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 Daily News (5-21-07)
Iraq is the central front in the war against Al Qaeda. And we are beginning to win. These are not talking points. They are facts on the ground, as I saw during my recent trips there.
Though you may be getting the opposite impression from news reports, the sectarian violence that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had unleashed by destroying the Samarra Mosque in February 2006 has subsided. Measured weekly, sectarian killings are down by almost two-thirds since the start of the Baghdad security plan. Anbar Province, Al Qaeda's former sanctuary in western Iraq, has turned against the terrorists. Anbaris by the thousands are signing up to fight against Al Qaeda. Violent attacks in the province are down by 50 percent and combined casualties down by 65 percent between early January and mid-May.
The movement is spreading. Sheiks in Diyala, Salah-ad-Din and Babil provinces are reaching out to coalition forces to help us.
This is not the moment to consider withdrawal time lines that would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as the U.S. Congress seems determined to do. It is the time to redouble our efforts....
One thing impressed me above all on my most recent trip, from which I returned on May 13: Ordinary Iraqis have not given up. Sadrists in the parliament may demand our withdrawal, but the government of Iraq has repeatedly asked us to stay. Iraqi soldiers and police are fighting Al Qaeda and Shia militias every day, sacrificing alongside our troops.
One Iraqi commander told me, "Anyone who says the Americans should leave now is not a real Iraqi citizen."...
Posted on: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - 12:39
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (Click on the SOURCE link for embedded links) (5-21-07)
2. The group, which robbed a bank and functions as a small local Mafia, has used the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp (pop. 30,000) in north Lebanon as a base. There are thousands of Palestinian refugees in the camp, displaced there from their homes in Galilee by Zionist forces in 1948. Once Israel was formed, these refugees from the fighting were locked out of their former home by Israeli PM David Ben Gurion. Because Lebanon has a Christian political elite, Beirut did not give the Palestinians citizenship, since they are 85% Sunni and it would have upset the demographic balance of the country. Also, the Palestinians of Lebanon generally insist that they will some day go home to Palestine (Israel) and fiercely reject "tawtin" or naturalization as "Lebanese." Their stateless condition has left the Palestinian population of Lebanon poverty-stricken and barred from certain occupations, including medicine! If you think about it a little bit, you see the analogy between their condition and that of 19th century Jews in some parts of Europe, confined to ghettoes and forbidden from certain occupations.
A clickable map of the refugee camps in Lebanon with information about each can be found here. For an anthropologist's exploration of the culture of the camps, see Julie Peteet's article in the Journal of the International Institute at the U of Michigan. Here is her piece with some history of the situation. See also Professor Peteet's recent book. Also
3. A 1969 accord prevents Lebanese military forces from going into the camps. Anyway, hand to hand fighting in them would produce a high death toll. Firing on a camp full of civilians by the Lebanese government is deeply troubling. Note that the Tripoli Sunni Muslim townspeople appear, however, to approve of the attack on Fath al-Islam. The camps are locally seen as nests of criminality and breeding grounds of terror.
4. Although it is usually said that there are 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, a country of 3.8 million, Palestinian demographer Khalil Shikakli has argued that there are actually only a couple hundred thousand left there. Many have been given temporary visas of various sorts by Germany, Scandinavian countries, etc., and have emigrated to a precarious perch in Europe, where they seldom have a permit to work and so remain in limbo (the Palestinians have now become the symbol of vulnerable statelessness; in the contemporary world, not having a state is the closest thing to slavery.) Their statelessness makes the Palestinians in their camps open to exploitation by mafias and terrorists who thrive where states cannot operate with transparency. The camps are thus analogous to the wilderness of Sinai or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Until there is a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem, this sort of trouble will go on in the Middle East. And all that time, the Zionist Right will blame the Palestinians for being dispossessed.
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2007 - 15:59
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (5-28-07)
America has vital national interests in Iraq. The global al Qaeda movement has decided to defeat us there--not merely to establish a base from which to pursue further tyranny and terror, but also to erect a triumphant monument on the ruins of American power. Al Qaeda claims to have defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and its recruiting rests in part on that boast. If America flees the field of battle against this foe in Iraq, al Qaeda will have gained an even more powerful recruiting slogan. That is why al Qaeda fighters from across the Muslim world are streaming into Iraq and fighting desperately to retain and expand their positions there. Al Qaeda does not think Iraq is a distraction from their war against us. Al Qaeda believes Iraq is the central front--and it is. To imagine that America can lose in Iraq but prevail in the war against jihadism is almost like imagining that we could have yielded Europe to the Nazis but won World War II.
Al Qaeda is not our only enemy in Iraq, however. Iran has chosen to fight a proxy war against us there, determined to work our defeat for its own purposes. Iranian weapons and even advisers flow into Iraq and assist our enemies, both Sunni and Shia, to kill our soldiers and attempt to establish control over Iraq itself. This Iranian support is not the result of a misunderstanding that could be worked out if only we would talk to the mullahs. It is the continuation of nearly three decades of cold war between Iran and the United States that began in 1979 with an Iranian attack on the sovereign American soil of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The states of the Arabian Gulf are watching closely to see who will win. If Iran succeeds in driving America from Iraq, Iranian hegemony in the region is likely. If that success is combined with the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon, then Iranian hegemony is even more likely. Dominance of the Middle East by this Iranian regime would be very bad for America. And a nuclear arms race in which Arab states tried to balance against Iranian power would also be very bad for America.
These are the obvious American stakes in the fight in Iraq, and they are high enough to justify every possible effort to succeed there. But there are reasons to keep fighting even beyond these geopolitical considerations. On a recent trip to Iraq, I saw the human stakes in this struggle. I spoke with the commander of the 8th Iraqi Army Division in Diwaniyah, Major General Othman. He is a Shia, commanding a heavily Shia unit in an entirely Shia area. I asked him what was the most serious challenge he faced. He answered at once: Shia militias. General Othman stands strongly for an Iraq ruled by law, in which the government holds a monopoly on the use of force, and in which Sunni and Shia are treated equally. He has put his beliefs to the test of battle. When he saw that members of Moktada al-Sadr's Shia militia, the Mahdi Army, had taken control of the city of Diwaniyah, he conducted a large-scale clearing operation with the help of American forces and drove them out. General Othman now holds Diwaniyah, where the people can breathe free again, subject neither to that militia nor to any other. There is no turning back for General Othman. The Mahdi Army is determined to kill him and his family, and they will do so if we do not continue to support him. The life of this decent man is in our hands.
