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.
SOURCE: NY Sun (8-16-05)
News reports from Britain indicate that three Islamist leaders in that country – Omar Bakri Mohammed, Abu Uzair, and Abu Izzadeen – could face treason charges.
The first two of them said, after the July 7 attacks in London, that they would not warn the police if they knew of plans to carry out another bomb attack in Britain. The third praised the London bombings for making the British"wake up and smell the coffee."
But are treason charges realistic? Not terribly, For starters, Mr. Mohammed has fled and some Islamists are not British citizens. For another, as an official, Lord Carlile, pointed out, there is probably not"a lawyer still alive and working who has ever appeared in any part of a treason case." Indeed, Britain has seen no application of the Treason Act - originally passed in 1351 - since 1966, except for two minor instances.
This absence points to a deeper reality: the crime of treason is now as defunct as blue laws, prohibition of alcohol, or laws banning miscegenation. I predict that, short of radical changes, no Western state will again prosecute its citizens for treason.
Until recently treason was a powerful concept. The U.S. Constitution defines it as"levying war against [the United States], or in adhering to [its] enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Famous traitors in history include Benedict Arnold, Vidkun Quisling, and Lord Haw-Haw.
The law of treason was always difficult to apply but now it is impossible, as illustrated by the case of the American Talib, John Walker Lindh. Captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan bearing arms against his countrymen, treason charges clearly applied to him. But he was charged with lesser offences and pled guilty to even more minor ones such as"supplying services to the Taliban."
Why this collapse? Because the notion of loyalty has fundamentally changed. Traditionally, a person was assumed faithful to his natal community. A Spaniard or Swede was loyal to his monarch, a Frenchman to his republic, an American to his constitution.
That assumption is now obsolete, replaced by a loyalty to one's political community – socialism, liberalism, conservatism, or Islamism, to name some options. Geographical and social ties matter much less than of old.
The Boer War of 1899-1902 marked an initial milestone in this evolution, when an important segment of the British public vocally opposed its government's war arguments and actions. For the first time, a faction dubbed"Little Englanders" openly defied the authorities and called for ending the war effort.
Another bellwether came during World War I, when the incompetence of the Allied military leaders led to a massive alienation from government. A third came during the French war in Algeria, when angry intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre effectively called for the murder of their fellow-citizens:"To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses."
This alienation reached full florescence during the Vietnam war, when American dissidents waved Vietcong flags and chanted pro-Hanoi slogans ("Ho ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win").
Israel offers an extreme case of internal subversion. Arabs, one-sixth of the population, owe little allegiance to the Jewish state and sometimes openly call for violence against it or oppose its very existence. Some Jewish academics have also called for Arab violence. This climate has even led to several cases of Jews assisting Arab terrorists.
At present, loyalty to one's home society is no longer a given; it must be won. Conversely, hating one's own society and abetting the enemy is common."Traitor," like"bastard," has lost its stigma.
This new situation has profound implications. In warfare, for example, each side must compete to attract the loyalty of both its own and the enemy's population. In World War II, the Allies fought Germany and Japan; now, they focus not on whole countries but on the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, hoping to win Afghan or Iraqi allegiance.
This can lead to novel complexities: in the build-up to the Iraq war of 2003, anti-war organizations in the West effectively took Saddam Hussein's side, while the coalition in turn emphasized its Iraqi supporters. In the war on terror, the battle to win allegiances looms large and is fluid.
Treason as a concept is defunct in the West. To succeed in war, governments need take this change into account.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 14:19
SOURCE: Japan Times (8-14-05)
Aug. 15, 1945 found Chiune Sugihara, his wife, Yukiko, and their three little children in Romania, interned there by the Red Army. It was unclear what their fate would be. Japan had been officially at war with the Soviet Union, albeit for only a few days.
Who was Chiune Sugihara, and how did he come to be in Bucharest at the war's end? At a time when Japan is being branded in some quarters as the unrepentant perpetrator of cruel misdeeds during World War II and before, a look at the life of this man of conscience may serve to lighten this dark image. It may also be a guide to Japanese people living today: proof that an individual can make a difference, even in the most callous of times.
I was fortunate to have known Sugihara's eldest son, Hiroki, who was named after Koki Hirota, the prime minister in 1936 when Hiroki was born.
The elder Sugihara was a diplomat who was posted to the Japanese consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania, in November 1939. He was soon to be presented with a striking dilemma.
"My father woke up one morning in late July, 1940, to see a great crowd of people milling outside the gate of the consulate," Hiroki told me in July 2000. "I remember staring down at them from the second-story window. They were Jews, and they had come to get exit visas from my father."
Sugihara was under strict instructions from his superiors at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo not to issue any Japanese visa other than a transit visa, and this only when the applicant had a valid visa to a subsequent destination.
However, Sugihara deliberately disobeyed those instructions, issuing more than 2,000 visas, some of them covering more than one member of a family, to Jews who were desperate to escape the Nazi terror that had overtaken Poland and was gradually moving eastward.
"The consulate was shut down on Sept. 4 that year," Hiroki told me, "but my father continued to pen visas even at the railway station, throwing the last stamped passports out of the window of our train to Jews whose lives would, thanks to him, be spared."
The more than 2,000 refugees traveled by train across Siberia and on to Japan, from where they eventually made it to Shanghai, Australia, the United States or other destinations. Incidentally, those Jewish refugees were treated humanely while in Japan, despite general Japanese sympathies for the Axis cause.
Meanwhile, Sugihara made his own way from Kaunas to posts in Prague, Konigsberg and, eventually, in 1942, Bucharest, where he remained until 1945. ...
There are tens of thousands of people around the world today who would not have been born had it not been for the compassion of Chiune Sugihara.
On a day such as this one, perhaps it will help both Japan and those who genuinely wish this country well to remember that the devils of the past were not alone in their undertakings. There were angels in their midst. Thanks to Japanese like Chiune Sugihara, "Lest we forget" may justifiably be said in the same breath as "kindly remember."
Posted on: Sunday, August 14, 2005 - 09:46
SOURCE: Informed Comment (8-12-05)
Meetings are still being held on the final issues bedeviling the finalization of the Iraqi constitution. Iraqi government spokesmen keep saying that 16 or 17 issues are outstanding and all should be resolved by August 15. In fact, most of these issues are intractable (Should Iraq be a centralized state, a federal state, or a very loose federal state? Should religious law be applied to personal status issues like marriage, divorce, inheritance and alimony? Should the Shiite grand ayatollahs and the holy city of Najaf be formally recognized in some way? etc. etc.)
What now seems likely according to comments made to al-Hayat is that many of these hard issues will just be kicked down the road in order to meet the August 15 deadline.
This is probably a very bad idea. It should be remembered that the US founding fathers did the same thing. They found it very difficult to reach a compromise on the issue of slavery, which clearly is contradictory to the Bill of Rights and the spirit of the constitution in general. They therefore just sidestepped it and let states treat it with statute. That raised the question of whether slaves could count for purposes of allocating congressional seats (by size of population), and the notorious and humiliating formula was arrived at of treating slaves as a fraction of a human being for those purposes.
But the sidestepping and the postponing of grappling with the issue helped produce a Civil War a few decades later.
Likewise, it is highly unlikely that Iraqis will be more united on most of the hard issues five or ten or twenty years from now. If they are not decisively resolved now, very likely they will become persistent points of disagreement and rancor among the major ethnic groups. And thus, this rush to a constitution, mainly for the benefit of the Bush administration, which wants it done so Bush can gracefully begin exiting next year in time to affect the 2006 congressional races, is highly unwise. It may well contribute to the outbreak of a civil war in the future in Iraq (I mean a big conventional civil war with whole armies ranged against one another).
It would have been better if the parliament had taken advantage of the clause in the interim constitution allowing it to take another 6 months to finish the negotiations (which really only began in earnest two months ago).
Meanwhile, al-Hayat reveals more about the comments of Hadi al-Amiri of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, at a rally in Najaf calling for a southern, Shiite, regional confederation. He said, "What have we ever seen from the central government but death?" I am not sure whether he is referring to the anti-Shiite pogroms of the Saddam era or to the present government's inability to stop guerrilla violence. But the sentiment is stark and raw and frankly secessionist. Not a good sign. (And mind you, the central government he is complaining about is now dominated by his kind of Shiite!)
Posted on: Friday, August 12, 2005 - 19:11
SOURCE: Guardian (8-11-05)
Human beings, in nearly all cultures, have long engaged in a rather strange activity. They have taken a literary text, given it special status and attempted to live according to its precepts. These texts are usually of considerable antiquity yet they are expected to throw light on situations that their authors could not have imagined. In times of crisis, people turn to their scriptures with renewed zest and, with much creative ingenuity, compel them to speak to their current predicament. We are seeing a great deal of scriptural activity at the moment.
This is ironic, because the concept of scripture has become problematic in the modern period. The Scopes trial of 1925, when Christian fundamentalists in the United States tried to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools, and the more recent affair of The Satanic Verses, both reveal deep-rooted anxiety about the nature of revelation and the integrity of sacred texts. People talk confidently about scripture, but it is not clear that even the most ardent religious practitioners really know what it is.
Protestant fundamentalists, for example, claim that they read the Bible in the same way as the early Christians, but their belief that it is literally true in every detail is a recent innovation, formulated for the first time in the late 19th century. Before the modern period, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of scripture. The word of God was infinite and could not be tied down to a single interpretation. Preoccupation with literal truth is a product of the scientific revolution, when reason achieved such spectacular results that mythology was no longer regarded as a valid path to knowledge.
We tend now to read our scriptures for accurate information, so that the Bible, for example, becomes a holy encyclopaedia, in which the faithful look up facts about God. Many assume that if the scriptures are not historically and scientifically correct, they cannot be true at all. But this was not how scripture was originally conceived. All the verses of the Qur'an, for example, are called "parables" (ayat); its images of paradise, hell and the last judgment are also ayat, pointers to transcendent realities that we can only glimpse through signs and symbols.
We distort our scriptures if we read them in an exclusively literal sense. There has recently been much discussion about the way Muslim terrorists interpret the Qur'an. Does the Qur'an really instruct Muslims to slay unbelievers wherever they find them? Does it promise the suicide bomber instant paradise and 70 virgins? If so, Islam is clearly chronically prone to terrorism. These debates have often been confused by an inadequate understanding of the way scripture works.
People do not robotically obey every single edict of their sacred texts. If they did, the world would be full of Christians who love their enemies and turn the other cheek when attacked. There are political reasons why a tiny minority of Muslims are turning to terrorism, which have nothing to do with Islam. But because of the way people read their scriptures these days, once a terrorist has decided to blow up a London bus, he can probably find scriptural texts that seem to endorse his action....
Muslim extremists have given the jihad (which they interpret reductively as "holy war") a centrality that it never had before and have thus redefined the meaning of Islam for many non-Muslims. But in this they are often unwittingly aided by the media, who also concentrate obsessively on the more aggressive verses of the Qur'an, without fully appreciating how these are qualified by the text as a whole. We must all - the religious and the sceptics alike - become aware that there is more to scripture than meets the cursory eye.
Posted on: Friday, August 12, 2005 - 18:15
SOURCE: NY Sun (8-9-05)
Are Israel's critics correct? Does the"occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza cause the Palestinian Arabs' anti-Semitism, their suicide factories, and their terrorism? And is it true these horrors will end only when Israeli civilians and troops leave the territories?
The answer is coming soon. Starting August 15, the Israeli government will evict about 8,000 Israelis from Gaza and turn their land over to the Palestinian Authority. In addition to being a unique event in modern history (no other democracy has forcibly uprooted thousands of its own citizens of one religion from their lawful homes), it also offers a rare, live, social-science experiment.
We stand at an interpretive divide. If Israel's critics are right, the Gaza withdrawal will improve Palestinian attitudes toward Israel, leading to an end of incitement and a steep drop in attempted violence, followed by a renewal of negotiations and a full settlement. Logic requires, after all, that if"occupation" is the problem, ending it, even partially, will lead to a solution.
