Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Research Institute (7-18-06)
What do George Clooney, Manute Bol, Elie Wiesel, and Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek have in common? They have all publicly called for the UN Genocide Convention of 1948 to be applied to Darfur and for greater intervention to halt genocide there.
Over the past few years, the U.S. government has agreed, at least in rhetoric. On July 23, 2004, the U.S. Congress passed a unanimous joint resolution declaring a genocide event in Darfur, as defined by the Convention, Article II of which defines genocide as:
any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Signers of the Convention, which include the U.S., are supposed to act to bring such events to an end. In September 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell testified to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Genocide has been committed in Darfur, and the government of Sudan and the Janjawid [militia] bear responsibility.”
In March 2006, President Bush declared, “This is a serious business. This is not playing a diplomatic holding game.… When we say genocide, that means genocide has to be stopped.” In June 2006, taking a somewhat different tack by acting to intervene in a humanitarian crisis, the U.S. House of Representatives approved $450 million for assistance to Sudan, including $138 million for the Darfur region. Commentators such as former diplomat Timothy Carney take another approach, seeing Khartoum as “the key to terrorism”—i.e., an ally in the war against violent jihadists. They are therefore are hesitant to act in Sudan’s internal affairs without the cooperation of the present government, led by President Omar Bashir. (On April 29, 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported that Salah Abdallah Ghosh, the head of the Sudan security service, was flown to Washington in a CIA jet to review terrorism information gathered by the service.)
U.S. action on Darfur has largely been hortatory. Despite the anti-genocide rhetoric, the U.S. has acted largely as a cheerleader for the African Union (AU) or the UN to provide the boots on the ground in any peace-enforcement operation. Numerous calls around the world from media observers and human rights organizations for U.S., NATO, UN or AU intervention to halt genocide have succeeded only sporadically in shining a spotlight on the atrocities committed in Darfur, with the main achievement the May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) brokered by the AU at a conference in Abuja, Nigeria, between the Sudanese government and only one of the three rebel factions.
Such an agreement reflects what appears to be a tacit aim of U.S. efforts, namely, not to alienate the government of Sudan, which provides assets to the U.S. effort in the war on terrorism; to track militants with murderous intent, to provide intelligence on the movements of suspected terrorists, and to keep the spigot open on oil in an extremely tight world petroleum market. Similar to our unacknowledged position on Pakistan, we need some “friendly (semi-) tyrants.”
The DPA also, however, tacitly ratifies the Sudanese government’s interpretation of the struggle as a civil war, rather than the state-sponsored ethnic cleansing it actually is (the government arms and equips the notorious janjaweed militia). What burst onto the world scene in 2003 as a thinly-disguised government effort to depopulate an area as large as France has proceeded long enough to now disintegrate into militia clashes, rebel factional disputes, banditry, and reciprocal cross-border raids between Chadian irregulars harassing the Sudan government forces and Sudanese irregulars helping Chadian rebels. So what started as an effort to extend the control of the central government elites over an unruly countryside has—sadly, like many African conflicts—degenerated into internal factional clashes and international skirmishes. This complicates the urge to thrust cleanly and forcibly into mass injustices in order to put things right.
Although Kofi Annan and other UN officials have denounced the janjaweed raids, the rapes, the pillaging, and the displacement of thousands upon thousands of villagers, and the UN has helped set up and administer refugee camps on the fringes of Darfur and over the border in Chad, the DPA does not bring in a UN force to replace or shore up the ineffective AU contingent of 7,000 monitors. Four days after the DPA was signed, villagers in the Kalma refugee camp looted an AU police post and killed a Sudanese translator. Indeed, now there are reports of rebel factions imitating janjaweed tactics in their escalating internal struggle.
The DPA estimated that 200,000 are dead and 2 million displaced into camps in Darfur and in Chad. President Bashir’s government agreed to assume certain responsibilities and looks toward the possibility of UN forces’ supplementing the undermanned troops of the AU, who have been observing and supposedly enforcing a cease-fire in Darfur. That cease-fire, of May 12, 2006, provided for 5,000 rebels troops to be incorporated into the Sudanese army. The DPA also allows for wealth and power sharing as part of a new political architecture in relations between the central government and Darfurians. Khartoum is supposed to disarm the janjaweed and commits to contributing $30 million to a compensation commission, a sum many regard as inadequate. Most close observers do not expect the cease-fire to end the fighting. The abovementioned General Gosh, on the 2006 anniversary of the coup of June 29, 1989 that brought General Bashir to power, asserted that Sudan’s leadership prefers death and martyrdom over living in a country whose sovereignty is not respected. In his own address Bashir stated flatly, “We will not allow international troops under the UN to deploy in Darfur.”
At present the Sudan government continues to agree to its commitments but appears unwilling to implement them; it has broken its promises five times already. With no provision in the DPA for the UN to take over peacekeeping from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), Khartoum has merely agreed to allow a UN planning mission to visit the area. Yet most international observers and commentators believe that only a muscular international intervention can end the violence and provide human security. Such an intervention would include a Security Council resolution applying Chapter VII authority to intervene; the application of sanctions against violators on any side; U.S. and EU financial backing for a UN-expanded AU military contingent to enforce the cease-fire and relief operations for refugees; and U.S., NATO, and EU provision of monitoring and logistical capabilities.
As noted, similar to many places in Africa today, reality—and policy—is not simple. While Christians have been persecuted by self-styled enforcers of an Islamic code of conduct in the South of Sudan, that is hardly the whole story of north-south relations. While darker skinned people from the South have been “sold into slavery” to northerners, that does not mean that racism fully defines north-south relations. While many years of international involvement in Sudanese politics have focused on bringing a north-south civil war to an end, that is not the only civil divide in the country. Indeed, Sudan’s geographic boundaries are not historically organic, and the country is crisscrossed by important east-west divisions, as well. Like most countries in Africa, Sudan’s present boundaries reflect colonial residues and compromises—in its case, by the Ottomans and the British, the latter of whom administered the territory “in partnership” as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan prior to the country’s achieving independence.
In the context of the complicated politics of Sudan today and of a sober assessment of U.S. interests and capabilities, an effective U.S. policy is not obvious, and certainly not so clear-cut that grassroots events such as the “Save Darfur” rally held in Washington this past April can solve the problem. But the U.S. has not offered clear leadership, either. At one time or another in the past three years, the U.S. or its official representatives have denounced a genocide and blamed the Sudanese government, called the crisis a tribal conflict, acted as if settling the north-south civil war would spill over to settle the Darfur conflict, called on NATO and the UN to intervene to help beleaguered AU peacekeepers, and supported the Abuja peace accords, which await a UN plan and Sudanese government permission to send peacekeeping forces.
Circles of Conflict in Sudan
To fully comprehend the Darfur crisis and the policy implications, one must conceptualize Sudan and its problems in terms of overlapping circles of conflict. Sudan as a whole has been in the midst of a humanitarian crisis for some years, with drought and desertification pushing south and west, placing cattle-raising nomads in direct conflict with peasant gardeners. This resource conflict is central to the Darfur strife. Peacekeeping alone, in the absence of famine relief and economic development, will be insufficient.
Broadly overlapping is a clan conflict among the Fur people, who are nomads and peasants, and a conflict between government-supported militia and locals, within a context of ethnic, status, and color differences among a governing elite and local peasants. Most recently, these conflicts have morphed into a Chad-Sudan conflict in which rebels against the government of Chad’s President Idriss Deby are being supported by the Sudan government as a result of Deby’s provision of safe haven for Darfur refugees and his suspected support for Uganda-based southern rebels against the Sudan government during the course of the long north-south civil war.
Darfurians, all Sunni Muslims, attach themselves to three groups: the Zaghawa and the Massaleit, both settler groups, and the Fur. In 2005 the rebels split into two factions: the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), largely Fur, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), largely Zaghawa. The recent maneuverings shadowing the humanitarian crisis have been complicated by internal Sudanese politics and cross-border clashes. An attempted coup in 2006, supported by the Khartoum government, was repelled by President Deby (a Zaghawa) and JEM (Zaghawa) forces as the Chadian (and Sudanese) rebels reached the outskirts of Njamena, the capital of Chad. This was seen as retaliation for the help Deby offered JEM against Khartoum in January 2006. Both the invasion and the coup failed.
Complicating all this is a decades-long struggle in Sudan over the nature of the state—how far a supposedly militant Islamist regime can go in reformulating political and cultural life in the country. As early as 1966, Sadiq al-Mahdi, descendent leader of a historical and respected political community and head of the sometime governing Umma party, declared, “The dominant feature of our nation is an Islamic one … and this Nation will not have its entity identified and its prestige and pride preserved except under an Islamic revival.” Militant Islamists in Sudan, however, push for the programmatic exclusion of other beliefs.
Seeded in the 1940s as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Sudanese Islamism rose to political prominence in the 1960s under Hasan al Turabi, a European-educated lawyer and articulate philosopher-politician. His Islamic Charter Front political party grew to prominence as the National Islamic Front (NIF) in 1986, pulling together elements of the urban intelligentsia, students at Khartoum University, small business owners interested in challenging big-business ties with the traditional parties, and suffering lower classes. The NIF backed the coup by General Bashir in June 1989. Bashir banned the older parties and utilized the NIF as the ideological basis for the governing Revolutionary Command Council. By 1993, the U.S. State Department Country Report on Human Rights for Sudan declared “The NIF-dominated regime pursued religious, ethnic and ideological discrimination in almost every aspect of society.” In 1996 Turabi became speaker of a new parliament, and the next year Bashir assumed the title of president.
In September 2004, the Islamist movement in Sudan split after an unsuccessful coup led by Hassan al Turabi, now the ideological guru of Sudanese Islamism. (Sudanese politics regularly features divisions and realignments, especially, as one would expect, among faith-based ideologies.) Turabi wound up in detention, but his influence and support prevented his full suppression. Turabi actually came out in support of JEM, and was critical of the Abuja Peace Agreement. Alex de Waal, a leading commentator on Darfur and northeast African political history, writes that the war in Darfur is partly the result of the failure to broaden the Islamist base in the Nile Valley to embrace all sympathizers with Sufi (a spiritual theme in Islam, characterized by regional and clan “saints,” sometimes erupting into puritanical sects) over the whole of Sudan.
The Islamist project in Sudan clearly cannot be encapsulated into a committee of radical jihadists who train suicide bombers. At the time of the simultaneous bombings of the American Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden had been savoring the victory of the Afghan jihad over the Soviet forces in the Afghan civil war. By fall 1989 he turned up in Khartoum, invited by Turabi to transplant his organization there. Initially Bin Laden helped Turabi in the campaign against Christian Africans in the south of Sudan. By 1991 Al Qaeda was firmly ensconced in Sudan, at the center of a world network of banks, business enterprises and civic organizations that were underwriting terrorist activities. Al Qaeda represented but one violent entity in a wide-ranging ideological and political projection of power by Turabi and his temporary support in the Sudan government, which encompassed internal and international elements.
Under Turabi’s direction in 1991 Sudan hosted the “Popular Arabic and Islamic Conference” that challenged the Arab League and other world Muslim organizations. In the years 1991-96 Islamist forces pursued forcible ideological transformation of local governments inside Sudan and pursued the civil war in the southern provinces in order to crush opposition to Islamism as the adopted state ideology and practice. But concerted and enduring resistance in the south of the country eventually brought about a military-political settlement and a new constitutional arrangement in 2005. John Garang, the long-time leader of the Southern People Liberation Army (SPLA) and finally transformed from rebel to statesman, was poised to assume a vice-presidency of a reconstituted Sudanese Federation when he died in a plane crash.
Shortly after 9/11 the Sudan government supposedly divested itself of Al Qaeda ties and shared intelligence with the U.S. in the war on terror. At present Islamism remains an undercurrent of politics in Sudan as an outlier program to continue a half-century campaign to turn an essentially multi-ethnic Sudan into an Islamic state.
The Darfur Province
The Darfur crisis plays out against this background. Unrest in this province goes back at least to the 1987-89 civil war between militias of the Fur versus government-sponsored militias (similar to today), which was settled by a peace conference arranged by al-Mahdi. Islamists found considerable support in Darfur in the 1980s and it is said that the jihadi militia supporters of Turabi came in large part from Darfur. In 1991 an SPLA uprising in Darfur failed, following a defection from the NIF. In April 1992 the Islamist government sponsored a jihad in Kordofan which resulted in a genocide-like result there. By 1999 western Fur supporters of the NIF had deserted the Arabized elite of the Nile valley, a separation reflected in differences among the Darfur rebels today. And among the Darfur rebels, strength to continue the civil war ironically came in the form of international pressure on the Sudan government to rein in the janjaweed, as well as the assumed parallel to the settlement of the civil war in the south of Sudan.
Nevertheless, banditry and atrocities on the part of rebel factions pale in comparison to a multi-year campaign on the part of the Sudan government through sponsored janjaweed militias to kill or displace the peasant population of Darfur. Most of the 200,000 dead and 2 million displaced are not due to rebel in-fighting. As John Prendergast and Colin Thomas-Jensen of the International Crisis Group state, “Sudanese military intelligence agents manipulate local ethnic divisions and exacerbate tensions, and then the government blames the bloodshed on lawlessness and tribalism.” President Bashir has said recently, “the so-called Darfur conflict is an invention by foreign interests.”
Where from Here
Genocide it is; and it is an international disgrace that it has not been stopped; but unilateral intervention to halt it can only be a stopgap measure, without considerable international, especially African and Sudanese cooperation. Consciousness-raising among humanitarian activists outside Sudan with good intentions unfortunately play into unhelpful stereotypes and distort the political realities. To portray all African Darfurians as victims of historical predatory Arabization aids in mobilizing international sentiments, but it does not accurately depict the political reality and blocks the very humanitarian assistance that is required. To insist on finding only Arab villains—such as characterizing the conflict as “Arabs” attempting to exterminate Africans — contributes to the stereotype prevalent in the Middle East of the Arabs always as subject to the “Orientalist” Western interpretations of the world. Indeed in the Middle East and many parts of Muslim Africa, the way “genocide” has been characterized appears to some Muslim commentators as an unfair planned denigration of the Arabs. To more partisan Sudanese and sensitive Africans it brings back neo-colonial interventionism. And, of course there are always those who see “a Zionist plot.”
Much of the support generated for “the genocide coalition” in the international community stems from an alliance of admirable international human rights groups, African and African American supporters of the SPLA and its long march to recognition of special status for the south of Sudan and its peoples, anti-slavery and Christian political activists—largely in the U.S., and some antiterrorism commentators who see the Sudan government as an outpost of a typical authoritarian Islamic regime.
Despite its muddled implementation in Iraq and elsewhere, we have placed our marker since 2001 on the side of democracy and international justice; Darfur and Sudan are a clear test. Arab and African sensitivities aside and despite realists’ warning that we need Khartoum’s cooperation in counterterrorism, if the secretary of state and the president of the U.S. both implicate the Sudan regime in genocide, how can it not serve U.S. national interests to act vigorously to end this atrocious event? In the words of President Bush, “there has to be a consequence for people abusing their fellow citizens.” It is certainly in the realm of near-term possibility that the U.S. work with the AU and NATO to designate a lead country to secure and mobilize a UN-mandated, fully-funded force of sufficient number to help the AU-AMIS stabilize peacekeeping and enforce the cease-fire. That would be a beginning.