In Iskandariyah, I met Major General Qais, the commander of the Babil Province police forces. I asked him the same question, What is your greatest challenge. Without hesitation, he, too, said: Shia militias. The Iraqi police are known to be infiltrated by Shia militia fighters, but General Qais has molded a force that he uses against those very militias on a daily basis. He has survived attempts on his life, and he and his family are under constant threat. They, too, rely on America to help them fight the agents of Iran who seek to defeat us. Across Iraq today, decent people are standing up and identifying themselves They are reaching out to us, working with us, and fighting alongside us against our enemies, even against the powerful Shia militias. If we abandon them now, they will be tortured and killed, along with their families, by the militias. We will have exposed every decent person in the country to destruction.
For the fact is that the democratic government of Iraq is an ally--and a strong ally--against al Qaeda. Against al Qaeda, Iraqi leaders from government, civil society, the military, and the police are implacable. Even the Sunni Arabs, who once provided al Qaeda safe haven and support, have turned against the terrorists. Thousands of Sunni Arabs in Anbar, Salahaddin, Diyala, Babil, and even Baghdad have reached out to the Coalition and the Iraqi government, offering to fight the takfiris, as they call al Qaeda. Anbar Province, whose Marine intelligence officers had virtually given it up only last year, is now lost to al Qaeda. Thousands of Iraqis have died fighting al Qaeda. When al Qaeda attacks recruiting centers, health clinics, government buildings, and military and police outposts, the Iraqis do not run home. They run back into the battle, to fight harder. But they continue to need our help. If we abandon them, al Qaeda terrorists will barbarically punish those who have opposed them. They may even so terrorize the people that they are able to establish a home in part of Iraq. That is certainly their aim. We cannot allow them to succeed....
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2007 - 13:42
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (5-15-07)
In politics, as in medicine, a cure based on a false diagnosis is almost always worthless, often worsening the condition that is supposed to be healed. The United States, today, suffers from a plethora of public ills. Most of them can be traced to the militarism and imperialism that have led to the near-collapse of our Constitutional system of checks and balances. Unfortunately, none of the remedies proposed so far by American politicians or analysts addresses the root causes of the problem.
According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released on April 26, 2007, some 78% of Americans believe their country to be headed in the wrong direction. Only 22% think the Bush administration's policies make sense, the lowest number on this question since October 1992, when George H. W. Bush was running for a second term -- and lost. What people don't agree on are the reasons for their doubts and, above all, what the remedy -- or remedies -- ought to be.
The range of opinions on this is immense. Even though large numbers of voters vaguely suspect that the failings of the political system itself led the country into its current crisis, most evidently expect the system to perform a course correction more or less automatically. As Adam Nagourney of the New York Timesreported, by the end of March 2007, at least 280,000 American citizens had already contributed some $113.6 million to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani, or John McCain.
If these people actually believe a presidential election a year-and-a-half from now will significantly alter how the country is run, they have almost surely wasted their money. As Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism, puts it:"None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of check and balances.... The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them."
George W. Bush has, of course, flagrantly violated his oath of office, which requires him"to protect and defend the constitution," and the opposition party has been remarkably reluctant to hold him to account. Among the"high crimes and misdemeanors" that, under other political circumstances, would surely constitute the Constitutional grounds for impeachment are these: the President and his top officials pressured the Central Intelligence Agency to put together a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's nuclear weapons that both the administration and the Agency knew to be patently dishonest. They then used this false NIE to justify an American war of aggression. After launching an invasion of Iraq, the administration unilaterally reinterpreted international and domestic law to permit the torture of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at other secret locations around the world.
Nothing in the Constitution, least of all the commander-in-chief clause, allows the president to commit felonies. Nonetheless, within days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush had signed a secret executive order authorizing a new policy of"extraordinary rendition," in which the CIA is allowed to kidnap terrorist suspects anywhere on Earth and transfer them to prisons in countries like Egypt, Syria, or Uzbekistan, where torture is a normal practice, or to secret CIA prisons outside the United States where Agency operatives themselves do the torturing.
On the home front, despite the post-9/11 congressional authorization of new surveillance powers to the administration, its officials chose to ignore these and, on its own initiative, undertook extensive spying on American citizens without obtaining the necessary judicial warrants and without reporting to Congress on this program. These actions are prima-facie violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (and subsequent revisions) and of Amendment IV of the Constitution.
These alone constitute more than adequate grounds for impeachment, while hardly scratching the surface. And yet, on the eve of the national elections of November 2006, then House Minority Leader, now Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), pledged on the CBS News program"60 Minutes" that"impeachment is off the table." She called it"a waste of time." And six months after the Democratic Party took control of both houses of Congress, the prison at Guantánamo Bay was still open and conducting drumhead courts martial of the prisoners held there; the CIA was still using"enhanced interrogation techniques" on prisoners in foreign jails; illegal intrusions into the privacy of American citizens continued unabated; and, more than fifty years after the CIA was founded, it continues to operate under, at best, the most perfunctory congressional oversight.
Promoting Lies, Demoting Democracy
Without question, the administration's catastrophic war in Iraq is the single overarching issue that has convinced a large majority of Americans that the country is"heading in the wrong direction." But the war itself is the outcome of an imperial presidency and the abject failure of Congress to perform its Constitutional duty of oversight. Had the government been working as the authors of the Constitution intended, the war could not have occurred. Even now, the Democratic majority remains reluctant to use its power of the purse to cut off funding for the war, thereby ending the American occupation of Iraq and starting to curtail the ever-growing power of the military-industrial complex.
One major problem of the American social and political system is the failure of the press, especially television news, to inform the public about the true breadth of the unconstitutional activities of the executive branch. As Frederick A. O. Schwarz and Aziz Z. Huq, the authors of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror, observe,"For the public to play its proper checking role at the ballot box, citizens must know what is done by the government in their names."
