17 episodes

With the thrust and parry of rigorous debate, Mehdi Hasan cuts through the headlines to challenge conventional wisdom, highlight contradictions and uncover double standards.

UpFront Al Jazeera English

    • News

With the thrust and parry of rigorous debate, Mehdi Hasan cuts through the headlines to challenge conventional wisdom, highlight contradictions and uncover double standards.

    • video
    Can Trump survive impeachment? | UpFront

    Can Trump survive impeachment? | UpFront

    This week the US House of Representatives held a historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump. He now joins Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton as one of only three presidents to face a Senate trial.

    On a now infamous July 25 phone call, Trump indicated to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky that military aid and a possible meeting with the White House would be contingent on Ukraine announcing an investigation into the son of Trump's political rival and leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.

    While many saw this as a clear case of soliciting foreign help in an election, the majority of Republicans have cast doubt on whether Trump's actions are impeachable.

    One of those Republicans is Harlan Hill, a Trump 2020 advisory board member. "I read the transcript and I didn't find that it was offensive at all," he said, adding that he agreed with the president that it was a "perfect" call. Many Republicans say that Trump should not be impeached, claiming that nothing illegal was done.

    But Georgetown University constitutional law professor John Mikhail does not see it that way. "It's very clear from the history and the scholars who have looked at this very closely," he said, "that criminal conduct is neither necessary nor sufficient to constitute impeachable conduct under the Constitution."

    For Democrats like Tiffany Cross, co-founder of the Washington, DC news website The Beat DC, Trump's behaviour surpassed the bar for impeachable conduct. "If we are not going to impeach this president for this, what will we impeach a president for?" she said. "This is the conservation of our democracy. Our democracy has never before been tested like this."

    Trump's acquittal is considered inevitable with a two-thirds majority needed in the Republican-held Senate in order to remove him from office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham have stated publicly they have already made up their minds ahead of the trial.

    "It's really not the Republican Party anymore," said Cross. "This is like the Trump sycophant land that we're in." She added, "I think it is important for the American people to see the evidence laid out before them. I think it's unfortunate that you don't have an impartial Senate. Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said openly that he's coordinating with the White House."

    "I don't even think there should be a trial," said Hill. "Let's just vote. Like, let's put this on a fast track, let's get this done with. This has been all a political show."

    Some say Trump's acquittal could backfire for Democrats and embolden his base. "Ultimately, said Hill, "I think that this will go to the voters in 2020 and he's going to win in a landslide."

    Cross believes the impeachment has only hurt his campaign. "Trump's base has not grown since 2016," she said. "He has only lost people. There's nobody that looks at the past few years and says 'You know what! That Trump guy, he's onto something. I think I'm going to switch sides and get in his camp'."

    On this week's UpFront special, we discuss the impeachment of Donald Trump with Republican political consultant Harlan Hill, liberal commentator Tiffany Cross and constitutional law professor John Mikhail.

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    • 25 min
    • video
    Juan Manuel Santos: FARC peace deal is 'not dead' | UpFront (Headliner)

    Juan Manuel Santos: FARC peace deal is 'not dead' | UpFront (Headliner)

    In 2016, Juan Manuel Santos, then-president of Colombia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his agreement with the Marxist FARC rebel group, which ended the country's more than 50-years-long civil war.

    But three years after that deal was signed, former FARC leaders announced a "new stage of fighting", saying the government betrayed them.

    Meanwhile, Colombia's current president, Ivan Duque Marquez, who won the presidency on a promise to modify the deal, is now trying to dismantle parts of it, arguing it is too lenient on former fighters.

    Despite these problems, Santos insists the agreement that he is now famous for negotiating is working.

    "It's not dead. On the contrary. As the commander of the FARC has said, 95 percent or more of the people who demobilised are with the agreement. They're complying with the agreement," Santos said.

    "Nobody promised that Colombia would be a paradise after the signature of the peace. There's always, in every peace process, a backlash. And we are suffering that backlash. The drug trafficking, which is not Colombia's fault, it's the fault of the world, the demand in the United States, in Europe," he added.

    In 2015, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing the killing of thousands of civilians by Colombian security forces between 2002 and 2010.

    Known as the "false-positive scandal", it involved military personnel dressing up corpses as fighters, in order to boost the FARC body count. Santos was defence minister from 2006 to 2009 but said he was the one who stopped the practice.

    "It happened at the beginning of my watch and I stopped it and it went down to zero. I stopped the false positives," Santos said.

    This week's Headliner is former Colombian President and Nobel Peace laureate Juan Manuel Santos.

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    • 15 min
    • video
    Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi: 'Defending the indefensible' | UpFront (Special Interview)

    Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi: 'Defending the indefensible' | UpFront (Special Interview)

    This week Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague to defend her country against accusations of genocide, in a lawsuit brought by the Gambia.

    The Nobel Peace laureate rejected the allegations that Myanmar’s military, that for 15 years kept her under house arrest, committed genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority in her country as “incomplete and misleading”.

