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.
In Godless, her latest and most ill-tempered book-length rant, Ann Coulter asserts that liberalism is a "godless" religion. In fact, however, the most fundamental problem in Christianity in America and the world today is that the "fundamentalist" religion that most loudly proclaims itself to be "Christian" is Jesusless.
Coulter demonstrates how Jesusless she and her cohort who have co-opted the name of Christianity are when she identifies "Americans' Christian destiny" as "jet skis, steak on the electric grill, hot showers, and night skiing." For some reason, she fails to cite her source in the Gospels for her definition of Christian destiny, which amounts to: Jesus died for our jet skis.
Read the Gospels from beginning to end and nowhere will you find Jesus suggesting anything like what Coulter sees as the destiny of Christians. Quite the contrary. Indeed, there is no source in anything Jesus said for most of what the best-known "Christians" preach in his name these days. While Coulter fumes that "liberalism is the opposition party to God," the clear truth is that what passes for "Christianity" today is the opposition party to Jesus. She attacks "the liberal hostility to God-based religions" while exposing her own hostility to Jesus-based religion.
As has been widely reported, Coulter offers "Christian" sentiments about widows of 9/11 victims who are not on her side politically: "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis," the millionaire TV celebrity and right-wing lioness Coulter hisses. "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." If Jesus had remained in his grave, surely he would be spinning in it to hear such evil venom being spit out in his name.
"Christians" of the sort who buy Coulter's books call themselves "fundamentalists," but their emphasis is entirely upon the word's first syllable; they're all about having fun. But when it comes to the fundamental teachings of Jesus, they take a pass. Turn the other cheek? Self-sacrifice? Help the poor? Nonviolence? That stuff's too hard. They replace the Gospel accounts of what Jesus said with the Gospel according to John and Paul (Lennon and McCartney, that is): "Give me money / That's what I want."
The Church of Coulter -- and that of the loudest "Christians" today -- should be called what it plainly is: Jesusless: The Church of Mammon. Coulter makes millions by calling others treasonous and Godless and saying, "We should invade [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Conversion should start at home, and Coulter first needs to convert herself from Mammonism to Christianity.
Like many others in the increasingly dominant and totally misnamed "Christian Right," Coulter has a persecution complex. Upon the publication of Godless, she used her syndicated column to write a self-review of her book, saying it would be ignored: "If you find Godless without asking for assistance, it's considered a minor miracle." This from a woman whose new Jesusless book was at that very moment rising to Number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. (That such a patently anti-Jesus book could become the best-selling book in America tells us just how far removed from being followers of Christ most of today's self-proclaimed Christians are.) She's lamenting all the way to the bank, her house of worship.
In my opinion, those who complain about a "War on Christianity" are right. The generals conducting that war include, in addition to Kill-a-Muslim-for-Christ Coulter, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, James Dobson, and the whole Unheavenly Host of televangelists and megachurch moneychangers and wolves in sheep's clothing who have expropriated the moral assets of Jesus and turned them to their own purposes. They never met a dollar they didn't like. They prefer profits to prophecy and pretend that Jesus did, too. They favor the rich over the poor and invert Jesus to contend that he did, too. They favor war over peace and lie by saying that Jesus did, too.
Coulter and millions of her fellow adherents to ChristianityLite -- a "religion" that is the equivalent of a "Lose weight without diet or exercise" scam ("Easy Jesus! Be saved without sacrifice or good works!") -- have aborted Jesus and rewritten his teachings to suit their own selfish desires. Their revision of the Beatitudes -- what we might call the Be-Ann-itudes -- goes something like this:
Blessed are the haughty in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who exult over others, for they shall be further rewarded.
Blessed are the arrogant, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for domination, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are those who show no mercy, for they shall obtain the wealth of others.
Blessed are the hard in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the war-makers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who persecute for their own sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when you revile others and persecute others and utter all sorts of evil against them falsely on my account.
Onward Jesusless "Christian" soldiers, marching others into war.
Posted on: Friday, June 30, 2006 - 18:06
SOURCE: American Prospect (6-29-06)
A little-remarked virtue of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is its graphic rendering of The Parable of the Frog. What? You don’t know about it and aren’t haunted by it day and night? Well, if you’re a journalist in Washington or New York, it’s no wonder. You and some colleagues are probably the hapless frog himself....
As I noted here before the 2004 election, the nation’s Founders were worried about republican prospects because they were reading Edward Gibbon's then-new account of how the Roman republic had slipped, frog-like and degree by self-deluding degree, into imperial tyranny.
They knew that bad leaders throughout history had bedazzled citizens out of liberty by titillating and intimidating them into a mob mentality that, as Gibbon put it, "no longer possessed that public courage which is nourished by the love of independence, the sense of national honor, the presence of danger, and the habit of command. They received laws and governors from the will of their sovereign and trusted for their defense to a mercenary army … ."
Surely Founder Richard Henry Lee was anticipating a Frogometer when he wrote that "nations which have lapsed from liberty, to a state of slavish subjection, have been brought to this unhappy condition, by gradual paces." Surely Tom Paine had a frog in mind when he warned, in Common Sense, “Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of Great Britain, and, still hoping for the best, are apt to call out, Come, come, we shall be friends again for all this.” But if you can survey what is being done to you and “can still shake hands with the murderers, then... whatever may be your rank and title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of sycophant.”
Surely a nation like ours, fighting a supposed war of self-defense against terror, shouldn’t rely on a “volunteer" army of kids driven toward supreme sacrifice by economic and civic emptiness at home. That nation would be lapsing “by gradual paces” into trusting “a mercenary army.” But I’ll leave the encroaching militarism, surveillance, cultural decay, and corporate fleecing to experts who’ve kept their independence, like retired generals who’ve spoken out.
I’ll mention just one bowl of warming water I do know fairly well – the one that holds “mainstream” (a.k.a. “liberal”) news media in New York and Washington. This is the water whose temperature George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and their faux-journalist retainers are raising, most recently in Bush’s disgraceful charge that The New York Times’s reportage on encroaching surveillance is “disgraceful” and has “harmed the United States of America” more than he has.
A word about the media bowl itself: Since the corporations that own most mainstream journalism are bound by law and their own charters to maximize profit and market share, they don’t really contribute to civic-republican deliberation by citizens who sometimes temper their market interests to advance a common good. Corporations don't deliberate that way; their civic gestures are write-offs, sales-lubricating "good will."
The effect on journalists? As Gore reminds us in his film, anyone whose salary depends on his not understanding something is not going to understand it. In his important blog, David Warsh wonders this week if that’s why Slate, absorbed by the Washington Post media conglomerate, hasn’t managed to find a serious economics columnist to replace Paul Krugman, who left there in 1999.
It happens all the time. I'm becoming a connoisseur of the ways undergraduates like those I’ve taught at Yale go into journalism with civic-republican, liberal-humanist standards like Paine's but adapt to their employers’ and editors’ characteristic ways of falling silent about -- or finessing, in a civic-republican idiom -- the yawning gap between civic-republican candor and the courtesanal behavior that deftly advances corporate priorities and practices. Soon they are serving up gossip, gotcha, and titillation, some of it with the telltale ironic posturing of people who know that they’re no longer free.
In the media bowl these days, more and more frogs are drifting listlessly in the rising heat. As the republic dissolves, writers who came to journalism with good civic-republican educations write little that Richard Henry Lee would have admired and more that Tom Paine would have considered cowardly or sycophantic.
Other scribblers thrive as warm-water snakes, like journalists of 19th-Century Paris whom Balzac portrayed in Lost Illusions. As that novel’s translator, Herbert J. Hunt, notes in the Penguin edition, “Balzac’s contention is that the majority of journalists under [Napoleon, the Restoration, and the July Monarchy], instead of recognizing that they were called to a serious, even sacred mission, turned the Press into an instrument for self-advancement, prostituted principles to intrigue and used journalism merely as a means of acquiring money, position, and power.”
You may think here of Judith Miller, Stephen Glass, Tony Snow, Matt Drudge, Hugh Hewitt (in his online Weekly Standard column), or the majority of the staff of the New York Post, which Rupert Murdoch transformed from a crusading liberal tabloid edited by my second-cousin James Wechsler into the daily reminder it is now that Australia was founded as a penal colony.
At a subtle remove, think of smooth operators like David Brooks, himself a temperature-raiser on the Iraq War and other threats to freedom who has nevertheless been making nice references lately to publications somewhat to his left (such as this one) where he has been criticized, while blasting the leftist blog Daily Kos as a corrupt political machine. This is all-too characteristic of the false, cloying comity and one-sided hypocrisy of Washington journalism. Brooks should be challenging the far-more powerful conservative blogosphere and excoriating Bush’s latest moves against honest reporting on encroaching surveillance.
And someone should be bringing back John Adams to warn us, as he did in 1786:
When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American Constitution is such as to grow every day more and more encroaching. … The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependants and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society....
Posted on: Thursday, June 29, 2006 - 15:43
SOURCE: Kevin Baker in American Heritage (5-1-06)
Many other cities, big and small, suffered losses that were less famous but nearly as traumatic. Portland, Maine, for instance, used to burn down once a century, almost like clockwork—at the hands of the Wabanaki Indians in 1676, the British in 1775, and its own citizens, celebrating the Fourth of July a tad too vigorously, in 1866. In each case the town was an almost total loss. Remarkably insouciant about its combustibility, Portland responded by building a large match factory in 1870. Portland would endure more oscillations of all kinds over the years but finally emerge, thanks to some smart planning, and federal aid, as that rarest of all American cities—a hip, arty cultural center that is also a working town, its port boasting the largest gross tonnage in the country.
This resilience was typical in disaster-stricken cities. Chicago barely paused in its spectacular rise. As Donald Miller writes in his lively history City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America, “more amazing than the destruction was the fire. The rebuilding began while the ground was still warm in the burned district, and within a week after the fire more than five thousand temporary structures had been erected and two hundred permanent buildings were under construction.” By the time the city hosted its famous World’s Columbia Exposition in 1893, “Chicago had the busiest and most modern downtown in the country, with a dozen and more of the highest buildings ever constructed.” This was accomplished mostly by private capital, a large relief fund, and emergency aid from around the country, although once again a key public adjustment was made, in this case stricter building codes.
San Francisco rebuilt almost as quickly even though, as a more modern city, it was faced with removing “countless tons” of stone and brick rubble from its steep hills. This time a more activist President, Teddy Roosevelt, helped coordinate relief efforts, and by 1909, according to William Bronson, author of The Earth Shook, the Sky Burned, “more than half of America’s steel and concrete buildings stood in San Francisco,” and “the assessed valuation of the City was half again as much as it had been before the fire.” By the time San Francisco held its own proud exposition in 1915, it had become once again—as it remains to this day—the most physically beautiful city in America.
Clearly, the lesson to be gleaned from all these very different cities that sustained disaster in very different locations and very different eras is that recovery depends upon determined local effort, combined with planning and/or public funding from one source or another. Each endeavor must complement, not contend with, the other. As long as New Orleans’s citizens are kept away from their city, and no plan is initiated for securing its future, it is difficult to see how it will ever be restored.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - 15:22
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (6-25-06)
As every political junky in the country now knows, just before finding himself not indicted by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Karl Rove went to a fundraiser in New Hampshire and launched the Republican campaign for the 2006 midterm elections. Its simple goal was to keep a Democratic majority (and so the power to investigate) out of either house of Congress. He promptly attacked Rep. John Murtha and other Democrats for their "cut and run" attitudes on Iraq. ("They may be with you for the first shots, but they're not going... to be with you for the tough battles.") He swore that the administration had been right to take out Saddam Hussein ("We have no excuses to make for it...") and proposed a new version of the administration's most successful post-9/11 ploy -- the constant linking of Saddam Hussein to the al-Qaeda attacks. Now, he would link the wreckage of administration policy in Iraq to future terrorist attacks. If we "cut and run," he pointed out in a fabulous Mobius strip of political logic, "It would provide a launching pad for the terrorists to strike the United States and the West."
