Scottish Film Summit at Film City Glasgow

Film, News, Politics


The latest gathering of the Scottish Film Summit was held at Film City in Glasgow, as part of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. The event attracted a wide range of industry professionals from the world of film and TV in Scotland and it was apt that we should be convening in the old Govan Burgh Hall, on the banks of the River Clyde, an area once world-renowned for shipbuilding and is now making waves to be a global player in the film industry.

The event combined a series of panel sessions and networking with a special focus on training and development in Scotland. The panel sessions covered topics such as; A Film Charter for Scotland, Young People and Talent Development, Insights into Programming, Independent Distribution for Independent Films, The Future of Scottish Screenwriting and Thoughts on Incentives, Co-Productions and Film Finance.

The open format of the panel sessions allowed the audience to ask questions and to spark further discussion and debate. The variety of panelists, from established and experienced film industry figures to up-and-coming filmmakers provided an opportunity for a cross-section of society to have an inclusive and open debate on the state of the industry in Scotland. It was encouraging to hear some of the Scottish success stories, including the major film productions that have recently been produced by companies based at Film City and to learn of new development programmes and incentives such as the Scottish Film Talent Network. However it was also disheartening to realise that major Scottish production companies face the same funding issues as the smaller players, when it comes to getting projects from script to screen. It was also sad to hear that a grassroots organisation like GMAC has had it’s funding cut this year, which beggars belief at a time when the industry should be doing all it can to engage and nurture the next generation of filmmakers in this country.

After the final panel sessions, guests mingled during the networking drinks in the café, mulling over a day they’d spent dissecting and discussing the film industry in Scotland. The general consensus seemed to be that our industry has a wealth of talent, but there is a severe lack of funding and infrastructure to allow it to flourish. The saga over the location of a Scottish Film Studio is a case in point, by stagnating over a decision we have lost out on major productions to our Celtic neighbours and has probably set the industry back several years.

It’s evident that we need a drastic overhaul of the industry in Scotland if we are to develop and nurture homegrown talent and prevent a talent drain to other countries. We need a dedicated film body, backed by substantial government investment in order to fund Scottish projects and to attract major film productions to this country. The funding bodies and government must realise that we have to speculate to accumulate, the longer we dilly-dally on key decisions then the further we fall behind.

It might be auspicious that the Film Summit took place in Govan, as the Govan Burgh Arms motto, which is proudly displayed at the front entrance of Film City states ‘Nihil Sine Labore’ – nothing without work. Scotland has the workforce, the skills and talent, we also have the tenacity to be world-renowned once again, but without the infrastructure we have little chance of success.

The Mexican government’s “War on Drugs” – Have they failed to protect human rights?


 The Mexican government’s “War on Drugs” – Have they failed to protect human rights?

An examination of Mexico’s drug war, and its subsequent human rights violations.

Presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

M.A. (Honours)

University of Glasgow

February 2013

Joseph Andrew Mclean




Contents:                                                                            Page


Chapter 1:  Introduction

1.1       Background and Context

1.2       Aims and Objectives

1.3       Methodology

1.4       Overview

Chapter 2:  Literature Review

Chapter 3:  Mexican drug war

3.1       Introduction

3.2       Relationship between Mexico and United States of America

3.3       Corruption in Mexico

3.4       Analysis

Chapter 4:  Human Rights in Mexico

4.1       Introduction

4.2       Mexico’s human rights record

4.3       The impact of the war on drugs on human rights

4.4       Analysis

Chapter 5:  Conclusion

5.1       Summary

5.2       Evaluation

5.3       Future Work




This dissertation will centre on the Mexican government’s war on drugs. It examines the government’s human rights record and the subsequent violations which have occurred in the country, as a result of the decade’s long campaign. The main hypothesis proposes that the brutal force used by the police, security forces and military in their attempts to put an end to the illicit narcotics trade, has resulted in widespread human rights violations in Mexico. It will also demonstrate that the government’s tactics have had very little real impact on the drug trade itself, which continues to thrive and flourish.

The paper addresses the notion that despite the increased attempts by the Mexican government to eradicate the drug trade, they have systematically failed to do so, and argues that they have also failed to protect the human rights of its citizens. This paper will also examine the factors attributable to the problems of corruption in Mexico. It will include a critical analysis of the cost involved in the war on drugs, in both financial and human terms, and it will demonstrate the need for a renewed approach in the government’s tactics. The current methods being deployed by the government have failed to stop the drug trade and this paper argues that they are causing widespread human rights failures in the country.

This perspective will be supported by a detailed research of the information and statistics that are available on the Mexican drug war. This involves the analysis of books, articles and official government documents which have been published both in Mexico and the United States of America.

The paper concludes that the Mexican government has committed human rights violations and has reneged on its commitments to international treaties and conventions and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


 Chapter 1: Introduction

 1.1 Background and Context

I was initially drawn to this research question after studying at the University of California from 2011 to 2012. My interest in the topic was ignited by reading the daily press updates on the on-going drug war, which was taking place across the border in neighbouring Mexico. It was during my year abroad that I began to research more about the Mexican government’s daily battle to stop drugs crossing its border into the United States. I was alarmed to read of the reported death toll and the statistic that the drug war in Mexico has claimed more than ‘50,000 lives in the past six years’ (Washington Post, 2012). I wanted to examine the links between the attempts by the Mexican government to eradicate the drug trade and the impact the drug war has had upon human rights in the country. I also wanted to explore Mexico’s relationship with the United States, as both nations are intertwined in this on-going conflict.

The main basis of this dissertation will be the focus on the litany of human rights violations that result from the Mexican government’s war on drugs and the government’s use of torture and corporal punishment as a tactic in the war. The paper will also highlight how the war has had an impact the war has on innocent civilians, who are caught up in the cross fire between the government and the cartels. The paper will also focus on corruption in Mexico, linking it to the drug trade and detailing how it affects human rights.


 1.2 Aims and Objectives

The aim of this research is to try and fully understand the impact drug policy has had on the communities and the people across Mexico. The objective is to highlight the impact of drug control on a human rights level, and to demonstrate that the strict policies have left a trail of destruction and devastation in their wake, namely from gang killings and violence, incarceration for minor drug related crimes and from police brutality. The research highlights that the death toll in this on-going war is rising on a daily basis. The research also examines the fact that the Mexican drug trade exists because of the demand created by end users in the United States of America.

This paper will demonstrate the links between Mexico and the United States of America, both in a political context and in terms of the war on drugs. The paper will show that the drug trade’s roots are in Mexico, but the demand for the product comes from America. This paper aims to show that all of the focus on the drug war is aimed south of the border by the United States government, who support the Mexican government’s efforts to stop the trade. However it seems very little effort has been made by the United States to stop the demand for drugs in their own nation. Overall this paper will examine the human rights violations caused by Mexico’s ‘War on Drugs’ and it will put forward an argument on whether the war can actually ever be won. The objective will be to see if there is an alternative method to eradicate the trade, and more importantly to examine if there is a way to prevent further human rights violations being carried out.

 1.3 Methodology

In order to answer the question of human rights violations taking place in Mexico, it was essential to gain a broader understanding of the drug war and of the drug trade in the country. The research involved in this paper is garnered from a variety of sources, but it was initially obtained through newspaper articles in California. This early knowledge was then built upon and expanded through a range of books, articles and publications, which fully analysed human rights issues in Mexico. The research also focused on government policies and practices regarding the drug war and human rights treaties and conventions. This research was crucial in providing an in-depth understanding of the drug war in Mexico and to highlight the subsequent human rights violations.

1.4 Overview

The Mexican drug war is an on-going armed conflict, which has witnessed intense fighting between the Mexican government and the various drug cartels in the region. The conflict and violence between both factions has escalated dramatically in recent decades, as rival drug cartels fight for control of the lucrative and illicit drug trade. The government’s attempts to combat and eradicate the drug problem have been marked by criticism in Mexico and beyond, most notably for their brutal tactics and human rights violations. The human rights issues have been well documented by high profile media coverage, both in Mexico and in the international press, and by human rights activists such as Human Rights Watch. I feel there is a need to examine this topic, to ascertain if the Mexican government believes the human rights violations can be justified. It explores the notion that the need to protect human rights far outweighs the end results, in terms of combating the drug trade. The paper also examines if there is an alternative solution available, which could offer better results than the current tactics being employed in Mexico.

Chapter 2.  Literature Review

The main focus of this paper is to highlight the human rights violations taking place in Mexico. The information to support this argument has been drawn from books, official government documents, human rights observer’s publications and press coverage on the issue. Much has been written about the ‘War on Drugs’ and the human rights record of the Mexican government and it is through a process of analysis that conclusions have been drawn about which literature to align my argument with.

In order to exhibit a better understanding of where the research of this paper fits into the question of human rights violations in Mexico, it is essential to provide a review of the existing literature. The literature available covers various aspects of the drug war, including the political history of Mexico and the history of the drug trade and the cartels in the country. The literature also details the financial aspect of the drug war with analysis on the money being spent by both the Mexican and American governments to try and eradicate it. This information is crucial in providing a background and an understanding of the main issues relating to the drug war in Mexico.

The background knowledge ascertained from the United Nations sources and key documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provide grounding for understanding Mexico’s political requirements, as a member of the UN, to protect human rights. For example Article 5 of the Declaration states ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ (United Nations, 1948). In Article 7 of the Declaration it states ‘All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any


discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.’ (United Nations, 1948). These cornerstones of human rights were adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948, and voted for and approved by Mexico, one of the 48 countries to vote in its favour. This source provides an example of Mexico’s declarations and commitments to protecting human rights. It also acknowledges the fact they were instrumental in the construction and adoption of treaties that were put in place to ensure that human rights were protected both in Mexico and on an international level.

The litany of human rights abuses that have been carried out across Mexico in the name of drug control are contravening the agreements they made with the United Nations. The argument stated in this paper and supported by current literature is that the Mexican government should abolish abusive practices that ‘contravene human rights standards and norms’ (Global Commission on Drug Policy, 2011).  There is also an argument put forward that criticises the current international system of drug control and claims it is completely wrong. The war on drugs has been focused on creating a drug free world, almost exclusively through use of law enforcement policies and criminal sanctions, yet this approach has not been successful. The UN Special Rapporteur, Anand Grover stated that “mounting evidence suggests this approach has failed. While drugs may have a pernicious effect on individual lives and society, this excessively punitive regime has resulted in countless human rights violations.” (Grover, 2010).  The argument of balancing the results of the drug war against the violation of human rights is a strong one. It calls into question the legality of the drug war and poses the important question, should the campaign be allowed to continue in its current guise?

The literature gives both an overview of the Mexican drug trade, detailing the historical aspects of its development and expansion, and also on the impact of the drug trade on the Mexican nation and its people. The broader research also gives an explanation as to why Mexico became such a strategic drug trafficking route. The more detailed literature highlights the impact on human rights as a result of the drug war and the tactics used by the Mexican government. For example the tactics have had a severe impact on the government’s finances, with financial costs involved in the drug war proving to be a major bone of contention, as the bulk of Mexico’s federal budget for the administration of justice is ‘devoted to the enforcement of antidrug laws’ (Toro, 1995: 2). This demonstrates that the enforcement of antidrug laws takes up a significant portion of the Mexican government’s annual budget. The other significant factor is that Mexican drug-control policies ‘have not been adequate in reducing drug-related activities’ (Toro, 1995: 2) in the country. This argument is one that I want to draw upon, when establishing my case for the Mexican government adopting a new approach to fighting this war on drugs. It also supports the concept that a change of policy will eradicate or at the very least, significantly reduce the amount of human rights violations taking place in the country. The failed attempts by a succession of administrations, presidents and agencies are a stark reminder of how policies designed to control the drug trade, have ultimately failed, as the illicit trade continues to be a lucrative business for criminals and criminal gangs and cartels in Mexico.

The Mexican government has been widely criticised by human rights observers such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), and their publications outline the key issues regarding human rights violations in the country.  Jose Miguel Vivanco, the director of the America’s division of Human Rights Watch has been extremely vocal in his criticism of both the Mexican and American government’s involvement and attitude towards Mexico’s human rights records. He has also openly criticised Anthony Wayne, the U.S ambassador to Mexico, who ‘celebrated Mexico’s human rights achievements’ (Vivanco, 2013) and who congratulated the governments ‘efforts to promote the defense of human rights in Mexico’ (Wayne, 2012). It seems the view of the American government differs from that of human rights activists and defenders, when it comes to the success of Mexico’s human rights records. This contrast in views will be examined in more detail in later chapters, which deal specifically with Mexico’s relationship with the United States and provide evidence of support from President Obama and his administration.

One key aspect of the government’s failure has been the issue of disappearances, which are part of the horrid legacy of Mexico’s drug war. During President Calderón’s tenure, ‘soldiers and police officers systematically tortured civilians to extract confessions in the fight against cartels, and they committed widespread executions.’ (Vivanco, 2013). Almost none of these abusive soldiers or police officers have ever been punished. Of the roughly ‘5,000 investigations that military prosecutors opened into alleged abuses from the start of the Calderón presidency, in December 2006, through April 2012, only 38 soldiers have been sentenced.’ (Vivanco, 2013). These statistics offer the stark reality that the majority of abuses go unrecorded and undocumented in Mexico. They also highlight that even from the small number of abuses which are investigated; the prosecution and conviction rate is disparately low.

The Mexican government have attempted to keep the human rights abuses out of the public domain, with President Calderón even claiming that he was ‘not aware of a single human rights violation by security forces’ (Vivanco, 2013) during his term in office. While President Peña Nieto has at least acknowledged the failures of the Calderón administration, it seems that Washington is blinkered to the truth. In fact, the Obama administration have ‘lauded Calderón’s great courage’ (Vivanco, 2013) and President Obama has not publicly expressed any concern about the human rights abuses committed by the Mexican government and its security forces.