 “Sudan security chief rejects UN force, calls for martyrdom,” Sudan Tribune, June 30, 2006.
 Cited by Abel Alier, “The Southern Sudan Question,” in Dunstan M. Wai, ed., The Southern Sudan: The Problem of National Integration (London, 1973), p. 24.
 “Who Are the Darfurians? Arab and African Identities, Violence and External Engagement,” African Affairs, April 2005.
 9/11 Commission Report (New York: Norton, 2004), pp. 55-58.
 See Harvey Glickman, “Islamism in Sudan’s Civil War,” Orbis, Spring 2000, pp. 273-279.
 John Prendergast and Colin Thomas-Jensen, “Matching Rhetoric with Action in Darfur,” allAfrica.com, March 17, 2006.
Posted on: Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - 12:48
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (7-18-06)
Just recently, I was accused by a writer for the ultra-Right Washington Times of being a"defeatist" when it comes to America's expansionist military policy abroad. The giveaway, it seems, is that I penned a book for the American Empire Project -- a series of critical volumes published by Metropolitan Books. Contributors to the series, the article claimed, want"a retreat from Iraq to be the prelude to a larger collapse of American preeminence worldwide." My initial response on reading this was to insist -- like so many anxious liberals -- that no, I am not opposed to American preeminence in the world, only to continued U.S. involvement in Iraq. But then, considering the charge some more, I thought, well, yes, I am in favor of abandoning the U.S. imperial role worldwide. The United States, I'm convinced, would be a whole lot better off -- and its military personnel a whole lot safer -- if we repudiated the global-dominance project of the Bush administration and its neo-conservative boosters.
Supposedly, the U.S. military has expanded its presence and combat role around the world to foster democracy and prevail in the President's War on Terror; and, without a doubt, many brave Americans have risked their lives -- and some have died ? in the pursuit of these noble objectives. But this is not, I believe, what has motivated Messrs. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in their pursuit of global supremacy. Rather, they appear driven by a messianic determination to impose American dominance on large swaths of the planet and to employ this hegemonic presence to gain control over global energy supplies. In attempting to do so, they are bankrupting the nation and exposing American citizens to a higher, not lower, risk of terrorist attack.
Take a look at U.S. policy in the greater Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea region ? the main site of American military activism and home to seven-tenths of the world's remaining petroleum reserves. Bush and Cheney have spoken eloquently of their determination to promote democracy in this troubled region, but what they have largely done, in practice, is to continue to prop up the kings, sheikhs, and dictators who rule the local petro-states.
Remember the President's touching moment of hand-holding with Saudi Prince Abdullah a year ago at his ranch in Texas? Abdullah (now King) may be a tad more moderate than his pro-jihadist brothers and cousins, but he is no advocate of democracy. More recently, Bush gave Ilham Aliyev, the dictator of pipeline-cluttered Azerbaijan, a gala White House reception; while, at about the same time, Cheney lauded the democratic aspirations of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the dictator of Kazakhstan, during a visit to that energy-rich country. These moves are consistent with a neo-imperial strategy not even faintly aimed at"democracy," but rather at the procurement of energy sources -- or the control over the distribution of oil and natural gas to other energy-hungry nations.
What about the U.S. invasion Iraq? This was not about oil, we were assured at the time. We invaded to do away with weapons of mass destruction said to be controlled by Saddam Hussein, or because of Hussein's alleged ties to Al Qaeda, or to spread democracy in Iraq and the surrounding region -- in other words, for anything you can name, except oil. But there were no WMD stockpiles in Iraq, no ties to Al Qaeda, and few signs of an incipient democracy.
Why, then, are we squandering so many lives and so much treasure in a desperate effort to hold on in Iraq? Only one answer makes any sense from a Washington policymaker's point of view -- to remain the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf and thereby control the global flow of oil. This is the only interpretation that fits with the Pentagon's admission that it plans to retain at least some bases in Iraq indefinitely, no matter what sort of future government emerges in Baghdad (or whether such a government approves of our presence or not).
The striking expansion of the U.S. military presence in Central Asia, Southwest Asia, and Africa in recent months reveals a similar geopolitical impulse. All of these areas are becoming increasingly important to the United States as sources of oil and natural gas, and in none of them can it be said that we are setting up our bases to serve as beacons for the further advance of freedom and democracy, not given the nature of most of the governments we support in those places. Because many of our leading energy suppliers in these regions are subject to internal unrest and ethnic conflict -- a reaction, in most cases, to despotic regimes that remain in power with Washington's blessing -- the United States is becoming ever more deeply involved in their defense, whether through the delivery of arms and military aid (as in Angola, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Nigeria) or via a direct U.S. military presence (as in Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates).
This is not likely to be a passing phenomenon. The United States is becoming ever more dependent on imported energy -- most of which will have to come from what the neoconservatives of the Bush administration term the"arc of instability" -- and our military strategy is being reshaped accordingly. At present, we obtain nearly 60% of our petroleum from foreign sources; before long, it will be 70% or more. To ensure that these imported supplies safely reach our shores, the Department of Defense is devoting an ever increasing share of its troops and resources to the defense of foreign pipelines, refineries, loading platforms, and tanker routes. Essentially, the U.S. military is being converted into a global oil-protection service -- at great risk to the lives of American servicemen and women.
In response to all this, I say: repudiate empire, overcome our oil addiction, and bring the troops back home. This will save lives, save money, and restore America's democratic credentials. Even more significant, it will help us prevail in any long-term struggle with small, stateless groups that employ terror as their weapon of choice.
Let's be very clear: the pursuit of empire and success in what the President calls"the global war on terrorism" are mutually incompatible. The more we seek to dominate the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, the more we will provoke anti-American fury and the very violent extremism with which we claim to be at war.
Recent polling data suggests that hostility toward the United States is on the rise in all of these areas and that our hegemonic policies and hypocritical stance on the spread of democracy are largely responsible for this. Only by repudiating the unilateralist military doctrine of the Bush administration and withdrawing most of our forces from these areas can we hope to achieve a reduction in militant anti-Americanism. By rejecting unilateralism, moreover, we can secure the assistance of local officials whose help is desperately needed to identify and root out hidden terror cells.
Indeed, success in the global struggle against terrorist movements can only be achieved by a multilateral effort entailing the vigorous application of police-type investigative methods and a moral campaign designed to invalidate the legitimacy of indiscriminate violence against innocent people. The unilateralist, shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach of the Bush administration has demonstrably undermined such efforts. The upshot is bound to be but more terrorism and a greater risk to American lives. Only by cooperating with other countries on an equitable basis can we diminish this risk.
A retreat from empire would also force us to use oil more sparingly and this, in turn, would enable us to address another critical threat to American security: the danger of catastrophic environmental damage caused by global climate change. As Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, our shores are highly vulnerable to powerful hurricanes; and higher ocean temperatures, caused by global warming, are producing increasingly violent ones. Global warming is also contributing to the extreme drought and susceptibility to voracious forest fires in many areas of the American West. By reducing our petroleum consumption and relying more on ethanol, bio-diesel, wind power, solar, and other domestically-produced, alternative sources of energy -- but especially by putting our money into the development of such alternatives rather than to imperial expansion around the globe -- we can, in the long run, reduce our exposure to violence abroad and to environmental catastrophe at home.
So yes, I'm a"defeatist" when it comes to imperial expansion. But I'm a hawk when it comes to overcoming terrorism, saving American lives, averting environmental collapse, and promoting core American values. This is the only truly patriotic course that any of us can espouse.This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Copyright 2006 Michael T. Klare
Posted on: Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - 12:06
SOURCE: WSJ (7-18-06)
... First and most crucial, a majority of Israelis consider this sad unleashing of Israeli firepower in Gaza and Lebanon to be, up to now, a just war. It has both a casus belli and a convincing rationale. Hostilities were initiated by militias strongly associated with the elected governments in both regions, targeting IDF personnel strictly on the Israeli side of the border. Since many media consumers have short memories, a reminder is in order: Over the last five months, some 800 Kassam rockets were fired at towns and villages in southwestern Israel. The town of Sderot alone was hit several hundred times. Israel occupied not an inch of Gaza at that time.
Israel certainly responded, as any sovereign state would; and it did so not by reinvading Gaza, but with air strikes against militants and launchers. Palestinian civilians were hurt; Europeans vocally reproached us; the rockets kept coming. Then came the recent assault on soldiers stationed within Israel, killing three and kidnapping one. Hezbollah of Lebanon, wholly unprovoked, simply liked the idea and sent a force into northern Israel and two follow-up ambushes, killing a total of eight soldiers and kidnapping two. Both assaults breached a fully legitimate international border, in the aftermath of a full Israeli withdrawal -- just in case some media consumers have forgotten. Possible lesson: A sense of right still counts for something amidst all the smoke.
Which leads to a second clearheaded point. Why is Israel's response not "proportional," and why don't we rush to negotiate with the kidnappers, as so many peace-lovers in the Western world would like us to do? Let me be blunt: A "proportional" response would please many Europeans no end, but would scarcely move a hair in the beard of a Hamas or a Hezbollah leader.
They are not set to be gently pushed into moderation, or to hammer out an exquisite compromise with the Jewish state, but to wipe it out as soon as they can. If we shoot a little, they will shoot back all the way into Islamic eternity. If we "negotiate," cave in to blackmail and release Hamas and Hezbollah militants held in Israeli prisons in return for our three kidnapped soldiers, they will send them back to bomb schools and buses and pizza parlors in no time at all.
Negotiation? For sure. It worked with Egypt and Jordan. It would work with Saudi Arabia. It would work with moderate Palestinians -- as soon as they recapture their own polity from Hamas and Hezbollah. But it would not work with the latter, who along with their Iranian allies openly declare that they want us dead, not merely complacent. Possible lesson: Compromise with ultra-extremists usually misfires.
And here is a sad, third clearheaded point: Democracy, in the Middle East as elsewhere, is not just about universal suffrage. The Palestinians brought Hamas to power, and Hezbollah is a coalition partner in the Lebanese government. Please reflect on this, dear Western lovers of democracy: Is majority vote truly the sole gist of it all? Here is a painful truth: Israel is killing civilians -- inadvertently, though arguably too freely -- as it targets militants in Gaza and Lebanon. Yet the hair-raising aspect of it is that many of those civilians voted Hamas, and some voted Hezbollah, into their own governments. Democratically elected, these groups care little for the lives of their own citizens, even less for the Israeli Arabs they have bombed and killed in recent days, and null for Israeli civilians. Yet their voters keep applauding. Gazan and Lebanese children are innocent victims of this policy, and many Israelis -- I must assert this even in the face of disbelief -- truly grieve for them.
But the adults? Are these men and women hostages of live-in terrorists, dumb natives managed by shrewd colonialists, or are they perhaps accountable civil agents who made a very bad choice in one of their first democratic performances? Possible lesson: Reread Pericles....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - 13:23
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (7-18-06)
... To date the Katrina disaster has been presented in the news media as primarily a textbook example of failed Republican politics. If only President Bush had left the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone and not incorporated it into the Department of Homeland Security. If only he had appointed a FEMA director with experience in disaster preparedness. If only he had not slashed funds to strengthen the levees, then things would have gone better down South.
There is little doubt that the Bush administration badly mishandled the disaster. Nor can there be any question that concern with terrorism drained away resources and distracted political leaders from the threat of natural disasters. But ultimately our nation's problem with such calamities goes back much further than the rise of Republicans to power in the 2000 election or the attacks of September 11, 2001. The dilemma stems from the deregulatory ethos that has dominated U.S. politics since 1980. That disregard for limits — be they on coastal development or storm-susceptible housing — is something that both Republicans and Democrats have conspired to bring about.
The ethos is part of a more general trend since the late 1970s toward a neoliberal agenda. As described by the geographer David Harvey in his recent A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford University Press, 2005), neoliberalism involves "an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade." It is a philosophy centered on nearly absolute economic freedom that flourished during the Reagan administration and, as the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has pointed out in The Roaring Nineties (W.W. Norton, 2003), carried over into the Clinton era.
Consider, for example, the National Flood Insurance Program, established in 1968 and based on the idea that the federal government would help people in flood-prone locales insure their property. In return, local municipalities would enact regulations limiting land use in vulnerable areas and thereby reduce exposure to flood risk. Unfortunately, a 1983 General Accounting Office report revealed that FEMA — first charged with administering the program under Jimmy Carter — had failed to monitor state and local regulations.
A bipartisan assault on the program soon followed. What was once a requirement that local authorities adopt flood-plain rules became "the preferred approach" under the Reagan administration. The Clinton administration then abandoned land-use regulation entirely, drafting a new policy that sought to "encourage positive attitudes toward flood-plain management."
Meanwhile FEMA allowed the maps defining flood zones to go out of date, a move that understated the risk of inundation and thus helped encourage coastal development in vulnerable areas. Back in the 1970s, mapping those areas subject to a 1-percent risk of annual flooding occurred every three to five years. But the deregulatory climate that began the following decade led to a lackadaisical attitude at FEMA's cartography department.
By the time Hurricane Katrina struck, some of the flood-insurance maps were a full generation old. A map depicting part of Hancock County, Miss., for example, allowed homeowners to build some 10 feet below the elevation that an accurate estimate of a 100-year flood would have permitted — a disaster waiting to happen if ever there was one....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - 13:07
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (7-17-06)
So, as the world spins on a dime, where exactly are we?
As a man who is no fan of fundamentalists of any sort, let me offer a proposition that might make some modest sense of our reeling planet. Consider the possibility that the most fundamental belief, perhaps in all of history, but specifically in these last catastrophic years, seems to be in the efficacy of force -- and the more of it the merrier. That deep belief in force above all else is perhaps the monotheism of monotheisms, a faith remarkably accepting of adherents of any other imaginable faith ? or of no other faith at all. Like many fundamentalist faiths, it is also resistant to drawing any reasonable lessons from actual experience on this planet.
The Bush administration came to power as a fundamentalist regime; and here I'm not referring to the Christian fundamentalist faith of our President. After all, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and our Vice President seem not to be Christian fundamentalists any more than were Paul Wolfowitz or Douglas Feith. Bush's top officials may not have agreed among themselves on whether End Time would arrive, or even on the domestic social issues of most concern to the Christian religious right in this country, but they were all linked by a singular belief in the efficacy of force.
In fact, they believed themselves uniquely in possession of an ability to project force in ways no other power on the planet or in history ever could. While hardly elevating the actual military leadership of the country (whom they were eager to sideline), they raised the all-volunteer American military itself onto a pedestal and worshipped it as the highest tech, most shock-and-awesome institution around. They were dazzled by the fact that it was armed with the smartest, most planet-spanning, most destructive set of weapons imaginable, and backed by an unparalleled military-industrial complex as well as a"defense" budget that would knock anyone's socks off (and their communications systems down). It was enough to dazzle the administration's top officials with dreams of global domination; to fill them with a vision of a planet-wide Pax Americana; to send them off to the moon (which, by the way, was certainly militarizable).