Instead of uncovering administration lies and manipulations, the media actively promoted them. Yet the first amendment to the Constitution protects the press precisely so it can penetrate the secrecy that is the bureaucrat's most powerful, self-protective weapon. As a result of this failure, democratic oversight of the government by an actively engaged citizenry did not -- and could not -- occur. The people of the United States became mere spectators as an array of ideological extremists, vested interests, and foreign operatives -- including domestic neoconservatives, Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi exiles, the Israeli Lobby, the petroleum and automobile industries, warmongers and profiteers allied with the military-industrial complex, and the entrenched interests of the professional military establishment -- essentially hijacked the government.
Some respected professional journalists do not see these failings as the mere result of personal turpitude but rather as deep structural and cultural problems within the American system as it exists today. In an interview with Matt Taibbi, Seymour Hersh, for forty years one of America's leading investigative reporters, put the matter this way:
"All of the institutions we thought would protect us -- particularly the press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress -- they have failed… So all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn't. The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that's the most glaring…. What can be done to fix the situation? [long pause] You'd have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and executives."
Veteran analyst of the press (and former presidential press secretary), Bill Moyers, considering a classic moment of media failure, concluded:"The disgraceful press reaction to Colin Powell's presentation at the United Nations [on February 5, 2003] seems like something out of Monty Python, with one key British report cited by Powell being nothing more than a student's thesis, downloaded from the Web -- with the student later threatening to charge U.S. officials with 'plagiarism.'"
As a result of such multiple failures (still ongoing), the executive branch easily misled the American public.
A Made-in-America Human Catastrophe
Of the failings mentioned by Hersh, that of the military is particularly striking, resembling as it does the failures of the Vietnam era, thirty-plus years earlier. One would have thought the high command had learned some lessons from the defeat of 1975. Instead, it once again went to war pumped up on our own propaganda -- especially the conjoined beliefs that the United States was the"indispensable nation," the"lone superpower," and the"victor" in the Cold War; and that it was a new Rome the likes of which the world had never seen, possessing as it did -- from the heavens to the remotest spot on the planet --"full spectrum dominance." The idea that the U.S. was an unquestioned military colossus athwart the world, which no power or people could effectively oppose, was hubristic nonsense certain to get the country into deep trouble -- as it did -- and bring the U.S. Army to the point of collapse, as happened in Vietnam and may well happen again in Iraq (and Afghanistan).
Instead of behaving in a professional manner, our military invaded Iraq with far too small a force; failed to respond adequately when parts of the Iraqi Army (and Baathist Party) went underground; tolerated an orgy of looting and lawlessness throughout the country; disobeyed orders and ignored international obligations (including the obligation of an occupying power to protect the facilities and treasures of the occupied country -- especially, in this case, Baghdad's National Museum and other archaeological sites of untold historic value); and incompetently fanned the flames of an insurgency against our occupation, committing numerous atrocities against unarmed Iraqi civilians.
According to Andrew Bacevich,"Next to nothing can be done to salvage Iraq. It no longer lies within the capacity of the United States to determine the outcome of events there." Our former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas W. Freeman, says of President Bush's recent"surge" strategy in Baghdad and al-Anbar Province:"The reinforcement of failure is a poor substitute for its correction."
Symbolically, a certain sign of the disaster to come in Iraq arrived via an April 26th posting from the courageous but anonymous Sunni woman who has, since August 2003, published the indispensable blog Baghdad Burning. Her family, she reported, was finally giving up and going into exile -- joining up to two million of her compatriots who have left the country. In her final dispatch, she wrote:
"There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends.... And to what?"
Retired General Barry McCaffrey, commander of the 24th Infantry Division in the first Iraq war and a consistent cheerleader for Bush strategies in the second, recently radically changed his tune. He now says,"No Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO, nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection." In a different context, Gen. McCaffrey has concluded:"The U.S. Army is rapidly unraveling."
Even military failure in Iraq is still being spun into an endless web of lies and distortions by the White House, the Pentagon, military pundits, and the now-routine reporting of propagandists disguised as journalists. For example, in the first months of 2007, rising car-bomb attacks in Baghdad were making a mockery of Bush administration and Pentagon claims that the U.S. troop escalation in the capital had brought about"a dramatic drop in sectarian violence." The official response to this problem: the Pentagon simply quit including deaths from car bombings in its count of sectarian casualties. (It has never attempted to report civilian casualties publicly or accurately.) Since August 2003, there have been over 1,050 car bombings in Iraq. One study estimates that through June 2006 the death toll from these alone has been a staggering 78,000 Iraqis.
The war and occupation George W. Bush unleashed in Iraq has proved unimaginably lethal for unarmed civilians, but reporting the true levels of lethality in Iraq, or the nature of the direct American role in it was, for a long time, virtually taboo in the U.S. media. As late as October 2006, the journal of the British Medical Association, The Lancet, published a study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad estimating that, since March 2003, there were some 601,027 more Iraqi deaths from violence than would have been expected without a war. The British and American governments at first dismissed the findings, claiming the research was based on faulty statistical methods -- and the American media ignored the study, played down its importance, or dismissed its figures.
On March 27, 2007, however, it was revealed that the chief scientific adviser to the British Ministry of Defense, Roy Anderson, had offered a more honest response. The methods used in the study were, he wrote," close to best practice." Another British official described them as"a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones." Over 600,000 violent deaths in a population estimated in 2006 at 26.8 million -- that is, one in every 45 individuals -- amounts to a made-in-America human catastrophe.
One subject that the government, the military, and the news media try to avoid like the plague is the racist and murderous culture of rank-and-file American troops when operating abroad. Partly as a result of the background racism that is embedded in many Americans' mental make-up and the propaganda of American imperialism that is drummed into recruits during military training, they do not see assaults on unarmed"rag heads" or"hajis" as murder. The cult of silence on this subject began to slip only slightly in May 2007 when a report prepared by the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team was leaked to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Based on anonymous surveys and focus groups involving 1,320 soldiers and 447 Marines, the study revealed that only 56% of soldiers would report a unit member for injuring or killing an innocent noncombatant, while a mere 40% of Marines would do so. Some militarists will reply that such inhumanity to the defenseless is always inculcated into the properly trained soldier. If so, then the answer to this problem is to ensure that, in the future, there are many fewer imperialist wars of choice sponsored by the United States.
