Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
Here's what General George Casey actually said:
"If the political process continues to go positively and if the development of the security forces continues to go as it is going, I do believe that we will be able to make some pretty substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer of next year."
The draw-down of US troops in Iraq is here made conditional on two premises. One is that the "political process" goes "positively." If by that is meant that the Sunni Arab notables now fighting an unconventional civil war against the Shiite Arabs and the Kurds are drawn into the new government, that hasn't happened on any significant scale and there is no early prospect of it happening.
As for the training of Iraqi troops to take up security duties, that isn't going well even now. There are only about 3,000 Iraqi troops ready to actually fight, and I don't know how you get enough to actually provide security in only a year. Five years would be the minimum, if it can be done at all.
Since Casey's two conditions can't be met, his statement only gives the appearance of optimism on this score, with none of the substance.
It is forgotten that Paul Wolfowitz told Congress that the US would be down to only a division (~20,000 men) in October of 2003. Then it is forgotten that the Pentagon announced a draw-down from 135,000 to 110,000 in spring of 2004 (just before the Bush administration decided in its wisdom to "kill or capture" Muqtada al-Sadr). That draw-down didn't happen. Why? The security situation didn't allow it.
So the fact is that Rumsfeld and Casey have no idea if the situation will permit the US to withdraw substantial numbers of troops by next summer.
The plan to go down to 90,000 or so in 12 months would depend in part on stationing them on four military bases in Anbar, Salahuddin, Baghdad, and Ninevah provinces (i.e. where the Sunni Arab guerrillas are). They would be withdrawn from most cities, leaving Iraqi police and troops to patrol them. But we all remember what happened after the first Fallujah campaign, when the Baath officers were allowed to come back and try to restore order. The resulting "order" looked like Qandahar under the Taliban.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat / AFP report that Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie suggests that US troops can be withdrawn from 10 important Iraqi cities between now and December, and perhaps from some quarters of Baghdad itself. I suspect it is a priority to get foreign troops out of Najaf and Karbala, which you would imagine a Shiite government could police effectively. But what other 10 cities wouldn't just become guerrilla strongholds with the US gone? Samarra? Mosul? Ramadi? Tel Afar?
The same source indicates that Rumsfeld is seeking a formal Status of Forces agreement with the interim government, which might allow a long-term US military presence in the country. But I suspect that the moment the Iraqis feel they can stand on their own feet militarily, they will summarily toss the US troops out. A good fifth of parliamentarians want them gone yesterday as it is. SOFAs are only as good as the contemporary bilateral relations between two countries. Look at the Philippines.
Some readers have suggested to me that the Bush administration might just bring tens of thousands of our boys and girls home to create a positive atmosphere for Republicans in the 2006 congressional and senatorial elections. While Karl Rove is clearly not exactly above playing politics with the US military, such a strategy could easily backfire. What if he has the Pentagon go down to 66,000, and then the guerrilla war heats up big time and guerrillas manage to score a big attack on the less numerous contingent left behind? What if they pull off a spectacular assassination that throws the country into turmoil? You'd have to put the troops right back in. And as a campaign tactic, I doubt it would work very well to risk chaos. People like the ruling party not to look like clueless incompetents getting things blown up.
Mind you, I'm all for withdrawing US troops from Iraq as soon as humanly possible. I think they have the wrong rules of engagement and the wrong tactics for waging counter-insurgency in a clannish society like Iraq, and it is a toss-up whether they are keeping some peace or making things worse. (Fallujah last November demonstrably made things much worse). But I think you need some sort of realistic bridge from that withdrawal to the time when the new Iraqi army can stand on its own. I don't know where you get that bridge, but nature abhors a vacuum. If the US is gone and the Shiite Iraqis are under siege from Sunni guerrillas, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will certainly come in to help the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa Party. Even a covert Iranian military presence in Iraq would provoke even more Sunni jihadis to go fight there. A regional war could easily break out, with dire consequences for us all.
You wonder if those rightwing radio talk show hosts who went to Iraq to get the good news visited the Baghdad morgue? "Before the war we used to get maybe 250 bodies a month. Now it is 800 or 900 a month from the Baghdad area alone . . . The situation has worsened dramatically. We cannot cope." And those 800 are only the ones that come in for an autopsy. Where the cause of death is clear, as in a car bombing, they just bury the body. Reuters estimates that suspicious deaths in Iraq are 230 per 100,000, whereas in Colombia at the height of its violence it was 90 per 100,000.
Posted on: Friday, July 29, 2005 - 20:32
Eliot Cohen, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7-24-05):
[Eliot A. Cohen is Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.]
War forces us, or should force us, to ask hard questions of ourselves. As a military historian, a commentator on current events and the father of a young Army officer, these are mine.
You supported the Iraq war when it was launched in 2003. If you had known then what you know now, would you still have been in favor of it?
As I watched President Bush speak at Fort Bragg recently to rally support for the war, I contemplated this question from a different vantage than my usual professorial perch. Before long my oldest son will fight in the war that I advocated, and that the president was defending.
So it is not an academic matter when I say that what I took to be the basic rationale for the war still strikes me as sound. Iraq was a policy problem that we could evade in words but not escape in reality. But what I did not know then that I do know now is just how incompetent we would be at carrying out that task. And that's what prevents me from answering this question with an unhesitating yes....
You are a military historian; what does the history of war have to tell us about the future of Iraq?
History provides perspective and context, not lessons. The failures and squandered opportunities of that first year in Iraq do not look that different from some of the institutional stupidities we saw in Vietnam. What is different is how quickly the United States changed its course. It took five years before we became serious about training our Vietnamese allies to take our place. It has taken about a year to get serious about training Iraqis.
The political side of insurgency, which is the side that counts most, never really came to the fore in Vietnam, but it has in Iraq. For the presidents who got us into Vietnam, and for that matter out of it, the war was a distraction from other, more important priorities. For this president, the war is the defining decision of his tenure. Whatever his faults may be, a lack of determination is not one of them. And in war, persistence counts for a very great deal.
That's particularly true here because counterinsurgency is inherently a long, long business. Most insurgencies do, however, fail. Moreover, most insurgencies consist of a collection of guerrilla microclimates in which local conditions -- charismatic leaders (or their absence), ethnographic peculiarities, concrete grievances -- determine the amount and effectiveness of the violence.
This is an unusually invertebrate insurgency, without a central organization or ideology, a coherent set of objectives or a common positive purpose. The FLN in Algeria or the Viet Cong were far more cohesive and directed. This makes the insurgency harder to figure out, but also less likely to succeed.
And with all its errors, the United States remains an extraordinarily wealthy and formidable foe. That fact may invite hubris, but it also provides solace.
None of this predetermines the outcome, of course, or foretells the consequences of a muddled success or a blurred failure in Iraq. Historians have the comfort of knowing how past wars played out in the end.
Unfortunately, that philosophical detachment is cold consolation in the here and now, as young men and women go off to war....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 16:20
What do Islamist terrorists want? The answer should be obvious, but it is not.
A generation ago, terrorists did make clear their wishes. Upon hijacking three airliners in September 1970, for example, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine demanded, with success, the release of Arab terrorists imprisoned in Britain, Switzerland, and West Germany. Upon attacking the B'nai B'rith headquarters and two other Washington, D.C. buildings in 1977, a Hanafi Muslim group demanded the canceling of a feature movie, Mohammad, Messenger of God," $750 (as reimbursement for a fine), the turning over of the five men who had massacred the Hanafi leader's family, plus the killer of Malcolm X.
Such"non-negotiable demands" led to wrenching hostage dramas and attendant policy dilemmas."We will never negotiate with terrorists," the policymakers declared"Give them Hawaii but get my husband back," pleaded the hostages' wives.
Those days are so remote and their terminology so forgotten that even President Bush now speaks of"non-negotiable demands" (in his case, concerning human dignity), forgetting the deadly origins of this phrase.
Most anti-Western terrorist attacks these days are perpetrated without demands being enunciated. Bombs go off, planes get hijacked and crashed into buildings, hotels collapse. The dead are counted. Detectives trace back the perpetrators' identities. Shadowy websites make post-hoc unauthenticated claims.
But the reasons for the violence go unexplained. Analysts, including myself, are left speculating about motives. These can relate to terrorists' personal grievances based in poverty, prejudice, or cultural alienation. Alternately, an intention to change international policy can be seen as a motive: pulling"a Madrid" and getting governments to withdraw their troops from Iraq; convincing Americans to leave Saudi Arabia; ending American support for Israel; pressuring New Delhi to cede control of all Kashmir.
Any of these motives could have contributed to the violence; as London's Daily Telegraph puts it, problems in Iraq and Afghanistan each added"a new pebble to the mountain of grievances that militant fanatics have erected." Yet neither is decisive to giving up one's life for the sake of killing others.
In nearly all cases, the jihadi terrorists have a patently self-evident ambition: to establish a world dominated by Muslims, Islam, and Islamic law, the Shari'a. Or, again to cite the Daily Telegraph, their"real project is the extension of the Islamic territory across the globe, and the establishment of a worldwide ‘caliphate' founded on Shari'a law."
Terrorists openly declare this goal. The Islamists who assassinated Anwar el-Sadat in 1981 decorated their holding cages with banners proclaiming the" caliphate or death." A biography of one of the most influential Islamist thinkers of recent times and an influence on Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam declares that his life"revolved around a single goal, namely the establishment of Allah's Rule on earth" and restoring the caliphate.
Bin Laden himself spoke of ensuring that"the pious caliphate will start from Afghanistan." His chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also dreamed of re-establishing the caliphate, for then, he wrote,"history would make a new turn, God willing, in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and the world's Jewish government." Another Al-Qaeda leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, publishes a magazine that has declared"Due to the blessings of jihad, America's countdown has begun. It will declare defeat soon," to be followed by the creation of a caliphate.
Or, as Mohammed Bouyeri wrote in the note he attached to the corpse of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker he had just assassinated,"Islam will be victorious through the blood of martyrs who spread its light in every dark corner of this earth."
Interestingly, van Gogh's murderer was frustrated by the mistaken motives attributed to him, insisting at his trial:"I did what I did purely out of my beliefs. I want you to know that I acted out of conviction and not that I took his life because he was Dutch or because I was Moroccan and felt insulted."
Although terrorists state their jihadi motives loudly and clearly, Westerners and Muslims alike too often fail to hear them. Islamic organizations, Canadian author Irshad Manji observes, pretend that"Islam is an innocent bystander in today's terrorism."
What the terrorists want is abundantly clear. It requires monumental denial not to acknowledge it, but we Westerners have risen to the challenge.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 14:34
[David M. Kennedy, a professor of history at Stanford and the author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning "Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945," is working on a book about the American national character.]
THE United States now has a mercenary army. To be sure, our soldiers are hired from within the citizenry, unlike the hated Hessians whom George III recruited to fight against the American Revolutionaries. But like those Hessians, today's volunteers sign up for some mighty dangerous work largely for wages and benefits - a compensation package that may not always be commensurate with the dangers in store, as current recruiting problems testify.
Neither the idealism nor the patriotism of those who serve is in question here. The profession of arms is a noble calling, and there is no shame in wage labor. But the fact remains that the United States today has a military force that is extraordinarily lean and lethal, even while it is increasingly separated from the civil society on whose behalf it fights. This is worrisome - for reasons that go well beyond unmet recruiting targets.