Force, then, was their idol and they bowed down before it. When it came to the loosing of that force (and the forces at their command), they were nothing short of fervent utopians and blind believers. They were convinced that with such force (and forces), they could reshape the world in just about any way they wanted to fit their visionary desires.
And then, of course, came 9/11, the"Pearl Harbor" of this century. Suddenly, they had a divine wind at their back, a terrified populace before them ready to be led, and everything they believed in seemed just so? well, possible. It was, in faith-based terms, a godsend. Not surprisingly, they promptly began to prepare to act in the stead of an imperially angry god and to bring the world -- particularly its energy heartlands -- to heel.
First, however, because they had long been People of the Word, they created their sacred texts, their doctrine. In the form of"preventive war" and keeping other potential superpowers or blocs of powers from ever rising up to challenge the United States, they enshrined force at the apex of their pantheon of deities in their National Security Strategy of 2002. (The term"preventive war" was in itself reasonably unique. Usually even the most aggressive dictators don't label their planned wars with terms that creep right up to the edge of"aggressive" and then promote them that way to the world.) At the same time, the President then began speaking out about the need not to wait until the threat of destruction was upon us as in his 2002 State of the Union Address where he said:"We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
Soon enough, his advisors began raising Iraqi mushroom clouds over American cities and describing fantasy Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles that might spray those cities with chemical or biological weapons in order to make an already scared populace and cowed Congress into believers as well. This was, of course, in the period when their long-time supporters and a supportive corps of pundits, radio talk-show hosts, and communicators of various sorts were speaking proudly, even boastfully, about the United States as the sole"hyperpower" on the planet or the globe's New Rome; when even a liberal Canadian commentator, Michael Ignatieff, could publish a piece in the New York Times Magazine extolling George Bush's U.S. as"a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known." He wrote as well of the necessity of Americans shouldering the"burden of empire" in Iraq. (Historically, there's only one such"burden," by the way ? and it's Rudyard Kipling's nineteenth century"white man's burden.")
Those, of course, were the good times when"neoconservatism" (partially a shorthand term for this religious bent, for the love of"the most awesome military power the world has ever known") was truly ascendant. That term was also shorthand for an imperial mission to be shouldered by officials convinced that our empire should stand tall, alone, and on one leg -- the leg of"force."
In any case, having enshrined"preventive war" at the heart of the Bush Doctrine, they went in search of someplace to loose it on the world, someplace that might look militarily strong enough and heinous enough, but would be weak enough to make a point fast. They needed a roguish country, preferably run by a nasty dictator, preferably smack in the oil heartlands of the globe, that could be taken down quickly as a demonstration of that"awesome military power," a place that could be shock-and-awed into instant submission. It would be both a cakewalk and a case in point for the rest of the region about what a group of determined fundamentalists might do to anyone who opposed their religion and their wishes.
Well, we know the place; we know how they first shock-and-awed Congress and the American people into an invasion; and we all remember how they put their plan into practice -- with a confidence and lack of planning for any alternative possibilities or realities that was typical of true believers. And so, on March 20, 2003, they loosed their cruise-missile-styled lightning bolts on Baghdad because they knew one thing -- that the force was with them and that, because the United States was the military superpower of all superpowers in all of history, it was theirs alone?
Stock and Awe: The Force of an Anxious Market
Now, let's jump a few familiar years ahead on our fast-spinning, wobbly globe and see if we can land on the present moment, July 16, 2006. In the process, let's also take a little spin through our"empire lite," that vaunted New Rome, that Pax Americana as it's developed since the Bush administration decided to "take the gloves off," and apply its power fully and brutally from Iraq to Guantanamo. In fact, let's do a fly-by of what the neocons' once called"the arc of instability" three years later:
In Afghanistan, as an ABC network news journalist touring American bases reported the other night, American officers are begging for more troops. (The Brits, just taking over in the south, are already desperately sending them in!) This is a response to the"eradicated" Taliban unexpectedly ramping up their force levels; narco-warlords growing ever more entrenched; the security situation in the capital, Kabul, and elsewhere deteriorating; and American bombing runs (including the use of B-52s) increasing. Force has truly become the arbiter of Afghanistan's terrible fate.
The situation has, in fact, deteriorated so rapidly in the Bush administration's model"nation-building" project that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on a quick dash through sunny Tajikistan last week, suggested that bad news, looked at in another light, might actually be splendid tidings. According to David S. Cloud of the New York Times,"Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged that the number of Taliban attacks may be up this year. But he said the increasingly brazen tactics had made it easier for American, Afghan and NATO forces to find them. ?Every time they come together,' he said, 'they get hit and they get hurt. So the fact that we see a somewhat different method of operation during this period is correct, but it has not necessarily been disadvantageous because the more that are in one place, the easier they are to attack.'"
For a while, back in 2003-04, when things began to go sour in Iraq, various neocons suggested that the country might providentially prove to be a kind of global"flypaper" drawing all the terrorists to one spot for what, in near biblical terms, would prove to be a terrorist-zapping Armageddon. The theory was quietly dropped into the dustbin of history when only its first half proved accurate; but here it is back with us again in devolving Afghanistan and on the lips of our Secretary of Defense because? well, the idea of overwhelming force solving all problems just feels so good and sounds so right to a believer when things are going so wrong.
In the former flypaper-land of Iraq, the Bush administration's application of full-frontal force has, by now, released every two-bit sectarian thug, death-squad killer, jihadi fanatic, and angry rebel onto the streets of the capital, Baghdad -- where perhaps a fifth or more of the country's population lives -- armed to the teeth and ready to maim, mutilate, torture, and kill. Not surprisingly, overwhelming, shock-and-awe force has released a nightmare of counterforce there that has shoved every other, more peaceable possible way of doing or thinking about anything into the shade and onto the sidelines (if not simply into the morgue).
In the wake of the killing of Abu Musad al-Zarqawi, a potential turning-of-the-tide moment, according to our President, the Iraqi capital, in particular, has been drenched in a high tide of blood; and, despite all the talk about possible"draw-downs" of American troops, commanding general George W. Casey, Jr. has just called for yet more American soldiers to be sent into the lawless, uncontrollable capital. At the same time, in America's fantasy Iraq, a single, relatively quiet southern province bordering Saudi Arabia has just been officially"turned over" to the charge of Iraqi security forces and the act declared a"milestone" by Casey and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. (When any American official even mutters"milestone," or"tidal change," or"turning point" in relation to Iraq, watch out!)
In fact, Iraqis seem to be paying ever less attention to American commands, demands, and orders -- and no wonder, since over the last four years every attempt to impose the administration's will on Iraq purely by force of arms and in an imperial manner has failed dismally -- and to this dismal failure there is neither an end in sight, nor an imaginable bottoming-out tidal moment.
Meanwhile, as no one could have missed by now, the Mediterranean edge of the Middle East is teetering at the edge of full-scale war, behind which lurks the threat of an even wider regional war of some previously almost unimaginable sort. There, too, the recourse to arms has overwhelmed any other possible option. Hamas guerrillas broke into Israel, killed two soldiers and captured another. They certainly must have had a sense of what the Israeli reaction to such a raid might be; but for the sake of argument, let's say they didn't.
In the meantime, at the Lebanese border with Israel, the guerrillas of the Hezbollah movement watched the Israelis mercilessly take out a power plant, government offices, and various other infrastructural targets in Gaza, while killing civilians and hammering urban areas as a"response" to the capture of their soldier. Hezbollah then launched their own incursion into Israel, killing several soldiers and capturing two more. With the example of Gaza in front of them, they had to know just exactly what the Olmert government would do to the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon itself -- and clearly it made no difference.
As for the Israelis, at this point they visibly feel free of all outside restraint or constraint, given the Bush administration, and so can bomb, blockade, missile, and attack almost at will -- and, with their eyes on Syria and Iran, are threatening to widen this war yet further, setting the region ablaze. As in the slums of Baghdad, so too in Gaza, Lebanon, and possibly elsewhere, the urge is to settle historic grudges via shock-and-awe tactics. And yet, as Rami Khouri has written recently, the Israelis are"in the bizarre position of repeating policies that have consistently failed for the past 40 years." The last time this happened, the Israelis made it all the way to Beirut and ended up stuck in Lebanon for 18 years before withdrawing ignominiously. In the process, they helped midwife the Hezbollah movement and give it luster, a reputation, and strength.
We seem today to be headed into Lebanon redux in a region where the principle of force has been set loose to trump all else. On all sides, fundamentalists in the religion of force are thundering threats and imprecations, while issuing sets of impossible demands. In the typical words of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah (whose home and office had just been wiped out by Israeli missiles):"You wanted an open war, and we are heading for an open war? We are ready for it? The surprises that I have promised you will start now." And, of course, as in Gaza where random Palestinian civilians suffer and die under Israeli attack, so in Israel random civilians are wounded or die under a barrage of Hezbollah rockets; so, in Lebanon, helpless civilians die in homes, on highways, wherever, under a rain of Israeli bombs and missiles.
And all this is happening without either Iran, the third member of George Bush's axis of evil, or Syria, the unspoken fourth member (like an unindicted co-conspirator), have truly entered the fray (except, possibly, by proxy through their stand-ins in Gaza and Lebanon). Yet Iran is already offering up increasingly bloodcurdling threats. Emboldened by the American disaster in Iraq, its fundamentalist leaders, too, seem in a rush to threaten force and more force.
Now, just try to imagine an American attack on suspected Iranian nuclear facilities -- something that journalist Seymour Hersh, in a recent New Yorker piece, reports a"senior military official" claiming Secretary of Defense Donald Rumfeld and his"senior aides" still"really think they can do? on the cheap, and they underestimate the capability of the [Iranian] adversary." In a similar fashion, the Iranian leadership undoubtedly underestimates its bogged-down American adversary. It's the nature of such a faith to overestimate your own ability to use force and underestimate the capabilities of your opponents.
If Bush and his top officials arrived on the Iraqi scene believing that the force was with them and only them, the last three-plus years have offered (if not taught) a rather different lesson. After all, they now find themselves in a roiling crowd of medium-sized and smaller states, stateless movements, and extremist grouplets, all passionately devoted to the same principle of force as them. The fundamentalist belief in force, once let loose in this fashion -- once (you might say) modeled by the globe's reigning hyperpower -- turns out to be a distinctly pagan faith. From the streets of Gaza to the slums of Baghdad, from the mountains of Afghanistan to Beirut International Airport and the halls of the Pentagon, this is a religion open to one and all, ready to embrace many contradictory gods into its pantheon.
And here's the irony. The hyperpower that loosed this singular round of force on our world seems strangely sidelined, while others move boldly to apply its most essential principles profligately, every one of them emboldened both by our example and by our dismal failure. Talk about Pandora's Box (without Hope anywhere in sight)!
What force has done, thanks to the Bush administration's utopian foolishness, is to tie the region's many competing groups, movements, and states into an ever-tightening, Gordion-style knot -- and that knot, in turn, has been ever more tightly hitched to the global economy, so that every tug on any loose end now sends oil prices up another disastrous notch and trembling stock markets into convulsions. (Call it stock-and-awe!) Just Friday, the Dow Jones completed a three-day, 400 point shuddering drop, while oil, not so long ago hovering in the vicinity of $30 for a barrel of crude, managed to hit a staggering $78.40 a barrel by the end of last week -- and remember, this was just based on"nerves," not on more oil supplies actually going off the market, as would certainly happen, one way or another, in a widening conflict in the region.
In fact, the oil heartlands of the planet look to be heading for further rounds of violence and turmoil and, potentially, the American and global economy with them -- and the only tool imaginable to anybody is still: Force.
The Bush administration had no wish for other tools -- that was the meaning, after all, of"unilateralism" -- and so now it has no other tools in its"arsenal." It lost most of its allies while in its unilateral dream-state. Focusing all its attention on the Pentagon and on military-to-military relations globally, it also lost whatever modest capacity might have been available to it not just to head down another path, but to deploy the most basic tools of diplomacy. What it has left is, of course, force; but its own on-the-ground forces are dangerously depleted and it's evidently no longer obvious to top administration officials exactly where American force (and forces) should be applied (much as they may loathe the Iranians and Syrians).
They launched a force party in the Middle East. Now it's in full swing; the club's pilled high with dancers; many of the exits are bolted shut; the bouncers are no longer at the front door; and, on stage, the performers are brandishing blowtorches, while the Earth's last hyperpower and its hyper-commander-in-chief President are watching, helplessly, from the sidelines. As Dan Froomkin, the fine Washington Post on-line columnist, pointed out this week in a column headlined Bush the Bystander,"stopping off in Germany on his way to the G-8 summit in Russia," as the Middle East caught fire,"Bush reserved his greatest enthusiasm for tonight's pig roast -- technically, a wild-boar barbecue -- bringing it up three times. ?I'm looking forward to that pig tonight,' he gushed."
Conceptually, what else could he do but offer his support to the Israelis (with but polite demurrals about"restraint" from his Secretary of State). After all, what are the Israelis doing but fighting their own hopeless"war on terrorism" American-style?
As journalist Warren Strobel summed up the regional situation:"Virtually every president faces a plethora of global crises, sometimes simultaneously. What's new is that the United States' ability to influence events has shrunk, largely because U.S. troops and treasure remain mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Iraq war has diminished foreign confidence in American leadership, according to foreign policy experts and some U.S. officials." Former Israeli cabinet minister Yossi Beilin made a similar point to Haaretz."The worsening conflict in the Middle East is a blatant reflection of the weakness of the American partner,"
Everywhere this administration is being less attended to. Everywhere, others are sharpening their knives, loading their weapons, and preparing to smite their enemies, inspired by the American example, liberated by its failure.
Oh, and while I've been mentioning the international face of the two-faced religion of force, I've forgotten to mention how it's been playing out at home.
After all, in the Bush years the Pentagon and the military have been fully elevated to the role of first providers (of everything) -- a role for which they are visibly unprepared. Nation-building and diplomacy have largely become military, not State Department, matters, as has intelligence-gathering of every sort. For the first time, a permanent, peacetime North American Command (Northcom) has been established for the continental U.S., while the military, not the civil government, is now to be the initial, and possibly main, responder in situations ranging from disastrous hurricanes to a potential Avian flu pandemic.
But for overwhelming force to be effective at home or abroad, it must be, in the minds of fundamentalists like, say, our grey and secretive Vice President, or his own eminence gris, David Addington, not to speak of eager force-hounds like"torture memo" author John Yoo or former Former General Counsel for the Pentagon William J. Haynes II, now up for for a federal appeals court judgeship, applied in a timely fashion and effectively. Democracy, officially to be spread to the world, turns out to be such a messy contraption in"time of war" at home. If you're a believer, then you don't want anything, certainly not congressional oversight or an informed public, to get in the way of that necessary, firm, and preventive application of force in a time of crisis -- and what time isn't?
Of course, what you really need to concentrate force effectively elsewhere -- consider this to be the unwritten part of the Bush Doctrine -- is a concentration of power at home in a single figure, not the President (a peace-time title describing a fettered office), but the President as" commander-in-chief" -- a military man, freed in"wartime" of all those nasty checks and balances, and so able to act decisively in any way necessary to make force utterly effective, whether in a distant, recalcitrant foreign land or in a nearby prison.