But I forecast a very different outcome. Given that about 80% of Palestinian Arabs continue to reject Israel's very existence, signs of Israeli weakness, such as the forthcoming Gaza withdrawal, will instead inspire heightened Palestinian irredentism. Absorbing their new gift without gratitude, Palestinian Arabs will focus on those territories Israelis have not evacuated. (This is what happened after Israeli forces fled Lebanon.) The retreat will inspire not comity but a new rejectionist exhilaration, a greater frenzy of anti-Zionist anger, and a surge in anti-Israel violence.
Palestinian Arabs themselves are openly saying as much. A top Hamas figure in Gaza, Ahmed al-Bahar says"Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today following more than four years of the intifada. Hamas's heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of the impotent Zionist security establishment. The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance is the only way to pressure the Jews."
A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri says likewise that the withdrawal is"due to the Palestinian resistance operations. … and we will continue our resistance."
Others are more specific. At a mass rally in Gaza City last Thursday, about 10,000 Palestinian Arabs danced, sang, and chanted,"Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem." The commander of Gaza's Popular Resistance Committees, Jamal Abu Samhadaneh announced Sunday,"We will move our cells to the West Bank" and warned"The withdrawal will not be complete without the West Bank and Jerusalem." The Palestinian Authority's Ahmed Qurei also asserts,"Our march will stop only in Jerusalem."
Palestinian Arab intentions worry even Israeli leftists. An Arab affairs specialist for Ha'aretz, Danny Rubinstein notes that Prime Minister Sharon decided to leave Gaza only after anti-Israel carnage there had escalated."Even if these attacks were not the reason why Sharon came up with the idea of disengagement, the Palestinians are certain that that is the case, and this has reinforced their belief that Israel only understands the language of terror attacks and violence."
Israel National News has collected other leftist comments.
- A former justice minister and chairman of the Yahad/Meretz Party, Yossi Beilin:"There is a concrete danger that following the disengagement, the violence will greatly increase in the West Bank in order to achieve the same thing as was achieved in Gaza."
- A former Labor Party foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami:"A unilateral retreat perpetuates Israel's image as a country that runs away under pressure ... In Fatah and Hamas, they will assume that they must prepare for their third intifada - this time in [the West Bank]."
- A former General Security Service chief, Ami Ayalon:"Retreat without getting anything in return is liable to be interpreted by some of the Palestinians as surrender. ... There is a high chance that shortly after the disengagement, the violence will be renewed."
- A former air force commander, Eitan Ben-Eliyahu:"There is no chance that the disengagement will guarantee long-term stability. The plan as it stands can only lead to a renewal of terrorism."
Events, I predict, will prove Israel's critics totally wrong but they will learn no lessons. Untroubled by facts, they will demand further Israeli withdrawals. Israel's one-car crash is dismally preparing the way for more disasters.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - 17:31
Juan Cole, at his blog (8-2-05):
Once upon a time, a dangerous radical gained control of the US Republican Party.
Reagan increased the budget for support of the radical Muslim Mujahidin conducting terrorism against the Afghanistan government to half a billion dollars a year.
One fifth of the money, which the CIA mostly turned over to Pakistani military intelligence to distribute, went to Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a violent extremist who as a youth used to throw acid on the faces of unveiled girls in Afghanistan.
Not content with creating a vast terrorist network to harass the Soviets, Reagan then pressured the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to match US contributions. He had earlier imposed on Fahd to give money to the Contras in Nicaragua, some of which was used to create rightwing death squads. (Reagan liked to sidestep Congress in creating private terrorist organizations for his foreign policy purposes, which he branded"freedom fighters," giving terrorists the idea that it was all right to inflict vast damage on civilians in order to achieve their goals).
Fahd was a timid man and resisted Reagan's instructions briefly, but finally gave in to enormous US pressure.
Fahd not only put Saudi government money into the Afghan Mujahideen networks, which trained them in bomb making and guerrilla tactics, but he also instructed the Minister of Intelligence, Turki al-Faisal, to try to raise money from private sources.
Turki al-Faisal checked around and discovered that a young member of the fabulously wealthy Bin Laden construction dynasty, Usama, was committed to Islamic causes. Turki thus gave Usama the task of raising money from Gulf millionaires for the Afghan struggle. This whole effort was undertaken, remember, on Reagan Administration instructions.
Bin Laden not only raised millions for the effort, but helped encourage Arab volunteers to go fight for Reagan against the Soviets and the Afghan communists. The Arab volunteers included people like Ayman al-Zawahiri, a young physician who had been jailed for having been involved in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadat. Bin Laden kept a database of these volunteers. In Arabic the word for base is al-Qaeda.
In the US, the Christian Right adopted the Mujahideen as their favorite project. They even sent around a"biblical checklist" for grading US congressman as to how close they were to the"Christian" political line. If a congressman didn't support the radical Muslim Muj, he or she was downgraded by the evangelicals and fundamentalists.
Reagan wanted to give more and more sophisticated weapons to the Mujahideen ("freedom fighters"). The Pakistani generals were forming an alliance with the fundamentalist Jamaat-i Islam and begining to support madrasahs or hardline seminaries that would teach Islamic extremism. But even they balked at giving the ragtag Muj really advanced weaponry. Pakistan had a close alliance with China, and took advice from Beijing.
In 1985 Reagan sent Senator Orrin Hatch, Undersecretary of Defense Fred Iklé and others to Beijing to ask China to put pressure on Pakistan to allow the US to give the Muslim radicals, such as Hikmatyar, more sophisticated weapons. Hatch succeeded in this mission.
By giving the Muj weaponry like the stinger shoulderheld missile, which could destroy advanced Soviet arms like their helicopter gunships, Reagan demonstrated to the radical Muslims that they could defeat a super power.
Reagan also decided to build up Saddam Hussein in Iraq as a counterweight to Khomeinist Iran, authorizing US and Western companies to send him precursors for chemical and biological weaponry. At one point Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Iraq to assure Saddam that it was all right if he used chemical weapons against the Iranians. Reagan had no taste in friends.
On becoming president, George H. W. Bush made a deal with the Soviets that he would cut the Mujahideen off if the Soviets would leave Afghanistan. The last Soviet troops departed in early 1989. The US then turned its back on Afghanistan and allowed it to fall into civil war, as the radical Muslim factions fostered by Washington and Riyadh turned against one another and used their extensive weaponry on each other and on civilians.
In the meantime, Saddam, whom the US had built up as a major military power, invaded Kuwait. The Bush senior administration now had to take on its former protege, and put hundreds of thousands of US troops into the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. The radical Muslim extremists with whom Reagan and Bush had allied in Afghanistan now turned on the US, objecting strenuously to a permanent US military presence in the Muslim holy land.
From 1994 Afghanistan was increasingly dominated by a faction of Mujahideen known as Taliban or seminary students (who were backed by Pakistani military intelligence, which learned the trick from Reagan and which were flush from all those billions the Reagan administration had funneled into the region). In 1996 Bin Laden came back and reestablished himself there, becoming the leader of 5,000 radical Arab volunteers that Reagan had urged Fahd to help come to Afghanistan back in the 1980s.
In the meantime, the US had steadfastly supported Israeli encroachments on the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the gradual complete annexation of Jerusalem, the third holiest city to Muslims.
Since the outbreak of the first intifada, Israeli troops had riposted with brutality. Even after the Oslo accords were signed, the size of Israeli colonies in the Palestinian West Bank and around Jerusalem doubled.
A steady drumbeat of violence against Palestinians by Israelis, who were stealing their land and clearly intended to monopolize their sacred space, enraged the Muslim radicals that had been built up and coddled by Reagan.
In 1998, al-Qaeda and al-Jihad al-Islami, two small terrorist groups established in Afghanistan as a result of the Reagan jihad, declared war on the United States and Israel (the"Zionists and Crusaders"). After attacks by al-Qaeda cells on US embassies in East Africa and on the USS Cole, nineteen of them ultimately used jet planes to attack the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
The Bush administration responded to these attacks by the former proteges of Ronald Reagan by putting the old Mujahideen warlords back in charge of Afghanistan's provinces, allowing Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri to escape, declaring that Americans no longer needed a Bill of Rights, and suddenly invading another old Reagan protege, Saddam's Iraq, which had had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat to the US. The name given this bizarre set of actions by Bush was"the War on Terror."
In Iraq, the US committed many atrocities, including bombing campaigns on civilian quarters of cities it had already occupied, and a ferocious assault on Fallujah, and tortured Iraqi prisoners.
In the meantime, the Bush administration put virtually no money or effort into actually combatting terrorist cells in places like Morocco, as opposed to putting $200 billion into the Iraq war and aftermath. As a result, a string of terrorist attacks were allowed to strike at Madrid, London and elsewhere.
Fred Ikle, who had been part of the Reaganist/Chinese Communist effort to convince Muslim fundamentalist generals in Pakistan--against their better judgment-- to allow the US to give the radical Muslim extremists even more sophisticated weapons, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal urging the nuking of Mecca.
Then in July, 2005, General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that there was not actually any"War on Terror:" ' General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had"objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." ' (Question: Does this mean we can have the Bill of Rights back, now?)
The American Right, having created the Mujahideen and having mightily contributed to the creation of al-Qaeda, abruptly announced that there was something deeply wrong with Islam, that it kept producing terrorists.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 14:47
Samuel Huntington, in the WSJ (June 16, 2004):
The battle over the Pledge of Allegiance has stimulated vigorous controversy on an issue central to America's identity. Opponents of "under God" (which was added to the pledge in 1954) argue that the United States is a secular country, that the First Amendment prohibits rhetorical or material state support for religion, and that people should be able to pledge allegiance to their country without implicitly also affirming a belief in God. Supporters point out that the phrase is perfectly consonant with the views of the framers of the Constitution, that Lincoln had used these words in the Gettysburg Address, and that the Supreme Court--which on Monday sidestepped a challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance--has long held that no one could be compelled to say the pledge.
The atheist who brought the court challenge, Michael Newdow, asked this question: "Why should I be made to feel like an outsider?" Earlier, the Court of Appeals in San Francisco had agreed that the words "under God" sent "a message to unbelievers that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community."
Although the Supreme Court did not address the question directly, Mr. Newdow
got it right: Atheists are "outsiders" in the American community....
Statistics say America is not only a religious nation but also a Christian
one. Up to 85% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Brian Cronin,
who litigated against a cross on public land in Boise, Idaho, complained, "For
Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians in Boise, the cross only drives
home the point that they are strangers in a strange land." Like Mr. Newdow
and the Ninth Circuit judges, Mr. Cronin was on target. America is a predominantly
Christian nation with a secular government. Non-Christians may legitimately
see themselves as strangers because they or their ancestors moved to this "strange
land" founded and peopled by Christians--even as Christians become strangers
by moving to Israel, India, Thailand or Morocco.
Americans have always been extremely religious and overwhelmingly Christian. The 17th-century settlers founded their communities in America in large part for religious reasons. Eighteenth-century Americans saw their Revolution in religious and largely biblical terms. The Revolution reflected their "covenant with God" and was a war between "God's elect" and the British "Antichrist." Jefferson, Paine and other deists and nonbelievers felt it necessary to invoke religion to justify the Revolution. The Declaration of Independence appealed to "Nature's God," the "Creator," "the Supreme Judge of the World," and "divine Providence" for approval, legitimacy and protection.
The Constitution includes no such references. Yet its framers firmly believed that the republican government they were creating could last only if it was rooted in morality and religion. "A Republic can only be supported by pure religion or austere morals," John Adams said. Washington agreed: "Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles." Fifty years after the Constitution was adopted, Tocqueville reported that all Americans held religion "to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions."