One troubling aspect is obvious. By some reckonings, the Pentagon's budget is greater than the military expenditures of all other nations combined. It buys an arsenal of precision weapons for highly trained troops who can lay down a coercive footprint in the world larger and more intimidating than anything history has known. Our leaders tell us that our armed forces seek only just goals, and at the end of the day will be understood as exerting a benign influence. Yet that perspective may not come so easily to those on the receiving end of that supposedly beneficent violence.
But the modern military's disjunction from American society is even more disturbing. Since the time of the ancient Greeks through the American Revolutionary War and well into the 20th century, the obligation to bear arms and the privileges of citizenship have been intimately linked. It was for the sake of that link between service and a full place in society that the founders were so invested in militias and so worried about standing armies, which Samuel Adams warned were "always dangerous to the liberties of the people."
Many African-Americans understood that link in the Civil War, and again in World Wars I and II, when they clamored for combat roles, which they saw as stepping stones to equal rights. From Aristotle's Athens to Machiavelli's Florence to Thomas Jefferson's Virginia and Robert Gould Shaw's Boston and beyond, the tradition of the citizen-soldier has served the indispensable purposes of sustaining civic engagement, protecting individual liberty - and guaranteeing political accountability.
That tradition has now been all but abandoned. A comparison with a prior generation's war illuminates the point. In World War II, the United States put some 16 million men and women into uniform. What's more, it mobilized the economic, social and psychological resources of the society down to the last factory, rail car, classroom and victory garden. World War II was a "total war." Waging it compelled the participation of all citizens and an enormous commitment of society's energies.
But thanks to something that policymakers and academic experts grandly call the "revolution in military affairs," which has wedded the newest electronic and information technologies to the destructive purposes of the second-oldest profession, we now have an active-duty military establishment that is, proportionate to population, about 4 percent of the size of the force that won World War II. And today's military budget is about 4 percent of gross domestic product, as opposed to nearly 40 percent during World War II.
The implications are deeply unsettling: history's most potent military force can now be put into the field by a society that scarcely breaks a sweat when it does so. ...
Posted on: Monday, July 25, 2005 - 19:31
Estimating how many potential terrorists reside in one's country is a highly inexact business, but there's a striking correlation between a British government report recently leaked to London's Times and a new opinion survey commissioned by the Daily Telegraph.
Drawing on unidentified"intelligence," the government report (analyzed by me at"The Next London Bombing") finds as many as 16,000"British Muslims actively engaged in terrorist activity."
Then, using standard survey research methods, the reputable YouGov polling firm interviewed 526 Muslim adults across Great Britain online during July 15-22, weighing the data to reflect the British Muslim population's age, gender, and countries of origin. The survey found that 1 percent of them, or"about 16,000 individuals, declare themselves willing, possibly even eager, to embrace violence" in the effort to bring an end to"decadent and immoral" Western society.
Should their ranks really be so thick, such a huge number of potential terrorists could cause an unprecedented security crisis for Britain, with all the attendant economic, social, political, and cultural ramifications one can imagine.
The YouGov survey contains many other statistics that should interest, if not shock, Britons and other Westerners.
- Muslims who see the 7/7 bombing attacks in London as justified on balance: 6 percent.
- Who feel sympathy for the"feelings and motives" of those who carried out the 7/7 attacks: 24 percent.
- Understand"why some people behave in that way": 56 percent.
- Disagree with Tony Blair's description of the ideology of the London bombers as"perverted and poisonous": 26 percent.
- Feel not loyal towards Britain: 16 percent.
- Agree that"Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end": 32 percent willing to use non-violent means and (as noted above) 1 percent willing to use violence"if necessary." Just 56 percent of Muslims agree with the statement that"Western society may not be perfect but Muslims should live with it and not seek to bring it to an end."
- Agree that"British political leaders don't mean it when they talk about equality. They regard the lives of white British people as more valuable than the lives of British Muslims": 52 percent.
- Dismiss political party leaders as insincere when saying"they respect Islam and want to co-operate with Britain's Muslim communities": 50 percent.
- Doubt that anyone charged with and tried for the 7/7 attacks would receive a fair trial: 44 percent.
- Would not inform on a Muslim religious leader"trying to 'radicalise' young Muslims by preaching hatred against the West": 10 percent.
- Do not think people have a duty to go to the police if they"see something in the community that makes them feel suspicious": 14 percent.
- Believe other Muslims would be reluctant to go to the police"about anything they see that makes them suspicious": 41 percent.
- Would inform the police if they believed they knew about the possible planning of a terrorist attack: 73 percent. (In this case, the Daily Telegraph did not make available the negative percentage.)
Another opinion poll, this one commissioned by Sky News and carried out by Communicate Research (which interviewed 462 UK-based Muslims by telephone) found similar results:
- Muslims who agree with what the London suicide bombers did: 2 percent.
- Who believe there is a Koranic justification for the bombings: 5 percent.
- Disagree with the statement that"Muslim clerics who preach violence against the West are out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion": 46 percent.
- Think of themselves as Muslim first and British second: 46 percent. Another 42 percent do not differentiate between the identities. A mere 12 percent see themselves as British first and Muslim second.
Comments: (1) It is hard to say which is the most alarming of these many worrisome statistics, but two stand out. That less than three-quarters of Muslims in Britain indicate they would tell the police about an impending terrorist attack raises grave doubts about the Blair government's tactic of getting Muslims to police their own community. That one-third of Muslims do not accept British society and want to end it, presumably to pave the way for an Islamic order, casts comparable doubts on Britain's much-vaunted multicultural ideal.
(2) Even the Telegraph's interpreter of its survey, Professor Anthony King of Essex University, feels compelled to sugar the results, calling them"at once reassuring and disturbing, in some ways even alarming," whatever that means. In several specific instances, he turns hair-raising statistics into cheerful ones (that 73 percent would warn of an impending terrorist attack he deems"impressive"). The newspaper's and the professor's panglossian attitude makes one wonder what might wake the British to the Islamist hell growing in their midst.
Posted on: Monday, July 25, 2005 - 18:25
[Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.]
First the terrorists of the Middle East went after the Israelis. From 1967 we witnessed 40 years of bombers, child murdering, airline hijacking, suicide murdering, and gratuitous shooting. We in the West usually cried crocodile tears, and then came up with all sorts of reasons to allow such Middle Eastern killers a pass.
Yasser Arafat, replete with holster and rants at the U.N., had become a “moderate” and was thus free to steal millions of his good-behavior money. If Hamas got European cash, it would become reasonable, ostracize its “military wing,” and cease its lynching and vigilantism.
When some tried to explain that Wars 1-3 (1947, 1956, 1967) had nothing to do with the West Bank, such bothersome details fell on deaf ears. ...
The security fence became “The Wall,” and evoked slurs that it was analogous to barriers in Korea or Berlin that more often kept people in than out. Few wondered why Arabs who wished to destroy Israel would mind not being able to live or visit Israel.
In any case, anti-Semitism, oil, fear of terrorism — all that and more fooled us into believing that Israel’s problems were confined to Israel. So we ended up with a utopian Europe favoring a pre-modern, terrorist-run, Palestinian thugocracy over the liberal democracy in Israel. The Jews, it was thought, stirred up a hornet’s nest, and so let them get stung on their own.
We in the United States preened that we were the “honest broker.” After the Camp David accords we tried to be an intermediary to both sides, ignoring that one party had created a liberal and democratic society, while the other remained under the thrall of a tribal gang.
Billions of dollars poured into frontline states like Jordan and Egypt. Arafat himself got tens of millions, though none of it ever seemed to show up in good housing, roads, or power plants for his people. The terror continued, enhanced rather than arrested, by Western largess and Israeli concessions.
Then the Islamists declared war on the United States. A quarter century of mass murdering of Americans followed in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, the first effort to topple the World Trade Center, and the attack on the USS Cole.
We gave billions to Jordan, the Palestinians, and the Egyptians. Afghanistan was saved from the Soviets through U.S. aid. Kuwait was restored after Saddam’s annexation, and the holocaust of Bosnians and Kosovars halted by the American Air Force. Americans welcomed thousands of Arabs to our shores and allowed hundreds of madrassas and mosques to preach zealotry, anti-Semitism, and jihad without much scrutiny.
Then came September 11 and the almost instant canonization of bin Laden.
Suddenly, the prior cheap shots at Israel under siege weren’t so cheap. It proved easy to castigate Israelis who went into Jenin, but not so when we needed to do the same in Fallujah.
It was easy to slander the Israelis’ scrutiny of Arabs in their midst, but then suddenly a few residents in our own country were found to be engaging in bomb making, taking up jihadist pilgrimages to Afghanistan, and mapping out terrorist operations.
Apparently, the hatred of radical Islam was not just predicated on the “occupation” of the West Bank. Instead it involved the pretexts of Americans protecting Saudi Arabia from another Iraqi attack, the United Nations boycott of Iraq, the removal of the Taliban and Saddam, and always as well as the Crusades and the Reconquista.
But Europe was supposedly different. Unlike the United States, it was correct on the Middle East, and disarmed after the Cold War. Indeed, the European Union was pacifistic, socialist, and guilt-ridden about former colonialism.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were left alone in unassimilated European ghettoes and allowed to preach or promulgate any particular hatred of the day they wished. Conspire to kill a Salmon Rushdie, talk of liquidating the “apes and pigs,” distribute Mein Kampf and the Protocols, or plot in the cities of France and Germany to blow up the Pentagon and the World Trade Center — all that was about things “over there” and in a strange way was thought to ensure that Europe got a pass at home.
But the trump card was always triangulation against the United States. Most recently anti-Americanism was good street theater in Rome, Paris, London, and the capitals of the “good” West.
But then came Madrid — and the disturbing fact that after the shameful appeasement of its withdrawal from Iraq, further plots were hatched against Spanish justices and passenger trains.
Surely a Holland would be exempt — Holland of wide-open Amsterdam fame where anything goes and Muslim radicals could hate in peace. Then came the butchering of Theo Van Gogh and the death threats against parliamentarian Hirsi Ali — and always defiance and promises of more to come rather than apologies for their hatred.
Yet was not Britain different? After all, its capital was dubbed Londonistan for its hospitality to Muslims across the globe. Radical imams openly preached jihad against the United States to their flock as thanks for being given generous welfare subsidies from her majesty’s government. But it was the United States, not liberal Britain, that evoked such understandable hatred.
But now? ...
Posted on: Friday, July 22, 2005 - 20:21
Rick Perlsten talks about his new book, The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo: How the Democrats Can Once Again Become America's Dominant Political Party, with Christopher Hayes; in In These Times (7-21-05):
You have this analogy between Boeing's multi-generational devotion to building the first jumbo jet and the Democratic Party's multi-generational commitment to insuring economic security. How have successive generations of Democrats built on the same project?
Take something like federal aid to education. That was an idea Democrats had ever since the New Deal. It never succeeded for various political reasons, but they just kept at it and by 1965 Lyndon Johnson finally passed the thing. By that time, everyone knew what the Democrats were about: They were the party that supported federal aid for education. Compare that to when the Clintons proposed their health care plan in the early '90s. He ran and won on the idea that he was going to deliver health care to all Americans, and for various complicated reasons he lost that battle. But instead of saying well, this is what the Democrats are about, we're going to stick to it despite the setback, Hillary Clinton very explicitly said: What I learned was that you have to do things in small steps and incrementally. She specifically backed off the marker that the Democrats laid down, that we are the party defined by our pledge to deliver health care to everyone.
I like this term marker. What's it mean?