His President had only recently announced the turning of "the tide" in Iraq with the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the installation of a new Iraqi government in Baghdad's Green Zone. Vice President Cheney would soon answer a question about whether we were still in the "last throes" of the Iraqi insurgency by insisting that the Democrats wanted to "bail out" just as we were "making very significant progress" in Iraq. The Congressional Republicans, whatever their private hesitations, were brought into line with the Rove plan and launched the sort of offensive that, in the past, has proven so ineffective in Iraq and so effective at home.
Given the disaster that Iraq actually is, some alterations of argument were obviously in order. Put in terms of Colin Powell's infamous "Pottery Barn rule" ("If you break it, you own it"), this particular formulation would go something like: You've barged into Pottery Barn, an invading bull in a China shop and you've been breaking things right and left ever since; management, employees, and other customers are enraged, so what choice do you have but to stay and keep breaking things? Bail out now and all those angry folks will be heading for your house to break your things.
Once upon a time, this administration's top officials and associated neocons dreamed of shock-and-awing the Middle East into the shape they wanted, settling into Iraq for the long haul, dominating the planet in geopolitical and energy terms, ensuring that no nation or bloc of nations would ever again challenge the U.S. and, in the bargain, installing the Republicans as the dominant domestic party for at least a generation. Now, forced to hitch their fates to the President's disastrous war, they simply hope to squeak through the mid-term elections and, two years later, hand ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan off to another president. Joshua Marshall of the Talking Points Memo website recently described the President as "like an owner of a business that's slowly going under… And he won't just liquidate and save what he can, because then he'd have to come to grips with the fact that he's failed. So his policy is denial and slow failure. Here of course the analogy to President Bush is rather precise since he only has to hold out until 2009 when he can give the problem to someone else, just as he did in his past life with other businesses he drove into the ground."
In fact, whether it works or not, Rove's political gamble is breathtakingly bold in its simplicity. He's throwing the dice on a single proposition: That, in the end, Americans will prefer the illusion of living in a Green-Zone world all the way and so will swallow the Green-Zone fictions that go with it.
Let's consider, then, a few small pieces of the Green-Zone world our President has created:
George in the Green Zone: On his Potemkin travels, the President has long taken a portable Green Zone with him. On the campaign trail, he almost never met an audience that hadn't been carefully vetted and so seldom found himself face to face with a questioner who wasn't beyond friendly, outright obsequious, or absolutely fawningly admiring. Put another way, with rare exceptions, his world is regularly cleared of reality as he approaches. On his foreign travels, this happens with clocklike regularity. Major metropolises are simply shut down or cleared of humanity, so that, like the USS Abraham Lincoln for his infamous "Mission Accomplished" tailhook landing, they become but movie sets on which he can tell his Green-Zone stories about how the world works without fear of complaint or contradiction.
Last week, George and his entourage landed in Vienna for a brief yearly confab with European Union leaders on a continent that views him with ever increasing alarm and hostility. According to the latest Pew poll, for instance, two-thirds of Austrians now have a negative view of the U.S. (even though Desperate Housewives is the TV hit of the year there). "A Harris Interactive/Financial Times survey released Monday found that 36 percent of Europeans view the United States as the world's greatest threat to 'global stability.' By comparison, 30 percent of those polled named Iran as the biggest threat, while 18 percent named China." When a European reporter actually confronted Bush with this at a press conference, it angered the President greatly and he responded not only with irritation, but with a Green Zone-style description of our American world: "We're a transparent democracy," he insisted. "People know exactly what's on our mind. We debate things in the open. We've got a legislative process that's active."
Here, then, is a description of Vienna as he entered it by Charles Bremner, a British reporter who has covered summits all the way back to Jimmy Carter's administration and finds the present security arrangements to have reached "absurd proportions." He writes:
"The centre of Vienna has been locked down since Bush's arrival on Air Force One last night. Streets are closed to traffic and parks and squares are locked shut. Bomb disposal squads are checking suitcases. The unusual quiet makes it feel like a prettier version of Soviet Moscow on the morning of the old November parades. Military helicopters are hovering over the Hofburg, the old Imperial Palace… We are working alongside in the usual vast press centre inside a cordon of about 2,000 police. To enter means penetrating three cordons, with the right credentials. At two of them, they searched all my bags and asked me to show that my computer and mobile phone were real. Dogs then sniffed them, along with the laundry in my overnight bag."
Oh, and while humanity is cleared from the general area, the dogs are usually flown in from the U.S. along with snipers, hordes of security personal, a bevy of escort cars, masses of aides, even cooks.
Two weeks earlier, the President made his secret escape from Washington and flew into Baghdad international airport wearing 25 pounds of body armor, helicoptered into the capital's heavily fortified American-controlled Green Zone, met with the new Iraqi prime minister (on five-minute's notice -- lest word get out and something terrible happen), dramatically looked him "in the eyes," and a few hours later left the U.S. version of "Iraq" for the administration's stage-set version of Washington to offer the American people yet another round of Green-Zone tales of turning tides, progress, and future Iraqi successes.
Incident in the Red Zone: But what about anyone who has to leave Baghdad's Green Zone for even a brief visit to the region the Americans on the spot call the "Red Zone" and most of the rest of us think of as Iraq? Well, the Australian ambassador had an interesting experience along these lines lately. As it happens, not all Iraqi ministries are located inside the Green Zone. The Ministry of Trade is unlucky in this regard, being in one of Baghdad's many embattled neighborhoods, which made the Australian ambassador no less unlucky. Last week, he had to visit Abdul-Falah al-Sudani, the Iraqi trade minister, in hopes of negotiating a multimillion dollar deal for Australian wheat. Naturally, he took along his "security guards." (Who in Baghdad would go anywhere without them?) In the ministry's parking lot they evidently ran into a set of armed Iraqis -- the trade minister's bodyguards, as it turned out -- and evidently fearing themselves in danger, simply opened fire, killing one and wounding several. They then seem to have leapt into their vehicles and hightailed it back to the safety of the Green Zone (apologies to follow later). Amid security guards, bodyguards, militias, insurgents, armed criminals of all sorts, private mercenaries, jihadis, and armed, terrified citizens, shoot on sight is increasingly the operative phrase. Call it the Wild East or maybe the world that George made.
Life between the Zones: While George and Karl and Dick and Don and Condi and Zalmay -- "Zarqawi's death will not by itself end the violence in Iraq. But [it] is an important step in the right direction. It is a good omen for Iraq, for Prime Minister Maliki's new government, and our overall efforts in the Global War on Terror..." -- were spinning a cotton-candy confection out of post-Zarqawi, don't-cut-and-run Iraq, our Green-Zone ambassador, the very same Zalmay Khalilzad, sent a cable marked "sensitive" to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that just happened to end up in the hands of the Washington Post. All the Post would say was that it was "obtained" by the paper -- though assumedly it was leaked by someone, Iraqi or American, who wanted the world to know what life in Iraq was actually like, even for those working in the Green Zone.
The cable focused on the Iraqi staff of nine in the Public Affairs section of our gargantuan embassy and, though it got some media attention, few of us really read such long documents beginning to end, so let me summarize. It dealt with Iraqis who have to leave the Green Zone each night for Red-Zone Iraq and return each work-day morning. In their Red-Zone neighborhoods, the employees often got but an hour of power for every six hours without (one area lacked city power for "over a month"); spent endless hours in gas lines (12 hours on a day off for one employee); were taunted by Iraqi guards, who seem to belong to (assumedly Shiite) militias, at Green-Zone checkpoints; could not tell family members where they actually worked; faced mounting criticisms of the U.S. at home; experienced sectarian strains in homes and neighborhoods; could not protect their own children; did not take home their American cell phones (fearing these might ID them for death); are in some cases "planning for their own possible abduction" by entering code names for friends and colleagues into their Iraqi cell phones; cannot be called by the embassy on holidays or weekends without having their "cover" blown; regularly know of people dying and often attend funerals ("every evening" in one case); if female, are being intimidated and harassed for not "covering up" and for using cell phones (a "suspected channel to licentious relationships with men"); have to regularly modify behavior, language, and dress as they pass into different neighborhoods controlled by different militias; and find that in their neighborhoods "the central government… is not relevant."
The memo concludes, "Although our staff retain[s] a professional demeanor, strains are apparent. We see that their personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials." In other words, even inside the heavily guarded American embassy, signs of incipient civil war can be observed.
But perhaps all you need to know is this: According to Khalilzad's cable, "More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames." In other words -- as with the President's five-minute notification time for the Iraqi prime minister -- the embassy is not reliably secure.
Whoever wrote this cable for the ambassador notes that "in March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate." In Iraqi minds, then, already the shades of Saigon, 1975 are arising.
At the very moment Bush and Co. were painting a picture of progress in Iraq, the ambassador's memo bluntly notes that "even upscale [Baghdad] neighborhoods such as Mansur have visibly deteriorated." The splendid New York Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise had a piece on this in the Saturday paper, Fear Invades a Once-Comfortable Iraqi Enclave. She writes: "[Once] Baghdad's Upper East Side… but… no longer the address everyone wants… [n]ow Mansour, a religiously mixed area just three miles from the fortified Green Zone, feels more like wartime Beirut than Park Avenue, and its affluent residents worry that the wave of violence that has devoured large swaths of Baghdad has begun encroaching on them." As you read on, it only gets grimmer. For instance, the owner of a well-known, upscale "Sweet Shop" that was satchel-bombed, she writes, "blamed the Americans for the security troubles, an opinion expressed by many in Mansour -- Shiite and Sunni alike."
And none of this includes the mayhem that followed that turning "tide" -- the murder of one of Saddam Hussein's lead lawyers, the small spike in American troop deaths, the steady stream of sectarian killings, or the gun battles that broke out between Sunni insurgents and the Sadrist militia (and came to include American troops) on Haifa street, one of the capital's main thoroughfares, once known as "Death Street," and a notorious hotbed of insurgent activity that was long ago supposedly reclaimed by Iraqi troops.
Green Zones inside Green Zones: In good times and bad, the Bush administration has always had a Green-Zone strategy in Iraq, but never an "exit strategy" because they never planned to depart (and still don't). From the beginning, they expected to hunker down in a series of permanent bases, largely away from major population centers, and these, to the tune of billions of dollars, have since been built. The biggest of them is Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad, "a small American town smack in the middle of the most hostile part of Iraq," with 20,000 American troops, most of whom never leave the base, a Subway, a Pizza Hut, a Popeye's, "an ersatz Starbucks," a 24-hour Burger King, two post exchanges, four mess halls, as well as extensive bus routes -- and it's still being upgraded. Bases like Balad were meant to be little islands of well-fortified and well-guarded American irreality at the heart of the planet's "arc of instability" (think: its oil lands).
When the administration was received in Iraq so much more poorly than any of its officials ever dreamed, they simply fortified more heavily and settled into the chaotic ruins of the country for the long haul. Nothing more clearly illustrates this than the new American embassy rising inside the Green Zone, a massive citadel inside what's already our citadel. It is, as Nicholas von Hoffman pointed out recently in the Nation magazine, the most permanent of bases. Known to Iraqis as "George W's Palace" (a sly reference to Saddam's elaborate former palaces), it is to be the biggest, most expensive "embassy" on the planet to the tune of at least $592 million (and probably more) -- a mini-state within a fortified city-state with 8,000 employees, "twenty-one buildings, 619 apartments with very fancy digs for the big shots, restaurants, shops, gym facilities, a swimming pool, a food court, a beauty salon, a movie theater... and, as the Times of London reports, ‘a swish club for evening functions.'" When it comes to electricity and water, it will operate independently of the rest of Baghdad. With its own missile defense system, it will be the global bunker of bunkers.