The words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution, and some people cite the absence of religious language in the Constitution and the provisions of the First Amendment as evidence that America is fundamentally secular. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the end of the 18th century, religious establishments existed throughout Europe and in several American states. Control of the church was a key element of state power, and the established church, in turn, provided legitimacy to the state. The framers of the Constitution prohibited an established national church in order to limit the power of government and to protect and strengthen religion. The purpose of "separation of church and state," as William McLoughlin has said, was not to establish freedom from religion but to establish freedom for religion. As a result, Americans have been unique among peoples in the diversity of sects, denominations and religious movements to which they have given birth, almost all embodying some form of Protestantism. When substantial numbers of Catholic immigrants arrived, it was eventually possible to accept Catholicism as one more denomination within the broad framework of Christianity. The proportion of the population who were "religious adherents," that is church members, increased fairly steadily through most of American history.
Today, overwhelming majorities of Americans affirm religious beliefs. When
asked in 2003 simply whether they believed in God or not, 92% said yes. In a
series of 2002-03 polls, 57% to 65% of Americans said religion was very important
in their lives, 23% to 27% said fairly important, and 12% to 18% said not very
important. Large proportions of Americans also appear to be active in the practice
of their religion. In 2002 and 2003, an average of 65% claimed membership in
a church or synagogue. About 40% said they had attended church or synagogue
in the previous seven days, and roughly 33% said they went to church at least
once a week. In the same period, about 60% of Americans said they prayed one
or more times a day, more than 20% once or more a week, about 10% less than
once a week, and 10% never. Given human nature, these claims of religious practice
may be overstated, but the extent to which Americans believe the right response
is to affirm their religiosity is itself evidence for the centrality of religious
norms in American society.
Only about 10% of Americans, however, espouse atheism, and most Americans do not approve of it. Although the willingness of Americans to vote for a presidential candidate from a minority group has increased dramatically--over 90% of those polled in 1999 said they would vote for a black, Jewish or female presidential candidate, while 59% were willing to vote for a homosexual--only 49% were willing to vote for an atheist. Americans seem to agree with the Founding Fathers that their republican government requires a religious base, and hence find it difficult to accept the explicit rejection of God....
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:03
Bernard Lewis, in the WSJ (May 12, 2004):
The U.S. turn to the United Nations for help in Iraq raises two questions, one of perception, the other of substance.
There can be no doubt that this appeal, in the context of the events in Fallujah, will be perceived in many circles in the Middle East -- and not only in the Middle East -- as signifying fear and flight, in other words, as the beginning of a scuttle. It is now clear that what happened in Fallujah in March was a carefully staged replay of what happened in Somalia in October 1993, when American soldiers were seized, lynched, dismembered and dragged through the streets.
This was intended to achieve the same result -- a precipitous American departure. The line that Americans are degenerate, soft and pampered -- "hit them and they will run" -- has been a major theme of Islamic terrorists for some time now. It was temporarily silenced by the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, but then revived by what was seen as public dithering and wavering. The turn to the U.N. will be perceived, or at least presented, as final and conclusive evidence of their view of America, and may well serve as the starting point of a new wave of terrorist action against Americans, reaching far beyond Iraq and perhaps even as far as these shores. One is reminded of Ehud Barak's decision to withdraw the Israeli forces from Lebanon. The decision was right and indeed long overdue, but the manner of the withdrawal was disastrous, and led directly to the current Intifada. I remember a conversation in an Arab country at the time, when I was told triumphantly: "The Israelis have become soft and pampered, like their American patrons. Our Lebanese brothers have shown us the way." Perceptions, even if inaccurate, are powerful and important, and may at times be self-fulfilling.
The second point is one of substance. The record of the U.N. in dealing with conflicts is not encouraging -- neither in terms of fairness, nor of efficacy. Its record on human rights is even worse -- hardly surprising, since the members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights include such practitioners of human rights as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. In dealing with conflicts, as a European observer once remarked, its purpose seems to be conservation rather than resolution.
A case in point: In 1947 the British Empire in India was partitioned into two states, India and Pakistan. There was a bitter military struggle, and an estimated 10 million refugees were displaced. Despite continuing friction, some sort of accommodation was reached between the two states and the refugees were resettled. No outside power or organization was involved.
In the following year, 1948, the British-mandated territory of Palestine was partitioned -- in terms of area and numbers, a triviality compared with India. Yet that conflict continues, and the 750,000 Arab refugees from Israel and their millions of descendants remain refugees, in camps maintained and staffed by the U.N. Except for Jordan, no Arab state has been willing to grant citizenship to the Palestinian refugees or to their locally born descendants, or even to allow them the rights of resident aliens. They are now entering their fifth generation as stateless refugee aliens. The whole operation is maintained and sustained by a massive apparatus of U.N. officials, some of whom have spent virtually their whole careers on this issue. What progress has been made on the Arab-Israel problem -- the resettlement in Israel of Jewish refugees from the Arab-held parts of mandatory Palestine and from Arab countries, the Egyptian and Jordanian peace agreements -- was achieved outside the framework of the U.N. One shudders to think what might have been the fate of the Indian subcontinent if the U.N. had been involved in its partition.
The question of substance is of course of far greater importance in the long
term. The question of perception is immediate, but could have long-term consequences.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Mike Steketee, in the Australian (May 7, 2004):
THERE are increasing signs the US has overreached and faces decline despite its unrivalled military and economic power, according to Paul Kennedy, a leading historian.
In Sydney to address the Future Summit, a major conference on the nation's future, Professor Kennedy, of Yale University, said the US was top-heavy in expensive Cold War weapons systems such as nuclear submarines and suffered from a desperate shortage of "grunt" in army and navy personnel. This would get worse with large-scale resignations after soldiers return from Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the same time, the US was running massive economic and trade deficits that required the goodwill of overseas bond-holders for their continued funding.
"Even though in military terms it's much stronger in comparison to its rivals than either the Roman Empire or the British Empire at their height, I don't think there's any chance this empire is going to last as long," he said.
Professor Kennedy is best known for his controversial 1988 book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which suggested the US might face the same problem of "imperial overstretch" that had seen the fall of other empires.
It is a thesis that tended to be dismissed as US dominance continued to increase. He said yesterday he was "pretty gloomy" about Iraq, with the US facing the emerging prospect that "if you stay you lose and if you go you haven't won".
The Bush administration had failed to think through its latest initiative to obtain greater UN involvement.
"That may well cause Ba'athists and al-Qa'ida to say we have already won," Professor Kennedy said.
"There's bitter resentment against (US Defence Secretary) Donald Rumsfeld and (deputy) Paul Wolfowitz for dismissing military assessments of how hard it would be and I think people are starting to crumble. "I think things are significantly worse than the US press presents them."
Professor Kennedy said Mr Rumsfeld was "my best card" in support of his argument about imperial overstretch because of his eagerness to make US troop commitments all over the world.
"Sixteen years ago the real issue was how to develop clever polices to manage global change that might be moving against you and to manage relative decline. They have been very clumsy in the military sphere.
"The area where they thought they were very strong -- soft power, which is the power to influence people through culture and ideas and ideology -- you just have to look at the latest research."
About 80 per cent of people surveyed worldwide disapproved of US actions.
"That's before we got these latest photographs (of American soldiers mistreating Iraqis)," Professor Kennedy said.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Tom Engelhardt, in www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute
Here was part of a May 4 conversation between Larry King and Colin Powell on Larry King Live about the photos from Abu Ghraib, and it was distinctly from the"a-few-bad-eggs" school of Iraqi analysis:
"KING: Let's go one by one. First, let's discuss the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners. I know you've called it despicable acts. Now, you've had a career in the military, served in Vietnam twice. Did you ever see anything like this?
"KING: Ever have a subordinate do anything like this?
"KING: What do you make of it. What's your view?
"POWELL: I don't know what to make of it. I'm shocked. I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they're still to be deplored. And what happened in this particular instance, as best I know from the pictures, was just totally despicable. There's no way to describe it. And it isn't just the fact that soldiers did it, but no American should do this to any other person.
"And so they not only violated all the laws of proper behavior and being a soldier, but it's just not something Americans should d. It seems to be a limited number of soldiers who may have been involved in this, and they will be subject to the justice of the United States Army, and I'm confident that all the investigations that are now underway will find out who was responsible for what and justice will be served. So it's a fairly small number of soldiers. Let's not let that take away from the magnificent contributions being made by most of our soldiers, the vast majority of our soldiers, who are building schools, repairing hospitals, who are defending themselves, going after the bad guys, but also putting in sewer systems for the people of Iraq."
It's always interesting to see what floats into the mind. If critics of the Bush administration's war and occupation policies in Iraq started talking about My Lai in the same breath with Abu Ghraib, you know what would be said. But it's a fact of this administration that part of its collective brain is still living in Vietnam (though Powell was the only one among its top officials not to escape that war in one fashion or another) -- hence the importance of the much-rejected Vietnam analogy. And of course, the murders of small numbers of Iraqis in prison and the abuse, torture and humiliation of many more is not the equivalent of the slaughter of more than 500 unresisting Vietnamese, mostly old people, women, and children in less than a day by Charlie Company of the Americal Division, while higher commanders circled overhead in helicopters. But it's interesting that My Lai leapt so quickly to Colin Powell's mind, and in fact there are parallels.
As a start, Powell's position on the nature of what happened in Vietnam (1968) and in Iraq (2003-04) is the same. A peripheral figure in the My Lai cover-up, Powell, as Nick Turse, an expert on war crimes in Vietnam, writes me,
"put together a memorandum for his superiors, in December 1968, that read in part: ‘Although there may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the [Americal] division. In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.'
"Powell's words were as soothing as they were disingenuous. Not only had soldiers of the division slaughtered an entire village en mass at My Lai, but on the very same day, in an auxiliary operation, up to 90 villagers of My Khe 4 were also massacred. These, however, were only the bloodiest of the known war crimes committed by the men of the division. In reality, Americal troops had long before, and would long after, March 16, 1968, commit numerous atrocities ranging from torture to assault to murder."
Beyond the similarities in Powell's position on two horrific events involving the American military in foreign lands across three and a half decades, lie two words that relatively few in this country were willing to pronounce back then and even less today --"war crimes." And yet, then as now, war crimes preyed on the minds of top American officials. Back in the days of My Lai, the military, far closer to World War II (rather than, as with a number of members of the present administration, World War II movies), had another fearful analogy in mind -- the post-war Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals. And so when the trials of members of Charlie Company were finally held, the defendants were scattered at military bases around the country -- the great fear of the military brass being"two dozen or more American soldiers, including generals, lined up in the dock a little like Nuremberg." In discussions with the Justice Department, Pentagon officials emphasized that a"mass trial" was not an option.
Oh, and here's another small but quite remarkable link between then and now, which, with (as far as I know) the exception of the New York Times' Frank Rich and the superb Paul Krugman, has not been seriously mentioned, no less highlighted in our press. The journalist who forced the story of the Abu Ghraib photos into the light of day -- after all, until CBS's 60 Minutes II heard that his piece was coming out in the New Yorker, they were still holding up their own report, as per the request of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers -- and so brought the issue of war crimes to the very tips of American tongues, had done exactly the same thing back in that ugly year of 1969. Until Seymour Hersh, the former Associated Press reporter, published his piece on My Lai with the then-unknown Dispatch News Service, the massacre had moldered in cover-up and silence for twenty full months. (The Abu Ghraib cover-up, though noticeably shorter thanks to the permeability of the Internet and email, still lasted from January 13 to the beginning of May.) Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the story then; and, to push this analogy into the future, he should win another for his New Yorker two-parter about Abu Ghraib.