In contrast the Obama administration has invested heavily in Mexico’s war effort. Since 2007, the United States has ‘given about $2 billion to combat organized crime’ (Vivanco, 2013). A portion of the aid directed to security forces is supposed to be pegged annually to an ‘assessment of whether Mexico is meeting a set of human rights conditions’ (Vivanco, 2013). Although those conditions have never been met, Washington has repeatedly released the funds to Mexico. Instead of turning a blind eye to the goings on south of the border, the Obama administration should be enforcing the human rights conditions that Congress has placed on U.S. aid to Mexico. President Obama should be asking President Peña Nieto to investigate and prosecute past human rights abuses in Mexico and help to devise a plan to prevent them from happening again.

The argument that Mexico has failed in its duty to protect human rights has been attributed to the unique political system which ‘has long fostered serious human rights abuses by both the military and the police’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 266). The one-party rule ‘severely crippled Mexico’s civilian institutions, breeding a culture of authoritarianism and impunity’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 266) which in turn impacted severely on the protection of human rights. This is evident in Calderon’s administration, when this culture of authoritarianism prevailed, and the greater cause of the drug war was deemed more important than protecting human rights. This single minded and bloody approach to the drug problem by the Mexican government only led to more widespread problems, such as corruption and torture.  It is evident that a change of tactics is needed in Mexico, as the war on drugs cannot continue at its current rate of fatalities, causalities and disappearances. Instead of reducing violence, Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in a dramatic increase in ‘killings, torture, and other appalling abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country’ Vivanco, 2013).

These findings draw comparisons between the attempts by the Mexican government to control drugs and the efforts of the United States government during alcohol prohibition. This theory is discussed by Richard Stevenson of Liverpool University. He argues that there is little sign that the war is actually being won and reviews the alternatives to prohibition which, he says, creates external costs in terms of ‘gangsterism, corruption and law enforcement costs.’ (Stevenson, 1994: 38).  He produces a detailed case for legalisation and calls for radical changes to current drug policies and argues it should no longer be an offence to possess drugs, to use them or to trade them, but in a radical theory, they would be available for sale legally and they would ‘carry a health warning and sale to children would be illegal.’ (Stevenson, 1994: 67). This is a radical departure from the current government theories on tackling the drug trade.

The main aim of the Mexican government has been to target drug producers, traffickers and dealers, in the hope that this will end the drug trade. What the governments fail to comprehend or are too afraid to admit, are that drugs are continuing to be purchased and smuggled from Mexico into America. It is evident that regardless of how much money or effort is spent trying to eradicate the trade at its source in Mexico; the illegal trade continues and shows no sign of decline.  The comprehensive arguments for change and the adoption of new tactics are ones that are supported in this paper. It is evident the current system is a failure and it cannot continue in Mexico.

It has also to be noted that some scholars argue against any changes to drug policies, sighting it would lead to increased use of drugs and in turn cause an increase in drug abuse, but I feel this view can be countered by the same argument that took place during prohibition in America. The fact alcohol was made illegal, meant people drank illicit moonshine and other substances that were worse for their health than the legally produced, controlled and regulated brand name alcohol. This argument can also be countered by demonstrating that just because alcohol is legal, doesn’t mean everyone will necessary end up addicted to it. The benefits of legalising the drug trade far outweigh most of the negative aspects; this is certainly true in terms of protecting the fundamental human rights of the Mexican people.

The drug trade illustrates the Mexican governments ‘inability to fulfil a longstanding goal’ (Levy & Brahn, 2001: 213) of preventing matters originating outside the country from damaging its future development and prospects. Mexico does not have a large drug problem in terms of consuming the end product, the main problem for Mexico and its citizens is that due to decades of misdirected antidrug policies, the country has risen to be the ‘top drug exporter’ (Levy & Brahn, 2001: 213) to the United States of America.  The efforts by the Mexican government, backed by U.S financial aid and military hardware will never be effective ‘unless they can change behaviour inside the United States itself’ (Levy & Brahn, 2001: 213). Meaning the demand for the product in America would have to decrease, before we would see any decline in the drug producing and trafficking in Mexico. As long as the demand for the product is there, Mexico will continue to supply it. In simple financial terms a drug such as marijuana brings a Mexican farmer ‘more income for a few pounds than corn does for a ton’ (Levy & Brahn, 2001: 213). This is why drugs have become Mexico’s leading cash crop and why by the 1970s the country accounted for around 70 per cent of the U.S. marijuana market.


Chapter 3.  Mexico’s War on Drugs

3.1 Introduction

The drug war has raged for over 50 years in Mexico and it has cost the government a substantial amount of money. An example of this cost is the statistic that from 2006 to 2012, President Calderón sent more than 50,000 soldiers onto Mexico’s streets and ‘invested billions of dollars on equipment and training’ (Rawlins, 2011) in order to try and win the war on drugs. This demonstrates the government’s willingness to eradicate the drug trade, but at what cost? The financial cost to the country is substantial, but more pertinent than the cost in terms of dollars, are the human costs, which are a result of the government’s efforts to control the drug trade and to stem the flow of narcotics across the Mexican border, into the United States. The human cost can be calculated in terms of missing people; with an estimated ‘25,000 people having disappeared in drug-related violence’ (Vivanco, 2013). This demonstrates that an alarming number of Mexican citizens who have simply vanished from society and these disappearances have all been attributed to the on-going drug war in Mexico.

The Mexican government were one of the seventy-three states to be represented at the United Nations ‘Conference for the Adoption of a Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs’ (UNODC, 1961), which met at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva from the 24th of January to the 25th of March 1961, with the intention of adopting a ‘Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs’ (UNODC, 1961).  This international treaty is regarded as a milestone in the history of international drug control. The single convention ‘codified all existing multilateral treaties’ (UNODC, 1961) on drug control and extended the existing control systems to include the cultivation of plants that were grown as the raw material of narcotic drugs. The principal objectives of the convention were to limit the ‘possession, use, trade, distribution, import, export, manufacture and production of drugs, and to address drug trafficking through international cooperation, with its main criteria to deter and discourage drug traffickers.’  (UNODC, 1961).  To achieve the many objectives outlined in the treaty, many countries, such as the United States and Mexico, declared a “War on Drugs.” The resulting decade’s long campaign against the illegal drug trade has had a considerable and lasting impact in Mexico, most notably on its human rights record.

It is ironic to note that in Mexico’s Sierra Madre region, production of drugs such as heroin ‘boomed as a result of drug wars in Europe and Southeast Asia’ (McCoy, 2003: 397). The antidrug policies and campaigns fought across the globe are linked, as a campaign in one part of the world simply increases prices and shifts production elsewhere. For this reason Mexico became America’s ‘main heroin supplier’ (McCoy, 2003: 397). By the end of 1994 the Mexian drug cartels had reported ‘gross revenues of $30 billion’ (McCoy, 2003: 397). This figure is more than the Mexico’s oil exports which are in the region of $7 billion and for this reason the country has been dubbed as a ‘narco-state’ (McCoy, 2003: 397). The antidrug policies in Mexico produce some victories and are said to provide ‘welcome but temporary material relief as well as temporary political gains’ (Levy & Brahn, 2001: 216). But given the figures involved in the drug trade, these small drug seizures and successful raids are a drop in the ocean compared with the vast quantities of drugs flowing across the U.S. border. The argument this paper puts forward is to ask if the war on drugs can really be justified. It also proposes that the cost to human rights in Mexico far outweighs the returns in terms of drug seizures. This paper also agrees with the principle that counternarcotic efforts in Latin America have been a failure. The U.S. should ‘reduce use of cocaine and other illegal drugs’ (Clawson & Lee, 1998: 211) and perhaps this would have a lasting impact on the drug cartels in Mexico.


3.2 Mexico and the United States

The expanding drugs trade ‘triggered a number of U.S. policies toward Mexico’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 263). The reason the policies were toward Mexico, was due to the dominant belief in the United States that the ‘root of the drug problem is in the availability of narcotics, not the existence of an extensive and growing demand for them’ (Gonzalez & Tienda, 1989: 6). This has seen the focus of the drug war concentrating its efforts on the tackling the suppliers, rather than the consumers. In this case the focus is on Mexico and its traffickers, than America and its end users. The U.S. government has concentrated its fight against drugs outside of the country, ‘transferring the costs and responsibilities of the fight to governments in drug-producing countries’ (Gonzalez & Tienda, 1989: 6) i.e Mexico.

The drug control policies were introduced to increase Mexico’s ability to disrupt and ultimately dismantle drug-trafficking cartels, however these policies have not had a ‘discernible impact on the amount of drugs entering the United States via Mexico’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 264).  An example of these policies dates back as far as 1975 with Operation Condor, which has been described as a ‘comprehensive interdiction program that attacked poppy growers’ (McCoy, 2003: 397). This campaign by the Mexican government involved troops uprooting poppy plats by hand, while a fleet of eighty aircraft, most of which were supplied by the U.S, sprayed the opium fields with herbicides. These early campaigns in the drug war quite literally attacked the root of the problem, but fast forward a few decades an heroin is still being grown and cultivated in Mexico and the country remains the ‘top drug exporter to the United States’ (Levy & Brahn, 2001: 214). The tactics used in the war on drugs have had little impact on the trade, but they have in fact become ‘obstacles to consolidating democracy and protecting human rights’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 264).

The leaders of both countries have been vocal in their views on the drug trade. This was highly evident in a joint press conference held between President Obama and President Calderon in Washington on March 3rd 2011. President Obama remarked that Mexico and the United States are “deepening our cooperation against the drug cartels that threaten both our peoples’ (Obama, 2011), showing a solidarity and unity with Mexico. President Obama seems clear enough on his principles and objectives, but he makes no mention of the collateral damage this fight against the cartels has caused. In stark contrast to the abuses being carried out in Mexico, President Obama has actually praised Mexico for ‘playing a leading role at the United Nations in suspending Libya from the Human Rights Council’ (Obama, 2011). This eagerness to be involved in international affairs regarding human rights smacks of hypocrisy by the Mexican government. They are standing up to Libya’s human rights abuses, yet they are perfectly happy to tolerate and perpetrate their own home-grown violations. President Obama noted that this stance by the Mexican government ‘reflects our commitment to the shared values of freedom and justice and rule of law’ (Obama, 2011).  President Calderón shared these sentiments during his visit, when he told Congress that Mexico is “standing tall” and is ready to take its “rightful place in the world.” (Calderon, 2011). The Obama administration has been quick to praise Mexico for its involvement in foreign affairs, but not as forthcoming when it comes to appraising the war on drugs or the human rights record by a succession of Mexican government’s. The legitimacy of Mexico’s standing in the UN is called into question, as it surely is in no position to pass judgement on other nations, when it cannot protect simple and fundamentally basic human rights in its own country.

To cement the unity between both nations President Obama reaffirmed that in terms of the war on drugs ‘Mexico has a full partner with the United States. Because whether they live in Texas or Tijuana, our people have a right to be safe in their communities’ (Obama, 2011). This notion of safety seems to involve obliterating the drug cartels from local communities, but the real threat to safety in Mexico has come from the deployment of the military onto the streets. This has caused the violence to escalate, and it has done very little to impact the cartels. To prove their commitment to the cause the United States government have vowed to continue to ‘speed up the delivery of equipment and training that our Mexican partners need to keep up this fight.’ (Obama, 2011).  An example of this link between both countries and human rights violations is the fact that Mexican police and soldiers have committed grave human rights violations while carrying out their drug control efforts. In some cases, ‘abusive soldiers have been the beneficiaries of U.S training or other assistance’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 262). The close ties between both nations, means they ultimately share responsibility for the human rights violations in Mexico, but the U.S. seems reluctant to do so. It has been said that in the past the United States tended to ‘ignore corrupt and abusive practices’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 266) by the Mexican military and intelligence services because they were ‘anti-Communist allies’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 266). These close historical ties have continued to the present day and it looks as if the U.S. government is choosing to ignore the modern day abuses on the basis that Mexico is committed to a war on drugs and this anti-drug stance fits into the American government’s ideologies and policies on drug control. The American government is committed to helping Mexico in its war efforts and unfortunately the assistance from across the border helps to continue the cycle of human rights violations.

This commitment by the United States helps to sustain one of the largest trading relationships in the world. President Calderon has also worked closely with previous American President’s, such as George W. Bush. During this administration, President Bush  announced the Merida Initiative, a ‘$1.6 billion security aid package including Black Hawk helicopters, police training and intelligence sharing for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean’ (Washington Post, 2012). This financial backing demonstrated America’s desire to target its fight against drugs south of the border. This sense of shared responsibility was reflected in President Calderon’s views on the way forward for the war on drugs. He stated “both governments have taken on our positions as co-responsible parties in the fight against transnational organized crime. And today we have reached increased levels of exchange of information that are unheard of in the past” (Calderon, 2011).

This rhetoric enforces the notion that both nations are intertwined in the drug war. The United States has backed Mexico in terms of funding and the supply of military hardware and the Mexican government essentially do America’s dirty work, by targeting the source of the problem, the growers and major suppliers. The major question to be asked is why the United States continues to fund this military campaign in Mexico when it yields such poor results, both in terms of drug seizures and human rights violations. The U.S. border with Mexico has become the chief point of entry for cocaine smuggling and the DEA estimates that ‘as much as 65 per cent of the cocaine that enters the United States crosses the Mexican border’ (Singer, 2008: 177).  Mexico based cartels are also believed to ‘control between 70 and 90 per cent of methamphetamine’ (Singer, 2008: 194) production and distribution in the United States. These figures demonstrate that the drug trade is flourishing in Mexico and the drug enforcement policies are having very little impact in stopping the supply chain.