(Not surprisingly, a not-so-mini-version of this embassy is being built in Afghanistan for our other failing war on terror. In 2003, it was already being constructed under a $100 million contract with Halliburton -- which specializes in bases, prisons, and now fortress embassies for the Bush administration. Much of it is now finished, though little has been written about it, and it too, as someone who has seen it tells me, is an enormous fortress-like compound with very few windows (all probably easily convertible into gun emplacements), guarded by Nepalis -- wouldn't want to let the locals too close -- and well supplied from the U.S. right down to the heads of lettuce.
Of course, as the early post-9/11 adventures of our Vice President indicated, the Bush administration has long been hunkered down with a bunker's-eye view of the world through those gun-emplacement windows. For its top officials, the rest of the planet exists outside Green Zone walls, a place you never venture without your full contingent of security guards who shoot first, ask questions later, and never, never (unlike the Australians) apologize. Beyond those walls, it should never be surprising to find mayhem and horror on some version of the old American frontier (where you take people "dead or alive"), because out there is where you find the savages and barbarians.
The Green Zoning of History: One of the things you need to do when telling Green-Zone stories to the American people is "Green Zone" history. Historical memory (if you're not remembering the glories of World War II -- "'The president understands people's impatience…,' [Tony] Snow said on CNN. 'He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, "Wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?" But you cannot conduct a war based on polls.'") is generally to be avoided. For instance, the history of American support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980s would, in the pre-invasion period, play no part in all those stories about Saddam's "killing fields" and his acts of horror.
When our enemies (even if once our friends or allies) commit horrors, they are, of course, the brutes, the barbarians. In telling any such story, if the enemy is barbaric that automatically makes you "civilization." Saddam was a barbarian, big time (but skip the years when our satellites were helping him pinpoint Iranian troop concentrations to gas). Only last week, out in the Red Zone, two American soldiers were brutally slain, their bodies mutilated and evidently burned beyond recognition, and one of them was beheaded (probably after death); the bodies were then booby-trapped with IEDS.
As New York Times correspondent John Burns put it, "The story really takes us back into the 8th century, a truly barbaric world." National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley offered the following version of the same: "I think it's a reminder that this is a brutal enemy that does not follow any of the rules. It attacks civilians for political gain, it provokes sectarian violence, and it really follows no rules of warfare. It's a very brutal enemy, and it's a reminder to all of us about what we're up against." And those were typical comments in our world.
Mind you, in Red-Zone Iraq, mutilated bodies -- including many with holes from power drills (very twenty-first century), often tortured, it seems, by militias connected to our Shiite "allies" -- have been pouring into the morgues for god knows how long. However, when a largely Green-Zoned American public is suddenly shocked by the horrific deaths of American troops and wonders what century the brutes we're up against are really in, it helps enormously to lack all historical memory. I don't mean memory of eighth century or even "medieval" brutality, but simply of the last decades of the previous century when the CIA ran the largest covert operation in its history, aimed at turning Afghanistan into the Soviet Union's Vietnam.
To accomplish this, the Agency entered into an alliance with Pakistani intelligence and the Saudis to fund a range of extreme Islamic jihadists, including one by the name of Osama bin Laden. They were to take guerrilla war to the USSR by any means imaginable and make them pay -- and that they did. Back then, hailed as "freedom fighters" by President Ronald Reagan and as a "resistance movement" in our press, our jihadis committed a wide range of terrorist acts (including using car bombs, bike bombs, wheelbarrow bombs, even "camel bombs," as well as roadside IEDs) -- and were hailed for it. Moreover, when they captured Russian soldiers, they made a point of torturing, mutilating, and beheading them. (Soviet atrocities were also legion.)
These were the well-funded predecessors of the jihadis (or in some cases, like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Afghanistan, they were the very same jihadis) fighting us today. Now, they are the barbarians.
As a point of comparison, the same week those American bodies were mutilated in a barbaric fashion, reporter Ron Suskind came out with a new book, The One Percent Doctrine in which, according to Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, he describes the President's special interest in a captured al-Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah, who turned out not to be a leading terrorist but a complete nonentity and literal madman.
"'I said [Zubaydah] was important,' Bush reportedly told [CIA director George] Tenet at one of their daily meetings. ‘You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?' ‘No sir, Mr. President,' Tenet replied. Bush ‘was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,' Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, ‘Do some of these harsh methods really work?' Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, ‘thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target.' And so, Suskind writes, ‘the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.'"
Of course, this administration never admits to torturing, but if you're going by "medieval" standards, water-boarding was once upon a time simply known as "the water torture." Such American actions -- and they have been legion in recent years -- have taken place outside the walls of the Bush administration's Green Zone, out there in a world of barbarians where "the gloves must come off" and hands must be preemptively dirtied to make us all safer back here.
Running with the Barbarians: So let's return to those ridiculous Europeans who think that the Bush administration is a greater destabilizing force than Iran or North Korea in our world. Despite the President's outrage, here's the odd thing: If you stop to think about it for a moment, the Bush administration's Iraqi argument and the recent full-scale charge of the Republicans in Congress is now implicitly based on little but the destabilizing qualities of the President's war-on-terror policies; on the thought that, if those policies are not pursued to their unimaginable endpoint, the destabilizing happening elsewhere, the turning of Iraq into a lawless, devolving Red Zone, of Afghanistan into a lawless, rebellious narco-state, the potential unsettling of the whole "arc of instability," will arrive on our shores.
The globally disastrous results of Bush administration policy are now the explanation for continuing that policy. We must stay in Iraq because otherwise the Zarqawis will come to us. Who even remembers when, before the invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi was a nonentity, a small-time thug and crude jihadist, a would-be whatever -- with little hope of becoming that "whatever." Now, he's in the pantheon of whatevers and he and his successors are being transformed in the White House Rose Garden from the dismal results of what this administration has done into the justification for everything they still plan to do.
In the meantime, we have now passed the Nth tidal shift, the umpteenth turning point -- moments which invariably allow the Bush administration to retell the same inane Green-Zone stories that the media always takes up with a strange kind of hope as if some slate had just been wiped clean until, soon after, they are drowned in new waves of blood and chaos.
How many more Green Zone stories are Americans capable of taking? For how long will Americans mistake safety for hunkering down in the ruins of occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, with the embassy lights on and the water running and that fabulous little club in full swing, and everything else going to hell? As long as we do, matters will only worsen. And sooner or later, whether the jihadis arrive on our shores or not, our empire will come home. It already has. Don't for a second think that you can keep the torturers, their methods, and their mentalities -- those classic "dirty hands" -- off in the shadows, beyond the walls forever. Indeed, the barbarians are already inside the gates. Soon enough, they may be impossible to tell from us.
Copyright 2006 Tom Engelhardt
Posted on: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - 13:15
Joshua Brown, co-director of the New Media Lab, is also Executive Director of the Center for Media and Learning/American Social History Project (ASHP) at the CUNY Graduate Center. Before assuming those duties in 1998, Brown served as CML/ASHP's Creative Director, supervising the conception and production of the organization's varied and award winning"old" and new media projects since 1981, Among his past and current ASHP/CML credits are: co-director of the ten-part"Who Built America?" documentaries series; co-author and visual editor of the Who Built America? textbook and CD-ROMS; creative director of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, a digital history of the French Revolution; co-executive producer of History Matters, a U.S. history Web site; and co-executive producer and co-writer of The Lost Museum, a Web-based 3-D exploration/archive of P. T. Barnum's American Museum.
A Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University, Brown is the author of Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America (University of California Press, 2002), co-editor of History from South Africa: Alternative Visions and Practices (Temple University Press, 1993), and author of numerous articles and essays on visual culture and U.S. history. In addition, his cartoons and illustrations appear in popular and scholarly publications as well as digital media. Brown received Columbia University's 1994 Bancroft Dissertation Prize as well as grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - 12:20
SOURCE: Omaha World-Herald (6-27-06)
I live near Philadelphia, and I love our hard-luck, up-and-down baseball team. Until the Phillies take Brett Myers off the field, however, I won't attend any more of their games. And neither should anybody else.
Last Friday morning in Boston, the Phillies' Myers was arrested for assaulting his wife. According to Kim Myers and a witness, Brett Myers struck her in the face during an argument near the team’s hotel. He also dragged her by her hair and pulled her shirt up around her neck, the witness said. He was released shortly thereafter on $200 bond.
And the Phillies did . . . nothing.
That’s right: nothing. The team’s website announced that it would not comment on the episode, “out of respect for the privacy of both Kim and Brett Myers.” And the Phillies put Myers on the mound the very next day, for his scheduled start against the Red Sox.
Nor did Major League Baseball censure Myers and the Phillies in any manner. But Commissioner Bud Selig issued a fine and mandatory “sensitivity training” for Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who insulted a local journalist with an anti-gay epithet. White Sox officials also called on Guillen to exert more self-control.
So let’s get this straight. If you use a hateful word to malign a reporter, you get fined and re-educated. But if you use your hands to pummel your wife, you get nothing.
You might reply that Myers--unlike Guillen--was charged with a crime.
So the courts—and not the Phillies—should sort out the matter. In the interim, Myers should keep playing.
That’s exactly backwards. Until we know what really happened on that streetcorner in Boston, the Phillies should sit Myers down. Otherwise, they’re sending a potential wife-beater to the mound every fourth or fifth day. And they’re sending the wrong message to the rest of us.
Let’s suppose that Myers had been picked up for buying cocaine or heroin on that same Boston corner. Do you really think he would have pitched the next afternoon? Not a chance.
Aah, you might respond, but drugs are a scourge on the game of baseball. And you’d be right.
But so is domestic violence. Just last month, Detroit Tigers infielder Dmitri Young was charged with choking his ex-girlfriend. Or consider Oakland outfielder Milton Bradley, who received three visits from police last year to investigate charges that he was beating his then-pregnant wife.
Other notables with domestic-violence rap sheets include Yankees pitcher Scott Erickson, Tampa Bay shortstop Julio Lugo, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, and, yes, San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds. We hear about Bonds’ alleged drug transgressions every day, but nobody talks very much about his arrest for assaulting his first wife.
Here you might argue that this double-standard infects our entire society, not just baseball. And again, you’d be correct. [ital]Two hundred dollars[ital] bail? For hitting your wife in the face? What does [ital]that[ital] tell you about America’s social attitudes and priorities?
There’s only one way to change these attitudes: with our feet, and with our wallets. If the Phillies continue to put Myers on the mound, we shouldn't go anywhere near their stadium. Trust me, the team will listen.
“I love the fans,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said on Sunday, defending his decision to play Brett Myers. “Believe me, without the fans, we don’t have a game.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - 17:16
SOURCE: NY Sun (6-27-06)
How do Muslims worldwide think?
To find out, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press carried out a large-scale attitudinal survey this spring. Titled"The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other," it interviewed Muslims in two batches of countries: six of them with long-standing, majority-Muslim populations (Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey) and four of them in Western Europe with new, minority Muslim populations (France, Germany, Britain, and Spain).
The survey, which also looks at Western views of Muslims, yielded some dismaying but not altogether surprising results. Its themes can be grouped under three rubrics.
A proclivity to conspiracy theories: In not one Muslim population polled does a majority believe that Arabs carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001, on America. The proportions range from a mere 15% in Pakistan holding Arabs responsible, to 48% among French Muslims. Confirming recent negative trends in Turkey, the number of Turks who point the finger at Arabs has declined to 16% today from 46% in 2002. In other words, in every one of these 10 Muslim communities, a majority views September 11 as a hoax perpetrated by the American government, Israel, or some other agency.
Likewise, Muslims are widely prejudiced against Jews, ranging from 28% unfavorable ratings among French Muslims to 98% in Jordan (which, despite the monarchy's moderation, has a majority Palestinian Arab population). Further, Muslims in certain countries (especially Egypt and Jordan) see Jews conspiratorially, as being responsible for bad relations between Muslims and Westerners.
Conspiracy theories also pertain to larger topics. Asked,"What is most responsible for Muslim nations' lack of prosperity?" between 14% (in Pakistan) and 43% (in Jordan) blame the policies of America and other Western states, as opposed to indigenous problems, such as a lack of democracy or education, or the presence of corruption or radical Islam.