That summarizes, of course, the now-infamous unitary executive theory of government, a creative form of not-exactly-strict constructionism, which essentially was aimed at reinventing the Constitution (like the wheel), neutering Congress, and sidelining the American people in favor of? a single commander-in-chief preserving democracy for the rest of us as he sees fit -- essentially, when you come right down to it, an autocrat or king. And we know how our present commander-in-chief saw fit. In fact, he -- they -- came so very close, even managing to get two new justices on the Supreme Court who were, above all else, believers in the most extreme theory of the presidency ever proposed.
But as in Iraq, force, or the domestic equivalent -- the"preventive" politics of fear, manipulation, lies, and secrecy -- proved not quite enough and so at home, as abroad, the President's foes in Congress, the federal bureaucracy, the courts, and elsewhere, watching the opinion polls, noting his faltering performance, absorbing the sinkhole quality of Iraq, sensing that this administration was losing its forcefulness began pushing back or paying less attention. In turn, as with the recent Supreme Court decision on detainees at Guantanamo (or the NSA surveillance issue), the administration has been slowly giving way, twisting and squirming, parsing words and pretzeling meanings as it retreats.
If your religion is force, then showing weakness, not smiting your foes, only encourages the look of a woebegone commander-in-chief presidency. In that light, the recent Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision of the Supreme Court was but another blow to the President's unfettered self.
And yet old faiths, and the habits that go with them, die hard. When the Hamdan decision came down, the President's reaction was an interesting (if hardly noted) one. He immediately said:"We will seriously look at the findings, obviously, and one thing I am not going to do, though, is that I am not going to jeopardize the safety of the American people." The findings? Was he under the impression that a Supreme Court decision was like the"findings" of a presidentially appointed commission, like the 9/11 Commission, offering advice to the President to be seriously looked at and considered?
Then again, that was just his first reaction. With time and further thought, here's what he said about the decision at a news conference in Chicago last week:"I am willing," he assured the assembled journalists and the American public,"to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court." He was now willing to abide? hmmm. If that wasn't the imperial commander-in-chief of our nation hanging in there, I don't know what would be. He added:"They didn't [say] we couldn't have done -- made that decision, see. They were silent on whether or not Guantanamo -- whether or not we should have used Guantanamo. In other words, they accepted the use of Guantanamo, the decision I made." Aha?
And, of course, the acolytes of his fundamentalist faith haven't exactly gone away either. Last week, for instance, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department's office of legal counsel. Vermont's Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy asked him about the President's claim that the Court's Hamdan decision"upheld his position on Guantanamo."
LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?
BRABURY: It's under the law of war --
LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?
BRADBURY: The President is always right.
The President's record in the Middle East and elsewhere tells us otherwise, of course. From Pyongyang to Tehran, Baghdad to Gaza and Tel Aviv, smaller powers -- or simply parties, militias, or mass movements -- are going their own way, considering their own narrow interests, and exploring just how far force can take them, while ignoring the words of the Bush administration. In this sense, they learned their new religious catechism well: If you can't impose it on me by force of arms, then to hell with you.
So here we are armed to the teeth in a hair-trigger world with a bevy of angry states happy to declare their own unilateral"wars on terror" and pursue their own armed solutions. They've all got the fervor and the faith. As for the rest of us, who knows what we're sliding into or how in the world to put on the brakes.
Out of the last Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon came both the fundamentalist extremism of Hezbollah and of Ariel Sharon. Who knows what will come from this round of the same -- certainly, nothing good as long as force is the only ruling deity in our world.
Oh, and there's one fundamentalist character I've left out of the mix, someone who definitely bows down to force. Call everything that's happened these last few years Osama's dream. It's hard not to think of William Butler Yeats' poem,"The Second Coming," and then wonder:"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - 12:17
Saul Cornell is Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University and Director of the Second Amendment Research Center at the John Glenn Institute. His latest book is A Well-Regulated Militia.]
Hi Saul -
First, let me say that I look forward to debating the arguments in your new book on the Second Amendment, A Well-Regulated Militia. As I read it, you make two “large” arguments, backed up of course with a lot of detail and qualifications. I’m going to sketch those arguments here, and in this post raise some questions about the first argument. When we’ve exhausted ourselves on that one, I’ll shift discussion to the second one.
Your book is written against this background. Scholarship on the original meaning or understanding of the Second Amendment’s protection of a right to keep and bear arms falls into two camps. One, which prevailed in the academy until recently and which still holds sway in the courts (with one aberrational decision to the contrary from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals), is generally called the “collectivist” or militia-related interpretation. This interpretation stresses the Amendment’s preamble – “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.” It argues that the right protected by the Amendment is one held exclusively by members of the militia, and specifically by members of the state-organized militia. So, on the collectivist interpretation, if you’re not a member of the state-organized militia participating in its organized activities, you don’t have any right protected by the Second Amendment. On this view, maybe the Second Amendment prohibits the national government from disarming state-organized militias, but it doesn’t do much else.
The second camp, which now is probably dominant among legal scholars who have studied the Second Amendment in detail, is usually called the “individual rights” interpretation (or, in a triumph of spin, the “Standard Model”). According to this interpretation, the preamble explains why it’s important for every person in the United States to have a right to keep and bear arms, but doesn’t impose any conditions on who has the right. Individuals entirely without connection to the militia have a right to keep and bear arms, for purposes of self-defense, hunting, or anything else.
Your first argument, as I understand it, is that these two camps overlook a third possibility, the interpretation actually revealed by the history. You might not put it this way, but I read your argument as being that individuals have a right to keep and bear arms because of their relation to the militia, understood not as the state-organized militia but rather as the unorganized “body of the people” available to be mobilized by local notables when the prospect of tyranny loomed. You call this a “citizen-oriented” interpretation of the Second Amendment, because the right to keep and bear arms was something all good republican citizens should have so as to protect republican institutions against deterioration.
Your second argument is that, during the first half-century or so after the Constitution was adopted, when what you call the first gun-control movement developed, the individual-rights interpretation got increasing purchase. People started to argue that the right to keep and bear arms was important, indeed, for purposes of individual self-defense (and hunting), and actually was not that important for the older, citizen-oriented purposes. The reasons were negative and positive: on the negative side, citizen rebellions like the Whiskey Rebellion and experience with the actual operation of the nation’s new institutions demonstrated the risks associated with the citizen-oriented interpretation and suggested that it really wasn’t needed in the new nation; positively, the increasing population on the nation’s frontier increased both the danger of and the need for possession of weapons. People began to think that the Second Amendment, and parallel state guarantees, was the right way to reconcile those two concerns, by means of an individual-rights interpretation.
It seems to me that your citizen-oriented interpretation amounts to this: We (that is, the Second Amendment’s adopters) distribute a right to keep and bear arms to every individual in the society, because we think that’s the best way to ensure that people will be in a position to perform their duties as good republican citizens. You want to divorce the citizen-oriented right from membership in the state-organized militia, but in doing so, haven’t you re-created the individual-rights interpretation? A related but subsidiary point is this: Why shouldn’t we expand the citizen-oriented interpretation to include the citizen’s duty to preserve a well-organized society when the government defaults on its duty to provide the basic elements of personal security? And, if we do so, don’t we have a Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for purposes of protecting ourselves and our communities? This looks to me a lot like the individual-rights interpretation.
Thanks so much for taking part in this effort to raise the level of debate on this issue! Although I myself would frame my argument in different terms, I can see how you would have construed the argument in the terms you set out. Many audiences have responded to the book in precisely the way you have. Indeed, half of those who have read the book think it demolishes the individual rights view, while the other half think it vindicates it in forceful terms. Here is how I see it—but in our post-modern age I realize that authors may not always control the meaning of their text.
My conception of the original understanding is informed by the idea of well regulated liberty and the related notion that a civic right was as much an obligation as it was a trump. Government could not compel individuals to publish; they could compel them to bear arms. Indeed, this power led many states to protect the right of religious groups such as the Quakers (religious pacifists) not to be forced to bear arms! You can’t be forced to bear arms in self defense. The dominant meaning of this phrase was clearly military in the Founding era. Indeed, I have tracked almost every use of the term from this period and military meanings outnumber non-military usages in every type of print source from this period. The most important difference between the civic right and the modern collective rights argument is that I accept that the right is held by citizens, a category rather different than individuals in the Founding era, and this distinction becomes a key to understanding how the 14th changes the impact, not the meaning of the 2nd Amendment. Contrary to the claims of individual rights advocates and scholars, there was considerable division over the impact of the 14th on the 2nd. Although Republicans were divided, the view that won the day for them was the civic view. The key to Reconstruction became protecting the Negro militias and the right to bear arms in a government organized militia.
The militia functioned much like the jury. Citizens came together within a legal framework to act for the public good. One can only claim the right when citizens are organized into a legally sanctioned body—otherwise you have the Shays/Whiskey Rebellion scenario that most of the Founders dreaded.
The other aspect of well regulated liberty that needs to be stressed is that the right only makes sense in the context of robust gun regulation. Without musters, inspection, and accountability there is no well regulated militia. The collective rights argument, at least its radical progenitor, was Anti-Federalist in spirit, but it was quickly revived by the Jeffersonians. I do see it as different from this civic right.
Your account of the profound shift in the perception of the right mirrors my own thinking. The market revolution, Jacksonian democracy, and the creation of a culture that was more individualistic did transform the meaning of arms bearing for many Americans. The modern conflation of the right to bear arms and the right to bear a gun in self defense was a product of this later period.
As for the question of what the potential jurisprudential difference between a civic right and an individual right is I think it could be quite significant. For one thing it would certainly mean much more rigorous gun regulation—registration, inspection, safe storage, and mandatory safety training. It would also mean that hand guns would have no constitutional protection in contrast to long guns which would enjoy protection as long as they were brought within a robust regulatory scheme. Gun owners get greater protection but they accept much greater levels of regulation. Finally, it would almost certainly mean that the constitutional scrutiny of gun laws would trigger a rational basis review and not strict scrutiny. (Perhaps one might argue an undue burden standard, but this is a pretty underdeveloped area of the law.) The Founders clearly thought that some types of prior restraints were fine so the words and guns analogy is way off.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - 11:37
SOURCE: Remarks for High School Students in The History Makers Program (7-17-06)
One of the most popular phrases in hip hop culture is “keeping it real.” The phrase has many meanings, but the one that has gotten the most attention, and the most play, is the idea that hip hop should remain true to the atmosphere of the inner city neighborhoods and that it should be tough, gritty, and willing to use words and images that make most middle class Americans nervous..
As a musical credo, “keeping it real,” has helped keep hip hop on the front lines of popular music for over 25 years.Not only is hip hop the most important youth music in the US, it has truly grown to be worldwide music. Wherever you find a ghetto, whether its in Paris, Johannesburg, Rio De Janeiro or Bombay, you are going to find hip hop, and also find artists determined to tell the truth about the streets and housing projects of the neighborhoods they grew up in.
But when “keeping it real” becomes a lifestyle, not just a standard for musical authenticity, it can cause serious problems for the people who practice it. Because the types of language, dress, and styles of communicating that enable people to survive in tough inner city neighborhoods will make them an object of aversion and contempt in the mainstream middle class world where the jobs, the money and opportunities are.
Look, nobody knows better than I do that there are certain blocks, streets and even schools where “you have to get your thug on” in order to ward off danger. If you don’t wear baggy clothes, walk like you own the street, cultivate an intimidating stare, and speak the language of the street, people may start insulting you, threatening you, beating on you, and stealing your clothes and money. Minding your own business doesn’t cut it in the hood. You have to actively create an image that will ward off danger. Even if you are a scholar or a poet at heart, you have to look, and act intimidating in public in order to “get a pass” from the REAL thugs who are out there, some of whom might live on your block or in your building.
The problem comes when you leave the hood, and decided to shop, look for work, or attend school in a middle class or wealthy neighborhood. All of a sudden, everything you have learned about how to survive on the streets works against you. The aggressive body language, the tough stare, the baggy clothes and doo rags, and slang phrases and limited vocabulary, mark you off as a dangerous, violent person to be kept at arms length. Even though the whole way you carry yourself is a learned response to a real situation, to people who have no familiarity with this situation, you look like someone who is about to do harm - TO THEM.. You may see yourself as just another ghetto kid trying to get by, but to middle class people, you are the walking embodiment of every thug stereotype they see in crime shows, movies and hip hop videos. You’re there to mug them, rob them, intimidate them and mess up their store, their school or business with rowdy behavior.
Now you might want to say, “Hey, they don’t like how I dress or speak or act, that’s their problem.” But since most of the best jobs, the best schools and the best things to buy are in middle class neighborhoods, their problem becomes YOUR problem. Basically, if you want to progress in life, if you want to get a good education and get jobs that will enable you to live in comfort and security, you’re going to have to learn to make people “downtown” comfortable when they meet you. That means speaking softly and clearly, looking people in the eye, trying to make people comfortable instead of intimidating them, and dressing in a style that will make you blend in to your new surroundings. If you do that, you defuse stereotypes and encourage people to think the best of you rather than the worst of you. Who knows, they may even let you shop without having the store detective follow you or hire you for that job they are advertising.
Let’s be clear. I am not asking you to change who you are. I am asking you to be different people for different circumstances. If you think of life as a performance, take the time to learn two different roles- one for the neighborhood, one for “downtown.” If you do that, you can have the best of everything. It just takes a little imagination, and a lot of hard work.
Posted on: Monday, July 17, 2006 - 20:39
Religious commentators have had much to say (as well they should) over the recent philanthropic moves of Warren Buffett and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Among the critics, one offers theological and logical emphases that bear examination. John J. Miller, who has written at book length on the John M. Olin Foundation, and who writes regular columns for the National Review, now in the Wall Street Journal says some nice things about Buffett and the Gateses ("Open the FloodGates," July 7). But he is not happy with all their grants, and he wants them to model their work on the Olin Foundation, which chose to self-destruct. Those are worthy themes, but they are not at issue here. One thing that is at issue is stewardship.
Miller lunges right in when he hears Bill Gates list among his "motives behind dispensing untold billions" the sense that "'we really owe it to society to give the wealth back.'" To Miller that line is "a cliché, but a strange one," as he then asks, "Are we to assume that [Gates] has spent his adult life 'taking away' -- as if he and the other parasites at Microsoft must make amends for having sucked the life out of the U.S. economy? Surely there are better reasons to embark upon the world's biggest grant-making program than to salve the conscience of a guy who has no business feeling guilty in the first place. If Mr. Gates views his foundations as a vehicle for guilt riddance, …" etc. Enough.
I can't believe Mr. Miller was even trying to be fair. I have not read the complete works of the Gateses, and may have missed something in the Forbes and Fortune quotes by them on the subject, but I do not recall any reference to or sign of guilt, or repentance over any "parasitism." And though not a professional Gates-watcher, I have not been struck by any sense that he wants to salve his conscience. Miller sometimes writes on Catholicism with favor, but I don't find in him a trace of Catholic social teaching (since 1891) or biblical teaching on a simple, clear, direct theme that has nothing to do with guilt or conscience-salving: again, it's stewardship. Add another that is totally missing in this criticism: gratitude. One more: sharing common life. Jesus' parable about the rich guy who piled up wealth in his barns but did not tend to his soul calls the man "thou fool." Won't that be the judgment on all Catholics and Christians at large and heirs of the vaunted "values" system called Judeo-Christian or humanism, if those identified with these systems find no reasons to "give back," and if they do not then "give back"?