Note, by the way, that in 1969, as now, the My Lai story was first pushed to consciousness by a GI whistleblower who distinctly knew right from wrong (Ron Ridenhour then, Joe Darby this time around); and, as now, that nightmare story was driven by horrific images splashed across the mainstream media. Those were, of course, the color photographs of Ronald Haeberle, an Army photographer who had helicoptered into My Lai with Charlie Company. ("Guys were about to shoot these people. I yelled, 'Hold it,' and shot my picture. As I walked away, I heard M16s open up.") Haeberle took many of his massacre photos back to Cleveland when he left the service and there, for a year, he showed them to civic organizations in a slide show of his own creation. ("They caused no commotion… Nobody believed it. They said Americans wouldn't do this.") Finally, after the Hersh story broke, Haeberle's horrific photos appeared in a famous ten-page spread in LIFE magazine (an issue with an African antelope on the cover), labeled"a story of indisputable horror -- the deliberate slaughter of old men, women, children and babies." Now… well, I hardly need describe the photos of this moment as more of them are reaching the front pages of newspapers and TV screens every day. Then, President Nixon called My Lai an"isolated incident." Now George Bush calls Abu Ghraib, "the actions of a few people" and Gen. Myers blames a bare"handful" of Americans (even as Red Cross reports of the widespread nature of these abuses throughout our penal system in Iraq spread daily).
War crimes proved unacceptable as a category for Americans back then and so, as I wrote in my history of American triumphalism, The End of Victory Culture (from which I dug out many of the above details):"Of all the charges of the antiwar movement, the ones that disappeared most quickly were those concerning war crimes -- and the people who made them were as quickly forgotten." (At least, that is, until John Kerry became the Democratic candidate for president this year.)
"Containment" of the crisis back in 1969 (as in 2004) meant doing one's official best to keep the story to one location which, in turn, was to be identified with a single aberrant event; though such crimes were far more widespread as witness the ones still leaking out so many decades later. After all, the Toledo Blade won a Pulitzer this year for its vivid coverage of a never-prosecuted"seven-month rampage" of horror in Vietnam's Central Highlands in 1967 by a platoon of the 101st Airborne known as the Tiger Force. And on the 9/11 commission, of course, is Bob Kerrey, whose Vietnam horror story only made it into the press in 2001. Containment, then as now, also meant keeping whatever prosecutions there were to as low- level individuals as possible. (Does this sound faintly familiar?)
War crimes. Such a nasty term. In everyday logic, in fact, not that far from an oxymoron. In 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, when Hersh broke the My Lai story, the subject of war crimes burst on American consciousness (and there was quite a backlash against it). Right now, it's at the very edge of being spoken -- but only in the most limited way, only in relation to the abuses that can be seen on photos from Abu Ghraib prison and only for a few"bad eggs" at the lowest level of a procedure which should really make its way up, up the ladder of command. But rest assured, there's so much more to come, and not just all the new photos, videos, and even possibly audios, promised by Donald Rumsfeld either. Terrible as it may be, we're only at the beginning -- and the one thing we know is that digital cameras and computers are everywhere.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
From the Associated Press (May 3, 2004):
As President Clinton rushes to finish his memoirs, he faces the more pressing task of writing a book deemed worthy of all the attention, an accomplishment no president has pulled off since Ulysses S. Grant.
Some leading historians have ideas on how Clinton could do it.
``He's an intelligent fellow and if he writes as well as he talks, he could make an interesting contribution to history,'' says Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., author of Pulitzer Prize winning books on the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Andrew Jackson.
``I'd like to see him do two things,'' says David Herbert Donald, author of several acclaimed books on Abraham Lincoln. ``First of all, I'd like to see him write a personal story on how he grew up and how he became who he was. Second, I'd like to see him write about how he shaped the politics of the White House, how a man of such great accomplishments also hurt himself by his foolishness.''
Booksellers expect huge sales for Clinton's book, ``My Life,'' for which he received a reported $10 million to $12 million and which has a first printing of 1.5 million copies. But historians hope he will offer more than platitudes about his public life or a token reference to his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The book is due out in late June.
Countless memoirs have been dulled by the impersonal touch of a ghostwriter and by a president's unwillingness to tell all he knows. Ronald Reagan, for example, had little to say about the Iran-Contra scandal and devoted a single paragraph to his first marriage, to actress Jane Wyman. Even Grant, whose memoirs were edited by Mark Twain, did not mention his famous drinking problem and wrote virtually nothing about his marriage or his presidency.
Historians have hopes for the literary quality of ``My Life.'' Clinton is among the most well-read of presidents and his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, says he's writing the book himself. His editor at Knopf, Robert Gottlieb, has worked with such leading authors as Toni Morrison and Robert Caro.
``There are only three presidents in the 20th century who really had a deep sense of American history: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton,'' says Joseph Ellis, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning ``Founding Brothers'' and an upcoming biography of George Washington.
``So I'm interested in how he brings a truly sophisticated sense of history to his book. I'd like to see him bring that to how he think his judgments affected the direction of both domestic and foreign policy.''
But while Knopf president Sonny Mehta has promised a ``revealing and remarkable'' memoir from Clinton, historians wonder how much Clinton will, or can, reveal. Beyond any embarrassing details about his private life, they note that he still has good reason to keep a lot to himself. His wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, is considered a likely presidential candidate in 2008 or later and the former president will almost surely avoid any undue controversy.
``Presidents in their memoirs try to be above the fray, but what makes a book interesting is the fray,'' says Douglas Brinkley, author of an upcoming biography of Gerald Ford and of a current best seller, ``Tour of Duty,'' about Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
``I don't think he's going to handle the Lewinsky affair much at all,'' says Lincoln author Donald. ``I'm not sure he's that introspective.
``What I'd really like is to have a good psychoanalyst work with him and get him to say why a man of such enormous intelligence and charm and possibility would act the way he does with women. ... That would be enormously revealing and helpful in the long run, although not, perhaps, in the short run.''
Brinkley said the perfect book for Clinton to emulate isn't by a president, but by a secretary of state, Dean Acheson, who served under Harry Truman. Brinkley notes that Acheson waited nearly 20 years before publishing ``Present at the Creation,'' which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970. By then, Acheson had historical perspective, the time to review documents and relief from concerns about damaging the careers of people with whom he worked.
``The problem now is you get these big advances and are expected to have the
book out in two years,'' Brinkley says. ``Clinton hasn't had time to look at
all the papers and documents or to think about how his administration fits into
history. I fear his book will be aimed more for Vanity Fair than for the historical
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Kenneth C. Davis, in the NYT (March 26, 2004), writing about Michael Newdow's lawsuit against the Pledge of Allegiance:
... Eighteenth-century America was largely Christian and overwhelmingly Protestant, and the dominant Protestant denominations (Congregationalism in New England, the Anglican Church in the South) even enjoyed state subsidies. Quakers were hanged in the early Colonial era, while Roman Catholics faced discrimination in matters of voting and property. In other words, young America may have been a Christian nation, but it wasn't a very tolerant one.
But the founders were also children of the great intellectual ferment known as the Enlightenment. In the debate over the place of God in public America, few framers are cited more often than Ben Franklin. In the summer of 1787, with the Constitutional Convention haggling over the nation's fate, Franklin proposed opening the day's meetings with a prayer, a proposal often cited by public-prayer advocates. But these advocates leave out the rest of the story.
After Franklin's motion, Alexander Hamilton argued that if people knew that the delegates were resorting to prayer, it would be seen as an act of desperation. Then Hugh Williamson of North Carolina pointed out that the convention lacked the money to pay for a chaplain, and there the proposition died. Franklin later noted,"The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary."
Alongside Franklin's doomed proposal, George Washington's religious fervor is often cited. The father of our country was a regular churchgoer, but what's left out of the story is that he usually left services before Communion. He was a deist who called on Providence, an amorphous power he referred to as"it." Nominally Episcopalian, Washington was also a Freemason, along with many other founders. A semisecret society, Organized Freemasonry was formed in London in 1717 by a group of anticlerical free thinkers dedicated to the ideals of charity, equality, morality and service to the Great Architect of the Universe.
Then there is Jefferson, who inveighed against"every form of tyranny over the mind of man," by which he meant organized religion. In 1786, his Statute for Religious Freedom was approved by the Virginia Legislature through the efforts of James Madison, a chief architect of the Constitution and later an opponent of the practice of paying a Congressional chaplain. This statute guaranteed every Virginian the freedom to worship in the church of his choice and ended state support of the Anglican Church.
But more important than the founders's private faith was the concept that they all embraced passionately: the freedom to practice religion, as well as not to. They had risked their lives to free America from a country with an official religion and a king who claimed a divine right. They believed that government's purpose was to protect people's earthly rights, not their heavenly fates. As for Jefferson, he wrote that it made no difference to him whether his neighbor affirmed one God or 20, since, he added,"It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." ...
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Daniel Pipes, in the NY Sun (April 6, 2004):
The global war on terror cannot be won through counterterrorism alone; it also requires convincing the terrorists and their sympathizers that their goals and methods are faulty and failing. But how is this to be done?
By focusing on the ideological and religious sources of the violence, say I:"The immediate war goal must be to destroy militant Islam and the ultimate war goal the modernization of Islam." I have not worked out the detailed implications of this policy, however.
Which explains my delight on finding that the RAND Corporation's Cheryl Benard has done just this, publishing her results in a small book titled Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies (available in full at RAND 's Web site, www.rand.org ).
Ms. Benard recognizes the awesome ambition of the effort to modernize Islam : If nation-building is a daunting task, she notes, religion-building"is immeasurably more perilous and complex." This is something never tried before ; we enter uncharted territory here.
Civil Democratic Islam covers three topics: rival Muslim approaches to Islam; which approach contributes most to a moderate version of Islam; and policy recommendations for Western governments.
Like other analysts, Ms. Benard finds that in relation to their religion, Muslims divide into four groups:
· Fundamentalists , who, in turn, split into two. Radicals (like the Taliban) are ready to resort to violence in an attempt to create a totalitarian order. Scripturalists (like the Saudi monarchy ) are more rooted in a religious establishment and less prone to rely on violence.
· Traditionalists , who also split into two. Conservatives (like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq ) seek to preserve orthodox norms and old fashioned behavior as best they can. Reformists (like the Kuwaiti rulers) have the same traditional goals but are more flexible in details and more innovative in achieving them.
· Modernists (like Muammar Gadhafi of Libya ) assume that Islam is compatible with modernity and then work backwards to prove this point.
· Secularists again split into two. The mainstream (like Atatürkists in Turkey ) respects religion as a private affair but permits it no role in the public arena. Radicals (like communists ) see religion as bogus and reject it entirely.
The author brings these viewpoints to life in a smart, convincing presentation, showing their differences on everything from establishing the pure Islamic state to husbands having rights to beat their wives. She rightly dwells on values and lifestyles, finding dissimulation about polygamy far less commonplace than about the use of violence.
Which of these groups is most suitable to ally with? Modernists, says Ms. Benard , are"most congenial to the values and the spirit of modern democratic society." Fundamentalists are the enemy, for they"oppose us and we oppose them." Traditionalists have potentially useful democratic elements but generally share too much with the fundamentalists to be relied upon. Secularists are too often anti-Western to fix Islam.
Ms. Benard then proposes a strategy for religion-building with several prongs:
· Delegitimize the immorality and hypocrisy of fundamentalists. Encourage investigative reporting into the corruption of their leaders. Criticize the flaws of traditionalism, especially its promoting backwardness.
· Support the modernists first. Support secularists on a case-by-case basis. Back the traditionalists tactically against the fundamentalists. Consistently oppose the fundamentalists.
· Assertively promote the values of Western democratic modernity. Encourage secular civic and cultural institutions. Focus on the next generation. Provide aid to states, groups, and individuals with the right attitudes.
I agree with Ms. Benard 's general approach, doubting only her enthusiasm for Muslim modernists, a group that through two centuries of effort has failed to help reconcile Islam with current realities. H.A.R. Gibb , the great orientalist, condemned modernist thinking in 1947 as mired in"intellectual confusions and paralyzing romanticism." Writing in 1983 , I dismissed modernism as"a tired movement, locked in place by the unsoundness of its premises and arguments." Nothing has changed for the better since then.
Instead of modernists, I propose mainstream secularists as the forward looking Muslims who uniquely can wrench their co-religionists out of their current slough of despair and radicalism. Secularists start with the proven premise of disentangling religion from politics; not only has this served the Western world well, but it has also worked in Turkey , the Muslim success story of our time.