This conspiracism points to a widespread unwillingness in the umma to deal with realities, preferring the safer bromides of plots, schemes, and intrigues. It also exposes major problems adjusting to modernity.
Support for terrorism: All the Muslim populations polled display a solid majority of support for Osama bin Laden. Asked whether they have confidence in him, Muslims replied positively, ranging between 8% (in Turkey) and 72% (in Nigeria). Likewise, suicide bombing is popular. Muslims who call it justified range from 13% (in Germany) to 69% (in Nigeria). These appalling numbers suggest that terrorism by Muslims has deep roots and will remain a danger for years to come.
British and Nigerian Muslims are most alienated: Britain stands out as a paradoxical country. Non-Muslims there have strikingly more favorable views of Islam and Muslims than elsewhere in the West; for example, only 32% of the British sample view Muslims as violent, significantly less than their counterparts in France (41%), Germany (52%), or Spain (60%). In the Muhammad cartoon dispute, Britons showed more sympathy for the Muslim outlook than did other Europeans. More broadly, Britons blame Muslims less for the poor state of Western-Muslim relations.
But British Muslims return the favor with the most malign anti-Western attitudes found in Europe. Many more of them regard Westerners as violent, greedy, immoral, and arrogant than do their counterparts in France, Germany, and Spain. In addition, whether asked about their attitudes toward Jews, responsibility for September 11, or the place of women in Western societies, their views are notably more extreme.
The situation in Britain reflects the"Londonistan" phenomenon, whereby Britons preemptively cringe and Muslims respond to this weakness with aggression.
Nigerian Muslims generally have the most belligerent views on such issues as the state of Western-Muslim relations, the supposed immorality and arrogance of Westerners, and support for Mr. bin Laden and suicide terrorism. This extremism results, no doubt, from the violent state of Christian-Muslim relations in Nigeria.
Ironically, most Muslim alienation is found in those countries where Muslims are either the most or the least accommodated, suggesting that a middle path is best - where Muslims do not win special privileges, as in Britain, nor are they in an advanced state of hostility, as in Nigeria.
Overall, the Pew survey sends an undeniable message of crisis from one end to the other of the Muslim world.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - 16:54
SOURCE: realclearpolitics.com (6-26-06)
What do they have to do? This is the $2.3 trillion question, one for which many answers abound. Most of the answers center on a date and a word. The date is 1994 - the most surprising of political years since Dewey defeated Truman. The word is "nationalize." The Democrats need to nationalize the 2006 election, just as the Republicans did in 1994.
Is that really an answer, though? Nationalizing an election is not like declaring shenanigans at a carnival. You do not simply walk up to a microphone in front of a camera, declare that the election is "nationalized," and away you go. Nationalizing an election is a tricky thing to do.
The reason for this is the pro-incumbent bias inherent to congressional elections. It has greatly increased in the last few decades. When people talk about nationalizing an election, what they usually mean is bringing the national mood to bear on local House races. To nationalize an election is to essentially reward or punish members of Congress based upon the President's job approval. This is a difficult task. Incumbents have become increasingly able to retain their seats despite whatever partisan winds that might be blowing. Part of this has to do with redistricting, but most of it has to do with the fact that our Congress has become professionalized. Being in Congress is now a profession - and so, therefore, is being a candidate. It is part of members' jobs to know their districts and to know what it takes to get to half-plus-one. Professional members can also hire consultants, pollsters and strategists who make their living based upon electoral victory.
But this bias existed before World War II, and it roots extend to the very foundation of the American experiment. Our system of government - in particular its doctrine of separated powers - makes it very difficult to identify who is responsible for any given policy or any given result. So many different actors are involved in any given situation that confidently identifying a causal chain is virtually impossible. Hurricane Katrina provides a perfect example. Who should we blame for Katrina: the state government, the city government, the county government, the President, the Congress, all of the above, none of the above? I think it is literally impossible to place blame with any precision. Most answers I have read ultimately hinge upon the partisanship of the writer - liberals are more likely to blame institutions operated by the Republicans; conservatives are more likely to blame institutions operated by the Democrats. The reality is that power is so divided that nobody is clearly to blame. This enables all parties involved to shirk any responsibility they might have.
So it goes with almost all policies and outcomes. Madison and the founders instituted this type of system to thwart tyranny. Their thinking was that a division of power would confound potential oppressors by pitting them against one another. It was successful; but, as a side-effect, it greatly diminishes responsibility. Identifying who is responsible is a difficult task, and it works to the advantage of incumbents twice over: they can believably take credit for the good stuff and believably deny responsibility for the bad. When you combine this structural feature with members who are very skilled at campaigning in districts full of fellow partisans, you can appreciate why the incumbency retention rate has recently hit the 99% mark.
There is another way to nationalize an election - one that is much easier. You do not have to pit yourself against James Madison when you nationalize open seat races. Recently, it is through open seats that most swings in the balance of power have occurred. When members of Congress decide not to run for reelection - and many times such a decision is predicated upon national political conditions - local races take on a much more "national" flavor. For starters, voters are more inclined to vote according to their partisanship. This is key, as the effect of the incumbent's advantage is his ability to get voters who are of the opposite party to support him. You also see a more explicit discussion of national issues. The freshmen class that entered Congress in 1992 was there largely because the election was nationalized, which in turn was due to the large number of retirements stemming from the House bank scandal.
Thus, to an extent, all midterms are "national:" in every year there are at least a few open seats. Unfortunately for the Democrats, in 2006 there are only about 5 open Republican seats from marginal districts - i.e. districts whose partisan composition does not heavily favor one side or another. What the Democrats therefore need is to nationalize the election in a way that Republican incumbents bear the brunt of the force. This is what the Republicans did in 1994. They grossed 56 Democratic seats that year. 22 of them came from open seat victories. A whopping 34 came from defeated Democratic incumbents, most of whom occupied marginal districts.
Just as the Republicans did in 1994, the Democrats have to find a way to counteract the advantages that incumbency confers. The question becomes: how did the Republicans manage this counterintuitive result?
They did this, in essence, by using Bill Clinton's knack for the art of persuasion against him. Clinton was able to persuade Democratic members of Congress to go on the record supporting left-center policies that their districts opposed. He thus made what is usually an opaque picture of responsibility crystal clear. This enabled the Republicans to do what is so rarely done: bring the national mood home to the district.
For how much the conventional wisdom asserts that Clinton only gained his political bearings in 1995, the fact remains that the 103rd Congress had an impressive number of achievements that Clinton spearheaded. Many of them were decidedly left-of-center: notable among these were the tax increase provisions in the Deficit Reduction Act, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, and the assault weapons ban provision in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Clinton - in conjunction with the House leadership - was very adept at inducing Democrats from marginal House districts, where these measures were quite unpopular, to vote with the party. In roll call vote after roll call vote, Democrats - particularly from the South and the Mountain West - voted with the party and against their constituents.
These roll call votes were what landed Democrats in so much trouble on Election Day. They explicitly and clearly attached House members to that which had upset voters in these marginal districts. Republican challengers could say more than, "Our Democratic incumbent is part of the problem!" This is what every challenger in every race says every year. It is not effective because it does not offer a coherent or compelling causal argument. Republicans in 1994 offered something more. In race after race, Republican candidates declared, "Our Democratic incumbent is part of the problem; just look at his votes on H.R. 1025, H.R. 3355, H.R. 2264!" In other words, the roll call votes made what is normally a quiet and confused trail of responsibility loud and clear. Voters who were angry about the direction of the country came to believe, thanks to Republican campaigns based upon these votes, that their members were to blame for it. They thus developed bad impressions of their members, and, on Election Day, they voted Republican.
The evidence is pretty clear on this point. As Stanford political scientist David Brady has argued:
"For many...Democrats, especially those representing more conservative districts, the choice (to support or oppose Clinton's legislative agenda) was...difficult: vote for a decidedly liberal legislative agenda, and risk offending constituents, or vote against the party leadership. Those who decided to support the president's legislative agenda risked providing Republican challengers with an obvious line of attack...Where Clinton ran poorly in 1992, Democratic incumbents with pro-Clinton voting records in Congress were much more likely to be defeated than those with lower levels of presidential support."
Examining the roster of defeated Democratic incumbents, one will only see a few who had opposed Clinton on all three of the aforementioned measures. Almost all of the losers supported Clinton at least once, and they paid for it with their seats.
Would an identical strategy work this year? It might, but it might not; 2006 is different in many respects from 1994. As mentioned, the Republicans won 22 open Democratic seats that year. This year, the Democrats can only hope for 5 such seats. Further, there was a tension that year that is absent this year: namely, there were many districts that tended to vote Republican in the presidential election and Democratic in the House election. This gave Republicans many opportunities for pickups that are simply absent this year. More than 90% of Republican members are in districts that voted for Bush. Fortunately for Democrats, the number of seats they need to win is much lower. The Democrats had a 40-member majority going into the 1994 midterms. The Republicans have a 15-member majority today. ...
Posted on: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - 15:49
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (6-23-06)
In November 2002, 30 years after my previous visit to Wheaton College to hear George McGovern, I approached the podium in Edman Chapel to address the student body. At evangelical colleges like Wheaton, in Illinois, there are two kinds of required gatherings: chapel and convocation. The former is religious in nature, whereas a speaker at convocation has the license to be far more discursive, even secular — or political. The college's chaplain, however, had invited me to preach in chapel, not convocation, and so, despite temptation, I delivered a homily that was, as I recall, not overly long, appropriate to the occasion, and reasonably well received.
I doubt very much that I will be invited back to Edman Chapel. One of the benefits of being reared within evangelicalism, I suppose, is that you understand the workings of the evangelical subculture. I know, for example, that when my new book on evangelicals appears, the minions of the religious right will seek to discredit me rather than engage the substance of my arguments. The initial wave of criticism, as an old friend who has endured similar attacks reminded me, will be to deny that I am, in fact, really an evangelical Christian. When that fails — and I'll put up my credentials as an evangelical against anyone's! — the next approach will be some gratuitous personal attack: that I am a member of the academic elite, spokesman for the Northeastern establishment, misguided liberal, prodigal son, traitor to the faith, or some such. Another evangelical friend with political convictions similar to mine actually endured a heresy trial.
The evangelical subculture, which prizes conformity above all else, doesn't suffer rebels gladly, and it is especially intolerant of anyone with the temerity to challenge the shibboleths of the religious right. I understand that. Despite their putative claims to the faith, the leaders of the religious right are vicious toward anyone who refuses to kowtow to their version of orthodoxy, and their machinery of vilification strikes with ruthless, dispassionate efficiency. Longtime friends (and not a few family members) will shuffle uneasily around me and studiously avoid any sort of substantive conversation about the issues I raise — and then quietly strike my name from their Christmas-card lists. Circle the wagons. Brook no dissent.
And so, since my chances of being invited back to Edman Chapel have dropped from slim to none, I offer here an outline of what I would like to say to the students at Wheaton and, by extension, to evangelicals everywhere.
Evangelicals have come a long way since my visit to Edman Chapel in 1972. We have moved from cultural obscurity — almost invisibility — to becoming a major force in American society. Jimmy Carter's run for the presidency launched us into the national consciousness, but evangelicals abandoned Carter by the end of the 1970s, as the nascent religious right forged an alliance with the Republican Party.
In terms of cultural and political influence, that alliance has been a bonanza for both sides. The coalition dominates talk radio and controls a growing number of state legislatures and local school boards. It is seeking, with some initial success, to recast Hollywood and the entertainment industry. The Republicans have come to depend on religious-right voters as their most reliable constituency, and, with the Republicans firmly in command of all three branches of the federal government, leaders of the religious right now enjoy unprecedented access to power.
