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: USA Today (1-25-06)
An increasing number of voices are calling for Hamas to be recognized, arguing that the imperatives of governance would tame it, ending its arch-murderous vocation (it has killed around 600 Israelis) and turning it into a responsible citizen. Even President Bush made this argument in early 2005: "There's a positive effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say, ‘Vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America.' ... I don't think so. I think people who generally run for office say, ‘Vote for me, I'm looking forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got bread on the table.'"
The historical record, however, refutes this "pothole theory of democracy." Mussolini made the trains run, Hitler built autobahns, Stalin cleared the snow and Castro reduced infant mortality — without any of these totalitarians giving up their ideological zeal nor their grandiose ambitions. Likewise, Islamists in Afghanistan, Iran, and Sudan have governed without becoming tamed. If proof is needed, note the Iranian efforts to build nuclear weapons amid an apocalyptic fervor.
Hamas might have hired a spin doctor to improve its image in the West, but its leadership candidly maintains it has no intention of changing. Responding to a question on whether Bush is correct that U.S. engagement with Hamas would moderate the terror group, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas founder, laughed and declared that this tactic "will not succeed." In recent days, Zahar has publicly reiterated that Hamas still intends to destroy Israel.
Fortunately, U.S. policy remains steadfast: "We haven't dealt with Hamas, and we won't deal with Hamas members who are elected," says U.S. embassy spokesman Stewart Tuttle in Israel. That is a good start; ideally, there should be no dealings at all with a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas in its leadership.
It was a mistake to permit Hamas to compete in elections. Like al-Qaeda, Hamas should be destroyed, not legitimated, much less courted.
Posted on: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 14:08
SOURCE: Juan Cole's Blog (Informed Comment) (1-24-06)
On September 11, 2001, the question was whether we had underestimated al-Qaeda. It appeared to be a Muslim version of the radical seventies groups like the Baader Meinhoff gang or the Japanese Red Army. It was small, only a few hundred really committed members who had sworn fealty to Bin Laden and would actually kill themselves in suicide attacks. There were a few thousand close sy mpathizers, who had passed through the Afghanistan training camps or otherwise been inducted into the world view. But could a small terrorist group commit mayhem on that scale? Might there be something more to it? Was this the beginning of a new political force in the Middle East that could hope to roll in and take over, the way the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan in the 1990s? People asked such questions.
Over four years later, there is no doubt. Al-Qaeda is a small terrorist network that has spawned a few copy-cats and wannabes. Its breakthrough was to recruit some high-powered engineers in Hamburg, which it immediately used up. Most al-Qaeda recruits are marginal people, people like Zacarias Moussawi and Richard Reid, who would be mere cranks if they hadn't been manipulated into trying something dangerous. Muhammad al-Amir (a.k.a Atta) and Ziad Jarrah were highly competent scientists, who could figure the kinetic energy of a jet plane loaded with fuel. There don 't seem to be significant numbers of such people in the organization. They are left mostly with cranks, petty thieves, drug smugglers, bored bank tellers, shopkeepers, and so forth, persons who could pull off a bombing of trains in Madrid or London, but who could not for the life of them do a really big operation.
The Bush administration and the American Right generally has refused to acknowledge what we now know. Al-Qaeda is dangerous. All small terrorist groups can do damage. But it is not an epochal threat to the United States or its allies of the sort the Soviet Union was (and that threat was consistently exaggerated, as well).
In fact, the United States invaded a major Muslim country, occupied it militarily, tortured its citizens, killed tens of thousands, tinkered with the economy-- did all those things that Muslim nationalists had feared and warned against, and there hasn't even been much of a reaction from the Muslim world. Only a few thousand voluntee rs went to fight. Most people just seem worried that the US will destabilize their region and leave a lot of trouble behind them. People are used to seeing Great Powers do as they will. A Syrian official before the war told a journalist friend of mine that people in the Middle East had been seeing these sorts of invasions since Napoleon took Egypt in 1798. "Well," he shrugged, "usually they leave behind a few good things when they finally leave."
Because they exaggerate the scale of the conflict, and because they use it cynically, Bush and Cheney have grossly mismanaged the struggle against al-Qaeda and Muslim radicalism after September 11. Here are their chief errors:
1. Bush vastly exaggerates al-Qaeda's size, sweep and importance, while failing to invest in genuine counterterrorist measures such as port security or security for US nuclear plants.
2. Bush could have eradicated the core al-Qaeda group by putting resources into the effort in 2002. He did not, leaving al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden to taunt us, inspire our enemies and organize for years after the Taliban were defeated. It would be as though Truman had allowed Hitler to broadcast calls for terrorism against the US from some hiding place as late as 1949.
3. Bush opened a second front against Iraq before he had put Afghanistan on a sound footing.
4. Bush gutted the US constitution, tossing out the Fourth Amendment, by assiduously spying on Americans without warrants. None of those spying efforts has been shown to have resulted in any security benefits for the United States. Bush says that he wants to watch anyone who calls the phone numbers associated with al-Qaeda. But some of those phone numbers were for food delivery or laundry. We want a judge to sign off on a wire tap so that innocent Americans are not spied on by the government.
5. Bush attempted to associate the threat from al-Qaeda with Iran and Syria. Iran is a fundamentalist Shi ite country that hates al-Qaeda. Syria is a secular Arab nationalist country that hates al-Qaeda. Indeed, Syria tortured al-Qaeda operatives for Bush, until Bush decided to get Syria itself. Bush and Cheney have cynically used a national tragedy to further their aggressive policies of Great Power domination.
6. Bush by invading Iraq pushed the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to desert secular Arab nationalism. Four fifths of the Sunni Arab vote in the recent election went to hard line Sunni fundamentalist parties. This development is unprecedented in Iraqi history. Iraqi Sunni Arabs are nationalists, whether secular or religious, and there is no real danger of most of them joining al-Qaeda. But Bush has spread political Islam and has strengthened its influence.
7. Bush diverted at least $1,000,000,000 in US security spending from the counter-terrorism struggle against al-Qaeda to the Iraq debacle, at the same time that he has run up half a trillion dollar annual deficits, co ntributing to a spike in inflation, harming the US economy, and making the US less effective in counterterrorism.
8. Counterterrorism requires friendly allies and close cooperation. The Bush administration alienated France, Germany and Spain, along with many Middle Eastern nations that had long waged struggles of their own against terrorist groups. Bush is widely despised and has left America isolated in the world. Virtually all the publics of all major nations hate US policy. One poll showed that in secular Turkey where Muslim extremism is widely reviled and Bin Laden is generally disliked, the public preferred Bin Laden to Bush. Bush is widely seen as more dangerous than al-Qaeda. This image is bad for US counterterrorism efforts.
9. Bush transported detainees to torture sites in Eastern Europe. Under European Union laws, both torture and involvement in torture are illegal,and European officials can be tried for these crimes. HOw many European counterterroris m officials will want to work closely with the Americans if, for all they know, this association could end in jail time? Indeed, in Washington it is said that a lot of our best CIA officers are leaving, afraid that they are being ordered to do things that are illegal, and for which they could be tried once another administration comes to power in Washington.
10. Bush's failure to capture Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri allows them to continue to grandstand, to continue to frighten the public, to continue to affect financial markets, and to continue to plot. Al-Zawahiri almost certainly plotted the 7/7 London subway bombings himself, and gloated about it when he issued Muhammad Siddique Khan's suicide statement. Misplaced Bush priorities are getting our allies hit. The CIA is reduced to firing predators at villages because our counterterrorism efforts have been starved for funds by the Iraq quagmire. If al-Qaeda does pull off another American operation, it may well give Bush and Cheney an opportunity to destroy the US constitution altogether, finally giving Bin Laden his long-sought revenge on Americans for the way he believes they have forced Palestinians and other Muslims to live under lawless foreign domination or local tyranny.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 22:16
SOURCE: History News Service (HNS) (1-23-06)
Probably, but it won't be easy. Many business analysts remain skeptical about the prospect of any significant turnaround even by 2012. But they ignore the background, experience and historically grounded perspective of this great-grandson of legendary founder Henry Ford.
When Bill Ford's new print and TV commercials proclaim that"Innovation Is Our Mission," he rightly points to the company's long record of innovation in manufacturing and management. Bill not only acknowledges Henry's achievements but is also taking steps that Henry would surely have favored. Bill, like Henry, has long recognized that working conditions affect profits. Henry pioneered the large, highly centralized manufacturing plant, epitomized by his famous River Rouge Plant outside of Detroit.
At its height in the 30 years after the 1930s, the River Rouge daily employed over 100,000 workers who manufactured cars from raw materials into finished products. The plant attracted countless visitors, among them Charlie Chaplin, who visited it before he produced"Modern Times," the classic movie depiction of workers as cogs in machines.
Giving Bill a template for reform, Henry ultimately favored decentralized manufacturing, combining small-scale modern technology with such rural"traditional" customs as part-time farming and community leisure activities. Henry's most significant response was the nineteen"village industries" he established in Michigan between the 1910s and 1940s, all within a sixty-mile radius of Ford world headquarters in Dearborn. Set in declining existing communities, these small plants made parts for Ford cars and trucks, parts often made nowhere else in the Ford empire. Utilizing high-tech advances that at once allow for variations of plant size and layout and mechanize the toughest and most dangerous factory jobs, Bill's global company has embraced decentralization in many of its 100 plants on six continents.
Like other innovations, decentralization depends heavily on workers' attitudes. Bill has gone way beyond his great-grandfather in trying to maintain positive relations with organized labor. But pending layoffs and early retirements, reduction of health care benefits and North American plant closings will surely make Bill's task harder than ever. Henry's legendary hostility toward labor's efforts to organize his company made the village industries an easy - if misguided - target as being simply anti-union. By contrast, Bill has recognized labor's critical part in preserving the longtime company motto that"Quality is Job One."