Only when Muslims turn to secularism will this terrible era of their history come to an end.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Daniel Pipes, in FrontPageMagazine.com (April 8, 2004):
A Detroit-area Islamic organization, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, released a survey of Detroit Muslims, A Portrait of Detroit Mosques: Muslim Views on Policy, Politics and Religion , on April 6, 2004. Written by Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky, and conducted in mid-2003, the survey's key thesis, according to the sponsoring organization itself , is that"The vast majority of Muslim Americans hold ‘moderate' views on issues of policy, politics and religion." Bagby also emphasized this point in a newspaper interview : the results, he said, show that"the mosque community is not a place of radicalism."
Bagby's study received fair media coverage and some headlines dutifully reflected the official line:
- Detroit Free Press :"Muslims' goals: Be active, be moderate."
- Detroit News :"Metro Muslims eschew radicalism: Study shows most hold moderate views, want to integrate."
- Scripps Howard News Service :"Survey Finds Muslims are Moderates."
In addition, before the study's release, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the leading militant Islamic organization in the United States, trumpeted the results on its website ; and its spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, lost no time exploiting the alleged results of Bagby's study. One article describes him pointing"to a new survey of the views of mosque leaders and congregants in Detroit … as an example of the fundamental moderation of U.S. Muslims."
But do the survey results actually say this? Emphatically not; Bagby's results indicate anything but moderation, as some specific numbers suggest:
- By a ratio of 67 to 33, Muslims in the United States think"America is immoral."
- About (the graph does not allow complete precision) 90 percent of Muslims favor universal health care.
- Fully 79 percent favor affirmative action for minorities.
- Asked about the job being done as president by George W. Bush, 85 percent of Muslims disapprove and a mere 4 percent approve.
Comments : (1) As in the case of Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003 , a report released a week earlier in Europe (and which I covered in an update to my article" Locus of Euro-hate "), we have here a case of survey research being distorted by its sponsors to hide the actual results. This is intellectual fraud and political deception.
(2) There is plenty of reason to doubt the results of this survey, whose methodology on the face of it appears highly unscientific. We are told that questionnaires were distributed at twelve mosques in metropolitan Detroit for anyone to pick up and fill out; and a vague"almost 1300 mosque participants" filled out the questionnaires during the misty period of"summer 2003." Some of the answers, in particular the 81 percent of respondents endorsing the application of Shari‘a (Islamic law) in Muslim-majority lands, suggest that the views of mosque-goers significantly differ from the Muslim population as a whole. So, the news about Muslim opinion may not be as non-moderate as Bagby's evidence suggests.
(3) That said, abundant evidence exists to indicate that the views of Muslims living in the United States differ from those of the American population as a whole, some of it provided by CAIR itself . Other data is anecdotal or derives from survey research . In other words, Bagby's study of Detroit Muslims confirms an established pattern of survey research discerning estranged and radical political views among American Muslims. It would be reassuring on many levels were this not the case. But a problem does exists and wishing it away does not address it. It does need to be addressed.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Excepts from the blog of historian Juan Cole, April 6-12, 2004:
Hamza Hendawi of AP points out that the US offensives in Fallujah and the Shiite south have been extremely costly politically. Interim Governing Council members grew openly critical, and one suspended his membership on the council. The minister of human rights resigned in protest. The appointment of a minister of human rights in Iraq was treated as a great propaganda victory by the Bush administration when it happened. But there has been virtually no reporting about the resignation, which is a dramatic critique of US policy. Hendawi quotes me, ' "No Iraqi likes to see an imperial power like the United States beating up on people who are essentially their cousins,'' said Juan R. Cole, a University of Michigan lecturer and a prominent expert on Iraqi affairs. ``There is a danger that the vindictive attitude of the Americans ... will push the whole country to hate them. A hated occupier is powerless even with all the firepower in the world,'' he said. ' ...
The rumors going around Washington that Bush is going to meet Sharon and give away everything to him, allow him to annex 45% of the West Bank, build the wall, and put Palestinians in small Bantustans (all this negotiated by the criminal Likudnik Elliot Abrams, whom the Neocons got appointed to the National Security Council to deal with Israel-Palestine issues), bode ill for the future of the American occupation of Iraq. The two occupations are profoundly intertwined in the eyes of Iraqis, and the recent fighting in Iraq was in part sparked by the Israeli murder of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas cleric. Bush will never have credibility in Iraq if he rips up the road map and gives away the West Bank to Sharon. Sharon's iron fist in the Occupied Territories is likely to ignite new anti-American violence in Iraq in the coming year if Bush goes supine this way....
I think it is highly unlikely that Muqtada will agree to go into exile [in Iran, as some guess]. The problem is that Bush has gotten himself in a bind by going after him in the first place, virtually unprovoked. It is difficult for the US now to let Muqtada off the hook, since he did launch an insurgency. But if they go into Najaf to arrest him, it would be rather like invading the Vatican to get at an Irish priest who supported the IRA. It is not as if dislike of terrorism would convince most Catholics that the action had been justified. Most Shiites will be furious at the US if it invades Najaf and arrests or kills Muqtada....
Although former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani did praise Muqtada as "heroic" and made no secret of his hope that the US would leave Iraq, Rafsanjani no longer has any executive power and is known for shooting his mouth off and saying wild things he never follows through on. The MEMRI/ Likud crowd in Washington tried to use Rafsanjani's statements as proof that Iran was backing Muqtada's insurgency, but even Rumsfeld admitted he had no proof for that.
If the American people are alarmed that Iraq is turning into another Vietnam (and a majority now are), they should think seriously about the disaster the Neocons want to drag them into in Iran....
Sean Rayment of the Telegraph reports a story today that should be on the front pages of every American newspaper. He reports extremely deep dissatisifaction in the British officer corps with American military counter-insurgency tactics.
The critique begins with attitudes. The officer quoted says that the US military looks at Iraqis as "Untermenschen," a Hitler-derived term for inferior human beings. ' "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are." '
This attitude tracks with what I know of racial attitudes that are all too common (not universal) in US military ranks. Press reports speak of US troops and some officers routinely denigrating Arabs. Even calling them "hajjis" and "Ali Babas" betrays the attitude. (Hajji is a strange thing to call Iraqis, who have lived under a militantly secular socialist regime for 35 years and most of whom couldn't have gone on the pilgrimage to Mecca even if they wanted to). [Readers wrote in to suggest that the term is Hadji, a reference to cartoon figure Johnny Quest's South Asian, beturbanned sidekick.] The contempt for Iraqis and Arabs and Muslims that is widespread in the ranks, the British maintain, spills over into operational plans, creating a contempt for human life and a willingness to endanger and kill civilians in a ruthless effort to get at insurgents. This approach produces, of course, further insurgents.
The officer said, "When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area. They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage, but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. The US will have to abandon the sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach - it has failed. They need to stop viewing every Iraqi, every Arab as the enemy and attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people. "
I was sure that the British military in Basra were royally ticked off at the trouble Bremer made for them in going after Muqtada al-Sadr. The British military felt badly used in Bosnia by British politicians, and I was told that as a result, their officers have decided to speak out when they fear it is happening again. British military spokesmen in Basra have sometimes verged on insubordination. It is clear, for instance, that they felt Bremer should have acquiesced to Sistani's demand for direct elections this spring (which might well have forestalled the current blow-up), and they said so. When I mentioned the FT reports of these comments to reporters in London, they were surprised, since they had been attending briefings at Whitehall, where Blair and Jeremy Greenstock were opposing elections in accordance with US preferences....
[N]either Sistani nor Muqtada can be considered a cat's paw of Iran. It is not clearly in the interest of the Iranian hardliners to have either one emerge as a center of Shiite power that might rival Tehran. Sistani rejects the guardianship of the jurisprudent altogether, and Muqtada rejects Khamenei's claims to be a sort of Shiite pope, reducing him to the bishop of Iran, and insisting on an autonomous Iraqi Shiite leadership.
What is going on in Iraq has mainly to do with Iraq, not with foreign forces. The foreign forces might put in money or attempt to influence events, but the events themselves are driven by indigenous issues and movements....
Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times has two important articles today. Since he was almost killed getting them, I hope someone is paying attention. One forthrightly acknowledges the instigating role of the Israeli assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin on the blow-up in Iraq. The other talks about the ugly mood brewing, of hatred for Americans and cross-sectarian sympathy born of Iraqi nationalism.
It should not be taken for granted that Iraqis can be divided and ruled. Remember that they united to fight off Iran for 8 years in the 1980s, and that relatively few Iraqi Shiites defected to Khomeini. It is also worrisome that the trained battalion of the new Iraqi army that was ordered to go fight in Fallujah refused to go, according to Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post. The battalion came under fire from the Mahdi Army on its way out of Baghdad and just went back to barracks. They said they hadn't signed up to fight Iraqis. This phenomenon had been seen many times before. The police in Fallujah refused to fight insurgents not so long ago when they had a firefight with US troops. Same reason. This is further evidence of the collapse of American authority in Iraq, such as it was.
Robin Wright of the Washington Post goes Bernard Lewis one better with an insightful piece on What Went Wrong with the American enterprise in Iraq....
Fallujah Bloodbath threatens US-Appointed Iraqi Government with Collapse
AP reported that the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) issued a demand early on Saturday that the US cease its military action against Fallujah and stop employing "collective punishment."
Not only has what many Iraqis call "the puppet council" taken a stand against Bush administration tactics in Iraq, but individual members are peeling off. Shiite Marsh Arab leader Abdul Karim al-Muhammadawi suspended his membership in the council on Friday. A Sunni member, Ghazi al-Yawir, has threatened to resign if a negotiated settlement of the Fallujah conflict cannot be found. Old-time Sunni nationalist leader Adnan Pachachi thundered on al-Arabiya televsion, "It was not right to punish all the people of Fallujah, and we consider these operations by the Americans unacceptable and illegal." For him to go on an Arab satellite station much hated by Donald Rumsfeld and denounce the very people who appointed him to the IGC is a clear act of defiance. There are rumors that many of the 25 Governing Council members have fled abroad, fearful of assassination because of their association with the Americans. The ones who are left appear on the verge of resigning.
This looks to me like an incipient collapse of the US government of Iraq. Beyond the IGC, the bureaucracy is protesting. Many government workers in the ministries are on strike and refusing to show up for work, according to ash-Sharq al-Awsat. Without Iraqis willing to serve in the Iraqi government, the US would be forced to rule the country militarily and by main force. Its legitimacy appears to be dwindling fast. The "handover of sovereignty" scheduled for June 30 was always nothing more than a publicity stunt for the benefit of Bush's election campaign, but it now seems likely to be even more empty. Since its main rationale was to provide more legitimacy to the US enterprise in Iraq, and since any legitimacy the US had is fading fast, and since a government appointed by Bremer will be hated by virtue of that very appointment, the Bush administration may as well just not bother....
Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Ha'iri, now resident in Qom in Iran but the major clerical successor to Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (Muqtada's father), warned the Americans against "these reckless actions" on Monday, referring to the crackdown on the Sadrists. He complained that seminary students had become the targets of the Occupation authorities. He said he knew from the beginning that the Americans had not come to Iraq to liberate it from darkness, and now his conviction had been proven correct. He complained that the Americans had begun "making war on this community [the Shiites], dishonoring them, imprisoning their clerics and believers, killing their children, and striking at their ancient intellectual positions. "This is all taking place in the name of freedom and democracy." ....
An opinion poll taken in late February showed that 10 % of Iraq's Shiites say attacks on US troops are "acceptable." But 30% of Sunni Arabs say such attacks are acceptable, and fully 70% of Anbar province approves of attacking Americans. (Anbar is where Ramadi, Fallujah, Hadithah and Habbaniyah are, with a population of 1.25 million or 5% of Iraq--those who approve of attacks are 875,000).
