Quotes of the Week
WEEK of November 27, 2006
If Hillary were elected and re-elected president, it would mean the presence of a Bush or a Clinton on every ticket from 1980 to 2016--36 years.
Iraq is not Vietnam. But America's predicament in Iraq is becoming increasingly similar to the one it faced in Southeast Asia more than 30 years ago. Henry Kissinger's negotiations to end the Vietnam War have been criticized from both the left and right. One side thought he moved too slowly to get us out, the other that he gave up too much. But looking at our circumstances in Iraq should give us some appreciation for the difficulty of his task. With a losing hand and deteriorating conditions on the ground, Kissinger maneuvered to extricate the United States from a situation in which it could not achieve its objectives, while at the same time limiting the damage, shoring up regional allies and maintaining some measure of American credibility. A version of such a strategy is the only one that has any chance of success in Iraq today.
Iraq may be getting close to what Americans call 'the Saigon moment', the time when it becomes evident to all that the government is expiring.
To the Editor:
Finally, a large number of American and Iraqi scholars, leaders and policy analysts have determined the obvious: yes, we have a civil war in Iraq, and it has existed for a long time.
Anyone with a sense of history knows that when a country is being torn apart by contending internal forces (two or more) and the government is largely dysfunctional and, above all, incapable of quashing the effort, that is civil war. Hardly rocket science.
Add to the mix what historians recognize as “an insurgency,” one that is remarkably successful and gaining in strength by the day.
Maybe we are getting better. After years of denial in Vietnam, we recognized reality — and left. Does that mean “cut and run”? Can we move beyond President Bush’s clichés and manipulative language and simply say we must leave a situation that we cannot control?
Consider a paradox: over the past five years, political turmoil has swept the world. It began with the attacks of 9/11, followed by bombings in Bali, Casablanca, Istanbul, Madrid and London. There have been two major American-led wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are ongoing, protracted, expensive and increasingly destabilizing. Add to this the war between Israel and Lebanon, deadlock in Palestine, Iran's bid for regional supremacy, North Korea's nuclear test and Russia's growing clashes with some of its neighbors.
During this same period, the world economy has experienced its fastest five-year growth spurt in more than three decades. In fact, per capita GDP growth during these stormy years has been 3.2 percent, which is higher than any comparable period in recorded history.
Remember how terrified Israel was during its war with Hizbullah this summer—a war many Israelis say they lost? Well, both Israel's stock market and its currency, the shekel, were higher on the last day of the war than on its first day. This year Thailand had an old-fashioned coup, complete with a military takeover, tanks on the streets and a media blackout. The country's currency, the baht, barely dipped.
Markets are supposed to be smart. What are they telling us? That the current era of globalization is more powerful, widespread and resilient than many people realize.
When Democrats lose elections, they inevitably hold great orgies of ideological recriminations--hawks versus doves, fiscal conservatives versus populists, and so on. After the losses of the 1980s, Democrats cast aside their traditional free-spending ways and embraced deficit reduction. After 2000, 2002, and 2004, they've embraced guns and God.
Republicans, on the other hand, pretty much never change. They're like a Terminator machine (and unlike the governor who played the Terminator and who has dramatically recast his ideology). Crush them in a machine press, or freeze them and blow them into tiny pieces, and they'll just regroup and keep lurching forward, cutting taxes for the rich and jacking up defense spending.
Ever wonder why that is? It's because conservatives have an apparatus in place to interpret every election. If Republicans win, it's because they were conservative. If they lose, it's because they weren't. No matter what the facts may be, they will always conclude that the answer is to run further to the right.
What seems clearest about [William Whyte's] “The Organization Man,” half a century after publication, is that it mistook the end of something for the beginning of something. If the “social ethic” really did dominate mid-’50s America — and there is plenty of evidence besides Whyte’s book to testify that it did — it was the last act in a long period of national cohesion. As the historian Warren Susman characterized it, Americans stuck together to fight the Depression; then to fight the Nazis; then simply because they were used to it; eventually they just got tired of sticking together. That is as succinct and persuasive an explanation of the social upheaval of the 1960s as I have ever heard. Whyte didn’t see it coming; but then it’s hard to imagine any way he could have seen it coming.
WEEK of November 20, 2006
Tomorrow will be the 4th Thanksgiving our troops have been in Iraq. This sunday, the war will enter its 1,374th day, overtaking our involvement in World War II. And because of the IEDs being used by the insurgents, for every 10 US troops killed in Iraq, there are 75 injuries. Vietnam, in comparison, produced 26 wounded for every 10 deaths. Many of the Iraqi wounds are life changing, including more amputations than during all of Vietnam. Last month, October, had 3,704 Iraqi civilians killed, a new record. And here in the US, not a single mass anti-war demonstration in four years.
Yesterday, in Miami Beach, only 3,900 voters, less than 10%, turned up at the polls to elect a city Commissioner.
Aren't our elected leaders fortunate that we are a miserably apathetic country, dismal in our activism. We get the leaders we deserve.
In time for Thanksgiving, our colleague, Chris Bray, is back in the United States from Kuwait. He writes that"I'm home for good from the army, DD-214 in hand." I don't know what a DD-214 is, but under the circumstances it sounds like a good thing!
Rice Urges Iraq to be more like Vietnam (???!!)
AP says that Secretary of State Condi Rice asserted Saturday that Iraqis only have a future if they stay within a single state. She pointed to Vietnam's success in reforming its economy and making up with the United States and held it out as a model to Iraq.