Along with decentralization, Bill has expanded the company's outsourcing that began with the village industries. As a 1938 Life magazine article about the River Rouge Plant revealed,"Ford still buys parts and materials from 6,000 independent plants throughout the nation." Bill has vastly increased that number.
But outsourcing requires reliable inventory controls, and Bill has greatly improved Ford Motor Company's inventory policies without falling into the trap created by his ousted predecessor, Jacques Nasser, for whom impersonal computerized systems were panaceas. Bill has built on Henry's legacy, as detailed in Ford and Samuel Crowther's"Today and Tomorrow" (1926).
As the publisher of a 1988 reprint argued, Henry, not the Japanese, initiated the"kanban" or"just-in-time" (JIT) inventory system: keeping only enough parts on hand to fulfill orders, thereby saving considerable money, space and labor. Even JIT's official creator, Taiichi Ohno, acknowledged that he had"learned it all from Henry Ford's book." As Bill appreciates, JIT greatly helped Toyota's growing supremacy.
Most American corporations claim to be environmentally concerned, but often that is mere lip service. By contrast, Bill is a genuine environmentalist -- and despite legitimate criticisms from the Sierra Club charging that he is increasingly ambivalent when profits are at stake -- he remains the foremost environmentalist among auto industry leaders.
In earlier company ads Bill praised Henry for developing"ways to recycle lumber, use alcohol as fuel, slash manufacturing waste, and use soybean-plastic parts." Besides his current advocacy of hybrids and"ethanol-ready" vehicles, Bill has transformed much of the old River Rouge Plant into a model environmentally progressive site that once again attracts visitors.
Bill's initial use of Henry's pictures and words in ads was certainly a risk. When Henry died in 1947, his once heroic reputation had sunk so low -- not least, for poor labor relations -- that he was barely mentioned in company promotions for the next 50 years. Yet Bill has inherited from Henry a broader perspective all too rare in corporate circles, where conventional numbers crunchers frequently prevail.
One need not overlook Henry's darker side to acknowledge the accuracy of the legacy represented by Bill Ford's"Innovation is Our Mission." That legacy will be critical to the"Way Forward" restructuring plan.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 22:02
SOURCE: Email sent to H-1960s (1-21-06)
What seems to be happening is that veterans of Weather are on a drive to rehabilitate, sanitize and perhaps revive it. Despite the substandard product they are peddling, this may not be so hard in the present frustrated mood of the left. In addition, many undergraduates, graduate students and faculty have been infected by postmodernism in this, its terminal phase, and therefore have little concern for concrete reality. Weather can be discussed in appealing-sounding abstractions, without reference to the destructive inanities of their real-life roles at the June 1969 Chicago convention of Students for a Democratic Society, the October 1969 Days of Rage, the bombings, the bombing fuck-ups, etc. (Nobody wants to talk about Bill Ayers's classic September 11, 2001 New York Times interview lauding Weather
Bernardine Dohrn served up all the hoary platitudes about the everyday violence of the standing order -- all true -- leading inevitably to a justification of violent response by a minority substituting itself for a mass movement, while at the same time offering a rhetorical parenthesis seeming to reject armed struggle. Neither the efficacy nor morality of Weather tactics were scrutinized, nor any inquiry made into how you construct a majority radical democratic movement by denouncing and writing off the majority. Her defense of Weather includes the remark that in the face of terrible oppressions and injustices, it is necessary "to do something about it, it almost doesn't matter what." But it does matter, if we are interested in building rather than tearing apart a new left. Clearly, almost forty years after the Weather disaster, she doesn't get it. Indeed, she says that the actions of the Weather Underground "made people smile."
Weather killed and buried Students for a Democratic Society -- a catastrophe for the left. Dohrn passes lightly over this, saying that SDS wasn't worth saving by the time Weather came on the scene. An anarchist in the audience made the important point that how you make the revolution will affect the kind of revolution that you get. Partly agreeing, Dohrn insisted that, while underground, Weatherpeople not only practiced participatory democracy, but also got closer to the working class and to various minorities.
As I mentioned above, the discussion of the Weather Underground lacked concrete specifics. If we look beyond the abstraction to those specifics, Weather is a tragic laughingstock. It's the postmodern mood that allows such weird and empty history. How wonderful: we have lived to see Weather's posthumous rehabilitation in pomo hands. But we need a new left today, and the evasion of realities of past, present and future won't help to build this left.
There was much to laugh about, and much to weep about in all this. But the funniest moment came when Columbia anthropologist Beth Povinelli recalled that when she was invited to speak on urban guerrilla groups, her first thought was that her brother is a primatologist.
Posted on: Monday, January 23, 2006 - 19:34
SOURCE: Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment (1-13-06)
The article also contains a critique of Bush's recent speech in which he warned of the caliphate ideology of al-Qaeda, saying it wished to establish the institution from Spain to Indonesia. The problem is that a caliphate is an ideal for many Muslims who have little sympathy with al-Qaeda, and framing the conflict as America versus a revived caliphate alienates them.
There are different conceptions of the caliphate, sort of a Sunni papacy. At some points in history the caliph was both a temporal and a spiritual leader. But over time there was a separation of religion and state of sorts in medieval Islam, and civil rulers such as the Buyids or Seljuks exercised material rule, reducing the caliphs of the tenth through thirteenth centuries to largely a spiritual function. The Mongols ended the caliphate in 1258. The Ottoman sultans attempted to revive it from 1880, though their claim was not universally accepted. Ataturk abolished this revived caliphate in 1924. There were big debates in places like Egypt about whether Sunni Muslims needed a caliphate, and then then king of Egypt put his hat in the ring as a contender for caliph. But modern nationalism was taking hold, and the nationalist leaders of countries such as Egypt had no desire to see an alternative power center created. So the caliphate lapsed again, to the dismay of Muslim nationalists such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb al-Tahrir, who want it recreated.
' Some experts warn that such a reservoir of feeling illustrates the risk of framing the Iraq war as a contest of ideologies.
"I think the smart thing to do if you're the president of the United States is to sort of de-Islamicize the problem," said Kirstine Sinclair, a University of Southern Denmark researcher who co-wrote a book on Hizb ut-Tahrir."Talk about security risks instead. When you talk about expanding the war on terror to talk about states with an Islamist agenda or even the caliphate, you stir up emotions and you're actually creating the clash of civilizations."
Numerous polls show the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sharpened solidarity among Muslims and antipathy toward Americans."To tell you the truth, I don't see even see them as humans anymore. America is a pig," said Orel, who is in his eighties. The trend appears greatest among the very people whom the radicals aim to mobilize. '
The US government has a policy on al-Qaeda, which is that it must be destroyed as a movement. But it needn't have a policy on the caliphate per se, which is the Sunni Muslims' business.
Posted on: Saturday, January 21, 2006 - 12:31
SOURCE: Communication to HNN, distributed via Dr. Naison's list. (1-19-06)
When New Orleans Mayor Nagin said, in the course of a Martin Luther King Day speech, that New Orleans should remain a "chocolate city," the whole country jumped on him. So many people, inside New Orleans and out, accused him of being a racist that he had to apologize for his remarks.
Not me! I think his critics lack imagination! Chocolate is one of the great things in life, and I think every city should be a Chocolate City.
Think of all the different colors Chocolate comes in. There is white chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate. Mix it with coffee and you get Mocha!
Chocolate is comfortable with contrast and irony. What tastes better than hot chocolate sauce on cold vanilla ice cream? What wakes you up faster and gets you ready for school or work than a Mocha Frappachino?
Chocolate is Funky! It smears on your fingers when you pick it up and sticks to your lips when you put it in your mouth There is nothing like kissing someone who has just eaten Chocolate! Its adds an element of decadence to the onset of romance!
Chocolate is adaptable. You can bake it, mold it, melt it, and sprinkle it; turn it into mouse or fudge, you can serve it hot or cold, you can eat it plain or mix it with nuts.
CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM!
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!
Don't those get you excited? Make you happy?
Mayor Nagin may be a prophet before his time!
Every city should be a Chocolate City!
Posted on: Friday, January 20, 2006 - 19:50
SOURCE: Juan Cole's Blog (Informed Comment) (1-16-06)
We do not have Martin among us to guide us with his wisdom. But it is not hard to extrapolate from his "Beyond Vietnam" address of 1967 to what he would think about the Iraq morass.
He would say we have to treat with the Sunni Arabs and the Shiite Sadrists. We have to treat with the enemy. Not only for their sakes, for the sake of ruined cities like Fallujah and Tal Afar, and those to come-- but for our own sakes.
1. Martin urged the end of the offensive bombing raids.
' Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam. '
The US has increased the number of its bombing raids in Iraq from 25 a month last summer to 150 in December. Bombing raids are very bad counter-insurgency tactics and should be rethought.
2. Martin suggested that the US begin, on its own account, a cease fire.
' Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation. '
3. He urged that the widening of the war be stopped:
' Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos. '
If we applied that to Iraq, I think it implies that the US should seek better relations with Syria and Iran and cease menacing the latter with an air attack.
4. He insisted that the US recognize the widespread political support for the NLF:
' Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government. '
With regard to Iraq, this principle would imply that the US should recognize that the Neo-Baath Arab nationalist leaders, the Salafi Sunni revivalists, and local guerrilla chiefs have genuine popular support among Sunni Arabs, and cannot be shut out of the new order. (Note that some 150 candidates who ran in the Dec. 15 elections were excluded after the fact by the debaathification committee controlled by Ahmad Chalabi.) The Cairo Conference held last fall was a step toward this recognition, and acknowledged the right to mount a resistance to foreign military occupation. The work of the conference must be continued.
