Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: NY Sun (10-10-06)
A minor issue at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) has potentially major implications for the future of Islam in the United States.
Starting about a decade ago, some Muslim taxi drivers serving the airport declared, that they would not transport passengers visibly carrying alcohol, in transparent duty-free shopping bags, for example. This stance stemmed from their understanding of the Koran's ban on alcohol. A driver named Fuad Omar explained: "This is our religion. We could be punished in the afterlife if we agree to [transport alcohol]. This is a Koran issue. This came from heaven." Another driver, Muhamed Mursal, echoed his words: "It is forbidden in Islam to carry alcohol."
The issue emerged publicly in 2000. On one occasion, 16 drivers in a row refused a passenger with bottles of alcohol. This left the passenger - who had done nothing legally wrong - feeling like a criminal. For their part, the 16 cabbies lost income. As Josh L. Dickey of the Associated Press put it, when drivers at MSP refuse a fare for any reason, "they go to the back of the line. Waaaay back. Past the terminal, down a long service road, and into a sprawling parking lot jammed with cabs in Bloomington, where drivers sit idle for hours, waiting to be called again."
To avoid this predicament, Muslim taxi drivers asked the Metropolitan Airports Commission for permission to refuse passengers carrying liquor - or even suspected of carrying liquor - without being banished to the end of the line. MAC rejected this appeal, worried that drivers might offer religion as an excuse to refuse short-distance passengers.
The number of Muslim drivers has by now increased, to the point that they reportedly make up three-quarters of MSP's 900 cabdrivers. By September 2006, Muslims turned down an estimated three fares a day based on their religious objection to alcohol, an airport spokesman, Patrick Hogan, told the Associated Press, adding that this issue has "slowly grown over the years to the point that it's become a significant customer service issue."
"Travelers often feel surprised and insulted," Mr. Hogan told USA Today.
With this in mind, MAC proposed a pragmatic solution: drivers unwilling to carry alcohol could get a special color light on their car roofs, signaling their views on alcohol to taxi starters and customers alike. From the airport's point of view, this scheme offers a sensible and efficient mechanism to resolve a minor irritant, leaving no passenger insulted and no driver losing business. "Airport authorities are not in the business of interpreting sacred texts or dictating anyone's religious choices," Hogan points out. "Our goal is simply to ensure travelers at [the airport] are well served." Awaiting approval only from the airport's taxi advisory committee, the two-light proposal will likely be in operation by the end of 2006.
But on a societal level, the proposed solution has massive and worrisome implications. Namely, the two-light plan intrudes the Shari‘a, or Islamic law, with state sanction, into a mundane commercial transaction in Minnesota. A government authority thus sanctions a signal as to who does or does not follow Islamic law.
What of taxi drivers beyond those at MSP? Other Muslims in Minneapolis-St. Paul and across the country could well demand the same privilege. Bus conductors might follow suit. The whole transport system could be divided between those Islamically observant and those not so.
Why stop with alcohol? Muslim taxi drivers in several countries already balk at allowing seeing-eye dogs in their cars. Future demands could include not transporting women with exposed arms or hair, homosexuals, and unmarried couples. For that matter, they could ban men wearing kippas, as well as Hindus, atheists, bartenders, croupiers, astrologers, bankers, and quarterbacks.
MAC has consulted on the taxi issue with the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society, an organization the Chicago Tribune has established is devoted to turning the United States into a country run be Islamic law. The wife of a former head of the organization, for example, has explained that its goal is "to educate everyone about Islam and to follow the teachings of Islam with the hope of establishing an Islamic state."
It is precisely the innocuous nature of the two-light taxi solution that makes it so insidious - and why the Metropolitan Airports Commission should reconsider its wrong-headed decision. Readers who wish to make their views known to the MAC can write it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - 13:02
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (10-10-06)
For Homer, those epithets attached to his heroes and gods were undoubtedly mnemonic devices -- the fleet-footed Achilles, Poseidon, the Earth-shaker, the wily Odysseus, the ox-eyed Hera. But isn't it strange how many similar, if somewhat less heroic, catch words and phrases have adhered to key officials of the Bush administration these last years. Here's my own partial list:
President George ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job") Bush, Vice President Dick ("last throes") Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald ("stuff happens") Rumsfeld, then-National Security Advisor, now-Secretary of State Condoleezza ("mushroom cloud") Rice, CIA Director George ("slam dunk") Tenet, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul ("[Iraq] floats on a sea of oil") Wolfowitz, Centcom Commander Gen. Tommy ("We don't do body counts") Franks, then-White House Counsel, now-Attorney General Alberto ("quaint") Gonzales, withdrawn Supreme Court nominee and White House Counsel Harriet ("You are the best governor ever") Miers, and most recently Dennis ("The buck stops here") Hastert.
You know a person by the company he or she keeps -- so the saying goes. You could also say that you know an administration by the linguistic company it keeps; and though George Bush is usually presented as an inarticulate stumbler of a speech and news-conference giver, it's nothing short of remarkable how many new words and phrases (or redefined old ones) this President and his administration have managed to lodge in our lives and our heads.
Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been not so much the planet's lone"hyperpower" as its gunslinger in that great Western ("dead or alive") tradition that George and Dick learned about in the movies of their childhood. But fast as they've reached for their guns (and may do so again in relation to Iran after the mid-term elections), over the last years they've reached for one thing faster: their dictionaries.
And of all the words that came to their minds post-9/11, the first and fastest was an old one --"war." Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, it was already on the scene and being redefined by administration officials and supporters. We would not, for instance, actually declare war. After all, who was war to be declared on? We were simply"at war" and that was that. Since then, according to George Bush and his associates, we have either been fighting"the Global War on Terror" (aka GWOT),"the long war,""the millennium war,""World War III," or"World War IV." We not only entered an immediate state of war, but one meant to last generations, and with it we got a commander-in-chief presidency secretly redefined in such a way as to place it outside any legal boundaries.
We were, then, at war. But the first war we were"at" was a war of the words and at its heart from the beginning was the status of the people we were capturing on or near various battlefields, or even kidnapping off the streets of European cities, and exactly what we could do to them. If John F. Kennedy is remembered for saying, "Ich bin ein Berliner," perhaps when history shrinks George W. Bush to a soundbite, it will be,"We abide by the law of the United States; we do not torture." To say those words -- repeatedly -- he has had to mount not a soapbox, nor even the TV or radio version of a bully pulpit, but a pile of torn, trampled dictionaries.
If you don't believe me, go back and read, for instance, the infamous"torture memo" of 2002 in which the top legal minds of the Justice Department and the White House Counsel's office labored over how to define"severe" and"pain" in such a way that almost no inflicted pain in a prisoner's interrogation would ever prove too"severe." Whole sections of that document sound like they were cobbled together by a learned panel for a new edition of some devil's dictionary. ("The word 'profound' has a number of meanings, all of which convey a significant depth. Webster's New International Dictionary 1977 [2nd ed. 1935] defines profound as...").
In the end, these experts defined"torture" to suit administration needs in the following pretzled fashion:"Must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." And though, under pressure, the"torture memo" was finally disavowed, the President has been able to claim that"we do not torture" only by adhering to its ludicrous definitions. (Even then, this administration's interrogators have tortured prisoners.) This was in fact a typical Bush era document of shame, symbolic of the bureaucratic lawlessness let loose at the heart of our government by officials intent on creating a pseudo-legal basis for replacing the rule of law with the rule of a Commander-in-Chief.
Never has an administration rolled up its sleeves and redefined our terms more systematically or unnervingly with less attention to reality.
When a dynasty fell in ancient China, it was believed that part of the explanation for its demise lay in the increasing gap between words and reality. The emperor of whatever new dynasty had taken power would then perform a ceremony called"the rectification of names" to bring language and what it was meant to describe back into sync. We Americans need to lose the emperor part of the equation, but adopt such a ceremony. Never have our realities and our words for them been quite so out of whack.
Between August 2005, when, armed with two cheap tape recorders and a scribbled list of questions, I first met historian and activist Howard Zinn in a coffee shop and last summer, I had a chance to hang out with eleven iconoclastic thinkers and activists, all of whom were concerned with how to describe the realities of our imperial world as well as with the fate of our country. Recently, these interviews were gathered into a book, Mission Unaccomplished, Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters. What follows are apt quotes from each of the interviewees -- and my own brief discussions of Bush-redefined words. Think of it as a kind of call-and-response essay as well as my own modest bow to eleven engaged souls whom I admire.
Howard Zinn:"I came to the conclusion that, given the technology of modern warfare, war is inevitably a war against children, against civilians. When you look at the ratio of civilian to military dead, it changes from 50-50 in World War II to 80-20 in Vietnam, maybe as high as 90-10 today? When you face that fact, war is now always a war against civilians, and so against children. No political goal can justify it, and so the great challenge before the human race in our time is to solve the problems of tyranny and aggression, and do it without war."
Collateral Damage: It's been all collateral damage all the time from official Pentagon lips since George W. Bush launched our Afghan war just weeks after September 11, 2001 and followed it quickly with an invasion of Iraq. Wedding parties wiped out; children killed by accident; civilians murdered at places like Haditha and Ishaqi; scores of Iraqi civilians dead in the first air strikes on Baghdad (and not a single Iraqi leader killed); thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians swept up in U.S. raids and tossed into Abu Ghraib prison for endless months without charges;"terrorist safe houses" hit from the air in crowded urban neighborhoods where nearby residents simply died.
Since March 2003, over 2,700 American soldiers, over 200 troops from allied forces, and several hundred private contractors or mercenaries have died in Iraq. (Another 340 Americans have died in Afghanistan.) We have no idea how many Iraqi soldiers, insurgents, and militia members have died in that same period along with many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, all" collateral damage." But we do know one thing. In modern wars, especially those conducted in part from the air (as both the Iraq and Afghan ones have been), there's nothing" collateral" about civilian deaths. If anything, the" collateral deaths" are those of the combatants on any side. Civilian deaths are now the central fact, the very essence of modern imperial warfare. Not seeing that means not seeing war.
James Carroll: "The good things of the Roman Empire are what we remember about it -- the roads, the language, the laws, the buildings, the classics? But we pay very little attention to what the Roman Empire was to the people at its bottom -- the slaves who built those roads? the oppressed and occupied peoples who were brought into the empire if they submitted, but radically and completely smashed if they resisted at all? We Americans are full of our sense of ourselves as having benign imperial impulses. That's why the idea of the American Empire was celebrated as a benign phenomenon. We were going to bring order to the world. Well, yes? as long as you didn't resist us. And that's where we really have something terrible in common with the Roman Empire? We must reckon with imperial power as it is felt by people at the bottom. Rome's power. America's."