It's a gambling term. A marker basically is a commitment to pay. In Guys and Dolls, Nathan Detroit would say, "that guy holds my marker." It's something you can't back out of, on pain of getting your knees broken. The marker that Republicans have is that everyone who runs for office has to sign a pledge--it's enforced by their own knee-breaker, Grover Norquist--that on pain of political death they're not going to raise taxes.
My thesis is that a commitment that doesn't waver adds value by the very fact of the commitment. The evidence is that even though the individual initiatives that make up the conservative project poll quite poorly, they've managed to succeed simply because everyone knows what the Republicans stand for. And the most profound exit poll finding in the last election had nothing to do with moral values, it was all the people who said that they disagreed with the Republicans on individual issues, but they voted for George W. Bush anyway because they knew what he stood for.
He'd given them a marker.
Exactly. The world is an uncertain and scary place and there's value just in making credible demonstrations of fortitude. Now the amazing thing about this is that it's a virtuous circle for the Democrats. Not only can we increase the devotion of an electorate that looks at Democrats as piddling and feckless, it just so happens that when you poll the public on what they want, it looks much more like the Democratic agenda than the Republican agenda.
Okay, but if our superjumbo is "Big Government," many Democrats say that plane won't fly anymore. The project is intellectually bankrupt, we need a new one. What do you say to that?
Well, first of all, I'm a historian and the only time Democrats have been able to pull together a new majority and to grow was when they laid down these markers, pledges to ordinary Americans that the government would protect their economic interests.
The other thing is, there's a story about economic history of the recent past that historians will find us strange for not speaking about more often, and that's the stagnation of incomes for ordinary Americans. What could be more contemporary? What could be more timely than programs that address that crying need? Between WWII and the '70s the real incomes of Americans doubled. People who used to have outhouses were able to afford vacation cottages. Well, that's dropped off a cliff. If it makes me an old Democrat to try and restore what the Democrats of the '40s, '50s and '60s accomplished, which was running the country, sue me. I'm an old Democrat.
The most common analysis of why Democrats have strayed from this project--as one New Deal congressman whom you quote says "Freedom Plus Groceries"--points to corporate money. Today's Dems are feeding at the same trough and they can no longer take on the insurance companies, etc. But in the latter half of the book, you provide a fascinating psychological account of why the Democrats strayed from this project, which was sort of born out of the conflict of the '60s.
Yeah. The trauma of the generation of people who are running the Democratic Party was being blindsided by the political failures of left-of-center boldness. If you look at a lot of the most resonant and stalwart centrists and Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) Democrats, for a lot of them, their political coming-of-age was being blindsided by conservatism. For Bill Clinton, it was losing the governorship in 1980. For Joe Lieberman, it was losing a congressional race in 1980. For Evan Bayh, the chair of the DLC, it was seeing his dad lose his Senate seat to Dan Quayle in 1980. But the formative traumas of my generation of Democrats--and I'm 35--have been the failures of left-of-center timidity. So there really is a structural generational battle among Democrats. People of a certain age are terrified that the electorate is going to associate them with the excesses of the '60s, but most voters are too young to remember that stuff. The Republicans keep trying to paint the Democrats as the party of the hippies and punks who burn the flag.
In fact, we just got a new flag-burning amendment.
Yeah, but there's really less juice you can squeeze out of that orange every year....
Posted on: Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 20:48
Posted on: Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 15:07
[Gavan McCormack is professor of social science at International Christian University, Tokyo, the author of Target North Korea: Pushing North Korea to the Brink and a Japan Focus coordinator. ]
On 13 June 2005, the doors of the White House Oval Office opened to admit a young (37 year-old) Korean man named Kang Chol-Hwan, a refugee from North Korea and perhaps the first person from North Korea for the president to meet. Kang was slightly overwhelmed by the warmth of his welcome, not only from President George W. Bush but also Vice-President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Just three days earlier, in the same room, Bush had hosted a visit by South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun. The welcome for Kang, the refugee, was by all accounts much warmer than that for the head of state, and at forty minutes lasted about as long.
Kang may have been virtually unknown outside Korea prior to his White House reception, but in South Korea he has become a representative of the community of Talpukja, or “those who have fled the North.” He was invited to the White House because Bush had just read his book, co-authored with Pierre Rigoulot, The Aquariums of Pyongyang-Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag (New York, Basic Books, 2001). He so much liked it that he had not only recommended it to his close advisers but told Kang he wanted “all Americans” to read it.
Appearing on Japanese television some weeks after meeting the president, Kang recounted Bush’s question: if the two were to change places, would Kang adopt as basic US policy on North Korea? Kang replied that he thought priority should be given to human rights over nuclear matters since, he said, that was what the people of North Korea most cared about. Bush, he said, responded with enthusiastic agreement. About a month after the White House visit, Kang's call for a hard-line approach to North Korea was featured in the Wall Street Journal (14 July).
It was in itself a trivial episode, but it suggested that, when the Beijing “Six-Sided” talks on North Korea begin again, as now seems likely, in the last week of July, any simple “deal” to exchange North Korean nuclear weapons for guarantees of security and diplomatic and economic normalization will be difficult to negotiate. The president’s enthusiastic welcome for Kang suggests he wants not merely to disarm North Korea but to transform it by the introduction of “democracy” and “human rights;” in short his ultimate goal, as he put it in his State of the Union address in February, is “ending tyranny in our world.”
Kang was born into a well-to-do “Korean-in-Japan” family in Kyoto headed by grandmother, a committed communist, and grandfather, a successful capitalist with some gangster connections who had grown rich in postwar Japan on running something described as a “gambling saloon,” presumably a pachinko parlor, opposite the main railway station. Despite having bartered some of that wealth into education and improved social status, the family was, nevertheless, insecure. Japanese citizens during the imperial period from 1910, Koreans had been deprived of that citizenship in the wake of the war, suddenly becoming foreigners, deprived of various rights, discriminated against.
During the 1960s North Korea looked a more attractive option to some, and a steady flow of such “Koreans in Japan” decided to “return” to it, despite the fact that the family origin for almost all was in South Korea. They “returned,” in other words, to a country they did not know, to join in construction of the North Korean “fatherland” which they imagined as a socialist paradise, free of the misery and discrimination they experienced in Japan. The Kang family packed everything, even their late model Volvo (which at that time indicated quite extraordinary wealth), and sailed for North Korea as part of this movement.
In North Korea, Chol-Hwan’s grandmother became a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly. For a time the family retained a great deal of privilege, as well as their Volvo, and lived near the embassy quarter. Chol-Hwan was born in Pyongyang around 1968. His childhood and early boyhood seem to have been happy enough and he writes warmly of his primary school teachers at “The School of the People” in the Pyongyang of the early 1970s. In 1977, however, his capitalist grandfather disappeared, apparently arrested for treason, and shortly afterwards the whole family (with the exception of his mother) was sent to the countryside. Chol-hwan was then 9 years of age. Yodok was to be his home for 10 years.
It was, says Chol-Hwan a little guiltily, “by no means the toughest camp.” Mostly, it accommodated returnees from Japan, while other camps housed “members of landowning families, capitalists, US or South Korean agents, Christians, or members of purged Party circles deemed noxious to the state,” most likely between 150,000 and 200,000 people in all.
Chol-Hwan spent his boyhood at Yodok, first in a school, though one that seemed to practice routine brutality and have few pretences to education, then in various work gangs. His energies were devoted to surviving: stealing food from the camp kitchens or fields, searching out wild berries or hunting and catching snakes, fish, frogs, or rabbits, raising rats to supplement the starvation rations. It was a hard and unrelenting life, occasionally terrifying - he says he witnessed 15 public executions - although there were also times that uplifted his boyish spirit: the encounter with a bear in the mountains, his shared feast with friends on a snake. The wondrous scenery also gave him joy. In his later years in the camp, by then a teenager, he found himself at various times the camp custodian of rabbits, bees, or sheep, and hunter for wild ginseng. His uncle became manager of the camp distillery and seems to have wielded considerable power. Eventually, inexplicably, the family was released, and after some years surviving on his wits, trading on the black market and on moneys sent him from Japan, Chol-Hwan escaped, first to China and then to South Korea.
The story is scarcely a classic but, written more than a decade after his escape, it was one of the first North Korean refugee biographies to be published in the West (first in French, then in English) and it offers a plain, grim, moving story of prison camp life through the eyes of a child and boy. Kang’s co-author, Frenchman Pierre Rigoulet, had been a contributing editor to the Black Book of Communism (first published in France in 1997), and it was perhaps his contribution to tailor Kang’s story so that North Korea is presented as one more example of the monstrous perversion of communism. Kang and Rigoulet make no attempt to locate North Korea in the context of the trauma and tragedy of Korean history, the half century of Japanese colonialism, the externally imposed division, the terrible civil war turned by external intervention into a catastrophe, and the prolonged Cold War that continues on the peninsula to this day.
In South Korea Kang has become a journalists and a severe critic of the South Korean government policy of accommodation (“Sunshine”) towards the North. Late in 2004, he was one of the organizers of an exhibition in Seoul under the title “North Korean Holocaust.” By hosting him just days after his meeting with South Korean president Roh, Bush was sending an unmistakable signal to the government in South Korea. For both Kang and Bush, the Pyongyang regime is evil, there can be no compromise with it, and “sunshine” is tantamount to appeasement.
By an odd coincidence, in the same year of publication of Kang’s book, 2001, another Korean gulag story was published, also in New York. By an even stranger coincidence it too tells the story of a Korean-in-Japan family, also from Kyoto. Its author, however, Suh Sung, endured not 10 but 19 years of horror, in South rather than North Korea, under even worse conditions including torture, before being released just a little after Chol-Hwan, in 1990 (Suh Sung, Unbroken Spirits: Nineteen Years in South Korea’s Gulag, New York, Rowman and Littlefield, 2001). Author Suh, now a professor at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, was convicted on apparently trumped-up political charges in 1971, tortured, and not released from prison till 1990. His book was written a decade later, published first in Japanese and Korean, then in English.
The Kang and Suh families in postwar Kyoto were on opposite sides of a Cold War fence that divided communities in Japan as well as internationally, Kang’s was affiliated with North Korea and Suh’s with South Korea. When Kang arrived in Seoul, which seemed to him the epitome of freedom, Suh was still in his gulag, gaining his release only after the US-supported military regime there was brought to an end by massive popular protest.
The picture presented by Suh of his long imprisonment in South Korea is almost the reverse image of Kang’s picture of North Korea. Where Kang attributed the brutality and oppression of his gulag to “communism,” Suh attributes his to anti-communism. One is blind to the gulags of the South, the other is blind to those of the North; both illuminate the horrors of daily life in their respective gulags, but tell us little of the structure in which both systems evolved.
When Kang Chol-Hwan got to Seoul around 1989 he found freedom, coca-cola - his first swallow was so wonderful that it cured his cold - and a job. South Korea had just gone through a huge transformation (1987) tantamount to a democratic revolution that brought the succession of military dictatorships to an end, yet he seems to have been unaware of it. Suh Sung was still in prison, not released till the following year. Freedom was a fresh shoot in South Korea, but for Kang, enjoying his coke, simply being non- and anti-communist meant being free.
It is unlikely that Suh’s story will find its way on to the presidential bookshelves, and doubtful anyway that President Bush would want to read much of it. Kang’s simplistic tale of good and evil, freedom and communism, much better suits his preconceptions than any complex historical insight into the Korean division. Suh’s book would be much more difficult for him to understand, not only because it tells of political prisons and immense suffering under a US-installed “Free World” regime, but also because the repression described there is now a thing of the past. With the presidential blessing, publishers will no doubt take steps to make Kang’s book available to “all Americans.”