Rice surely knows that the way in which Vietnam achieved national unity was . . . for the radical forces to drive out the Americans, overthrow pro-American elements, and conquer the whole country. They only went in for this capitalism thing fairly recently. Rice, a Ph.D. and former Provost of Stanford University, shouldn't be saying silly things like that Iraq should emulate Vietnam. I guess if you hang around with W. long enough, you catch whatever it is that he has.
IF John Maynard Keynes was the most influential economist of the first half of the 20th century, then Milton Friedman was the most influential economist of the second half.
WEEK of November 13, 2006
There are differences and similarities, of course, [between Iraq and Vietnam]. We got lied into both wars. The easy summation is that Vietnam began as a guerrilla war and escalated into an orthodox war — by the end we were fighting in big units. Iraq starts as a conventional war, and has degenerated into a guerrilla war. It has gone in an opposite direction. And it’s much more difficult to deal with.
When asked by the Post's media columnist Howard Kurtz whether a Newsweek headline,"Father knows best," was just"an easy, cheap Oedipal way for the press to characterize what's going on," [Post reporter and author of Fiasco Thomas] Ricks replied:"Well, just because it's easy and cheap doesn't mean it's wrong."
November's Perspectives is also online, with the news that the AHA's Roosevelt-Wilson Award will go to my Congressman, John Lewis. That's an improvement on its first Roosevelt-Wilson Award to Senator, former Klansman, and Porkmeister Supreme Robert C. Byrd. But it also prepares you for the hype about Atlanta being the"birthplace of the civil rights movement." Don't even get me started.
NORMAN ROCKWELL, PERVERT
In _Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence_, Richard Halpern argues that Rockwell's paintings frequently teem with perverse acts of voyeurism and desire but contrive to keep these acts invisible.
... we are forced to reckon with an uncomfortable question. Republicans cheat.
WEEK of November 6, 2006
Nicholas Lemann's Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War tells a story we keep trying to forget: White Southerners used every kind of violence at their command to destroy Reconstruction after the Civil War. Beguiled and benumbed by Gone With the Wind, many white Americans still imagine Reconstruction as a crime against the white South, marked by the sins of the carpetbaggers and the corruption of the Reconstruction governments. It is good to have this stubborn fable of Reconstruction refuted by a gifted and respected writer. It is good that it received a front-page New York Times review with a striking graphic of a Confederate battle flag in which the stars have been replaced by bullet holes. May it be widely read.
As grateful as we might be for this reminder, it is nevertheless discouraging that Lemann's story can still be considered a surprise. We have known for more than half a century that calculated white violence against black Southerners broke the back of Reconstruction. When dozens of revisionists began recasting the story of Reconstruction soon after World War II, in fact, one of their first achievements was to show that Reconstruction did not collapse of its own corruption and greed but was relentlessly driven from power by terror and fraud.
What does it tell us about the state of history in this country that what historians have known for so long is still considered news? It tells us, for one thing, that journalists produce the best-selling history.
Stocks rose for a second day on anticipation that Democrats would take control of one or both houses of Congress in yesterday’s election, setting up a political standoff that could forestall new regulations and curb government spending.
“The market is making a decision that we’re not going to have to deal with wrenching changes,” said Gil Knight, who helps manage $40 billion at Gartmore Global Investments in West Conshohocken, Pa. “Gridlock is probably the best of all worlds.”
So America's one-time ally has been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed when he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all about his atrocities and even supplied the gas - along with the British, of course - yet there we were yesterday declaring it to be, in the White House's words, another 'great day for Iraq.'
A veteran Democratic congresswoman from Indianapolis, Julia Carson, ran into trouble when she tried to vote on primary day by displaying her Congressional identification card. It had her picture on it, but she was told that was not enough. She needed something issued by the state or federal government that had an expiration date on it.
Eventually, as The Washington Post tells us, she was allowed to vote after a poll worker called a boss.
This was a congresswoman!
No one expects Florida elections to go smoothly, but this year the state got off to an alarming start. Voters reported that after selecting Democratic candidates on electronic voting machines, the review screens registered that they had chosen Republicans. A spokeswoman for the Broward County supervisor of elections told The Miami Herald that the machines often fall out of sync under heavy use, but that they can be fixed when voters complain.
WEEK of October 30, 2006
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war ... But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb."
So we went to war in part to prevent a terrorist threat from arising from a rogue Islamic nation, and what did we do? We facilitated the creation of a nuclear threat from a rogue Islamic nation. Don't forget we also went to war to prevent the creation of a terrorist threat, and what did we do, according to the sixteen intelligence agencies that authored this year's NIE? We increased the terrorist threat. Spreading democracy? Yeah, right. The Iraqi government is democratic the way Al Capone was democratic. WMD? It is to laugh...
Normally we try not to draw attention to negative commentary about our authors. But sometimes the commentary is too artful to be ignored. John G. Geer is the author of the recent book _In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns_, which makes the controversial argument that negative campaign advertising benefits voters and the democratic process. Geer is, then, in no position to object when he becomes the subject of an attack ad:
The [Iraq] war was an attempt to lift a unified Iraq out of its awful history, but history has proved stubborn. It’s time to adjust the plans to reality.
That's right: A Jewish comedian [Borat] who portrays a Muslim gangsta rapper does a Christmas special for the BBC, which then attracts the attention of the quintessentially Catholic Madonna, who goes on to become a devotee of the Jewish mystical tradition known as the Kabbala. Maybe there's hope for peace between the three Abrahamic religions after all, especially if Madonna moves on to Sufism once the Kabbalah Center takes enough of her money. Even if she doesn't, the Madonna-Baron Cohen relationship and the rise of Borat offers scholars a gold mine of postmodern analytical possibilities.