The war against drugs ‘touches on sensitive national security and political issues’ (Gonzalez & Tienda, 1989: 5) in both Mexico and America.  The issue was so sensitive to the United States, they felt it was in their best interest to ‘furnish aircraft, technology, and instruction’ (Gonzalez & Tienda, 1989: 73) to Mexico, in an attempt to attack the drug trade at its source. The Mexican government took this opportunity, with the ultimate desire to ‘master the arts of crop destruction and trafficker interdiction’ (Gonzalez & Tienda, 1989: 77).  This influx of technology and training from the United States was viewed as a positive move in the drug war, but the sad fact of the matter is most of the technology and weapons have proved to be useless. In terms of results, the United States government has received little by way of return, as the flow of drugs from Mexico continues to stream across its border. It has been said that Mexico and the United States are ‘bound together by history, trade and movement of people’ (MacDonald, 1988: 69). They are also now bound together in the war on drugs.

This paper believes that it is essential that the United States government acknowledges the human rights violations taking place in Mexico. The conclusion on the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico is that it’s essential for the U.S. to seek more clarity on the tactics used by the military forces.  The U.S. government cannot continue to supply training and military hardware without scrutinising the tactics being used in the war on drugs; they cannot condone or ignore the human rights abuses being carried out across the border.

3.3 Corruption in Mexico

Corruption in Mexico is inextricably linked to the war on drugs, put simply; the vast sums of money involved in the drug trade make corruption inevitable. This is due to the fact police officers and military personnel earn relatively low wages and the lure of easy money can be too tempting to resist. The corruption that has eroded the justice system in Mexico is fuelled by drug money and the opportunity to benefit from their riches has affected every level of Mexican society. The U.S. State Department estimate that American drug users send ‘between $19 and $29 billion annually into the coffers of Mexican drug cartels’ (Rawlins, 2011). This staggering sum of money demonstrates how lucrative the drug trade is for the Mexican cartels. It also helps to explain why corruption is so rife among government officials and security forces. The vast majority of this money flowing into Mexico will be in cash and with so much money at stake for the cartels; they can afford to offload some of it in the form of bribes and backhanders to officials. The illegal drug trade has been estimated to make up ‘3 to 4 per cent of Mexico’s $1.5 trillion annual GDP, totalling as much as $30 billion – and employs at least half a million people.’ (Rawlins, 2011) These figures show that it’s more than just the cartels that are profiting; the illegal money is also findings its way into many legal institutions and organisations and it is being laundered through legitimate companies and corporations.

It is no surprise then, to learn that the police in Mexico are easily bought, in part because ‘in many cities, they earn less than teachers or even burrito vendors.’ (Rawlins, 2011).  Corruption has infected many people and places in Mexican society, from ‘pilots responsible for spraying crops, to prison officials, to middle-level officers and officials, state politicians and heads of police’ (Toro, 1995: 55). The pilots, most likely using equipment and technology supplied by the United States accept cash bribes to avoid spraying defoliants in certain drug growing regions. Drug-related corruption exists throughout Mexico as the law enforcement officials are ‘underpaid and poorly regulated’ (MacDonald, 1988: 81). This poor regulation also impacts on human rights in Mexico, as many law enforcement officials are free to do as they please in terms of torture and brutality without the threat of any repercussions.

As drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine surged across the border from Mexico to the United States, the amount of corruption also increased. It has been documented that Mexico’s cartels, which are known by the city, state or region in which they dominate, such as Tijuana, Sinaloa and The Gulf etc., increased their bribes year on year to allow the drug trade to operate. An example of this figure is that bribes paid in 1983 were quoted as being around $3 million and this figure was ‘raised to $460 million a decade later’ (McCoy, 2003: 443). This figure is more than the budget of Mexico’s attorney general and demonstrates the vast sums involved in corruption.

One of the worst cases of corruption in the law enforcement agencies in Mexico involved Arturo Durazo Moreno, the Chief of Police in Mexico City. Moreno was rewarded with this top job after spending some time as President Portillo’s bodyguard. It has been said that Moreno made full use of his new high profile position to ‘amass a personal fortune, including real estate in the United States’ (MacDonald, 1988: 81). Moreno was said to have reigned over Mexico City in a ‘kinglike fashion’ (Freemantle, 1986: 149). His official state salary was $1,000 per month, yet he managed to build two estates ‘one covering 600 acres near Acapulco’ (Freemantle, 1986: 149) and the other on the outskirts of Mexico City, ‘valued at $15,000,000’ (Freemantle, 1986: 150).

The vast fortune accrued by Moreno has been linked to the fact that within his department for the ‘Investigation and Prevention of Delinquency’ with nearly 3,000 staff, he created a ‘torturing, murdering, vigilante squad estimated to have been responsible for at least twenty assassinations’ (Freemantle, 1986: 151). This link between high profile figures in law enforcement and corruption is systematic of the problem of trying to stop the illegal drug trade. The cartels can offer more money than the government and in the case of Moreno, status and public office can be bought as guns for hire to protect the cartels. The majority of the atrocities carried out by Moreno and his department were not to stop the drug trade, but merely to stop certain drug dealers operating and to allow his paymasters to profit from new drug trafficking routes.

It is a sad reflection on the widespread issue of corruption in Mexico, that the United States view, in an official government report, find that the political and law enforcement system is epitomised by the following statement ‘corruption of Mexican police officials is well documented and is essential to the smooth operation of the Mexican trafficking organizations’ (PCOC, 1986:109). This acknowledgment by the United States government that corruption exists in Mexico proves that they know it goes on, yet they fail to make any attempt to stop it or hold back funding, financial aid or supplies as a deterrent against it happening. It is due to this lack of ‘oversight and accountability’ (HRW, 1990) that both governments have essentially ‘permitted and possibly even fostered corruption’ (HRW, 1990) in Mexico.

3.4 Analysis

Corruption in Mexico is linked not just to the drug trade but also to human rights violations. The example of Police chief Arturo Durazo Moreno, is just one of many involving accusations of widespread abuse by corrupt officials. The lure of profiting from the Mexican drug trade has proved to be too tempting for many low paid government employees. If this was there only crime, it would be understandable given the unique circumstances in the country. They are guilty of corruption by striving to earn more money and to top up their low wage government salaries. Yet, many of these government employees do not stop at earning drug money, for simply looking the other way. It is evident that many are involved in committing human rights violations on Mexican citizens, by using brutal force and torture to favour certain drug cartels over rival factions.

To increase transparency and accountability, the Mexican ‘restructured and augmented their Internal Affairs offices’ (INCS, 2012) in an effort to clamp down on corruption. They implemented a series of programs in ‘all law enforcement agencies called ‘The Center for Evaluation and Control of Trust’ (INCS, 2012), which introduced new labour laws and placed ‘constrains on judges from reinstating police officers fired for corruption’ (INCS, 2012). These efforts, combined with leadership changes within many high profile public offices have had a positive impact. In 2011 ‘over 40 high ranking officials and hundreds more employees were dismissed from service due to allegations of corruption’ (INCS, 2012). This shows that the government are facing up to the issues of corruption in Mexico, but the question remains if they are doing enough to completely eradicate the problem. By simply rooting out the corrupt officials and police officers, the government might dismiss them from service, but they are doing very little to hold anyone accountable.

They investigate a very low percentage of human rights violations and by clearing out corrupt staff; they are allowing the violations to go unpunished. Human Rights Watch found evidence that ‘strongly suggests the participation of security forces in more than 170 cases of torture, 39 disappearances, and 24 extrajudicial killings’ (HRW, 2011) yet virtually none of these cases are ‘being adequately investigated’ (HRW, 2011). Human rights activists have called on President Obama to make a ‘robust, public case for addressing the abusive practices of Mexico’s security forces’ (Vivanco, 2013). This is needed to help build trust in the security forces and to ensure corrupt officials are held accountable for their part in committing human rights violations. The hardest part for the Mexican government is in competing with the riches of the drug cartels. They can’t afford to pay anywhere near the same some being offered in bribes and backhanders and as long as this continues to be the case, corruption will always exist in Mexico. An example of this disparity is the Mexican general being ‘offered U.S. $1 million a month to go easy on the Tijuana cartel’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 269). These extortionate sums of money prove how lucrative the drug trade is and how easy it is to corrupt government employees. It would take a person of considerable character and strength to refuse $1 million a month for simply turning a blind eye to the goings on of a local drug cartel. The war on drugs costs the Mexican government millions of dollars every year, looking at the evidence of corruption and the profits being made by cartels, it is proof that the government’s money would be better spent on other aspects of Mexican society. The war on drugs seems to be unwinnable given the unfair advantage of the cartels, which have nothing to lose and everything to gain by continuing to harvest and traffic drugs.

Chapter 4: Human Rights in Mexico

4.1 Introduction

Mexico’s military and police have committed widespread human rights violations in their ‘efforts to combat organized crime’ (HRW, 2011). Human Rights Watch found that a wide array of justice officials are implicated in human rights violations. They include judges who admit evidence that was likely to have been obtained through torture, prosecutors who obtain “confessions” from defendants who are being held incommunicado on military bases, and medical experts who omit or play down signs of physical injuries when they examine detainees.’ (HRW, 2011). The extent of the human rights violations is more widespread than the killings and shootings taking place on the streets in Mexico. The murders and assassinations are in the public eye and well documented in the press, but the more sinister aspects of human rights violations taking place, are those by justice and law enforcement officials, that take place out of public view.

The security forces in Mexico have participated in ‘widespread enforced disappearances and virtually none of the victims have been found or those responsible brought to justice’ (HRW, 2013). This factor is exacerbating the suffering of families of the disappeared, as they can find no closure or comfort in the fact the perpetrators have been punished for their human rights violations. The 176-page report, “Mexico’s Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored,” documents nearly ‘250 disappearances’ (HRW, 2013) during the administration of former President Felipe Calderón, from December 2006 to December 2012. In 149 of those cases, Human Rights Watch found compelling evidence of ‘enforced disappearances, involving the participation of state agents’ (HRW, 2013). This evidence demonstrates the level of human rights violations taking place and shows that the issue has been on-going from one administration to the next. The acceptance of human rights violations as being part of drug war seems to be commonplace in Mexico and among its government officials. Efforts by the Calderón administration to address this problem were chastised for being ‘belated and grossly inadequate’ (HRW, 2013). For most of his presidency, Calderón denied that security forces had committed human rights violations, but in his last year in office he ‘acknowledged that abuses had occurred and pledged to take steps to address them’ (HRW, 2013). But he did not fulfil most of his commitments, such as ‘completing a national registry of the disappeared, or submitting a new legislative proposal to Congress to reform the Code of Military Justice that complied with four rulings on the issue by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ (HRW, 2013). From the very top, down, the attitude towards human rights violations in Mexico has been very poor, from Presidents to Police officers; they have conducted themselves in a manner which has allowed human rights violations such as torture and disappearances to be perpetrated.

According to the Human Rights Watch, torture continues to be widespread in Mexico. The ‘UN Committee Against Torture’ issued a report in 2003 that concluded the Mexican military and police were using methods such as beatings, electric shocks, simulated executions, suffocation with plastic bags, and depravation of food and water’ (HRW, 1990) to obtain information or confessions. These human rights violations are being carried out in attempt to investigate crime and to combat the drug trade. It is shocking evidence of the extent of the human rights problems in Mexico, when such brutality and barbarity can be used by those in positions of authority and power. Human rights problems persist in Mexico because of the criminal justice system, which ‘does not adequately safeguard against abuse’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 269). It has been said that in contrast the criminal justice system actually ‘provides incentives for illegal arrest and torture’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 269). This lack of accountability is a major issue in Mexican human rights violations.

4.2 Mexico’s human rights record

Mexico is rated as ‘partly free’ by Freedom House and this standing is certainly as a result of the countries war on drugs. The human rights record of Mexico can be measured against the backdrop of its military-led offensive on the powerful drug-trafficking cartels operating in the country. An estimated ‘70,000 people were killed’ (Wilkinson, 2013) during President Calderon’s six-year term.  Thousands of Mexican citizens, ‘possibly as many as 20,000 have disappeared, never to be heard from again’ (Wilkinson, 2013). The state security and law enforcement forces in Mexico have participated in the kidnappings and disappearances of a large number of these missing citizens and yet nobody has been held accountable. The government’s ‘failure to investigate most cases only compounds the atrocity’ (Wilkinson, 2013) and highlights the disparity between the praise heaped on Mexico by President Obama and the U.S Ambassador for its human rights track record and what is actually going on in the country.

The celebration of failed policies in Mexico, by the United States government, will do nothing to help Mexico ‘break out of this cycle of violence and lawlessness’ (HRW, 2011). The action required by both governments is to put a stop to human rights violations in Mexico and to prevent any further atrocities taking place. They have to take responsibility for their actions, tactics and practices and above all else they have to investigate and prosecute those officials who commit human rights violations. Human Rights Watch has been documenting human rights abuses linked to ‘drug enforcement laws, policies and practices’ (HRW) for more than a decade. They highlight the fact that ‘drug control efforts result in serious human rights abuses’ (HRW) including ‘torture, ill-treatment by police, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detention’ (HRW). It is evident from their research that some governments, including Mexico seem to have justified the widespread human rights abuses in the name of fighting a drug war.