Bush’s understanding of Korea is probably widely shared in Washington. When both houses of Congress unanimously adopted the North Korean Human Rights Law in July 2004, they were thinking along those lines. Under the banner of “human rights” and “democracy,” US propaganda against the North Korean regime is now being stepped up, radio receivers secretly infiltrated into the country, and funding substantially increased for organizations, many of them of a fundamentalist religious hue, to work with refugees, spread the gospel (creating 10,000 underground churches, as the General League of Korean Christians put it as far back as 1997), and undermine the regime.
Kang’s book focuses necessary attention on the North Korean refugee problem. There are basically two approaches to it. The one favored by Kang assumes the impossibility of human rights concerns being addressed under the existing regime and therefore calls for steps designed to maximize the flow of refugees with a view to precipitating an “East German” type regime collapse. This is essentially the view held by the prominent defector, Hwang Jang-Yop, formerly right-hand man of Kim Il Sung and architect of the North Korean “Juche” ideology, who defected to South Korea in 1997 and was welcomed in Washington in 2003 (though not by the White House), and it is the basic view underpinning the Human Rights Law.
For most of those who live in the surrounding region, however, especially the governments in Seoul, Beijing, and Moscow, such a collapse offers the nightmare prospect of millions fleeing on foot or by boat from a disaster zone or becoming dependent on international relief organizations as the economy and society spirals into chaos and die-hard North Korean military groups engage in violent resistance, with or without nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.
The alternative is to strive to “normalize” North Korea, negotiating to address its security concerns and persuade it to renounce its nuclear ambitions in exchange for diplomatic, political and economic recognition and assistance packages aimed at integrating it within a booming Northeast Asian region. The refugee problem is large, but not of massive proportions: about 6,000 Talpukja in South Korea (where they have proved extremely difficult to assimilate and most live precariously on welfare), and somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 in China, especially Northeast China which is just a river crossing away, where they are treated as illegal immigrants, extremely insecure and liable to arrest and repatriation. Most of these have fled from severe economic conditions, especially famine, that have prevailed in certain parts of the country for a decade, and only a small proportion for political rather than economic reasons (two out of a sample of 63 in a 2004 study by Refugee International).
The North Korean economic collapse of the 1990s occurred for a complex of political, economic and ecological conditions, for only some of which the regime could be held directly responsible, and despite the severe sanctions under which the country still labors the reforms adopted in the last few years seem to have arrested the decline. Most observers believe the transition to market mechanisms is now probably irreversible, although a real revival of the country is impossible so long as sanctions, isolation, and military confrontation with the US, persist.
The preferred solution in this view is precisely the opposite of the Kang, Bush, and Congressional view. It is to depoliticize the humanitarian crisis, to persuade the Chinese government to guarantee the rights of refugees, including by the grant of provisional residence status, and North Korea to guarantee non-punishment of those who wish to return (along the lines of the “Orderly Repatriation Program” under which 72,000 refugees returned to Vietnam between 1990 and 1995), within the frame of a comprehensive settlement of the many North Korea-related problems on the table of the Beijing Conference. [This discussion benefits from reading an unpublished paper by Chung Byung-ho of Hanyang University.] South Korea would, in this view, play the key role, and the aim would be a “soft landing” for North Korea. Reconstruction of the country through the ending of sanctions against it and its admission to international financial and economic cooperation institutions would open the way, first, to solving the basic problem of physical survival, and then those of political and social rights. The Koreans themselves will have to play the central role in this process. The rhetoric of “human rights,” presently strongest among neo-conservative ideologues and fundamentalist Christians in Washington and Seoul, should not be allowed to disguise the likelihood of the disastrous consequences such policies would entail for those it would pretend to aid.
It is good that President Bush has read at least one book on Korea, by a Korean, even if one cannot help wishing he had read two. The one he read can only confirm his simplistic view of the Korean problem, while the one he did not read might have helped him to realize that human rights abuses on the Korean peninsula are rooted at a deeper level than the confrontation between communism and anti-communism, and that the original sin from which half a century and more of militarization, confrontation and denial of human rights have flowed is none other than division itself. The abolition of the gulag in South Korea owed nothing to foreign intervention, and it is likely to be the same for North Korea. What has maintained the dictatorship in the North for so long has been above all the uncompromising hostility of its enemies, allowing the regime to capitalize on national pride and determination to remain independent. Rather than more intervention – to bring about “regime change” – what Korea needs is to be left alone to redress the long-continuing trauma caused by the massive interventions of the past. Since the South-North summit of June 2000, the Korean people have been making substantial progress in precisely this direction.
This article first appeared at Japan Focus and is reprinted with permission.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 19, 2005 - 19:39
[Mr. Carr is author of "The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians," and "The Alienist." He teaches military history at Bard.]
... Thorough profiling demands that we also study the victims [of terrorist attacks as well as the terrorists themselves], who in cases of terrorism are whole societies. The point is not to see those societies as they actually are, but as the planners of the outrage saw them. In this particular case, we must try to understand why a terrorist group associated to at least a degree with al Qaeda was suddenly inspired to move beyond the general desire of that organization's leadership to punish Britain; why, that is, such an affiliate became overwhelmingly convinced that at this particular moment, British citizens were not only deserving of the usual terrorist brand of ritualized bloodshed, but would prove, more importantly, willing to gratify al Qaeda's demands in the wake of the bombings. What had these Islamist organizers seen, as they stalked through the land that had so unwisely given them asylum, that convinced not only them, but their young acolytes, that the time had come for a more-than-rhetorical assault on Britain's people?
* * *
These questions will not be answered by focusing on the grievances by which the terrorists later claimed to have been propelled: The sociopath's motivations are revealed in his behavior, not in his grandiose self-justifications. Therefore, we must put the issue of the timing of the bombings into the context of the series of similar crimes that have been committed by al Qaeda and its subordinates during the long and deadly spree that they have pursued since the 1990s. Only a few examples from al Qaeda's catalogue of outrages resemble the London attack, in specific purpose and method, enough to be of real use in establishing this pattern. These few are: the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001; the bombings of a synagogue, the British consulate, and a Western bank in Istanbul in November 2003; and the Madrid bombings in March 2004. What common elements can we establish among these societies at the given moments that they were victimized?
Of paramount interest is the fact that each nation had recently exhibited a weakening public determination to aggressively meet the rising challenge of Islamist terrorism. Consider the U.S. of 2001: The Clinton administration had left behind a record of essentially ignoring those few terrorism analysts who asserted that full-fledged military action against al Qaeda's Afghan training bases, backed by the possibility of military strikes against other terrorist sponsor states, was the only truly effective method of preventing an eventual attack within U.S. borders. President Clinton himself, we now know, at times favored such decisive moves; but opposition from various members of his cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and finally (as well as most importantly) a general public that would not or could not confront the true extent of the Islamist problem generally, and al Qaeda specifically, forced him to confine his responses to occasional and counterproductive bombings -- even as the death toll from al Qaeda attacks on U.S. interests abroad rose dramatically. Correctly sensing that the new president, George W. Bush, was treating the terrorist threat with a similar attitude of denial, al Qaeda's Hamburg-based subsidiaries launched the 9/11 operation.
Turkey, for its part, had taken the dramatic step of withdrawing its cooperation with the invasion of Iraq in early 2003. This move had drastically reduced the number of troops that the U.S. could bring to bear quickly on the operation, and may have colored the entire course of the war. Turkish leaders explained their decision by citing concerns about their nation's role in the region, as well as by saying that they did not trust the Kurds not to try to take advantage of the invasion. Perhaps so; but reports persisted that the Turkish government was worried about revenge attacks by Muslim extremists, along exactly the lines that (in a seeming paradox) did occur in November. Once again, an attempt to deal with the terrorist problem through avoidance only produced savage assaults.
In Spain, during March 2004, a similar public wish to avoid any forceful confrontation with terrorism prevailed, but for entirely different reasons: Spain had joined the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, which, after enjoying dramatic early success, ran into a buzz-saw of bitter resistance organized by Saddam loyalists, Iraqis angered by occupation, and foreign Islamist terrorists (many trained and supplied by al Qaeda's network). The majority of the Spanish public had never supported participation in the invasion; and the Iraqi insurgency's viciousness only made them more committed to adopt a neutral stance in the global war on terror generally. But Spain was also, at that time, facing an election, and a bizarre component of that contest were warnings issued by an obscure Islamist group (later connected to al Qaeda) which stated that the Spanish people's failure to elect a candidate who would withdraw troops from Iraq would result in attacks against them. As election day neared, it seemed likely that voters would comply; yet despite -- or in fact because of -- this cooperative posture, the terrorists detonated a particularly cruel series of bombs aboard commuter trains in Madrid just days before the voting. We may never know how much the victory of the antiwar Socialist candidate was prompted by the attacks; what we do know is that Spain's posture of pre-election submission did not save her citizens, and that after the election, when the new government did obey the Islamists' demand that they withdraw troops from Iraq, the terrorists ultimately announced that not even this move could guarantee Spain's future safety.
In all of these examples, then, the "trigger" for terrorist action was not any newly adopted Western posture of force and defiance. Rather, it was a deepening of the targeted public's wish to deal with terrorism through avoidance and accommodation, a mass descent into the psychological belief, so often disproved by history, that if we only leave vicious attackers alone, they will leave us alone. It is hardly surprising that by actively trying -- or merely indicating that they wished -- to bury their collective heads in the sand, the societies were led not to peace but to more violent attacks. Al Qaeda and terrorist groups in general have tended to press their campaigns of violence against civilians in areas where they have sensed disunity and a lack of forceful opposition. In the manner of clinical sociopaths, they seem to "smell fear" -- and to find in it, not any inspiration to show mercy or accept accommodation, but a compulsion to torment all the more vigorously those who exude it.
When the situation is viewed through this lens of victim profiling (never to be confused with "blaming the victim"), we can begin to see why al Qaeda's leaders and affiliates evidently began to think themselves capable of breaking an alliance that once withstood the assaults of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. For a widespread psychological phenomenon has gained strength in Britain in recent years, coming to a crescendo in the last few months. In political and editorial writings, but perhaps even more tellingly in the mass entertainment media to which the young bombers were reportedly heavily exposed, many Britons have subscribed to a new narrative of the post-9/11 world, one in which the U.K. is portrayed, not as a willing partner in the invasion of Afghanistan, nor as the author of much of the incorrect and/or deceptive intelligence that so rallied support in the West for invading Iraq, but rather as the largely innocent tool of a nefarious U.S., one whose government has been "bullied" by Washington. In this remarkably distorted yet equally powerful version of events, Britain emerges as a nation that would, if its leaders would only obey the true will of its people, display greater concern with such benevolent programs as ameliorating world hunger and climate degradation, and far less with combating terrorism. Indeed, they are only involved in the latter, runs the new "history," because of Tony Blair's obliging participation in Mr. Bush's oil-propelled policies.
Nations that experience collective psychological crises frequently attempt such reinventions, just as do individuals. By revising the facts surrounding irrationally violent incidents so that they themselves are somehow made responsible for them, victims often seek to exert some kind of control over if, when, and how their tormentors will inflict their random cruelty. But what British citizens who have participated in this revision of the historical record do not realize -- just as Americans in 2001, Turks in 2003, and Spaniards in 2004 did not -- is that showing fear and self-disparagement in the face of al Qaeda's threats only marks the society in question as a suitable candidate for attack. Sociopaths revel most in assaulting terrified, submissive victims; and a Britain so concerned with avoiding attack that its ordinarily wise citizenry would give voice to the kind of simplistic thinking expressed in the media in recent months evidently fit that description to an extent irresistible to al Qaeda's minions within its borders.