What Kissinger truly has to offer Bush, I fear, is not strategy but therapy. Or, as it were, therapy as strategy. He teaches Bush how to see himself in the future, as an old man: as a future prophet without honor. It doesn't feel so bad, Bush can tell himself: Kissinger, after all, has an open door to the White House.
This is two weeks ago, from a Bush appointee:"I hope they lose the House." And one week ago, from a veteran of two GOP White Houses:"I hope they lose Congress." Republicans this year don't say"we" so much.
What is behind this? A lot of things, but here's a central one: They want to fire Congress because they can't fire President Bush.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was one of the most interesting American women of the 20th century. Born in 1929, she was a product of her time and class, raised to be beautiful, to marry a rich man and to ignore his infidelities. Her marriages cannot have been easy, but the first one made her world-famous and the second one made her seriously rich. For the rest of her life, free to do as she pleased, she toiled honorably as an editor at Doubleday, avoided the media as the faithful avoid Satan and raised two fine children. Upon her death in 1994, at the age of 64, she was universally mourned. Perhaps a worthwhile novel could be written about her life, perhaps not, but she surely deserves better than this ghoulish piece of trash.
HERE’S one measure of Harlem’s gentrification: If you want the flavor of 116th Street in 1990, you now have to film 20 blocks north.
WEEK of October 23, 2006
The time has not yet come—and especially not as we crawl through our present Baghdad, Lebanon, Darfur, and Pyongyang mires—for us to obtain a balanced assessment of how the human species performed during the course of the twentieth century. Economists will tell us that it was the best of all centuries, in terms of sheer economic growth and advances in standards of living. Historians, joined by human rights lawyers, will argue that it was the worst of all historical periods, as measured by the number of human beings killed and mutilated by other human beings. Thus simultaneously amazed by our technological triumphs and ashamed by our self-inflicted wounds, we cannot but be daunted by the very idea of evaluating the impact and the import of the past hundred years. If, as Zhou Enlai once famously told Henry Kissinger, it is too early yet to assess the consequences of the French Revolution, how can we plausibly offer judgments on the effects of more recent convulsions, from Auschwitz to the airplane, from the Internet to Muslim intifadas?
When it comes to racial policies, it may be somewhat hyperbolic to say that the apartheid regime that came into power in South Africa in 1948 picked up where the Nazis left off. It's not at all hyperbolic to observe that the apartheid regime picked up where the Nazis left off when it came to producing gasoline from coal. Nazism, apartheid, and international sanctions created a fuel source that might never have existed in a better world.
Just why is the world's third-most populous country so short of boots on the ground? The obvious answer is that, considering the size of the US population and the Pentagon's vast budget, the American military is a remarkably small outfit. In 2004, the total number of Department of Defence personnel on active duty was 1,427,000, substantially fewer than the country's 2 million-strong prison population. Of those on active duty, barely a fifth were stationed overseas, of whom 171,000 were in Iraq. That works out at 0.06 per cent of the total US population.
The number of troops currently in Iraq is less than 140,000. That's roughly as many soldiers as Britain sent to the same country to defeat an insurgency in 1920 — at a time when the population of Iraq was a tenth of what it is today
Not since the medieval church baptized, as it were, Aristotle as some sort of early — very early — church father has there been an intellectual hijacking as audacious as the attempt to present America’s principal founders as devout Christians. Such an attempt is now in high gear among people who argue that the founders were kindred spirits with today’s evangelicals, and that they founded a “Christian nation.”
WEEK of October 16, 2006
Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.
“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.
Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”
To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”
Our postwar policy is creating Weimar Iraq. And when the Islamofascist Beer Hall Putsch comes there won’t even be beer.
WEEK of October 9, 2006
[Susan B.] Anthony [whom abortion foes now call one of their inspirations] is not the first to experience a posthumous identity crisis. As Teddy Roosevelt has discovered, you never know when a self-respecting trustbuster might be resurrected as a laissez-faire Republican. You can go to bed as an apostle of liberty, the author of the Declaration of Independence, to wake up as a slave-owning, mealy-mouthed misogynist. Recently The Wall Street Journal anointed Tom Paine — for two centuries now a progressive rabble-rouser — as “America’s founding neoconservative.”
So long as we have written history we have rewritten it, seasoning it with bias, straining it of context, molding it to our agendas. (The French codified this problem years ago by throwing each camp a bone. For years it was understood that conservative historians got the ancien régime, the communists the Revolution, and the socialists everything thereafter.) But Anthony the pro-lifer hails from a different land, the treacherous province of cutting and pasting, of history plucked from both text and time. Now we are Photoshopping rather than airbrushing; with enough slicing and dicing, an argument can be made for anything. The doctorate in sophistry is optional.
There are some kinds of history presidents just don't want to make. Nixon sure didn't want to be the first president to resign the office in disgrace. Johnson didn't enjoy being forced to fold his hand. Hoover couldn't understand why so many laid the depth of the Depression at his feet. The list goes on.
George W. Bush is making some history of his own these days. When all is said and done, he will go into the books as the first American president to lose two wars at the same time.
MSNBC Breaking News: A.P.: U.S. Army making plans to keep current Iraq troop level through 2010.
BERLIN -- Germany's richly deserved 60-year holiday from leadership abroad is ending sooner than many here would like. War-imposed modesty no longer shelters Angela Merkel's coalition government from having to show leadership in defining Europe's new relations with a suddenly assertive Russia, fixing an independent Kosovo's place in the Balkans, and perhaps even shaping a broad response by secular societies to the challenges posed by militant Islam.