And what has the religious right done with its political influence? Judging by the platform and the policies of the Republican Party — and I'm aware of no way to disentangle the agenda of the Republican Party from the goals of the religious right — the purpose of all this grasping for power looks something like this: an expansion of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the continued prosecution of a war in the Middle East that enraged our longtime allies and would not meet even the barest of just-war criteria, and a rejiggering of Social Security, the effect of which, most observers agree, would be to fray the social-safety net for the poorest among us. Public education is very much imperiled by Republican policies, to the evident satisfaction of the religious right, and it seeks to replace science curricula with theology, thereby transforming students into catechumens....
Posted on: Friday, June 23, 2006 - 15:56
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (6-20-06)
According to recent news articles, American teenagers are using a high-pitched cell phone tone that many adults cannot hear. The reports have sparked alarm among schoolteachers, who fear that the new tone will let their students take calls in class.
But the captains of American industry aren't afraid of change. Instead, they embrace it! Even as we speak, creative businesses are developing an array of adult-proof products. Here are just a handful of them:
The Invisible Television: Emits rays that only adolescents can detect. Mom and Dad will think you're staring into space. Instead, you're staring at reruns of Malcolm in the Middle.
"Open Access" Software: Have your parents blocked your favorite Web sites? Using obscure computer jargon, this program lets you "unblock"
the sites. In field trials, nobody over 18 was able to follow the directions.
The Hard-Core Car Radio: Plays grunge, techno, hip-hop, and everything else adults hate... but on a frequency they can't hear! Makes those long family drives a lot more pleasant for everyone involved.
Teen-Speak Morse Code: For special occasions when you really don't want your parents to know what you're saying. A voice-activated machine will automatically insert like or cool into every clause and sentence, scrambling your speech beyond adult recognition. But your friends will be, like, cool with it.
Scentless Beer:You drink for the taste, right? Yeah, right. But adults can't taste this beer - and they certainly can't smell it on your breath. Perfect for prom night.
The Adjustable Clock: Do your parents hassle you about being late? It's time we moved to your own clock, my friend. Go to a computer, click the mouse a few times, and this clock will slow down - or even move backward. Mom and Dad will be too stressed out to notice.
The Subliminal Advertiser: Let's suppose there's a special product you want - an MP3 player, a video game, what have you - but your folks say it's too expensive. This video camera lets you splice microcosmic advertisements into their TiVo-ed Sopranos episode. You'll get the prize, and they'll get the bill!
So stop worrying, America. As the very old song goes, by some band I can't remember right now, "The Kids Are Alright." And even if they're not, we'll never know the difference.
Posted on: Friday, June 23, 2006 - 14:21
SOURCE: Counterpunch (6-21-06)
In their preface the authors declare optimistically, “If a Democratic majority is elected to the House in November 2006, we are confident that a bill of impeachment will be introduced early in the next Congress…” (p. xi).
But one shouldn’t be too optimistic. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the other day, “We [Democrats] don’t even have a party position on the war. We don’t ask members to do one thing or another.” She’s also said “Impeachment’s off the table.” One should read the book with such statements in mind.
Six of the eleven chapters begin with proposed articles of impeachment and then elaborate the charges: (1) criminally invading Iraq, (2) criminal negligence in ignoring warnings of the 9-11 attacks, (3) violating the constitutional rights of citizens, (4) violating the law in disclosing the name of a CIA undercover operative to punish her whistle-blowing husband, (5) violating international law by the illegal invasion of Iraq and by torturing captives, and (6) criminal negligence in failing to protect the lives of Americans’ lives and property. The latter includes cases ranging from the shortages of body armor for U.S. troops in Iraq to the bungling of the Katrina hurricane episode.
These actions, of course, involve many people. Bill Clinton was impeached for the very individual act of lying to investigators about a very private matter of little consequence to the world. Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, and Sandy Berger weren’t in on his Oval Office indiscretion. But Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice have been deeply involved in Bush’s crimes. Then there’s the Office of Special Plans and its connections to the monolithic pro-regime disinformation-dispensing corporate press, and the compliant Congress and judiciary. This widespread diffusion of the rot is one of the problems with the impeachment case.
Lindorff and Olshansky succinctly present such a compelling picture of system-wide “evil” (to appropriate one of Bush’s favorite religiously-colored terms) in recent history that it may be hard for the reader to imagine how a mere impeachment procedure could really produce the changes required to prevent recrudescence of the evil.
Bush should of course personally pay the price for deeds during his presidency that have led to tens of thousands of deaths, the ruin of a country, the considerable magnification of hatred for the U.S. throughout the world, the dramatic rise in fascist trends in the U.S., etc. This can be done through impeachment, the authors argue throughout, especially in Chapters 3 and 4 that provide useful historical background to the process. But they note too that the impeachable actions stem from Bush’s pre-presidential personal career (p. 18f); the farcical 2000 election that arguably discredits the whole political system, Supreme Court and Congress included (p. 16); and the neocons’ well-articulated pre-election agenda for world conquest (p. 30). They note (pp. 27, 55-6) the involvement of key players in the administration in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. They note (p. 24) that Cheney was primarily responsible for appointing the Bush cabinet after the election. (I think they might have more emphasized the role of the neocon cabal in handling the planning for the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, managing the slick disinformation connecting the two, and deftly diverting attention from itself to the CIA---and supposed “intelligence failures”---after its lies about Iraq were revealed from mid-2003.) They show, in other words, that long before a vicious man launched an illegal war in Southwest Asia, there was certain widespread viciousness in the American polity itself.
But in building the “legal argument” for removing Bush from office Lindorff and Olshansky don’t indict the whole system.
This makes sense given the limited objective of their work: to get people to “stand up in November” and vote in a Democratic-led House, which---but only if pushed by a well-mobilized mass movement---will bring in a “next president” who “will be much more respectful to the Constitution…and to all of us” (p. xii). That would likely mean a president who would retain much of the new repressive legal apparatus consecrated by both parties since 9-11 and serviceable to any future administration---including one led by Hillary Clinton, who could be as vicious as any predecessor. If the objective is to get back to the eighteenth century Constitution (which face it, has its own limitations) that, it seems to me, is just not likely. Impeachment could however rock the political boat and make the future interesting, maybe producing some hopeful, dramatic results. (Recent history is filled with unexpected collapses and reversals.)
In Chapter 5, elaborating charge (1), the authors make clear what so many others have: the fact that the administration wanted to attack Iraq, immediately after 9-11 if not earlier, and proceeded to build a case saleable to the gullible, frightened American populace. There is only brief mention of the Office of Special Plans, although many commentators have emphasized its function as the Chalabi-connected, neocon-directed “Lie Factory” that sold the war. It remains unclear whether it and its cousin, the White House Iraq Group (assigned broader PR and news “spin” functions), generated disinformation to persuade an ignorant president---or produced the bogus reports at the president’s own request to fool the people. (“If I have a chance to invade [Iraq]---if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it,” Bush told a biographer in 1999. “I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”) But in noting that the war was “based on lies” the authors, who fault correctly both the “President and his agents” (p. 59) in making “false statements” about Iraq, might have more emphasized this Lie Factory and its existence independent of the Commander-in-Chief.
In Chapter 6 (“Dark Questions About a Dark Day”) the authors note the dozens of warnings about a 9-11 style attack to which the administration was, or should have been, aware in the months before the attacks. I feel dubious about the suggestion that the Bush administration is somehow protecting the Saudi royals and the hugely wealthy bin Laden clan “to prevent any public awareness of the links” to itself (p. 90). (It should be noted that the Saudis have requested that the blacked-out 28 pages in the Senate Intelligence Report on 9-11 that pertain to Saudi Arabia be made public.)
But this chapter does what it sets out to do—raise questions, without sensationalism. Indeed, by avoiding the questions raised by some physicists about the very physical plausibility of the administration’s explanation for the Twin Towers’ collapse it errs on the side of caution.
Chapter 7 is a devastating critique of the illegal surveillance of Americans that has occurred since 9-11 and the passage of the Orwellianly-named PATRIOT Act. But in raising the matter of the administration’s “Taking Liberties” it notes the complicity of the entire Congress in letting this happen, and it maintains that the surveillance has been more for “political” reasons than for purposes of attacking and silencing the antiwar movement (pp. 109-110). I don’t think we can draw a firm line between the two, and it’s a line in any case that’s moving over time. There are some points, here and elsewhere in the book, that could be better documented in making a ‘legal argument.” On p. 115, for example, the the authors that that the number of those rounded up immediately after 9-11 “could easily exceed five thousand.” But there’s no footnote.
On the other hand the logic of the analysis seems accurate, and chilling. Among the most memorable passages in the book occurs on pp. 118-19, where the authors note the very real prospect that anyone in this country linked by email to a “terrorist organization” (as defined by the State Department, a flawed human institution) could be “packed off, without your family’s knowledge, to a military base in a remote state, or perhaps to Guantanamo.”
Of course, the American people don’t decide who gets targeted as a “terrorist organization.” The State Department decides, and the Congress rubber-stamps the list, and if you disagree and have ties with a blacklisted group, say goodbye to any supposition you have rights!
Article IV, as outlined at the opening of Chapter 8, takes the administration to task for its vindictive “outing” of Valerie Plame. It states that the president “lied to the American people” about his own “role in the disclosure,” although elsewhere in the book (pp. 134, 184) the authors admit that Bush might not in fact have known what Cheney, Libby and others were doing in connection with the Plame Affair.
Without wanting to leave Bush off the hook, I’d just suggest that he may be stupider than many of us suspect. This could be an important point; recall how the “Teflon President” Ronald Reagan used his own claim of a hands-off “managerial style” excuse to distance himself from the activities of such subordinates as Elliott Abrams and John Negroponte during the Iran-Contra scandal.
Chapter 9 begins with a proposed fifth article of impeachment, noting the president’s violations of international law, including the Nuremburg Tribunal Charter and the Geneva Conventions.
It effectively documents the role of Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft and Michael Chertoff in legitimating torture and is especially useful in revisiting the mostly forgotten John Walker Lindh episode. Lindorff and Olshansky describe (pp. 148-51) how an idealistic 19-year old California youth and convert to Islam, in Afghanistan in 2001 with Taliban forces still friendly towards the U.S., fighting against Northern Alliance forces backed by Russia and India, got unexpectedly dragged into a confrontation between his Afghan hosts and the invading U.S. military. The kid was forked over to U.S. forces by a fascist Northern Alliance warlord, brutalized and then forced under a plea bargain to admit guilt to crimes he hadn’t committed---to protect the U.S. from charges of torture. Now he’s in prison for 20 years. This is important exposure and the authors deserve much credit for it.
Finally, Article VI, leading into Chapter 10. The president hasn’t protected the people; quite the contrary. My first thought in reading this accusation was that it pertains to U.S. presidents generally, and that from a purely legal point of view (not that, as the authors reiterate, normal legal standards are required in impeachment hearings) this would be hard to demonstrate. On page 159 they state that “even after he had been informed the New Orleans levees had broken [Bush] went golfing, resulting in needless death…” Seems to me that Bush on his cell phone from the golf course could have issued orders, so the connection here’s not really clear. Again, it’s an issue of a whole system of indifference and incompetence.
The authors note, very importantly, the unprecedented degree to which Bush, encouraged by Sam Alito, has issued “signing documents” after appending his signature to laws passed by Congress. These indicate his assumption that he can lawfully ignore the legislature. But they note too that others before him have done the same, and when they aver (p. 161) that “The sheer scale of the Bush use of such documents represents a qualitative difference,” I can just hear the rightist counter-argument, “Why’s it qualitative, not just quantitative---and appropriate in a special time of war”?
In Chapter 11 the authors discuss the issue of “Impeaching Other Bush Administration Officials.” But how could one impeach Bush without impeaching the whole damned batch? Saturday Night Live had it right from the start, depicting Dubya sitting on Cheney’s knee. How could we possibly imagine Bush impeached and succeeded by his unpopular VP?
It was the latter who more than anyone orchestrated the Iraq War, is planning the Iran and Syria attacks, and wants to create an empire from Afghanistan to Syria to encircle China. But while there are references to Cheney throughout the book, and to his connections to the neocon detail-men in the Terror War, the section on him occupies only five pages and focuses on torture and Halliburton. I’d put the focus on his involvement in deliberate disinformation, the psy-ops directed at the American people to get them to back imperialist war.