But simple statistics don't tell the story. If there are 25 million Iraqis and Shiites comprise 65%, that is about 16 million persons. Ten percent of them is 1.6 million, which is a lot of people who hate Americans enough to approve of attacks on them. If Sunni Arabs comprise about 16% of the population, there are 4 million of them. If 30% approve of attacks, that is 1.2 million. That is, the poll actually shows that in absolute numbers, there are more Shiites who approve of attacks on Americans than there are Sunni Arabs. The numbers bring into question the official line that there are no problems in the South, only in the Sunni Arab heartland.
The other problem is that attitudes change, and sometimes they change rapidly. The US cannot count on the percentage of Shiites who approve of attacks on its troops remaining at 10% if it is strafing Sadr City in Baghdad. Every 1% increase in the number of Shiites who approve of attacks equals 160,000 new enemies.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Whence comes the phenomenon known as fundamentalist Islam or Islamism? Some French analysts from a range of disciplines (international affairs, Orientalism, security studies, journalism) have come to an agreement: it comes from. . . the United States. Despite the inherent implausibility of viewing a movement engaged in a sustained attack on Americans as a diabolical U.S. plot, this argument has considerable persuasive power. It presents Islamism as an American attempt to retard progress in Muslim countries and divide them from their natural allies in Europe. Such ideas come at once from the Right and the Left, representing both nostalgia for the French empire and a residual "Third-Worldism." They have as their common denominator a hatred of the United States and all it stands for. Although still marginal, these ideas about Islamism have spilled over into policy-making circles and have had a skewing effect on French policies toward the Middle East.
America's War on Europe
America is "the last empire" in the view of these analysts, and that explains its aggressive policies. Paul-Marie de la Gorce, a leftist author with a Gaullist perspective on foreign affairs, believes that "the American empire is the only empire in the world today, it is an exclusive hegemony, and it is the first time that such a strange phenomenon occurs in human history."1 According to Senator Pierre Biarnès, in a 1998 book on geopolitics, it is an "unbearable America," a country dead-set on "moral and mercantile hegemony," obsessed with its own "hegemonic design."2
Worse, the United States is a "totalitarian democracy," writes Alexandre del Valle (the pen-name of Arthur Dupont, a French civil servant). It is a lone superpower intent on preventing any other power from emerging and determined to control Europe. Islamism is one whip used against Europe, but there are others:
Washington orchestrated the Asian financial crisis to bring down its dangerous rival Japan, and it uses the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to control Europe against Europe's interests. "Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the mutuality of geopolitical and ideological interests that united America and Western Europe against the Soviet bloc seems to have become partly obsolete," del Valle writes in his somewhat convoluted style. In a more straightforward way, he observes that "the United States has launched a war against the Old World."3
The theme of a war between the Old and the New Worlds recurs often. Pierre-Marie Gallois, a retired general, one of the conceptualizers of de Gaulle's doctrine of "all points" nuclear deterrence, and a well-known figure in the French defense community, holds that it is U.S. strategy to subvert European sovereignty (désouverainiser). From this alleged intent stems Washington's desire to place "Europe under German-American military control." The Germans go along with this because "the concept of Europe is an obsession for the Germans," who have always wanted to rule the continent. "In order to build that empire, the nation-states have to be destroyed," Gallois adds, which explains why the United States was set on undermining the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. France should rebuke the Germans and the Americans, and join with "our traditional allies," Russia and Serbia.
The theme of an American war on Europe has surprisingly wide appeal in elite French circles. François Mitterrand is quoted as saying in private conversation (according to his confidante Georges-Marc Benamou): "France does not know it, but we are at war with America. Yes, a permanent war, a vital war, a war without casualties, at least apparently."4 An opinion piece that appeared on the front page of the most prestigious French daily, co-authored by two members of the European Parliament, sums up the ills of a U.S.-ruled world, where "the market," a "triumphant totalitarianism" which bullies the rest of the world "way beyond the old Kremlin's wildest dreams," has confiscated the sovereignty of nations. The planet is now in the hands of "a mercantile one-worldism" which is the equal of Nazism and Bolshevism, they write. Thankfully, there are "vigorous signs" the two authors' own exertions, for instance of resistance to the uniformization of the world imposed by the "American Way of Life."5 They are spokesmen for a heterogeneous coalition of nationalists ranging from Populists of the left and the right to Gaullists, Socialists, and Communists, ultra-Leftists and ultra-Rightists, the whole rag-tag current going under the name of souverainisme.
In short, the United States is dangerous because it is the champion of capitalism
and of the lifting of national borders in the interests of a commercial economy.
The United States is home to the "new masters of the world," notably
multinational corporations which "loot the planet," impose a "sterile
uniformity" on it as well as a "streamlined mode of thinking."
The influential editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, Ignacio Ramonet, purveys this
line of thinking in his book Géopolitique du Chaos. Fortunately, he says,
"the specter of decline lurks over "American neo-hegemony."6
The United States is overstretching; it is destroying itself. America will collapse
under the weight of its own debt, and will be unable to manage such intractable
problems as race, poverty, and unemployment. It is precisely because it is threatened
by decline that the United States is so intent on shoring up its hegemony....
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Lewis Gould, in the Wash Post (April 18, 2004):
There comes a moment in almost every presidency when an unpleasant bit of reality intrudes upon the happy routine of striking media poses, harvesting reelection money and rubbing the egos of political allies. It's a moment when the unique burdens of the Oval Office begin to weigh upon its occupant more heavily than before, when a sense of impending tragedy threatens to overwhelm any countervailing assumption of divine, or even just plain political, purpose.
President Bush appeared to be having one of those moments during his news conference last Tuesday night. With the situation in Iraq in seeming chaos and the roots of the nation's vulnerability to terrorism under a microscope on Capitol Hill before the 9/11 commission, the president's third televised prime-time news conference offered a rare chance for reporters to ask about the substantive policy choices that the nation faces. Bush provided exhortation and a reiteration of his goals rather than a roadmap for how he intends to deal with the present crisis. The holder of the bully pulpit delivered a familiar sermon when a diagnosis of a national malady and prescription for a cure was needed.
The fault for this outcome did not lie entirely with the president. Rather, the nature of the office itself and what it has become are partly the problem. Over the past 50 years, the institution of the presidency has evolved into a mixture of celebrity and continuous campaigning. Substantive policy has receded in significance; presidents are judged on how they perform before the media, whether they win a second term and what their approval ratings are. In this context, mastery of staged events and the capacity to please the public are what matter most.
During their first three years in the White House, Bush and his advisers proved to be superb practitioners of these arts and experts at staging moments that conveyed an aura of decisive leadership. Whether standing atop the World Trade Center wreckage with a bullhorn or landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit, Bush fulfilled the symbolic expectations of the office with practiced skill. He has been equally adept at continuous campaigning, as his record fundraising totals and success in boosting Republicans in the 2002 congressional elections attest. As long as the presidency operated within this context, Bush enjoyed high ratings and widespread popularity.
But, of course, the presidency is not just about glitz and the trappings of
show business. At bottom, it is about policy, substantive issues and demanding
choices. Eventually the rigors of the White House expose a president's areas
of vulnerability. Early on, Bush had proclaimed with pride that he did not do
nuance. He and his aides cultivated his reputation as a big-picture man who
left it to subordinates to handle details and the nitty-gritty of policies.
Now he faces a public that wants to know not simply that he wants to stay the
course, but the nitty-gritty as well: how he plans to do it, how long it will
take, how he defines a less-than-perfect success....
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Jonathan M. Hansen, author of The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890-1920, is writing a book about the history of Guantánamo Bay; in the NYT (April 20, 2004):
... The history of how the United States came to possess Guantánamo Bay illuminates a question in the Supreme Court case to be argued today about whether American courts have jurisdiction over challenges to the detention of hundreds of foreign nationals there: who is sovereign at Guantánamo Bay, the United States or Cuba? If the Supreme Court rules that Cuba is sovereign, the detainees will have no recourse in United States courts.
The legal arguments in the case involve technical distinctions between sovereignty, jurisdiction and control. The historical record is plainer: Cuba has never been sovereign at Guantánamo Bay. Not only was Guantánamo Spanish territory when the United States seized it in 1898, but the ensuing lease between Cuba and the United States formalizing American occupation was completed amid a climate of coercion. To understand that coercion, it is necessary to return to a moment more than a century ago when the United States intervened in the Cuban war of independence against Spain.
The American forces that first occupied Guantánamo in June 1898 were late arrivals in a colonial struggle already three years old. The American victory over Spain was all but assured by then thanks to the skill and determination of the Cuban revolutionaries.
But history is written by the victors, and by midsummer 1898 the Cubans' role in the Spanish defeat was already being written off. Cuba's war of independence had become a mere"insurrection," its leaders notorious for their lawlessness and caprice. The Spanish-American diplomacy that concluded the war formalized the disregard: neither the armistice of August 1898 nor the Treaty of Paris signed that December allowed for any Cuban participation. The year 1898 drew to a close with the American flag fluttering over Havana and Guantánamo Bay firmly in the grip of a United States military government.
Congress had pledged America to Cuban independence, which raised the problem of how to secure United States political and economic interests in Cuba after the provisional American government departed. Congress resolved this problem in 1901 by passing the Platt Amendment, which curtailed Cuba's right to conduct its own foreign and fiscal policy, granted America the right to intervene at will in Cuban affairs, and compelled Cuba to"sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points, to be agreed upon by the president of the United States."
In the face of American pressure and despite the mounting opposition of Cuban citizens, the Cuban Constitutional Convention ratified the Platt Amendment in June 1901. Thus the American occupation of Guantánamo received Cuba's official sanction.
Subsequent treaties in 1903 and 1934 between the United States and Cuba confirmed American supremacy at Guantánamo. But the insistence in these documents of Cuba's"ultimate sovereignty" over the bay did not change the facts on the ground. Moreover, a clause in the 1934 treaty requires both signatories to agree to any termination of the lease....
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Mark LeVine, assistant professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, and the co-editor, with Pilar Perez and Viggo Mortensen, of Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation (Perceval Press, 2003) and author of the forthcoming Why They Don't Hate Us: Islam and the World in the Age of Globalization (Oneworld Publications, 2004); in www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute (April 22, 2004):
The voice on the other end of the phone was as sweet and reassuring as I remembered from our brief time together in Baghdad. It belonged to an Italian peace activist who has spent much of the last year in Iraq working with a group of European and Iraqi comrades to monitor and resist the U.S. occupation of the country. Now she was being forced to leave. The intensifying violence in central and southern Iraq has turned even foreign peace activists into targets, despite the fact that some of them were risking their lives ferrying the wounded and medical supplies between Baghdad, Falluja, and other cities.
What struck me upon hearing Francesca's voice -- the names in this story have been changed -- were her first words upon recognizing me:"Ah, Mark, è un casinoi," she said, her voice filled with sadness tinged with desperation. In Italian, this phrase usually means something like"it's crazy" or"it's overwhelming." (Mothers of young children use it a lot when you ask them how they're doing.) But it has a darker meaning when said by an Italian in Baghdad these days. There, it means something closer to"total chaos and violence," while also evoking images of the prostitution and perversion that accompany the wholesale breakdown of a social order.
With the burst of intense violence of the last few weeks the world press has decided that Iraq is descending into chaos. In fact, the descent has been longer and steeper than most people imagine. The last night of my trip to Iraq, I had dinner with Francesca, along with other Italian, French, and Filipino activists who for a year have been resisting the occupation as best they could -- by building bridges with Iraqis on the grass-roots level, risking their lives to find out the myriad ugly truths about the occupation, and bringing that information to the international public. The increase in chaos was palpable during my almost two weeks there in the latter half of March, with suicide bombings (including the big one at the Jebal Lubnan Hotel that blew out the first three stories' worth of its windows), not to speak of the nightly missile/RPG strikes and battles with U.S. troops on the city's streets.
Even as the situation turned worse the activists I knew, along with Iraqi staff members of the organization Occupation Watch (www.occupationwatch.org), and a group of American journalists and activists with whom I traveled to Iraq's capital felt free to spend an evening out at Baghdad's best Chinese restaurant discussing the current situation and future prospects for Iraq from a far more hopeful perspective than, only a few weeks later, seems imaginable. In fact, the very act of having Iraqi and international activists talking, working, eating and sometimes living together was itself an example of an alternative to imperial occupation or indiscriminately violent resistance.