The New Rome: In neocon Washington, there was an early burst of pride in empire. The U.S. wasn't just, as in the 1990s, the planet's"global sheriff," it was now the mightiest power in history, an imperial goliath that put the old British Empire and possibly even the Roman one in the shade. Right-wing pundit Charles Krauthammer wrote in Time Magazine even before the attacks of 9/11:"America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will." Between the first of those"implacable demonstrations of will" in the fall of 2001 and Bush's"Mission Accomplished" moment in May 2003, many other pundits weighed in, embracing the idea of empire in a way that had once been taboo in this country. Fareed Zacaria of Newsweek was typical in speaking of"'a comprehensive uni-polarity' that nobody has seen since Rome dominated the world." Max Boot in USA Today wrote a piece headlined,"American Imperialism? No Need to Run Away from Label." ("[O]n the whole, U.S. imperialism has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century.") For the liberal and squeamish, there was Michael Ignatieff in the New York Times Magazine urging us not to"embrace" imperialism, but merely to do our duty and pick up"the burden" of Empire Lite.
Five years later with the sack of Rome looking more applicable to our world than a Pax Romana, perhaps another old word should be making its reappearance:"Tyranny" ("A government in which a single ruler is invested with absolute power.") Outside the United States, the Bush administration has already set itself up as a tyranny with its private network of prisons, its secret airlines for kidnapping anyone it chooses, and its power to wage war on the say-so of no one but itself anywhere it cares to. Domestically, the picture is still mixed, but the danger signals are obvious.
Juan Cole:"[Iraq] is one of the great foreign policy debacles of American history. There's an enormous amount at stake in the oil Gulf and Bush is throwing grenades around in the cockpit of the world economy. So I think he has dug his own grave with regard to Iraq policy."
Regime Change, Shock and Awe, Decapitation, Cakewalk: Ah, Iraq. What a field of linguistic fantasy play for Bush administration officials."Regime change" was the global order of the day, if that"axis of evil" (and perhaps 60 other nations rumored to harbor terrorists) didn't attend to us."Shock and awe" was what we would bring to Iraq, thereby humbling the whole"axis of evil" in a single awesome rain of destruction from the skies. As the planet's most dazzling military power, we would then go on a " cakewalk" (a high-strutting dance) to Baghdad and beyond, reorganizing the whole Middle East to our taste."Decapitation" would be what would happen to Saddam's regime.
Behind such words lay inside-the-Beltway dreams of absolute global domination, of imposing a planetary Pax Americana by force of arms. It was the sort of scheme that once would have been the property of some"evil empire" we stood against. Behind it all, for an administration deeply linked to the energy business, lay control over the oil heartlands of the planet, known to this administration as"the arc of instability." Oil, or what George Bush referred to before launching his invasion as"Iraq's patrimony," was of such interest that the only places our troops guarded in those first"post-war" days of looting were oil fields and the Oil Ministry building in Baghdad. Of course, what Bush and his friends succeeded in visiting on the region was ever-spreading chaos. Since 2001, in its own version of the rectification of names, the Bush administration has actually been creating a genuine"arc of instability" stretching from Central Asia to Lebanon. The grenades are indeed now in the cockpit.
Cindy Sheehan:"Katrina was a natural disaster that nobody could help, but the man-made disaster afterwards was just horrible. I mean, number one, all our resources are in Iraq. Number two, what little resources we did have were deployed far too late. George Bush was golfing and eating birthday cake with John McCain while people were hanging off their houses praying to be rescued. He's so disconnected from this country -- and from reality. I heard a line yesterday that I thought was perfect. This man said he thinks Katrina will be Bush's Monica."
Homeland: It may be an ugly word, with overtones of Nazi Germany (and perhaps the World War II-era Soviet Union as well), but now it's ours, a truly un-American replacement for"nation" or" country." Like a number of Bush-era terms, it was lurking in the shadows before 9/11. Now, we have a homeland as well as"homeland security," and even a Department of Homeland Security, a giant and, as Katrina demonstrated, remarkably ineffective new bureaucracy. By its very name, the"Defense" Department should, of course, be our Department of Homeland Security. But its focus is now on dominating the rest of the planet (and space), so instead we have two Defense Departments, both quagmires of civilian bureaucratic ineptitude, both lucrative as anything, neither going anywhere soon. If this isn't an attempt not just to redefine American reality, but to bankrupt it, I can't imagine what is. George Bush has been our Katrina.
Chalmers Johnson:"Part of empire is the way it's penetrated our society, the way we've become dependent on it? The military budget is starting to bankrupt the country. It's got so much in it that's well beyond any rational military purpose. It equals just less than half of total global military spending. And yet here we are, stymied by two of the smallest, poorest countries on Earth. Iraq before we invaded had a GDP the size of the state of Louisiana, and Afghanistan was certainly one of the poorest places on the planet. And yet these two places have stopped us."
Footprint, Enduring Camp, Lily Pad: Call this a sampler of the euphemistic language that goes with garrisoning the planet. In the Bush years, the Pentagon has not only grown ever more gargantuan, but has come to occupy the heartlands of foreign (and increasingly domestic) policy. It has essentially displaced the State Department from diplomacy and is now in the process of displacing the CIA from covert intelligence operations. In these years, Pentagon strategists, discussing our 700+ military bases around the world, began speaking of our military"footprint" on the planet -- in the singular. As an imperial colossus, it seems, only one military boot at a time could even fit on the planet.
By the time American troops entered Baghdad in April 2003, the Pentagon already had plans on the drawing boards for four massive permanent military bases in Iraq, but the phrase "permanent base" was not to be used. For a while, these were referred to, charmingly enough, as"enduring camps" (like so many summer establishments for children who had overstayed their leave). In the same way, the strategic-basing posture of this era, meant to bring deployable U.S. troops ever closer to locking down that"arc of instability," involved"lily pad" bases -- the thought being that, if the occasion arose, American"frogs," armed to the teeth with prepositioned munitions, would be able to hop agilely from one prepositioned"pad" to another, knocking off the"flies" as they went. This is part of the strange, defanged language with which American leaders meant to create a Pax Americana planet.
Ann Wright:"Thirty-five years in the government between my military service and the State Department, under seven administrations. It was hard. I liked representing America. I kept hoping the administration would go back to the Security Council for its authorization to go to war? I was hoping against hope that our government would not go into what really is an illegal war of aggression that meets no criteria of international law. When it was finally evident we were going to do so, I said to myself: It ain't going to be on my watch."
Service: And what about missing words?"Service to country," such an honorable concept, was swept with"sacrifice" into Bush's dustbin of history. In response to 9/11, the President famously told Americans to sacrifice for his coming wars by leading normal lives, going shopping as usual, and visiting Disney World. The only ones capable of truly"serving" their country, as this President seems to see it, are CIA kidnappers, illegal eavesdroppers of the National Security Agency, and the interrogators who perform the tough acts of torture that have been redefined by administration lawyers as something else entirely. And yet, in these years, the ideal of service has not died. Retired colonel and State Department official Ann Wright -- at present, an antiwar activist -- was one of three diplomats who resigned to protest the onrushing invasion of Iraq in 2003. They have since been joined by a veritable fallen legion of government employees, who were honorable or steadfast enough in their duties or actually believed too fully in our Constitution, and so found themselves forced to resign in protest, quit, or simply be pushed off the cliff by cronies of this administration.
Someone needs to redefine the" checks and balances" of the American system. The only operative check-and-balance for most of the last five years has been one the Founding Fathers never dreamed of (because they couldn't imagine a government structure like ours) and that's been the angry, leaking, protesting members of the federal government, the intelligence community, the military, and the bureaucracy. (On the other side of that equation, no one has yet come fully to grips with, or reported decently on, the depth of the Bush purge of the government, the replacement of officials down to the lowest levels with administration pals, cronies, and ideologues.)
Mark Danner:"When you look at the record, the phrase I come back to, not only about interrogation but the many other steps that constitute the Bush state of exception, state of emergency, since 9/11 is ?take the gloves off.'"
Extraordinary Rendition, Secret Prisons, Torture: Donald Rumsfeld's"office" was calling for interrogators to take off those"gloves" in the case of the"American Taliban," John Walker Lindh, soon after he was captured in late 2001. It became a commonplace phrase inside the government (and even among the military in Iraq). Given the image, you wonder what exactly was under those gloves. Off in Langley, Virginia, according to Ron Suskind in his new book, The One Percent Doctrine, CIA director George Tenet was using a far blunter image. He was talking about"taking off the shackles" (that supposedly had been put on the Agency in the Vietnam/Watergate era).
Rendition -- as in"render unto Caesar" -- gained that"extraordinary" quickly indeed as the CIA began kidnapping terror"suspects" around the world and no longer rendering them to the American court system (as in the Clinton years) but to various Third World allies willing to torture them or to American"secret prisons" -- a phrase that, in the previous century, would have been reserved for the Gestapo or Stalin's NKVD.
In the meantime, administration lawyers began redefining"torture," a word not normally considered terribly difficult to grasp, more or less out of existence. By the time they were done, mock drownings, an interrogation"technique" called (as if it were surfing)"waterboarding," ceased for a while to be what even Medieval Europe knew it to be: "the water torture." In no other single area, did Bush administration officials (and their legal camp followers) reach more quickly for their dictionaries to pretzel and torture the language. This represented a very specific kind of reach for power. After all, if you could kidnap or capture a man anywhere on Earth, transport him to a secret prison (or at least, as with Guantanamo, one beyond the purview of any court), and then torture him, and if it could all be redefined as within the bounds of legality and propriety, then you had captured a previously unknown kind of power for the Presidency that was as un-American as the word"homeland." Think of it this way: Those who can torture openly, can do anything.
Mike Davis:"It's clear that the future of guerrilla warfare, insurrection against the world system, has moved into the city. Nobody has realized this with as much clarity as the Pentagon? Its strategists are way ahead of geopoliticians and traditional foreign-relations types in understanding the significance of a world of slums? There's really quite an extraordinary military literature trying to address what the Pentagon sees as the most novel terrain of this century, which it now models in the slums of Karachi, Port au Prince, and Baghdad."
Preventive War: From the militarized heavens to the slum cities of the Third World, the Pentagon is doing all the R&D. It already has its advanced weaponry for 2020, 2030, 2040 on the drawing boards. It's planning for and dreaming about the future in a way inconceivable for any other part of the government. It not only has a space command, but, for the first time, a separate command for our own continent (U.S. Northcom) that is preparing for future hurricanes, future pandemics, future domestic disasters of every sort, now that our civil government, growing ever larger, handles things ever less well.
The Bush administration has elevated not just the Pentagon, but the principle of, and a belief in the efficacy of, force to the level of an idol to be worshiped. In 2002, the President suggested a new term -- preventive war -- which was then embedded in the National Security Strategy of the United States, a key planning document. At the time, Condoleezza Rice put the thinking behind the term this way:"As a matter of common sense, the United States must be prepared to take action, when necessary, before threats have fully materialized." This was, in fact, a recipe for waging war any time an administration cared to. No longer would the United States wait until the eve of an attack to strike"preemptively." Now, if it even occured to the President or Vice President that there was a"one percent" chance some country might someday somehow endanger us, we were free to launch our forces; and"preventive" sounded so much better than the previous term,"war of aggression." For this administration, and so for Americans, a war of aggression had preemptively been moved into the same category with preventive medicine.