But with power vacuums developing on the country's eastern and western borderlands, and the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, Berlin understands that it is condemned to lead. A visitor finds the capital beset with angst -- but also bubbling with ideas -- about the approaching German moment in international affairs.
David P. Currie, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, ends the first paragraph of his conclusion to this fourth installment of his _The Constitution in Crisis_ series in melodramatic fashion, breathlessly stating:"As in the Perils of Pauline, you cannot stop watching at this point; you really must catch the next installment" (p. 254). Perhaps Currie has been watching old black-and- white silent movies too much or perhaps he knows and fears that the distractions contained in this volume will deter serious readers from picking up the next volume. It is unknown which scenario might be an accurate account for his over-the-top, gushing, and cheer- and jeer-leading in this volume, but his style can be off-putting and detracts from the strengths of this volume. As is, this volume sets up as the part of the story when Pauline Americanus gets herself into complicated trouble and concludes just before the hero, wearing a stove-pipe hat, arrives to save her from her own poor decisions. The author hopes readers will stay tuned for his next installment and to find out if the lawyer- turned-politician hero arrives, but whether they will return or not is unclear, perhaps even unlikely.
History is written by historians. When politicians get involved, it’s always bad news.
How can you call someone a terrorist who allegedly committed acts on your behalf?” asked , Mr. Posada’s El Paso-based lawyer. “This would be the equivalent of calling Patrick Henry or Paul Revere or Benjamin Franklin a terrorist.
WEEK of October 2, 2006
She was abused by guards who kept lights on in her cell until she would sign an autograph.
Jeremy at Clioweb claims that “History is a Perpetual Beta.” I said, History is in need of Constant Patches and Updates.
Earl Warren was the most important twentieth century American politician not to achieve the presidency.
Hello, Representative Mark Foley, here’s your special membership pin and thanks for joining Washington’s “What On Earth Was He Thinking?” Caucus.
The illustrious club includes a special “Sex Scandal” subcaucus that features, among others, Wilbur Mills (D-Tidal Basin), Gary Hart (D-Monkey Business), Bob Packwood (R-Senate Elevators) and, of course, Bill Clinton (D-Oval Office).
WEEK of September 25, 2006
You probably know Daniel Defoe as the author of “Robinson Crusoe,” but he was also a journalist, and in 1705, he noticed a gigantic change occurring around him. “The Power of Nations,” he wrote, “is not now measur’d, as it has been, by Prowess, Gallantry, and Conduct. ’Tis the Wealth of Nations that makes them Great.”
In other words, nations had begun measuring themselves not by whom they conquered, but by how they fared in the competition for economic success. This was a major shift in consciousness, and as the great historian of nationalism, Liah Greenfeld, observes, today you can see a wide variety of societies — the U.S., Japan, China, India, Europe — that define their national greatness in this way.
The Arab world, though famous for its bazaars, has not defined national glory economically, Greenfeld adds. Instead, the rising radical groups today define greatness negatively through acts of anti-Western defiance.
It's symbolic of the anarchy throughout Iraq's capital that the museum's entrances are now sealed with concrete to keep out new hordes of killers and thieves. But the violence, which seems to spiral with each declaration of a new security crackdown, is old news. More revealing is the other half of the museum's current plight: it is now in the hands of Iraq's version of the Taliban. That sad denouement is another symbol, standing for our defeat in the larger war of ideas.
The museum changed hands in August, when Donny George, its longtime administrator and the chairman of Iraq's official antiquities board, fled the country fearing for his life and for the treasures in his care, both at the museum and the country's many archaeological sites. Mr. George is a Christian and had good reason to fear. The new government minister placed in charge of the museum, a dentist, is an acolyte of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose goal is to make Iraq a fundamentalist theocracy. To Mr. Sadr and his followers, the museum?s legendary pre-Islam antiquities, harking back to the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, are infidels? idols to be sacked.
I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is -- my point is, there's a strong will for democracy.
Strange doings in Virginia. George Allen, former governor, one-term senator, son of a famous football coach and in the midst of a heated battle for reelection, has just been outed as a Jew. An odd turn of events, given that his having Jewish origins has nothing to do with anything in the campaign and that Allen himself was oblivious to the fact until his 83-year-old mother revealed to him last month the secret she had kept concealed for 60 years.
Apart from its political irrelevance, it seems improbable in the extreme that the cowboy-boots-wearing football scion of Southern manner and speech should turn out to be, at least by origins, a son of Israel. For Allen, as he quipped to me, it's the explanation for a lifelong affinity for Hebrew National hot dogs. For me, it is the ultimate confirmation of something I have been regaling friends with for 20 years and now, for the advancement of social science, feel compelled to publish.
Krauthammer's Law: Everyone is Jewish until proven otherwise. I've had a fairly good run with this one. First, it turns out that John Kerry -- windsurfing, French-speaking, Beacon Hill aristocrat -- had two Jewish grandparents. Then Hillary Clinton -- methodical Methodist -- unearths a Jewish stepgrandfather in time for her run as New York senator.
A less jaunty case was that of Madeleine Albright, three of whose Czech grandparents had perished in the Holocaust and who most improbably contended that she had no idea they were Jewish. To which we can add the leading French presidential contender (Nicolas Sarkozy), a former supreme allied commander of NATO (Wesley Clark) and Russia's leading anti-Semite (Vladimir Zhirinovsky). One must have a sense of humor about these things. Even Fidel Castro claims he is from a family of Marranos.
WEEK of September 18, 2006
The state of terror now gripping Iraq is as bad as it was under Saddam Hussein. Torture in the country may even be worse than it was during his rule, the United Nation's special investigator on torture said yesterday.