Rumsfeld gets twice as much space as Cheney, mostly devoted to the torture issue. But Rumsfeld also ought to be impeached for nurturing the Office for Special Plans’ disinformation campaign to justify the criminal Iraq War. The authors indict Condi Rice for lies, appropriately, and Gonzales for his sick nazi-like reinterpretations of American law.
But how do you accomplish the necessary goal---of impeaching the whole lot of these monsters---in a climate of not-quite-yet but encroaching fascism everywhere you look in America? The mainstream media will naturally ignore this book. News anchors have their marching orders and they know what topics are off limits and even what wording should surround controversial issues. Academia becomes increasingly cowardly, hounded by well-funded fascist operatives who can call up and mobilize wealthy donors demanding censorship with great efficiency. Driving out the Bush regime will be a very difficult undertaking. Not a surgical operation on U.S. imperialism to be conducted by some politically transformed, enlightened Congress but a mass movement with bigger goals in mind than finding a president who will “help us take back our country” (p. xi).
Have we---most of us---ever really had a country to “take back,” though? Could we maybe, learning from the past, make a new one? While raising these questions, I recommend this book as a searing exposé of an administration that deserves whatever opposition and resistance it may encounter.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 21, 2006 - 17:27
SOURCE: Informed Comment (blog) (6-19-06)
It has therefore been dispiriting to witness the falsehoods about American history consistently purveyed by the Bush administration. Bush and his officials have repeatedly made allegations that simply are not true, but they sin most grievously against the muse of Clio with their flat-footed and implausible analogies.
On Sunday, the most prominent among Bush's spokesmen from the ranks of Fox Cable News anchors, Tony Snow, did it again. He compared our current situation in Iraq to the Battle of the Bulge. This battle began in mid-December, 1944, a little over 3 years after the US entered the war. Snow also suggested that the American public was ready to throw in the towel at that point in the war!
Is the only way this tawdry administration can make itself feel good to defame the Greatest Generation? My late uncle used to tell us stories of how he fought at the Battle of the Bulge. Is Tony Snow saying he was a coward? That the Americans back at the homefront were?
From CNN on Sunday:
BLITZER:"Let's talk a little bit about troop withdrawal potentials for the U.S. military, about 130,000 U.S. forces in Iraq right now.
In our most recent CNN poll that came out this week, should the U.S. set a timetable to eventually withdraw troops from Iraq, 53 percent said yes; 41 percent said no.
Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle today. She's going to be on this show, coming up.
She wrote this:"We have now been in Iraq for more than three years. And we believe that the time has come for that phased redeployment to begin. It is also time for the Bush administration to provide a schedule and timetable for the structured downsizing and redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq."
"Does that make sense?"
SNOW:"The president understands people's impatience -- not impatience but how a war can wear on a nation. He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?
But you cannot conduct a war based on polls. And you can't conduct this kind of activity. What you have to do -- and the president's been clear about this -- is take a look at the conditions on the ground. Let's think for a moment of the alternative.
If the United States pulls out -- and what's been interesting is that most people realize that simply pulling out would be an absolute, unmitigated disaster, not merely for the people of Iraq but the larger war on terror."
On the question of American faintheartedness in the face of the Ardennes assault by the Germans, here is what was on the front page of the New York Times on December 20, 1944:
"nothing but confidence in our ability to deal with . . .""It has long been foreseen that the enemy might make some such counter-stroke . . .""the risks of powerful armies closing in on his flanks seem even greater . . ." Oh, yeah, we were obviously petrified! Why, it is amazing that Gen. Patton didn't just slink away for very shame at our pusillanimity!
Not only were the Americans determined in the face of the Nazi assault, but the NYT reported that the Belgian resisters to the Nazis urgently requested permission to line up to fight the German army, a request that Gen. Erskine declined. Ragtag Belgian irregulars weren't afraid, much less the public and military of the United States of America!
And here is the concluding para. of the NYT editorial on Jan. 13, 1945:
So let me get this straight. The NYT editorial says,"This state of affairs calls not merely for watchfulness on the part of the allies but also for the recovery of the general control of strategy as soon as possible."
So Tony Snow thinks a poll would have shown that the US public was shaking in its booties at the Battle of the Bulge? He thinks the New York liberal press was calling for an abandonment of the war? What a steaming crock!
So his premise is just not true. But neither is his analogy on the mark. We are not at the Battle of the Bulge in Iraq. We are at the beginning of 1983 and we are the Soviets in Afghanistan. Here is what wikipedia says about that era:
The Muslim insurgency remains locked in military stalemate against Soviet and Afghan troops. The government controls the cities, while the guerrillas control the countryside. There are conflicting reports on the success of the regime in either neutralizing the insurgency movement or crushing it with the aid of some 110,000 Soviet troops. Reports on the war are sketchy and probably biased, since they are based on accounts given either by Pakistan-based rebel groups or by journalists taken on conducted tours by the government. President Karmal is firmly in command of the ruling PDPA. Infighting between the Parcham and Khalq factions of the party is less evident in 1983 than in previous years, and it appears that the Soviets have succeeded in bringing them under control. Afghanistan continues to depend on the Soviet Union for economic aid and food assistance."
Three years later, Soviet documents show, Gorbachev had decided he could not win in Afghanistan, and that he would have to withdraw. Shortly thereafter, the CIA gave Stinger shoulder-held missiles to the Mujahidin (including to our then ally Gulbuddin Hikmatyar), and Gorbachev had to accelerate his plans. In 1988 the Soviets withdrew. A year later the Soviet empire lost its Eastern European satellites, and in 1991 it collapsed.
Would the Soviets have been better off getting out of Afghanistan in 1983? Without any doubt whatsoever. Would the chaos in the country have been worse than what eventually happened, in the 1990s? Highly unlikely.
As for Snow's contention that for the US to get out of Iraq would be a defeat in the war on terror, it is exactly the opposite. The US occupation of Iraq is now reviving the terror movement among Muslim radicals. This is the conclusion of experts such as Fawaz Gerges and Steven Simon and Daniel Benjamin. The quicker we end the miltiary occupation, the sooner we will stop inadvertently training the next generation of terrorists who want to hit us.
And, anyway, as the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi demonstrates, there is no real need to worry about terrorism flourishing in western Iraq. The neighbors-- Jordan, Syria and Turkey-- would never put up with it, for fear it would spill over onto them. And as that operation showed, the Jordanians are better at tracking down Arab terrorists than the US military (yes, it soes help to know Arabic fluently).
Moreover, there is some danger of Bush's imperial over-stretch imperiling our republic. Our budget deficits, enormous indebtedness, the sinking dollar, and other effects of imperial overstretch and Republican Party irresponsibility could lead to a crisis of epochal proportions.
Everything Snow said was wrong, and most of it was insulting-- whether to my late uncle, to the greatest generation in general, or just to our intelligence.
Posted on: Monday, June 19, 2006 - 20:07
SOURCE: Tribune Media Services (6-19-06)
Selective compliance, Socrates warned, would undermine the moral integrity of the entire legal system, ensuring anarchy. And so, as Plato tells us, the philosopher accepted the court's death sentence and drank the deadly hemlock.
Socrates' final lesson about the sanctity of the law is instructive now in our current debate over illegal immigration.
There are, of course, many objections to illegal immigration besides that it is against the law: Unlawful workers undermine the wages of our own citizen entry-level workers. Employers who depend on imported labor find common ground with ethnic chauvinists; they both exploit a large, vulnerable and unassimilated constituency. And security analysts warn us that it is insane to allow a 2,000-mile open border at a time when terrorist infiltrators are planning to kill us.
Yet few have criticized illegal immigration solely because millions have, with impunity, flouted the law — aliens, their employers and the officials who look the other way.
But Socrates would do just that, and also point to our hypocrisy.
The alien from Mexico chooses which American laws he finds convenient. He wants our border police to leave him alone — until he becomes lost in the desert or is attacked by robbers.
The employer expects trespassing laws to be enforced to keep vagrants off his premises, but then assumes that the same vigilant police will ignore the illegal status of his cheap labor force.
And does the city council that orders its policemen not to turn over arrested illegal aliens to the border patrol similarly allow townspeople to ignore their municipal tax bills?
When thousands operate cars without state-mandated licenses and car insurance, why should other drivers bother to purchase them? If police pull over motorists and do not verify the legal status of aliens, why do they check for outstanding arrest warrants of citizens?...
Posted on: Monday, June 19, 2006 - 16:43
SOURCE: In These Times (6-15-06)
In his first visit to the White House on May 23, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told President Bush that Israel will “devote six to nine months to find a Palestinian partner” before it pursues the unilateral “Convergence Plan.” It was an empty promise. Olmert knows that given the reality in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the probability of returning to the negotiation table is close to zero.
Since the ruling Fatah party lost the democratic elections to the Islamist party Hamas, much has changed in the Occupied Territories. Following Hamas’s electoral victory, Olmert asked foreign leaders to boycott the new Palestinian Authority (PA) until it complied with three conditions: 1) disarm Izzeddin al-Qassam and other paramilitary groups; 2) annul Hamas’ charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel; and 3) accept the agreements and obligations that the Palestinian Authority took upon itself when the Fatah party was in control.
Given Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Hania’s recent statement that if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders Hamas will be willing to sign a peace agreement based on an extended hudnah (truce), the first two conditions could easily become part of future negotiations rather than a condition for negotiations. Olmert’s third demand, however, puts Israel in a thorny spot. After all, Israel, not the Palestinians, has been using the separation barrier in the past three years to execute a unilateral plan that contravenes all previous agreements. Thus, according to Olmert’s logic, the international community would also need to boycott Israel in order to remain consistent.
Nonetheless, following U.S. pressure, the three other members of the Quartetthe United Nations, the European Union and Russiaagreed to follow the general thrust of Olmert’s demands, and have cut off most of the foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Even before the foreign aid was cut, 64 percent of the Palestinian inhabitants were living under the international poverty line of $2.20 a day, while the World Bank reported that acute malnutrition affected 9 percent of Palestinian children. Since the aid amounts to almost one-third of the per capita gross national income in the West Bank and Gaza, the cuts could eventually lead to a famine.
Since February, when the foreign aid was cut, the Palestinian Authority has been unable to pay salaries to its 160,000 employees. These workers provide direct livelihood to over one million people (almost a third of the population), and if their salaries are not paid for a few more months the Palestinian economy will totally collapse. Both Israel and the United States are now thinking of ways to alleviate the dire situationafter all, no wants to be blamed for producing a famine. Together they have adopted a scheme that could be called the “Somalia Plan.”
The idea is to transfer salaries directly to the bank accounts of those 90,000 PA workers who are employed by civil institutions like the education and health ministries. The remaining 70,000 Palestinians who work for one of numerous security apparatuses in the Occupied Territories will not receive salaries. This will keep the economy just above the famine level, leaving 70,000 armed men with nothing but frustration and anger.
Under such conditions, a struggle is sure to break out among the different Palestinian warlords over the scant resources in the Occupied Territories. Already, Ha’aretz has reported that dozens of bombs have been laid near houses or cars of senior Hamas officials and officers in the last few weeks, while homes and cars of Fatah senior officials and Preventive Security officers have also been booby-trapped. In some cases the bombs went off, causing injuries and damage.
If the existing skirmishes among the different factions develop into full-blown battle, it may very well be that certain segments of the Palestinian population will go hungry. Yet, it’s the warlords or faction leaders, rather than Israel or the United States, who will be blamed for the human catastrophe. We are, in other words, witnessing Somalia in the making.
Members of the European Union have expressed “serious concern” about the deterioration in the humanitarian, economic and financial situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. But even though they have pledged to resume payments to the Palestinians, E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana hinted to Ha’aretz that resistance from the U.S. Congress might make it impossible to transfer the funds.