One example of the torture being carried out by the Mexican authorities was documented in a newspaper article for the Huffington Post in 2011. It recalls how Israel Arzate Melendez was ‘snatched off the street’ (Corcoran, 2011) by Mexican soldiers. He was taken to an unnamed location were the soldiers gave him ‘electric shocks, asphyxiated him and threatened that his wife would be raped and killed unless he admitted to a role in one of Mexico’s most infamous cases of drug violence’ (Corcoran, 2011). When Arzate told a Mexican judge that he was tortured into ‘falsely confessing’ (Corcoran, 2011) to a role in the 2010 massacre of 15 teens at a party in Ciudad Juarez, she responded by telling him that his account was ‘too detailed to be fabricated’ (Corcoran, 2011). This case with Arzate was among dozens more cited by Human Rights Watch that criticises Mexico’s human rights record in its war against drugs.

4.3 Impact of war on drugs on human rights

The overwhelming issue affecting Mexican human rights is undoubtedly the increase in violence and murders since 2006. According to the General Attorney’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República-PGR), there were ‘12,456 homicides in 2010, and a cumulative of 30,196 homicides since December 2006’ (Amnesty International, 2011) when Felipe Calderón became president of Mexico. The reason for this increase in violence and murder is linked to the tactics used by President Calderon, mainly his deployment of military forces to combat drug cartels. Human Rights Watch found evidence to suggest that members of all branches of the security forces have carried out ‘enforced disappearances: the Army, the Navy, and the federal and local police’ (HRW, 2011). In some cases, such as a series of more than 20 enforced disappearances by Navy personnel in June and July 2011 in Nuevo León and Tamaulipas, the ‘common modus operandi of the crimes, the scale of the operations, and the inconsistent accounts by the Navy suggest the crimes may have been planned and coordinated’ (HRW, 2011). These forced disappearances are not random acts of violence by government personnel, but methodical and meticulous tactics employed to cause disruption to the drug trade. They show little regard for human rights and highlight the hypocrisy of the Mexican government, who have been so keen to be involved in world affairs and human rights issues, such as those discussed earlier in this paper to do with Libya.

The alarming fact is that Mexican state agents have collaborated directly with drug cartels and according to Human Rights Watch, in over 60 cases they operated alongside or on behalf of these organised crime groups to ‘disappear people and extort payments from their families’ (HRW, 2011).  For example, evidence indicates that local police in Pesquería, Nuevo León ‘arbitrarily detained 19 construction workers in May 2011 and handed them over to an organized crime group’ (HRW, 2013).  President Calderón’s militarisation strategy has resulted in accusations such as these, which are a serious breach of human rights. The military tactics used in the war on drugs has created an environment in which human rights violations can occur and rather than strengthening public security in Mexico, President Calderón’s war has ‘exacerbated a climate of violence, lawlessness, and fear in many parts of the country’ (Rawlins, 2011). In December 2006 the military were deployed in Mexico, including ‘6,500 troops to battle drug traffickers in Michoacan’ (Washington Post, 2012).

This marked a major escalation of the government’s campaign against the cartels.  Today, ‘50,000 troops patrol Mexico’s streets and highways’ (Washington Post, 2012). But this influx of military presence has had little impact on the drug trade itself. Instead of diminishing the cartels’ presence, in many instances President Calderón’s strategy has amplified drug-related violence. According to the Mexican government’s figures, as of September 2012, a ‘total of 47,515 people have been killed in drug-related violence’ (Rawlins, 2011) since President Calderón began his military assault on criminal cartels. Since 2006, more than ‘3,000 Mexican soldiers and police have been killed by the cartels’ (Rawlins, 2011). Instead of reducing violence, Mexico’s drug war has resulted in a dramatic increase in ‘killings, torture, and other appalling abuses’ (Vivanco, 2013) by security forces. Yet, Anthony Wayne, the U.S Ambassador to Mexico celebrated the countries human rights achievements. It has been said that it is ‘hard to imagine a less appropriate time for such undeserved praise’ (Vivanco, 2013).

To highlight the issue of disappearances, Mexico’s attorney general has compiled a list showing that ‘more than 25,000 adults and children have gone missing in Mexico in the past six years’ (Booth, 2012). The data sets submitted by state prosecutors and ‘vetted by the federal government but never released to the public’ (Booth, 2012), chronicle the disappearance of tens of thousands of people in the chaos and violence that have enveloped Mexico during its fight against cartels. The names on the list — many more than in previous, nongovernment estimates — are ‘recorded in Microsoft Excel columns, along with the dates they disappeared, their ages, the clothes they were wearing, their jobs and a few brief, often chilling, details’ (Booth, 2012). The list offers a rare glimpse of the running tally the Mexican government has been keeping, and it confirms what human rights activists and families of the missing have been saying: that Mexico has seen an explosion in the number of such cases and that the government appears to be doing very little to stop them. The list provides clear evidence that thousands of Mexicans have gone missing and that the government knew about them’ (HRW, 2012) but has done next to nothing in attempting to prevent them happening or to fully investigate the incidents.

The violence, brutality and human rights violations are not solely being perpetrated by Mexican law enforcement agencies. The conflict between the cartels also causes widespread atrocities. An example of this violence was in 2011, when forty nine torsos were found along a Mexican highway in the northern city of Monterrey. The headless torsos of forty three men and six women were found early on a Sunday morning along a stretch of highway between the U.S. border and Monterrey. The killings are part of an ever escalating series of horrific mass killings among warring drug gangs in Mexico. The atrocity was attributed to the Zetas drug cartel who ‘scrawled a message on a banner’ (Miroff, 2012) left with the victims. The message included ‘threats to Mexican authorities and the Zetas’ main criminal rivals, the Gulf cartel and Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’ (Miroff, 2012). Mexico’s presidential candidates have campaigned in the area, which is less than 75 miles from the U.S. border, on pledges that they will halt the violence that has turned Monterrey, ‘the once-safe industrial capital of northern Mexico, into a gangster horror show’ (Miroff, 2012). This gangster horror show has witnessed Monterrey’s renowned business community being ‘besieged by kidnappers and extortionists’ (Miroff, 2012) and the threat to the city is so great that it risks ‘becoming a drag on the entire Mexican economy’ (Miroff, 2012). This highlights the issues of violence impacting upon the lives of ordinary Mexican citizens. A once-safe industrial region has now become a lawless bandit town, where cartels display and exert extreme brutality and violence, all in the name of increasing their profitable trade. This show of strength and defiance by hanging forty nine torsos on a high way, demonstrates the mind set of cartels such as the Zetas. They are showing contempt for the Mexican government’s drug war and they are demonstrating in a very public manner, that they are capable of executing any potential rivals to their trafficking business.

Another area which has been badly affected by the drug was has been Ciudad Juarez. Since 2008, more than 10,000 people have died there, making the city ‘one of the most murderous places on Earth’ (Washington Post, 2012). The drug war has escalated in terms of the death toll, but it has also expanded in terms of tactics and technology. Experts have revealed that a car bomb that exploded near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juarez was a ‘sophisticated device never before seen in Mexico, triggered by a cell phone’ (Washington Post, 2012) after police and medical workers were lured to the scene. This tactic of employing improvised explosive devices shows the sophistication of some of the cartels operating in Mexico. They are employing guerrilla tactics more akin with Iraq and Afghanistan than the streets of Latin America.

In San Fernando, an hour south of the Texas border, gunmen from the Zetas drug cartel abducted and murdered seventy two migrants at a ranch near the town. The massacre draws ‘new attention to the horrors facing U.S.-bound migrants, mostly from Central America’ (Washington Post, 2012) who are increasingly being preyed upon by criminal gangs, as they attempt to cross Mexico.  The cross-border flow of money and guns into Mexico from the United States has enabled these well-armed and well-funded cartels to engage in such violent activities. They employ ‘advanced military tactics and utilize sophisticated weaponry such as sniper rifles, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and even mortars’ (INCS, 2012) in attacks on security personnel. Drug trafficking organisations have openly challenged the government security agencies, through a series of armed conflict and intimidation. They have also fought amongst themselves to control key drug distribution routes. The results of this conflict have led to ‘unprecedented violence and a general sense of insecurity in certain areas of the country’ (INCS, 2012) particularly near the U.S. border. Between January and September 2009, there were ‘5,874 drug-related murders in Mexico, an almost 5 per cent increase over 2008 (5,600)’ (INCS, 2012).

The figures make for startling reading and demonstrate how the money being generated in the illegal drug trade in Mexico is being used to keep the cartels in control and to keep them one step ahead of the government law enforcement agencies. Just as the Mexican government has employed technology and weapons purchased or received in aid from the United States, so have the cartels. As much as ‘80 per cent of the 150,000 weapons confiscated’ (Vivanco, 2013) by Mexican authorities, were purchased in U.S. gun shops.  As long as the drug trade continues in its current form, so will the gun trade. The Mexican cartels will continually update their arsenal and the supply chain for these weapons starts in the United States of America.

4.4 Analysis

The analysis of Mexico’s human rights record demonstrates that they are fundamentally failing to ‘honour and protect the human dignity’ (Carey et al, 2010: 18) of each of its citizens. It is evident that freedom from torture, ‘arguably the most widely recognized and universally accepted’ (Carey et al, 2010: 73) human rights, is being denied to a lot of Mexican citizens. This is again linked to the tactics employed by the government and the cartels in the on-going drug war. Torture is a daily part of the drug war and it contravenes many of the symbolic treaties Mexico signed and helped to install in international politics.

Human rights are relevant to our day to day life and they protect our freedom to control our own life. As a citizen we effectively take part in decisions made by public authorities, who impact upon our rights, but in doing so we should expect to get fair and equal services from these public authorities and institutions. These expectations are not being met by the Mexican government and they are certainly not providing the core principles of human rights such as dignity, fairness, equality, respect and autonomy.  These fundamental rights and freedoms, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be shared by all human beings and they should not be restricted or denied as result of a war on drugs. It is absurd to witness the continuation and escalation of this war, decade after decade, and as the years go by it becomes more apparent that it is a war that seems impossible to win.  The figures relating to the death toll, showing the number of deaths in 2010 as representing ‘41.2% of the total number of homicides since 2006’ (Amnesty International, 2013) demonstrates the huge increase in murders in Mexico. The figures are increasing year on year and proving that the military presence in Mexico is having a detrimental effect on human rights. As the army and police improve their defence technology, so do the cartels. This evolution of new weaponry and technology shows no signs of halting.  The access to weapons will continue to increase and the bloodshed and murder rates will also increase. There has to come a point, where the Mexican government has to seriously evaluate if they can justify continuing this war on drugs.

The reports of serious human rights violations committed by members of the military, federal, state and municipal police forces cannot be ignored. The high risk of abduction, kidnapping, murder, abuse and extortion by corrupt Mexican officials and drug cartels all relates to the illegal trade in drugs. The money at stake for the traffickers ensures that these human rights violations will continue, as there is too much profit to make, to worry about human rights records.

The job of defending and protecting human rights can also be a life-threatening existence in Mexico. Amnesty International reports that ‘scores of activists have suffered death threats, intimidation, and harassment’ (AI, 2013) in the last few years in Mexico. The report claims that some of the human rights activists have ‘been killed for doing their job’ (Amnesty International, 2013). This proves how difficult it is to protect human rights in Mexico and to campaign for them in safe environment. The Mexican authorities have at least recognised that adopting and implementing an ‘effective and comprehensive protection programme (mecanismo de protección)’ (Amnesty International, 2013) as requested by human rights defenders, is paramount. However, they are yet to ‘fulfil their promise’ (Amnesty International, 2013). It seems that the Mexican government have adopted a suitable programme to protect human rights activists, but this is all very well, if they do not follow through with implementing it. The same can be said for their involvement in the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is all very well signing a treaty; it is another thing entirely in terms of commitment to upholding the terms and conditions of it, and demonstrating positive actions in protecting the cornerstones of the human rights treaties.

The overall failure by the Mexican government to uphold and protect Articles of the Universal declaration of human rights, including Article 9 ‘no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile’ (UN, 1948) and Article 12 ‘Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference and attacks’ (UN, 1948) demonstrates how poor their human rights record actually is.  They are falling way short of basic expectations in accordance with the United Nations. These human rights are part of the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world and they are being denied to Mexican citizens, as a result of a war on drugs.

One of the main reasons for this failure is that military abuses persist, because soldiers who commit human rights violations against civilians are almost never brought to justice. Such cases continue to be investigated and prosecuted under military jurisdiction, despite rulings by Mexico’s Supreme Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that civilian prosecutors and courts should handle military abuses. The Military Prosecutor’s Office ‘opened 3,671 investigations into human rights violations committed by the army against civilians from 2007 to June 2011’ (HRW, 2012) and yet only ‘15 soldiers were convicted’ (HRW, 2012) during that period. These figures prove there is no real deterrent for the military to stop committing human rights violations. As long as the conviction rates remain so low, the temptation to commit violations will always outweigh the threat of punishment. The military forces basically have not much to lose in their campaign; they are relatively free to do as they please in order to try and disrupt the drug trade and its traffickers.

Chapter 5:  Conclusion

5.1 Summary

The research carried out in this paper indicates that the Mexican government has failed to protect the human rights of its citizens. The fateful war Mexico is fighting against drug cartels and traffickers, which has cost more than 50,000 lives in the past six years has been a catastrophic failure. President Calderon said he had hoped to “make Mexico a rule-of-law state, where the police and judiciary are effective and incorruptible” (Calderon, 2011). In reality the use of military force has created a corrupt and lawless state, where both sides are committing human rights violations and both are feeding off the lucrative drug trade.

The physical integrity rights, based on the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which refers to the right to be ‘free from political violence and terror, such as torture, arbitrary imprisonment and extrajudicial killings’ (Carey et al, 2010: 107) are not being upheld in Mexico. The drug control policies and legislation are not allowing them to be upheld, as the power is shared between the government forces and the cartels. The citizens, who are literally caught in the crossfire, are the ones who are really suffering as a result of this war on drugs. All of the human rights violations and abuses discussed in this paper have been committed in the name of fighting a war on drugs. The broader view of the tactics used, might curry favour in some circles, but the bottom line is they are not producing results.