5. Martin supported a timetable for withdrawing US troops.
'Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement. [sustained applause]'
Iraqi Sunni parties, as well as the Shiite fundamentalist bloc of Muqtada al-Sadr, have demanded that the US set a timetable for withdrawal. Some 120 Iraqi parliamentarians out of 275 called for it last year. The new parliament may well have a majority that supports it.
These five principles are not the only ones that can be extrapolated from Martin's sermon. They concern more tactics than over-arching strategy. Here are some principles of strategy that he mentioned:
6. It is necessary to understand the common people among the "enemy" if anything is to be accomplished:
' And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries. They must see Americans as strange liberators. '
7. Concern to save US troops from creeping cynicism must be paramount:
' I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. '
In Iraq, too, virtually "none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved." Not weapons of mass destruction, not international terrorism, not Swedish style democracy, not social justice, are actually on the agenda of the present administration.
8. The initiative belongs to the US:
' Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. '
Likewise, in the Sunni Arab heartland, homes are being destroyed and culture subverted.
9. A revolution in American values away from consumer materialism and militarism is needed if we are not to go on having one Vietnam after another:
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality [applause], and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy . . .
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered . . .
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just . . ."
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. [sustained applause]
10. Love and justice, not aggression and exploitation, hold the real hope for a peaceful and prosperous future:
' This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I'm not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another (Yes), for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. '
Note that Martin recognized love as the principle that all the great religions saw as the "supreme unifying principle of life," including Islam. His religious universalism might be a starting point for Americans to rethink the Islamophobia that has become so widespread.
We cannot in any simplistic way extract a template from Martin's sermon that we can apply to Iraq today. We can, however, explore his wisdom for inspiration in how to go foward, end the quagmire, and make amends for the horrors of the way we have waged this illegal war of choice.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 22:38
SOURCE: History News Service (HNS) (1-16-06)
What can the United States do about Iran and its nuclear ambitions? Conceivably, it could support sanctions or even use military action. But the best tactic for the United States is to open a dialogue with Iran. Diplomacy can prevent a nuclear-armed Iran from emerging in an already turbulent Middle East.
The United States and the European Union favor placing Iran before the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions. But sanctions are likely to raise tensions even higher between Iran and the West. The strongest diplomatic move would be for the United States, with its European allies, to negotiate with Iran on the nuclear issue.
In the past, the United States has chosen direct diplomacy in the face of danger. During the Cold War, the United States negotiated with its most potent adversary, the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower, with the leaders of France and Britain, met with the Soviets at the 1955 Geneva Conference. Before leaving, Eisenhower explained to the American people the gloomy alternative to such diplomacy: "Do we want to do nothing; do we want to sit and drift along to the inevitable end of such a contest -- new tensions and then to war?"
Today, if the United States wants to avoid continued tensions and a potential war with Iran, direct negotiations must occur. The two nations have had little diplomatic contact since the 1979 hostage crisis, when Iranians seized the American embassy in Teheran. In the decades since then, Iran has been developing its nuclear technology -- supposedly for peaceful energy purposes. But Iran kept some of its nuclear development secret until it was uncovered in 2002. Iran's suspicious nuclear activity has led many to believe that the Islamic Republic has its eyes on a nuclear weapon.
Any potential United States-Iran dialogue would complement European efforts to persuade the Iranians to abandon their uranium enrichment program, which can be diverted from peaceful purposes to build a nuclear weapon. The United States can provide economic incentives in exchange for restrictions on Iran's nuclear capability.
With the history of immense distrust between the two countries, negotiations of course will not be easy. During the Cold War, mutual distrust was a hallmark of the Soviet-American rivalry. At the 1955 Geneva Conference, President Eisenhower sought to build trust with the Soviets calling for mutual aerial inspection to prevent surprise attack. Ike's proposal inspired a "spirit of Geneva" which later led to talks on arms control.
Those negotiations were not without frustration and disappointment. A memo by one U.S. official attending these negotiations was prefaced with the words, "The agony continues . . ." But the U.S.-Soviet dialogue helped lead to a 1963 agreement banning above-ground nuclear testing and establishing a hotline for reducing the risk of accidental nuclear war. A struggle as colossal as the Cold War was not going to be solved quickly, but small steps eventually lessened the dangers of war.
Today, the United States and Iran must make their own moves toward reducing tensions. Negotiations between the United States and Iran should not be limited to the nuclear danger. There must also be talks on security issues affecting the entire Middle East, including confidence-building measures and arms control. These are essential for eliminating the root causes of the buildup of armaments in the Middle East.
The foremost issue of Middle East security would be the defeat of the insurgency in Iraq and ensuring a stable government for that country. Testifying before the Senate in October, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice stated that the United States was considering some level of direct contact with Iran concerning security issues involving Iraq. Iran must be convinced that a stable Iraq is in its best interests. But the process of getting Iran to cooperate on securing Iraq has to start through dialogue with the United States.
There are no guarantees that the hard-line government in Teheran will soften its stance and participate in such talks. But the United States must leave no stone unturned in the search for peace. Failure to extend the olive branch of peace will risk putting future generations of Iranians and Americans on the path to war.
This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 20:18
SOURCE: The Columbus Dispatch (1-16-06)
During the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, much has been made of his membership in the group Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Senators repeatedly have discussed the nature of this organization, and pundits have speculated about the group and its aims. The problem with nearly all of the talk about Concerned Alumni of Princeton is the failure to talk to actual alumni of Princeton from the 1970s and 1980s.
About 20,000 of us attended Princeton University as undergraduates during the time that the organization was in existence. I entered Princeton in 1983, so I was a student there when Alito revealed his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton on his job application in 1985 to become a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.
By the early 1980s, Concerned Alumni of Princeton was considered a joke by most undergraduates. It appeared to us to be a small group of elderly, reactionary fuddy-duddies who nostalgically romanticized their own college days back in the 1920s.
The guiding force behind the group was Shelby Cullom Davis, who graduated from Princeton in 1930. He was a Wall Street financier and close friend of Thomas Dewey, the New York governor who famously lost the 1948 presidential election to Harry Truman.
The group published a magazine, Prospect, which was distributed free to students. Copies were slipped under the doors of dorm rooms. The organization tried to get students to write for Prospect, but, as I recall, very few did. The lack of student interest compelled the group to hire as editor Dinesh D'Souza, who had recently graduated from Dartmouth University D'Souza had gained national notoreity among conservatives for his provocative work with the alternative student newspaper Dartmouth Review.
The fact that Concerned Alumni of Princeton had to hire someone from Dartmouth to give voice to their opinions reveals how marginal the group was among students and recent alumni.
The overwhelming majority of Republicans and conservatives on campus at that time - and there were plenty of right-wing students at Princeton during the Reagan years - would have nothing to do with the group or its magazine. Prospect ran provocative stories about the wanton ways of co-eds and how the children of alumni did not get enough preferential treatment in admission, but these issues seemed out of touch and offensive even to conservative students.
Alito's involvement with Concerned Alumni of Princeton, whatever that involvement may have been and however long it lasted, cannot be viewed with the same weight as his 15 years of service in the federal judiciary in determining his fitness today to serve on the Supreme Court. In 1985, when Alito was touting his membership, Concerned Alumni of Princeton was a discredited, barely functioning organization that Princeton students and recent alumni generally treated as joke.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 15:08
SOURCE: THE AUSTRALIAN (1-7-06)
Are we living through the origins of the next world war? Certainly, it is easy to imagine how a future historian might deal with the next phase of events in the Middle East [hereafter Feguson plays future historian]:
With every passing year after the turn of the century, the instability of the Gulf region grew. By the beginning of 2006, nearly all the combustible ingredients for a conflict -- far bigger in its scale and scope than the wars of 1991 or 2003 -- were in place.
The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other, the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in global demand for energy. It is hard to believe today, but for most of the 1990s the price of oil had averaged less than $20 a barrel.
A second precondition of war was demographic. While European fertility had fallen below the natural replacement rate in the '70s, the decline in the Islamic world had been much slower. By the late '90s the fertility rate in the eight Muslim countries to the south and east of the European Union was 2.5 times higher than the European figure.
This tendency was especially pronounced in Iran, where the social conservatism of the 1979 revolution combined with the high mortality of the Iran-Iraq war and the subsequent baby boom to produce, by the first decade of the new century, a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two-fifths of the population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007.
This not only gave Islamic societies a youthful energy that contrasted markedly with the slothful senescence of Europe. It also signified a profound shift in the balance of world population. In 1950, there were three times as many people in Britain as in Iran. By 1995, the population of Iran had overtaken that of Britain and was forecast to be 50 per cent higher by 2050. Yet people in the West struggled to grasp the implications of this shift. Subliminally, they still thought of the Middle East as a region they could lord it over, as they had in the mid-20th century.
The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting the subsequent spread of the conflict as Iraq's Shia population overran the remaining US bases in their country and the Chinese threatened to intervene on the side of Iran.
Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-11 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original principle of pre-emption. For, if that had been adhered to in 2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And the Great Gulf War might never have happened.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 14:28
SOURCE: NYT (1-13-06)
PRESIDENT Bush's ordering the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants contradicts a long evolution toward the secrecy of communications. Centuries ago, people in England, France and the German states fought for the right to send letters without their being opened by the "black chambers" of absolutist monarchs. Martin Luther, whose letters had been opened by the Duke of Saxony, raged that "a thief is a thief, whether he is a money thief or a letter thief."