Most of us believed that the situation"would get worse before it gets better," as a French activist put it, and few of the internationals thought bringing in more foreigners made much sense for the near future, even though none of them had ever felt targeted for being foreigners. (A few weeks ago the insurgents still discriminated between people working for and against the occupation.) But they still felt there was a lot of important work to be done: Francesca discussed building ties to local communities by passing out flyers explaining the work of her organization, Bridge to Baghdad, on issues like Iraqis detained indefinitely without charge, civilian casualties, and the decrepit state of the country's hospitals. Several of the Iraqis present talked about the need to dig deep into the nuts and bolts of the occupation, into the problems of the Draft Constitution, and the everyday violence plaguing the country.
The strategies then being considered by grass-roots activists across the political spectrum in Iraq reminded me of the anarchistic tactics recently favored by the global peace and justice movement. And it seemed to raise a possibility: If violence-related chaos could slow down the"reconstruction" of the country, even forcing the Americans and British to consider abandoning their allies on the Interim Governing Council, could a very different kind of anarchy and grass-roots activism challenge the larger order being imposed by the United States in Iraq?
Today, the answer seems to be a resounding, no, and not just because of the chaos a growing insurgency encourages. When it comes to creating chaos, no one can compete with the boys at the Pentagon and in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad. Which brings me back to Francesca's words on the phone. What struck me instantly was that"casino," when used negatively in Italian to describe life in Baghdad, had a similar meaning to the common Russian word for chaos,"bardok." Used throughout the former Soviet Union to describe the situation since the end of communism, it too conjured up images of extreme chaos, and of brothels and prostitution. Both uses distill into a single word what the violence of"globalization," or as it's called in Iraq"privatization," does to those on the receiving end of the enterprise.
Chaos and the Fading Prospects of Peace and Democracy
Indeed, it's the continuous chaos of everyday life that makes it so hard for Iraqis to tell friend from foe, that leads to peace activists being kidnapped, that makes it impossible for progressive-minded Islamic religious figures to offer protection to my friends who've been risking their lives in Iraq the past year. Chaos even makes it harder to do the digging necessary to understand just what the"Coalition" is up to.
Chaos means the four to six hours without electricity in Baghdad out of each twenty-four, including during that dinner of ours. It means having to travel with a satellite phone, a regular Iraqi cell phone ("Iraqnafone"), and a special CPA phone with a 914 (Westchester, NY) area code just to stay in touch with people. Even then, most of the time you can't call one type of phone from the others. It also means desperately under-equipped hospitals, bullet-ridden ambulances, and millions of dollars earmarked for school rehabilitation siphoned into the pockets of U.S. contractors and their Iraqi middlemen.
It's hard to assess how much of the chaos now evident in Iraq is just the product of war and occupation generally; how much is the product of Bush administration ill-planning, arrogance, and pure stupidity; and how much has been planned, or at least welcomed, by elements in the administration. Most Iraqis opt, almost automatically, for option C. As one Iraqi military psychiatrist who worked closely with the CPA and the American military at the start of the occupation argued,"They can't be that incompetent. It has to be at least partly deliberate." What convinced him beyond all else was the CPA's refusal to allow the collection of data for a program he had developed to track levels of post-traumatic stress disorder in Iraqi children since the occupation -- this after they had already funded the study, sent in an American doctor to help implement it, and even put the computers in place to begin collecting the data. He still has no idea how many children suffer from such disorders, but in his words,"It could be millions, and how can we build a stable society with such trauma?"
If it's true that at least some of the chaos in Iraq has, to one degree or another, been consciously let loose on the land, the broadest reason is obvious. As Ali (an Iraqi friend who worked for the UN before a suicide bombing drove that organization out of the country) explained,"One thing is clear; it is impossible to build a peaceful alternative to the occupation when the chaos reaches its current levels." As late one night he and another friend, Hassan, both now working for an international NGO as translators and drivers, plied me with Arak, the national drink of Iraq, they recounted life under, and after, Saddam Hussein. Hassan explained how, having escaped a death sentence personally signed by Saddam, he'd become a Buddhist and lived for a time in Thailand and the Philippines. Yet, as we spoke of peace, Ali and Hassan drilled me on how to disassemble and reassemble one of the three AK-47s in their 200 square-foot apartment. (If I were Iraqi, they laughed, I'd have been court-martialed for being so inept.)
I'm far from a gun enthusiast, but as they pointed out,"In Iraq, you never know when you'll have to use your Kalashnikov." And these guys are committed peace activists. What's sad is that while months ago Hassan had forsworn traveling with a weapon, after the fighting in Falluja broke out he emailed me that he now had no choice but to keep one with him at all times and was preparing to"fight" if the American incursions didn't end soon. What chance does peace have when peace activists are armed and feel the urge, even the necessity, to use their weapons?
Clearly, as long as the violence continues at anything near present levels, the chance of building a truly democratic, progressive alternative to the status quo is nil. Indeed, perhaps the worst thing about the chaos ruling Iraq, along with the insecurity it brings, is that it denies civil society the possibility of promoting any alternatives to collaboration with or violent religious opposition to the occupation.
Watching a similar dynamic at work for over a decade in the Occupied Territories, I had grown ever more frustrated with Palestinian society for not being able to build a nonviolent means of resisting an occupation that only digs in deeper in response to the violent resistance it breeds. But seeing the dynamic evolve before my eyes in Iraq has given me a better understanding of why it's so difficult for Palestinians, or Iraqis, to build such a movement. What Colgate University Professor Nancy Ries calls the"planned chaos" of an occupation, coupled with the economic"structural adjustment" that is a euphemism for the harsh imposition of a market economy controlled by corporate giants on"socialist" systems, steamrolls over any attempts at resistance through the kinds of tactics favored by Gandhi or Martin Luther King.
Multiple Levels of Chaos and Incompetence
The question is: How much of the chaos is deliberate and how much due to arrogance, incompetence, and stupidity? There would seem to be at least three circles of chaos involved in the occupation of Iraq. I don't know official Washington well enough to determine exactly who fits into which category, but it's likely that President Bush and some of his senior military planners and top political advisors fall into the first circle of offenders – the arrogant, incompetent, and just plain stupid.
Whoever comprises this group, they are certainly responsible for the lack of coherent post-occupation planning and the innumerable political and cultural miscues of the American administration in Iraq, which are now much commented upon in the press. It is this group, both politically and militarily, that can be considered"that incompetent," as a leading scholar of Iraq described them to me.
However, there are two other groups within the American governmental system who are definitely not that incompetent: the radical right-wing ideologues in the White House and the Pentagon and their corporate sponsors. And they make up the final two circles of chaos-creators in Iraq. The two groups, not at all distinct, are embodied in the personage of former Defense Secretary and former Halliburton CEO Vice President Dick Cheney. On the more directly political level, neocon officials and their media allies such as Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Richard Armitrage, Michael Ledeen, George Will, Daniel Pipes and other stalwarts neither expected the occupation of Iraq to be a" cakewalk," nor cared if it spread chaos to other countries, as long as it furthered their aim to reconfigure the political map of the region.
In fact, for years key American governmental figures and the leaders of institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have understood that U.S.-led globalization was going to necessitate -- and generate -- violence throughout the Third World and in the Middle East specifically. Already in the early 1990s, hawkish scholars were writing of"the new cold war" that was taking shape there as Islamic nationalism confronted the region's secular states. In 2000, a U.S. Strategic Space Command document,"Vision 2020," admitted that globalization was producing a zero-sum game of winners and losers and that on such a planet Americans needed to be prepared to do whatever it might take to"win." Several years before that, the World Bank had reported that the Middle East would likely require a"shakedown period" to adapt to the new global economic order coming out of Washington.
For the ideologues in the Bush Administration a shakedown wasn't enough, and so Iraq, a country already thoroughly weakened, militarily and economically, by years of war and sanctions, was targeted for a shock-down -- and in March of 2003, we got"shock and awe." If we take seriously the statements and writings of Ledeen, Perle, Frum, Feith and Wolfowitz, the invasion and occupation of Iraq was supposed to create a domino effect that would weaken local states (or in their polite phrasing,"democratize" them), open their economies to"international" -- as in Iraq, to the neocons, this largely meant American -- capital ("establish market economies"), and at the same time lead to a much needed"reformation" or"modernization" of Islam (which meant putting in power"Muslims" who would feel at home in the Republican Party in Washington or the Likud Party in Israel). Of course, to accomplish such a"revolution," force would be a necessity, lots of it, continuously applied. This -- itself obviously a chaos-creator -- was not seen by them as a bad thing. As Michael Ledeen has typically argued the U.S., as"the most revolutionary force on earth," naturally engages in the kind of" creative destruction" that has been the hallmark of imperialism, capitalism, and modernity for almost half a millennium -- and neither Ledeen, nor any of his fellow neocons, thought this would occur without causing much chagrin in the Muslim world as well as the Third World at large. And it mattered to them not a whit.
Such a policy-line had two things going for it: the fear of such a machinery of chaos and massive violence heading one's way can often compel local leaders to fall into line and pressure rebels to stop fighting (as has happened in Falluja and Najaf); but if it doesn't, the resulting chaos and violence can in turn be used to further the program. At home, as we've seen, such chaos and the acts that go with it only inflame Americans, convincing many that what's happening there is anything but our fault, and that the only option -- as even Senator John Kerry now argues -- is to"stay the course," whatever that is. As a potential side benefit, generating such chaos and misery also means that any fall off in the same, any move toward political or economic normalcy, however modest, can be touted as proof of the"success" for the U.S. sponsored"reconstruction" of the country.
Whatever the degree of chaos neocons in the Pentagon, the vice president's office, and elsewhere in this administration were ready to accept in their future Iraq and in the region generally, only on entering the third circle of chaos can one envision the full benefits of a world in which lawlessness and violence are the essence of the open market. In such a world of what might be called"sponsored chaos," giant corporate entities and their hangers-on, including the booming"security" firms they employ, stand to make tens, even hundreds of billions of dollars off Iraq and a globalized war on terrorism, no matter the levels of ongoing carnage.
It is perhaps hard for Americans to understand their occupation of Iraq in the context of globalization; but Iraq today is clearly the epicenter of such a trend, a place in which chaos is king and the revenues flow back to the corporate"homeland" like water from a tap. Here, as a start, military force was used to seize control of the world's most important commodity, oil. While corporate prospectors allied with the U.S. scavenged the country in mammoth SUVs filled with downsized former soldiers turned high-priced security guards for any opportunity to profit from Iraq's misery, inside Baghdad's massively fortified Green Zone, where the CPA rules over a non-country, their counterparts drafted regulations for"privatizing" everything from health care to prisons and for delivering them into the same corporate hands.
You only have to spend a few hours in the no-less fortified Baghdad Airport checking out the new colonial bureaucrats and Bible Belt contractors passing through to get a sense of how such a world operates. Aside from gazing at a departure/arrivals boards with"delayed" notifications from who knows how many years ago, the most interesting way to pass the time is to chat with them. At least when I was there, most of the two dozen or so white men (and a few women) I spoke with or on whose conversations I eavesdropped were from the South or Midwest. All were clearly in Iraq for one thing -- money -- and happy to say so. Some were on quick trips to Basra or Kirkuk scouting out contracts; others had crisscrossed the country for the previous months or year intent on such tasks as training bomb-sniffing dogs for the Army. There were contract employees of USAID, workers for the privately run RTI International -- making $100,000 per year with hazard pay for jobs that would pay less than half that at home -- and assorted contractors looking to milk some of the billions of dollars in congressionally-mandated reconstruction aid. As a group, they were a reminder that the chaos of war and occupation provides wonderful opportunities for corporations and individuals to make levels of profits, unchecked by the laws and regulations that hamper profitability in peacetime and are usually unrealizable under normal circumstances. But -- and this is the other side of chaos, even for those who profit from it -- all of those departing were relieved or happy to be leaving, even though a number of them planned to return.