The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex
Many other aspects of imperialism and militarism are undermining America's Constitutional system. By now, for example, the privatization of military and intelligence functions is totally out of control, beyond the law, and beyond any form of Congressional oversight. It is also incredibly lucrative for the owners and operators of so-called private military companies -- and the money to pay for their activities ultimately comes from taxpayers through government contracts. Any accounting of these funds, largely distributed to crony companies with insider connections, is chaotic at best. Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, estimates that there are 126,000 private military contractors in Iraq, more than enough to keep the war going, even if most official U.S. troops were withdrawn."From the beginning," Scahill writes,"these contractors have been a major hidden story of the war, almost uncovered in the mainstream media and absolutely central to maintaining the U.S. occupation of Iraq."
America's massive"military" budgets, still on the rise, are beginning to threaten the U.S. with bankruptcy, given that its trade and fiscal deficits already easily make it the world's largest net debtor nation. Spending on the military establishment -- sometimes mislabeled"defense spending" -- has soared to the highest levels since World War II, exceeding the budgets of the Korean and Vietnam War eras as well as President Ronald Reagan's weapons-buying binge in the 1980s. According to calculations by the National Priorities Project, a non-profit research organization that examines the local impact of federal spending policies, military spending today consumes 40% of every tax dollar.
Equally alarming, it is virtually impossible for a member of Congress or an ordinary citizen to obtain even a modest handle on the actual size of military spending or its impact on the structure and functioning of our economic system. Some $30 billion of the official Defense Department (DoD) appropriation in the current fiscal year is"black," meaning that it is allegedly going for highly classified projects. Even the open DoD budget receives only perfunctory scrutiny because members of Congress, seeking lucrative defense contracts for their districts, have mutually beneficial relationships with defense contractors and the Pentagon. President Dwight D. Eisenhower identified this phenomenon, in the draft version of his 1961 farewell address, as the"military-industrial-congressional complex." Forty-six years later, in a way even Eisenhower probably couldn't have imagined, the defense budget is beyond serious congressional oversight or control.
The DoD always tries to minimize the size of its budget by representing it as a declining percentage of the gross national product. What it never reveals is that total military spending is actually many times larger than the official appropriation for the Defense Department. For fiscal year 2006, Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute calculated national security outlays at almost a trillion dollars -- $934.9 billion to be exact -- broken down as follows (in billions of dollars):
Department of Defense: $499.4
Department of Energy (atomic weapons): $16.6
Department of State (foreign military aid): $25.3
Department of Veterans Affairs (treatment of wounded soldiers): $69.8
Department of Homeland Security (actual defense): $69.1
Department of Justice (1/3rd for the FBI): $1.9
Department of the Treasury (military retirements): $38.5
NASA (satellite launches): $7.6
Interest on war debts, 1916-present: $206.7
Totaled, the sum is larger than the combined sum spent by all other nations on military security.
This spending helps sustain the national economy and represents, essentially, a major jobs program. However, it is beginning to crowd out the civilian economy, causing stagnation in income levels. It also contributes to the hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs to other countries. On May 1, 2007, the Center for Economic and Policy Research released a series of estimates on"the economic impact of the Iraq war and higher military spending." Its figures show, among other things, that, after an initial demand stimulus, the effect of a significant rise in military spending (as we've experienced in recent years) turns negative around the sixth year.
Sooner or later, higher military spending forces inflation and interest rates up, reducing demand in interest-sensitive sectors of the economy, notably in annual car and truck sales. Job losses follow. The non-military construction and manufacturing sectors experience the largest share of these losses. The report concludes,"Most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment."
Imperialism and militarism have thus begun to imperil both the financial and social well-being of our republic. What the country desperately needs is a popular movement to rebuild the Constitutional system and subject the government once again to the discipline of checks and balances. Neither the replacement of one political party by the other, nor protectionist economic policies aimed at rescuing what's left of our manufacturing economy will correct what has gone wrong. Both of these solutions fail to address the root cause of our national decline.
I believe that there is only one solution to the crisis we face. The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire that has been created in their name and the huge (still growing) military establishment that undergirds it. It is a task at least comparable to that undertaken by the British government when, after World War II, it liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain avoided the fate of the Roman Republic -- becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy, as would have been required if it had continued to try to dominate much of the world by force.
For the U.S., the decision to mount such a campaign of imperial liquidation may already come too late, given the vast and deeply entrenched interests of the military-industrial complex. To succeed, such an endeavor might virtually require a revolutionary mobilization of the American citizenry, one at least comparable to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Even to contemplate a drawing back from empire -- something so inconceivable to our pundits and newspaper editorial writers that it is simply never considered -- we must specify as clearly as possible precisely what the elected leaders and citizens of the United States would have to do. Two cardinal decisions would have to be made. First, in Iraq, we would have to initiate a firm timetable for withdrawing all our military forces and turning over the permanent military bases we have built to the Iraqis. Second, domestically, we would have to reverse federal budget priorities.
In the words of Noam Chomsky, a venerable critic of American imperialism:"Where spending is rising, as in military supplemental bills to conduct the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would sharply decline. Where spending is steady or declining (health, education, job training, the promotion of energy conservation and renewable energy sources, veterans benefits, funding for the UN and UN peacekeeping operations, and so on), it would sharply increase. Bush's tax cuts for people with incomes over $200,000 a year would be immediately rescinded."
Such reforms would begin at once to reduce the malevolent influence of the military-industrial complex, but many other areas would require attention as well. As part of the process of de-garrisoning the planet and liquidating our empire, we would have to launch an orderly closing-up process for at least 700 of the 737 military bases we maintain (by official Pentagon count) in over 130 foreign countries on every continent except Antarctica. We should ultimately aim at closing all our imperialist enclaves, but in order to avoid isolationism and maintain a capacity to assist the United Nations in global peacekeeping operations, we should, for the time being, probably retain some 37 of them, mostly naval and air bases.