Katrina vanden Heuvel:"Sometimes, though, frustration lies in the feeling that you just can't convey the enormity of, say, the Bush administration's unitary executive theory. How do you convey that no previous administration I know of has so openly, so brazenly, on so many fronts tried to subvert the Constitution, that what we're living through is a crisis that may bode the death knell of our democracy. Why aren't people jumping up and down?"
Unitary Executive Theory: This isn't a theory, but a long-planned grab for tyrannical control under the President's" commander-in-chief" powers in a carefully redefined"wartime" situation that will not stop being so in our lifetimes. This"theory" was meant to give a gloss of Constitutional legality to any conceivable presidential act. What the"unitary" meant was"no room for you" when it came to Congress and the courts. The"executive" was, as former Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff Larry Wilkinson put it, rule by a " cabal," a cult of true believers inside the presidential bubble, impermeable to outside opinion or pressure. They were eager -- when it came to torture, unlimited forms of surveillance, and the ability to define reality -- to invest individuals secretly with something like the powers of gods.
Andrew Bacevich:"[W]e are in deep, deep trouble. An important manifestation of that trouble is this shortsighted infatuation with military power? There's such an unwillingness to confront the dilemmas we face as a people that I find deeply troubling. I know we're a democracy. We have elections. But it's become a procedural democracy. Our politics are not really meaningful. In a meaningful politics, you and I could argue about important differences, and out of that argument might come not resolution or reconciliation, but at least an awareness of the consequences of going your way as opposed to mine. We don't even have that argument. That's what's so dismaying."
Democracy: Since September 11, 2001, George W. Bush and his top officials have aggressively advanced into the world under the banner of spreading not stability, but democracy (at cruise-missile point). But they defined the freedom to vote (as the recent Palestinian elections showed) only as the freedom to vote as they wished the vote to go -- and it generally didn't. Meanwhile, at home, the Republican Party was practicing an advanced form of gerrymandering, election financing, smear advertising, and voter-suppression tactics that made a mockery of the electoral process. Everyone was to vote gloriously, but matters were to be prepared -- geographically, financially, and in terms of public opinion -- so that the vote would be nothing but a confirmation of what already was. What, after all, do you call it when, in what is considered the most wide-open election for the House of Representatives in more than a decade, only perhaps 40-50 of 435 seats are actually competitive (and that's considered extraordinary). Since 1998, 98% of House incumbents have won reelection, while in the last"open" election in 1994, when a Republican"revolution" took the House in what the New York Times calls"a seismic realignment," 91% of incumbents were nonetheless reelected.
Barbara Ehrenreich:"Today, we have this even larger federal government, more and more of it being war-related, surveillance-related. I mean it's gone beyond our wildest Clinton administration dreams. I think progressives can't just be seen as pro-big-government when big government has gotten so nasty. Katrina's a perfect example of how militarized the government has gotten even when it's supposedly trying to help people. The initial response of the government was a military one. When they finally got people down there, it was armed guards to protect the fancy stores and keep people in that convention center -- at gunpoint."
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job!": And it has been a heck-of-a-job! In both the United States and Iraq, government has become ever less effective and meaningful; the plunderers have been let loose to"reconstruct" each country; the deepest fears have been released and deep divisions exacerbated.
We all know what a failed state is -- one of those marginal lands where anarchy is the rule and government not the norm. To offer but two examples: Afghanistan is a failed state, a narco-warlord-insurrectionary land where the government barely controls the capital, Kabul; Iraq is now a failed state, a civil-war-torn, insurrectionary land where the government does not even control the capital, Baghdad. But here's a term that isn't in our language:"Failed empire." It might be worth using in any ceremonies meant to bring words and reality closer together.
Posted on: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - 12:04
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (10-8-06)
This is a very bad idea for so many reasons it would take me forever to list them all. But here are a few:
1. no such loose federal arrangement would survive very long (remember the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States?), so the plan leads to the dismemberment and partition of Iraq. This outcome is unacceptable to Turkey and Saudi Arabia and therefore will likely lead to regional wars.
2. The Sunni Arabs, the Da`wa Party and the Sadr Movement are all against such a partition, and together they account for at least 123 members of the 275-member parliament. Some of the Shiite independents in the United Iraqi Alliance are also against it. I would say that a slight majority in parliament would fight this plan tooth and nail. The US cannot impose it by fiat.
3. The Sunni Arabs control Iraq's downstream water but have no petroleum resources. If the loose federal plan ends in partition, the situation is set up for a series of wars of the Sunni Arabs versus the Shiites, as well as of the Sunni Arabs and some Turkmen versus the Kurds. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia will certainly be pulled into these wars.
It is not good for the region to have a series of wars over Iraq. It is not good for the security of the United States, since those wars will probably involve pipeline sabotage by guerrillas and will likely disrupt Middle Eastern oil flows. (Did Americans like $3.20 a gallon gasoline and $300 a month heating bills? Would they like to try $15 a gallon gasoline? What do you think would happen to the world economy?)
Finally, I just don't believe that the Arab and Muslim worlds would ever forgive the US for breaking up Iraq, and there are likely to be reprisals if it happens.
Solomon Moore and Louise Roug of the LA Times argue that Iraq is beset by four struggles: 1) Arab-Kurdish at Kirkuk in the north; 2) Sunni Arab guerrillas vs. US and Iraq security forces in al-Anbar Province; 3) Shiite-Sunni in Baghdad and environs; and 4) Shiite-Shiite struggles in the South.
The picture they paint accords well with sociologist Charles Tilly's description of a revolutionary situation as the simultaneous outbreak of several distinct struggles. The French Revolution was the same way, with urban riots in Paris and peasant unrest in the countryside, with ideological struggles between royal absolutists and partisans of the Rights of Man, etc., etc.
But I would offer this critique of the Solomon-Roug piece. It suggests that the struggles are more disparate than they really are.
Look at it this way. The US deposed the formerly ruling Sunni Arabs in favor of the Shiites and the Kurds. So there is a former ruling group fighting back against a tripartite alliance (US/Kurds/Shiites) and attempting to roll back their new dominance and their maximalist objectives. Over time a small number of Sunni Arabs have also attached themselves to the Americans and the new regime, and the guerrillas hit them, as well.
Thus, the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement wants 1) to force the US out of al-Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah Provinces and to displace Sunni Arab American allies there; 2) to roll back Kurdish dominance in Kirkuk and Kurdish claims on parts of Ninevah; and 3) to take back Baghdad and its hinterlands from the newly dominant Shiite/American alliance.
This way of looking at things unifies three of the major ongoing conflicts around the revanchist Sunni Arab guerrilla movement.
It also challenges the LAT trope of the US troops caught in the middle of several essentially Iraqi ethnic struggles. The US isn't an extraneous element. It put the Kurds and Shiites in charge and has been complaisant toward Kurdish expansion in Kirkuk. It isn't caught in the middle. It is the linchpin of the tripartite alliance.
Posted on: Sunday, October 8, 2006 - 12:58
Chairman Simmons and Members of the Committee,
It is a privilege and an honor to appear before you today to discuss the theme “The Homeland Security implications of radicalization.” My contribution is titled: “Intercepting radicalization at the indoctrination stage.”
Identification of the Threat
Your concerns about “radicalization” as a threat to U.S. Homeland Security are warranted. For after twenty five years of studying the ideology and the evolution of the doctrines that produced the self-declared Jihadist movement (al haraka al Jihadiya) which has declared, waged and continues to conduct war against the United States and other democracies, I conclude along with a number of colleagues in this field of expertise that the Terrorism America and its allies are facing in the War on Terror, is a direct product of this radical ideology. The 19 men, who massacred 3,000 US and other citizens on September 11, belong to al Qaeda and the latter is a self declared Salafist-Jihadist organization. Every single case of Terrorism uncovered on U.S. territory, since 9/11, was motivated by this ideology. To name a few: The Virginia Paintball gang, the dirty bomb case, the shoe bomber case, al Qaeda's John Walker, Azzam al Amriki AKA Adam Gadahn, the Oregon case, the Virginia multiple cases, the Jihadi charities, etc. This ideology was omnipresent in the cases than ended with court sentences and those which didn't; in the Sheikh Abdel Rahman case of 1993; in the statements made by the Zarqawi networks while assassinating innocent civilians; in all speeches by Usama Bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri from 1998 till now; and on all Jihadi web sites in all languages: one global common thread is always omnipresent: The Jihadi ideology. And in parallel to al Qaeda’s radical doctrine another ideology of Jihadism follows the teachings of Ayatalollah Khomeini and is embodied by the public speeches of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad and Hezbollah. Hence, the ideologies that produces “Radicalization," are the Jihadist ones. They are of two main "trees," the Jihadi Salafist and the Jihadi Khomeinist. These doctrines, taught and disseminated worldwide and in America, are the producers of the "Jihadists" (al Jihadiyun) who have declared war and waged it against the United States both overseas and in the homeland. Jihadism is the ideological common identity of terror groups al Qaeda, Salafi Combat Group of the Maghreb, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Jemaa Islamiya of south Asia, the Taliban of Afghanistan, Laskar Taiba of Pakistan, the Mahakem Islamiya of Somalia, and other Salafi-Wahabi groups internationally, in addition to Hezbollah. Jihadism was the inspiration for the 1990s attacks, 9/11, Madrid, London, Beslan, Mumbai, Riyadh, Casablanca, the Sunni Triangle in Iraq and other violence associated with Terrorism. Hence at this stage of the War on Terror, the ideology behind the threat has been identified and thus should be addressed.
Development of the Threat
Prior to 9/11, the spread of Jihadism was operated by Salafi, Wahabi, Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan), Tablighi, Deobandi and Takfiri schools of thought around the world, mostly by the means of religious schools known as Madrassa. Moving into the United States gradually as of the 1970s, and increasingly in the 1990s, Jihadi cadres took the control of existing religious schools funded by foreign support but also formed their own indoctrination networks, often in and around Mosques and other social and cultural centers. In about twenty years of militant activities, the Jihadist ideology produced three generations of radicals, a pool which Terrorists have and continue to recruit from. The perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks are foreign Jihadists. But most of the other arrested Terrorists (or alleged Terrorists) claiming the same ideology and who identify with al Qaeda or its allies, are "American Jihadists," citizens or permanent residents, U.S.-born or naturalized. Hence the most dangerous dimension of the ideology of Jihadism is the fact that it has already recruited and inspired Americans to wage war against their own nation. Therefore Jihadism is a direct threat against Homeland Security
Components of the threat
This threat against national security and against the foundations of civil society and democracy is embodied by a set of ideas and concepts that reject the legitimacy of citizens’ free choice, their natural liberties, pluralism, and the rule of secular law. The Jihadi ideology is not another social or political way of thinking within Democracy, nor is it a political alternative to one particular party or a specific policy in domestic or foreign affairs. Jihadism rejects the American constitution, the bill of rights, the international declaration on human rights, the United Nations and international law. Jihadism aim at destroying democracies and installing a totalitarian regime named Caliphate. And to do so, Jihadism creates the conviction in the minds of its adherents that war against the Government, people and constitution of the United States is the path towards achieving the universal goal. The beginning of the threat starts with the "click" that transforms a citizen into a Jihadist. From there one, the constant objective of the Jihadi recruit is to strike against the national security of the United States. The Terrorist can be a member of al Qaeda if he/she are successful in establishing the contact, as for example with the case of Adam Gadahn and Jose Padilla, or they could operate under an al Qaeda like Jihadism, without having established a link with the mother ship.