So it is not only that Israel and the United States are uninterested in abating the violent clashes among Palestinians. They do not seem to care that a civil war in the Occupied Territories will both engender immense suffering and destabilize the region for decades. In many ways, their policies are precipitating thisnot coincidentally, but as part of the very logic informing the perpetual war on terror.
Posted on: Monday, June 19, 2006 - 15:26
SOURCE: Nation (6-27-06)
During George W. Bush's first term, reporters had a powerful confluence of motivations for their difficulty in calling the President to task. First was tradition; mere journalists lacked the authority to call a President a liar. Second, post-9/11 they were intimidated by Bush's McCarthyite with-us-or-ag'in-us rhetoric as well as by a bloodthirsty right-wing punditocracy. (New York Times White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller admitted that she and her colleagues found it "frightening to stand up there," and "no one wanted to get into an argument with the President at this very serious time.")
Finally, though much of what Bush said during his first term was laughable, it was not easily disprovable in a normative sense. Would the poor and the middle class be the primary beneficiaries of tax cuts designed almost exclusively to enrich the extremely wealthy? Could right-wing church groups and ideology factories replace the services provided by traditional government health and welfare agencies? Does abstinence-only education based on disinformation reduce teen pregnancy? Were WMD-infested, bin-Laden-loving Iraqis eager to be "liberated" by a power that instructs them that our God is bigger than their God? "Well maybe," replied most reporters. "Time will tell."
Because the mainstream media make a fetish of a particularly brainless form of objectivity, the Bush Administration has been able to deceive the American public on a dizzying array of issues, from war to economics to science to, well, you name it. Lying has usually damaged the Presidents who do it, as I argued in my book When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences. But the media proved so timid in the face of this Administration's deceptions that the reckoning was delayed long enough for Bush to squeak into a second term.
Now the results are in--and reporters, under siege from several directions, are still trapped in self-eviscerating sanctimony. Jim Lehrer explained the peculiar form of "objectivity" he and his colleagues practice to CJR Daily's Liz Cox Barrett not long ago: "I don't deal in terms like 'blatantly untrue,'" he averred. "That's for other people to decide.... I'm not in the judgment part of journalism. I'm in the reporting part of journalism." As Todd Gitlin pointed out on TPM Cafe, Lehrer's interview sounded an awful lot like Rob Corddry lecturing a befuddled Jon Stewart, "I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons.' I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity'--might wanna look it up someday."
Of course, even when they did catch Bush in the occasional bald-faced, easily demonstrable lie, most Washington journalists thought it gauche to make a big deal out of it. Dana Milbank wrote the classic 2002 Washington Post article about Bush's tendency to mislead, deliberately--all without ever using the "L" word. When asked by CNN's Howard "conflict of interest" Kurtz specifically about an incontrovertible lie by Bush about why we invaded Iraq--the President claimed that Saddam Hussein would not allow inspectors in--Milbank excused the liar: "This is just the President being the President." He meant it as a compliment.
Now Bush's lies are news again. When replacing his Treasury Secretary recently, he told another one that reporters have had trouble ignoring. Asked by Bloomberg's Richard Keil, "Has Treasury Secretary Snow given you any indication that he intends to leave his job anytime soon?" Bush responded, "No, he has not talked to me about resignation. I think he's doing a fine job." In fact, as Washington Post.com's Dan Froomkin reported, "Tony Snow [no relation] confirmed that Bush had offered John Snow's job to Goldman Sachs chairman Henry Paulson several days before the press conference, and the spokesman didn't deny that Bush and his treasury secretary had talked about it." Quizzed about the discrepancy, Tony Snow called Bush's response "artfully worded." By Bush Administration standards, that's sad but true.
Froomkin devoted a column to the incident, brazenly titled "Bush's Lie." In it he wondered at all the reasons reporters are reluctant to call a lie a lie. He quoted his own newspaper's coverage by Peter Baker and Paul Blustein, which gave no indication of the President's purposeful mendacity. "Bush, when asked about the Treasury Secretary at his news conference last night, indicated only that he had not spoken directly with Snow and quickly changed the subject to positive economic indicators." In other words: "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" (Also writing about the incident, Slate's John Dickerson explained, mystifyingly, "I'm reluctant to call it a lie, but the President abused our trust.")
Interestingly, Froomkin's attentiveness to the issue of what's true and what's false in the President's statements has earned him the reputation around the office of being an ideologue. Late last year Washington Post executive editor Len Downie spoke of his desire to "make sure people in the administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column." National political editor John Harris admitted at the same time that he had "heard from Republicans" who thought Froomkin "unfair." To offer readers "balance," Post honchos demonstrated just what they consider to be the proper antidote to a twenty-year veteran reporter who submits Administration rhetoric to truth tests: In March they hired a 24-year-old former Bush/Cheney political operative named Ben Domenech, who had little (if any) experience as a journalist but plenty, it turned out, as a plagiarist.
So truth is for "liberals." Were it not for the fact that our democracy is being undermined by the liars in office, we might be flattered. But even the collapse of the President's popularity has not installed much backbone in the press corps. Bush can still lie about whatever he wants whenever he wants; treasury secretaries one day; war the next. It's "just the President being the President."
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
Posted on: Friday, June 16, 2006 - 14:00
SOURCE: NYT Magazine (6-11-06)
Think of the economy of the United States as a dinosaur — one of those huge herbivores whose bulk shook the ground. A brachiosaur. A brontosaur. A diplodocus. Like them, the U.S. economy is mind-bogglingly enormous — two and a half times as big as the next largest economy in the world and almost as large as that of the six other members of the Group of Seven combined. The catch is that it has to consume almost incessantly to sustain its great heft.
Contrary to what we used to believe, leviathans like the diplodocus were not exactly sloths. It is now thought that they had the strength to stand on their hind legs in order to reach food at the top of trees. They may even have been able to run rather than merely plod. But it seems reasonable to assume that their reaction times were slow; it was a very long way from the diplodocus's tail to its brain. If a predator sank its fangs into that tail, it might have taken the diplodocus a few moments to feel the pain.
The big question about the dinosaurs is, of course, What caused their extinction? Why were so many species unable to evolve in response to environmental changes? The most common explanation is that a very sudden event, like a meteor's impact, gave the dinosaurs too little time to evolve and provided smaller and more dynamic life forms with an opportunity to take over.
An analogous question for economists is whether the United States is capable of evolving out of its present excessive indebtedness. Or could the global economic environment change so drastically as to threaten, if not extinction, then at least decline relative to smaller, more dynamic economies?...
The most important lesson to be drawn from the history of debt is this: It's not the absolute size of your borrowings that matters. It's not even the relative size in relation to your income. The crux is whether the interest payments you have to make are more or less than you can afford to pay. And that, in turn, is a function of whether or not the rate can move, whether or not your income can change and whether or not inflation can help you or hurt you. On this basis, both subprime American mortgage-holders and a distinctly subprime administration may find the months ahead more painful than they anticipated.
The dinosaurs, we conjecture, succumbed to global climate change. The American beast — call it debtlodocus — faces a comparable economic challenge. The global economic climate seems to be changing. We hear no more talk of deflation; we hear a lot about rising rates.
For America's giant, dinosaurlike economy — with its small, wealthy head; its big, fat middle; and its long low-income tail — there is a tried-and-tested response to a change in the weather. Dollar depreciation and inflation have saved the debtlodocus before. The assumption seems to be that they will do the trick again.
Yet this time may be different. For sinking like a velociraptor's fangs into the tail of the debtlodocus are interest-rate hikes that may outpace and check any increase in inflation. And no one knows when and how violently the leviathan may react to this slowly discernible pain.
It is too soon to speak of extinction, of course. But one obvious inference to be drawn from the British experience of an indebted empire and a sliding currency, as well as from the history of the diplodocus, is that eternal life is not on offer.
Posted on: Friday, June 16, 2006 - 13:35
Truth to tell, however, not only Bush’s presidency but the presidency itself has long been declining in the appraisal of the American people. This process has been afoot for many years, although Bush has added significantly to the view that the president of the United States should not be regarded as a glorious figure of the republic. It does not do to observe that Bush’s predecessors were all denounced at one time or another. Jefferson, for instance, was labeled by some voters as “Mad Tom,” and Lincoln was disparaged not only by Copperheads but also by important voices in his own party as inadequate for his position, even as an imbecile. Still, the country as a whole knew better, and both men, like most who have lived in the White House, had the comfort of being able to keep in mind, as Lyndon Johnson liked to declare out loud, “I am your president” and relish their place in history.
For half a century now the office has been losing its luster. There is no longer a political honeymoon for a newly-elected president. Well before Bush’s present crisis, the besmirching of the White House has been conducted as steadily as if it were being graffitied by vandals. As a result, the presidential office has been losing with increasing momentum the vitality and majesty that once made it shine and glisten. Regardless of the outcome of the nation’s present agony, the populace must soon face the consequences of its heedlessness.
The major blows to the institution in the last forty years are known to all: Kennedy’s disaster at the Bay of Pigs, Johnson’s failed war in Vietnam, Nixon’s malfeasance in the Watergate break-in, Reagan’s ignominy over Iran-contra, and Clinton’s degrading impeachment and trial. Other blows are less dramatic and visible—like “little strokes”—but still, being more insidious, sap the strength of the office all the same. Some are outgrowths of the general culture; some may be laid at the door of the presidents themselves; some, ironically, result from the notable diligence and success of the media. News collected on a 24/7 basis produces a public awareness of high-level shortcomings and shenanigans that in another time was unknown or not reported upon. People once confidently trusted the words of the federal government’s chief spokesmen, invariably concluding, “They know.” Since Vietnam they have lost that trust.
What explains what has happened? For the last generation, the country has been witnessing a leveling of the pyramid of power in practically every segment of society. Nothing less than a widespread “crisis of the executive” has been occurring, and remains in full throttle. School principals, church officials, corporate CEOs, and college heads have all felt the sting of this assault on authority. The president of the United States is chief among the victims. President-bashing, indeed, is a widespread national pastime. America has become more than ever a “nation of Madame Defarges,” a phrase first used sixty years ago by the journalist Walter Lippmann. It recalls the scene in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities of the wine merchant’s wife who, while knitting incessantly, takes gleeful satisfaction in watching the well-born passing on the way to the guillotine. The public appears to enjoy the squirming of its politicians and particularly the squirming of its highest officials. First Ladies, too, have become targets in recent years, as witness the treatment not only of Hillary Clinton but also of Rosalynn Carter and Nancy Reagan. The media, whether in print or on the airwaves, are engaged in rampant “gotcha journalism” for the intended benefit of their own circulation or popularity ratings. Their investigative reporters are the monarchs of the newsroom.
Adding to the onslaught on the presidency these days is the spate of movies and novels that, drip by drip, make disrespect and even mockery of the office commonplace. This is lese-majesty on a scale heretofore unthinkable. From morning to night, from the A.M. press briefing at the White House to the carryings-on of the late night comedians on network television, the president— Republican or Democrat—is under an incessant immoderate bombardment. And the jokes and cartoons about the president are meshed into Sunday talk shows and reported in Sunday newspapers and weekly newsmagazines....
Posted on: Thursday, June 15, 2006 - 16:21
It is ironic to find the text of the Florida Law on teaching history published in “online sunshine.”
Analysis of the legislation states that the fiscal impact of the legislation is “indeterminate” – a postmodern term in a document that condemns postmodernism! The impact, from the point of view of “revisionist historians” is not indeterminate. There are contingent possibilities and that is the reason for historians across the country, at every level of the profession, need to take action now.
In the name of “providing limited government” the legislation creates an intrusive state which substitutes propaganda and partisan polemics for historical study. Similar legislation, in Italy after 1929, German after 1933, and Vichy France after 1940 carried similar rhetoric and justifications.
This year, efforts in the Fifth French Republic to control the teaching of colonialism and imperialism were stopped. Our colleagues in France were able to block government from controlling research, shaping scholarship and limiting classroom content. Within the framework of our Federal system, we should adopt a similar goal.