Regulations called for postal secrecy in 1532 and 1573 in Austria's Tyrol, in Prussia in 1685, in the oath of succession taken in 1690 by the Holy Roman emperor Joseph I and in his postal regulation of 1698. Rulers ignored them. Like Britain's Oliver Cromwell, who saw the post as "the best means to discover and prevent many dangerous and wicked designs against the Commonwealth," they justified letter-opening.
It sometimes worked. In 1723, Bishop Francis Atterbury was exiled, partly on the basis of intercepted letters, for trying to put a pretender on Britain's throne. Monarchs got information from their "black chambers" - secret rooms in post offices in main cities into which the mail was brought for opening. ...
Austria's black chamber was reputed to be the most efficient. Sacks of diplomatic mail arrived at 7 a.m., the letters unsealed and read, the important parts copied, sometimes by dictation, the letters replaced and resealed and sent to the embassies by 9:30. The employees sometimes erred, however. When the British ambassador in Austria complained that he was getting copies instead of originals, the prime minister, Metternich, coolly replied, "How clumsy these people are!"
But the public knew about the letter-opening and hated it. The pre-revolutionary French assembly, the Estates-General, received complaints from all regions of France and from all classes of society about this invasion of their thoughts. A month after the fall of the Bastille, Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man held that citizens may write with freedom - in effect nullifying the right of the government to read letters. In the United States, the 1792 law establishing the Post Office forbade its agents from illegally opening the mail entrusted to it. This grew out of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, prohibiting unreasonable searches. Of course, judges could issue warrants to read letters, just as they could allow law officials to enter a house. ...
Posted on: Friday, January 13, 2006 - 18:43
SOURCE: Salon (1-12-06)
The conflict between Sharon and the Likud Party, with which he recently broke, was over two distinct far-right-wing visions of Israel. The somewhat messianic Likud is committed to completing the creeping dispossession of the Palestinians by relentlessly colonizing the West Bank and Gaza (at least), and refusing to accept any clear demarcation between Israeli territory and that of its neighbors. This 19th-century-style settler colonialism, reminiscent of the French in Algeria or the Italians in Eritrea, is so blatantly aggressive that it continually threatens to disrupt vital economic and diplomatic relations between Israel and Europe. Sharon saw that, but his rival Benjamin Netanyahu never could.
Likud is hoping that somehow along the way the indigenous population will gradually be convinced to leave for Egypt or Jordan, as the Israelis move in. (Some hard nudging is not ruled out by some elements of the party.) In the meantime, in the words of Likud leader Netanyahu, the Palestinians might have self-rule, but would not be allowed to have self-government.
In reality, it is the Palestinians, with their high population growth rates, who have the demographic advantage. Israel's ability to retain new immigrants fell during the second intifada or Palestinian uprising. As the Russian economy benefits from high petroleum prices, further major immigration by Jews from that country seems unlikely.
Indeed, some of the 1 million Russians in Israel, many of them not actually Jewish, may start returning to the old country. By 2020, most projections predict that Jews will be a minority in the area comprising Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Even among Israeli citizens, Israeli government demographers predict that by 2030 the population could be a third Arab.
Sharon, unlike the Likud, understood the threat these demographic trends posed to Israel, and so saw the future as one in which Israel stopped expanding in some directions, instead accepting a fixed territory. It would become a huge gated community, surrounded by seven or eight small enclaves. Each enclave might remain a bad neighborhood, but gates, punitive raids and assassinations would keep the ghetto dwellers from storming the citadel. The "gates" include checkpoints, highways and a wall that would have made the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huangdi -- who built his own Great Wall -- proud. It would break up the Palestinian regions into isolated cantons and guarantee that they could never mobilize politically and would remain de facto stateless. It would also preserve the Jewish polity by keeping the Palestinians in their current limbo, prevented from claiming Israeli citizenship even as they are denied a viable state of their own.
That the scheme probably creates a permanent state of low-intensity warfare between the Israelis and Palestinians is a price Sharon was willing to pay for the permanent territorial gains and diplomatic superiority it guaranteed Israel. Indeed, this condition of staccato conflict between the wealthy Israelis behind their various gates and the dispossessed Palestinians outside is what Sharon seems to have thought of as "security" for Israel.
Both the Likud and Sharon were dedicated to forestalling the emergence of even a weak Palestinian state, of a sort implied by the Oslo peace process accepted by the late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin. Although they said they feared that such a state would pose a military threat to Israel, that seems rather unlikely. It is more probable that they feared that it would gain diplomatic and political legitimacy in the world, gaining a voice among nations that the Palestinians currently lack. Likud and Sharon roared that Rabin had made an error of biblical proportions in agreeing to such a state. Elements of the Israeli far right agreed, and one Yigal Amir took matters into his own hands, assassinating Rabin in 1995.
Amir's bullets ended the Oslo process and sounded the death knell for a genuine Palestinian state. Even in the 1990s, the number of Israeli colonists in the West Bank had doubled, which enraged Palestinians took as a sign of bad faith, and which ultimately led to the outbreak of the second Intifada. Sharon's provocative visit to the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif, the third holiest site in the Muslim world, was merely the spark that ignited the uprising. During his three years as prime minister, 1996-99, Rabin's successor and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu relentlessly derailed what was left of the Oslo process, which had called for a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and movement toward a Palestinian government.
Despite the myth that at Camp David in summer 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat 98 percent of what he was demanding, in fact the Israelis were not nearly so forthcoming. Barak declined to meet with Arafat privately (so that it was the Palestinians who had difficulty finding an Israeli interlocutor). And Barak insisted on keeping 10 percent of Palestinian land, rather as though the British had offered to end the Revolutionary War in 1780 if only George Washington would agree to cede Maine to them. Clayton Swisher, in his fine study "The Truth About Camp David," shows that the Israelis bear significant blame for the breakdown of the negotiations.
The conflict between Sharon and his own Likud Party over his withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 reflected the two differing visions of the Israeli right. For Sharon, Gaza itself could be configured as an enormous slum. The withdrawal of the Israeli colonists from Gaza was simply a way of moving them into the gated community, so as to keep them safe more cheaply than military patrols and reprisals could hope to. (Gaza had not been notably rundown in the 1940s, but the rise of Israel and the isolation of the Strip from its natural markets, especially after 1967, gradually turned it into a huge penitentiary.)...
Posted on: Friday, January 13, 2006 - 15:27
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (1-12-06)
2006 is sure to be the year of living dangerously -- for the Bush administration and for the rest of us. In the wake of revelations of warrantless spying by the National Security Agency, we have already embarked on what looks distinctly like a constitutional crisis (which may not come to a full boil until 2007). In the meantime, the President, Vice President, Secretaries of Defense and State, various lesser officials, crony appointees, acolytes, legal advisors, leftover neocons, spy-masters, strategists, spin doctors, ideologues, lobbyists, Republican Party officials, and congressional backers are intent on packing the Supreme Court with supporters of an "obscure philosophy" of unfettered Presidential power called "the unitary executive theory" and then foisting a virtual cult of the imperial presidency on the country.
On the other hand, determined as this administration has been to impose its version of reality on us, the President faces a traffic jam of reality piling up in the environs of the White House. The question is: How long will the omniscient and dominatrix-style fantasies of Bushworld, ranging from "complete victory" in Iraq to non-existent constitutional powers to ignore Congress, the courts, and treaties of every sort, triumph over the realities of the world the rest of humanity inhabits. Will an unconstrained presidency continue to grow -- or not?
Here are just a few of the explosive areas where Bush v. Reality is likely to play out, generating roiling crises which could chase the President through the rest of this year. Keep in mind, this just accounts for the modestly predictable, not for the element of surprise which -- as with Ariel Sharon's recent stroke -- remains ever present.
Who, after all, can predict what will hit our country this year. From a natural-gas shock to Chinese financial decisions on the dollar, from oil terrorism to the next set of fierce fall hurricanes, from the bursting of the housing bubble to the arrival of the avian flu, so much is possible -- but one post-9/11 truth, revealed with special vividness by hurricane Katrina, should by now be self-evident: Whatever the top officials of this administration are capable of doing, they and their cronies in various posts throughout the federal bureaucracy are absolutely incapable of (and perhaps largely uninterested in) running a government. Let's give this phenomenon a fitting name: FEMAtization. You could almost offer a guarantee that no major problem is likely to arise this year, domestic or foreign, that they will not be quite incapable of handling reasonably, efficiently, or thoughtfully -- to hell with compassionately (for anyone who still remembers that museum-piece label, "compassionate conservative," from the Bush version of the Neolithic era). So here are just four of the most expectable crisis areas of 2006 as well as three wild cards that may remain in the administration's hand and that could chase all of us through this year -- adding up, in one way or the other, to the political tsunami of 2006.
1. Iraq. Bush's war (and occupation) of choice has shadowed him like a boogeyman from the moment that banner over his head on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln announced "Mission Accomplished" and he declared "major combat operations" at an end on May 2, 2003. On that very day, in news hardly noticed by a soul, one of the first acts of insurgency against American troops occurred and seven GIs were wounded in a grenade attack in Falluja. As either a prophet of the future or a master of wish-fulfillment, the President was never more accurate than when, in July 2003, he taunted the Iraqi guerrillas, saying, "Bring ‘em on." Well, they've been bringing it on ever since.
Unwilling to face the realities of its trillion-dollar folly of a war and dealing with presidential polling figures entering free fall, the administration did the one thing it has been eternally successful at -- it launched a fantasy offensive, not in Iraq, but here at home against the American people and especially the media. A series of aggressive speeches, news conferences, spin-doctored policy papers, and attacks on the opposition as "defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right," all circling around an election likely to put an Islamic theocratic regime in power in Baghdad, pumped up the President's polling numbers modestly and, more importantly, caused reporters and pundits to back off, wondering yet again whether we weren't finally seeing the crack of light at the end of that tunnel. (Wasn't the President implicitly admitting to the odd mistake in Iraq policy? Wasn't he secretly preparing his own version of withdrawal? Weren't the Iraqis turning some corner or other?)