The strategic penetration operated by the Jihadists before and since 9/11 is based on three models: One are the Jihadists who originates overseas and move to the United States, either legally (visa, lawful immigration, marriage, political asylum) or illegally. In either of these cases the Jihadis ends up operating on the inside of the country, using its laws and facilities. The estimate of Jihadists who have infiltrated the country over the past two decades is certainly in the hundreds, possibly close to a thousand. This "first generation" Jihadists has organized itself to perform two activities: One is to grow its own strength for "future Jihads." Two is to produce the second generation of American-born Jihadists. If you analyze the average age of U.S. born Jihadists, you would conclude that the production of the second "generation" has begun in the late 1980s and mostly since the early 1990s. The formation of this "second generation" can only happen through two methods. First is to indoctrinate then recruit within the Muslim community using a variety of methods and already penetrated institutions. Second, is for them to take the control of the religious conversion of non-Muslims and indoctrinate the converts during the process or after the process: Hence a first generation of radical Salafists-Wahabis has already processed a radicalization and the recruitment of American-born Muslims or converts. The issue is not conversion: This is a free and pluralist society. Certainly there is and would be a problem with the radicalization taking place within a particular community. But the real issue affecting Homeland Security is the systematic penetration of a religious community and the recruitment of Jihadists to perform acts of Terrorism and aggression against national security.
And once the "Pool" of indoctrinated individuals is formed, mostly of younger persons then the Terror organizations can recruit from. However, Jihadists in the West in general and in the U.S. in particular, are of two types once they are formed: Either they join an organization and moves into a cell, or they form their own cell, without connecting with a larger organization or al Qaeda. The most dangerous Jihadists, both on the individual level or as self-formed cells are those who have been able or are in the process of penetrating the defense-security system of the United States. In this realm, the Jihadists can harm the most the national security of the Homeland, and analytical indications project that one of their ultimate goals is to penetrate and weaken U.S. Homeland Security.
There are several shields that "protect" the U.S.-based Jihadists from containment. Among these shields are
a. The little ability of the public to identify them since their ideology wasn't officially been identified by the Government.
b. Without the public, Law Enforcement and Homeland Security cannot mobilize on a large scale to identify and isolate the Jihadists activities. Furthermore, by not identifying the ideology and its strategies, the U.S. Government cannot direct its agencies and resources against the threat.
c. The ideology of Jihadi-Terrorism unfortunately, enjoys the political freedoms of the country. It is "protected" by advocacy groups, legal defense and is funded both domestically and by foreign regimes and organizations.
Resistance to “radicalization”
To establish a national resistance to "radicalization" following are 6 suggestions:
1. Identification of the ideology of Jihadism by Government, media and experts.
2. Mobilization against the ideology of Jihadism by the public and educational institutions
3. Ban of the ideology by the U.S. Congress
4 Mass education of the public about it
5 Working with domestic NGOs, with the general public and specifically with the Muslim communities
6 Working with international INGOs and particularly with liberal, democratic and humanist Muslims
Looking at the future
In summary, Terrorism is threatening Homeland Security and Jihadism is a main root cause of Terrorism. The U.S. capacity of protecting Homeland security and defending national security will depend largely on developing policies and laws that would identify, ban, isolate and shrink Jihadism, with the help of the American public in general and the Muslim and Middle Eastern communities in particular. Such a shift in Homeland security must be based on a comprehensive strategy of containment of the Terror ideology within the framework of civil and democratic rights of society.
In closing, I would like to thank you and the committee members and staff for the opportunity to present this testimony today. I look forward to responding to any question that you might have.
Posted on: Saturday, October 7, 2006 - 16:42
SOURCE: Omaha World-Herald (10-7-06)
Those are the types of adjectives we’ve been hearing about the Amish, ever since last week’s horrible school shootings at the one-room West Nickel Mines School in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. And surely, they do look strange to most of us. With their hats and their bonnets, their horse-drawn buggies and their “Dutch” dialect, they sometimes seem like creatures from another country, or from another world.
But in at least one respect, the Amish embody a deeply American tradition: the one-room schoolhouse itself. For most of our history, Americans studied in buildings that strongly resembled the West Nickel Mines School. Ranging in age from 4 to 20, pupils learned from each other and from a lone teacher; she was usually young and female, just like the West Nickel instructor. In the warm months, children frolicked in the fields outside the school; in the winter, they huddled around its pot-bellied stove. They recited lessons, sang hymns, and stood up and down for spelling bees.
In other words, they behaved a whole lot like those strange Amish. As late as 1917, when the United States entered World War One, 70 percent of all of its public schools employed just one teacher. Nearly 200,000 one-teacher schools dotted the American landscape, enlisting five million children—or one quarter of the total public school population.
All of this began to change in the 1920s, when school consolidation became the educational craze du jour. Denouncing the inefficiency and provincialism of the one-room schoolhouse, officials built so-called “central” schools that drew from wider geographic areas—and offered more courses and services.
Slowly but surely, the one-room schoolhouse began to disappear. Between 1917 and 1947, single-teacher schools closed at an average of 4,000 per year. That still left about 75,000 one-room schools at the end of World War Two, serving 1.5 million students.
Almost all of these buildings would shut their doors in the 1950s and 1960s, when the postwar baby boom sparked a new round of central-school construction. By 1995, just 428 public one-room schoolhouses remained in operation in the United States.
Rural Americans denounced these changes, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s. They petitioned educational officials, lobbied legislators, and staged protests in defense of “The Little Red Schoolhouse.” Eventually, though, they came to accept—if not to applaud—the demise of one-room schools.
But not the Amish. Instead, they established their own. Contrary to what you might guess, the Amish were early and avid allies of public education. They sat on school boards, voted in school elections, and packed their kids off to one-room schoolhouses. As these local schools began to close, however, the Amish refused to patronize “consolidated” ones. The new schools were too far away, requiring the Amish children to board buses; they employed non-Amish teachers, whom nobody knew; they taught newfangled subjects, including sex education and gym. And they didn’t let you pray.
So the Amish started building their own schools, like the one in West Nickel Mines. The Amish now operate more than 1,200 schools around the country, most of which employ just one teacher; that’s about three times the total number of one-teacher public schools. Even while Americans have turned away from their one-room tradition, in short, the Amish—and the Amish alone—have kept it alive.
That’s not to say that our old one-room schools were always such great shakes, educationally speaking. Younger students nodded off to sleep next to the stove, falling backwards off their benches; older pupils harassed the teacher, who frequently knew little more than they did. Despite the romantic image of the “Little Red Schoolhouse,” meanwhile, the buildings themselves were often unpainted shacks.
But they were ours. Children could walk to school, unattended, because they knew everyone they encountered along the way; parents visited for dramatic productions and Christmas pageants, bringing sweets and other gifts for the teacher; and the teachers all came from the area, or boarded with someone who did. However dusty and dilapidated, the school was a social and symbolic center for the entire community.
Maybe that’s why so many of us were so deeply affected by the tragedy at the West Nickel Mines Amish School. Strange as they might look to contemporary Americans, the Amish also remind us of a rich educational heritage that we once shared. As we grieve for their loss, we remember our own.
Posted on: Saturday, October 7, 2006 - 13:22
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (10-4-06)
Bob Woodward called his book"State of Denial." The press around the book raises the question of whether President George W. Bush and his highest officials--Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice-- are unable to face the truth ("in denial").
Yet the sort of anecdote Woodward tells, and the new information surfacing on Tenet's briefing of Rice and Hastert's inaction on Foley-- all these do not point to denial or lack of realism. They point to lying and to deliberately spinning and misleading the US public.
I don't understand why US reporters and editors won't call a spade a spade.
This is the exchange on Larry King Live with Woodward on Monday:
' WOODWARD: Well, the evidence going way, way back is that there is a kind of denial. Let me give you an example and there are dozens in the book. November 11, 2003, now this is six months, eight months after the invasion the top CIA man, a guy named Rob Rischer (ph), who is head of the division for the Near East for the Middle East for the CIA, this is one of these operatives you never hear about or see, been to Iraq, went to the seven bases we had and he came back and briefed President Bush and the NSC. And, he said there's an insurgency out there. Don Rumsfeld, who was there said,"Well, I'm not sure I agree with you." The CIA man gets out The Pentagon's manual which says, look, an insurgency is defined this way, popular support, ability to strike at will, ability to move at will, and says it meets all of these criteria. President Bush says"Well, I don't think we're there yet and I don't want any of my cabinet officers saying there's an insurgency. I don't want to read about it in"The New York Times."
KING: Is this...
WOODWARD: Now what is that? Now, what you also find in the research at that time, the month before, attacks zoomed up, insurgent attacks on our forces and Iraqis to 1,000 in the month of October, 2003. Now that's 30 attacks a day. That's one an hour. Now, imagine if there was -- in this country if there were attacks one an hour, you'd say something's going on and the concern should not be what's"The New York Times" going to say? The concern should be how do we deal with this?
KING: Is this devious or incompetent?
WOODWARD: You know, again, I'm not judging, no evidence that it's devious. Bush is an optimist. What it is, it's inattentiveness. They thought this was going to be easy. They thought, as Cheney...
KING: You quote him from this show.
WOODWARD: ...saying yes.
KING: The insurgency is over.
WOODWARD: Yes. '
Well, it is just obviously devious. He said,"I don't want to read about it in the New York Times." That translates as, I don't want my critics on the left to have the ammunition that an acknowledgment of an insurgency would give them. He didn't say,"My definition of an insurgency is X and what you're describing doesn't fit it." His reply was not substantive, it was instrumental. Like everything else in this administration, they say what will get them their way, not what is true and honest.
But Rob Richer (it is on p. 266) was giving him a professional's estimation. Even Paul Bremer agreed with him on this occasion, and if Bush couldn't trust Bremer's estimation of what was going on, he should have fired him. That toady Gen. Myers intervened with some silly list of things that had gone well, as if that were germane to the question of whether there was an insurgency.
Bush covered Richer's briefing up, and he covered it up from us. For political reasons. He lied.
Woodward's outrage comes from his recognition that Bush's cold shoulder to Richer had policy implications. If you can't announce that there is an insurgency, then you cannot order an effective counter-insurgency policy. The failure of the Bush administration all along in Iraq to publicly acknowledge how bad the situation was has cost thousands of US soldiers' their lives. They died because Bush was treading water instead of coming on television and saying, there is an insurgency, and here are the five practical things we are going to do to combat it.
He came on television and told everybody that things are just fine over there. He shares a profound culpability for all those horrible deaths and maimings of Americans in uniform, over 20,000 by now.
Then there is the issue of the Tenet-Rice meeting in which the CIA director warned Condi Rice in July of 2001 that the chatter was off the charts and he feared an attack on the US by al-Qaeda. Woodward says that Rice brushed him and Cofer Black off. Rice and the White House had never told the 9/11 Commission about this meeting, and some are beginning to think it was deliberately covered up.