If the government had been successful in eliminating the drug trade and the traffickers in Mexico, then perhaps there could be some justification for a short term, but rather heavy handed approach. However this has not been the case. The drug war has raged on for decades and the same tactics initially employed by the Mexican government in the 1970s, fully supported and funded by the United States of America, are still being used to this day.

The fact that these human rights violations have been allowed to continue, with little damnation from the United States, including from President Obama, shows America is more interested in attacking the source of the problem. This notion that the drug trade will simply cease, by eradicating the crops and disrupting the supply of drugs is obsolete, when faced with the facts that the drug trade from Mexico to the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry.  This industry has evolved from the first drug networks made up of small family-based groups who smuggled drugs and other contraband across the U.S. border to a lucrative trade operating on a wide scale and employing tens of thousands of people.  The landscape of the drug trade in Mexico, from its small beginnings was ‘changed drastically’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 263) in the mid-1908s. Ironically this change came as a result of a ‘major U.S. interdiction effort to shut down Florida.’ (Youngers &Rosin, 2005: 263). At that time, Florida was the main entry point for Columbian cocaine and when one border crossing was on lockdown, they simply rerouted their product through Mexico. As a result of strict drug enforcement at one section of the U.S. border, it allowed the trade to flourish at another. The Columbian traffickers took advantage of Mexico’s 2,000 mile border with the United States and so began a shift in the landscape, from small time producers, to major players in the drug trafficking business. This shows how limited success in one part of combating drug trafficking simply allows it to move elsewhere and continue to thrive.

The Mexican cartels that prospered as a result of the cocaine trade have gone on to develop into sophisticated and powerful organisations. They were ‘enriched and emboldened’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 264) by the lucrative cocaine trade. It is ironic to think that this early rise to prominence was as a result of government tactics to stop drug trafficking. It highlights how the disruption of the trade merely allows it to prosper elsewhere.  This prosperous business in Mexico has led to the escalation in violence and has left a ‘trail of intimidation, terror and bloodshed’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 263) in its wake.

This paper has examined this trail of bloodshed and terror, left in the wake of the drug war and shows how the U.S. policies toward Mexico have not had a discernible impact on the amount of drugs entering the country. The policies have in fact become ‘obstacles to consolidating democracy and protecting human rights’ (Youngers & Rosin, 2005: 264). Just like the 1980s campaign against Columbian cocaine, the drug policies are failing, but no one from the U.S. or Mexican governments seems willing to admit this fact. The few successes of the drug war, including the capturing of major traffickers have failed to really make a significant dent in the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico to the United States. When the trade is disrupted by an arrest, the power simply shifts to another cartel or major player in the drug trade. There is always someone or some group willing to fill the gap that is left by an arrest. The simple fact is there is so much money involved in the drug trade and the rewards for continuing the trade far outweigh the negatives for the cartels.

5.2 Evaluation

This paper has examined the fact that human rights abuses have become an institutionalised part of Mexican society. It condemns the fact that torture is ‘habitual and is used systematically’ (HRW, 1990) as a resource in criminal investigations. It also criticises the fact it is so easy for the police and military personnel to arrest people and to torture them. The objective was to demonstrate that human rights violations are taking place in Mexico, this paper has shown this to be the case with evidence from Human Rights Watch and other publications who cite individual accounts of violations. One of the sad realisations that have been garnered from this research is that not only are human rights violations taking place in Mexico, they actually seem to be commonplace. They are accepted as part and parcel of the on-going war on drugs and this is a wholly unacceptable justification for perpetrating them.

The investigations by Human Rights Watch and the journalists in Mexico and the United States, which  show the military corruption scandals and the lack of oversight and accountability within their ranks has gone someway to proving that corruption in Mexico is also linked to the drug trade. This was one of the objectives of this paper, in the hope it would call into question the benefits of continuing a war on drugs in Mexico. The research carried out on corruption proves that the drug trade has permeated its way into all levels of society.

The overall findings are that human rights violations have occurred and will continue to occur in Mexico. The evidence from previous wars to combat the drug trade suggests that perhaps in today’s world, there is a need to rethink and reshape policy. Mexico is not winning the war on drugs and this paper has demonstrated that it is a futile exercise to continue with the same policies. It is time to implement change in Mexico and the evidence supported in this paper suggests a radical rethink is required by the government.

5.3 Future Work

The limitations of this work are that government sources and information is difficult to access. This paper would be improved by having access to more official government documents and reports, both from Mexico and the United States concerning the war on drugs and human rights in Mexico. The initial research from sources such as Human Rights Watch have inspired a desire to find out more about human rights violations in Mexico and to fully examine the war on drugs, not just in Mexico and Latin America, but on a global scale. The scope for applying this research to other countries is one that will be developed, in order to better understand the war on drugs in global terms.




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Interview: Ex-British Army Sergeant on his experience of war

News, Politics

For my final project I interviewed an ex-Sergeant (referred to as MacGuffin, not his real name) from the British Army, who was in the Parachute Regiment from 2000 to 2011. He served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I focused my interview on trying to get a sense of how it felt to be in the Army and more importantly how it felt to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to try to get as honest and open responses as I could from him, to do this I told him to forget about being related to me and to feel at ease and to be free to speak his mind. I also reassured him of his anonymity, as I would be using a pseudonym for the project. I felt that once he was reassured of this he felt more relaxed about doing the interview, perhaps the fact he was still in Iraq and had recently left the Army made him slightly sceptical about the interview to begin with.

I started off by asking him about joining the army, why he joined the Parachute regiment and also about his training. I wanted to get a sense of how the army prepared soldiers for going into combat. I had a basic knowledge of some of the training they do as I spent a few years with the Army Cadet force in Scotland, with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, but I wanted to learn more about the way in which the British army prepare their infantry mentally, for some of the things they will face in a war zone. The Sergeant explained to me that he joined the army with his brother in 2000. He was playing professional football (soccer) in Scotland since leaving school, he was released from his professional contract and he felt he needed a new challenge in his life. His brother had shown an interest in joining the army and so they both decided to visit an army recruiting office in Glasgow to find out more. This is the furthest stage I got in my army career, I visited the same office to enquire about joining the Kings Troop, a cavalry regiment based in London, as I can ride horses and felt it would be a good career, but the fact I had to commit to a minimum of 4 years put me off. So I admire the actions of those who go the next step and actually join and not just a ceremonial regiment like the one I was contemplating signing up for, but one that would potentially be deployed to a war zone. I wanted to know why he had joined, why he had taken the step I couldn’t and what had attracted him to the regiment. When he explained that the army focused on his fitness and his football skills, telling him that he would get the opportunity to carry on doing this, I felt a sense that maybe he and countless others have been told similar stories. Telling young men they can learn a trade or skill or continue with their favourite sport, but ultimately the army will be preparing you for going to war and I think my cousin quickly realised this, when the football opportunities were soon taken over by army life. I don’t think he was sold just on this basis, but the fact they focused on his fitness levels demonstrates the way recruiters can sign up potential soldiers. After all he would have been training 6 days a week with his Football club, so they must have known that side of army life would have been an attraction to a young man like him.

The Sergeant decided to join the Parachute Regiment, their motto is ” Utrinque Paratus “(Ready For Anything) and so I asked him to tell me about the regiment and about some of the training he received to make him ready for anything.  He explained “the Parachute Regiment are an airborne infantry with a secondary role as light infantry, they were formed in 1942 and since then the regiment has seen service around the world in places such as Africa and the Middle East” (MacGuffin). He also explained the process of becoming a part of the Parachute regiment and on earning his distinctive maroon beret. He said “we had 14 weeks of training, this included things like basic field craft, fitness, drill, first aid, basic weapon handling and of course parachute training” (MacGuffin). I asked him to elaborate on the weapons training and he told me “we started off learning at the shooting range, but we then moved on to what’s called field firing, where it’s a more realistic setting than the range” (MacGuffin).

I wanted to get a sense of how it felt to be in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan and if the training provided by the army made him not only physically equipped but mentally equipped to deal with the potential situations and circumstances he would face. In order to try to understand how it felt I asked him about his training and about his reactions once he was in a war zone. I have to admit I was surprised when he said the training took over, I felt at this point of my interview he was not as open about talking about the things he was ordered to do. I can understand why he felt like this, but I did not want to be morbid and ask “How does it feel to kill a man?” However I did want to get a sense of how it felt in that instant; all the training takes you to that point, but I wanted to see if there is any moment when part of your brain or your very being calls yours actions into question. I wanted to try to get some sense of how that felt and I feel this was the hardest part of my interview, as he was not as open about these types of questions as he was about some others and this relates to the work we have read from Professor Monroe, where we have various accounts of how people reacted and how they felt in times of war and genocide. Each person’s reaction is unique and I wanted to get a sense of how Sergeant MacGuffin felt, I wanted to try to use some of the knowledge learned from our course to gain an insight into his actions, with a focus on ethics and morality.


As I was asking him questions it struck me that some of the answers he gave me regarding his actions were all put down to a sense of doing his duty and carrying out orders. I asked him questions about the validity of going to war and being in Iraq and even though he agreed the reasons were perhaps not correct or even valid, he still felt once he was there that he had to carry out his orders and do his job to the best of his ability. This is fascinating to me, as it must be a strange feeling to be somewhere you are not necessarily welcome and yet be able to function based on your sense of duty to the army. For me this would be the hardest aspect to deal with. I would be questioning why we were in Iraq and it might then affect my ability to work, but from what he told me in the interview it sounds like that is blanked off by the soldiers and they get on with the task in hand. This ability to screen things out enables them to do their job. This is also evident in his replies about how the people of Iraq and Afghanistan reacted to the troops on the ground. Even though he could tell some people hated him, he still had a moral obligation to try to do the best thing for them or do what he believed to be the best thing for them. He also talks about winning the “hearts and minds” (MacGuffin) and again this shows to me that those guys on the frontline, facing the abuse and the threat of injury or death are the ones carrying our message of trying to make their country a better place and they are doing that by trying to win over the citizens of these countries.

This aspect of his daily life or routine was one that I felt was closest to some of the situations we have discussed in class, such as the feeling of being able to trust someone and trying to see the good in people. He admits he struggled at first and that he did not trust anyone, but I could sense that he really felt like the army were doing a good thing and I think this feeling helped him throughout his tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. By that I mean I feel he knew his moral obligation and he knew the boundaries of good and bad, as he says so himself, when he references his upbringing. I believe him when he told me that he knows right from wrong and I feel that is something that he has acquired from his family upbringing and he has used his own ethics and morals to carry out his duty within the army. I realise some things he may have been asked to do would make some of us question or doubt the ethics or morality of the situation, but from what he told me in the interview, his sense of knowing right from wrong enabled him to his job without questioning. I also believe the training from the army, not just the physical aspect, but the mental training prepared him for such situations as he would find himself in Iraq and Afghanistan

In conclusion, I feel that my interview allowed me to see another side to my cousin and it gave me an insight into how people deal with being in a war zone and how they are affected by it. In terms of long-term problems, I think he is strong enough in his mind to be able to cope with the trauma of what he witnessed, such as the killing of his friends and seeing some being badly injured. For me it was also significant that he decided to end his military career, when he realised that the risk outweighed the gain and he decided that £1,000 per month was not worth risking life and limb in these hostile environments. I think like many he became disillusioned by the war and he saw an opportunity to make five times his normal monthly salary by working for a private security firm. This demonstrates to me that MacGuffin felt the army no longer offered him security or stability and that he could transfer his skills and hopefully his ethics and morals to the private sector. I would like to think the same sense of knowing right from wrong that he has will be put to use in his new job and that what he says is true, that everything taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan is for the better of the countries and its people.

 Interview with ex-British Army Sergeant 


Q 1: The course I am studying at the University of California is called ‘Ethics in an age of Genocide and Terror.’  I would like to ask you questions about your time in the military and about the war zones you were deployed to, would this be ok?

A: Yes, what kind of things do you want to know?

Q 2: I would like to focus on your own thoughts and feelings regarding ethics and morality, mainly concerning being in a war zone. This has been the focus of our study in class, looking at different aspects of how people react in times of conflict, for example during the genocides in Rwanda. I want to try to get a feel of what it was like to be in a war zone, how it affected you and about your experiences and moral lessons, if any, that you drew from it?

A: Ok…but as you know I’m still working and living in Iraq, so I’m not sure I will be able to answer all of your questions, but I will do my best.

Q 3: I understand, I realize some of my questions may be sensitive and deal with sensitive subjects that are still fresh in your mind from your time in the army, but as I said in my initial phone call, I can assure you of your anonymity. I will not use your real name for this project, I will use a pseudonym, so no one will know the information and the answers you give me have come from you. Can you start by telling me your rank and which regiment you served with?

A: Ok…I will try to answer all your questions as best I can. I was a Sergeant in the British Army and I was in the Parachute Regiment.

Q 4: What made you join the army in the first place?

A: There were a few factors for me joining the army, I was nineteen and just got released from my contract at Clyde [Football club], my older brother was looking in to joining the army and we spoke about it…and it appealed to me very much, especially with all the hard physical training. I looked at it as a challenge and something I believed I would love. When I joined there was no talk about going to war, however the chance of it happening was always there, so in my mind it was a great career, plus I got told I could play all the football I wanted.

Q 5: And so both you and your brother signed up together?

A: Yes, we both went to the army recruitment office in Queen Street [Glasgow].

Q 6: Did you get to play all the football you wanted?

A: HaHa…not really, we played a few tournaments, but I spent most of my time training and then focusing on my army career, that soon took over from playing football.

Q 7: Ok…Can you confirm which countries you have served in and for how long you were serving?