In this light, the trigger for the London bombings was far less the presence of British troops in Iraq, and far more the media circus that surrounded protestors outside the G-8 summit, as well as the utterances of musical and other celebrities during the "Live 8" performances in support of an end to world hunger, many of whom allowed their declarations to bleed over from understandable economic and political sentiments into dangerously blatant statements of opposition to the Iraq war, the global war on terrorism, and the U.S. generally. ...
Posted on: Tuesday, July 19, 2005 - 18:53
Juan Cole, a his blog (7-11-05):
The Ariel Sharon government in Israel has announced that it will build a huge wall on someone else's land through Jerusalem, cutting off 55,000 Arabs from the city (they'll have to go through nasty Israeli checkpoints every day to get into their own city!)
This is land theft on a massive scale. Worse, it is theft on a stage of sacred space that affects the sentiments of over a billion people. Whether Westerners like it or not, Jerusalem is considered by Muslims their third holiest city, and Israeli theft of the whole thing drives a lot of them up the wall. A partitioned Jerusalem where the Arab east is connected to the West Bank is the only route to peace. Sharon in his usual aggressive, grabby way, is trying to make that forever an impossibility.
And, folks, this sort of thing, which the Washington Post didn't even notice, may very well get you and me killed. I think what Sharon is doing is morally and politically wrong to begin with. But I sure as hell resent the possibility that I or my family is going to get blown up because of it.
You want to know what causes terrorism? Well, in part it is caused by deviance, by people so warped that they will take innocent lives in a wicked quest to achieve some political or religious goal. In part, terrorists are like bank robbers. Bank robbers desperatedly want to be rich, but for one reason or another think they are very unlikely to get rich through their ordinary activities. Likewise, terrorists, break the law, both moral and civil, to get what they want. In that sense they are criminals, or, as I say, deviants. But they are not motiveless and do not act out of free-floating generalized hatred for the most part. They have a specific goal in mind.
Terrorism is also caused when one country militarily occupies another country. That is, it is the military occupation that provides a lot of terrorists with their goal (i.e. to free their country from foreign military occupation). Chicago political scientist Robert Pape has shown that the vast majority of suicide bombings in the past 30 years have come in response to foreign military occupation (or what the terorists perceived as such). Back in the late 50s and early 60s, the Algerians and the French were locked in such a struggle. The French killed nearly a million Algerians (in a population of 11 million), and the Algerians blew up a lot of French. When the French recognized Algeria as an independent country in 1962, the struggle quickly subsided and by 1963 Algeria wasn't even a big subject in French newspapers.
The Israeli military occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza from 1967 has caused an enormous amount of terrorism in the world. It hasn't been the only such source by any means. The Tamil Tigers, a group based in Sri Lanka (used to be called Ceylon), blew up Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and engaged in many other terrorist operations in Sri Lanka and India. It is a Marxist group and in some ways pioneered the suicide bombing. Because Sri Lanka and its concerns seeem so remote to most Americans, most people here don't even know about the Tamil Tigers. But if the US went in and militarily occupied the Tamil parts of Sri Lanka, all of a sudden we'd be seeing bombs go off against US targets. I guarantee it. That is not to say it would be right. But it is to say that that is how reality works (reality cannot be simply manufactured in the White House, contrary to what Scooter Libby thinks).
The Israeli Jerusalem Barrier project will have similar effects. It keeps inside itself a major Israeli settlement on Palestinian land that Sharon has recently announced he will greatly expand (probably using American money at least in part).
Because al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers do not speak in the language of Palestinian nationalism, it has been possible for certain quarters to obscure to the US public that they are absolutely manically fixated on the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem. This is what Bin Laden meant way back in the 1990s when he denounced the foreign military occupation of"the three holy cities." Here is what Bin Laden wrote in 1998 when he declared war on the US:
' Third, if the Americans' aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula. '
If this is a big part of what is driving the radical Muslim fundamentalists' violence, then Sharon's announcement on Sunday is guaranteed to produce a terrorist strike. If what Sharon is doing were the right thing, morally and politically, then he should do it anyway and we'll just soldier on against the terrorists. But it is wrong in the first place, wrong morally, and wrong in international law and an insult to the United States in completely departing from the roadmap.
How obsessed Bin Laden & company are with what goes on in Palestine is obvious, as I said last week, in the 9/11 commission report:
' According to KSM [Khalid Shaikh Muhammad], Bin Ladin had been urging him to advance the date of the attacks. In 2000, for instance, KSM remembers Bin Ladin pushing him to launch the attacks amid the controversy after then-Israeli opposition party leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. KSM claims Bin Ladin told him it would be enough for the hijackers simply to down planes rather than crash them into specific targets. KSM says he resisted the pressure.
KSM claims to have faced similar pressure twice more in 2001.According to him, Bin Ladin wanted the operation carried out on May 12, 2001, seven months to the day after the Cole bombing. KSM adds that the 9/11 attacks had originally been envisioned for May 2001. The second time he was urged to launch the attacks early was in June or July 2001, supposedly after Bin Ladin learned from the media that Sharon would be visiting the White House. On both occasions KSM resisted, asserting that the hijacking teams were not ready. Bin Ladin pressed particularly strongly for the latter date in two letters stressing the need to attack early.The second letter reportedly was delivered by Bin Ladin's son-in-law,Aws al Madani. '
That is why our press and politicians do us an enormous disservice by not putting the Israeli announcement about the Jerusalem Barrier on the front page. This sort of action is a big part of what is driving the terrorists (and of course Sharon himself is a sort of state-backed terrorist anyway). The newspapers and television news departments should be telling us when we are about to be in the cross-fire between the aggressive, expansionist, proto-fascist Likud Coalition and the paranoid, murderous, violent al-Qaeda and its offshoots.
Eisenhower called up DeGaulle and told him to get the hell out of Algeria, on a short timetable, or else. I wish Bush had Eisenhower's spine when it came to dealing with Ariel Sharon.
Posted on: Friday, July 15, 2005 - 18:16
[Ms. Thernstrom is the vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Mr. Blum is a senior fellow at the Center for Equal Opportunity. They are authors of a book on the Voting Rights Act to be published by the AEI Press.]
When it comes to issues involving race, apparently the first instinct of congressional Republicans is to grovel. They don't believe in appeasement abroad -- only at home. The immediate issue is the reauthorization of the "emergency" provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act -- provisions such as preclearance that constitute such a radical, unprecedented intrusion into state electoral prerogatives that they were originally designed to expire in 1970. Repeatedly extended, they are now due to die on Aug. 6, 2007.
But, terrified by the reauthorization campaign that the NAACP, the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, and other advocacy groups have begun to mount, Republicans in the House and Senate are pledging their support for reauthorization. Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay and House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner have announced that they will introduce legislation extending the "temporary" provisions another 25 years. This comes on the heels of Bill Frist, who said: "We must continue our nation's work to protect voting rights. And that is why we need to extend the Voting Rights Act."
Sen. Frist's statement is a non sequitur. Protecting voting rights is vital, but extending the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act is quite a different matter. Most of the legislation is permanent; basic 15th Amendment rights will never be denied again. And those who point their fingers at Florida should note that arguments over hanging chads had nothing to do with the Voting Rights Act. Florida was not a state covered by the emergency provisions in 1965, and today only five scattered counties (none involved in the battle of 2000) would be affected by another extension.
Section five is the most important of the provisions due to expire in 2007. It forces "covered" states and counties to "preclear" every voting-related change they make with the U.S. attorney general or the D.C. district court. Thus, before a covered jurisdiction moves a polling place two blocks or redraws congressional districting lines, it must obtain federal approval. Most of the states and counties on the federal watch list are in the South. But today, for instance, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn are covered, but Queens and Staten Island are not. Arizona is covered, but not New Mexico. In 1965 every part of the Act made perfect sense. No longer.
Times have changed, most strikingly in the Deep South, the region in which blacks were massively disfranchised in 1965. The preclearance provision was designed to make sure that the Act's ban on literacy tests stuck, since the fraudulent use of such tests in the South was the main barrier to black ballots. Framers of the Act feared redneck public officials would find new ways to keep blacks from the polls; hence the extraordinary (and punitive) federal oversight. But Southern resistance to basic enfranchisement quickly collapsed and today the case for Southern distinctiveness is tough -- if not impossible -- to make. The emergency that justified the temporary provisions is long over. The Bloody Sunday police violence against voting-rights activists at the Edmund Pettis Bridge was 40 years ago. And yet the radical penalty for the wrongs of that terrible era remains.
The 1965 Act was amazingly effective, but members of Congress who voted repeatedly to reauthorize the temporary provisions became persuaded that blacks were equally disfranchised when the power of their vote was "diluted." Encouraged by courts, the Justice Department began to insist that all covered jurisdictions create as many "max-black" districts as possible. The point, of course, was to protect black (and after 1975, Hispanic) candidates from white competition, to promote minority officeholding in proportion to the minority population -- which was viewed as racially "fair." The result: racial gerrymandering so egregious as to create bug-splat districts that, in the words of the Supreme Court, reinforced "the perception that members of the same racial group -- regardless of their age, education, economic status, or the community in which they live -- think alike. . . ."
Nice rhetoric, but, in fact, the Supreme Court put a stop only to looks-ridiculous districting that is accompanied by a blatant public record of race-driven line-drawing overriding all other considerations. If the preclearance provision is extended once again, the unelected Justice Department attorneys will retain their extraordinary and, by now, constitutionally questionable power to insist on race-conscious districting in Virginia but not Tennessee, although black ballots are equally important in both states. And those racially homogeneous and uncompetitive districts, which make biracial and bipartisan coalitions unnecessary, will continue to elect mostly far-left minority candidates....
Posted on: Friday, July 15, 2005 - 16:18
[Edward Renehan is the author of The Dark Genius of Wall Street.]
This week Judge Barbara Jones slapped Bernard Ebbers with a 25-year sentence for his profiteering at WorldCom. Ebbers is 63 and nurses a heart problem. Therefore his sentence may actually be life. Add to this the separate civil settlement in a case brought by a host of defrauded WorldCom investors which has left Ebbers and his wife, Kristie, stripped of almost all their assets (some $45 million). Harsh though it may seem, in the end this is justice plain and simple. "The harm that Ebbers did was dramatic," says Lawrence Mitchell, a professor at the law school of George Washington University, "and the kind of impact that that behavior has on our financial and economic system is significant."
Some commentators have recently cited Ebbers as a "modern-day robber baron." Furthermore, at least one writer has compared him directly with the most reviled of those Gilded Age gentlemen, Jay Gould. In this regard, as Gould's most recent biographer, I feel compelled to speak up in Jay's defense. Gould (1836 - 1892) was dubbed the "Mephistopheles of Wall Street" in his own day, but he was nevertheless a Boy Scout compared to Ebbers. He was also, I should add, both an Einstein and a business-Charlemagne as compared to Ebbers.
In the unregulated era after the Civil War, when New York State Supreme Court justices could be bought for as little as $100, Gould gained infamy through two audacious bids for financial dominance. During their "war" for control of the Erie Railroad in 1868, Gould and his partners Jim Fisk and Daniel Drew hired scores of judges and legislators to do their bidding, while their nemesis Cornelius Vanderbilt adopted the very same strategy. Later on, after the Erie wars had been won, Gould used the rampantly unprofitable railroad -- already well-known as the "Scarlet Woman of Wall Street" -- as a financial shell for manipulation of stocks and bonds. In this he mimicked nearly every single Erie CEO that had come before him.