Equally important, we should rewrite all our Status of Forces Agreements -- those American-dictated"agreements" that exempt our troops based in foreign countries from local criminal laws, taxes, immigration controls, anti-pollution legislation, and anything else the American military can think of. It must be established as a matter of principle and law that American forces stationed outside the U.S. will deal with their host nations on a basis of equality, not of extraterritorial privilege.
The American approach to diplomatic relations with the rest of the world would also require a major overhaul. We would have to end our belligerent unilateralism toward other countries as well as our scofflaw behavior regarding international law. Our objective should be to strengthen the United Nations, including our respect for its majority, by working to end the Security Council veto system (and by stopping using our present right to veto). The United States needs to cease being the world's largest supplier of arms and munitions -- a lethal trade whose management should be placed under UN supervision. We should encourage the UN to begin outlawing weapons like land mines, cluster bombs, and depleted-uranium ammunition that play particularly long-term havoc with civilian populations. As part of an attempt to right the diplomatic balance, we should take some obvious steps like recognizing Cuba and ending our blockade of that island and, in the Middle East, working to equalize aid to Israel and Palestine, while attempting to broker a real solution to that disastrous situation. Our goal should be a return to leading by example -- and by sound arguments -- rather than by continual resort to unilateral armed force and repeated foreign military interventions.
In terms of the organization of the executive branch, we need to rewrite the National Security Act of 1947, taking away from the CIA all functions that involve sabotage, torture, subversion, overseas election rigging, rendition, and other forms of clandestine activity. The president should be deprived of his power to order these types of operations except with the explicit advice and consent of the Senate. The CIA should basically devote itself to the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence. We should eliminate as much secrecy as possible so that neither the CIA, nor any other comparable organization ever again becomes the president's private army.
In order to halt our economic decline and lessen our dependence on our trading partners, the U.S. must cap its trade deficits through the perfectly legal use of tariffs in accordance with World Trade Organization rules, and it must begin to guide its domestic market in accordance with a national industrial policy, just as the leading economies of the world (particularly the Japanese and Chinese ones) do as a matter of routine. Even though it may involve trampling on the vested interests of American university economics departments, there is simply no excuse for a continued reliance on an outdated doctrine of"free trade."
Normally, a proposed list of reforms like this would simply be rejected as utopian. I understand this reaction. I do want to stress, however, that failure to undertake such reforms would mean condemning the United States to the fate that befell the Roman Republic and all other empires since then. That is why I gave my book Nemesis the subtitle"The Last Days of the American Republic."
When Ronald Reagan coined the phrase"evil empire," he was referring to the Soviet Union, and I basically agreed with him that the USSR needed to be contained and checkmated. But today it is the U.S. that is widely perceived as an evil empire and world forces are gathering to stop us. The Bush administration insists that if we leave Iraq our enemies will"win" or -- even more improbably --"follow us home." I believe that, if we leave Iraq and our other imperial enclaves, we can regain the moral high ground and disavow the need for a foreign policy based on preventive war. I also believe that unless we follow this path, we will lose our democracy and then it will not matter much what else we lose. In the immortal words of Pogo,"We have met the enemy and he is us."
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Sunday, May 20, 2007 - 17:24
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (5-20-07)
... George W Bush's dominant character traits, his decisiveness and tenacity, at first appeared to be strengths. But once he had been convinced by his advisers that the attacks of 9/11 furnished a pretext for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, these became weaknesses.
As in Macbeth, King George was soon "in blood stepp'd in so far" that turning back seemed no more attractive than wading onward. Remember: the corpses that litter this stage can already be counted in the tens, if not the hundreds, of thousands.
And, as in King Lear, the whole catastrophe has stemmed from a fatal confusion at the outset between the true and the false, enemy and friends. Lear succumbs to the flattery of the ugly sisters, Regan and Goneril, and casts out the blunt but honest Cordelia (not to mention the straight-talking Kent). The mistaken identity in the tragedy of King George was that of the real enemy in the post-9/11 War on Terror.
It is almost certain that the 19 hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia (15), the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt (1) and Lebanon (1). The chief architect of the plot, Osama bin Laden, was also a Saudi. Contrast this list of countries with the list of members of the "Axis of Evil" identified by President Bush in his famous speech of January 2002 as "regimes that sponsor terror [and] threaten America... with weapons of mass destruction": North Korea, Iran and Iraq. President Bush was quite right to target Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, since the Taliban regime was sheltering al-Qaeda's leadership. But the decision to overthrow Saddam was one of history's great non sequiturs.
The real enemy in the Global War on Terror is not the Axis of Evil but the Axis of Allies. Today, the countries most likely to produce another 9/11 are not Iran, much less North Korea, but countries long regarded as (after Israel) America's most reliable allies in the Greater Middle East. Step forward Saudi Arabia (almost certainly still the biggest source of funding for radical Islamists) and Pakistan (very definitely their one-stop shop for nuclear weaponry).
There is, in short, a twist in this tale. Before the curtain can fall on The Tragedie of King George, we need at least three more scenes to decide the fates of three crucial characters - the only principals still left standing aside from King George himself.
First, we need a scene in Israel. Since the failure of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's popularity has been in free fall. His current approval rating is around 2 per cent, by comparison with which King George is a pop idol. Somehow, despite the resignation of his foreign minister, Mr Olmert is still clinging to political life. But he surely cannot last much longer. What happens next will be crucial, for if Binyamin Netanyahu returns to power, the probability of a military confrontation with Iran goes up above 50 per cent.
Remember, Mr Netanyahu is on record as comparing the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with Hitler. "It is the year 1938," Netanyahu recently declared, "and Iran is Germany." I suspect his private views are not so very far removed from those of the renowned Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld, the professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Van Creveld is deeply pessimistic about Israel's future, menaced on one side by an increasingly violent and fissiparous Palestinian population and on the other by a would-be nuclear Iran. But he expects his country at least to go down fighting.
"We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions," van Creveld declared in an interview in September 2003. "We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that this will happen before Israel goes under."