It's been a strange, brain-dead media era in which, far more than the American people, the pundits never seem to learn. Most pathetic of all, in what might have been a straightforward parody of the famed moment when a group of senior advisors from past administrations ("the Wise Men") met with President Lyndon Johnson and urged him to reconsider his Vietnam policy, the Bush administration gathered together 13 former secretaries of state and defense (including Robert McNamara and Melvin Laird from the Vietnam era) for a photo with the President. Also offered was an Iraq dog-and-pony show involving painfully upbeat reports from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace and Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizhad. In return, the 13 former officials, including Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright, got a full 5-10 minute "interchange" with the President or (as the Dreyfuss Report did the math) all of 23 seconds of consultation time per secretary. It was the Wise Men (and Woman) Photo Op and it caught something of Bushworld and its peculiar allure.
However complicated the situation in Iraq may be, here's an uncomplicated formula for considering administration policy there in the coming year. After every "milestone" from the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons and the capture of Saddam himself through the "handing over" of sovereignty and various elections, things have only gotten worse. Remind me why it should be different this time? In fact, while the President warned endlessly about violence before the recent election, the violence since has been far worse with 28 Americans and hundreds of Iraqis dying in just a single tumultuous four-day period. Or put another way, whatever government may be formed in Baghdad's Green Zone, it will preside over a Bush-installed failed state, utterly corrupt (billions of dollars have already been stolen from it) and thoroughly inept, incapable of providing its people with anything like security. In fact, just the other day, two suicide bombers, dressed in the uniforms of "senior police officers" and with the correct security passes, made it through numerous checkpoints and into the well-guarded compound of the Interior Ministry where they blew themselves and many policemen up. Iraq's government, such as it is, has also proved incapable of delivering electricity or potable water, or of running its only industry of significance, the oil business (overseen by, of all people, Ahmed Chalabi), which is now producing less energy than in the worst moments of the Saddam Hussein/sanctions era. The country is already in a low-level civil war; its American-supported military made up of rival militias preparing to engage in various forms of ethnic cleansing; its police evidently heavily infiltrated by the insurgency; and its most important leaders are Shiite theocrats closely allied with Iran. The insurgency itself shows not the slightest sign of lessening.
Meanwhile, at home, figures as disparate as Congressman John Murtha and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski are demanding a military disengagement by the end of 2006 and in Brzezinski's case calling on the Democrats to come out against the war. ("Finally, Democratic leaders should stop equivocating while carping. Those who want to lead in 2008 are particularly unwilling to state clearly that ending the war soon is both desirable and feasible.")
Iraq is a minefield for the Bush administration. Prepare for it to blow this year.
2. Trials (and Tribulations) of Every Sort. Of course some of the description of Iraq above has become increasingly applicable to the Bush administration as well. It is, after all, run by fundamentalists and presidential cultists, presiding over what increasingly looks like a FEMA-tized, failed state, riddled with corruption, and at war with itself. In 2006, Bush and his associates face a quagmire of potential scandals, exposures of corrupt and illegal practices, and trials and tribulations of all sorts. There is, as a start, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, still on the Plame case job.
After a brief flurry of activity in November when the National Law Journal's 2005 "lawyer of the year" convened a new grand jury to hear further evidence, the Fitzgerald investigation dropped off just about everyone's radar screen. Fitzgerald, however, is a dogged character, playing things very close to the vest. No one can know what exactly he will do, but he is reportedly preparing material on Karl Rove for the new grand jury. It would be reasonable to expect that, sometime in the next two or three months, he might indeed indict "Bush's brain" and then, rather than winding down his investigation, turn from those who attempted to obstruct his view of the Plame case to the case itself. In other words, if you happen to be a betting soul, you might consider putting your money on the possibility that the Plame case investigation will reach ever higher in the administration -- and Fitzgerald seems carefully shielded within the Justice Department from administration tampering.
At the same time, even though former House Majority Leader Tom (the Hammer) DeLay got hammered and officially ended his bid to regain his leadership post last week, the Texas and Washington parts of the Delay corruption scandal are likely only to grow and spread. In Texas, DeLay's money-laundering case was not, despite his deepest wishes, thrown out of court and is now expanding into an election spending scandal involving the National Republican Congressional Committee and linked to the Abramoff case. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who plied endless (mostly Republican) congressional reps with favors and perks in return for influence, pled guilty last week to public corruption charges and turned state's evidence. He has claimed he possesses incriminating material on 60 congressional lawmakers (as well as many of their aides).
Last week, the Washington Post reported, federal prosecutors turned "up the pressure on a former senior aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in the clearest signal yet that the sprawling public corruption investigation is now focusing on House Republican leadership offices." Though the career prosecutors from the Justice Department's Office of Public Integrity who turned Abramoff, seem to have been reasonably insulated from administration pressure, the case threatens to hit the Republican Congress hard, just as the Plame case threatens to empty the higher realms of administration power. It looks like at least a limited number of cases will be brought against lawmakers this election year. Unlike Fitzgerald, however, the career prosecutors in the Abramoff case are overseen by a notorious Bush recess appointee, Alice Fisher. Her nomination was opposed even in a Republican-controlled Senate as she is without prosecutorial experience (though she has some experience in the subject area of Guantanamo interrogations and is tied to Tom DeLay's defense team). So look for future fireworks, conflicts, scandals, and plenty of leaks on this one.
In the meantime, the courts will be busy indeed. Just count a few of the ways: The question of whether Bush's warrantless NSA wiretaps have polluted other terrorism cases will hit the courts this year, while the kangaroo "military" tribunals in Guantanamo have just started up again, and various cases having to do with the limits of presidential power (or the lack of them) are likely to arrive, not to speak of the four Texas gerrymandering cases (think, once again, Tom DeLay) the Supreme Court has agreed to take up before the 2006 elections that could put five now-Republican seats in the House up for grabs. (A court already tarred by the 2000 election might rule surprisingly on this one.)
3. War with the Bureaucracy. Until quite recently, with an oppositionless Congress, increasingly right-wing courts, and a cowed media, traditional Constitutional checks and balances on administration claims of massive presidential powers and prerogatives have been missing in action. However, the founding fathers of this nation, who could not have imagined our present National Security State or the size of this imperial presidency, could have had no way of imagining the governmental bureaucracy that has grown up around these either. So how could they have dreamed that the only significant check-and-balance in our system since September 11, 2001 has been that very bureaucracy? Parts of it have been involved in a bitter, shadowy war with the administration for years now. It's been a take-no-prisoners affair, as Tomdispatch has recorded in the first two posts in its Fallen Legion series, focusing on the startling numbers of men and women who were honorable or steadfast enough in their governmental duties that they found themselves with little alternative but to resign in protest, quit, retire, or simply be pushed off some cliff. This administration has done everything in its power to take control of the bureaucracy. As hurricane Katrina showed with a previously impressive federal agency, FEMA, Bush and his officials have put their pals ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job"), often without particular qualifications other than loyalty to this President, into leading positions, while trying to curb or purge their opponents. At the CIA, for instance, just before the last election former Representative Porter Goss, a loyal political hack, was installed to purge and cleanse what had become an agency of leakers and bring it into line. Administration officials have, in fact, conducted little short of a war against leaks and leakers. To give but a single example, the origins of the Plame case lie in part in an attempt by top officials to administer punishment to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for revealing administration lies about an aspect of Saddam Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction program. What those officials (as leakers, of course) did to his wife was clearly meant as a warning to others in the bureaucracy that coming forward would mean being whacked.
And yet, despite the carnage, as Frank Rich pointed out last Sunday (The Wiretappers That Couldn't Shoot Straight), the New York Times reporters who finally broke the NSA story did so based not on one or two sources but on "nearly a dozen current and former officials." Doug Ireland laid out at his blog recently how, despite fears of possible prosecution -- the first thing the President did in the wake of these revelations was to denounce the "shameful act" of leaking and the Justice Department almost immediately opened an investigation into who did it -- one of them, former NSA analyst Russell Tice, has gone very public with his discontent. He has already been on Democracy Now! and ABC's Nightline, saying that "he is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the National Security Agency in the post-9/11 efforts to go after terrorists." He claims that the NSA spied on "millions" of Americans, including, it was revealed recently, a Baltimore peace group.
The war with the bureaucracy and even, to some extent, with the military -- high-level officers, for instance, clearly leaked crucial information to Rep. Murtha before his withdrawal news conference -- will certainly continue this year, probably at an elevated level. The CIA has been a sieve; the NSA clearly will be; at the first sign of pressure, expect the same from career people in the Justice Department; and an unhappy military has already been passing out administration-unfriendly Iraq info left and right. Administration punitive acts only drive this process forward. Any signs of further administration weakness will do the same.
The "warriors" in the bureaucracy will, in turn, fuel further media and congressional criticism. Congress, worried about next year's election, is an exceedingly fragile pillar of support for the President. Conservatives, as Todd Gitlin pointed out in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed, are alienated or worse; certain Republican senators are angry over the way the administration is sidelining Congress. Even some right-wing judges have been acting out. And, of course, there's the possibility that, in some chain-reaction-like fashion, the dike will simply burst and we will catch sight of something closer to the fullness of Bush administration illegality -- sure to be far beyond anything we now imagine.
4. Election 2006. Count on it being down and dirty. This could be a street brawl because, with the Republican loss of even one house of Congress, the power to investigate is turned over to the Democrats as we head into a presidential election cycle.