One year following the height of the Erie Wars, Gould and Fisk worked in collusion with other parties (including a brother-in-law of President Grant) to corner the market in New York's Gold Exchange. Their bid failed, but triggered the "Black Friday" panic of September 24th, 1869, during which thousands of investors were ruined. The juggernaut of negative press launched in late September of 1869 has yet to stop, as is evidenced by annual "Today in History" blurbs that routinely damn Gould's soul in newspapers nationwide. In Gould's own era, images of ruined men (with their implicit corollary of once-prosperous families demoted to lives of destitution) formed the bedrock for a lasting reputation as a jackal and betrayer....
For the rest of his life, Gould's motives -- which, after all, were simply to make money the same as any other capitalist -- would be suspect. And to him a higher standard of virtue would always be applied. In time, the press and public came to view the petty ruses and gambits regularly employed by a host of Wall Street speculators as despised tools of fraud and monopoly when adopted by Gould. In part this was because of his reputation for treachery, but it was also because Gould used the common tools of the Street in strikingly new ways, putting together previously unimagined and fantastically profitable combinations with a dexterity that spawned frustrated envy on the part of bystanders.
Truth be told, Gould, in the final analysis, was an exemplary, successful, long-term CEO. The highly imaginative, ruthless, and easy-to-vilify manipulator of securities was also a detail-oriented owner of companies: a workaholic who painstakingly consolidated dying firms, transformed them into highly profitable monoliths, and then steered all his concerns through choppy economic seas in the 1880s, leaving an estate conservatively appraised at some $72 million at the time of his death in 1892. In short, Jay Gould was no Bernie Ebbers. Quite the contrary.
Posted on: Friday, July 15, 2005 - 13:48
SOURCE: WSJ (7-12-05)
Mr. Laqueur, a historian, is the author, inter alia, of "A History of Terrorism" (Little Brown, 1977).
Whenever a major terrorist attack occurs, the politicians' speeches are predictable -- that the terrorists are barbarians, that they won't succeed in destroying our values and undermining our way of life. All this is correct and probably bears repeating, even though it's not exactly new and doesn't help us understand what happened and what may happen in the future.
Also predictable at these times are the voices that admonish us to make a greater effort to understand the motives of the people who perpetrate these outrages and to enter a dialogue with them. In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one commentator admonished us to understand that many people admire the terrorists -- which is perfectly correct, but not really a guide to action for the same can be said with regard to the late Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. The Guardian last week said that the war against terrorism will not be won until we better understand the Arabs and their grievances.
But the war against terrorism will not be won in our time in any case. Terrorism is the contemporary form of violent conflict, as major wars have become too costly and conflict won't disappear from the face of the earth in the foreseeable future. As for the Arabs and their grievances, the search for last Thursday's London attackers lead in all kinds of directions, with the early speculation being that North Africans and Pakistanis (of British birth) were behind it rather than Arabs from further east.
The politicians also tell us that the great majority of Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism, which is perfectly true. But it is also true that many thousands of young men in these communities in Britain and France, in Spain and Italy, sympathize with the jihadis. Some of them know where the terrorists are hiding but won't tell the authorities. Terrorists cannot exist in a vacuum; they need a periphery of helpers. That's the main problem now facing the security services. But politicians are reluctant to press the point by strongly admonishing Europe's Muslims to do their civic duty and cooperate in finding the terrorists.
According to the security authorities, between 600 and 3,000 people in Britain graduated from Osama bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan and could launch further attacks any day. (The higher figure is probably exaggerated.) But these people have been around for a long time and few people have interfered with their movements. They were given asylum and paid social benefits even if they had been sentenced for terrorist activities in their home countries. In this respect, Britain followed the most liberal policy in Europe.
Many Britons believed that the country would be safe if it showed tolerance towards radicals and suspected terrorists. No one went further in this respect than Ken Livingstone, the London mayor, who welcomed some of the gurus of the "militants" and claimed that they were harmless religious dignitaries maligned by Zionists and neoconservatives. George Galloway, Saddam Hussein's greatest admirer this side of Baghdad, was recently elected to the British parliament from a racially-mixed precinct in East London....
Governments are responsible for the security of their citizens. Yet they can't move too far ahead of public opinion. As long as it is not generally understood that restrictions and controls will be inevitable in the future to safeguard society from far worse disasters, terrorists will have a (relatively) free run. In the case of future major attacks, public pressure for such measures will be overwhelming. If such attacks do not occur, we shall be able to sleep in peace and quiet, lucky to enjoy both security and all our liberties. The prospects of this scenario coming true aren't brilliant.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 20:04
Thanks to the war in Iraq, much of the world sees the British government as resolute and tough and the French one as appeasing and weak. But in another war, the one against terrorism and radical Islam, the reverse is true: France is the most stalwart nation in the West, even more so than America, while Britain is the most hapless.
British-based terrorists have carried out operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Spain, and America. Many governments - Jordanian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Spanish, French, and American - have protested London's refusal to shut down its Islamist terrorist infrastructure or extradite wanted operatives. In frustration, Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak publicly denounced Britain for"protecting killers." One American security group has called for Britain to be listed as a terrorism-sponsoring state.
Counterterrorism specialists disdain the British. Roger Cressey calls London"easily the most important jihadist hub in Western Europe." Steven Simon dismisses the British capital as"the Star Wars bar scene" of Islamic radicals. More brutally, an intelligence official said of last week's attacks:"The terrorists have come home. It is payback time for … an irresponsible policy."
While London hosts terrorists, Paris hosts a top-secret counterterrorism center, code-named Alliance Base, the existence of which was recently reported by the Washington Post. At Alliance Base, six major Western governments have since 2002 shared intelligence and run counterterrorism operations - the latter makes the operation unique.
More broadly, President Chirac instructed French intelligence agencies just days after September 11, 2001, to share terrorism data with their American counterparts"as if they were your own service." The cooperation is working: A former acting CIA director, John E. McLaughlin, called the bilateral intelligence tie"one of the best in the world." The British may have a"special relationship" with Washington on Iraq, but the French have one with it in the war on terror.
France accords terrorist suspects fewer rights than any other Western state, permitting interrogation without a lawyer, lengthy pre-trial incarcerations, and evidence acquired under dubious circumstances. Were he a terrorism suspect, the author of Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe, Evan Kohlmann, says he"would least like to be held under" the French system.
The myriad French-British differences in treatment of radical Islam can be summarized by the example of what Muslim girls may wear to state-funded schools.
Denbigh High School in Luton, 30 miles northwest of London, has a student population that is about 80% Muslim. Years ago, it accommodated the sartorial needs of their faith and heritage, including a female student uniform made up of the Pakistani shalwar kameez trousers, a jerkin top, and hijab head covering. But when a teenager of Bangladeshi origins, Shabina Begum, insisted in 2004 on wearing a jilbab, which covers the entire body except for the face and hands, Denbigh administrators said no.
The dispute ended up in litigation and the Court of Appeal ultimately decided in Ms. Begum's favor. As a result, by law British schools must now accept the jilbab. Not only that, but Prime Minister Blair's wife, Cherie Booth, was Ms. Begum's lawyer at the appellate level. Ms. Booth called the ruling"a victory for all Muslims who wish to preserve their identity and values despite prejudice and bigotry."
By contrast, also in 2004, the French government outlawed the hijab, the Muslim headscarf, from public educational institutions, disregarding ferocious opposition both within France and among Islamists worldwide. In Tehran, protesters shouted"Death to France!" and"Death to Chirac the Zionist!" The Palestinian Authority mufti, Ikrima Sa'id Sabri, declared,"French laws banning the hijab constitute a war against Islam as a religion." The Saudi grand mufti, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, called them a human rights infringement. When the"Islamic Army in Iraq" kidnapped two French journalists, it threatened their execution unless the hijab ban was revoked. Paris stood firm.
What lies behind these contrary responses? The British have seemingly lost interest in their heritage while the French hold on to theirs: As the British ban fox hunting, the French ban hijabs. The former embrace multiculturalism, the latter retain a pride in their historic culture. This contrast in matters of identity makes Britain the Western country most vulnerable to the ravages of radical Islam whereas France, for all its political failings, has held onto a sense of self that may yet see it through.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 14:43
In a confidential report, Young Muslims and Extremism, prepared jointly by the Home and Foreign offices in mid-2004 and presented to Prime Minister Tony Blair, we learn something about the inner thinking of the British government. Leaked to the Sunday Times of London, the report is now available in four parts in .pdf format at the newspaper's site.
Its goal is"to encourage moderate Muslim opinion to the detriment of extremism" and to that end proposes an"Operation Contest." Along the way, it contains much of interest in it, including these points:
- "A number of extremist groups are actively recruiting young British Muslims" (pdf 1, p. 10).
- These"extremist recruiters" are" circulating among university-based religious or ethnic societies" (pdf 1, p. 5; pdf 2, p. 10).
- "By and large, most young extremists fall into one of two groups: well-educated undergraduates or with degrees and technical professional qualifications in engineering or IT; or under-achievers with few or no qualifications, and often a criminal background" (pdf 2, p. 9).
- "Often disaffected lone individuals unable to fit into their community, will be attracted to university clubs based on ethnicity or religion, or be drawn to Mosques or preaching groups in prison through a sense of disillusionment with their current existence" (pdf 2, p. 12).
- Islamist terrorists include"a significant number" who come from"liberal, non-religious Muslim backgrounds" or who converted to Islam in adulthood (pdf 2, p. 9).
The report's policy recommendations are also interesting, such as the one (from pdf 1, p. 8) urging the importance"to persuade the public and the media that Muslims are not the enemy within." It goes on to propose that the government"needs to look for opportunities to highlight Muslim success stories and examples of Muslim contributions to society at national and local level."
Besides that,"the term 'Islamic fundamentalism' is unhelpful and should be avoided, because some perfectly moderate Muslims are likely to perceive it as a negative comment on their own approach to their faith" (pdf 2, p. 2).
In general, the authors of Young Muslims and Extremism are too politically worried to understand the phenomenon they are contending with. Take the matter of Muslim individuals and organizations: if they are willing to mouth certain pieties, and not overtly challenge the existing order, that is good enough to consider them moderate. My particular favorite"moderate Muslim" is Hamza Yusuf (pdf 1, p. 13), for he explicitly has denied this appellation, as I documented on my weblog at"Hamza Yusuf Fails My 'Test'."
They assert as fact points that need thoughtful consideration:"A strong Muslim identity and strict adherence to traditional Muslim teachings are not in themselves problematic or incompatible with Britishness" (pdf 1, p. 9). One could fill a long and substantial seminar on this topic.
The point that most of all interested me, however, in reading Young Muslims and Extremism is where it draws on MI5 information to make this astonishing statement:
Intelligence indicates that the number of British Muslims actively engaged in terrorist activity, whether at home or abroad or supporting such activity, is extremely small and estimated at less than 1% (pdf 2, p. 9).
If one accepts the report's estimate (pdf 2, p. 5) that the Muslim population of Great Britain numbers 1.6 million, then up to 16,000"British Muslims actively engaged in terrorist activity."
"Extremely small"? Excuse me, but that number strikes me as an extremely large.
That the British authorities do not recognize that they should worry about thousands of terrorists in their midst is reason to worry what planet they inhabit. Their waffling, myopia, and general incompetence make one despair for their country.