Then we need a scene in Saudi Arabia. Here the key figure is Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al Saud who, as Saudi ambassador to the United States, was one of the leading advocates of the attack on Iraq. Since October 2005 he has been back in Riyadh as Secretary-General of the National Security Council, where he is said to be lobbying hard for another attack: this time (you guessed it) on Iran.
Finally, the action needs to shift eastwards to Pakistan, where it is the future of General Pervez Musharraf that hangs in the balance. Eight days ago, 40 people died in rioting in Karachi, apparently as a result of attempts by pro-government forces to discourage a rally by disgruntled lawyers, who have been incensed by Musharraf's decision to oust the head of the Supreme Court.....
Posted on: Sunday, May 20, 2007 - 14:22
SOURCE: NYT (5-15-07)
... [Sen. Chuck] Hagel’s profession of unhappiness with today’s G.O.P. is not unique. Ever since the Iraq war turned sour and President Bush’s standing declined, a parade of right-wingers — journalists and intellectuals, activists and politicians — have asserted that this administration embodies neither true conservatism nor the real spirit of the Republican party. Yet these claims crumble under scrutiny, because, far from a subversion of modern American conservatism, Bush represents its fulfillment....
Republicans who grouse about Bush are forgetting two basic facts about American politics. The first is that in our two-party system, any majority party has to include factions that disagree on key points. Since the 1950s, the G.O.P. has brought together unlikely allies and allowed them to co-exist — big business together with the religious right, isolationists alongside militarists, virtuecrats next to libertarians. Certain policies, such as tax cutting and anticommunism, glued them together, but under every Republican administration — Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, Reagan and George Bush Sr.— each group also had to swallow some pet items for the sake of unity.
The second key fact was summed up more than 40 years ago by the public opinion analysts Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril: that Americans are rhetorically conservative but operationally liberal. We like the Republicans’ talk about small government, low taxes and military strength, but we also like our Social Security benefits, our federal help when disasters strike, and even our earmarks (at least when they’re our earmarks). It’s therefore impossible in practice for any Republican leader to truly govern according to a Heritage Foundation blueprint.
Still, if any president has tried to implement conservative ideals, it’s Bush. Before Reagan, the so-called conservative movement had been an insurgent force within the Republican party. But starting in the 1980s, most of the liberals in the party left it, and for the last 10 or 20 years, the party and the movement have been more or less congruent. From 2002 to 2007, moreover, the G.O.P. controlled not just the White House but both houses of Congress, the federal judiciary and a majority of state governments, as well as more media outlets than ever before. They were thus able to impose a conservative agenda with little resistance.
Indeed, so few were the obstacles that conservatism was able to run amok. The result — in the assessment of not just liberals but also other observers — has been disaster: a mess of a war, the failure to plan for Hurricane Katrina, the erosion of the church-state wall, widening inequality, the loss of civil liberties including habeas corpus, and scores of other ills that readers of this column can list as easily as I. This was the fruit of modern American conservatism.
But now Republicans are deserting Bush. Businessmen and evangelicals, libertarians and social moderates are all astir. The reason isn’t that Bush failed to espouse their causes any more than Reagan did. From the Iraq War on down, after all, his policies have also been their policies — backed by their legislators, upheld by their judges, championed by their journalists....
Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2007 - 19:23
SOURCE: New Republic (5-14-07)
... Often lost in the debate over D&X abortion is the fact that the procedure is exceedingly rare; in 2000, there were just 2,200 cases--or 0.17 percent of all abortions. The procedure is rare because it is used to end a pregnancy late in the second trimester or later, before viability, in a tiny number of cases when the woman's life is in danger. Abortions late in the second trimester are medically involved, potentially risky, painful, and emotionally difficult. So who waits that long?
The answer is simple: women and girls in states of duress. This includes teenagers who didn't realize they were pregnant, or kept hoping they weren't pregnant, or were too frightened to tell anyone and get help (a common plight of incest victims). It also includes women whose pregnancies have gone wrong, such as women found to be carrying fetuses with serious central nervous system anomalies like hydrocephaly.
Ironically, it was precisely women like these, caught in painful circumstances, who first prompted public awareness of the need to overhaul abortion law. Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was as widely practiced as it is today, an open secret despite being illegal everywhere. But, in the late '50s, medical professionals faced a public health crisis as the abortion rate soared and the woman hemorrhaging from botched procedures became a familiar presence in hospital emergency rooms. Reformers began by attacking laws that prevented women whose lives were threatened or who were pregnant as a result of rape or incest from getting abortions. They called for laws allowing "therapeutic" abortion in "hardship" cases to be authorized by a hospital physicians' committee. In the '60s, the idea of therapeutic abortions gained force, garnering support from liberal Protestants and Jews, lawyers, psychiatrists, and social workers. Small bands formed across the country to press the issue in state legislatures. Two panics about birth defects--the thalidomide scandal and a 1965 rubella epidemic--stirred up discussion about what it meant to a woman to give birth to a severely damaged child. The idea of urgent need expanded from a pregnancy that endangered a mother's life to one that endangered her mental health. By the late '60s, reformers had won laws for therapeutic abortion in a number of states.
Over the short run in the '60s, therapeutic abortion really only showed the urgent need for a much bigger change. The therapeutic "exception" never worked: Applications were few, because women were put off by the time-consuming and judgmental screening process before all-male physicians' panels, and most women didn't qualify, anyway. Committees strained to minimize the number of applications they approved, and there were horror stories of women denied--such as the woman confined to her bed by polio. And committees weren't the only problem. In one famous case, a middle-class African American woman from Long Island, pregnant with a rubella-scarred fetus, was approved for a therapeutic abortion but had the bad luck to fall into the hands of a fervent anti-abortion Catholic physician, who tricked her into believing the fetus was normal and sent her home.
But, in the long run, the push for therapeutic abortion made Americans of both sexes think publicly about what pregnancy meant to those most closely involved: the woman, her family, and the child who could be born unwanted. Considerations of how dire the circumstances of pregnancy were in hardship cases led to reflections about the hardships any pregnancy could cause. Large numbers of people--many of them well outside the radical politics of the decade--came to believe that the state should refrain from intruding into a decision that, in the end, was the pregnant woman's to make. In 1966, The Saturday Evening Post--as conventional as they came--ran the headline "we should legalize abortion," and The New York Times editorialized for legalization the next year. By 1970, there were initiatives in many state legislatures and a public that was leaning toward legalizing abortion, period.