Rice at first responded This way:
'"What I am quite certain of is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States, and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible . . ."
Yeah, so do we.
The State Department acknowledged the meeting:
' The State Department confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet about the threat posed by al-Qaeda two months before the Sept. 11 attacks.'
Now, remember when Bill Clinton said he had left a comprehensive plan for fighting al-Qaeda to the Bush Administration. What was Condi's petulant answer? That Clinton had left no plans and she and Bush had done as much to fight al-Qaeda as Clinton. Yeah, sure.
Maybe she just forgot about the Clinton plans, the way she"forgot" about the Director of the CIA informing her that his hair was on fire and he was sure that the United States was about to be attacked by al-Qaeda.
Bush lied about there being no insurgency. Rice and others covered up the meeting with Tenet and even denied it when Woodward's book came out.
It seems increasingly clear that the lewd email messages of Congressman Foley to a page were also covered up by Republicans on the Hill:
' The House leadership consistently hid this case from the public for partisan purposes. In late 2005, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the House Page Board, ?was notified by the then Clerk of the House, who manages the Page Program, that he had been told by Congressman Rodney Alexander (R-LA) about an email exchange between Congressman Foley and a former House Page.? Shimkus interviewed Foley and told him ?to cease all contact with this former house page.? But Shimkus never informed Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), the only Democrat on the House page board. Today, Hastert held a meeting ?to review ways to protect pages,? but once again, Kildee was not invited. '
Why wasn't Kildee invited?
The United States has a one-party state. The presidency, the vice presidency, the cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court-- are all and have for some time been in the hands of the same party. Not only that, but the most extreme factions within the Republican Party: the theocrats, the Neoconservative ex-Trotskiyites, the John Yoo Torture Apologists, the Grover Norquist advocates of Mr. Scrooge plutocracy, the corrupt Abramoffist lobbyists and Delayist horse thieves--they are ascendant. Parties don't investigate themselves. They are about power, interests, and money. They are about winning. They aren't a charity.
The American public has been unwise to allow this one party state to grow up, which is chipping away at our liberties as Americans and creating a new monarchy and a new aristocracy. It works by lies and cover-ups.
Another four years of the one-party state, and the Republic will be finished, if it is not already.
Posted on: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 12:06
SOURCE: LAT (10-2-06)
When President Bush signs this bill into law, a category of detainees will come into existence: "unlawful enemy combatants" who, regardless of their nationality, will be liable to summary arrest.
Those detained will not have the right to challenge their imprisonment by filing an application for a writ of habeas corpus. When — or rather if — they are tried, it will be by military tribunals. Classified evidence may be withheld from the accused if the tribunal judges see fit....
History, however, provides a powerful counter-argument. It is that any dilution of the Geneva Convention could end up having the very reverse effect of what the administration intends. Far from protecting Americans from terror, it could end up exposing them to it.
THE FIRST Geneva Convention governing the humane treatment of prisoners of war was adopted in 1929. It is not too much to say that it saved the lives of millions. In World War II, about 96 million people served in the armed forces of all the belligerent states, of whom more than a third spent at least some time in enemy hands. The majority of these were Axis soldiers who became prisoners when Germany and Japan surrendered. Luckily for them, the Allies upheld the Geneva Convention, despite the fact that the Axis powers had systematically failed to do so.
Official Japanese policy encouraged brutality toward prisoners of war by applying the Geneva Convention only mutatis mutandis (literally, "with those things having been changed which need to be changed"), which the Japanese translated as "with any necessary amendments."
The amendments in question amounted to this: Enemy prisoners had so disgraced themselves by laying down their arms that their lives were forfeit. Indeed, some Allied prisoners were made to wear armbands bearing the inscription "One who has been captured in battle and is to be beheaded or castrated at the will of the emperor." Physical assaults were a daily occurrence in some Japanese POW camps. Executions without due process were frequent. Thousands of American prisoners died during the infamous Bataan Death March in 1942.
Elsewhere, British POWs were used as slave labor, most famously on the Burma-Thailand railway line. Attempting to escape was treated by the Japanese as a capital offense, though the majority of prisoners who died were in fact victims of malnutrition and disease exacerbated by physical overwork and abuse. In all, 42% of Americans taken prisoner by the Japanese did not survive. Such were the consequences of "amending" the Geneva Convention.....
... As Winston Churchill insisted throughout the war, treating POWs well is wise, if only to increase the chances that your own men will be well treated if they too are captured....
Posted on: Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - 20:33
SOURCE: WSJ (9-28-06)
... It is the rare homily, and certainly the rare academic talk, that triggers firebombs and comparisons to Hitler. So what did the pope actually say? At the center of the storm are a few lines of his remarks, quoted from the "dialogue with a Muslim" that the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus claimed to have had in the winter of 1391-1392:
"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.... God is not pleased by blood.... Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and reason properly, without violence and threats. ... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons, or any other means of threatening a person with death."
Muslim anger has concentrated on the first words of the papal citation, about Muhammad's essential inhumanity. In response to this anger, the papal palace duly announced that His Holiness's respect for Islam as a religion remains undiminished. Vatican spokesmen insisted that the offending line was incidental to the pope's broader message, and that he was not endorsing the medieval emperor's views, but simply quoting a historical text to make a historical point. In his extraordinary expression of regret on September 17, the pope himself adopted this position, declaring that "these were in fact quotations from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought." "The true meaning of my address in its totality," Benedict continued, "was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect." Many in the First World will be inclined to accept the pope's clarification. Though few of them will say it openly (except perhaps Silvio Berlusconi), the violence following Benedict's comment will only confirm for them the legitimacy of his portrait of Islam. Hasyim Muzadi, the head of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, was right to warn his coreligionists that a violent response to Benedict's words would only have the effect of vindicating them.
Still, we need to ask why, if the medieval text is so incidental to Benedict's argument and he does not endorse its meaning, he cited it at all. It was certainly not owing to the text's originality. The emperor's attack on Muhammad as a prophet of violence is among the oldest of Christian complaints (we might even say stereotypes) about Islam and its founder. Already during Islam's early conquests in the seventh century, Christians were suggesting that its spread by the sword was sufficient proof that Muhammad was a false prophet. Of course we cannot blame medieval Christians conquered by Islam for characterizing it as a violent religion, any more than we can blame medieval Muslims for later failing to appreciate the claims of Christian crusaders that their breaking of Muslim heads was an act of love. The history of the alliance of monotheism with physical force is both venerable and ecumenical. The question is, why in our troubled times did Benedict choose to bring the world's attention to the unoriginal words of this Byzantine emperor?
One answer is that Turkey has long been on the pontiff's mind. Readers may recall then-Cardinal Ratzinger's interview with Le Figaro in 2004 in which he commented that Turkey should not be admitted to the European Union "on the grounds that it is a Muslim nation" and historically has always been contrary to Europe. Like Ratzinger, Manuel II Paleologus also worried about keeping the Turks out of Europe. As the antepenultimate emperor of Byzantium and the last effective one (he ruled from 1391 to 1425; Byzantium fell in 1453), he spent his life fighting--sometimes in the Muslim armies, but mostly against them--in the final great effort to keep Constantinople from becoming Istanbul. He traveled across Europe as far as London in a vain attempt to awaken the Latin West to the growing threat to European Christendom in the East. And he wrote letters and treatises (such as his Dialogue With a Muslim) against Islam, rehearsing for his beleaguered subjects all the arguments against the religion of their enemies. For all these reasons, history remembers the emperor Manuel as an exemplary defender of Christian Europe against Islam. In 2003, in fact, there appeared a German translation of Dialogue With a Muslim, and the book's editor states in his preface that the work is being published in order to remind today's readers of the dangers that Turkey poses to the European Union. The pope may have been making a similar point.
The emperor may serve the pope as a historical allegory, but the specific meaning of his words is useful as well. It is true that Manuel's sentence about Muhammad's inhumanity is incidental to Benedict's arguments. It was doubtless included for the simple reason that it opened the portion of the text that Benedict wanted to use. (Fortunately, he did not quote the preceding paragraphs of Manuel's treatise, which present Muhammad's teachings as plagiarisms and perversions of Jewish law.) But the medieval emperor's claim that Islam is not a rational religion--"To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm"--lies at the heart of the pope's lecture, and of his vision of the world. That vision should be a disturbing one, not only for Muslims but for adherents of other religions as well.
In order to understand why, we need to unpack the pope's learned thesis, which will be immediately intelligible to connoisseurs of German academic theology and to almost no one else. (The pope's website promises that footnotes are forthcoming.) Simply put, the theological argument is this: Catholic Christianity is the only successful blend of "Jewish" obedience to God (faith) with Greek philosophy (reason). This marriage of faith and reason, body and spirit, is what Benedict, following a long Christian tradition, calls the "logos," the "word of God."
The pope chose to make his point about the special greatness of his own faith through the negative example of Islam, which he claims has not achieved the necessary synthesis. Like Judaism, Islam in his view has always been too concerned with absolute submission to God's law, neglecting reason. It was to make this point that Benedict invoked his reading of Manuel II Paleologus, which he supplemented with an allusion to the claim by Ibn Hazm (systematically misspelled by the Vatican as Hazn) that an omnipotent God is not bound by reason. Like Manuel, Ibn Hazm (994-1064) is an interesting authority for Benedict to have chosen. He, too, lived through the collapse of his civilization, in his case the Muslim Caliphate of Cordoba. He, too, produced a defense of his faith against its rising foes, though his took the form not of a dialogue but of a massive history of religions, charting the eternal struggle of the godly against the evils of Judaism and Christianity. This view of history, together with his adherence to a Zahiri sect of Islam that emphasized obedience to the literal meaning of the Koran, have led some contemporary commentators to see in Ibn Hazm a precursor to modern Islamism. He thus serves the pope particularly well as an example, but he can scarcely be called representative of medieval Islam. ...
Posted on: Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - 19:42
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) (10-4-06)
As I then said, you were "not only untested nationally," but you seemed "to me bereft of the character or intellect to become a real leader, and I feared that four years, and possibly eight, under [you] would set the country back."
However, I went on to admit, "how wrong I was." Since the 9.11 attacks, you had "a focus and clarity," that you were "infused with passion and outrage." I then concluded that you had "proved [yourself] to be the leader America needs."
That editorial, not surprisingly, was widely cited and distributed by your Republican and conservative proponents.
Five years later, it turns out I was right in the first place. Not only do you lack the character or intellect to be a real leader, but your presidency has turned out to be a far worse tenure than I could ever have originally imagined. You have almost single-handedly set the country decades back in its relations with its allies, increased the dislike and hatred of America worldwide, squandered hundreds of billions of dollars that will shackle future American generations to a sea of debt, wasted the lives of thousands of young American boy and girls in a dead-end war, and made, by your actions, the world a much less safe place than it was before 9.11.