Consider points 1-3 above: Iraq as a rolling, roiling, ongoing disaster, Republican congressional representatives and administration figures under indictment, bureaucrats leaking madly, possible seats put into play in Texas, presidential polls dropping -- all having the potential to threaten an administration already filled with the biggest gamblers in our history and capable of doing almost anything if they think themselves in danger. So what can the President and his pals draw on?
Court-packing: As Noah Feldman pointed out recently in the New York Times Magazine, the rise of the imperial presidency has a history that goes back to Thomas Jefferson's decision to conclude the Louisiana Purchase, while the presidency's outsized "war powers" go back at least to Abraham Lincoln. The President has long had powers unimagined by the founding fathers, but the Bush administration still represents a new stage in the obliteration of a checks-and-balances system of government. Last week, in an important, if somewhat overlooked, front-page piece in the Wall Street Journal ("Judge Alito's View of the Presidency: Expansive Powers"), Jess Bravin reported on a speech Sam Alito gave to the right-wing Federalist Society in 2000 in which he subscribed to the "unitary executive theory" of the presidency ("gospel," he called it) which puts its money on the supposedly unfettered powers of the President as commander-in-chief. This theory has been pushed by administration figures ranging from the Vice President and his Chief of Staff David Addington to former assistant attorney general and torture-memo writer John Yoo. As Alito put the matter in his speech: "[The Constitution] makes the president the head of the executive branch, but it does more than that. The president has not just some executive powers, but the executive power -- the whole thing." And Yoo put it even more bluntly while debating the unitary executive theory recently. In answering the question, "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?" he responded, "No treaty."
Evidently, John Roberts subscribes to the same view of presidential powers (as Harriet Meirs certainly did, at least when it came to George Bush). In other words, the administration is trying to pack the Supreme Court with judges who are, above all, guaranteed to come down on the side of the President in any ultimate face-off with Congress or the courts. This is surely the real significance of the Alito nomination, should it go through. In any Constitutional crisis-to-come the "commander-in-chief" is trying to predetermine how things will fall out if his own power is at stake.
Terrorism: From September 11, 2001, the terrorism/fear card has certainly been the most powerful domestic weapon in the administration's arsenal. In the event of a major (or several smaller) terrorist strikes in this country, the Bush administration could certainly be the major beneficiary, but even that is no longer a given. History tends not to happen quite the same way twice and no one knows whether, under the shock of such an event or events, the post-9/11 moment would simply be repeated or whether Americans might feel that this administration had completely betrayed them. A terrible war, lousy government, hideous crisis management, and then, on the one thing they swore they did best -- protecting the country from terror -- failure. Still this is certainly an administration wild card.
Wag the Dog Strategies: In a crisis of power, there is no reason to believe that the officials who already led us into Iraq might not be willing to gamble on a Wag the Dog strategy – that is, launching an operation they had been hankering for anyway that might also turn attention elsewhere. Rumors and speculation about a massive air attack on Iran (or on "regime change" in Syria) have been kicking around since at least the spring of 2005. These have begun circulating again recently. Such a thing is certainly possible (more so, obviously, should Benjamin Netanyahu happen to win the Israeli election in March), but whether the effect of this on the administration's fortunes would be positive for long is also unknown. It certainly seems one path to madness, not just in Iraq but also on the oil markets. (If you happen to be a devotee of oil at $100 a barrel, you might quickly get your wish.)
Is a Constitutional Crisis in the Cards?
Until 2005, it wasn't that the Bush administration didn't make more than its share of mistakes; thanks to 9/11, it simply had plenty of wiggle room. It could always turn attention elsewhere. It always had the fear and terror cards ready to be played. These days, turn people's attention elsewhere and they're likely to see yet more disaster, corruption, incompetence, and illegality. In 2006, the administration has a lot less wiggle room than it used to. Polling figures reflect that vividly. When new disasters hit, whether in Iraq or New Orleans, it's becoming harder to take American eyes off them.
Let me then offer one of those predictions -- surrounded by qualifications and caveats -- that all writers should be wary of. If in a bitter, dirty mid-term election, filled with "irregularities," one house of Congress or both nonetheless go to the Democrats, which I believe possible (despite their low polling figures at the moment), expect the investigations to begin. Expect as well that the Bush administration will then trot out that "obscure" presidential philosophy of power and claim that the Congress has no right to investigate the President in his guise as Commander-in-Chief.
That is why the Alito nomination is so crucial and why 2007 may prove the year of constitutional crisis in the United States.
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 19:13
SOURCE: dissidentvoice.org (1-2-06)
When you look at charts of casualties in earlier American wars, the Iraq War figures still seem pretty low. Deaths off the battlefield have been comparatively low: 20% of the total compared to 18% in Vietnam, 38% in World War II and a staggering 92% in the Mexican War. Since that figure varies so widely among wars -- disease playing a major role in some of them -- in making comparisons we should leave out the “other deaths” category. In the Mexican War, fought between 1846 and 1848 to acquire Texas, California and what are now six other western states, just 1,733 Americans were killed in action. In December, U.S. battle deaths in Iraq reached 1,751, finally exceeding that modest Mexican toll. We won’t likely hit the next largest figure, that of the War of 1812, for a while. There were 2,260 killed in action in that one. The next milestone to pass would be the Philippines Insurrection (1899-1902) in which the U.S. lost 4,234 soldiers while slaughtering countless Filipinos demanding independence. Then came the Revolutionary War figure of 4,435 KIA, the 34,000 of the Korean War, and the 47,000 of the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War began quietly and escalated gradually. Before the Tonkin Gulf Incident of August 1964, there were only 21,000 U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam, military advisors rather than combat troops. By the end of 1965 there were 184,000 troops. Still, the number of US troops killed in action between 1961 (from which military historians date the war) and 1965 was just 1,864. That’s pretty much where we are now in the war in Iraq with our 1,751. But the next year, another 5,008 died as the war suddenly escalated. The Vietnamese guerrillas were just getting started; there were 9, 378 U.S. troops killed in action in 1967. As the insanity of the imperialist war peaked in 1968 -- just as ardent war supporter George W. Bush was graduating from Yale and getting his Texas National Guard appointment -- 14,594 U.S. soldiers died trying to quell a resilient insurgency. Another 15,000 would die in action before a combination of Vietnamese resistance, GI revolt, and domestic American antiwar protest brought an end to the whole criminal enterprise.
Many are drawing parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, while noting that the two situations aren’t closely analogous. One way in which they differ is in the expenditure of national treasure. The cost of the Iraq War already exceeds $300 billion, half of what U.S. taxpayers in current dollar terms spent paying for the Vietnam War. But that war just started getting hot in 1966, in which the 5,008 were killed in action. Imagine 5,000 more Americans dying in Iraq in 2006 as the country descends into civil war between communities all of whom want them to leave.
Better yet, imagine popular pressure expressed in mass demonstrations and other ways forcing the withdrawal of all the troops this year. Imagine Congressional investigations into the prewar lies, days after days of damning evidence: a new climate of journalistic freedom; a slough of exposes about the Bush administration’s illegal spying, approval of torture, and use of disinformation; greater awareness of and resistance to the Christian Right agenda; an ever-broadening call for impeachment hearings; calls for a rational re-engagement with a world that has come to deeply and rationally fear the U.S. Imagine a movement that could at least help check the hands of the crazies seriously contemplating an attack on Iran, or an invasion of Syria, this year.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - 22:47
SOURCE: dissidentvoice.org (11-9-06)
A recent Raw Story report by Larissa Alexandrovna suggests that the notorious Office of Special Plans didn’t just stovepipe cherry-picked “intelligence” to the White House and press. It also sent teams into Iraq after the invasion began, which, after it became apparent that there were no abundant WMDs, examined the possibility of planting such weapons in order to help the president avoid embarrassment.
Citing “[t]hree U.S. intelligence sources and a source close to the United Nations Security Council,” Alexandrovna indicates that the OSP planned “off book” missions that were dispatched by Stephen Cambone, Defense Department intelligence chief, from March 2003. (Cambone now occupies the # 3 post in the Defense Department.) Teams sent to Iraq included “CIA, FBI, Green Berets, Delta Force operators, and commandos from the Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group.” Their first priority was to investigate an allegation made by disinformation master Ahmad Chalabi that a USN pilot shot down in 1991 and proclaimed KIA soon afterwards was being held as a POW in Iraq. (That was bogus.) The second was to deal with the WMD issue. The third was to get Saddam.
During the summer and fall of 2004, one unnamed team, according to the UN source, interviewed many Iraqi intelligence officers, telling them, “Our President is in trouble. He went to war saying there are WMD and there are no WMD. What can we do? Can you help us?” The Iraqis understood they were being asked to cooperate with a deception. “But,” the UN source continues, “ the guys were thinking this is absurd because anything put down would not pass the smell test and could be shown to be not of Iraqi origin and not using Iraqi methodology.”
The Senate Select Intelligence Committee, which is supposed to at some point investigate the OSP, has asked the Pentagon’s Inspector-General to probe the office and Douglas Feith’s role in it. Feith and the other neocons have shown themselves shameless purveyors of disinformation again and again. Somebody among or close to them must have fabricated the Niger uranium documents. Jacques Chirac, as I recall, once opined that if the U.S. didn’t find WMD in Iraq it would probably stage a discovery. But the report that they actually considered doing just that to justify their war, to further hoodwink the American people and the world, beats everything I’ve heard so far. Talk about chutzpah.