Posted on: Monday, July 11, 2005 - 21:05
Tom Engelhardt, at tomdispatch.com (7-7-05):
[Mr. Engelhardt is the author of The End of Victory Culture and co-editor of History Wars, the Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past.]
Another successful landmark has been reached in our occupation of Iraq: The World Monuments Fund has just placed the country on its list of the Earth's 100 most endangered sites. ("Widespread looting, military occupation, artillery fire, vandalism, and other acts of violence are devastating Iraq, long considered the cradle of human civilization.") This is the first time that the Fund has ever put a whole nation on its list and so represents a singular accomplishment for the Bush administration, which knew not -- and cared less -- what it wrought.
The destruction began as Baghdad fell. Words disappeared instantly. They simply blinked off the screen of Iraqi history, many of them forever. First, there was the looting of the National Museum. That took care of some of the earliest words on clay, including, possibly, cuneiform tablets with missing parts of the epic of Gilgamesh. Soon after, the great libraries and archives of the capital went up in flames and books, letters, government documents, ancient Korans, religious manuscripts, stretching back centuries -- all those things not pressed into clay, or etched on stone, or engraved on metal, just words on that most precious and perishable of all commonplaces, paper -- vanished forever. What we're talking about, of course, is the flesh of history. And it was no less a victim of the American invasion -- of the Bush administration's lack of attention to, its lack of any sense of the value of what Iraq held (other than oil) -- than the Iraqi people. All of this has been, in that grim phrase created by the Pentagon," collateral damage."
Worse yet, the looting of antiquity, words and objects, not only never ended but seems to have accelerated. From well organized gangs of grave robbers to American engineers building bases to American soldiers taking souvenirs, the ancient inheritance not just of Iraqis but of all of us has simply headed south. According to Reuters, more than 1,000 Iraqi objects of antiquity have been confiscated at American airports; priceless cylinder seals are evidently selling on-line at eBay for a few hundred dollars apiece; and this represents just the tiniest fraction of what's gone. The process is not only unending, but in the chaos that is America's Iraq beyond counting or assessing accurately.
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Friday, July 8, 2005 - 17:48
[Michael Radu is Senior Fellow and Co-Chair at the Center on Terrorism and Counterterrorism at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in
Jamie Glazov Michael Radu, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Michael Radu Thank you, Jamie.
Jamie Glazov "The Secret Organization of Al Qaeda in Europe" has claimed responsibility for the attack and has stressed the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan as its main grievances. Isn’t this the same terror group that took credit for the Madrid bombings in March 2004? In any case, let's crystallize the picture: why London, why now?
Michael Radu I do not think it is the same group, but it follows a similar pattern, which is to create the impression that there is a centralized Al Qaeda presence in Europe. It most likely consists of a few types with Internet access.
Why London? Because London has been the main center of Islamist recruitment, indoctrination and fundraising in the West for several years now. Lately, with British-born citizens engaged in suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq, it has gone into terrorism export - as we know in the USA, from Richard Reid (the "shoe bomber") and Zakarias Moussaoui, the September 11th terrorist, recruited in London. And today, the last step, it has become the target. There are good reasons the French are talking about Londonistan."
The timing is clearly related to the G8 meeting in Scotland, and thus has been prepared for months. More immediately, bombing trains and a bus at peak hours is intended to provoke maximum casualties - just as in Madrid, March 11, 2004.
Jamie Glazov I'll be honest, I don't know why anyone would even be surprised by this. Notwithstanding Iraq and Afghanistan, this is simply the continuation of a war that started in 1979 with Khomeini's Revolution in Iran isn't it? The declaration of "Death to America" means just that -- and it includes death to those that are allied with America, right?
Michael Radu I do not think the British police and Scotland Yard are very surprised. The key question is whether the public and politicians - not hopeless newspapers like the Guardian - draw the right conclusions from this, and I am far from optimistic.
Jamie Glazov Why do you say the Newspapers like the Guardian are hopeless?
Michael Radu Because they cannot see anything wrong with the Third World and its "products" - whatever comes from there is either good ipso facto or the result of Western crimes or, at least faults. The very word "terrorism" is avoided because they think (if that is the word) that it implies an unjustified moral position. After all, the West had slavery and colonialism, hence is disqualified from judging its former victims. Basically, when one loses the confidence and pride in one's own culture, tradition and history, one disarms against fanatical believers in their own. One cannot fight something with nothing - as they (the Left) do when denying that we are fighting a civilizational conflict. Bin Laden says he fights one - The Guardian et co. deny it. It is like having a war declared against you, and your side is being killed and all the while you deny the war even exists.
Jamie Glazov The tragedy in London is a warning of its own kind. What is that warning?
Michael Radu In purely practical terms, it seems to me that the most relevant fact is that the bomber of the double-decker bus was a suicide - the first in Europe. Otherwise, it would be disturbing indeed if our authorities still need warnings.
Jamie Glazov The presence of radicalized Muslims in London is quite large isn't it? What exactly were the British doing about it? Was this just a ticking time bomb?
Michael Radu On a speculative basis I suspect the perpetrators were North Africans, most probably Algerians, of whom the UK has managed to gather quite a lot, since they are now avoiding France as too well informed, too harsh and too smart.
Algerian "political refugees" - i.e. remnants of their lost war at home - have a record of terrorism in the UK, including possession of ricin, murder of a constable, etc. They also have experience, motivation and, probably, pre-existing cells. But this is, so far, just well-educated guessing. That is a good example of British cavalier approach to the issue of "political asylum."
But it gets worse - Abu Qatada, a Palestinian, Abu Hamza (Egyptian), are prominent ideologues, religious legitimizers and recruiters, operating from London for years - and all at the taxpayers' expense, both enjoying welfare. The former was behind Algerian GIA's mass massacres, the latter behind Yemen kidnappings and murders of tourists; none is a citizen. And yet, when Blair interned them - he cannot send them back because, God forbid, they may be mistreated, the House of Lords forced their release under EU "human rights" legislation. Compare that with France, where imams advocating wife beating are routinely sent back to Algeria.
One may add that the radicalization of British Muslims is not new - it has been demonstrated most recently in the parliamentary elections, when Galloway, Saddam's apologist, was elected in a district with a huge Muslim population - against the incumbent black/Jewish Labor MP.
Jamie Glazov There has been word floating around that London served as a prime target for terrorism because the terrorists are experiencing a lot of trouble getting into the United States. Is this true? It must be because the U.S. hasn't experienced an attack since 9/11. What has the U.S. done right and what is England doing wrong? Why does it take an attack to wake up the need for logical and common sense security in a war that we are already in?
Michael Radu We have demonstrated a lot more common sense than the Brits, have an ocean between us and Europe, and have a different structure of the Muslim population than the Europeans. The Patriot Act would never have passed through the Parliament.
Jamie Glazov What do you mean we have “a different structure of the Muslim population”? And why would a Patriot Act not pass through the Parliament?
Michael Radu For instance only 25% of Arab Americans are Muslim - but more than 90% of Arabs in Europe are Muslim. The Pakistani, Algerian, Yemeni and Saudi Americans- those being the richest terrorist recruiting cultures - are relatively few here but in the millions in Europe.
Some 40% of American Muslims are native black converts - who tend to be moderate or, like the Nation of Islam, not Islamic at all. And then there are the total numbers - some 2-3 million Muslims here, out of a total population of 280 million - but less , in absolute terms , than in France (pop. 60 million) and only slightly more than in the UK.
The UK has to obey EU "human rights" inanities from Strassbourg, we do not; London has never tried to assimilate its minorities; we did, at least until recently. UK has refused to extradite an accused terrorist to…France, because British judges think the French may...abuse him. I could go on and on.
In the US immigrant Muslims tend to be middle class or better in terms of education and income - in Europe Muslims tend to be mostly poor or members of the underclass.
Jamie Glazov Yes, there are Muslims that condemn attacks such as this one in London. The Free Muslims Against Terrorism, for instance, should be commended for coming out so quickly to condemn this attack. But overall, there is deafening silence coming from the Muslim community at large in terms of denouncing this terrorism and the killing of innocents. If Islam is a religion of peace and this terrorism is against Islamic law, where are the world's Muslims ferociously repudiating these terrorists for slandering their religion by carrying out terrorist acts on behalf of Islam? The Free Muslims Against Terrorism "calls on the silent majority of Muslims to stand up against the terrorists who commit evil in their name." Who are the "silent majority" and why are they silent?
Michael Radu I am afraid that, in Britain, like here, although perhaps not in France, the Muslim majority feels a mistaken sense of solidarity with the Islamists, takes a defensive- but indefensible - position, and is still influenced by radical victimologists, some with suspect agendas. And then there is the media - always ready to find explanations, "root causes", etc., all of which makes it difficult for ordinary Muslims to take a clear position. When President Bush and Tony Blair persist in avoiding putting a face on terrorism - Islamist - why would a Muslim do otherways?
Jamie Glazov Now I don't mean to minimize the suffering of the victims and the seriousness of what happened in London, but this is really nothing in terms of what is ahead. A couple buses, a subway. . . yes, terrible, and the loss of life is terrible. We send our condolences to all the families of the victims. But all of this will be considered a golden age by the next generation. The problem and reality is that in the near future a whole city is going to be taken out with a nuclear bomb by these psychopaths unless we take some serious and harsh preemptive measures.. What, you think the Mullahs in Iran are gonna blink an eye when and if they have WMD capability and al Zarqawi and bin Laden will offer to drop a WMD on Washington or Tel Aviv? How far away are we from that potential nightmare scenario?
Michael Radu I have no idea. It is a matter of capabilities, not willingness. The problem with Iran is that the risk of getting caught may be too high even for the mullahs. On the other hand, one should not overestimate the skills of intelligence of the terrorists - in Spain they got caught very fast -and Spain was not prepared to deal with Islamists at all. Nor is the number of fatalities the most important element. After all, in the Netherlands two assassinations led to what amounts to a cultural revolution, dramatic changes in immigration and asylum policies, a reassessment of "multiculturalism" and even of what "tolerance" means.
Jamie Glazov The Left, of course, will be celebrating this attack. Earlier you mentioned George Galloway. He has even called for an alliance between the Left and radical Islam. The likes of Galloway and Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky – all of them will clearly be rubbing their hands in glee because of this attack in London, and, of course, instead of denouncing the terrorists who have taken innocent life, they will be blaming everything on Bush and Blair. This is clearly a pathology like no other. What is your diagnosis of this mordid psychology that permeates the Left?
Michael Radu The Left will claim that London was targeted because of Iraq. Galloway aside - he is far more sinister - the others are so alienated from their own society and culture that they have built a conceptual prison of their own, from which they cannot escape. What will happen in The Guardian, Independent, perhaps The New York Times, will be a repetition of the same futile search for "root causes" - Palestinians, Iraq, dictatorships in the Muslim world "supported" by the US, etc. No attack anywhere will change that - they seek to fit the square peg of Islamist religious radicalism into the circle of political differences - and fail into irrelevance even further.
Jamie Glazov I am afraid we disagree on this. I don't think the Left is irrelevant at all; it controls much of our culture and is inflicting tremendous damage to our security. David Horowitz's book Unholy Alliance has demonstrated this fact pretty well and the overall reality is reflected in his data base discoverthenetworks.org. But our purpose here today is not to get into a debate about the relevancy of the Left. Instead, let's just touch a bit mote on the mentality of the Left. Dr. Radu, when someone like Galloway calls for an alliance between Islamic radicalism and the Left, what is he thinking? The Left is supposed to be for women's rights and gay rights, minority rights etc. How can the Left ally itself with the most barbaric, gay-hating, women-hating, minority-hating and democracy-hating force on this earth? And how does it do so without any shame and without even being called on this grotesque shamelessness in the mainstream media?