    Burmese Human Rights Campaigner Maung Zarni has lived in exile for more than 20 years and was one of the first people to accuse Myanmar of genocide. He believes Suu Kyi is “defending the indefensible” and wants to see her in the dock at the International Criminal Court.

    “She is not a puppet. She is proactively defending, passionately and defiantly defending the indefensible, she is fully culpable. She is criminally responsible,” Zarni said.

    Myanmar’s 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine state has forced more than 700,000 people to flee and the UN estimates some 10,000 people have been killed. Rights groups, along with the UN, say the army has been involved in murder, mass rape and the razing of entire villages.

    “Aung San Suu Kyi is not simply defending the Burmese military, which is only an organ of the state. Aung San Suu Kyi is there defending Myanmar as a member state and its racist society,” Zarni said.

    Zarni said he was extremely saddened that Suu Kyi still has a lot of support inside the country; tens of thousands of people attended rallies in Myanmar as she departed for the Netherlands.

    The ICJ tribunal has no enforcement powers, but Zarni believes this is a milestone in the struggle by Rohingya Muslims to gain recognition for the crimes they’ve been subjected to.

    “Facts on the ground are not likely to change. However, this is one of the very, very few venues for pressure, accountability, and justice,” Zarni said.

    This week’s Special Interview is Burmese rights campaigner Maung Zarni.

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    • 9 min
    • video
    Colombia and the FARC: Is the peace deal unravelling? UpFront (Full)

    Colombia and the FARC: Is the peace deal unravelling? UpFront (Full)

    In this episode of UpFront, we challenge Nobel Peace laureate and former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos on the status of his peace deal with the FARC rebel group, and question him on his record in government.

    And in a special interview, we talk to scholar and human-rights activist Maung Zarni about Aung San Suu Kyi's appearance at the International Criminal Court at The Hague where she defended Myanmar against genocide accusations.

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    • 25 min
    • video
    Are we in the death throes of capitalism? | UpFront (Arena)

    Are we in the death throes of capitalism? | UpFront (Arena)

    From Lebanon to Chile, from Iraq to Ecuador, there have been waves of protests across the world this year; a groundswell of anger, and all of it directed at the ruling class.

    Each protest movement is unique: some are demanding more democracy and greater political freedoms, while others are fuelled by anger over corruption. Among all these grievances, however, there appears to be a common underlying theme: frustration over the economy and rising inequality.

    Grace Blakeley, author of the book Stolen, How to Save the World from Financialisation, believes that many of the protests, particularly in Latin America, are driven by economic discontent.

    Blakeley argues that we are seeing cracks in the capitalist system. The problem, she says, is that corporations have become "financialised"; they are so focused on profits for shareholders that working people are losing out.

    "They (corporations) will do anything to boost their short-term share price, even at the expense of long-term investment and paying their workers," she says.

    Diego Zuluaga, a financial policy analyst at the Cato Institute, doesn't believe we are seeing a breakdown in the capitalist system and contends that people are generally better off economically.

    "I think we haven't had a period in the history of the world like the last 30 years in which the vast majority of the global population, even in the most deprived places, have suddenly and finally gained access to the most basic essentials and necessities. And that has been driven universally by liberalisation," Zuluaga says.

    In this week's Arena, we debate the state of capitalism with Grace Blakeley and Diego Zuluaga.

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    • 10 min
    • video
    Pakistan defends its rights record in Kashmir and Balochistan | UpFront (Headliner)

    Pakistan defends its rights record in Kashmir and Balochistan | UpFront (Headliner)

    The Pakistani government's support for internationally designated terrorist groups came under scrutiny earlier this year when the Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 40 Indian soldiers in Pulwama in Indian-administered Kashmir in February.

    Pakistan has long been accused of supporting violent groups like JeM, but the country's Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari says that was in the past.

    "Yes, in the past, we have backed some freedom fighters, and we had bad groups supporting those freedom fighters, that was a long time ago," she said.

    The Paris-based watchdog, the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF), said Pakistan is still helping to fund groups like JeM, and that it is not doing enough to curb terrorism. Though the watchdog says Pakistan has only addressed five of its recommended 27 "action items", Mazari says Pakistan is complying with FATF demands.

    "Our government is not only compliant, we are supporting, we are trying to improve our sort of structures ... we are cooperating with them."

    Mazari also defended Pakistan's record in Balochistan. The government is accused of abducting and killing tens of thousands of people there throughout a decades-long rebellion. She conceded there were cases of enforced disappearances, but said the government was dealing with the issue.

    "We have now prepared a bill against enforced disappearances. We have a commission which is focusing on checking out enforced disappearances ... anybody can complain, and if there is a problem, it will be dealt with, within the law of the land," Mazari said.

    Mazari also defended Pakistan's treatment of religious minorities. Critics say Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which carry the death sentence for anyone who insults Islam, have been used to persecute members of minority faiths.

    "Coming now to the non-Muslims citizens, yes, there have been problems. But now the Supreme Court has set a very good precedent that false accusations on blasphemy charges will be punishable and those who do it will be punished," Mazari said.

    This week's Headliner, Pakistani Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari.

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    • 15 min

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