It's interesting to note that D&X is used to end pregnancies in the kinds of situations in which there has long been a consensus that the woman's wishes should be honored. It's as if the anti-choice movement is going back to the '60s and trying for a do-over, dismantling the first premise on which most could agree--the right of a pregnant woman in a terrible bind to get a legal abortion from a competent physician, one who will put her health and safety first....
Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2007 - 19:19
SOURCE: WSJ (5-16-07)
During the Cold War, two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?"
A few examples may suffice. During the troubles in Lebanon in the 1970s and '80s, there were many attacks on American installations and individuals--notably the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, followed by a prompt withdrawal, and a whole series of kidnappings of Americans, both official and private, as well as of Europeans. There was only one attack on Soviet citizens, when one diplomat was killed and several others kidnapped. The Soviet response through their local agents was swift, and directed against the family of the leader of the kidnappers. The kidnapped Russians were promptly released, and after that there were no attacks on Soviet citizens or installations throughout the period of the Lebanese troubles.
These different responses evoked different treatment. While American policies, institutions and individuals were subject to unremitting criticism and sometimes deadly attack, the Soviets were immune. Their retention of the vast, largely Muslim colonial empire accumulated by the czars in Asia passed unnoticed, as did their propaganda and sometimes action against Muslim beliefs and institutions.
Most remarkable of all was the response of the Arab and other Muslim countries to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Washington's handling of the Tehran hostage crisis assured the Soviets that they had nothing to fear from the U.S. They already knew that they need not worry about the Arab and other Muslim governments. The Soviets already ruled--or misruled--half a dozen Muslim countries in Asia, without arousing any opposition or criticism. Initially, their decision and action to invade and conquer Afghanistan and install a puppet regime in Kabul went almost unresisted. After weeks of debate, the U.N. General Assembly finally was persuaded to pass a resolution "strongly deploring the recent armed intervention in Afghanistan." The words "condemn" and "aggression" were not used, and the source of the "intervention" was not named. Even this anodyne resolution was too much for some of the Arab states. South Yemen voted no; Algeria and Syria abstained; Libya was absent; the nonvoting PLO observer to the Assembly even made a speech defending the Soviets....
[HNN Editor: The author goes on to state that bin Laden decided that Muslims faced two enemies. First, he would go after the USSR, the worst of the two. Then he would go after the US, which he considered degenerate and soft.]
From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American response to a whole series of attacks--on the World Trade Center in New York and on U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, on the U.S. military office in Riyadh in 1995, on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000--all of which evoked only angry words, sometimes accompanied by the dispatch of expensive missiles to remote and uninhabited places.
Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.
More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.
Manan Ahmed: Lewis Unhinged
Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2007 - 18:42
SOURCE: Special to HNN (5-18-07)
Last month, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress visited Damascus, flattered their hosts, and called for talks with the Syrian dictatorship. Last week Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice broke the previous boycott by meeting her Syrian counterpart.
What has happened since then shows this approach to be totally wrong.
As demonstrated in the state-controlled Syrian media, the regime took all the calls in America for U.S. concessions as a victory proving that it could continue its policies. There is nothing subtle about it.
Mamoun Homsi is a courageous pro-democracy activist who had been one of the few independent members of Syria’s puppet parliament. In March 2002 he was thrown out of the legislature and sentences to five years in prison. As he was dragged off to jail, Homsi shouted, "This is a badge of honor to me and others like me. Long live the people!"
Released after four years in 2006, Homsi immediately left the country, saying there was no possibility of changing the regime by reform and that any criticism would bring more imprisonment. He wrote Pelosi a letter urging her not to visit Syria as such a step would only strengthen the regime. Last week, the government seized all of his assets in the country, leaving his family destitute.
Kamal Labwani, head of the Liberal Democratic Gathering, visited the United States in 2005, including meetings with human rights’ groups and a trip to the White House. He told the Americans he saw that he would be arrested once he got back home. Sure enough, the Syrian police grabbed him at Damascus airport in November 2005.
But he was not tried. After all, the regime reasoned, perhaps the United States might get even tougher with Syria if they repressed a man who had just been a White House guest. Last week, confident that the current administration and its presumed Democratic successors were caving in, the government sentenced Labwani to life imprisonment, “kindly” commuted to 12 years with hard labor. The charge? "Inciting a foreign state to attack Syria."
That’s not all. Anwar al-Bunni, a lawyer and another brave dissident, knew what held back Syria from crushing any dissent. Back in 2003 he explained, "The government's fear that it will be next on America's `regime change’ list may make it wary of committing gross violations of human rights….Some of us say that it is only because of what America did in Iraq, the fright it gave our rulers, that we reformers stand a chance here."
Bunni was proven right. Once Syria no longer had any fear, the regime sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment. Two more democratic activists, Michel Kilo, an articulate journalist who most clearly expressed the hope of peaceful change in Syria, and Mahmoud Issa were each given three-year prison sentences on May 13. Their alleged crime? "Weakening national sentiment, spreading false news, and inciting sectarian strife."
The White House condemned the sentencing of Labwani and Bunni, including credible information that they were tortured in prison, in an eight-line-long press release. No doubt, Syria is not intimidated.
Damascus knows that it can continue helping insurgents next door kill Americans and murder Iraqis. The regime understands it can continue to sponsor terrorism against Israel and Lebanon. It has a good hope of escaping indictment in the international investigation of Syrian involvement in the murder of popular former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005.
Those who call for engaging Syria and giving it concessions are contributing, however unintentionally, to helping the worst dictatorship in the Arab world and the leading Arab sponsor of terrorism in a post-September 11 world.
And by the way, Syria is the main partner of radical Islamist Iran. Least publicized of all is the apparent holding of former FBI agent Robert Levinson as a hostage in Iran, where he was visiting in March.