There’s no end to it. Before the Iraq attack, the disinformationists had succeeded in convincing the majority of Americans that Iraq had WMD threatening the world. Before the Iran attack, they have probably succeeded in convincing most Americans that Iran has become a nuclear threat. They’ve gotten the media to routinely refer to “Iran’s nuclear weapons program” even though IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has repeatedly said he finds no evidence of one. Despite ElBaradei, the Bush administration has been able to organize its allies in the IAEA to find Iran in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty on the grounds that it kept aspects of its nuclear program secret up to 2003, despite the fact that it’s opened itself to an unprecedented level of IAEA inspection since. Washington has successfully conflated Iran’s non-binding agreement with the UK, Germany and France with the NPT itself. Thus when Iran ends its voluntary suspension of uranium enriching activities, the administration pretends it’s doing something illegal, even though the Treaty itself specifically allows it to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes...
Posted on: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - 22:36
SOURCE: New Republic (1-9-06)
After the attacks of September 11, constitutional law was bound to change. Serious threats to national security have always had large effects on the nation's understanding of its founding document. A major reason is that the president's lawyers tend to see the Constitution as a highly flexible instrument, permitting their client to do what he thinks must be done. Francis Biddle, attorney general under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, said that "the Constitution has never greatly bothered any wartime president." Courts often ratify the decisions of wartime presidents. Roosevelt himself placed Japanese-Americans on the West Coast in internment camps, and the Supreme Court upheld his decision.
We are starting to see the shape of a new vision of the Constitution. The legal stage was set on September 25, 2001, when the Department of Justice advised the White House that "the President has the plenary constitutional power to take such military actions as he deems necessary and appropriate to respond to the terrorist attacks." In the key memorandum, the White House was told that if the president wants, military "force can be used both to retaliate for those attacks, and to prevent and deter future assaults on the Nation. Military actions need not be limited to those individuals, groups, or states that participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." Indeed, "the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response ... are for the President alone" to decide.
In 2002, the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel indicated that as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, the president has the power to engage in coercive interrogation, even torture--and that Congress lacks the power to limit that authority. The executive branch has argued that the president has the authority to seize and to detain "enemy combatants," including American citizens captured on American soil, and to hold them for extended periods without access to a lawyer, judicial review, or a hearing (to determine whether they are, in fact, enemy combatants). Most recently, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has claimed that, whatever Congress says, the president has the "inherent" power to monitor telephone calls and e-mail messages between Americans and individuals in foreign countries. Perhaps most important, the executive branch believes that, as a matter of constitutional law, the president has the authority to make war without congressional approval--though President Bush, to his credit, sought such approval for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Supreme Court has rejected the Bush administration's claim of power to detain enemy combatants without hearings; we do not know how it will react to the rest of the administration's claims. But (and this point is often neglected) the legal views of the executive branch can be every bit as important as those of the Supreme Court. In the domain of foreign affairs, the central legal issues rarely come before the Court at all. The law is effectively settled within the executive branch, or by informal agreements between the president and Congress. In negotiating those agreements, the president has formidable advantages over the legislature. The executive branch's lawyers are talented, numerous, and exceptionally well organized. They can overwhelm Congress with their intensity and their expertise. Whether or not courts ultimately accept the legal positions of the Bush administration, most of those positions are now operating as the law.
It is important to emphasize that, as a technical matter, few if any of those positions are preposterous or unprecedented. Presidents always read the Constitution in a way that serves the presidency. In general, the Bush administration has built on the arguments of previous presidents, rather than re-writing the separation of powers from scratch. But taken as a whole, the claims of the Bush administration may be properly regarded as an effort to create a distinctive set of constitutional understandings for the post-September 11 era. The White House is attempting to create a kind of 9/11 Constitution. A defining feature of these understandings is a strong commitment to inherent presidential authority over national security, including a belief that in crucial domains the president can act without congressional permission, and indeed cannot be checked by congressional prohibitions. ...
Posted on: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - 22:13
SOURCE: NY Sun (1-10-06)
Thanks to the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a new word has entered the political vocabulary: mahdaviat.
Not surprisingly, it's a technical religious term. Mahdaviat derives from mahdi, Arabic for "rightly-guided one," a major figure in Islamic eschatology. He is, explains the Encyclopaedia of Islam, "the restorer of religion and justice who will rule before the end of the world." The concept originated in the earliest years of Islam and, over time, became particularly identified with the Shi‘ite branch. Whereas "it never became an essential part of Sunni religious doctrine," continues the encyclopedia, "Belief in the coming of the Mahdi of the Family of the Prophet became a central aspect of the faith in radical Shi‘ism," where it is also known as the return of the Twelfth Imam.
Mahdaviat means "belief in and efforts to prepare for the Mahdi."
In a fine piece of reporting, Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor shows the centrality of mahdaviat in Mr. Ahmadinejad's outlook and explores its implications for his policies.
As mayor of Tehran, for example, Mr. Ahmadinejad appears to have in 2004 secretly instructed the city council to build a grand avenue to prepare for the Mahdi. A year later, as president, he allocated $17 million for a blue-tiled mosque closely associated with mahdaviat in Jamkaran, south of the capital. He has instigated the building of a direct Tehran-Jamkaran railroad line. He had a list of his proposed cabinet members dropped into a well adjacent to the Jamkaran mosque, it is said, to benefit from its purported divine connection.
He often raises the topic, and not just to Muslims. When addressing the United Nations in September, Mr. Ahmadinejad flummoxed his audience of world political leaders by concluding his address with a prayer for the Mahdi's appearance: "O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace."
On returning to Iran from New York, Mr. Ahmadinejad recalled the effect of his U.N. speech:
one of our group told me that when I started to say "In the name of God the almighty and merciful," he saw a light around me, and I was placed inside this aura. I felt it myself. I felt the atmosphere suddenly change, and for those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink. … And they were rapt. It seemed as if a hand was holding them there and had opened their eyes to receive the message from the Islamic republic.
What Mr. Peterson calls the "presidential obsession" with mahdaviat leads Mr. Ahmadinejad to "a certitude that leaves little room for compromise. From redressing the gulf between rich and poor in Iran, to challenging America and Israel and enhancing Iran's power with nuclear programs, every issue is designed to lay the foundation for the Mahdi's return."
"Mahdaviat is a code for [Iran's Islamic] revolution, and is the spirit of the revolution," says the head of an institute dedicated to studying and speeding the Mahdi's appearance. "This kind of mentality makes you very strong," the political editor of Resalat newspaper, Amir Mohebian, observed. "If I think the Mahdi will come in two, three, or four years, why should I be soft? Now is the time to stand strong, to be hard." Some Iranians, reports PBS, "worry that their new president has no fear of international turmoil, may think it's just a sign from God."
Mahdaviat has direct and ominous implications for the U.S.-Iran confrontation, says an Ahmadinejad supporter, Hamidreza Taraghi of Iran's hard-line Islamic Coalition Society. It implies seeing Washington as the rival to Tehran and even as a false Mahdi. For Mr. Ahmadinejad, the top priority is to challenge America, and specifically to create a powerful model state based on "Islamic democracy" by which to oppose it. Mr. Taraghi predicts trouble ahead unless Americans fundamentally change their ways.
I'd reverse that formulation. The most dangerous leaders in modern history are those (such as Hitler) equipped with a totalitarian ideology and a mystical belief in their own mission. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fulfills both these criteria, as revealed by his U.N. comments. That combined with his expected nuclear arsenal make him an adversary who must be stopped, and urgently.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - 21:24
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (12-26-05)
The acquittal on December 6 of Sami al--Arian, a former professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida, on eight counts relating to terrorism was a setback not only for the Department of Justice and the Bush administration, but also for the struggle against Islamic extremism itself. That the Florida jury deadlocked on another nine counts, however, leaves open the possibility of his ultimate conviction.
Al--Arian was indicted in February 2003 for his involvement with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group that engages in terrorist acts including suicide bombings in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. And his trial did clarify once and for all-after years of denial by the professor and his supporters-that Al--Arian was a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, approved of its goals and methods, and raised money in the United States to finance its activities. Nevertheless, after five months of trial and 13 days of deliberation, the jury found Al--Arian not guilty on the most serious counts against him, including conspiracy to murder and maim abroad.
On these counts, the prosecution may have overplayed its hand. The Department of Justice built its case on nine years' worth of secret surveillance (fully authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, by the way), including almost 500,000 intercepts of faxes and phone conversations, many of them exchanges between Al--Arian and leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The terms of the Patriot Act made this evidence admissible in court. And it showed Al--Arian's sympathies and intent beyond any doubt.
Government Exhibit T--516, for example, is a letter written by Al--Arian on February 10, 1995, to Ismail al--Shatti, a member of the Kuwaiti legislature. In the letter, Al--Arian noted that both Hamas and Islamic Jihad were "being threatened by the enemy." Al--Arian called for "preserving the spirit and flame of Jihad against the enemy," and went on to praise a recent suicide bombing in Israel carried out by "martyred mujahedeen" as "the best guide and witness to what the believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse at the heels of the Zionist enemy." Al--Arian urged al--Shatti to "extend true support of the jihad effort in Palestine so that operations such as these can continue." He described the movement's "very difficult" financial situation and urged Al--Shatti to explore "the feasibility of assistance from benevolent people and institutions whom you know to the jihad in Palestine." The prosecution showed that Al--Arian spoke about the letter on the phone two days after writing it, asking a friend to "carry the message" overseas when he went abroad.
While the prosecution stressed the hideous nature of Islamic Jihad's attacks on civilians, it did not establish a link between Al--Arian and any specific act of violence. And it failed to persuade the court that the law required no such link for a conviction. This left an opening for the defense to argue-as Al--Arian's friends long had-that he was simply a professor persecuted for his political beliefs. The 1995 letter, the defense claimed, proved only that Al--Arian was a zealous crusader for the Palestinian cause, who wrote and spoke against the Israeli "occupation" of Palestine. Moreover, no evidence was provided that Al--Arian ever mailed the letter, or that al--Shatti ever received it.