Americans who are concerned about a recurrence of 9/11 are worried about the Axis of Evil when the real problem is the Axis of Allies — Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Britain. The terrorists are funded in Saudi Arabia, they’re trained in Pakistan, and they organize their plots quite easily in London.
``How'd you lose your hand?" someone will ask. ``The war." ``What war?" ``Iraq." Pause. ``That still going on?"
The US Department of Defense has done some opinion polling that indicates that 3/4s of Iraqi Sunnis now support what the Pentagon calls the"insurgency". When the DoD started doing polling on the subject in 2003, they found that 14 percent of Sunni Arabs supported the insurgency. If there are 5 million Sunni Arabs, let us say that 1.5 million are less than 15 years of age. Of the 3.5 million left, half are women and less likely to actually engage in violence, though they might offer support for it. So that is 1.75 million men. At 75%, that is 1.3 million male supporters of the guerrilla movement.
Of the 147,000 US troops in Iraq, a very large number of which now seem to be in and around Baghdad itself, I don't know exactly how many are fighters. The traditional rule of thumb is 10%, but I read somewhere that the percentage is much higher in this war. A reader who served over there challenged the latter assertion and said that no, it is just 10%.
If we really just have 14,700 fighters facing 1.3 million Sunni guerrilla supporters, it isn't any mystery why things in Iraq are as they are and why Gen. Casey openly admits that we are not there to win, just to keep a lid on. I can't imagine how they could hope even to keep a lid on. Given the figures released today, I'd say it isn't much of a lid (though remember that the death figures could easily be twice or ten times as bad.)
The other thing to remember is that the Sunni Arab areas have been under US military occupation for the past over 3 years, and that this vast increase in support for the guerrilla movement is therefore in some large part the fault of bad counter-insurgency tactics by the US military. They were all reading that stupid, racist tract, Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind, which says you can control Arabs by humiliating them. What Patai didn't tell them is that yes, you can for a short while, but then in order to recover his self-respect, the humiliated Arab has to spend the rest of his life trying to kill you, and so do his 5 brothers and 25 cousins.
There are probably also at least a couple million Shiite mem who support guerrilla action to get the multinational forces out of their country.
He brandished a copy of Noam Chomsky’s “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance” and recommended it to members of the General Assembly to read. Later, he told a news conference that one of his greatest regrets was not getting to meet Mr. Chomsky before he died. (Mr. Chomsky, 77, is still alive.)
AMY DAVIDSON: Sy, in your first article after 9/11-just a few weeks after-you quoted a senior C.I.A. official who, you wrote," confirmed that the intelligence community had not yet developed a significant amount of solid information about the terrorists' organization, financing, and planning." He said,"One day, we'll know, but at the moment we don't know." Has that day arrived?
SEYMOUR M. HERSH: No, not in my view. He also said at the time that there was a debate about whether the attacks were a long-planned, deep-cell operation, and we were going to be looking at cell operations like this throughout the country-major embedded groups of Al Qaeda, what you will. The other possibility was that the nineteen hijackers were the equivalent of a pickup basketball team that made it to the Final Four. His guess was the latter. I think that's true. I think the nineteen guys, however skilled, were more lucky than anything else, because of our lack of preparation. But we really know very little about how that operation worked, even now.
DAVIDSON: Why is that?
HERSH: Because the nineteen guys are dead. Despite all the arrests we've made-of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others-I'm very skeptical of the information we've got from interrogations, basically because, once people get into the interrogation process, even today, the torture is such that they invent stories to make us happy. So we've got an awful lot of bad information, along with some good. But certainly a lot of bad stuff. So we don't have a good picture of what happened.
It's too much to expect the mandarins of Middle Eastern studies, at this advanced stage of decadence, to revisit the Islamism-fascism comparison. The Middle East Studies Association is led by Juan Cole, who thinks such a" conflation" is"lazy," but who's quite capable of offering this more energetic one:"Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative society; going to Saudi Arabia is kind of like going to Amish country in the United States." (The State Department presently warns Americans who go to Saudi Arabia to stay only in hotels and compounds that"apply stringent security measures including, but not limited to, the presence of an armed guard force, inspection of all vehicles, and a hardened security perimeter to prevent unauthorized vehicles from approaching the facility." Like in Amish country.)
Before announcing recently his plan to step down before next summer, British Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to renege on an earlier statement he'd made about when he might vacate 10 Downing Street. Clearly, Blair would have preferred to stay in power longer. But despite strong economic growth during his tenure (Britain had the highest per capita growth among G-7 countries over the past decade) three things got in the way of Blair's ambitions, according to Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa: Blair was criticized for cozying up too closely to President Bush with regard to the Iraq war; he failed to reform Britain's welfare policies; and he failed to remake his party in his own image.
"Belatedly, Blair offered to introduce choice and diversity in Britain's social services," writes Vargas Llosa."He made new overtures to the moderate Muslim community. He cut defense spending. These were the signs of a desperate man clinging to power when power started to filter through his fingers like sand.
"I met Blair in 1998," Vargas Llosa continues."'You are not exactly a socialist, you are not exactly a conservative, you are not exactly a liberal,' I suggested. 'So who exactly are you, Prime Minister?' He paused and replied, 'I am a man of my time.' He seemed to be implying that the times had abolished those distinctions. They had actually messed them all up. Blair is the son of that confusion and his party has just served him notice that it wants some clarity."
The ruler of a rich and powerful empire leads his countrymen into a disastrous war on foreign soil in “The Persians,” a play Aeschylus wrote in the fifth century B.C. It seems the guy was acting on advice from bad counselors. And trying to finish some business started by papa, who ruled before him. Ring any bells?