A: I was in the army for eleven years and I have served in Iraq and Afghanistan; I have done four tours of Iraq at 6 months each tour, and one tour of Afghanistan which also lasted 6 months.

Q 8: When you joined the army, what were your thoughts on one day going to war? Did you think about it during your training, that one day you could end up in a place like Iraq?

A:  I never actually thought about going to war, as stupid as it sounds when I joined back in 2000 there was no indication about going to a war zone apart from serving in Northern Ireland, which at that point was starting to calm down and British troops were starting to pull out. But of course when you are on the ranges firing your weapons you do think about it and sometimes I thought what it would be like to have someone in your sights and watching someone fall from the squeeze of your trigger.

Q 9: How did that make you feel, that the skills you were acquiring could possibly lead to the death of another human being?

A: It was a very powerful thought…I mean…as I learned new skills such as shooting; it did make me think that one day I might have to use these skills for real.

Q 10: That is a very powerful thought, back then as you trained and shot at targets, did you ever question if you could shoot someone for real? These are the themes of my course, in such circumstances do you have a predetermined idea of how you will react or does the training take over?

A: We done it so many times on various ranges across Scotland and the UK that it became normal, it’s hard to explain…but shooting became part of being in the army, it was as much a part of my daily life as shooting a football at goal when I played for Clyde. It was part and parcel of being in the army. I’m sure the thought must have crossed my mind, but we were being trained to be ready for that very scenario, so I knew I would be as well prepared as I could be for it. Once I was in Iraq or Afghanistan I would say the training does kick in, all the things you learn take over.

Q 11: How did you find out about going to war, can you tell me where you heard the news and how it was relayed to the troops?

A: I knew we would go to war as soon as the Twin Towers got hit, we all knew whatever the Yanks decision was after that day, the UK forces would follow. However it wasn’t till 2003 that we actually left for Kuwait and it wasn’t till a brief by our Platoon Commander that it was confirmed we were going into Iraq.

Q 12: How did that make you feel, knowing you would be posted to a war zone for the first time?

A: It made me excited knowing that all the training we had done was going to get put into practice. The only way I can describe how it felt, is this, imagine playing professional football and training every day for years but never getting to play a game on the Saturday. You would be very frustrated if you did that every week, so I felt I was now going to put my skills to some use. That was my first thought, then of course there was a lot of fear, with a feeling of not knowing what was in front of us…I have to admit I had thoughts about getting hurt or kidnapped…it’s fair to say we did run through the worst case scenarios.

Q 13: That must have been scary; not knowing what was in front of you. As you thought things through, did you ever have any questions or any expectations about how the people in Afghanistan or Iraq would respond to your arrival?

A: To be honest, I always thought the worst…as in the people of Iraq and Afghanistan…thinking that they would not welcome us there and they would be very hostile towards us. However that wasn’t the case for many of the locals, who were happy for us to be there and would chat and would offer us food and tea, on the other side, the other group would say nothing to us. They would just look at you and you could see in their eyes that you were not welcomed, for me, in some cases that was more intimidating than anything else I experienced.

Q 14: You mentioned Northern Ireland earlier…certain parts of the community over there did not welcome the British soldiers. Do you think that was the same for Iraq or Afghanistan?

A: I honestly don’t know, you can never win over everyone. As I said some people welcomed us and some people…well I could tell hated us and everything we represented. I would not like to think that any of our actions would encourage people to hate us, I would rather they thought we made a change…for the better in their country.

Q 15: How did you feel about going to war in Afghanistan? On the wave of feeling after 9/11, many thought it was the right thing to do, to go after Bin Laden. How did that make you feel morally?

A: After what happened on 9/11 I think something had to be done…there were a lot of angry people wanting action taken. When I got told I was going to Afghanistan I was happy that we were finally going there and doing something against the war on terror, as Afghanistan was producing many training camps and “students” if you want to call them that, and pushing them out to do destruction.  Morally…I felt I was doing some good, by going there!

Q 16: Can you tell me how it actually felt to be going there, did you feel like you were protecting our freedom by doing it?

A: Of course I was protecting our freedom…many civilians couldn’t understand this, thinking terrorism will never happen here, it will never happen to me…but as we later found out the UK was targeted and hit, including Glasgow airport. There were many casualties and fatalities in Britain by a very cowardly act, as is always the case. So yes, I felt I was doing my bit for freedom.

Q 17: Once you were in the country, did you ever encounter any situations when you felt your own ethics or moral beliefs were being called into question? By that I mean, do you feel you were asked to do something that compromised your own beliefs or values?

A: No not at all, as I know right from wrong, and if I ever did encounter something that questioned my own beliefs and values I would get a grip of the situation straight away and I would ensure the relevant chain of command was informed.

Q 18: So you never doubted or questioned why you were there or what you were asked to do?

A: No, I was there doing my job, following commands and doing that to the best of my ability. It’s not really my job to question why we were sent there, but it was my job to make sure we done everything to the best of our capabilities.

Q 19:  On my course, we have looked at various periods in history where people have been put in situations that either makes them stand up and be counted or they simply become bystanders, for example during the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda. I don’t know how I would react in a war zone or during genocide. Part of me wants to believe that I would not be a bystander. To get a sense of what it’s like, can I touch on what you have just said about your sense of duty…Did you feel it was your duty to be there and to be doing something? Did it take over any other feeling you might have had?

A: When we first arrived in Iraq and the same goes with Afghanistan, you never knew what to expect with everything that happened on 9/11 and the world in general regarding extremists. In the army, you go to these places to do your duty. To give you an idea of how it felt, especially as a young man…I would say the biggest thing for me was trust…I didn’t trust anybody and I would think the worst of everyone, even though I knew I was there to help them. I found myself always thinking the worst of the people as in “Is he a good man or a bad man?” because you’re always thinking of the safety of your friends and yourself. I did feel it was my duty to be there…when you see the smiles on the faces of the people, you know you are bringing security to their towns and their country…they have that bit of freedom that they never had before, freedom to speak their minds on the streets, not thinking about the consequences, which in the past were fatal at times. To me that felt very satisfying.

Q 20: How did you feel, as the war dragged on and still Bin Laden had not been found? Did you ever question why you were there or how long you would be there?

A: The war on terror will always be there, but the more time Bin Laden was free and sending his videos out via the internet encouraging the extremists to carry on there so-called “good work” on the holy war was very frustrating. However we knew it would only be a matter of time before he was caught, we knew we would be there a long time, the country was and is still very unstable and does need the help from the NATO forces. No I never questioned why we went in to Iraq or Afghanistan, Iraq for example had a very strong and powerful leader in Saddam, he ruled with an iron fist, many say it is the only way for the people of Iraq…however his methods were crazy, it was his way or no way and if you were the latter then there was a big chance that you would be killed.


Q 21: In the case of the war in Iraq, based on the evidence we have today, how do you feel about the justification of the invasion? By that, I mean based on the premise that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the dossier of him being able to utilise them in 45mins that turned out to be false. How does that make you feel, does it make you question some of your own actions while in the country?

A: Of course you don’t want to be lied to and with the evidence we have today regarding Saddam having weapons of mass destruction, I feel cheated and let down in a way, many people lost their lives in Iraq, both military and civilian…don’t get me wrong Saddam was a dictator and I believe he had to be removed, however the circumstances in how it happened are very touch and go, but I do believe Iraq is a much better place without him. As for my actions, I was carrying out orders and I don’t feel I could have done it any different based on what I know now, even though the reasons for going were maybe questionable, once there it was still a war zone and we had to carry out our mission.

Q 22: I understand you will have seen sights that most of us will thankfully never witness. But to bring up the justification of the war again, how does it make you feel to have lost friends and colleagues during the war, knowing that maybe you didn’t have to be there in the first place?

A: It does sometimes anger me, there have been a lot of my close friends killed and badly injured and many people would argue against us being there in the first place. I believe the world is a safer and better place without these dictators. The war on terror is a 24-7 operation and these people need to be caught and brought to justice before any other harm is done.

Q 23: So you think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have made the world a safer place?

A: Without a shadow of a doubt the world is a safer place, we know all these cells/groups exist and we know where they work from, so many of these extremists have been brought to justice from us going in to these country’s…which can only be a good thing.

Q 24: Do you ever think about repercussions of your actions, by that I mean do you think about some of the things you have been called on to do having an impact on your later life or the life of people in Iraq or Afghanistan?

A: No I do not…I believe we done everything to the best of our ability and I don’t think about any repercussions.

Q 25: You never think about anything impacting on your life or others, from the actions you took or the army took in Iraq and Afghanistan?

A: No…I couldn’t live my life that way, it’s hard to explain unless you have been there, but I honestly believe we were doing the right thing…morally or ethically or however you want to call it, I believe I can look myself in the mirror, knowing I done the right thing.

Q 26: That sense of doing the right thing, do you feel that was something you knew before joining the army or something you learned?

A: Joseph…you know my family, you know me…I would like to think I was brought up knowing right from wrong and knowing the difference between the both of them.

Q 27: Ok…I understand. Can I ask what your thoughts are on the idea that by using military force and invading the country to try to eradicate terrorism we might actually be doing the opposite? For example in Northern Ireland, when British troops were based there, it was noted that the next generation grew up wanting to take up arms against the British due to what they had seen happen to their families and homes. The presence of troops seemed to divide the country further. Do you think military action in Iraq and Afghanistan could have similar repercussions?

A: Invading another country is obviously a very sensitive issue however the way it has been done (ie) the armies of these countries’ taking the lead on all aspects, with the guidance from the British and Americans is the way forward. I believe as an army and as soldiers, we have advanced and we are now producing a better soldier, a more thinking soldier, which is then pushing the army forward in the correct manner. The way the guys conduct themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan is second to none…hearts and minds is what they push out there, however sometimes you need to fight and it is a very hard thing to go through but the guys do it very well. It is a fine balance between carrying out your mission and trying to win the people over.

Q 28: On TV we get to see the war zones, with mortars going off and short clips of fighting. We never really see what life is like day-to-day. Can you give me an idea of what life is like in a war zone; are people able to go about their daily business?

A: It is very hard to go about normal day-to-day business but we do the best we can and with what the army provide, one day you could be sitting about drinking brews, shooting the shit, then thirty minutes later you could be out on the ground in a major fire fight taking casualties, then coming back in and trying to do normal things again…but you’re in that frame of mind anyway as in you are in a war zone , so you’re always tuned in, it is difficult to describe.

Q 29: Can you tell me when you left the army and why you left?

A: I left the army in March this year, I loved my job however we weren’t getting paid the right money for what the guys do, it is pennies, on my last tour just gone a few of my friends got killed and badly injured and were on just over a thousand pounds a month, so I made the decision that my future lay elsewhere, don’t get me wrong I miss it every day it and it is a very hard job to describe, in fact it is not a job, it is a way of life.

Q 30: How did you feel when you left, did you feel like you had done all you could?

A: I feel like I have done my bit, everything I did in the army I done with a positive mental attitude and with 100% so yes I do feel like I done all I could.

Q 31: In general how do you feel you were treated by the army? Did they help you at all when it came to issues such as feelings about shooting or firing at people? Did they discuss things like morals and ethics?

A: The army is a massive family but that family stops at a certain rank and then it is a lonely place, when it comes to these issues the army gives loads of support and help and always   talks about morals and ethics.

Q 32: You have continued to work in Iraq after leaving the army; can you see a change in the country since you first went there?

A: I can see a massive change in the country from people living their daily lives, to people having opinions and expressing them, the way I look at Iraq and Afghanistan is that these people still live in the middle ages and we are trying to get them in to the 21st century within 10 years or more. It is not going to work as quickly as that, it will take many years and a lot of patience but they will get there.

Political Essay: Policy Innovation, introduction of National Health Service in the USA


The public policy from Britain that I think would potentially benefit the United States is the National Health Service (NHS), which was established in 1948.  I will focus on the provision of universal health care and also the funding of the system. I will argue that the British policy would be more beneficial to the American people than the current health care policy, which is largely owned and operated by the private sector. I will also discuss how the transition of the American health care system from the private sector to the public sector would be an improvement for the United Sates.


For the system to work in America, the government would have to pass a similar act as the British National Insurance Act of 1911. This was introduced by David Lloyd George and the policy determines that health care would be paid for by money deducted from an employee’s weekly wages, along with contributions from the employer and the government. In return for these National Insurance contributions, the citizen would then be entitled to free medical care. If America adopted this same National Insurance policy it could in turn provide a similar public service as the NHS in Britain, where health care is free at the point of need. In order to be the same as the British system, it would involve the ‘nationalization of hospitals and the provision of free medical treatment.’ (Norton, 2001:49). It would be under this same principle of nationalization, bringing American hospitals into the public sector or state sector and the provision of free medical treatment, that I believe the health care of the United States would be able to change from its current private sector based service to a public sector. The focus would shift to its prime function being on health care and its provision rather than on profits and capitalism.


At the moment health care reform is a contentious issue among Politicians in the United States, but it has a long history of similar conflict between opposing parties. Both President Clinton and President Obama’s administration have put forward proposals for health care reform, but they have been met with opposition and a degree of controversy. It has been said that in American society ‘redistributive policies ultimately involve disagreements between liberals (pro) and conservatives (con)’ (Anderson, 1984: 18). I feel one reason for this conflict and contention is the money that’s at stake, not in regards to the cost to provide universal health care, but in the profits lost from private medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies who have the monopoly on the health care of American citizens. I feel that a National Health Service in America, based on the system used in Britain with funding coming from National Insurance taxation from employees along with contributions from employers and the government would eradicate the need for private medical insurance. In turn it would also release the grasp that the private sector has over the health care system in America.