The joy of stewardship is that it frees the rich and the poor of the need for being egotistic and greedy, for claiming to be self-made and then worshipping their creators -- themselves. It asks us to steward the earth's resources for the sake of the earth and the community and the future, and gratefully to acknowledge the Creator of those resources. "Giving back" is just about the highest theologically based motive. Sorry if that's a cliché, but it has become so for having been stressed so frequently in the scriptures and traditions. Neither guilt, nor salving, nor repentance over parasitism or for having sucked up resources are behind most people's "giving back." Perhaps they are not for these philanthropists either.
So much for theology. Logically, where would Gates, Buffett, Miller, or Marty (quite a gulf and gap in the middle of that four-name group!) be, were not our "society" in the past made up of people who homesteaded, invested, built, invented; served on college boards and in the military; donated to charities and provided tools and power without which …? Again, enough. Capitalism of the sort that Miller presents will self-destruct as did the Olin Foundation. But the Olin people did it by choice; we would do it by destiny.
Posted on: Monday, July 17, 2006 - 10:20
SOURCE: National Review Online (7-14-06)
But think hard: Has George Bush, or the world itself, changed in the last five years?
One obvious difference from the first administration is the added nuclear component to the most recent pressing crises. Taking out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein did not involve an immediate threat of nuclear retaliation. Preempting against North Korea does run such risk — and perhaps very soon Iran will too. That requires a different strategy.
The second change from the immediate past is oil. For most of the first administration, the price of petroleum was around $20-$30 a barrel. We are now well into the era of $60-$70, and the threat of constant shortages.
This energy frailty has had two pernicious effects on U.S. foreign policy. Our allies in Europe and Japan now view almost any American initiative with Russia , the Middle East, or Latin America in terms of the potential fallout on their own energy costs and supplies.
In addition, the consuming nations are now providing a windfall of several hundred billion in extra profits to the likes of the House of Saud, the Iranian theocrats, the Gulf Sheikdoms, Hugo Chavez, and Vladimir Putin. Not only are some of these billions recycled in nefarious ways in arms purchases and terrorist subsidies, but also the intrinsic failures of theocracy, autocracy, and neo-Communism are masked by such accidental largess.
Worse still, there is now a growing new relativist standard of international behavior for roguish regimes: The degree to which a non-democratic nation has either oil or nukes — or preferably both — determines its perceived legitimacy. Any individual action the United States now undertakes may spike oil prices, and thus endanger the livelihood of its allies or neutrals while further subsidizing our enemies.
A third difference is the fading memory of September 11 as we reach the fifth anniversary of that mass murder. As the anger of the American people subsides, weariness with the counter-response grows, and the very human desire not to rock the boat permeates national life — especially when we have not had, as predicted, another 9/11. It is hard to keep reminding the American people for five years that we alone must lead the world against the terrorists and their state sponsors.
So part of Mr. Bush’s dilemma derives also from his very success. The audacious removal of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban — coupled with the killing of thousands of Islamic terrorists abroad, together with a revolution in security procedures at home — have combined to prevent another jihadist attack. Now in our complacence, we think our recent safety was almost a natural occurrence rather than the result of national sacrifice and an ordeal that must continue. And, again, such a return to normalcy makes the lonely task of prompting reform in the Middle East seem rather unnecessary, if not irrelevant....
Posted on: Sunday, July 16, 2006 - 23:44
SOURCE: Harper's (7-14-06)
As the United States staggers past the third anniversary of its misadventure in Iraq, the dagger is already poised, the myth is already being perpetuated. To understand just how this strategy is likely to unfold—and why this time it may well fail—we must return to the birth of a legend.
* * *
The stab in the back first gained currency in Germany, as a means of explaining the nation’s stunning defeat in World War I. It was Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg himself, the leading German hero of the war, who told the National Assembly, “As an English general has very truly said, the German army was ‘stabbed in the back.’”
Like everything else associated with the stab-in-the-back myth, this claim was disingenuous. The “English general” in question was one Maj. Gen. Neill Malcolm, head of the British Military Mission in Berlin after the war, who put forward this suggestion merely to politely summarize how Field Marshal Erich von Ludendorff—the force behind Hindenburg—was characterizing the German army’s alleged lack of support from its civilian government.
“Ludendorff’s eyes lit up, and he leapt upon the phrase like a dog on a bone,” wrote Hindenburg biographer John Wheeler-Bennett. “‘Stabbed in the back?’ he repeated. ‘Yes, that’s it exactly. We were stabbed in the back.’”
Ludendorff’s enthusiasm was understandable, for, as he must have known, the phrase already had great resonance in Germany. The word dolchstoss—“dagger thrust”—had been popularized almost fifty years before in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. After swallowing a potion that causes him to reveal a shocking truth, the invincible Teutonic hero, Siegfried, is fatally stabbed in the back by Hagen, son of the archvillain, Alberich....
... Jerry Lembcke, in his brilliant work, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam, writes of how the Nazis fostered the dolchstosslegende in ways that eerily foreshadowed returning veteran mythologies in the United States. Hermann Göring, the most charismatic of the Nazi leaders after Hitler, liked to speak of how “very young boys, degenerate deserters, and prostitutes tore the insignia off our best front line soldiers and spat on their field gray uniforms.” As Lembcke points out, any insignia ripping had actually been done by the mutinous soldiers and sailors who would launch a socialist uprising shortly after the war, tearing them off their own shoulders or those of their officers. Göring’s instant revisionism both covered up this embarrassing reality and created a whole new class of villains who were—in his barely coded language—homosexuals, sexually threatening women, and other “deviants.” All such individuals would be dealt with in the new, Nazi order....
The dolchstosslegende first came to the United States following not a war that had been lost but our own greatest triumph. Here, the motivating defeat was suffered not by the nation but by a faction. In the years immediately following World War II, the American right was facing oblivion. Domestically, the reforms of the New Deal had been largely embraced by the American people. The Roosevelt and Truman administrations—supported by many liberal Republicans—had led the nation successfully through the worst war in human history, and we had emerged as the most powerful nation on earth.
Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow liberal internationalists had sounded the first alarms about Hitler, but conservatives had stubbornly—even suicidally—maintained their isolationism right into the postwar era. Senator Robert Taft, “Mr. Republican,” and the right’s enduring presidential hope, had not only been a prominent member of the leading isolationist organization, America First, and opposed the nation’s first peacetime draft in 1940, but also appeared to be as naive about the Soviet Union as he had been about the Axis powers. Like many on the right, he was much more concerned about Chiang Kai-shek’s worm-eaten Nationalist regime in China than U.S. allies in Europe. “The whole Atlantic Pact, certainly the arming of Germany, is an incentive for Russia to enter the war before the army is built up,” Taft warned. He was against any U.S. military presence in Europe even in 1951.
This sort of determined naiveté had Taft and his movement teetering on the brink of political irrelevance. They saved themselves by grabbing at an unlikely rope—America’s very own dolchstosslegende, the myth of Yalta. No reasonable observer would have predicted in the immediate wake of the Yalta conference that it would become an enduring symbol of Democratic perfidy. Yalta was, in fact, originally considered the apogee of the Roosevelt Administration’s accomplishments, ensuring that the hard-won peace at the end of World War II would not soon dissolve into an even worse conflict, just as the botched peace of Versailles had led only to renewed hostilities in the years after World War I. The conference, which took place in the Soviet Crimea in February 1945, was the last time “the Big Three” of the war—Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin—would meet face-to-face. The U.S. negotiating team went with specific goals and was widely perceived at the time as having achieved them. Agreements were reached on the occupation of the soon-to-be-defeated German Reich, the liberation of those Eastern European countries occupied by or allied with Germany, the Soviet entrance into the war against Japan, and, most significantly in Roosevelt’s eyes, on the structure of a workable, international body designed to keep world peace, the United Nations.
FDR’s presentation of these agreements before a joint session of Congress that March met with almost universal acclaim.
[Editor: This is a long article. This excerpt merely gives the reader a taste of one key theme, among many.]
Posted on: Sunday, July 16, 2006 - 21:47
SOURCE: NY Sun (7-11-06)
The London transport bombings of July 2005 prompted no less than eight surveys of Muslim opinion in the United Kingdom within the year. When added to two surveys from 2004, they provide in the aggregate a unique insight into the thinking of the nearly 2 million Muslims in"Londonistan." The hostile mentality they portray is especially alarming when one recalls that London's police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, recently said that the threat of terrorism"is very grim" because there are,"as we speak, people in the United Kingdom planning further atrocities."
The July 7 attacks: About one in 20 British Muslims has voiced overt sympathy for the bombings a year ago. Separate polls find that between 2% and 6% endorse the attacks, 4% refuse to condemn them, 5% believe the Koran justifies them, and 6% say the suicide bombers were acting in accord with the principles of Islam.
Without endorsing the attacks, far larger numbers show an understanding for them: Thirteen percent say the July 7 suicide bombers should be regarded as"martyrs," 16% say the attacks were wrong but the cause was right, while 20% feel sympathy for the"feelings and motives" of the attackers. A whopping 56% can see"why some people behave in that way."
Help the police? A worrisome number of Muslims would not help the police if they suspected a fellow Muslim was planning a terrorist attack, ranging in different surveys from 5% to 14% to 18%.
Violence acceptable? Before 7/7, 11% found it acceptable"for religious or political groups to use violence for political ends" but only 4% thought so after the attacks, showing a rare improvement. Two polls turned up the identical figure of 7% of Muslims endorsing suicide attacks on civilians in Britain. (Among 18- to 24-year-olds, those most likely to carry out such an attack, the number jumps to 12%.) How about suicide attacks on the military in Britain? Positive answers came in at 16% and 21% (with 28% of 18- to 24-year-olds). Are the respondents themselves willing to embrace violence to bring an end to"decadent and immoral" Western society? One percent, or some 16,000 persons, answered in the affirmative.
Muslim or British: Polling indicates that a majority of Muslims perceive a conflict between their British and Muslim identities. Two polls show that only a small proportion identifies itself first as a British (7% and 12%), but they differ widely on the number who identify first with their religion (81% and 46%).
Implementing Islamic law: Muslims widely state that Shariah should reign in Britain. Forty percent approve of Shariah being applied in predominantly Muslim areas, and 61% want Shariah courts to settle civil cases among Muslims. All of 58% want those who criticize or insult Islam to face criminal prosecution. Schools should be prohibited from banning female pupils from wearing the hijab, say 55%, while 88% insist that schools and work places should accommodate Muslim prayer times.
Integration into Britain: In a nearly mirror-image of each other, 65% say Muslims need to do more to integrate into mainstream British culture, and 36% say modern British values threaten the Islamic way of life. Twenty-seven percent feel conflicted between loyalty to fellow Muslims and to Britain. Of those who despise Western civilization and think Muslims"should seek to bring it to an end," 32% endorse nonviolent means and 7% violent means.
Attitudes toward Jews: Polls confirm that the antisemitism widespread in the Muslim world also rears its head in Britain. About half the Muslims polled believe that Jews in Britain have too much influence over Britain's foreign policy and are in league with the Freemasons to control its press and politics. Some 37% consider Jews in Britain"legitimate targets as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East," and 16% state that suicide bombings can be justified in Israel. (Among 18- to 24-year-olds, that number rises to 21%.)
In sum, more than half of British Muslims want Islamic law and 5% endorse violence to achieve that end. These results demonstrate that Britain's potential terrorists live in a highly nurturing community.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 18:28
SOURCE: New Republic (7-10-06)
But on another level, these movements, at least in their contemporary Middle Eastern efflorescence, are characterized by a multi-layered culture of deceit. I am not referring to the concrete operational deceit of a suicide bomber pretending to be a backpacking tourist or a devout Jew as he boards a train in Madrid or a bus in Jerusalem. I have in mind a larger and more systematic deception. These movements loudly trumpet the demand for the political "liberation" of Western-occupied lands--Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. But in fact they are united in wishing the extirpation of all Western influence ("pollution," in their jargon) from the sacred Islamic lands, stretching from Pakistan to the Atlantic Ocean: all Western music and cinema and books, all Western companies, all Westerners--in short, all modernity and all liberalism, all of what the West stands for.
And it goes further than that. Here and there you will hear imams, when preaching in Arabic, demanding the "return" of all former Islamic territories--"Andalus" (Spain and Portugal), southern France, the Balkans as far north as Hungary and Austria--for it is a basic tenet of Islam that any land conquered for the faith remains rightfully, in perpetuity, sacred Islamic land (Dar Al Islam). And beyond this realm lies the rest of the world, the "Land of War" (Dar Al Harb)--territory that is fair game for conquest and must yet be conquered or converted to Islam. And this, ultimately, is what the Islamists--who believe that theirs alone is the true path--want: the whole world under the aegis of Allah. They see this world as in perpetual conflict between the forces of light and darkness, and believe that the forces of light will ultimately prevail. Osama bin Laden occasionally says as much. But most Islamist preachers merely hint at their apocalyptic agenda. First things first, they say.
For many or most Islamists, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine are merely Stage One. A "clash of civilizations" is precisely how they perceive what is going on--and not merely in the "occupied" countries or even in the immediate outer ring of Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Morocco, but also in France's suburbs and in Leeds and in Madrid, and in Sarajevo, the southern Philippines, southern Thailand, Nigeria, Sudan. Ask the lawyer who recently shot five "secularist" judges in Turkey; ask the assassin who a few years ago stabbed to death Theo van Gogh, a documentary movie producer in Amsterdam; ask the rioters in Nigeria who killed hundreds and burned down streets because of a beauty pageant. But in public, in the West, when they speak to journalists, the Islamists prefer to speak only of "Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine." ...
Posted on: Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 17:55
SOURCE: National Review Online (7-7-06)
First, before 9/11 the Western hard right-wing allowed radical Islam a pass — and then afterwards the Left did worse. That fact helps to explain the strange exemption given radical Islam in the West even today.
In the 1980s some conservatives saw the jihadists in Afghanistan or the Wahhabis in the Gulf as valuable bulwarks against global Communism. On the Western domestic front, even extremist Muslims — in their embrace of family values and resentment against modernism — were considered bedrock conservatives. Supposedly, they shared the same understandable concern about Western “decadence,” such as promiscuity, homosexuality, crass popular culture, and family dissolution.
So, despite clear evidence that many conservative mosques in the West were promulgators of a sick backward extremism, many social reactionaries hardly wished to upset their fellow travelers. Add in common distrust of Israel , and no surprise that the pages of The American Conservative will still sometimes resemble those of the Nation.
But with the fall of Communism, and the subsequent revelation that Islamists did not worry about the unfortunate direction of contemporary Western culture so much as they wished to destroy it, culpability then mostly fell to the Left.