There is, needless to say, nothing new about war profiteering. But there is something new about the way it's being done in Iraq. In the post-Cold War era, global corporations and the government elites with whom they work have great incentives to sponsor global chaos and the violence it generates. This gives"opening markets" a new meaning in our age. We know from the experience, for instance, of post-Soviet Kazakhstan or even of Russia itself, how political and social chaos lead to the formation of competing networks of criminal gangs and exceedingly corruptible political parties, filled with potential dynastic families and their friends, all competing for resources and power in the decidedly one-sided contest that is the globalized market economy.
Algeria and its grisly civil war serves as a particularly stark example of how situations of violence and the profitability of widespread chaos can feed off each other to the advantage of all sides in a conflict. Indeed, Algeria's civil war had its roots in good measure in a series of desperately destructive, chaos-producing structural adjustment"reforms" imposed on the country in the late 1980s by the World Bank and the IMF. During the civil war both the state and private groups, including the armed terrorist organizations, made lots of money through the privatization process we call globalization. More important, a semi-secret"political-mafia power" (as Le Monde recently described it) evolved that now rivals the previous political and formerly dominant military establishments.
Once you have mafias coming into being, chaos only advances further, being, at least for a time, the cheapest, easiest, and for those not dying or being impoverished by it, most profitable way to go. If the present chaos and violence continues in Iraq, there is little doubt that a similar scenario will evolve there too. In fact, my friend Ali described the local situation in Shi'a towns like Najaf and Nasriyya in terms troublingly similar to the grim descriptions coming out of Algeria in the 1990s:"Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi's Army are little more than mercenaries who were lost with no jobs in streets of Iraq. I've watched them steal the government properties in order to make money to support their revolt. The Iraqi police are totally afraid of them; they stood looking on the without thinking to take any action. Some others took the advantage of this chaos to loot what ever they could, even the people's properties."
How to Tell the Difference Between Chaos and Incompetence
What's important to bear in mind here is that the U.S. can increase such chaos not just through genuine incompetence but through purposeful incompetence -- and it's normally impossible for an outsider to tell which is which. I could, for instance, feel the impact of purposeful incompetence in the conversation I had with an Iraqi architect who worked in Falluja. Having experienced the frustration of dealing with the bureaucrats inside the Green Zone and the corrupt Iraqis who increasingly surround them, he explained to me that"no honest Iraqi contractor will touch the CPA." In the early months of the occupation, he had tried to offer his help to the CPA, but despite a public pretense of accountability -- of giving all comers a chance to profit from the rebuilding of the country -- his bids, though lower than those of foreign bidders, were either ignored or someone would show up weeks later offering to help him" cement a deal" only after thousands of dollars passed under the table.
The officials of the CPA, however, were never intent on"rebuilding" Iraq in the normal sense -- not with Iraqis anyway. What they were intent on was cracking what was left of the Iraqi economy open and handing its spoils to crony capitalists and giant corporate entities allied to them. And this is why we can't simply assume, as one recent newspaper article put it, that the hemorrhaging of billions of dollars in Iraq is"yet more proof of the administration's inadequate preparation for the war, and its failure to fathom what awaited it in Iraq." Such a view misunderstands why, for example, Pentagon Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other senior administration officials dismissed pre-war warnings that the civil rebuilding of Iraq would cost between $60 billion and $150 billion. They certainly didn't do so because they thought it could be done cheaper.
In fact the $100 billion-plus the U.S. is slated to spend by the end of next year on infrastructure and civilian expenses -- we can only guess how much of that will go directly and indirectly to Halliburton and Bechtel and not to Iraqis -- along with the fraud, bribery, theft and waste that are literally written into budgets under the heading of"special clauses," when combined with the $250 billion in military-related costs (all those depleted uranium bullets and high-tech napalm aren't cheap) plunked down for the invasion and military occupation, together constitute a major reason why we went to war in the first place. Looked at from a certain perspective, all of this falls under the category of planned or sponsored chaos.
Just consider the profits of the major arms, energy, and heavy engineering companies today versus three years ago. Some have more than doubled their profits, as has their share of the total profits of the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones companies; and no one with a car today can remain oblivious to the relationship between Middle Eastern chaos and higher oil prices, which naturally mean higher profits for the major oil companies. Of course, officials like Wolfowitz weren't going to tell the American people what Iraq was really going to cost them, at least not beforehand. But it's hard to imagine Cheney and his friends in the military-petroindustrial complex didn't know better, especially when it's a given that reconstruction contracts handed out to companies like Halliburton have profits built into them regardless of cost over-runs.
I should admit that one of my travel companions who knows Washington doesn't agree with level of importance I've given to sponsored chaos. For her, more than profits and chaos, Cheney and Co. are about"about projecting US dominance. It's all geostrategy." But since when have imperial dominance and imperial profits been separable? And it's just too hard to stick with a simple explanation of"incompetence" when it comes to Iraq. As she admits,"Maybe incompetent is the wrong word. Ideological is more like it."
Even then, you haven't quite captured the strange combination of planned and actual incompetence that is now Iraq. As I flew out of Baghdad, I struck up a conversation with a woman who works for USAID"reforming" Iraqi hospitals. I was a bit emotional leaving the country in such a state of visible disintegration, so I leaned into her immediately with questions about why hospitals which I had visited still have almost no supplies of drugs or equipment, and aren't even allowed to send mortality reports or other negative statistics -- of which there are now reams -- to the"health" ministry. Taken aback, she replied that the doctors I had interviewed simply"don't know what they're talking about. We're trying to decentralize the system and make it more efficient." I felt a twinge of guilt for being so argumentative; perhaps we just weren't talking about the same hospitals. So I asked her if she'd ever visited an Iraqi hospital. Visibly surprised that I would even ask such a question, she answered with a simple,"No."
It was clear that she basically spent her days ensconced in an office in the Green Zone, totally cut off from the chaos she had a small hand in creating, pushing paper, transferring millions of dollars here and there, and undoubtedly writing reports about how"efficient" U.S. reforms are and how Iraqis are being readied to reassume control of one of the most underfunded ministries in the Government. Since most Americans of the civilian part of the occupation rarely mix with or spend significant amounts of time with Iraqis outside their security bubble, they, like her, have little idea of the realities on the ground. This is, in fact, almost a necessary qualification for the planning they're engaged in. Otherwise, they would have to quit their jobs or do them very differently. This is how chaos and privatization thrive on ignorance -- but an ignorance structurally and purposefully set up and embedded in the landscape. Maybe my companion on that plane thought she was doing a good job. Who knows? Who cares? Either way, ignorance, chaos, privatization, planning, and various kinds of sponsored chaos seem to be in perfect synergy in Iraq.
And this is why I suspect that the very categories within which most of us outside the world of this administration and its corporate allies think may not even provide us with the language necessary to describe accurately what's actually taking place. In some sense, the chaos-managers in the Pentagon and their corporate cousins know well enough what they're doing in Iraq and what impact their version of sponsored chaos is having. A society so brutalized by twenty years of Saddam Hussein and constant war, oppression, and corruption, one where even seventy year-old Ayatollahs want their picture taken with Kalashnikovs, all play into the hands of the occupation profiteers. Because of this situation, as my friend Ali explained,"The idea of building a coherent positive resistance cannot fit for the Iraqi mentality. They can easily be driven to any fight and will hand the mess over to the Americans by giving them an excuse to stay here. The Iraqi intellectuals are doing nothing: they are more worried about their chairs [that is, their possessions and social position] than the country or the people."
We can perhaps be a bit more charitable, as the very Iraqis who have the training, skills and desire to rebuild their country -- the engineers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals -- are, like the architect I talked with, either ignored by the CPA's contractors in favor of more corrupt colleagues, or themselves targets of assassination just by virtue of the fact they might be imagined as cooperating with the Americans. Either way, with local intellectuals in hiding or dead, and international activists now leaving, it's no surprise that Iraqis feel very much alone and have little in the way of a positive, forward-thinking leadership. What, after all, does it say about the prospects for Iraq when Ayatollah Sistani, the"most important figure in the country," hasn't left his house in a decade?
Break it, Buy it, Fix it?
By now many people have heard that before the U.S. invasion, according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, Secretary of State Powell informed President Bush about his"Pottery Barn" theory of international politics --"you break it, you own it." Of course, breaking something is the easy part; and if the goal of at least part of the US establishment (at least in the short-term) is indeed chaos, then"owning" Iraq does not necessarily mean that our political and corporate elites feel compelled to fix it, however much they insist it's their heartfelt dream. They might, in the end, prefer that it be left broken -- possibly into three pieces -- an impotent and wrecked country.
From this perspective, the Iraqi situation is hardly unique. In the bardok of Kazakhstan and the rest of the former USSR, for instance, the Western-promoted"shock therapy" of the early 1990s impoverished whole populations but successfully brought their resources (oil, gold, forest products, labor, intellectual capital) onto the global market in a major way. And just as in Russia, sexual exploitation as both imagery and reality is not far from the surface of the growing chaos in Iraq. During the last year increasing numbers of Iranians have been bringing in women and setting up bordellos in parts of the country so that Shi'i Iraqi men could obtain"temporary marriages" in order to have sex with what are clearly prostitutes (a practice, while sanctioned in Shi'i Islam and widespread in Iran, that was frowned upon in Iraq before the occupation).
Whoever is responsible, in the casino of post-occupation Iraq, bardok, it seems, is thriving in every way possible. It will take a lot of money, blood, and good will to change this dynamic any time soon. In the meantime, chaos by its nature is never anybody's assured property. As the Bush administration is learning even now, the operative phrase is: Be careful what you wish for.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02
Murray Polner, author of No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran, in Newsday (March 16, 2004):
As we approach the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and the coming spring nationwide demonstrations, not to mention the coming Republican convention in New York City, there is growing apprehension among civil libertarians and ordinary Americans that the FBI is once again dredging up its infamous J. Edgar Hoover legacy of spying on political dissenters who are exercising their constitutional rights.
Last October the FBI notified local police agencies to keep close tabs on people and groups opposed to the war and occupation of Iraq. Since it is obvious that the Bush administration loves playing the 9/11 card for political purposes, it is no surprise that efforts are being made to squelch as much domestic dissension as it can.
We've been through this wave of repression before in the 20th century with calamitous results, when government snoopers developed a vast spying apparatus during the '20s, McCarthyite '50s, and the '60s, '70s and '80s against nonviolent dissenters who dared challenge the wisdom of U.S. foreign policies. And though the FBI (and others in the government) deny they are hindering free speech or assembly - declaring that they are only concerned with deterring potential criminals and terrorists - their October memorandum nevertheless asked some 17,000 local and state police agencies to keep a very close eye on anti-war demonstrations and report allegedly suspicious activity to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The risk now is that the"war against terrorism" has given policing agents on all levels greater latitude to play ideological sentry. In Chicago, for example, the Sun-Times reported in February that undercover cops have been spying on different groups, including the American Friends Service Committee. Political espionage has occurred in Denver, Colorado Springs, Austin, Fresno, Atlanta and probably many other places.
In New York City in February 2003, tens of thousands of anti-war marchers were forced into holding pens, assaulted with pepper sprays and many of the arrested compelled by the police to reveal their political leanings and histories of earlier protests. And in Hernando County, Fla., peaceful anti-war pickets carrying signs were put under surveillance and their personal lives investigated, which led the St. Petersburg Times to properly characterize the police response as"intolerance for political dissent."
Take Jeanne Pahls, a fourth- grade teacher in Albuquerque, N.M., one of the founders of a local anti-war group, Stop the War Machine . In March 2003, before the invasion, members of the group organized a demonstration. When they noticed a white pickup cab being used to videotape the affair, she complained to the police and was told by a detective that it belonged to its criminal investigations unit.
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005 - 13:02