Michael Radu You are both right and overstating the case. Yes, Ivy League students adore Chomsky almost as much albeit not quite as much as the Europeans, but not the voters, most of whom never heard of him.
As for the Left - Islamist nexus, the Left is caught in its own contradictions - it has to be "tolerant" for the sake of homosexuals and other pressure groups, but it also has to be anti-capitalist and ultimately anti-democratic, and that is where the twain shall meet. Ossama himself has blamed the USA for rejecting Kyoto, not because he loves clean air but because he may need elements of the loony Left to help occasionally. Which is what the remnant of the Red Brigades in Italy have promised to do, to give an instance. But, by and large, the threat from the Left is less from sympathy with Islamist terrorism but from hostility to any counter-terrorist action. Just as the anti-anti-communists did more damage than the pro-communists.
Jamie Glazov I think the Left sympathizes with Islamist terrorism because it represents nihilistic destruction, which is the Left’s greatest yearning. But we’ll save this discussion for another time.
Dr. Radu, you are one of the West’s most respected experts on terrorism. Let’s suppose Prime Minister Blair calls you tonight and asks: "Dr. Radu, I need your advice. What do I do to protect my homeland better and what do I do to fight terrorism more effectively overall, at home and abroad?" What do you tell him?
Michael Radu a) Stop being politically correct and define the enemy clearly - it is Islamism. If established Muslim groups persist in opposing common sense measures to counter terrorism, make it clear that that amounts to indirect support for it, never mind the declared intentions.
b) Completely reform the asylum and immigration policies;
c) Either legalize indefinite internment for non-citizen radicals, or extradite them. If that requires changes in the EU human rights legislation or UK rejection of it, so be it.
d) Criminalize recruiting and indoctrination of radicals by UK residents.
E) Learn from the French - yes, from the French.
Jamie Glazov What is it exactly that the French have done right?
Michael Radu They have learned from the wave of Islamic terror in France in the mid-1990s. For instance, imams coming to France now must speak French; the process of training them in France has began; imams preaching anti-Semitism or the murder of "infidels" are often expelled….expeditiously; at government instigation, a French Council of the Muslim Religion (Conseil français du culte musulman - CFCM) has been established, institutionalizing the dialogue with the authorities; mosques, whether legal or illegal, are under permanent surveillance; suspected terrorists are detained for longer periods, and the simple intention to join or have association with terrorists is a crime.
Jamie Glazov How do you envision what will happen in England in particular and in the war on terror in general in the next several years?
Michael Radu My crystal ball is clouded. The public may realize that there is a problem, and so could the opposition. That may help some counterterrorism and immigration/asylum reform measures have an easier time in Parliament. It took two assassinations for the ultra-tolerant Dutch to see the light - perhaps 40 dead could do the same for the British.
Jamie Glazov Dr. Radu, it was a privilege and an honor to speak with you today. Thank you for providing us with your wisdom on such short notice.
Michael Radu Thank you, Jamie. It was a pleasure.
Posted on: Friday, July 8, 2005 - 16:24
[Warren Goldstein is a professor and chairman of history at the University of Hartford. He is the author of William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience (Yale University Press, 2004).]
... A few months ago, a UCC [United Church of Christ] church near where I live was sponsoring a Lenten lecture on liberal Protestantism. My wife, a UCC minister who could not attend, thought it would be good for me to get out of the house and find out what someone else thought for a change. The lecturer, a bright young historian, also married to a minister, professorially explained the origins of the movement in German biblical criticism, continued with a description of the pre-World War I Social Gospel, followed up with the postwar disillusionment and decline, and then simply stopped, observing that liberal Protestantism had been on a downward slope ever since. No Reinhold Niebuhr, no Martin Luther King Jr., no civil-rights or antiwar movement, nothing on the fight for women's rights or gay rights. Far more telling, no members of the audience -- including many senior citizens who had lived through the turmoil of the latter 20th century -- objected to their entire religious lives' being considered unworthy of academic notice. I hope they were being polite, but I suspect that their apathy was a symptom.
Indeed, the liberalism of mainline Protestantism appears to be suffering a fate similar to that of liberalism in today's world of politics. Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the leaders of the Democratic Party, once the home of a proud and unapologetic liberalism, have successfully hidden their liberal light under a bushel of apologies and strategies for impersonating Republicans. Now, beaten twice in narrow national elections, apparently by religious conservatives, some Democrats are beginning to remember that moral values have power on the left side of the aisle, too. But instead of relying on their own traditions, they are trying to open a dialogue with evangelicals -- witness Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton urging abortion-rights activists to seek common ground with those who oppose abortion.
Since I'm no political strategist, I have no idea if that will work. I am, though, a historian who has written on William Sloane Coffin Jr. and the liberal tradition he brought to the chaplaincy at Yale University in the 1960s and 1970s, which fired the faith and activism of a generation still very much alive. And so I wonder whether the folks formerly known as liberal Protestants and their colleagues and counterparts among liberal politicians might gain some inspiration from the accomplishments of their own histories before giving up on what they might bring to the future.
Much 20th-century American political history was the history of liberalism. From Progressivism in the early years of the century to the almost 50 years stretching from the inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt through that of Ronald Reagan, political and economic liberalism set the terms of public debate and public policy. It had blind spots and nasty habits, of course, most notably racism and an unfortunate faith in imperial ventures abroad. But when white people did finally begin taking race seriously, and mainstream Americans turned against the war in Vietnam, liberals and progressives led those charges.
What tends to be forgotten is that they did so not just through political parties or movements. The Social Gospel's commitment to improving conditions in society according to Christian principles supported much of early-20th-century Progressive reform; Harry Emerson Fosdick, America's most eminent preacher of the 1930s, began his career as a Social Gospeler who attacked fundamentalism and embraced pacifism. Over the space of five decades, Niebuhr, the most influential American theologian of the 20th century, first defended the working class on religious grounds, then criticized capitalism and what he saw as the timidity of the New Deal, and later inspired a generation of liberal cold warriors. The explosion of theological liberalism and the ecumenical movement after Vatican II (1962-65) provided religious fuel, language, and fervor for the civil-rights and antiwar movements.
Take the Social Gospel, later to be maligned by Niebuhr as naïvely progressive, too trusting in the perfectibility of human beings, too eager to locate the source of sin in social structures rather than the individual. In fact, most of those traits it shared with secular Progressivism, along with a casual belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority, imperial paternalism, Prohibition, and support for the crusade of World War I. But as preached and put into practice by the Congregational minister Washington Gladden, the Baptist Walter Rauschenbusch, and many others, the Social Gospel was no minor movement. A prolific author and champion of the "historical critical" approach to the Bible, Gladden served a parish in Columbus, Ohio, for 30 years, where he spoke out on behalf of workers' rights during a Cleveland streetcar strike in 1886 and actively supported a whole range of Progressive causes, including compulsory arbitration and women's suffrage....
Even in the 1970s, as the wind went out of political liberalism's sails, and in the 1980s, when the "Reagan revolution" made political liberalism into the "L-word" and brought the religious right to public prominence, mainline liberal Protestantism, with important Catholic and Jewish allies, continued to speak out on behalf of the poor at home and the oppressed abroad. As Ronald Reagan rewrote the tax code, slashed social programs, and began the largest peacetime military buildup in U.S. history, it was religious institutions that housed and nurtured liberal dissent. [William Sloane] Coffin, who had gone to Riverside Church as senior minister in 1977, turned Fosdick's flagship into a key international institution of the left. Coffin himself provided articulate leadership and organizational resources for the movement opposing U.S. intervention in Central America, for the rights of gay and lesbian people, for anti-apartheid organizing, and, most of all, for the nuclear-disarmament movement. Without the Riverside Church Disarmament Program, founded by Coffin, it is unlikely that the largest demonstration in American history, on June 12, 1982, would ever have taken place....
Posted on: Friday, July 8, 2005 - 15:48
What was the aim of this particular terrorist attack?
"The Al Qaeda ideology believes that the Muslim world is weak and oppressed and dominated by the wealthy capitalist West. And that this West uses things like the establishment of Israel or the setting of Muslim against Muslim in Iraq or Afghanistan as a way of keeping the Muslim world weak. Ideally, all the Muslims should get together and establish a United States of Islam, which would revive the Caliphate. (In medieval Islam the Caliph was a kind of pope figure, a central spiritual authority.) Under the Caliphate, you’d have the wealthy Egyptian writers and engineers and you’d have the wealthy oil states come together to make the Muslim world into a united superpower.
Does that dream spring specifically from Salafi theology?
No, you could be a Salafi and not share that particular ideology.
So where does the idea come from?
It goes back to the 19th century. The Ottomans, when they were facing British and French incursion, put together this idea of pan-Islam back in the 1880s. They think that for the last 200 years or so, since Bonaparte invaded Egypt in 1798, Europe has been invading their countries, raping their women, subjecting their men, and stealing their wealth.
So they have a two-fold plan. In order to establish a united Muslim country, you’d have to overthrow the individual secular regimes that now exist—Algeria and Egypt, and so forth. Then you’d have to unite them all under Salafi Islam. And every time they’ve tried to overthrow the Egyptian government, they’re checked, in part because the Americans back [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak.
So then they put forward the theory in the 1990s of hitting the foreign enemy first. Basically there are two major impediments to their plan. One is the local secular military governments, which resist being dissolved into this Islamic state. The other is the Western superpowers that back the military regimes. So they became convinced that in order to go forward with their plans, they would have to find a way of pushing the United States and the other powers out of the Middle East—make them timid about intervening, make them pick up stakes and go home, leaving Mubarak and others to their fate. So the attack on London is part of this strategy—getting the British out of Iraq and Afghanistan, weakening British resolve for having a strong posture in the Middle East a la supporting the United States. Having gotten rid of Western dominance, they believe, they can then polish off the secular enemies and go forward with their plans for a revolution of the global south.
If the West pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, would that end the terrorism or slow it down?
The people who already hold these ideas are unlikely to have their minds changed. They look around and see Western influence everywhere. Certainly the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a great recruiting tool for al Qaeda. They can go to the mosques and find unemployed angry young men and say they are oppressed by Westerners and say, “Look what they’re doing in Fallujah.” So the images are very good recruitment tools.
Why do they think terrorism will work, since it’s unlikely Britain will change its policies?
The British were already planning to draw down their troops from 9,000 to 2,000 in the next nine months. I think the British will do that, and these bombings will not change British policy. The British have been bombed before and have not been timid; they’ve soldiered on in their activities. I don’t think Spain withdrew from Iraq mainly because of the Madrid bombings, either. The Iraq war had always been enormously unpopular—-92 percent of the population didn’t want it.
But these people don’t do these bombings for immediate political purposes. Sacred terror has a lot to do with symbology. They’re like big theatrical events. As I said, they couldn’t even operate in Cairo; they would be arrested. So they feel very powerless. All the powers in the world are against them, and they feel very sure God is with them. What do you do if you’re a tiny fringe who is completely right and indeed only if your plan succeeds is the world saved? And you’re opposed by all of these massive states and powers? One of the things they’re doing is giving themselves heart. They’re saying we can make a difference, we can intervene in history, the enemy is not invulnerable, and we can strike it . . ."
Posted on: Friday, July 8, 2005 - 15:06