Multiculturalism (no culture is worse than the West’s) and its twin of cultural relativism (those with power have no right or ability to judge others) gave a wide pass to radical Islam and its 7th-century primitivism. Apparently most Leftists thought the dearth of women in the clubhouse at the Masters Tournament at Augusta National was far worse than the Arab world’s honor killings, burqas, and coerced female circumcision.
Indeed, a radical Leftist always faces a dilemma when a fellow anti-American sounds fascistic. The usual course, as we have seen since September 11, is either to keep silent about such embarrassing kindred spirits, or to weasel out by suggesting our own hegemonic tendencies pushed a once reasonable “Other” in lamentable directions.
The result? Killers and terrorists have been able to operate openly in European capitals. Here in North America, in the 58 months after the Twin Towers fell, numerous cadres of terrorists still continue to be rounded up — without a peep of condemnation from mainstream Muslim groups, who have instead crafted an ingenious cult of victimization, predicated on sympathy from the Left. Ask yourself: In the fifth year since September 11, is it more likely that Islamic associations in Canada or the United States will condemn global Islamic extremism or complain about purported Islamophobia and the sins of “Zionism”?
Another undercurrent to this war is the abject failure to do anything about imported petroleum — the hundreds of billions that accrued to the Middle East and Gulf when petroleum skyrocketed from $30 to $70 a barrel. Without such excesses of free-floating and impossible-to-trace petrodollars, bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Al-Zarqawi would have remained clownish portraits on the pathetic street posters of a Jericho or Zarqa. Instead, we are indirectly paying for their IEDs.
The truth is that as long as American petroleum demand, coupled with restrictions on our own energy development, helps drive the world oil price up, we are simply funding psychopaths who otherwise would have no viable economic means of support....
Posted on: Monday, July 10, 2006 - 20:04
SOURCE: Slate (7-7-06)
A second disappointment to conservatives was Roberts' apparent failure to rein in the "activist" court. That judgment may be short-sighted. Although Supreme Court justices are a notoriously independent bunch, Roberts made substantial progress in bringing about a more harmonious court. More importantly, Roberts seemed to deliver on a promise made at his confirmation hearings: to be a more minimalist justice and to be guided by legal principles rather than political preferences.
John Roberts presented himself as a "legal process" justice at his confirmation hearings. Legal process was a theory propounded by a number of elite law professors in the 1950s in response to the activism of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren. Adherents hold that cases should be decided by "neutral principles" and that the more representative government actors (Congress, the president, and his representatives) should decide big policy questions. They believe in—indeed they emphasize—the distinction between law (which they see as an autonomous discipline governed by reason and principle) and politics (which they view as merely the expression of one's political preferences).
Roberts sounded these notes at his hearings, pledging to be "modest"—no more than "an umpire calling balls and strikes"—and to decide cases narrowly so as to promote consensus on the court. At a speech at Georgetown this spring he reiterated this preference for narrow, unanimous decisions. And the court under Roberts did enjoy an initial run of unanimity and modesty. As the term progressed, however, it splintered on a number of decisions, and on the last day of the term, refused to defer to the Bush administration's contention that there should be no judicial review of the administration's military commissions. Judicial supremacy, the commentators maintained, thus remains alive and well.
And as for Roberts? His earlier talk of humility and restraint were decried as a smoke screen for his conservative political preferences.
But not so fast. Because while the court's military commissions decision will likely be the defining case of Roberts' first term—and it casts a long shadow over the chief justice's goals of promoting institutional modesty and unanimity on the court—we should acknowledge that Roberts still made substantial progress in bringing about his goals.
Under Roberts' management, the court was a more harmonious institution than it has been in the past. According to statistics compiled by the Georgetown University Law Center's Supreme Court Institute, the court issued more decisions without dissents than in its previous two terms. The court also issued fewer 5-4 decisions, fewer dissenting opinions, and fewer separate opinions (concurrences and dissents) than in the previous term. Complete unanimity on the court may always be a mirage, but we're closer to consensus than we were during the last term of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist....
Posted on: Sunday, July 9, 2006 - 18:14
SOURCE: NYT (7-8-06)
THE Aztecs used to believe that history is not linear but circular, with great events repeating themselves on a regular basis. That certainly seems to be the case with Mexico, which has a revolution once every hundred years.
In 1810, peasants thrown off their land by plantation owners led a violent five-year rebellion that paved the way for Mexico's independence from Spain. In 1910, an instance of electoral fraud ignited an agrarian revolution, which in turn kicked off a decade-long civil war in which millions of Mexicans died.
Nearly a century later, Mexico's current electoral crisis likewise is propelled by rural unrest — this time largely brought about by the anger of agricultural workers displaced by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the center-left presidential candidate who is contesting the declared victory of Felipe Calderón in last Sunday's election, draws much of his support from this increasingly restive population of rural poor.
Before Nafta, Mexico was self-sufficient in corn and bean production. Today, one out of three Mexican tortillas is made with cheap corn meal from the United States. In 1993, more than 10 million Mexicans made their living off the land. Today, even as Mexico's population has grown, that number has plummeted to about seven million.
Mexican farmers simply can't compete with capital-intensive United States agribusiness, which continues to enjoy generous government subsidies. Moreover, Mexican commodity importers receive low-interest loans to buy crops from the United States. Every year, nearly three million tons of harvested Mexican corn is left to rot because it is too expensive to sell.
Mexicans have reason to worry that this is not all the trouble Nafta has in store. In 2008, the agreement's final provision is set to go into effect, eliminating the last tariffs on United States corn and beans and ending the subsidies Mexico gives to its peasant farmers — all the while leaving untouched the far larger subsidies Washington doles out to its own agricultural sector. During his campaign, Mr. López Obrador pledged to renegotiate this provision, but J. B. Penn, the United States undersecretary of agriculture, last month pre-emptively responded by saying that "we have no interest in renegotiating any parts of the agreement."...
Posted on: Sunday, July 9, 2006 - 02:31
SOURCE: NYT (7-7-06)
NORTH Korea's July 4 fireworks display had a desperate quality to it, even by the standards of a regime that specializes in self-defeating provocation.
Whatever the original purpose may have been, it took exactly 42 seconds for this spectacle to backfire as the first stage of the long-range Taepodong 2 missile exploded and fell harmlessly into the Pacific. It is a telling metaphor for a regime that hasn't had a successful initiative in two decades.
Since mid-June the Taepodong had been sitting on its launching pad, a premonitory bird waiting to take wing — and hiding in plain sight. For half a century North Korea has known that anything above ground can be seen by American spy satellites; that's why the world's most remarkable garrison state has some 15,000 underground security sites. The missile was there for us to see.
Why were the Taepodong and the handful of other smaller rockets fired on Tuesday? Probably because it seemed like apt payback for the timing of the Pentagon's warfare exercises in the Pacific, which the North Koreans have taken as an insult and which they have been hyperventilating about for weeks.
The scope of the exercises certainly annoyed the North Koreans: eight nations, 19,000 American troops. But so, too, did the timing. The North Koreans claim that the maneuvers started on June 25 — the 56th anniversary of the day the Korean War began. (The Pentagon says that they started on June 26.)
For the North Koreans, only symbolism can fight symbolism. In the past, however, these symbolic conflicts have led to new negotiations.
Sound strange? Well, Pyongyang has operated this way before. Nothing was more provocative, after all, than North Korea's decision to kick out United Nations inspectors and, in May 1994, withdraw enough plutonium from its reactor to make five or six atomic bombs. After putting the United States and North Korea on what seemed to be the road to war, the reactor crisis took the sort of bizarre turn one can expect from engagement with the North Koreans: Mid-crisis, Pyongyang agreed to a complete freeze on the reactor complex.
The framework agreement of October 1994 codified this, and for eight years — until it crumbled in the wake of the administration's pre-emption doctrine and charges that a second nuclear program was up and running — the complex was sealed and immobilized with United Nations inspectors on the ground at all times. ...
Posted on: Friday, July 7, 2006 - 16:18
Karl Rove has a simple rule, they say: When you are falling behind, attack your opponents at their strongest point. In the upcoming election, the Democrats' strongest point should obviously be Iraq. With the spotlight eternally focused on the disastrous war there, Rove has to figure out how to turn its dazzling beam to his party's advantage.
So he's borrowing a page from an ancient Iranian storybook and imitating Scheherazade, the maiden whose husband's policy was"wed 'em, bed 'em, and kill 'em at dawn." Rove is telling Republican candidates to follow Scheherazade's rule: When policy dooms you, start telling stories -- stories so fabulous, so gripping, so spellbinding that the king (or, in this case, the American citizen who theoretically rules our country) forgets all about a lethal policy.
The GOP stories are the same ones white people have been telling each other ever since they first set foot on North American shores: If you want to be safe, go to the frontier and wipe out the Indians. As former State Department official John Brown has noted, our Indian wars are not over yet.
Now Rove and his President are trying to sell the Iraq war as a frontier conflict, too. They want us to see U.S. troops as the cavalry putting down the"Injuns." Or better yet, as pioneers creating small enclaves of civilization (in Iraq they're called Green Zones) in the midst of a vast wilderness full of savages. What strength, what courage it takes to survive. But they have a job to do: They must teach the savages how to be free. And above all, like their pioneering forebears, they must have the guts to stick it out until the job is done.
How do we know our military in Iraq has such beneficent motives? The answer is simple -- they are Americans, by definition the heroes, the good guys. Every time they kill a bad guy like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, they only prove once again what good guys they are. (In a recent Washington Post-ABC poll, 68% of Americans said that the U.S. war against Iraq has"helped to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.")
Naturally they hope, one day, to be able to go home to their loved ones and live the peaceable lives they long for. But they aren't quitters like those (Democratic) schoolmarms back East in the halls of Congress. They are real frontiersmen, with the will and the resolve to stay the course. They won't be scared off by suffering or bloodshed; sometimes -- let's be honest -- it takes bloodshed for life to get better.
Republican Fairy Tales of Heroic Masculinity
George W. Bush is already out on the congressional campaign trail riffing on this old yarn. At a fundraiser for one Senate candidate he laid it out in all its marvelous simplicity:"There's an Almighty; a great gift of the Almighty is freedom for every man, woman, and child. ... The American people expect the government to protect them. It's our most important job. … Iraq is now the central front, and we've got a plan to succeed. … There's a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done. They're willing to wave the white flag of surrender."
And there, my friends, is the real choice we're being offered by Rovian rhetoric: weak-willed cowardly Democrats against Republicans who tough it out, whatever the cost, because -- above all -- they are real men.
The urge to prove manhood is central to the story. It may be what got us into Iraq in the first place. For four decades now, neoconservatives have bewailed the feminization of America. A nation where women can wear suits and men can have long flowing hair, even in corporate suites, drives them crazy. Since the 1970s they've touted belligerent policies, swaggering talk, and massive military budgets as the only way to stop liberals from imposing spinelessness on the nation.
The neocons want to turn a nation of soft, lazy, mall-shopping, morally squishy"relativists" back to the manly"strenuous life" that Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan preached. That's one big reason they worked so hard to send"our boys" (and"girls") off to the battlefields of Iraq. Karl Rove himself may not be a neocon, but he's betting that the voters will be mesmerized by John-Wayne-style tales of"real men" fighting evil on the frontier -- at least enough Americans to avoid the death sentence that the voters might otherwise pronounce on the party that brought us the disaster in Iraq.
The frontier tales may sound trite and hackneyed to some, but they won't go away. You probably know them by heart. In fact, without a second thought, you probably put them together intuitively and unconsciously to form a single unified narrative, doing the Republicans' work for them. Many of your fellow Americans still take that grand narrative as the tried-and-true tale about the virtues that made America great.
Will women as well as men fall for these fairy tales of heroic masculinity? There is still a gender gap in U.S. politics. But since 9/11 it has narrowed considerably. Plenty of female voters now choose the candidate who best embodies the"manly virtues," because it isn't really about sex or gender. It's about an age-old cultural bias that says males make clear distinctions between good and evil and then do whatever it takes to destroy evil, while females offer dangerously tender-hearted understanding to everyone.
This gets us to the heart of the Scheherazade strategy. It plays on the insecurity of Americans who feel that their lives are out of control. Karl Rove knows that (as Gary Bauer, a religious right politico, once put it)"Joe Six-Pack doesn't understand why the world and his culture are changing and why he doesn't have a say in it." So Rove constantly invents simplistic good-against-evil stories for his candidates to tell. He tries to turn every election into a moral drama, a contest of Republican moral clarity versus Democratic moral confusion.
Rove wants every vote for a Republican to be a symbolic statement: I am not merely a feather blown around by what George W. Bush has called"the winds of change." My vote anchors me in the Republican Party -- solid as a rock, tough as the toughest pioneer, willing and able to bring the savage wilderness of this terroristic planet under firm American control.
The Scheherazade strategy is a great scam, built on the illusion that simple moralistic tales can make us feel secure, no matter what's actually going on out there in the world. Though it never fulfills its promise, too many Americans keep on falling for it. Why? Here are some clues from scholars who trace it back to its roots in American Christianity. Catherine Albanese of the University of California at Santa Barbara writes:"Ordered conduct of foreign policy will, according to the conservative ethic, keep evil at bay and erect the safeguards that protect Christian life. Thus, containment for conservatives means the management of evil." But the management of evil is a lifetime task. Far from relieving anxiety, it is bound to create more of it -- and, Rove assumedly hopes, more people who crave the manly certitude that is supposed to relieve anxiety.
Princeton's John F. Wilson explains why. The obsession with managing evil comes from"a concern, often exaggerated, to achieve control over those aspects of life experienced as uncertain." From the Puritans to the present, people bent on controlling their lives have been haunted by the inescapable fear that they might lose that very control. When they find that they can't control themselves or their lives or surroundings as completely as they might fervently wish, they feel like failures; and, Albanese adds, if they happen to think they are part of God's chosen people, they may also feel a powerful obligation to live up to God's expectation of perfect self-control. So they end up feeling not just like failures but like guilty sinners.
Who wants to shoulder such a heavy burden?"To admit that too much was wrong could jeopardize America's belief in its status as a chosen nation," Albanese says."Americans could not admit the deepest sources of their guilt without destroying their sense of who they were." So, instead, they went (and still go) looking for other people to control and blame them for their troubles. Our most recent candidates are, of course, the terrorists.
Before you know it, you have, in Wilson's scholarly words,"essentially bipolar frameworks for conceiving of the world: good versus bad, us versus them. The puritan American while tightly disciplined is prone to be uncritical of self and hypercritical of others... [This] presupposes a fundamentally authoritarian pattern of relationships within the world and reinforces that pattern." In other words, when the U.S. military tries to impose a made-in-America order upon Iraq (or anywhere else), it lets us avoid facing up to the abundant ills, evils, and insecurities here at home.
Scheherazade Fantasies and Frontier Realities
These are certainly deeply rooted, complex, and real feelings. Rove's scam works because the bipolar framework seems so believable. There is always more American insecurity to feed our appetite for"staying the course" in Iraq. The U.S. presence there spawns more Iraqi"insurgents," who make the whole story look all too believable on the evening news. The cycle is endless, because the old frontier story that is supposed to ease our insecurity actually fuels it.