We know now that all American intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were wrong. There were simply no ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. But neither you, nor any top official of your administration, is honest enough with the American people to admit that the reasons for the war are, at their most innocent, just wrong, and at there most serious, deliberate lies? Your strident unilateralism and rejection of all our Allies' efforts to move in a measured pace against Iraq created ill will throughout Europe, except for Britain, a decision there that is the primary reason that Prime Minister Tony Blair has had to announce a date for relinquishing power in 2007.
You have squandered, Mr. President, the good will and sympathy for America that had been engendered after the 9.11 attack. Instead, after the Afghanistan campaign, you embarked on an aggressive military strategy developed by a cartel of neo-conservatives inside your administration. While the U.S. diverted resources to an inevitable - at least in your view - war with Iraq, you abandoned Afghanistan as a priority. There was not even a feeble attempt at nation building. The result five years later is a resurgence of the Taliban, a still-free Osama bin Laden, crippling corruption throughout the Afghan government, and the largest opium crop in the nation's history. A shameful legacy from your administration.
And as for Iraq, anyone following the daily headlines knows that the country has degenerated into civil war, and that our troops are caught in between the crossfire. Both Sunni and Shia militants are intent on killing each other in the most barbaric ways, and if they happen to kill some Americans on the way, so much the better.
But you still stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that the country that you wanted to 'liberate,' is at the point of tearing itself apart. Iraq is better without Saddam Hussein, was a refrain your administration has repeated for the past few years. That is no longer so clear if you happen to be an Iraqi whose infrastructure - from electrical power to the closing of schools and hospitals - is worse off than before the war, and you must now worry about the personal safety of your family even when you go to weekly religious services. A just declassified bleak report from your own intelligence agencies concludes that the war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic radicals, breeding deep resentment of the United States that is likely to get worse before it gets better, and that the war has fueled an upsurge in Islamic extremism and violence
And the cost for America? Over 2,700 lives of some of the best young Americans, more than the number killed in the 9.11 attack. And more than 20,000 wounded, with many horrific and life-changing injuries, including multiple amputations, because of the types of IEDS (improvised explosive devices) deployed by the insurgents. You sent too few troops there, against the advice of many of your top advisors and those in the field. You did not provide the correct armored vehicles or even the helmets to keep them safe. And what are they dying for today? Surely you cannot believe any longer it is to protect America. You won't even allow news organizations to show pictures of the returning coffins, lest Americans realize this is a real war, with real blood and deaths, as opposed to a sanitized video game that will result shortly in a clear winner and loser.
And $549 billion spent, thus far, on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Enough to fund full coverage for the 46 million people who don't have health insurance in this rich country of ours. Or enough money to build more schools, hire better teachers, and give everyone a real education at an affordable price. How about cutting a little of the national debt that will suffocate future generations? Do you even care about these other issues which affect average Americans much more than whether a Shia or Sunni majority prevails in a disintegrating country 6,000 miles away?
Meanwhile, you continue to repeat your canard that we are bringing democracy to the Middle East and if we are able to do that it will revolutionize the region. But, the few "allies" you cozy up to are dictatorships - with brutal human rights records - like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt. Pakistan is particularly galling since it had been a nation with a fledging democracy before strongman, General Pervez Musharraf, seized power in 1999. Despite his assurances to hold new elections, he has instead turned his government into a repressive military rule. So I guess, Mr. President, there are exceptions to your desire to see democracy spread in the Middle East, so long as the dictators are friendly to you, or if not friendly, at least willing to give you some window dressing in the war on terror. This allows you to ignore Pakistan's continuing support for the radical Islamic schools, the maddrasses, that are training the future generations of radicals, and also ignore the actions of the country's intelligence agency, the ISI, which might even know where bin Laden is hiding, but will never turn him over to you. You worry about Iran becoming a nuclear state, but Pakistan is already one. But your support of Musharraf further increases the chance that radicals may one day mount a popular movement to seize power. What will we do then, when a Taliban-like administration has its finger on the nuclear button?
Or what about your friends in Riyadh, the current King who you held hands with at your Crawford ranch during his last visit to America? Saudi Arabia continues to be a major source of terror financing - according to your own stymied Treasury Department investigators. Why have you consistently failed to follow up on information -I first reported in my book, Why America Slept - that a senior Saudi prince, as well as the chief of Pakistan's Air Force, might have had advance knowledge of 9.11, all from the confessions of Abu Zubayday, a leading al Qaeda operative captured by U.S. intelligence? And Egypt continues - in light of your overt Israel support - to refuse to give you any assistance in calming the Israeli-Palestinian tensions, despite your repeated back-scene requests to Cairo.
But you still say, disingenuously, that spreading democracy is our goal. Yet a popular vote brought Hamas to power in the Palestinian Authority. When that happened, you rejected the results and cut off aid to the fledging government. In Iran, a limited democracy has resulted in a move to stability-rocking extremism with the elevation to power of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the chief of state who wants to wipe Israel off the map and continues to advance his nation's nuclear bomb making capacity in defiance of your efforts to reign him in. In Lebanon, where you again blundered with your unambiguous support of Israel - further alienating most of the Arab world and many European allies -Hezbollah, would likely swamp the opposition parties if an election were held tomorrow, and the terror group's chief, Hassan Nasrallah, might well be the next Lebanese prime minister.
If an election were held in Afghanistan, with no restrictions on political parties, the Taliban might well prevail, especially since many Afghans view the government of Hamid Karzai as little more than one of your puppet regimes. In many parts of Pakistan, a public opinion survey asking villagers to choose between Osama bin Laden or you, would result in an al Qaeda landslide.
Be careful of what you ask for with democracy in the Middle East, Mr. President, you're getting it and you don't like the results.
Are you listening in the White House? Do you see the polls that show more and more Americans are lining up against the war in Iraq? Did you, or your Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, read the just released Iraqi public opinion poll that showed that 60% of Iraqis approve of attacks on US forces, and almost 75% want US troops out? What are you waiting for? They don't want us there, Mr. President, and if we stay, a majority would like to kill us. Am I missing something here or not? Do you have no shame? Aren't you embarrassed to keep flogging the thoroughly discredited notion that the average Iraqi is happy we are there as liberators? Turns out, according to the latest polling in Iraq, they would prefer a bloody civil war than to having U.S. troops marching around their country.
Mr. President, you still have the time to finish your term with some semblance of dignity and respect for both the office of the Presidency, and for the American people you were elected to represent. Admit that Iraq was a terrible mistake, in human and financial costs, and that it is dividing our country and making the world a much more dangerous place by adding more fuel to the volatile fundamentalist Islamic radical movement worldwide. As a former supporter of the war and your invasion, I have seen the light. Hopefully you can as well. Let's get out now.
Posted on: Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - 19:21
SOURCE: TomPaine.com (10-3-06)
What kind of society have we become? Before members of Congress departed for recess, they gave President George W. Bush—hardly known for his wisdom or compassion—the right to define what constitutes torture and to suspend the constitutional right of habeas corpus. But our elected representatives couldn’t find time to pass the Labor, Health and Human Service appropriations bill which, among things, funds child care.
The “Child Care Crisis”—the absence of anyone to care for America’s children, elderly and disabled—has turned into the new millennium’s version of the “Problem That Has No Name,” It is the 800-pound elephant that sits in Congress, our homes and offices—gigantic, but ignored.
And, it keeps getting worse. According to a new 50-state report on child care policies just released by the National Women’s Law Center, the Bush administration has successful dismantled government services for children. State funds for child care assistance have fallen for the fifth year in a row. The problem will soon become catastrophic when large numbers of single mothers bump up against their five-year life limit on welfare.
The report portrays a bleak picture of our national child care deficit. Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of NWLC, says that: “The new federal welfare work requirement [passed this year] creates more demand for child care assistance without providing enough funding to meet that demand.” No big surprise here. Many of us always knew that the elimination of guaranteed welfare—replaced by Temporary Assistance to Need Families —was designed to reduce the number of women on the welfare rolls, not to reduce poverty.
The report also finds that states are failing to adequately compensate providers. Helen Blank, NWLC director of leadership and public policy, describes the consequences of paying child care workers such poor wages:
Low-income children are denied critical early learning experiences. Parents find it difficult to access the child care they need to work. And providers, who are often low-income women themselves, face earning less or going out of business.
Poor working mothers face other barriers as well. Two-thirds of the states have raised the income eligibility and copayments for child care and 18 states have long waiting lists. All of these barriers to adequate childcare make it extremely difficult for women to work, feel confident that their children are safe and to get off welfare.
But do either Democrats or Republicans think this constitutes a threat to the national security of our society? No. In fact, more than three decades after Congress passed—and President Richard Nixon vetoed—the 1971 comprehensive child care legislation, child care has all but dropped off the national political agenda. And, with each passing year, the child care crisis only grows larger, burdening the lives of working mothers. But it never reaches our nation’s political agenda.
Anti-feminists naturally blame the women’s movement for abandoning their children for the impossible ideal of “having it all.” But it was journalists and popular writers, not women’s rights activists, who created the myth of the “superwoman.” Feminists of the 1960s and 1970s always knew that women couldn’t do it alone. In fact, they insisted that men share the housework and child rearing and that government and business should provide and subsidize child care.
Single mothers naturally suffer the most from the child care crisis, but even with two parents, there is not much time for family life. Parents become overwhelmed, children feel cranky, workers quietly seethe and gulp antacids and sleeping pills, and volunteering in community life gradually vanishes.
Overworked American families, whose time spent at work has increased three extra weeks between 1986 and 1997, suffer from what sociologist Arlie Hochschild has called a “time bind .” But both social conservatives and the Religious Right, who glorify “family values,” refuse to support any national effort to help working families regain a sense of stability and balance.
Conventional wisdom also reinforces the widespread myth that child care is not a problem, that American women have gained equality, entered a new post-feminist era and that it’s time for disgruntled feminists “to move on.”
This is hardly new. Ever since 1970, the mainstream media has been pronouncing the death of feminism and reporting that women have returned home to care for their children. The early 21st century version of this journalistic narrative describes—with a certain celebratory tone—how elite, wealthy and predominantly white women are “choosing” to ditch their educational credentials and “opting out” in favor of home and children.
What’s missing in all these stories is the fact that the vast majority of ordinary middle-class and low-income working mothers have to work. They have no choice. Such stories also obscure the reality that an absence of quality, affordable, and accessible child care and flexible working hours greatly contributes to a woman’s so-called “choice” to stay at home.
Poverty—like the child care crisis—remains invisible to mainstream America and largely outside the national political discourse. Yet, in 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that poverty rates in U.S. had increased for the fourth straight year and had jumped from 31.6 million people in 2000 to 37 million, including 13 million children.
Rather expanding Head Start, the government issues vouchers that all too often result in inadequate child care. And many mothers who can’t get subsidized child care assistance reluctantly leave their children with irresponsible relatives or babysitters they have good reasons not to trust.
While the media celebrates the highly-educated career woman who quits her job to become a stay-at-home mom, the government requires single mothers on TANF to leave their children somewhere, anywhere, so that they can fulfill their requirement to work and get off welfare.
Congress’s indifference to child care, however, is merely one example of this country’s failure to address poverty and the growing child care crisis. It’s easier to sacrifice cherished civil liberties in the name of fighting “the war on terror” than to address the need for superior education, universal health coverage, climate change, subsidized child care, mass transit, and affordable housing, all of which constitutes real national security for families and their children.