WEEK of September 11, 2006
Five years after 9/11, the world is surprisingly peaceful. President Bush's pragmatic and bipartisan leadership has kept the United States not just strong but unexpectedly popular across the globe. The president himself is poised to enjoy big GOP wins in the midterm elections, a validation of his subtle understanding of the challenges facing the country. A new survey of historians puts him in the first tier of American presidents.
Americans don't really know, deep down in their heads, whether this president, in his post-9/11 decisions, is a great man or a catastrophe, a visionary or wholly out of his depth.
What they increasingly sense is that he's one thing or the other. And this is not a pleasant thing to sense. The stakes are so high. If you woke most Americans up at 3:00 in the morning and said,"Tell me, looking back, what would you have liked in an American president after 9/11?" most of them would answer,"I was just hoping for a good man who did moderately good things." Who caught Osama, cleaned out Afghanistan, made it proof of the possibility of change and of the price to be paid by those who choose terror as a tactic. Not this historical drama queen, this good witch or bad.
Looks as if the Sunni strategy of targetting Shias — either to instigate a war between Iran and the US or to intimidate the occupiers by their sheer savagery — has opened the doors to the Muslim version of the 30 years War.
The European 30 years War, 1618 - 1648 had its root in the ongoing Catholic/Protestant confrontation. Those got caught up in the imperial and expansionist designs of the House of Hapsburg, and religious conviction was casually used for politically advantage. It also spread because by this point in time
CatholicsSunnis and ProtestantsShias had reached a parity in terms of political power (Iran versus Saudi)The entire fiasco started in 1617, when an EmperorBush (the Holy Roman one in this case), wanted to be able to call the shots on who got to be the subsequent leader. In an era where mercenary armies(Al-Qaeda and Sadr’s) were profligate, the situation quickly grew out of control. In fact, these armies provided the new social structure in which men, women and children were all part of the ‘force.’ In other words, the war was total.
With the power of the Internet and a handful of history geeks we cracked this baby in six weeks.
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, speaker for the Iraqi parliament, is quoted by the Washington Post as saying:The United States is a federated system and it is leading the world. But this was after the Civil War,” Mashhadani said. “So must we go through a civil war in order to achieve federalism?"Now, I was personally under the impression that the United States was in fact federal from the very beginning, and actually became significantly more centralized in governance following the Civil War, but then I didn’t study at Baghdad Medical College, which is of course renowned for its American History courses.
I guess he knows a lot that I don’t.
History judges good presidents by what they do, bad ones by how long they take to undo. Although history hasn’t yet caught up with President George W. Bush, midterm elections are about to—and those are often a referendum on presidential performance. Now is therefore as good a time as any to jump to a conclusion: the question history will ask is whether Bush’s presidency was as bad as Richard Nixon’s or only as bad as Jimmy Carter’s.
WEEK of September 4, 2006
The Middle East has always been a place where illusion paves the road to disaster. In 1095, Pope Urban's religious mania launched the Crusades, the reverberations of which still echo through the region. In 1915, Winston Churchill's arrogance led to the World War I bloodbath at Gallipoli. In 2003, George Bush's hubris ignited a spiral of chaos and civil war in Iraq.
Illusions once again threaten to plunge the Middle East into catastrophe. The central hallucination this time is that the war in Lebanon was a “proxy war” with the mullahs in Tehran, what one senior Israeli commander has called “Iran's western front.” Behind this hallucination is yet another. According to William O. Beeman, a professor of anthropology and Middle East studies at Brown University, there is “a longstanding U.S. foreign policy myth that believes terrorism cannot exist without state support.”
Donald Rumsfeld demonizes war critics as “morally confused.” But it is the “moral confusion” at the heart of the Bush policy — a confusion between its important ends and insufficient means — that has hobbled us from the start. It truly, truly baffles me why a president who bet so much of his legacy on this project never gave it his best shot and tolerated so much incompetence. He summoned us to D-Day and gave us the moral equivalent of the invasion of Panama.
Finally, the NYT reefers a big piece on arid conditions in the Great Plains, which have left"farmers and ranchers with conditions that they compare to those of the Dust Bowl of the 1930's." It's the worst drought since . well, maybe 2003,"an extremely dry summer that . brought back memories of the 1930's Dust Bowl" (NYT, Sept. 5, 2003). Or maybe 2002, when"farmers shrug[ed] and wonder[ed] if a new Dust Bowl [would] soon be upon them" (NYT, May 3, 2002). Or 1998:"a dry spell that officials say shows signs of developing into the costliest and most devastating the region has seen since the Dust Bowl years" (NYT, Aug. 12, 1998). Or 1996:"Coming after two years of low rainfall and a number of other weather problems, the ferocity of this year's drought has slowly begun to evoke memories for some here of the Depression-era Dust Bowl" (NYT, May 20, 1996). Or 1988:"Since the spring's dry weather evolved into the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, the farm policy has been turned upside down" (NYT, July 10, 1988). Or 1982:"And when the winds come, turning the sky dark with dust and burying fence rows under shifting dunes of soil and thistle, those who are old enough remember the bleak days of the Dust Bowl." (NYT, May 14, 1982). Or 1980:"Is the nation in for a new Dust Bowl or at least a succession of scorching summers?" (NYT, July 17, 1980).
