first term in 2008, he was identified as the universal figure of American “rebirth”, hailed as a new “Roosevelt.” Today, however at a distance of only six years, Obama appears at a first glance, much more similar to Jimmy Carter, confused and involved in situations that are bigger than he is.

So, what has happened to Obama since 2008 on the American and international political scene to downcast the President from a leader of New World Order to a weak leader in comparison to the actions taken by his Russian counterpart?

First of all, we must keep in mind the United States internal political situation; the five year period from 2008-2013 in terms of the American economy was the worst since the Great Depression of 1929. Furthermore, the country had to bear two military situations (Iraq and Afghanistan) both inherited from the previous Bush administration with its doctrine of “preventative” attacks.

Obama’s first major intervention regarded setting his nation back on track by concentrating on American economic/work issues, while at the same time trying to gear his nation towards a health system worthy of a developed and modern nation as the United States . As we remember, “Obamacare” angered and infuriated many of the Republicans and Conservatives.

Regarding this aforementioned aspect, the Obama administration has to be considered successful. His administration, succeeded with only one mandate, to turn his nation around and have the USA become once again the locomotive of the world.

Bearing his internal relations success in mind, why is Obama regarded as a basically “weak” leader by the rest of the world? In my opinion for one very simple reason. Often the real role of the American President that is to say the leader of his nation and its citizens is ignored by international public opinion. On the contrary, international public opinion tends to consider the resident of the White House as a sort of “world guardian or keeper,” who has to have among his responsibilities that of maintaining international peace. This opinion could not be more mistaken!! The resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has only one thing at heart, that is to say the interest of his own nation and its citizens to whom the President is bond. All the rest is Cold War Rhetoric spiced up with Clintonian tones.

For this reason, every sort of criminal act (paid killings and the murder of ethnic groups) carried out by Putin and his administration is casually “not seen”. However if Obama should decide to carry out military retaliation or action, he will be considered as a “hawk” thus supportive of the previous the Bush administration strategy. On the other hand, if the President of the United States should deem not to start upon a risky war operation, then he will be tagged as weak. Whatever Mr. Obama and his administration may decide to do, the choice is not easy and it is not a simple task to be on the winning side of international public opinion.

Giovanni Pallotta

Photo credits: The Sun

USA Patriot Act and the creation of Guantanamo prison, the tomb of Habeas Corpus

By Giovanni Pallotta

(This publication is part of Giovanni Pallotta’s academic dissertation “Habeas Corpus in US legal order”).

In conducting my research, I have tried to render explicit a concept that seemed implicit upon starting my work. In other words, by studying Man’s inalienable rights, and in particular, Habeas Corpus, it is possible to identify a dichotomy between moments of peace and extraordinary moments of crisis. More tolerant legislation belongs to the first moment, whereas, more severe legislation belongs to the second moment. If this consideration appears obvious, the process that brings about certain consequences is by no means obvious. However, the dichotomy presented is actually false, for it is impossible to divide history into immense segments of “before” and “after.” History represents a continuum where the present cannot disregard the past and it cannot influence the future. For example, it may appear to a careless reader that the 1861 Suspension Clause has little to do with the Sedition and Espionage Act of 1917. However, it is undeniable that the latter represents the juristic change of the first, therefore the legislator in this sector does not substantially, recognize moments of peace and moments of war, but lives in a state of perennial vigilance and must always be ready to intervene in cases of extreme necessity.

The most evident example arises from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and in the immediate response by government authorities. As we have seen, public opinion was extremely nervous and a mass media campaign immediately started asking Congress to intervene effectively. In the days that followed the attacks, many representative asked themselves how further attacks could be avoided and how to tranquilize American citizens. The post September 11th proposals were the results of collective hysteria that ran rampant in the country. These proposals ranged from expelling all citizens belonging to the Islamic religion, impeding the publication of texts in Arabic and controlling cable television in order to prevent terrorists from communicating using special code words on Arab stations.

These proposals were deemed as inapplicable and various congressional groups worked on two fronts, the first was to strictly control the national territory while the second regarded the total blocking of international financing to terrorists, thus eliminating any possibility of organizing other attacks..