This shift from private to public may be seen as a burden to the economy, but I feel if it is managed and run with the ethos of putting people and the level of service before profits, then there is no reason it cannot function in America. There are arguments from the right-wing in American politics, which see this as socialism and as a tax on the rich. The main bone of contention involves the fact that redistributive policies are ‘difficult to enact because they involve the reallocation of money, rights, or power’ (Anderson, 1984: 18). But as the system has proved in the United Kingdom, this reallocation or redistribution does not have to be a case of taking from the haves to give to the have-nots; it can instead strike a balance. I believe the introduction of a similar NHS to America would actually provide a more level playing field for all its citizens and it would no longer discriminate against those are most vulnerable, i.e. the poor. This would work by the same principles as the British system where everyone contributes a percentage of their wage via the National Insurance system and this in turn entitles you to free health care. There would no longer be a health care system in America based on your ability to pay medical insurance or to cover the costs of medical care; it would now be a service free at the point of need.


The eradication of medical insurance would also help to ease the financial burden placed on people, as this has been shown to have a major impact on the health of the nation as many cannot afford to pay insurance.  Figures from the 2009 Census show that a staggering 16.7 percent of people in America are without health insurance. The figures show that the number of uninsured people increased to ‘50.7 million in 2009 from 46.3 million in 2008’ (Census, 2010: 22). The main reason people are uninsured is down to costs, many simply cannot afford to pay. But if America adopted the British system, the safety net would be in place to provide for the most vulnerable people. In relation to the British system this has been described as the state providing ‘something of a protective safety net from cradle to grave’ (Norton, 2001: 50). The NHS would be able to care for you at every stage of your life from when you are born to the day you die, with no discrimination based upon your ability to pay medical bills.


The reason there would be no discrimination at the point of service would be based on the fact that the citizen has contributed to their care based on their earnings. This general taxation is structured into salaries and the knock on effect to the American citizen would be that they greatly reduce their overheads. The National Insurance would be significantly more affordable than compared to paying a monthly bill or fee for medical insurance. The 2009 Census demonstrated this, as it showed it was ‘the first year that the number of people with health insurance has decreased since 1987, the first year that comparable health insurance data were collected.’ (Census, 2010: 22). This surely has to be connected with the economy and the current financial situation in America, with many people struggling to pay bills and perhaps choosing to cut what they feel are not essential everyday bills, such as health care. It demonstrates that people in America are currently choosing to gamble on saving money by not having insurance, in the hope that nothing happens to them. This is another reason why the introduction of the NHS would be an improvement to the United States, as it would remove this financial worry from people’s lives.


One of the main arguments against the introduction of a British style NHS to America would be the cost to the nation. Those who oppose the idea would state that universal health care would cripple the nation, but put into context I believe that compared with the government’s spending on such things as Defense, both at home and abroad, the cost would not be a financial burden. In relation to Britain, there have been times when the cost of the NHS has been called into question, but during times such as the 1960s ‘where economic conditions impinged on the ability to maintain the welfare state, it was essentially at the margin: Government imposed nominal charges for medicines obtained on NHS prescriptions’ (Norton, 2001: 51). This demonstrates that even during tough economic times, the government was still able to maintain the NHS, by simply introducing a nominal charge for medicines via a prescription charge. This charge could be raised or lowered in line with inflation or even to help maintain the cost. I’m sure compared with current costs of medicine; citizens in the United States would not be put off by having to pay around $10-$15 for their prescription. Even by the end the end of the 1990s in Britain when the political and economic landscape had changed, one thing remained constant ‘the popular attachment to the National Health Service…remained strong’ (Norton, 2001: 53). This again shows that with the turmoil that surrounds the changing of government, the principles based on the foundations of the NHS have not wavered, they have been maintained and updated throughout the decades.


If I was to highlight any downsides to a free universal health care system, it would be that even those who do not contribute, such as unemployed or drug addicts or homeless are all able to use the service. This may be difficult to comprehend for some people in America, thinking how they can get this service free when others pay for it. But I believe that society should be able to care for those unfortunate enough not to look after themselves and this extends to health care. The National Insurance contributions along with government spending covers the costs of the shortfall in those who contribute nothing, I believe that could also work here in America, as the contributions of the vast majority of its citizens backed by government spending would surely cover any short fall from those unable to pay.


In conclusion it can be argued that the introduction of the NHS, although contentious, it would benefit the United States. The introduction of an NHS system paid for by a National Insurance could be one of the policies that President Clinton has described as already existing in the world that would benefit the country. It might not be to everyone’s taste but after all Public policy will always divide opinion and it has been said that it ‘is full of competing, often contradictory presentations’ (Brigham, 1977: 12). But I believe the benefits outweigh any bad points to the system. I do not believe that the introduction of an NHS style system would have any major negative or unintended consequences except for those already discussed such as the system being used by those who do not contribute. It might also be argued that the system could be abused by people using valuable time and resources because they have free access to it, but again comparing this with the United Kingdom, most people do not choose to abuse the system that is available to them and instead they are thankful for it and the services provided by the countries Doctors and Nurses. I believe that America would benefit from introducing this Policy, as a global leader they should be at the forefront of such policies as health care instead of lagging behind countries such as Cuba and East Timor.

Political Essay: Buckfast Tonic Wine


Buckfast Tonic wine, commonly known as ‘Buckie’ or ‘Buckfast’ is a fortified wine made by Benedictine Monks at Buckfast Abbey in England. The wine can be traced back to the 1890s and it was said to be “for good health and lively blood.” However it is no longer used as a Tonic wine and is now more associated with crime and gang culture in Britain, especially in parts of Scotland. The reason it is so popular among this section of society is the fact it is relatively cheap, it has a high alcohol content of 15% and high caffeine content.


Buckfast has been linked to a high percentage of crime in Scotland, as it is recognized that people who drink it tend to get violent. This has made the wine the scourge of many communities and has brought calls from Scottish Politicians to have it banned. In fact a BBC investigation in January 2010 revealed that Buckfast had been mentioned in no fewer than 5,638 crime reports in the Strathclyde area of Scotland from 2006–2009, equating to an average of three per day. In many instances the crime itself is a violent attack using the Buckfast bottle as a weapon. The New York Times carried an article on the wine stating that a survey of ‘172 prisoners at a young offenders’ institution, 43 percent of the 117 people who drank alcohol before committing their crimes said they had drunk Buckfast.’ (Lyall: 2010). This demonstrates the scale that drinking Buckfast wine has in correlation with crime in Scotland.


It has become synonymous with the things that are wrong in Scottish society, including crime, gang culture and violence. It has been featured in countless TV shows including The Simpsons when Groundskeeper Willie drinks a bottle and it also appears in films such as Trainspotting. Even though the wine does not come from Scotland, it is associated with Scotland and it is probably among the biggest selling British wines in the country.  I have never tried it, but by all accounts it tastes sweet and it has a thick consistency which has been described as being like cough syrup. The bottle is a distinctive green color, with yellow label and the Abbey who make it have been vocal in stating that it is not their wine that is the route of the problem, but the people who abuse it. A spokesman for the Benedictine Monks told the New York Times “It’s always wise to remember that Jesus turned water into wine.” And with this divine right they continue to produce their wine that has become the scourge of Scottish society.

MEP in Seal Hunt Campaign

News, Politics

Scottish MEP David Martin flew to Ottawa, Canada to campaign against the annual seal hunt that takes place in the country.

Mr Martin, a Labour member of the European Parliament and ex-animal welfare worker has been a long time campaigner against seal hunts. He states on his blog “I first experienced the annual slaughter of baby seals on the Canadian ice flows over 25 years ago. Ever since that day I have been arguing and campaigning for a European Union (EU) ban on seal fur products.”

The MEP has described how he was “disgusted” at the announcement by the Canadian Government that they will allow the slaughter of 468,000 harp, grey and hooded seals this year.  The 2011 quota represents an increase of 80,000 on last years.

Mr Martin believes the Canadian Government are “playing politics with the lives of baby seals.” He argues that “The Harper Government are playing regional politics in the lead up to the Federal Election by giving the regional sealing industry this increase in quota. Harper has been accused of using ‘tax dollars’ to buy votes amongst the commercial seal hunt industry.”

Speaking on Parliament Hill, he told reporters “I have visited abattoirs, I have seen animals being killed in the wild, I have seen many instances of animal treatment and animal cruelty. I say, unequivocally, I have never seen anything as barbarous as the seal cull that takes place on your shores.”

He told the assembled press “Over 100 members of the European Parliament have signed a letter saying that as long as the WTO (World Trade Organization) challenge against the seal ban is underway, we will not support a comprehensive and economic trade agreement with Canada.”

Mr Martin was asked why he opposes the seal hunt, when Scotland is famous for its lamb and meat exports.  He argued the methods used to kill lambs and young seals are very different. “I have seen seals battered over the head, skinned and left still alive,” Martin said of a hunt he witnessed.

The MEP also explained he has been to modern hunts where seals are shot. “If you try and shoot animals that are in water or moving and you hit them and they can escape, you are creating horrendous cruelty,” he said.

Martin was supported in his views by the Leader of the Canadian Green Party, Elizabeth May and Liberal Senator Mac Harb. The politician agreed that Inuit tribes could continue to hunt seals and sell their products, but the Canadian Government should put a stop to the commercial seal hunts that take place.

In 2009, the EU bowed to pressure from animal rights groups and banned seal products from Canada because of the controversies surrounding their annual seal hunt. The ban came into effect last summer. Last month, a European court dismissed a legal challenge by the Inuit to stave off the ban, but Canada has taken its fight to the WTO. Successive rounds of talks failed to solve the issue, but now an arbitration panel has agreed to hear the case and will rule on it next spring.

Political essay: Political Institutions in the USA



In this paper I will argue that the United States, which has a Presidential, federal republic, would benefit from having a semi-presidential republic, like the political system used in France. To do this I will focus on the executive branch of both the governments of France and the USA. I will put forward a case for the introduction of a Prime Minister or Premier to the American political process and demonstrate why I think it would be an improvement to democracy in America.


In order to explore the benefits of introducing a Prime Minister or Premier to American politics, I will first explain this role within the French government. The Fifth Republic is similar to the American government, in that it’s split into the same three branches: executive, legislative and judicial branches. The three branches are set up in a system of checks and balances, structured to ensure that no one branch is given too much power. However the Executive Branch of France is different to that of the U.S. In France the executive power is split between the President and a Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President of France. It is worth noting that the National Assembly, which is the lower branch of congress in France, can revoke this appointment. In the French political system, if the National Assembly has a majority from a different political party than the President, then the Prime Minister will be appointed from the National Assembly’s party. This allows for the possibility of cohabitation, as was the case during the 1986 tenure of Mitterand, with Chirac as Prime Minister. In this example Mitterand was ‘obliged to appoint a premier and cabinet to the Assembly’s liking rather than his own’ (Safron, 1998, pg. 185). In doing so President Mitterand had to relinquish most of the decision-making power to the premier.  This example shows that the introduction of a Prime Minister will further enhance those checks and balances placed on government and will prevent any President from acting in an authoritarian manner.


The Fifth Republic is described as ‘a hybrid, embodying features of standard continental parliamentary democracies and of various types of presidential systems.’ (Safron, 1998, p. 177).  However, in France, the role of President differs from that of the USA. An example of this would be that ‘much of the power of the French president is derived from the fact that he or she is virtually independent of other branches of government.’ (Safron, 1998, p. 178). The President has power to appoint Prime Minister’s, preside over cabinet, initiate referenda and has the ability to dissolve the National Assembly. This separation from the other branches of government would allow the current President of the United States to concentrate on being head of state, leaving the role of Prime Minister to someone else. Another key factor would be the fact that the President would be elected by direct popular vote, as they do in France. In turn meaning the President would have more support and backing from the nation and voters in terms of his policy implications, as they will feel they elected him, so they can entrust him to make the right decisions for them and speak for them.


In keeping with the French system the President would remain commander-in-chief of the armed forces and take defense policy as their own. In the USA, under Article II of the Constitution, the President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress. The President is head of no fewer than fifteen executive departments and also appoints the heads of more than 50 independent federal commissions, such as the Federal Reserve Board or the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as federal judges, ambassadors, and other federal offices. The Executive Office of the President (EOP) consists of the immediate staff to the President, along with entities such as the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.


The President has the power either to sign legislation into law or to veto bills enacted by Congress, although Congress may override a veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses. The Executive Branch conducts diplomacy with other nations, and the President has the power to negotiate and sign treaties, which also must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. The President can issue executive orders, which direct executive officers or clarify and further existing laws. The President also has unlimited power to extend pardons and clemencies for federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment. With these powers come several responsibilities, among them a constitutional requirement to “from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Although the President may fulfill this requirement in any way he or she chooses, Presidents have traditionally given a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress each January (except in inaugural years) outlining their agenda for the coming year.


The Constitution lists only three qualifications for the Presidency — the President must be 35 years of age, be a natural-born citizen, and must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. And though millions of Americans vote in a presidential election every four years, the President is not, in fact, directly elected by the people. Instead, on the first Tuesday in November of every fourth year, the people elect the members of the Electoral College. Apportioned by population to the 50 states — one for each member of their congressional delegation (with the District of Columbia receiving 3 votes) — these Electors then cast the votes for President. There are currently 538 electors in the Electoral College. President Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. He is, however, only the 43rd person ever to serve as President; President Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, and thus is recognized as both the 22nd and the 24th President. Today, the President is limited to two four-year terms, but until the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1951, a President could serve an unlimited number of terms. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President four times, serving from 1932 until his death in 1945; he is the only President ever to have served more than two terms.

Executive Office of the President

Every day, the President of the United States is faced with scores of decisions, each with important consequences for America’s future. To provide the President with the support the he or she needs to govern effectively, the Executive Office of the President (EOP) was created in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The EOP has responsibility for tasks ranging from communicating the President’s message to the American people to promoting our trade interests abroad.