It's certainly making the public insecure about the war. In that Washington Post- ABC poll, only 37% of Americans approved of the way Bush is handling it. So Rove's strategy may be an act of desperation. But it's also a shrewd trick -- some might call it genius -- because it plays on the growing fear that Iraq represents something truly awry in the American universe. It links the Democratic party to the chaos of Iraq by turning both into symbols of American weakness, wilderness, and instability.
The Republican Scheherazades say, in effect,"Things may seem out of control now, but they're bound to be far worse under the Democrats, who are completely incapable of keeping our fragile lives sheltered from the winds of violent change." They tell the old familiar tales to plant seeds of doubt, to send the voter into the booth asking one big question:"Even if the Republicans are obviously not in control of this perilous world, do I dare to take a chance on those weak-willed flip-flop Democrats?" If a vote against the Democrats becomes a vote against uncontrollable change -- then the Republicans are likely to have another election in their pockets.
Though the frontier story and its twisted offspring have deep roots in puritan Christianity, don't just blame the Christians for them. Long ago these tales became the common property of secular American culture, too. And don't just blame the Republicans. These are the same stories that led Democrats from Woodrow Wilson to Bill Clinton to places like The Somme, My Lai, and Mogadishu, promising wars to end war or communism or terrorism.
Yet ever since Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, the Republicans have managed to make the old stories their own private property. When Democrats try to tell them, they just don't sound believable any more. Right now, in fact, nothing that most mainstream Democrats have to say seems to have the ring of believability -- or the Scheherazade strategy wouldn't have a chance of saving the Republicans' political life in November. So what's a Democrat to do?
A Dem can start by seeing the risks in the Scheherazade strategy. For one thing, Rove's story depends on believable images of American strength. If U.S. forces in Iraq keep suffering disasters between now and election day, voters going into the booth will have a harder time hanging on to the image of Republicans as their manly saviors.
It also depends on voters letting fairy tales, not logical thinking about policies, determine their vote. The Democrats should not assume that most voters will fall prey to alluring but absurd tales, as the king in Scheherazade did. They can tell the voters -- and themselves -- a frontier story about another traditional American virtue: the courage to trust that ordinary people will use hard-headed common sense to separate fact from fiction.
The old stories tell us that the actual pioneers, not the ones who so long inhabited our movie screens, had to confront life honestly. They couldn't afford to"stay the course" just for the sake of saving face. And they couldn't afford to play politics with matters of life or death. When things went wrong, they were brave enough to admit it and use good old American ingenuity to set things right. They were true democrats, expecting everyone to shoulder their share of responsibility and giving their neighbors the right to express their own opinions. They didn't call disagreement"disloyalty." They knew that even the humblest guy or gal might have the best idea for fixing things.
Out on the frontier, pioneers needed that kind of courage and common sense to make sure they and their families survived. It may be just what the Democrats need to survive, too -- trusting ordinary people, even Iraqis, to find practical solutions to practical problems. If the Republican candidates want to play Scheherazade, they have to recognize that the Democrats might have a more honest, compelling story to tell. And we, the voters, are the king. We get to decide who remains alive at dawn on November 9 and who ends up a political corpse.
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Friday, July 7, 2006 - 13:37
SOURCE: dissidentvoice.org (6-27-06)
Yassar was a 17-year-old boy when US forces in Afghanistan captured him in 2001. He was a Saudi who had gone to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban, which at that time ruled most of Afghanistan, against the Northern Alliance forces who had ruled Afghanistan from 1993 to 1996. He followed in the footsteps of thousands of Saudis who would never have found themselves in Central Asia had the United States not made it a policy to send them there to fight “communism” in the 1980s.
In 1978, a leftist party had toppled the Afghan president and tried to institute a secular program that met with widespread Islamist opposition. The following year, the Soviets invaded to protect their allies and prevent the rise of an Islamist regime on their border. First the Carter, then the Reagan administration encouraged “holy warriors” from around the Muslim world to march to Afghanistan to confront the atheist infidel. This was the inception of the present-day Islamist jihadi movement. Washington was totally comfortable with it, at least initially.
The US-backed anti-Soviet Islamists, known today as the Northern Alliance, came to power in 1993. They apprehended the last quasi-Marxist president, Najibullah, who had taken refuge in the UN compound. Demonstrating their moral worth, they castrated him and hung him from a lamppost in central Kabul. Then those participating in the new regime (recognized by the U.S.) fell to quarreling among themselves, ripping apart Kabul, which had spared the earlier fighting. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who’d received the lion’s share of CIA money in the 1980s, figured prominently in the carnage. Northern Alliance misrule was so egregious it allowed the fairly easy seizure of power by the Pakistan-backed Taliban in 1996.
The Taliban was no less Islamist and fundamentalist than its predecessor regime, and most Americans wouldn’t much distinguish the two, in the simple “good” versus “evil” terms promoted since 9-11. The present US ambassador to Iraq and former special envoy to Afghanistan, Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad, wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in 1996 advocating cordial ties with the Taliban which he regarded as not “anti-American.” Khalilzad was later, as a Unocal employee, to host Taliban envoys at his Texas ranch. (They reportedly discussed the construction of an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean.) The Taliban was criticized in the US press for its brutal treatment of women, its grotesque destruction of the buddhas of Bamiyan, etc., but only systematically vilified after 9-11. That’s when Bush announced he wouldn’t distinguish between terrorists and the regimes that harbor them. Never mind that the US had actually brokered the departure of Osama bin Laden from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996, thinking that the terrorist couldn’t do much harm in the backward Central Asian country.
This Saudi boy Yassar Talal Al-Zahrani arrived in Afghanistan as the Taliban forces continued to battle the Northern Alliance. The US wasn’t recognizing the Taliban at the time, although it was providing aid for the successful opium eradication policy of their regime. Washington, which calls lots of people and groups “terrorists” as it sees fit, wasn’t trashing the Taliban as a terrorist operation at the time. (It had “committed numerous human rights violations,” according to the State Department’s 2000 “country report on human rights practices.” But it wasn’t terrorist.) So when this 17-year-old kid Yassar pops up in Afghanistan, heeding the age-old, however stupid, call to fight for God against evil, he wasn’t crossing the Rubicon into terrorism, nor in any way attacking Americans. He was fighting for some vision of religious purity, as do many stupid people, in lots of places.
Anyway, he was there, fighting for one Islamic fundamentalist faction against another, in a place of little strategic interest to US imperialism, and remote from the minds of the American masses, in 2001. He was in no way threatening my lifestyle here in Boston. But the US president decided to attack Afghanistan preparatory to an invasion of Iraq, and so young Yassar wound up in Mazar-e-Sharif, apparently acquitting himself with some dignity. Then he was whisked away to a wire cage in Cuba, denied any rights on that piece of turf conquered in 1898 and on which the US Constitution need not apply. He was subjected to the conditions in Guantanamo well known now to the whole world.
British citizen Ruhal Ahmad was captured on the Pakistan-Afghan border in 2001 by the notorious Northern Alliance warlord Rashid Dostum and turned over to U.S. forces. He was taken to Guantanamo and released in March 2004. Guilty of nothing but the desire to attend a friend’s wedding in Pakistan, and some petty crimes with no relation to Islamist activity, he had been tortured, interrogated with dogs, and sexually abused. He was freed only after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Gitmo detainees’ legal challenge to their indefinite imprisonment without charges. Back home in West Midlands, England, he can tell his story, not that the US corporate media will broadcast it.
Yassar Talal Al-Zharani will never tell his story. After four years in hell, the “terrorist” ended his life, at his own hand, in Guantanamo. Camp Commander Rear Admiral Harry Harris denounced his deed as “an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” Maybe Yassar could aspire for no better epitaph. He died at war, anyway.
What did this boy do to incur this destruction of his youth? What moral error? He did what Zbigniew Brzezinski was recommending Muslim youth do in the 1980s. He was responding to religious incentives wholly analogous to those offered by the butthead “Good vs. Evil,” no-nuance American Christian right. He made his choice, got busted by the world’s most vicious, and seeing no way out ended his life in his cell. His father and brother insist he didn’t commit suicide. I feel for them.
Posted on: Wednesday, July 5, 2006 - 22:17
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (7-5-06)
One of these days, some scholar will do a little history of the odd moments when microphones or recording systems were turned on or left on, whether on purpose or not, and so gave us a bit of history in the raw. We have plenty of American examples of this phenomenon, ranging from the secret White House recordings of President John F. Kennedy's meetings with his advisers during the Cuban Missile Crisis (so voluminous as to become multi-volume publications) and Richard Nixon's secret tapes (minus those infamous 18½ minutes), voluminous enough so that you could spend the next 84 days nonstop listening to what's been made publicly available, to the moment in 1984 when a campaigning President Ronald_Reagan quipped on the radio during a microphone check (supposedly unaware that it was on):"My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."
Just last week, a lovely little example of this sort of thing came our way and, twenty-two years after Ronald Reagan threatened to atomize the"evil empire," Russia was still the subject. Last Thursday, at a private lunch of G-8 foreign ministers in Moscow, an audio link to the media was left on, allowing reporters to listen in on a running series of arguments (or as the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler put it,"several long and testy exchanges") between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over a collective document no one would remember thenceforth
The whole event was a grim, if minor, comedy of the absurd. According to the Post account,"Reporters traveling with Rice transcribed the tape of the private luncheon but did not tell Rice aides about it until after a senior State Department official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity as usual, assured them that ‘there was absolutely no friction whatsoever' between the two senior diplomats." (What better reminder do we need that so much anonymous sourcing granted by newspapers turns out to be a mix of unreliable spin and outright lies readers would be better off without?) In, as Kessler wrote,"a time of rising tension in U.S.-Russian relations," the recording even caught"the clinking of ice in glasses and the scratch of cutlery on plates," not to speak of the intense irritation of both parties.
"Sometimes the tone smacked of the playground" is the way a British report summed the encounter up, but decide for yourself. Here's a sample of what"lunch" sounded like -- the context of the discussion was Iraq (especially outrage over the kidnapping and murder of four employees of the Russian embassy in Baghdad):
"Rice said she worried [Lavrov] was suggesting greater international involvement in Iraq's affairs.
"'I did not suggest this,' Lavrov said. ‘What I did say was not involvement in the political process but the involvement of the international community in support of the political process.'
"'What does that mean?' Rice asked.
"There was a long pause. ‘I think you understand,' he said.
"'No, I don't,' Rice said.
"Lavrov tried to explain, but Rice said she was disappointed. ‘I just want to register that I think it's a pity that we can't endorse something that's been endorsed by the Iraqis and the U.N.,' she said, adding tartly: ‘But if that's how Russia sees it, that's fine.'"
Behind Rice's irritation certainly lay a bad few Russia weeks for the administration. Not only had the Russians been flexing their energy muscles of late, consorting with the Chinese and various of the Soviet Union's former Soviet Socialist Republics in Central Asia, which the Bush administration covets for their energy resources; but, as the ministers were meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin -- you remember, another one of those world leaders George Bush "looked in the eyes" and found to be"trustworthy" (but that was so long ago) -- made it frustratingly clear that he would not back U.S. moves against neighboring Iran and its putative nuclear program at the UN."'We do not intend to join any sort of ultimatum, which only pushes the situation into a dead end, striking a blow against the authority of the UN Security Council,' Putin told Russian diplomats in Moscow in the presence of journalists. ‘I am convinced that dialogue and not isolation of one or another state is what leads to resolution of crises.'"
There is, however, a larger, far more perilous context within which to view the"testy" relationship between the two former Cold War superpowers and, for once, someone has managed to lay it out brilliantly, connecting the dots for the rest of us. In The New American Cold War, the cover story of the most recent Nation magazine, Russia specialist Stephen F. Cohen finally catches the essence of that ever degrading relationship. What Cohen points out is that, after the USSR unraveled, the Cold War never actually ended, not on the American side anyway, and today it not only continues at nearly full blast, but the Russians have finally reentered the game.
To offer a little context: In the early years of the Cold War, when the A-bomb and then the H-bomb were briefly American monopolies, there were, among American hardliners, those who, in the phrase of the time, wanted to"rollback" the Soviet Union in whatever fashion necessary. At an extreme, as early as 1950, the Strategic Air Command's Gen. Curtis LeMay urged the implementation of SAC Emergency War Plan I-49, which involved delivering a first strike of"the entire stockpile of atomic bombs… in a single massive attack," some 133 A-bombs on 70 Soviet cities in 30 days. However, it was another policy," containment" (first suggested by diplomat George Kennan in his famous"long telegram" from Moscow and then in his 1947 essay,"The Sources of Soviet Conduct," written under the pseudonym"Mr. X" in Foreign Affairs magazine), that took hold. Increasingly, as the years went by, as superpower nuclear arsenals came ever closer to parity, the U.S. and the USSR settled into the equivalent of family life together, bickering (at the cost of untold numbers of dead) only on the borderlands of their respective empires. In the later 1960s, containment became détente.
When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 and relaunched the Cold War against the"evil empire," matters threatened to change, but in the end -- despite a massive rearmament campaign (that began in the Carter years) and the launching of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars"), meant to militarize space, détente hung in there; finally, to the surprise of all American strategists, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe quickly unraveled without opposition from the remarkable Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (a rare instance of the head of an imperial order not turning to force as it was dismantled). After a moment's hesitation, America's cold warriors, including the massively funded intelligence community which had never so much as suspected the weakened state of the Soviet Union, declared global victory. Much of the rest of the story (the lack of a"peace dividend," the rise of the U.S. as the globe's supposed sole"hyperpower," the way the neoconservatives and others fell in love with American military might and its potential ability to alter the world in directions they passionately desired is now reasonably well known – except for the very large piece of the puzzle Cohen contributed last week.
In his essay, Cohen points out that Russia, despite recent gains, is still in"an unprecedented state of peacetime demodernization and depopulation," suffering"wartime death and birth rates" in a time of relative peace; while its unstable political system rests on the popularity of one man, Vladimir Putin. What was left of the USSR having almost imploded in the 1990s, he writes, even today we cannot be sure what the collapse of a power armed with every imaginable weapon of mass destruction might"mean for the rest of the world."
How, he asks, has every U.S. administration reacted to this globally perilous situation?
"Since the early 1990s Washington has simultaneously conducted, under Democrats and Republicans, two fundamentally different policies toward post-Soviet Russia -- one decorative and outwardly reassuring, the other real and exceedingly reckless. The decorative policy, which has been taken at face value in the United States, at least until recently, professes to have replaced America's previous cold war intentions with a generous relationship of ‘strategic partnership and friendship'… The real US policy has been very different -- a relentless, winner-take-all exploitation of Russia's post-1991 weakness. Accompanied by broken American promises, condescending lectures and demands for unilateral concessions, it has been even more aggressive and uncompromising than was Washington's approach to Soviet Communist Russia… [This policy includes a] growing military encirclement of Russia, on and near its borders, by US and NATO bases, which are already ensconced or being planned in at least half the fourteen other former Soviet republics, from the Baltics and Ukraine to Georgia, Azerbaijan and the new states of Central Asia. The result is a US-built reverse iron curtain and the remilitarization of American-Russian relations."