Look into the mirror. What are your values? Is your sense of security only tied to a national security program that has resulted in two failed wars and an unprecedented assault on our democratic rights? That is the question that all Americans should ask themselves before they cast their votes in November.
Posted on: Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - 14:24
SOURCE: Daniel Pipes Blog (10-3-06)
When he was secretary of state, Colin Powell once called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization"the greatest and most successful alliance in history." It's hard to argue with that description, for NATO so successfully waged and won the Cold War, it didn't even have to fight.
But this greatest alliance is now in the throes of what José María Aznar, the former prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004, calls"possibly the greatest and most serious crisis in its entire history." A" climate of perpetual crisis," he writes, results from a perceived loss"of the organization's raison d'être, the lack of a mission."
The origins of this crisis are simple to explain. From its founding in 1949 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO served as the main instrument to contain Soviet expansionism. After vanquishing the Soviet threat, its mission changed. In the 1990s, NATO became a vehicle for voluntarily sending forces to promote regional security in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. And what now, post-9/11?
The cover of NATO: An Alliance for Freedom
Proof that NATO was always mandated to defend democracy against more than Communism can be found in its having forgone the strategic value of Spanish territory and its military force so long as that country remained under the thumb of Francisco Franco's fascist government. Only after he died in 1975 and the government became democratic did Spain get an invitation to join the alliance in 1981.
One indication of what NATO's new focus should be came a day after September 11, when NATO for the first time ever in its 52-year history invoked Article V of its founding treaty, with its provision proclaiming that an attack on one is an attack on all. Thus did NATO, after a decade of"war as social work," abruptly awake to the threat of radical Islam.
Mr. Aznar and the FAES team build on that critical decision, stating that"Islamist terrorism is a new shared threat of a global nature that places the very existence of NATO's members at risk." Recalling the totalitarian ideologies of the 1930s, they correctly warn that"We should take [Islamist] ambitions very seriously, no matter how ridiculous or delirious they may seem." With real insight, they also stress that terrorism"is only the war-like part of a much more far-reaching offensive against the liberal and democratic world."
NATO's mission, therefore, must be"to combat Islamic jihadism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction mainly, but not exclusively, among Islamic groups and governments." This means"placing the war against Islamic jihadism at the center of the Allied strategy" and that defeating Islamic jihadism will remain the organization's"key mission" for many years.
A second key recommendation in NATO: An Alliance for Freedom: That NATO invite for full membership countries that are both liberal democracies and able and willing to contribute to the war against Islamic jihadism. The study emphasizes bringing Israel into the Alliance as"an extremely important step," and it endorses Japan and Australia for full membership. I might propose, in addition, Taiwan, South Korea, and Chile. To encourage other, struggling, states, the study suggests an associate membership for countries like Columbia and India. To which I suggest that Mexico and Sri Lanka could join their ranks.
One topic that FAES does not explicitly take up but hints at: that NATO could replace the United Nations as the key world body. As the UN sinks from one low spot to ever-slimier depths, it becomes increasingly obvious that for an international organization to behave in an adult manner requires limiting its membership to democratic states. A new organization could be created from scratch, to be sure, but it is easier, cheaper, and quicker to build on an existing structure especially one with proven capabilities. NATO offers itself as the obvious candidate, especially as reconceptualized by FAES.
Mr. Aznar and his team have produced the best plan yet for confronting radical Islam. Will politicians take it up?
Posted on: Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - 11:23
Posted on: Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - 11:06
SOURCE: National Security Archive (10-2-06)
According to Woodward, Kissinger recently gave a Bush aide a copy of a memo he wrote in 1969 arguing against troop withdrawals from Southeast Asia, an issue as salient four decades ago as it is now.
Kissinger's September 10, 1969, advice to President Nixon famously characterized withdrawals from Vietnam as "salted peanuts" to which the American people would become addicted.
The National Security Archive has obtained an original copy of the memo and today is posting it on its Web site along with commentary by Archive Senior Fellow and noted Vietnam expert John Prados, who recently edited a major collection of declassified documents on the Vietnam War. The commentary provides some historical context for the document and draws parallels and distinctions between the situations then and now.
It is important to view Kissinger's advice in his September 10, 1969 memo to Nixon in its appropriate context. The specific circumstances of this advice are these: a first cosmetic withdrawal of 25,000 American troops from South Vietnam had already begun. The Nixon administration faced a decision about further withdrawals, while the president struggled to craft a strategy under which he could coerce North Vietnam into ending the war on Nixon's terms. Nixon and Kissinger had already begun to make threats to Hanoi, through third parties, that the United States would undertake a destructive bombing campaign against the North absent new concessions from Hanoi. The antiwar movement in the United States had declared a national mobilization and planned a campaign of massive Marches on Washington, to begin on October 15, 1969, and continue monthly thereafter. Nixon's immediate problem was to defuse political opposition sufficiently to provide him freedom of action in Vietnam. The problem was clear to the White House: as Kissinger notes in his memoir for this period, "The turbulent national mood touched Nixon on his rawest nerve." (Note 1)
There is a broader context that sets the stage for this. By 1969 the Tet Offensive had taken place, the American public had turned irrevocably against the Vietnam war, the Johnson administration had changed course on the war, halting further troop reinforcements, stopping the bombing of North Vietnam, and moving to begin a process that it called "Vietnamization," which entailed handing prosecution of the war over to South Vietnamese forces while bringing American troops home. As Secretary of Defense, Clark M. Clifford presided over the spring 1968 policy review that led President Lyndon B. Johnson to this transformation. (Note 2) Clifford (whose views on withdrawal are in a way parallel to the November 2005 call by Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha for a pullout from Iraq) also laid the groundwork for Vietnamization-and the initiation of American withdrawals-during a visit to Saigon that July. As he puts it, "I told the Vietnamese leaders that in the absence of visible progress the American public would simply not support the war effort much longer." (Note 3)Clifford and the South Vietnamese leaders then went to Honolulu where, at a summit meeting with President Johnson, the basic agreement on Vietnamization was made. (Note 4)
Richard Nixon had actually won the 1968 presidential election on a promise of ending the Vietnam war. In office, Vietnam strategy, like Iraq strategy for President Bush, became one of the most delicate issues with which he had to deal. The incoming president used an interagency national security study in the spring of 1969, culminating in discussions at the National Security Council (NSC), to set his new course. The discussion at the NSC on March 28, 1969, clarifies the real content of Nixon's policy. In considering "de-escalation," Kissinger explicitly portrayed it as a device to reduce American casualties which, in his view, "strengthens our staying power." When the president asked whether de-escalation meant unilateral U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam, Kissinger answered "no." Nixon then turned to the withdrawal issue and pictured it as tying American pull-outs to North Vietnamese ones, a subject for negotiations with Hanoi. "We should agree to total withdrawal of U.S. forces," Nixon said, "but include very strong conditions which we know may not be met." He went on, "There is no doubt U.S. forces will be in Vietnam for some time . . . but our public posture must be another thing." (Note 5)
In view of American politics and U.S. military programs that strategy was not sustainable. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, most importantly, insisted on a continuation of the troop withdrawals. (Note 6) The U.S. military accepted the goal of withdrawals from Vietnam as a measure of merit in much the same fashion as it had previously worked to enhance deployments. For example, on July 24, 1969, at a meeting with South Vietnam's defense minister, U.S. military commander for Vietnam Creighton V. Abrams frankly reported that his plan for the next phase of withdrawal had to be completed by early August and would be in Washington by the middle of that month. Abrams frankly told the Vietnamese, "I have discussed this with [Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman] General Wheeler, and he knows what this contains. And he agrees with the number. He agrees with the rationale." (Note 7)
This was the specific proposal on which Henry Kissinger commented in his September 10, 1969 memorandum. Kissinger's purpose here was to give the president a rationale for minimizing U.S. troop withdrawals under the latest redeployment plan, thus preserving the Nixon policy adopted that March. While acknowledging the antiwar opposition and upcoming demonstrations, Kissinger supplies Nixon with a number of arguments: that Vietnamization cannot "significantly reduce the pressures for an end to the war," that "withdrawals of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public," that the withdrawals would encourage Hanoi," and more (see the document). Kissinger was so confident in his analysis that he reprinted the entire "salted peanuts" memorandum-at a time when it remained a classified document-in his 1979 memoir. (Note 8)
Handing this same document to a president befuddled by the dilemmas of the Iraq war, Kissinger himself made the parallel to Vietnam but he retailed advice created for a situation that had significantly different structural elements. Nixon and Kissinger in 1969 were attempting to use negotiations with Hanoi to regulate pressures for American withdrawal from Vietnam. President Bush has no equivalent device available to him. When "salted peanuts" was concocted, Nixon and Kissinger faced a relatively stable military situation in Vietnam in which the adversary had been badly damaged in previous fighting. President Bush faces a deteriorating military situation in which not only have U.S. forces not been able to destroy the enemy, but new religious forces have taken the field against their own countrymen. Most important, where the Saigon government may have been restive under American tutelage, it still shared a basic interest with Washington in fighting Hanoi, whereas there is no significant identity of interest between the Bush administration and the government in Baghdad, which is actually dominated by religious forces inimical to U.S. goals. Kissinger's advice to Bush amounts to an appeal to do nothing differently in a situation where clear-eyed reassessments appear to be increasingly essential by the day.
1. Henry A. Kissinger, White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1979, p. 298.
2. Clifford's original account of these events appeared prominently in July 1969. See Clark M. Clifford, "A Vietnam Reappraisal: The Personal History of One Man's View and How It Evolved," Foreign Affairs, vol. 47, (July 1969), pp. 601-622. He revisited the Johnson change of course and told the inside story in his memoir, Clark M. Clifford with Richard Holbrooke, Counsel to the President: A Memoir. New York: Random House, 1991, pp. 454-526.
3. Clifford, Counsel to the President, p. 550.
4. The Honolulu conference is documented in the National Security Archive collection on United States Policy in the Vietnam War, Part I.
5. National Security Council, Meeting Minutes, March 28, 1969. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, v. VI: Vietnam, January 1969-July 1970. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2006, pp. 164-176, quoted, p. 172-3. At a minimum Nixon envisioned "something like a large military assistance group" (p. 173).
6. Melvin Laird, "Iraq: Learning the Lessons of Vietnam," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2005.
7. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, "Briefing for COMUS and General Vy," July 24, 1969. Lewis Sorley, transcriber and editor, Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes, 1968-1972. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2004, p. 223.
8. Kissinger, White House Years, fn. 11, pp. 1480-1482.
Posted on: Monday, October 2, 2006 - 20:28
SOURCE: Madman of Chu (9-30-06)
Foreign occupying soldiers fire on a crowd of unarmed civilians, killing five. The soldiers are put on trial and a talented local lawyer steps forward to defend the men who had killed his compatriots. With skill and effort he wins acquittal for most of the accused. Twenty-seven years later he becomes the second president of his country.