The EOP, overseen by the White House Chief of Staff, has traditionally been home to many of the President’s closest advisers. While Senate confirmation is required for some advisers, such as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, most are appointed with full Presidential discretion. The individual offices that these advisors oversee have grown in size and number since the EOP was created. Some were formed by Congress, others as the President has needed them — they are constantly shifting as each President identifies his needs and priorities, with the current EOP employing over 1,800 people.

Perhaps the most visible parts of the EOP are the White House Communications Office and Press Secretary’s Office. The Press Secretary provides daily briefings for the media on the President’s activities and agenda. Less visible to most Americans is the National Security Council, which advises the President on foreign policy, intelligence, and national security.

There are also a number of offices responsible for the practicalities of maintaining the White House and providing logistical support for the President. These include the White House Military Office, which is responsible for services ranging from Air Force One to the dining facilities, and the Office of Presidential Advance, which prepares sites remote from the White House for the President’s arrival.

Many senior advisors in the EOP work near the President in the West Wing of the White House. However, the majority of the staff is housed in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just a few steps away and part of the White House compound.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet is an advisory body made up of the heads of the 15 executive departments. Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the members of the Cabinet are often the President’s closest confidants. In addition to running major federal agencies, they play an important role in the Presidential line of succession — after the Vice President, Speaker of the House, and Senate President pro tempore, the line of succession continues with the Cabinet offices in the order in which the departments were created. All the members of the Cabinet take the title Secretary, excepting the head of the Justice Department, who is styled Attorney General.


In domestic politics that same power is more open to question. The president can select his own cabinet with which he can work, but it has to be ratified by the Senate. Whilst this is usually a formality – as the Senate would usually want to be seen as giving a new president a sound start to his four years – it does in theory mean that the president might have to work with people he did not initially select for his cabinet. The Prime Minister has no such restrictions. He selects all those people he wants for his cabinet and can remove them if they fail to make the grade. He does not have to consult anybody over this though he might discuss it with an inner circle of very close colleagues. Least of all does the Prime Minister have to have his cabinet agreed to be the House of Commons or Lords


But it is Congress that essentially has the final say in that it can reject the president’s budget proposals. In reality, much is done behind closed doors to ensure that a very public bill – America’s budget for that year – goes through with little apparent public rancour. However, the potential is there for embarrassment for the president.


The political set-up in both countries also gives the Prime Minister the edge over the president. If the Prime Minister has a sound parliamentary majority (or a record large one as Tony Blair does have), it is very probable that the policies that he wants will become law. A simple Parliamentary vote on this almost certainly means that the Prime Minister will have his way. With the House of Lords currently under review and its power likely to be severely clipped, it falls to the European Union to deem certain British laws valid or not. In fact, in recent years the European Union has done little if anything to impact on important British legislation. It has intervened on issues that involve a few such as the sentencing of the Jamie Bulger murderers. But with the fear of encroaching federalism seemingly strong throughout Europe, it seems highly unlikely that the European Courts would involve itself in wholesale British domestic policies that have come from a democratically elected government. If this remains true, and the current government maintains its current huge parliamentary majority, the Prime Minister will be able to push through reform after reform (though the result of a referendum on the Euro might prove an interesting issue for him)


The president does not have such domestic power. He is hamstrung by the powers given to others by the Constitution. This document is very clear about the powers he has. But it is also very clear about the powers given to Congress and to the Supreme Court. In recent years, the Supreme Court has been more involved in assessing states rights rather than presidential powers and in the aftermath of September 11th 2001, G W Bush has seemingly been able to do anything by flying the patriot’s flag. However, the Constitution and its makers, do state the powers of Congress first in Article 1 and then the powers of the president in Article 2. Was this their way of putting an individual in his place after the experience of one man’s power in Britain during the independence crisis? Again, compromise appears to ensure that most presidential recommendations get through Congress as this approach alone ensures that the system is not embarrassed in the nation’s eyes. However, the president still has the power of veto over Congressional legislation by the simple fact that he must sign all legislation before it becomes law. The use of the pocket veto does extend the president’s authority at a domestic level but its overuse might lead to cries of one man ridding rough over one of the main bastions of America’s democracy – Congress. Also, if both sides – president and Congress – are satisfied that they have both had an input into proposed legislation, why would a veto be needed?


However, in domestic issues, the Prime Minister has the advantages in that he as an individual can push through domestic legislation as he is not only Prime Minister but also party leader. The constitutional restraints that are on the president simply do not exist in Britain. The president can veto a bill from Congress but an overuse of this will devalue not only his position but also that of the political structure in America. In Britain, the only thing that can stop a bill becoming law under the current political set-up, is if the Queen refused to give the Royal Assent to a bill that had gone all through the democratic procedures of Parliament. Such an incident is inconceivable. If the Prime Minister has a large parliamentary majority, then he has very extensive powers at a domestic level with probably far fewer restrictions placed on him than a president.

Political essay: Political tour of London


As Samuel Johnson stated, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  I could not agree more and I urge everyone to pay it a visit. I also suggest taking the tour the old-fashioned way and walk the City streets.  This is by far the best way to take in the sights and sounds of this bustling city and it offers you the chance to stumble upon hidden gems tucked away from the busy main roads.

First up on the political tour I would recommend a visit to Westminster Abbey, this is not only the famous venue of the recent Royal wedding, but it’s also the final resting place for many high-profile political figures.  Entry for a student will cost £13, but don’t be put off as this buys you entry into a building steeped in more than a thousand years of history. It has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of no less than seventeen monarchs. The abbey is also the burial-place of such political figures as Oliver Cromwell and numerous Prime Ministers including Gladstone, Chamberlain and Attlee.

The Abbey was also once home to the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny, as it is more commonly known. The Stone was captured at the Palace of Scone in Perth in 1296 by Edward I. It was taken to the Abbey and fitted into a wooden chair, known as King Edward’s Chair, on which most subsequent English sovereigns have been crowned.  However on Christmas Day 1950, a group of four University of Glasgow students took the Stone from Westminster Abbey, in a move to symbolise Scottish nationalism.  The students managed to avoid police road blocks on the border and were able to return it to Scotland, hidden in the back of a borrowed car.  If you ever visit Glasgow, make a stop at the Arlington Bar, a short walk from the University, this is famously the place where the students celebrated the return of the stone, today they have a replica on display. But some claim it may also be the original, as tales were told of numerous replicas being made, including the one returned to the authorities. The stone (real or not) was eventually returned to England, but in 1996, in a symbolic gesture it was announced in the House of Commons that the Stone would be returned to Scotland, and on 15 November 1996, after a handover ceremony at the border between representatives of the Home Office and of the Scottish Office, it was transported to Edinburgh Castle, arriving on 30 November 1996, where it remains along with the Crown Jewels of Scotland in the Crown Room. It was interesting to note that this was done on St Andrew’s Day (patron Saint of Scotland).

But I digress; there are still lots of things to see in London. Just a short walk from the Abbey you will find the Palace of Westminster or as its better known The Houses of Parliament. This is a must for all Political Scientists and official tours take place every weekend throughout the summer. The first stop will bring you into Westminster Hall, the only place on the tour you can take photographs inside. This is a great opportunity to be photographed on the same spot where some very famous events took place, such as the trial of Charles I, Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, William Wallace and Sir Thomas Moore.

Westminster Hall is also the place where Oliver Cromwell took the oath as Lord Protector in 1653. The Hall has also played host to such events as state and coronation banquets and it is also used for the official lying in state of Royalty and Prime Ministers.

To bring the tour up to date we move into the Houses of Parliament itself, here you will find numerous historically interesting facts and features including the Houses of Commons and Lords. The Parliament has been subject to two refurbishment’s in its long history, firstly in 1840 when it was rebuilt after being destroyed by a fire in 1834 and again in the 1940’s after the Commons Chamber was destroyed during the last day of the blitz. The tour will allow you to see where the Queen arrives for the State opening of Parliament, observe the grand robing room and imagine how it would feel to be a fly on the wall at such a regal occasion.

The Chambers themselves offer you an insight into the Political workings of Parliament, from the despatch box where the Prime Minister addresses the country, to the Speaker’s Chair, where the Speaker of the House attempts to maintain order. You will notice the distinct differences between the décor of the House of Commons and the more opulent Lords Chamber, with its ornate gilded throne and carvings, giving you some idea of the class divide in British society.

Also not to be missed are the statues of Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George and Margaret Thatcher in the Members’ Lobby. You will also find the Churchill arch here; it was Winston Churchill who suggested that the arch be rebuilt from the original bomb-scarred stone as a monument to the ordeal of war, and as a reminder to future generations of the fortitude of those who stood firm through those times.  You will also be able to observe the damage caused by Black Rod to one of the doors, just beneath the grille. This has been damaged over the years when he is sent to summon the House of Commons to the Lords on the State opening of Parliament.

As you exit the Houses of Parliament, stop by Parliament Square. This contains statues of famous statesmen including Disraeli, Lincoln and Mandela. It has also been the scene of numerous political rallies and protests in British history including anti-war demonstrations, the countryside alliance march and the more recent student fees demonstration and eventual riot.

A short walk from the square you will find Whitehall, which is home to such Political landmarks as 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet Office, Treasury and Foreign Office along with the Ministry of Defence and other important government departments and offices. In Whitehall you will also find Banqueting House, this is where Charles I lost his head in 1649, so you can say you stood on the spot where he stood trial and was beheaded. Also within walking distance from the Houses of Parliament you will find Smith Square, the home of the Conservative Party and current government. A short stroll to the area of Milbank, you will find the HQ of the opposition Labour party and MI5.

Finally, after all that walking you might want to refresh yourself somewhere and sample fine British cuisine and beer. To keep with the Political theme, pay a visit to The Red Lion on Parliament Street. This is a popular haunt for many Politicians and it also has a live cable TV link to the Commons chamber, so you can watch live debates as you sip your beer. If you fancy something a bit more upmarket, hail a black cab to the infamous Granita restaurant in Islington, where Tony Blair famously secured the Labour leadership over a private dinner with Gordon Brown in 1994, marking the starting point of a new direction in British Politics. In keeping with New Labour, it is a very minimalist and trendy eatery.

Old Firm: New era, age old problems

Politics, Sport

Glasgow was named as Scotland’s ‘artistic powerhouse’ this week, once again proud to be called a City of Culture. Ironically this announcement came the day before the Scottish Government held their Old Firm summit at Holyrood, to discuss the mayhem surrounding the recent Celtic and Rangers games in the city, a game the government described as “disgraceful”.

On hearing the news of this artistic accolade, the pride and excitement of Glasgow’s civic leaders was hard to contain. As Council leader Gordon Matheson stated in a recent interview with The Evening Times “We are a city that innovates in performance and takes pride in its cultural legacy. We celebrate the past, always with an eye to investing in the future…Glasgow is unique”.

Glasgow is unique indeed, a proud City, built from profits of the empire and now changed beyond all recognition from the age of the industrial revolution and ship building, that made the city of Glasgow famous across the world. However, this ‘artistic powerhouse’ also has a seedier side to its cultured image, this schizophrenic element to the City, that can boast so much in the way of attracting tourists, also has the power to utterly horrify the same revenue generating tourists, with sights of the alcohol fuelled bigotry that plagues the streets on the day of an Old Firm game.

The summit has been denounced by some involved in football, as nothing more than political point scoring. But what we have to ask, is why do we find ourselves in a situation where Politicians have to step in, in order to try to sort out the embarrassment caused by this football fixture. In 2011, Glasgow is still haunted by the spectre of bigotry and hatred that fuels the violence, hooliganism and vandalism. Some so-called ‘fans’ on both sides of the divide still associate themselves more with the outcome of the Battle of the Boyne than they do with present day Glasgow. They have not evolved to consider that this bigoted, narrow-minded outlook has no place in society or in a football game in the 21st Century.

The question arises, How do we halt this downward slide? and How do we stop the mayhem spilling out onto our streets at the final whistle? These are the questions the police, the clubs and the politicians will debate over long and hard. Firstly, we have to get back to basics and remember, that as corny and clichéd as it sounds, it is only a game. It is certainly not worth anyone dying over the outcome of this match. If I was able to make a suggestion at the summit, I would ask that both Celtic and Rangers hold a joint press conference in the week leading up to an Old Firm game, to show a unity and a stance against bigotry. The madness stems from what happens on the pitch, it is fuelled by alcohol and other social problems, but ultimately it comes from what happens on the football field. It is no coincidence that the more volatile the game, the more violence pours onto Glasgow’s streets.

Statistics from previous encounters have shown that on the day of a game, 300 arrests were made and domestic violence soared by 80%. Chief Constable Steve House commented that the games this season have put “an intolerable burden” on Strathclyde Police. A burden that is shared by the taxpayer, as it’s estimated this seasons games will cost £40 million in terms of policing, prosecutions and hospital care.

It is understood Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and Rangers chief executive Martin Bain will attend the summit with Mr House, Mr Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Also attending will be Strathclyde Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan, Strathclyde Police director of communications Rob Shorthouse, Celtic security chief Ronnie Hawthorn, Rangers security chief David Martin, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster and SFL chief executive David Longmuir. Surely between this meeting of minds, they can come up with a solution on how to tackle the problems arising from this fixture.

Other suggestions would be to encourage players to applaud each other off the park, as they do in Rugby, to demonstrate to fans that the rivalry ends at the final whistle and to show that nothing should go beyond the football field. Players have to realise, their conduct significantly impacts on social issues, their behaviour, their reaction to referees decisions and the way they play the game has an impact on the lives of those who live and work in Glasgow and have to live cheek by jowl with the two football powerhouses.