But whatever mistakes the prosecution may have made, it cannot be blamed for Judge James Moody's confusing instructions to the jurors. As if collaborating with the defense-and over the prosecution's objections-the judge told the jury, "Our law does not criminalize beliefs or mere membership in an organization. A person who is in sympathy with the legitimate aim of an organization, but does not intend to accomplish that aim by a resort to illegal activity, is not punished for . . . lawful purposes of speech." Even advocating the use of force, the judge instructed the jury, is permissible as long as the words used are "not directed at inciting or producing imminent or lawless action." Al--Arian could be found guilty only if "the evidence proves he committed a crime charged in the . . . indictment."
What the judge did not emphasize-and the jurors either did not understand or, in an act of nullification, chose to ignore-was that fund--raising for a terrorist group is a federal crime every bit as much as personally planting a bomb. In 1996, Congress changed the law, correcting an earlier statute that required the government to prove that money sent to illegal terrorist groups was earmarked and used for the execution of terrorist acts. The new statute, section 18 U.S.C. 2339B, which became law in October 1997, prohibits "material support to designated terrorist organizations" whether or not it can be tied to particular acts.
As Wake Forest law professor Robert M. Chesney explained in a Harvard legal study, "the legislation creating 18 U.S.C. 2339B expressly stated a Congressional finding that all forms of aid-but especially financial aid-given to foreign terrorist organizations enhanced their capacity to cause harm, irrespective of the donor's intent." That groups like Hamas perform charitable functions for their constituency as well as committing acts of violence does not exempt a fundraiser from prosecution on the grounds that he only meant to help their worthwhile efforts.
Al--Arian's defense team, then-with help from the judge-succeeded in transforming a terrorism trial into a trial over free speech. The prosecution valiantly tried to prove that he was as guilty under federal law as the suicide bombers he supported and financed. The jury wasn't convinced.
A source high up in the Department of Justice who is close to the prosecution summed up the outcome this way: "Justice might have been better served by admitting up front that they were not trying to prove he ordered and funded a specific terrorist attack or suicide bombing; only that he engaged in raising money for an illegal terrorist group and arranged for its receipt by them, for which he was ably thanked. By spending much time showing the jury the horror of PIJ attacks upon civilians, the jury was reinforced in its thinking that the government had to prove Al--Arian's support of these specific acts."
At this writing, the Department of Justice is reportedly close to deciding to prosecute Al--Arian on the charges on which the jury was split. In any new trial, prosecutors would concentrate on the funding alone, a clear violation of the law. With the Patriot Act in danger of being rescinded early next year, it is essential to proceed quickly to a new trial.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - 20:11
SOURCE: Ottawa Citizen (1-9-06)
In private life be courteous, in handling public business be serious, with all men be conscientious. Even though you go among barbarians, you may not relinquish these virtues. -- Confucius
Poor Confucius. Every aspect of this quotation has been violated this year. Whether it was what was revealed in The Secret Mulroney Tapes, Scott Reid's "beer and popcorn" quip or the shenanigans of question period in the House of Commons, this was a sorry year for virtue in politics.
And for those now on the hustings, it must be daunting to read the words of Confucius and wonder if they can meet his standard. For that matter, if any leader is passing familiar with what the great philosophers have said about virtue (and Paul Martin may well be since his undergraduate degree is in philosophy), he would likely be a little concerned about measuring up.
Aristotle, for example, said that virtue was "a settled disposition of the mind, determining the choice of actions and emotions." By this he meant that the course of right action was a habit.
Plato advocated that our best choice for leaders came from the ranks of the "philosopher kings," men of wisdom and virtue who, as leaders, could not be enticed by wealth, power or ambition.
But how could thoughts as high-minded as those of Confucius et al possibly mix with the greasy world of politics? The question is a valid one considering the nature and history of politics. From the sponsorship scandal of 2005 back to the Pacific Scandal of 1873, Canadian history is littered with moments that would make Confucius blanch.
The point, however, is not whether Canada can attract and elect leaders who perfectly fit the Confucian mould; indeed, that is impossible. But Confucius sets out an ideal for a virtuous leader -- something to aspire to, even if, in the end, it is not quite attained.
After all, this is a difficult country to govern, as every prime minister in history has noted at one point or another. In fact, set against the idealism of Confucius is what I might call the Pearson Corollary: Lester B. Pearson, one of Canada's most-liked prime ministers, said the person who had the job needed the "hide of a rhinoceros, the morals of St. Francis, the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the leadership of Napoleon, the magnetism of a Beatle and the subtlety of Machiavelli."
Either way -- Confucian or Pearsonian -- there is a tall order to fill.
Nonetheless, push your cynicism aside for a moment and you will find that Canadian leaders have risen to the occasion and served as avatars of virtuous conduct, despite the barbarians who have occasionally hounded them. They have been unwavering -- despite temptations to do otherwise.
Take Pearson himself, for example. There may not have been a more courteous, serious and conscientious prime minister in our history. And despite the albatross of minority governments from 1963 to 1968, when he was prime minister, he pursued significant change for Canada from bilingualism to medicare.
Other leaders come to mind when thinking of men of great character. Louis St. Laurent, for example, is remembered as a gentleman and example of impeccable integrity. Mackenzie King served honourably and at length. But what about those asking for our support today?
Paul Martin and Stephen Harper both seem to be courteous and serious when needed. They seem conscientious. But when the barbarians come calling (the premiers, the lobbyists, the insiders, separatists, to name a few) one is left wondering how strong they will be.
Posted on: Monday, January 9, 2006 - 22:15
SOURCE: WSJ (1-7-06)
The press informed readers that they were about to witness "one of the bitterest contests ever waged against a presidential nominee," and the most controversial Supreme Court nomination ever. The president, it was said, might have selected a nominee who would unite the country, not divide it. Instead, the Washington Post reported, he had "sent a bomb to the United States Senate."
Support and opposition split immediately along party lines. Opponents insisted that the most exacting scrutiny was essential, calling for delays. Supporters, citing the nominee's demonstrable capabilities, demanded expedition. A filibuster was threatened. All acknowledged the nominee was brilliant, almost all agreed he was honest. Neither trait, his antagonists reminded the country, entitled him to a seat on the Supreme Court.
Much was at stake. Justices called upon to decide cases involving some of the most controversial legal questions of the day were expected to be impartial. But the New York Times complained that, if confirmed, the nominee "would take his seat upon the bench equipped with a variety of preconceived and firmly-held notions." That wasn't the only red flag: The prospective justice, it was said, held views far outside the mainstream, and harbored a transparent commitment to an agenda that would revolutionize American law.
The nominee was Louis Dembitz Brandeis, a confidant of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson and a prominent "movement" progressive. Brandeis had manned the barricades in the most hard-fought political battles of his day. When most Americans -- his boosters included -- heard his name, "evenhanded" and "judicious" were far from the first words to come to mind. For years, Brandeis had taken clear stands for laws that would profoundly alter workplace and labor-management relations -- including an array of then unprecedented minimum wage, maximum hours and child labor laws. He campaigned to radically expand the fact-gathering powers of the national government, and for new checks on the power of business, through the regulation of prices and the breakup of monopolies.
At the time, these crusades raised more than questions about the best path for public policy. Almost all of the policies Brandeis supported ran up against a firewall of longstanding constitutional doctrine that had been repeatedly reaffirmed in Supreme Court precedents. Those precedents, the court had explained, enshrined inviolable constitutional principles. Many of the initiatives Brandeis had advocated violated Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment "liberty" guarantees (like the labor laws which, the court had held, impinged on the fundamental right of employers to freely bargain with employees on the terms of their relationship), or Fourth and Fifth Amendment privacy rights (in government fact-gathering), or exceeded the clearly stipulated powers of the national government (like the power to regulate interstate commerce). A nominee possessed of such a cavalier attitude toward precedent, Brandeis's detractors declaimed, "lacked the respect for the law's sanctity, which [a] judge should possess." He was utterly bereft of a "judicial temperament."
Champions of the Brandeis nomination saw things differently. Respect for precedent, they contended, was certainly important. But the nominee had said that he did respect precedent, and they took him at his word. By this, he (and they) meant that he would take precedent seriously in considering the cases that would come before him. That is, he would always give it its due. But he would defer to precedent only when that precedent, by his lights, was a genuine statement of the law. When an earlier decision of the court -- even if it had been repeatedly reaffirmed -- embodied not law, but the justice's own policy judgments (and -- again, by his own lights -- mistaken ones at that), the nominee contended it was entirely proper for him to vote to overrule it.
* * *
The parallels between President Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito and Wilson's nomination of Brandeis, while not perfect, are instructive. The charges that the nominee has strong ties to a political movement, ties that will render him "biased" in cases involving the most contentious issues he is likely to face, leaves today's Republicans nonplussed -- just as they did the Democrats in Wilson's day.
Of course, the "biases" -- or, put otherwise, the particular framework through which he views the constitutional and legal world -- are the very reason that Wilson chose Brandeis for the court, and President Bush chose Judge Alito: Each president viewed that framework as the most appropriate one for resolving the era's most importunate constitutional questions, and, not incidentally, for correcting the "mistakes" of law, now precedent, made by earlier courts. If anything, it is much less clear that Judge Alito would act aggressively to impose his "biases" and overrule precedent. Unlike Brandeis, an activist lawyer, Judge Alito, though a movement supporter, is a long-serving federal judge and by all accounts a temperamentally cautious and judicious man. Brandeis, in contrast, was a movement visionary, famous for his passion and audacity....
Posted on: Saturday, January 7, 2006 - 09:27