You see, if a rationale could be found at all for using cluster bombs, it would be against a massed, invading enemy infantry corps. But just to scatter them all around a civilian area as a cease fire is imminent is not a legitimate military action. It is a monstrous crime. It is a surefire death sentence on hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent children, who will find the bomblets and think they are playthings. The government of Ehud Olmert committed this crime as part of its cynical attempt to ethnically cleanse the far south of Lebanon of its Shiite inhabitants. It was a way of discouraging them from returning, just as was the massive demolition of thousands of houses, with bulldozers and aerial bombing, which had no military value whatsoever.
The American people are complicit in these war crimes, insofar as they provided the cluster bombs and supported Olmert to the hilt in his dirty war, which was only occasionally about actually combating Hizbullah fighters (there weren't any, in a lot of the places that were bombed).
WEEK of August 21, 2006
Yesterday The New York Times reported that the Internal Revenue Service would outsource collection of unpaid back taxes to private debt collectors, who would receive a share of the proceeds.
It’s an awful idea. Privatizing tax collection will cost far more than hiring additional I.R.S. agents, raise less revenue and pose obvious risks of abuse. But what’s really amazing is the extent to which this plan is a retreat from modern principles of government. I used to say that conservatives want to take us back to the 1920’s, but the Bush administration seemingly wants to go back to the 16th century.
And privatized tax collection is only part of the great march backward.
In the bad old days, government was a haphazard affair. There was no bureaucracy to collect taxes, so the king subcontracted the job to private “tax farmers,” who often engaged in extortion. There was no regular army, so the king hired mercenaries, who tended to wander off and pillage the nearest village. There was no regular system of administration, so the king assigned the task to favored courtiers, who tended to be corrupt, incompetent or both.
Modern governments solved these problems by creating a professional revenue department to collect taxes, a professional officer corps to enforce military discipline, and a professional civil service. But President Bush apparently doesn’t like these innovations, preferring to govern as if he were King Louis XII.
White guilt in the West -- especially in Europe and on the American left -- [sees] ... Islamic extremism as a response to oppression. The West is so terrified of being charged with its old sins of racism, imperialism and colonialism that it makes oppression an automatic prism on the non-Western world, a politeness. But Islamic extremists don't hate the West because they are oppressed by it. They hate it precisely because the end of oppression and colonialism -- not their continuance -- forced the Muslim world to compete with the West. Less oppression, not more, opened this world to the sense of defeat that turned into extremism.
The controversy about Yasukuni should not mystify Americans. With their comparatively minor but still acrimonious arguments about displays of Confederate flags, Americans know how contentious the politics of national memory can be, and they understand the problem of honoring war dead without necessarily honoring the cause for which they died.
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Lorraine Paul - 1/21/2006
I'd feel better if it was ensured that they weren't "trigger-happy"!
Lorraine Paul - 1/21/2006
You certainly don't deserve a government led by a man who has spent most of his life posing in front of a mirror admiring/checking his body!
I ask you!!!
Lorraine Paul - 1/21/2006
Oh! my goodness! Do you honestly believe that bombing one of the poorest, and least likely to invade the US, countries in the world - Afghanistan is protecting your "children or country"?
Firstly, do their plans for invading include a stunningly clever method of swimming the camels over to the American continent? Then again perhaps they will begin their invasion through Alaska! We all know that Hannibal crossed the alps with elephants but really...
Mistakes in combat have occurred, however, it usually occurred in a scenario of soldier versus soldier - not missile versus civilian!
Lorraine Paul - 1/21/2006
Was it Bush Snr or Reagan who vomited on the Japanese Prime Minister?
Lorraine Margaret Paul - 10/17/2005
No, Junior just spat it all over the world!
John Haas - 7/24/2005
I do know that felony convictions (not indictments) for the Reagan Admin was 30 senior White House staffers and/or Cabinet Secretaries.
For Clinton, it was zero, at least for felony convictions. Ag Secretary Mike Espy was indicted on 30 charges of granting favors for gifts. He refused to accept a plea bargain, went to trial, where the Independent Counsel Smaltz put up more than 70 witnesses, spent over $17 million. Defense put on no witnesses, just rested saying the prosecution hadn't proved its case. Jury was out less than 10 hours and Espy was found not guilty on every charge. One of the prosecutor's star witnesses said, on the stand, "God knows, if I had $30 million, I could find dirt on you, sir.", and one of the jury later said "This was the weakest, most bogus thing I ever saw. I can't believe Mr. Smaltz ever brought this to trial."
Henry Cisneros (HUD Secretary) was charged with 18 counts of conspiracy, obstruction and lying under oath. His crime? On his FBI background check for the job he lied about how much money he was paying his ex-mistress for herself and for child support (the affair and out-of-wedlock child were public knowledge and no secret to anyone). He negotiated a plea bargain of one count of misdemeanor lying under oath to the FBI, and paid a $10,000 fine in 1999. Curiously, the Independent Counsel on this one continues to this day! As of May 2005, he has spent $21 million of taxpayer dollars, at least half of it AFTER Cisneros was finished with the case. Senator Dorgan (D-ND) proposed a bill cutting off funding, but Senate GOP refused to move the bill forward.
So, short answer for two of the 3 Presidents:
Cassandra M S - 1/5/2005
Bush may have gone to Harvord, but he has very bad people skills.
Judith Ronat - 10/4/2003
“Air Force pilots who fly missions that could be ordered to down a hijacked jet are specially certified and trained, and they undergo psychological evaluations to ensure they are not "trigger hesitant" at the moment of decision.” from Pilots Practice How to Down Hijacked Jets By ERIC SCHMITT Published: October 3, 2003 NY Times
Anita Wills - 8/8/2003
My current home is in Northern California, where I came during the 60's following, the Hippies, Panthers, and several other liberal movements. It was all about being free, Flower Children, black power, and brown power. We also had the Grey Panthers, so that everyone was included.