The initial measures The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 and Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 were presented by both party members. The two bill proposals were unified, above all for a matter of image, in other words to the give the country the idea that the American Congress had taken compact and determined steps to give the nation the tranquillity that it needed in that moment.

Following an encounter between Democrats and Republicans held on October 1st, the need to unify the legislative action became evident, so on October 2nd, the Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act of 2001 was presented. It had initially been blocked by the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party and this stalemating had tried to bring about several attempts of amendment. In any case, the Patriot Act did not undergo any great change and so, on October 12th, it was approved by the Senate and on the 23rd it gained approval from the House of Representatives. The voting results were clamorous- it passed 98 to 1 in the Senate and 357 to 66 in the House of Representatives. President George W. Bush signed it into law on October 26th, 2001. The final document consists in ten titles that regard in every aspect and detail the nation’s security:

TITLE I: enhancing National Security against terrorism

TITLE II: enhanced surveillance procedures

TITLE III: international money laundering abatement and anti-terrorist financing act of 2001

TITLE IV: protecting the border

TITLE V: removing obstacles to investigating terrorism

TITLE VI: providing for victims of terrorism, public safety officers and their families

TITLE VII: increased information sharing for critical infrastructure protection

TITLE VIII: strengthening the criminal laws against terrorism

TITLE IX: improved intelligence

TITLE X: miscellaneous

Therefore, we are presented with a total rapid and significant reordering of the very concept of internal security. The major criticism to the Act arose from the Progressive left wing and stated that such an important document seemed to be totally cryptic and difficult to interpret for those people who were not experts in the field of law. In fact, it is not stated in the Act what measures can or cannot be taken, but it is a constant referring back to previous legislative acts that have been amended. In order to clarify its confusing nature, I cite Article 2 from Title II which affirms: “articles 2516, Title 18, from the United States Code of Law, modified through the elimination of Article 1341 (concerning postal fraud) and the insertion of Article 1341 (regarding postal fraud) , a serious violation of Article 1030 (regarding fraud and information abuse). In simpler words, the law lacks clarity and it represents a monstrous misuse of language while harbouring a complexity of interpretation that borders on the absurd.

Going beyond the fact that the law’s difficult juristic language, it once again reinforced the institutions of the Federal Agencies such as the FBI and enhanced the intelligence units of the CIA and NSA thus providing the possibility to set up ad hoc structures of the detention of individuals accused of terrorism. The first few months following the September 11th attacks and the post Patriot Act period, brought about the creation of a high security prison in Guantanamo where accused terrorists captured on American territory or thanks to the co-operation from other nations were held.

The prison in Guantanamo (Cuba) symbolizes the tombstone of any human right and in particular regarding Habeas Corpus. The inmates, all of whom were not American, but citizens from other countries captured abroad, often did not know what they had been charged with. In prison, psychological torture based upon sleep deprivation and other similar techniques often caused inmates to commit suicide or to attempt killing themselves.

From a juristic point of view, the prison is a true limbo, in other words, the trials are held by military authorities that constitute themselves as the accusation and a court assigned defence for the prisoner.

The accused cannot nominate a lawyer to represent him in court, at most, he can appoint a legal firm to compose a statement of defence that will then be turned over to his defence lawyer, a military official, who may decide to use the statement in the best way he may deem fit.

The deficiencies of this legal system are blatant. No military official is willing to ruin his future career to defend a man accused of terrorism while civil lawyers unable to take part in the trial and are left out completely.

It is not a surprising fact, that 80% of the cases tried, when they were tried-given the fact that the procedure is not automatic and requires authorization from the Justice Department, ended up with a guilty sentence for the accused.

This system is based on one hand, on extremely difficult to comprehend legislation and on the other, on a simple and arbitrary system of arrest. The act could not and cannot fail to provoke highly complicated sentences and legal disputes. However, we must keep in mind that the PATRIOT ACT is still in vigour, although it was amended in 2005, in order to guarantee the right of privacy to those detained who wanted to use the public library lending system. (altro…)