The lawyer, of course, was John Adams, whose political career was launched in part by his defense of the perpetrators of the Boston Massacre in 1770. Later that same year he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and joined the Sons of Liberty. The contrast between those events and the legal drama playing out in Baghdad today could not be more stark. Some of the lawyers and judges involved in the trial of Saddam Hussein may someday rise to positions of great prominence in Iraq, but for now they must preoccupy themselves with a day-to-day struggle to survive. Three of the lawyers defending Hussein have already been killed.
The contrast between Boston 1770 and Baghdad 2006 exemplifies the profound systemic problems that militate against the formation of a stable, much less a democratic, order in Iraq. That John Adams was able to continue breathing after successfully defending the Boston Massacre culprits was not because colonial America lacked class, ethnic, gender, racial, or sectarian tension. Rather, it was because a long and sometimes violent complex of negotiations had created a cultural and institutional framework imbued with enough legitimacy to stave off anarchy even during times of revolutionary change. Iraqi society does not enjoy the benefit of any such history, it is an arbitrarily and inorganically formed community that has never come to terms with the destructive centrifugal forces that tear at its social fabric. This was true long before the Coalition invasion of 2003 and should have been the central guiding fact of US foreign policy toward Iraq.
Much ink has been spilled on the mistakes made by the Bush administration during the occupation of Iraq- too few troops were deployed, too little administrative talent was recruited, the UN was alienated, the Iraqi army disbanded, the nascent insurgency ignored, corrupt and inefficient contractors employed, strange laissez-faire economic policies pursued, etc. etc. ad infinitum. Yet however true this litany of mistakes may be, it should not create the false impression that "had things been done differently" this policy would have been a success. Had all the mistakes since 2003 been averted, had the US pursued the optimal policy within its power to execute, the Iraq mission would still most likely have gone awry. No invasion of Iraq could have succeeded without the Iraqis themselves cooperating in a revolution to form a newly stable and functional state, and counting on that contingency right now was like counting on snow in July.
This assertion is neither an indictment of the Iraqi people nor an impeachment of their desire to be free. As Michael Goldfarb's book, Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace: Surviving Under Saddam, Dying in the New Iraq demonstrates, Iraq does not lack its own Adamses or Jeffersons, yet in the current conditions of anarchy and strife no such person can give free rein to their talent and integrity and hope to survive. These conditions are not an index of the moral weakness of the Iraqi people, they are a product of historical circumstance. As rapidly and profoundly as John Adams' Boston was about to change circa 1770, it was a society that rested on foundations laid by centuries of revolution in the British metropole and adaptation on the American continent. Even after the movement of which Adams was a part won through to stability, the system he helped found was riven by violent conflicts and destined to experience cataclysmic schism and bloodshed.
The Iraqi revolution that the Bush administration imagined it could custodian was no less profound than that of 18th century America, yet it was attempted in a society that had none of the social and institutional assets that had made the latter revolution possible. The delusion that American military power could induce revolution was the gravest and most inexcusable mistake of the Bush White House, it expressed a scorn for the arduousness with which democratic institutions are established and a paternalistic disregard for the complex and dynamic humanity of the Iraqi people themselves.
As we run up to the mid term elections here in the US, the Bush White House has taken its usual offensive tack in addressing the issues that will register at the polls. Iraq weighs heavily on voters' minds, and President Bush has been relentless in broadcasting the message that Iraq is part of the "great ideological conflict of our time." This is simply not true. Great ecumenical conflicts are of little significance to the Iraqi people at this time, theirs now is a struggle to negotiate, under extremely difficult circumstances, a new and stable social contract between the diverse conflicting groups that are compelled to live together in Iraq. That was never a struggle over which the US could exercise much control or to which it could be much assistance. Though the negligence of the Bush regime has nullified what little influenced the US ever possessed in the evolution of Iraqi politics, even had they not done so the mission of the Coalition would most likely have proven impossible. The shame of the Bush regime's failing to realize this plain fact before lives were lost is now compounded by their insistence on feeding the American public self-interested rhetoric instead of pragmatic policy.
Posted on: Monday, October 2, 2006 - 18:33
SOURCE: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (10-1-06)
When did the "war on terror" get medieval? Osama bin Laden refers to George W. Bush as the "chief Crusader" and the U.S. military forces in the Middle East as "Crusaders." In 2001, a week after 9/11, Bush referred to the war on terrorism as a Crusade. The president of Iran frequently labels "Zionists and Crusaders" as his nation's chief enemies. Recently, when Pope Benedict quoted a medieval passage that criticized Islam, many Muslim figures were enraged and accused the pope of calling for a new Crusade. Commentators use the contemporary invocation of the Crusades to demonstrate that the Muslim world has, collectively, a long memory. Based on their understanding of this memory, some pundits suggest that the problems, being so old, are intractable, and that modern Westerners can do nothing to change this historical grudge. Others argue that we must at least come to understand how medieval Christians have made modern Muslims so angry and find a way to apologize. Locally, students sign up for my medieval history classes wanting to learn about the terrible deeds of medieval knights that have engendered such hatred and anger in today's Muslims. All of these statements assume that Muslims have generally cared about the Crusades ever since the Middle Ages. In fact, Muslims got over the Crusades in the easiest way -- by winning! Winners may write the histories, but it's the losers who hold grudges. In our country, it's not the New Yorkers who obsess about the Civil War. In Tennessee, where I grew up, many Southerners have not forgotten the "War of Northern Aggression." They're not about to rebel to get even, but they have not gotten over it.
From 1095 to 1291, medieval western Christians carved out small kingdoms along the eastern Mediterranean shore. They were weak, constantly endangered and eventually doomed. Once they were gone, the Muslim world focused on the expanding Islamic states in Egypt, Persia, the Ottoman Empire and later India. The Ottomans, in particular, kept right on winning against the Christian West, twice reaching the walls of Vienna with massive armies. They did not forget their history, but the Crusades receded to the status of a brief blot on the record of Muslim expansion, a blot that had created both heroes and villains, but not anything to get worked up about.
It's the Christian Europeans, the losers, who preserved the memory and emotions of the Crusades. For hundreds of years afterwards, they constantly invoked the Crusades, not only when fighting "infidels" (Muslims, Protestants and heretics, not to mention political rivals), but also while exploring and colonizing America, Africa and Asia.
Christopher Columbus, for example, promised to dedicate a healthy percentage of his profits toward the "liberation" of Jerusalem. In the 19th century, Emperor Louis Napoleon and Kaiser Wilhelm I compared their nation's colonial endeavors to the deeds of medieval figures such as Richard the Lion-Hearted, Philip Augustus and even Saladin. In 1898 the kaiser, dressed in a costume that he imagined medieval, had a hole knocked in the walls of Jerusalem so he could enter in just the same spot as a German medieval emperor, Frederick II, did more than 600 years previously.
The reemergence of the language of "anti-Crusade" in the Muslim world appears only during the modern era. It is a postcolonial phenomenon now being accelerated by a new breed of jihadists who believe they are fighting a holy war. But holy war requires two religious armies, a clash of two civilizations, not just one. The idea of Crusaders vs. jihadis fighting from 1095 to 2006 galvanizes the forces of extremism and hatred. This invocation of the Crusades is a tool, a tactic for propaganda, and it seems to be working.
One of my goals as a medieval historian is to provide a context within which to understand the modern moment, and distinguish that moment from the period that I study. There are many connections, but do not mistake the pronouncements of Osama bin Laden, other modern jihadists, the accusers of Pope Benedict, or Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as medieval. We are facing modern problems; we need modern solutions.
Posted on: Sunday, October 1, 2006 - 20:07
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) (9-27-06)
Today everyone agrees that cooperation between the CIA and FBI is a key to preventing future terrorist attacks. But what if CIA-FBI intelligence sharing isn't about terrorist threats? What if the CIA is telling the FBI about people who criticize the president and speak out against an unpopular war?
That's precisely what we found in the John Lennon FBI files, released in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act. That took 15 years of litigation that went all the way to the Supreme Court (I was the plaintiff, represented by the ACLU of Southern
California). Those files were assembled in 1972 when Lennon was living in New York City, campaigning against the Vietnam War, and Nixon was in the White House, trying to deport him - that story is told in the documentary"The US vs. John Lennon," which opens nationwide Sept. 29 (view the trailer here).
Several documents in the Lennon FBI files provide vivid examples of the wrong kind of"interagency cooperation" in the sharing of intelligence information. In one, from"Director, Central Intelligence Agency" (at the time, Richard Helms) to"Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation" (J. Edgar Hoover), dated Feb. 8, 1972, Helms told Hoover that Lennon had planned to lead"a caravan of entertainers, which will follow US election primaries" (see the document here).
The CIA was right about that: in 1972 Nixon was running for reelection, and Lennon had been talking about organizing a national concert tour where he and others would sing, antiwar leaders would speak, and young people would register to vote - and vote against Nixon that fall.
The CIA memo to the FBI concluded,"Project organizers are seeking to avoid publicity at present in order not to jeopardize the stay of John Lennon, who is in the United States on a one-month visa." A month later the INS refused to renew Lennon's visa and began deportation proceedings. Lennon then cancelled plans for the anti-war caravan.
Another document provides the source of the Agency's information: CIA Operation CHAOS. It was secret, illegal program of surveillance of domestic political dissent - a violation of the CIA charter. The Agency sent intelligence reports on antiwar activists first to President Johnson and later to Nixon, as well as to Henry Kissinger and John Dean. Under Nixon, the CHAOS program was expanded to 60 agents. Its existence was documented in 1976 by the Senate's"Church Committee," which investigated CIA and FBI misconduct and was headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2000, when, according to the 9-11 Commission, the CIA had the names of two men who would become hijackers on 9-11 -- Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi -- but somehow the FBI failed to get the information and/or investigate them. The problem: how to get the CIA and FBI to share information about future al-Mihdhars, but stop the CIA and FBI from sharing information about future John Lennons?
The Church Committee Final Report, issued in 1976, addressed this problem in a way that is remarkably relevant today. Their basic conclusion:"intelligence activities have undermined constitutional rights . . . primarily because checks and balances designed by the framers of the Constitution to assure accountability have not been applied." The problem is greater"in time of crisis," when"the distinction between legal dissent and criminal conduct is easily forgotten."
Yes, the Church Committee worked before the US became the target of terrorist attack. But they understood one key principle:"Unlike totalitarian states, we do not believe that any government has a monopoly on truth." Therefore challenging official policies and arguments is crucial to a democratic society. No one should have to"weigh his or her desire to express an opinion, or join a group, against the risk of having lawful speech or association used against him."
The Church Committee made 95 recommendations. Number one: Congress must"make clear to the Executive branch that it will not condone, and does not accept, any theory of inherent or implied authority to violate the Constitution."
When Lennon made plans for"a caravan of entertainers," he wasn't conspiring to engage in terrorism or other criminal acts. All he was saying was give peace a chance. Thirty years ago the Church Committee argued that Congress should create strong safeguards to prevent"interagency sharing of intelligence information" from violating fundamental rights. We need those safeguards today more than ever.
Posted on: Sunday, October 1, 2006 - 14:56