Actually, I have no words for the political climate in California, or in America. After all the President was chosen by the Supreme Court, and not by voters. Now the duly elected Governor of California is being recalled by the losers of the election. I am somewhat ambivilant about whether he stays are goes, as his performs has been poor (IMHOM), and his special interests have brought California to it's knees. Having stated the obvious, he was elected over Bill Simon, and that is the litmus test for our Democracy.
It is now like a P.T. Barnum show here, in which a circus tent of Clowns has been set up. There is an actor here, a convicted thief there, and all sorts of folks inbetween. They are running for office, and performing all kinds of stunts to get attention. The media is all over the place, trying to record every sorry moment.
As a citizen, I am embarrassed, and not just for California, for our country. I am also concerned about where we are going from here. We have no guidelines, and no precedent, in fact we are the precedent.
michael feldman - 1/11/2003
I too would like to see a comparison of indictments and convictions by administration. Has the above post provided any results in this search?
Irene Stuber - 4/30/2002
I have yet to see a comparison of the number of indictments, the convictions of high administration officials in the Reagan, BushI, and Clinton administrations.
Also, a summation of the pardons of the three administrations - although this may be more complex. One group would be administration officials pardoned by the sitting president (Bush I's Christmas pardons comes to mind).
Another group could be the CONVICTED felons who did NOT serve their time such as Orlando, again BushI.
Debbie Lingle - 4/18/2002
Yes, his ratings are high--but many polls on September 10 show him barely holding at 50%. He has these approval ratings because of the patriotic feeling in the country and the anger and fear at these attacks. I don't believe that he has done one thing to deserve or earn these ratings. I also believe that he will lose in 2004 because people will come to their senses and realize we need a President with a double-digit I.Q.
I don't approve of Clinton's behavior--but he knew that Mexican is not a language, Africa is not a country, and Japan has not always been our buddy.
Ken Donaldson - 4/11/2002
No, that is not what it means. He, and you, are simply voicing your own opinions, which you are entitled to do. However, I, and many, many others ARE NOT disappointed in President Bush. Check the public opinion polls and tell me when any president had ratings as high and for as long as Bush. Now think of where we would be and what we would have done if say oh, someone like Al Gore or "Slick Willy Clinton was the president during these turbulent times. Of course Bush is not perfect, he is, after all, human! Jimmy Carter doesn't have a lot of room to talk about other presidents. He wasn't perfect either. (But I can forgive him because he is, after all human.)
Ann Jefferson - 3/27/2002
Does the posting of this quote from Carter on the new representative of the Bush dynasty mean that there is someone out there who can read and write who is NOT disappointed in everything he's done so far?
Billc - 3/27/2002
"And your point is?" While trite, this modern day comeback precisely asks a question I desire more information on. Does Bush desire to use missles, and I assume that includes any other type of direct military force, in political disputes? He says no. Is that not correct? Do you classify the current American actions in Afghanistan as a mere "political dispute"? If your definition of the incursion into Afghanistan is as a "political dispute", then Bush is certainly guilty of outright deceit. However, I am sure you will agree there is a very slim chance of finding solid support for this view. Our actions in Afghanistan, I firmly believe, are far from political.
The second point is that Bush would not desire to use missles against humanity. Who would, except for the very type of people our coalition is attempting to track down in Afghanistan. Does this lesson the grief all must share over so-called "collateral damage"? No, it does not. Mistakes in combat have been with us as a race since the start of time. People, innocent and not so innocent, will die in combat missions. This immutable fact simply does not negate our duty to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our country.
If all of this sounds a bit too "cheerleaderish" (to coin yet another word), please, I am no fan of war, strongly opposed our actions in Viet Nam, and have grave questions involving our policy of unlimited oil usage and actions in the middle-east. I will grieve for the innocent in Afhanistan, just as enlightened members of my parents generation grieved for dead German and Japanese innocents. I will not, however, allow this grief to become a death warrant for my children or country.
Pierre Troublion - 3/25/2002
At least Junior did not spit his lunch all over the President or Cabinet Minister or whatever he is.
J. Wong - 3/3/2002
I remember someone has started a Qualye's Quarterly back when Dan Qualyle was vice president because he was doing a fine job keeping Americans and the world laughing. Perhaps a Bush's Babbles is in order?
I missed his quote in Japan. But in an address at an Alaskan airbase (I think), he repeated the famous quote: "Either you are with us or you are again us." Then he thoughtfully asked, "Are you for democracy or tyranny?"
Laura Keal - 2/27/2002
Bush feels that in Asia, weapons should not be used to resolve political disputes. He also believes that missiles should not be used against humanity. I wonder, has he seen the recent "collateral damage" reports from Afghanistan?
Jenny Thompson - 2/26/2002
He's just living up to his Daddy's example. I remember George H. W., in a speech to a veteran's organization--sorry, I can't remember if it was the VFW or the American Legion--citing that never-to-be-forgotten date, September 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was bombed ...
At least the elder Bush remembered the event at all. In his son's administration, it's disappeared from history altogether.
m.w. ainge - 2/23/2002
I was listening live on NHK in Tokyo to Bush's address to the Diet last week. I was stunned at his salutation, which I understood to be, "Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, and Prime Ministers..." The shrewd subtitlist rendered this in Japanese as "Mr. Speaker, Mr. Prime Minister, and Cabinet Ministers"; however, the English original displayed appalling ignorance of the basic structure of the Japanese political system. There is no president here, and only one prime minister, Mr. Bush!