The Florida law calls for completion of ONE CREDIT! No doubt, the simplification of the truth and rote learning envisioned by the legislation matches the amount of time the needed for the political indoctrination fabricated in Tallahassee
The American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the National Council of Social Studies can and must act with speed. If the Florida curriculum becomes practice, then the logical step is decertification by these non-governmental, professional organizations. In addition, colleges and universities across the country cannot and should not accept the Florida curriculum as fulfillment of undergraduate student admissions requirements.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 - 21:04
SOURCE: Madman of Chu (blog) (6-13-06)
Comparisons to Vietnam began haunting the Bush administration's Iraq policy even before the Coalition invasion was launched in 2003. The specter of Vietnam is not a simple or univalent influence on the US political climate surrounding the Iraq conflict, however. It impinges upon the perceptions of both opponents and supporters of the Bush policy in complex ways that reflect the vagaries of memory and its perceived reverberations in future policy.
Opponents of the Iraq policy (among which I count myself) are frustrated not only or least by the sense that "the lessons of Vietnam" have been ignored, but that in certain political circles those lessons themselves remain ambiguous more than thirty years after the fall of Saigon. The image of "the last helicopter" leaving the US embassy in April 1975 leaves no doubt that the US Vietnam policy was a failure, the reasons for that failure, however, remain contested.
For those who opposed the Vietnam War (with whom I retrospectively agree, having been born at the conflict's height) the Vietnam policy ultimately failed because it was flawed at the outset. Certain pundits, however, insist that the Vietnam War was "lost" not because of any prior deficiency in US policy but because of domestic opposition among the American public and political leadership. This latter argument manifests in several forms, the most empirically plausible of which is the assertion that at the conflict's tail end the Nixon administration's policy of "Vietnamization would have worked" had it not been undermined by withdrawal of funding by a Democratic Congress in 1974 and 1975.
Arguments that US Congressional miserliness doomed the Thieu regime are dubious at best. Congress did barter down the executive's proposed package of aid in fiscal year 1974, but this was not an exceptional case of appropriational wrangling. A supplemental request for additional military aid made by the Ford administration never reached the appropriations stage before the collapse of the Thieu regime. Despite failing to meet Nixon administration targets (which were likely inflated in anticipation of Congressional bargaining) US aid to South Vietnam was expansive- 4 billion dollars from the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, with an additional 1 billion dollars of donated equipment. By 1974 South Vietnam, a nation of 20 million people, had the world's fourth largest army and air force and fifth largest navy. The South Vietnamese military initially enjoyed a 4 to 1 superiority in heavy weapons over that of the North. Under these conditions the idea that the South was defeated for lack of bullets is a stretch of the imagination.
Moreover, the notion that Congress was ultimately responsible for the collapse of South Vietnam rests on two false assumptions. The first is a misunderstanding of what role any legislature may play in the conduct of an armed conflict. Any battle that depends on particular action by a legislative body is lost from the outset- a body like Congress simply cannot be relied upon to respond with the kind of alacrity that warfare demands.
Secondly, the "Congress lost Vietnam" myth assumes a degree of control over events in Southeast Asia that the United States never had. At most Congressional action helped catalyze a crisis of confidence within South Vietnam that hastened the collapse of the Thieu regime. But a government whose legitimacy balanced so precariously on perceptions of the American political climate was bound to collapse sooner or later, the idea that a further infusion of cash could have precluded such a crisis altogether is a fantasy. In the end the fate of the Thieu regime is not best epitomized by the fabled "last US helicopter," but by the South Vietnamese F-5E jet flown by Lt. Nguyen Thanh Trung that made three bombing passes over President Thieu's residence on April 8, 1975. Any regime so lacking in coherence and political control that it would find such an expensive and destructive asset turned against itself could not stand long. Ultimately South Vietnam was not defeated by a lack of US volition or even a failure of South Vietnamese leadership, but by the aggregate unwillingness of the Vietnamese people themselves to live in a partitioned nation.
The "Congress lost Vietnam" myth does not have enormous traction in the American public perception of Vietnam and its legacy. Even so, opponents of the Bush policy in Iraq may be forgiven for fearing that such myths continue to distort foreign policy. Structurally similar myths to those that precipitated and persist in the wake of Vietnam are propounded in support of the decision to invade Iraq and by way of apology for the mission's setbacks.
First among these is the idea that the invasion of Iraq was a necessary blow against the global power and influence of Al Qaeda. This notion persists despite being demonstrably false- even with the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last week Al Qaeda enjoys far greater purchase in Iraq now than it did in April of 2003. The consistent invocation of the "war on terror" in defense of the Bush Iraq policy echoes calls for "containment" during the Vietnam War. Both arguments overestimate the degree to which the perceived threat (global Communism or political Islam) expresses itself universally uniformly and to which local conditions are shaped by larger geopolitical forces. Just as the expense and destruction of the Vietnam War could not be justified in terms of its impact on global Communism, the human and material costs of Iraq will not be worth the damage inflicted on Al Qaeda (assuming that, in the best case scenario, Al Qaeda's strategic position is ever materially degraded by events in Iraq at all).
The second disturbing myth current in the Iraq crisis is the structural doppleganger of the "Congress lost Vietnam" myth: the idea that the current Iraqi insurgency would not exist (or would be much attenuated) if there were no domestic US opposition to or criticism of the war. This latter myth rests upon the same faulty reasoning of the former, an assumption that the US enjoys far greater control over local political developments internationally than it ever actually has. The Iraqi insurgency exists because a certain critical mass of Iraqis are intrinsically opposed to the Baghdad government the Coalition is trying to establish, and that opposition is not reducible to nationalistic anger at US imperialism. If the US departed tomorrow the insurgency would continue and even intensify, because the Baghdad regime embodies forces (multiethnic rule, democracy, relative secularism, protection of Shi'ite religious freedom) with which the insurgents (to varying degrees) will not be reconciled.
Given the eery parallelism between the myths surrounding Vietnam and those surrounding Iraq, opponents of the Bush administration's policy might reasonably fear the long-term consequences of any degree of success in Iraq. Despite the clear failure of the Vietnam policy, myths such as the "Congress lost Vietnam" canard seem to have had just enough traction to bring those who propound them back into control of the US' foreign policy apparatus for another bite at the apple. If such a costly and misguided policy could be launched on such a flimsily established precedent one trembles at the prospect of what might be attempted on the basis of even provisional success in Iraq.
Such reasoning must be tempered by two considerations, however. First is that it rests on an overestimation of the degree to which Vietnam precedents figured in to the initiation of the Iraq policy. The policy pundits who gave us Iraq never wholly subscribed to US strategic doctrine during the Cold War, at the time they were advocates of "rollback" rather than containment. The Rumsfeld Defense Department knew full well that the very structure of the 21st century all-volunteer US military was predicated on the assumption that it would never be engaged in a prolonged occupation such as Vietnam. Their decision to go ahead with the invasion of Iraq was rooted in the conviction that it would not develop into an extended occupation, they did not so much ignore the lessons of Vietnam as obstinately insist those lessons were irrelevant.
Moreover, in contemplating Iraq one must hold in mind that the complexion of total failure there would look very different than the previous case of Vietnam. If the current insurgents could be expected to form a coherent state that would be bad enough, as they do not have anything approaching the nationalist goals or credentials of the Viet Cong or the NVA. Instead, however, the more likely outcome of a complete failure of the Bush policy would be total, destructive anarchy. A failed state in Iraq would result not only in untold misery for the Iraqi people and a vastly amplified terror threat to the United States, but might well spill over into a broader regional conflict that could make prior events in Laos and Cambodia pale by comparison.
Ultimately provisional success is the best possible scenario for which the US and the Coalition might hope, and even that outcome is beyond the power of the US or its allies to guarantee- it can only be brought about by courage and skill on the part of Iraq's leaders. Even so, the possible future ramifications of provisional success in Iraq are troubling to consider. If even Vietnam can be spun as a worthwhile and all-but-won cause, should Baghdad win through to stability one cannot but fear what expenditure of blood and treasure might be advanced on that precedent in years to come. In the final analysis, however, such thinking amounts to an abdication of the duty of citizenship. Baghdad will hopefully establish its authority over a stable Iraqi state and the violence in that beleaguered country will subside. If and when that happens US proponents of the current Iraq policy will trumpet it as a great victory and a vindication of the policy from its outset. Such a political climate will place a great burden upon those of us who know how ill-conceived this policy was. We will have to redouble our commitment to remain politically engaged, to insist on a clear and factual assessment of the Bush administration's policy and its consequences, and to see that future foreign policy is not predicated on the same faulty thinking that prevailed in March of 2003.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 - 14:28
SOURCE: NY Sun (6-13-06)
The NYPD, like every Western law enforcement agency, indignantly denies profiling. Its spokesman, Paul Browne, said in August,"Racial profiling is illegal, of doubtful effectiveness, and against department policy."
But it does, in fact, profile.
Shahawar Matin Siraj
A 50-year-old Egyptian immigrant, Osama Eldawoody, a paid police informant and the central witness against Siraj, said under cross-examination that he had rooted about mosques in Brooklyn and Staten Island, making about 575 visits during 13 months in 2003-04. His instructions, he testified, were to keep"his eyes and ears open for any radical thing." The detective running him, Stephen Andrews, confirmed under oath how Mr. Eldawoody"was supposed to be on the lookout for whatever was going on. His eyes and ears were to be open."
Mr. Eldawoody wore a wire and took notes on such topics as the number of people who attended a religious service, the duration of the service, the imam's name, an imam's search to buy a house, and the license plate numbers of worshippers' cars outside mosques. (Although Mr. Andrews testified that he eventually told Mr. Eldawoody to stop collecting these numbers, he did run them through a database.)
Likewise, an undercover Muslim NYPD detective of Bangladeshi origins, known pseudonymously as"Kamil Pasha," testified in the Siraj case about having been sent to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to be a"walking camera" among Muslims living there, to"observe, be the ears and eyes."
Significantly, the NYPD has no comparable program to surveil cathedrals, churches, chapels, synagogues, or the religious buildings of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Shintoists, animists, or anyone else.
Profiling worked brilliantly in this instance; Kamil Pasha had contact with Siraj 72 times. As a result, Joseph Goldstein wrote in The New York Sun,"Before police knew of a plot, the department already possessed detailed reports of Siraj's political views and his often violent and inflammatory statements, which recorded his satisfaction at the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and his support for Osama bin Laden."
Even after this information came out, Mr. Browne argued that his department"does not engage in profiling."
[When law enforcement lies, as it constantly does about profiling, public trust erodes.] Profiling is an obviously useful tool, so the solution lies in passing laws to permit the police to do so overtly and legally.
On the very day of Siraj's conviction, an intrepid Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn, Dov Hikind, proposed such a law in the New York State Assembly. Bill A11536 would authorize law enforcement personnel"to consider race and ethnicity as one of many factors which could be used in identifying persons who can be initially stopped, questioned, frisked and/or searched."
In a clever act of political jujitsu, Mr. Hikind noted that in Grutter v. Bollinger, a major case concerning affirmative action in college admissions, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted making governmental decisions on the basis of race and ethnicity on two conditions: that doing so serves a" compelling governmental interest" and that these are not the only factors used in reaching decisions.
Mr. Hikind told the BBC that preventing terrorist attacks"is an even more compelling governmental interest" than education, making it therefore acceptable to factor race and ethnicity into what he called"terrorist profiling." A former New York City police commissioner, Howard Safir, the columnist Clarence Page, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee all have written or said that they agree with Mr. Hikind.
So do I, but with a caveat: While permitting racial and ethnic externals to be factored into snap decisions is a clear common-sense imperative, the ultimate goal is to know a person's world view. As I put it in 2004,"Islamism … prompts Islamist terrorism, not speaking Arabic."
For now, however, the Hikind bill does a great public service by establishing the legitimacy of profiling. It urgently needs to be passed.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 - 14:23