Destabilizing Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and the United States
This is the new, American-driven cold war -- a striking feature of our landscape, almost utterly ignored by the mainstream media -- that Cohen lays out at length and in compelling detail. Since 2000, these new cold war policies have only taken a turn for the disastrous. From its first moments in office, the Bush administration, made up almost solely of rabid former cold warriors, has been focused with an unprecedented passion and intensity on what can only be called a"rollback" policy. Defined a little more precisely, what they have pursued, as Cohen makes clear, is a policy of Russian"destabilization" with every means at their command -- and, until recently, with some success.
Their view was simple enough. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet empire, the United States was the sole military power of significance left standing. It had, as they saw it, enough excess power to ensure a Pax Americana into the distant future, in part by ensuring that no future or resurgent superpower or bloc of powers would, in any foreseeable future, arise to challenge the United States. As the President put it in an address at West Point in 2002,"America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge." The administration's new National Security Strategy of that year seconded the point, adding that the country must be"strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States."
This was to be accomplished by:
*ensuring that the former challenging superpower, once rolled back to something like its pre-imperial boundaries, would never arise in any significant new form from the rubble of its failed empire.
*ensuring that no new superpower would arise in economically resurgent Asia; in this regard, the Chinese would be essentially hemmed in, if not encircled, by American (and Japanese) power; a potentially independent Taiwan supported; and the Japanese and Chinese set at each others throats.
*ensuring that the oil heartlands of the planet in what was by then being called an"arc of instability" running from the Central Asian borderlands of Russia and China through the Middle East, North Africa (later, much of the rest of Africa), all the way to Latin America would be dotted with American military bases, anchored in the Middle East by an emboldened Israel and new more pro-American and subservient regimes in formerly enemy states like Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and that the planet's oil flows (hence the fate of the industrialized and industrializing parts of the planet) would remain under American control.
The administration's destabilization strategy, as convincingly laid out by Cohen, was not, however, limited to Russia. The ambitions of top administration officials and their supporters, after all, were world-spanning. (It wasn't for nothing that the neocons and allied pundits began talking about us as the planet's New Rome back in 2002, while we were tearing up treaties, setting up secret prisons, and preparing to launch our first"preventive" war.) In retrospect, it seems clear that destabilization was their modus operandi. Despite what some have argued in relation to Iraq (and elsewhere in the Middle East), they were undoubtedly not voting for chaos per se. What they were eager to do was put the strategically most significant and contested regions of the planet"in play," using the destabilization card, always assuming in every destabilization situation that the chips would fall on their side of the gaming table, and that, if worse came to worse, even chaos would turn out to be to their benefit.
In that spirit, they began working to destabilize Russia, hoping that even if"regime change" weren't possible, all sorts of energy resources and other political and economic fruits would fall their way from the rotting tree of the former Soviet Union. As we know, they didn't hesitate to do the same in Afghanistan, claiming that they were simply taking out al-Qaeda and its Taliban hosts (with whom they had, not so long before, been in pipeline negotiations). What they actually did, however, was settle in to that country for the long haul, setting up their normal run of bases and prisons, and in the process not fretting enormously about what destabilization was actually doing there -- creating a narco-warlord-Taliban failed state that now, of course, befuddles them.
Then, as we all know, they invaded Iraq, claiming they were pursuing Saddam Hussein's nonexistent WMD program via"decapitation" shock-and-awe attacks on his regime, the disbanding of his military, the dissolution of the Baath Party, the disbarment of many of its former members from office or jobs, and the dismantling of the state-organized and run economy -- a program of destabilization so sweeping as to take one's breath away and meant to launch a far more sweeping destabilization (and hence remaking) of the Middle East. The results of this project, still in progress, are by now well known -- including the fostering of a complex, bloodthirsty, sectarian bloodletting in Iraq which now threatens to spill across borders into neighboring lands (along with terrorism and oil sabotage).
Their most recent target is Iran -- or rather, ostensibly, Iran's nuclear energy program. In his latest report on the administration's Iranian policy, New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh quotes a"high-ranking general" this way:"[T]he military's experience in Iraq, where intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was deeply flawed, has affected its approach to Iran. ‘We built this big monster with Iraq, and there was nothing there. This is son of Iraq.'" In fact, as Hersh has previously reported, administration strategists have long been trying to destabilize Iran in a variety of ways, while threatening future military assaults on that country's nuclear establishment. If, at some future point, they were to follow through on this, the results for the global economy would undoubtedly prove both staggering and destabilizing in ways it's quite possible no one could handle.
In the meantime, they have been willing to destabilize the world by essentially growing terror in the pursuit of other ends. Despite the centrality of the"global war on terror" to their plans, it's obvious that the taking out of hostile terrorist groups has not been the only, or even perhaps the primary item on their agenda -- after all, they curtailed the hunt for Osama bin Laden in order to whack Iraq. Rhetoric aside, they seem, in fact, to be quite willing to live with the global phenomenon of ever proliferating, ever more homegrown terrorist organizations.
Though it's been little noted, their program in the United States has been hardly less based on playing the destabilization card. As their minions in occupied Iraq were intent on radically"privatizing" -- that is, destabilizing -- the Iraqi government and economy, so they have been intent on radically privatizing (and destabilizing) the American government and economy. Recently, Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote a striking column, The Road from K Street to Yusufiya, on exactly this, pointing out that"nearly 40 cents of every dollar in federal discretionary spending now goes to private companies." It hardly mattered to them that they were essentially emptying civil government of its can-do powers; that they were replacing those hated bureaucrats in Washington with even less competent bureaucrats linked to private, crony corporations of their choice. As Rich put the matter:
"[T]he Bush brand of competitive sourcing, with its get-rich-quick schemes and do-little jobs for administration pals, spread like a cancer throughout the executive branch. It explains why tens of thousands of displaced victims of Katrina are still living in trailer shantytowns all these months later. It explains why New York City and Washington just lost 40 percent of their counterterrorism funds. It helps explain why American troops are more likely to be slaughtered than greeted with flowers more than three years after the American invasion of Iraq.
"The Department of Homeland Security, in keeping with the Bush administration's original opposition to it, isn't really a government agency at all so much as an empty shell, a networking boot camp for future private contractors dreaming of big paydays…"
The top officials of this administration are remarkable gamblers and optimists. They have also proven remarkably single-minded in playing the destabilization game. If they are in the Roman-Empire business, don't think Augustus, think Caesar's Palace. Like so many gambling addicts, they've never run across a situation in which they're unwilling to roll the dice, no matter the odds. They just give those dice that special little rub and offer a prayer for good luck, always knowing that this just has to be their day.
Medicare, roll the dice. Social security, roll the dice. Tax the poor and middle class by untaxing the rich, no problem. Wipe out what's left of the checks and balances of the American system in favor of a theory of an all-encompassing" commander-in-chief" government, roll those dice. Launch endless, Swift-Boat-style, bare-knuckle campaigns of fear, lies, and fantasy (accompanied by gerrymandering and vote-suppression schemes) meant to install Republicans in power for decades to come, no matter the cost to the political system -- don't wait, toss ‘em now!
This is, essentially, a full-scale a program for the destabilization (as well as plundering) of this country, one that fits snugly with their operations potentially destabilizing the planet. And through it all, like the good cold warriors they are, they've never let up on that rollback campaign against Russia. Perhaps, as in the previous century, if all that needed to be compared was the relative powers of two superpowers, their acts, however fierce or cruel, might not have seemed so strategically wrongheaded. Having taken advantage of the weaknesses of their opposite number, administration officials might now be standing tall; while the Russians, crimped, impoverished, embittered, might indeed have been licking their wounds, while complaining angrily but impotently.
Such is not the case. The twenty-first century is already turning out to be far more than a hyperpower, or even a two superpower, world. Before the eyes of much of humanity, between November 2001 and March 2003, the Bush administration decided to demonstrate its singular strength by playing its destabilization trump card and setting in motion the vaunted military power of the United States. To the amazement of almost all, that military, destructive as it proved to be, was stopped in its tracks by two of the less militarily impressive"powers" on this planet -- Afghanistan and Iraq.
Before all eyes, including those of George, Dick, Don, Paul, Stephen, Condi, and their comrades, we visibly grew weaker. While the Bush administration was coveting what the Russians called their"near abroad" -- all those former SSRs around its rim -- and were eagerly peeling them away with"orange,""rose," and"tulip" revolutions, its own"near abroad" (what we used to like to call our Latin"backyard") was peeling away of its own accord, without the aid of a hostile superpower. This would once have been inconceivable, as would another reality -- up-and-coming economic powers like China and India traveling to that same"backyard" looking for energy deals. And yet a destabilized planet invariably means a planet of opportunity for someone.
In fact, Iraq proved such a black hole, so destabilizing for the Bush administration itself that its officials managed to look the other way while China emerged as an organizing power and economic magnet in Asia (a process from which the U.S. was increasingly excluded) and Russian energy reserves gave Putin and pals a new lease on life. Now, administration officials find themselves stunned by the results, which are not likely to be ameliorated by floating a bunch of aircraft-carrier task forces menacingly in the western Pacific.
In one of his recent commentaries, historian Immanuel Wallerstein pointed out that the"American Century," proclaimed by Time and Life Magazine owner Henry Luce in 1943, lasted far less than the expected hundred years. Now, the question -- and except for a few"declinist" scholars like Wallerstein, it would have been an unimaginable one as recently as 2003 -- is:"Whose century is the twenty-first century?" His grim answer: It will be the century of"multi-polar anarchy and wild economic fluctuations."
If you think about it, the single greatest destabilizing gamble this administration has taken has also been the least commented upon. A couple of years back"global warming" was largely a back-page story about tribal peoples having their habitats melted in the far north or finding their islands in danger of flooding somewhere in the distant Pacific. It was all ice all the time and if you didn't live near a glacier or somewhere in the tundra, it didn't have much to do with you -- and certainly nothing whatsoever to do with those nasty hurricanes that seemed to be increasing in strength in the Atlantic as were typhoons in the Pacific.
Now, global warming is front-page stuff and you don't have to go far to find it. Alaska isn't just melting any more, we are. Lately, a plethora of major stories and prime-time TV news reports have regularly talked not about the north, but about the planet"running a slight fever from greenhouse gases," or undergoing unexpectedly"abrupt" climate change, or of the U.S. itself having its warmest years in its history -- something reflected even in local headlines (For N. Texas, it's warmest year on record). And yet in our media the Bush administration still largely gets a free pass on the subject. No major cover stories are yet taking on the ultimate destabilization gamble of this administration, the fact that they are playing not just with the fate of this or that superpower or set of minor powers, but with that of the human race itself.
The willingness of the President and his officials to bet the store on the possibility that global warming doesn't exist, or won't hit as ferociously as expected, or soon enough to affect them, or will be solved by some future quick-fix still isn't thought of as real front-page news. In other words, their maddest gamble of all, next to which the destabilization of Iran or Russia dwindles to nothing, receives little attention. And yet, based on their track record, we know just what they are going to do -- throw those dice again.
For George W. Bush and his top officials, taking the long-term heat on this probably isn't really an issue. They have the mentality not just of gamblers but of looters and in a couple of years, if worse comes to worse, they can head for Crawford or Wyoming or estates and ranches elsewhere to hunt fowl and drink mai tais. It's the rest of us, and especially our children and grandchildren, who will still be here on this destabilized, energy-hungry planet without an air conditioner in sight.
Posted on: Wednesday, July 5, 2006 - 21:12
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (7-5-06)
"Enough now with this turning the other cheek! It's our duty to protect ourselves." Thus spoke Monsignor Velasio De Paolis, secretary of the Vatican's supreme court, referring to Muslims. Explaining his apparent rejection of Jesus' admonition to his followers to"turn the other cheek," De Paolis noted that"The West has had relations with the Arab countries for half a century … and has not been able to get the slightest concession on human rights."
De Paolis is hardly alone in his thinking; indeed, the Catholic Church is undergoing a dramatic shift from a decades-old policy to protect Catholics living under Muslim rule. The old methods of quiet diplomacy and muted appeasement have clearly failed. The estimated 40 million Christians in Dar al-Islam, notes the Barnabas Fund's Patrick Sookhdeo, increasingly find themselves an embattled minority facing economic decline, dwindling rights, and physical jeopardy. Most of them, he goes on, are despised and distrusted second-class citizens, facing discrimination in education, jobs, and the courts.
These harsh circumstances are causing Christians to flee their ancestral lands for the West's more hospitable environment. Consequently, Christian populations of the Muslim world are in a free-fall. Two small but evocative instances of this pattern: for the first time in nearly two millennia, Nazareth and Bethlehem no longer have Christian majorities.
This reality of oppression and decline stands in dramatic contrast to the surging Muslim minority of the West. Although numbering fewer than 20 million and made up mostly of immigrants and their offspring, it is an increasingly established and vocal minority, granted extensive rights and protections even as it wins new legal, cultural, and political prerogatives.
This widening disparity has caught the attention of the Church, which for the first time is pointing to radical Islam, rather than the actions of Israel, as the central problem facing Christians living with Muslims.
Rumblings of this could be heard already in John Paul II's time. For example, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican equivalent of foreign minister, noted in late 2003 that"There are too many majority Muslim countries where non-Muslims are second-class citizens." Tauran pushed for reciprocity:"Just as Muslims can build their houses of prayer anywhere in the world, the faithful of other religions should be able to do so as well."
Catholic demands for reciprocity have grown, especially since the accession of Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, for whom Islam is a central concern. In February, the pope emphasized the need to respect"the convictions and religious practices of others so that, in a reciprocal manner, the exercise of freely-chosen religion is truly assured to all." In May, he again stressed the need for reciprocity: Christians must love immigrants and Muslims must treat well the Christians among them.
Lower-ranking clerics, as usual, are more outspoken."Islam's radicalization is the principal cause of the Christian exodus," asserts Monsignor Philippe Brizard, director general of Oeuvre d'Orient, a French organization focused on Middle Eastern Christians. Bishop Rino Fisichella, rector of the Lateran University in Rome, advises the Church to drop its"diplomatic silence" and instead"put pressure on international organizations to make the societies and states in majority Muslim countries face up to their responsibilities."
The Danish cartoons crisis offered a typical example of Catholic disillusionment. Church leaders initially criticized the publication of the Muhammad cartoons. But when Muslims responded by murdering Catholic priests in Turkey and Nigeria, not to speak of scores of Christians killed during five days of riots in Nigeria, the Church responded with warnings to Muslims."If we tell our people they have no right to offend, we have to tell the others they have no right to destroy us," said Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's Secretary of State."We must always stress our demand for reciprocity in political contacts with authorities in Islamic countries and, even more, in cultural contacts," added Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, its foreign minister.
Obtaining the same rights for Christians in Islamdom that Muslims enjoy in Christendom has become the key to the Vatican's diplomacy toward Muslims. This balanced, serious approach marks a profound improvement in understanding that could have implications well beyond the Church, given how many lay politicians heed its leadership in inter-faith matters. Should Western states also promote the principle of reciprocity, the results should indeed be interesting.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes.
Posted on: Wednesday, July 5, 2006 - 16:13