Last week, Iran also arrested on trumped-up spying charged Haleh Esfandiari, director of Middle East programs for the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington DC and an American citizen. Her boss is former Congressman Lee Hamilton, co-sponsor of the Iraq Study Group report calling for engagement with Syria and Iran.
The lessons about these regimes’ extremist behavior should be clear by now. When someone extends its hand in offered friendship, they interpret this as hands raised in surrender.
Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2007 - 17:54
SOURCE: Crisis Papers (5-15-07)
What was the route that led the U.S. to its present fiasco in Iraq and elsewhere? We'll get to impeachment below, but for now let's trace back the thread, starting in 1947. This narrative may seem like old history, but it adds to better understanding of how we got from there then to here now. (Much of the shorthand analysis below is derived from my doctoral dissertation on the "Truman Doctrine.")
America, having helped defeat the then-reining "Axis of Evil" -- the fascist triumvirate of Germany, Japan, Italy -- was eager to return to post-war normalcy. U.S. troops returned home from Europe and the Pacific; industry converted from manufacturing war materiel to homes, cars, refrigerators; the U.S. economy was starting to hum. Though some Republican rightwingers were suggesting the U.S. should "finish the job" by "rolling back" Stalin's control of Eastern Europe, there wasn't much stomach for starting another world war so soon after the last one ended.
The British had covertly let the president know that postwar strains on the Empire were taking their toll on that country's economic and political systems. And then, suddenly, the Brits openly informed their American allies that their situation was so tenuous that the U.S. would have to take over the job of propping up the pro-West governments in Turkey and Greece. (Greece had a large, active, armed Communist Party in struggle against the rightwing government.)
BIRTH OF "THE TRUMAN DOCTRINE"
President Harry Truman recognized that, given the problems facing the weakened British Empire, the U.S. would indeed have to step in, at least economically, to stabilize the post-war situation. But since Truman hadn't informed the Congress about any of this, suddenly asking them to pony up $400 million for the embattled Greek and Turkish governments was going to be a tough sell.
Truman, a Democrat facing a Republican Congress, asked the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, GOP Senator Arthur Vandenberg, for his support. If you want to get that money out of Congress, Vandenberg said, you'll have to "scare hell out of the country." In other words, take a minor budget item and blow it out of all proportion -- couched in a struggle against a Soviet-led, worldwide "Red Menace."
And thus "The Truman Doctrine," initiated by the president and backed by the rabidly anti-Soviet Republicans, was born. That doctrine basically said that from now on, the U.S. would take action anywhere in the world to combat Communism. Greece/Turkey was the region where the fight would start.
Congress did grant Truman the funds for Greece and Turkey, and in so doing the U.S. took a giant step away from its predominantly isolationist stance in world politics. But by agreeing to engage "the enemy" anywhere Communism reared its head, the U.S. locked itself into an unworkable, unrealistic, ultimately self-defeating policy.
It was precisely that ideology and worldview that influenced U.S. actions years later when America took over the colonial war in Vietnam that had defeated the French. As the years went by, the U.S. found itself trapped in an Asian quagmire it never fully comprehended, and resisted the popular clamor to cut their losses and bring the boys home.
ISLAMISTS AS THE NEW "COMMUNISTS"
I think you can see where I'm going with this ancient history: "scaring hell out of the country" is not a concept unknown in our current situation.
The new "communists," so to speak -- Islamic extremists -- bloodied the nose of their American enemy on September 11, 2001 by slaughtering nearly 3000 in New York and Washington. Bush vowed to retaliate. Bush and his neo-con advisers, who already had Iraq in their crosshairs long before 9/11, could have chosen to mount a global campaign to locate, isolate and capture/kill those responsible for the attacks; in other words, it could have treated the conspiracy as an international criminal matter. But that would yield Bush and his supporters very little, politically speaking, especially since the rightwing GOP agenda in Congress was going nowhere.
In short, Bush&Co. decided they needed to "scare hell out of the country" -- using supposed WMDs controlled by Saddam, allusions to Iraq-delivered nuclear bombs going off in the U.S., etc. -- in order to gain public approval for the extreme actions the Administration was about to take. A permanent "war against terrorism" would help maintain that level of fright.
Americans probably wouldn't go along with the radical re-direction required, said a Project for The New American Century report (major players: Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney), until or unless a "new Pearl Harbor" occurred. Condi Rice, days after 9/11, said the U.S. should seize the "opportunity" offered by 9/11 for the implementation of its agenda. Whether by conscious action or just plain coincidence, the next "Pearl Harbor" definitely had arrived. ...
Since it doesn't appear that any significant changes in U.S. Iraq policy will be implemented while CheneyBush rule, and since that policy is endangering America abroad and shredding the Constitution at home, only one legal remedy is available to the Congress and citizenry: impeachment....
Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2007 - 16:38
SOURCE: New Republic (5-17-07)
Jerry Falwell's friends and allies on the right tell us that he was a force for democracy in America. This is true. Thanks to Falwell, millions of conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants now actively participate in the political life of the nation, consistently mobilizing on the far-right side of the Republican Party. This makes Falwell historically important. But was he an admirable figure? Did he contribute to elevating the political culture of the United States? Have evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants proved to be thoughtful citizens, adding to the seriousness, depth, and rigor of public debate? Or have they, instead, injected superstition and sectarianism--in short, religiously based illiberalism--into the political life of the nation? More than six years into the failed evangelical-Protestant presidency of George W. Bush, the answer is obvious.
Defenders of the religious right like to link it to earlier examples of religious activism in American history--above all, abolitionism and the civil rights movement. Evangelicals supposedly follow in the footsteps of William Lloyd Garrison and Martin Luther King Jr. Yet the inconvenient fact is that Falwell and most of his fellow evangelicals sat out the civil rights movement. Back then, the segregationist Falwell thought that preachers were called to be "soul winners," not politicians.
What led Falwell join the political fray was not indignation at racial injustices but disgust at the sexual liberation of the 1960s and early 1970s. In the starkly Manichean outlook of Falwell and his followers, post-'60s America seemed to be (as he put it in his autobiography) a "war zone where forces of God do battle with forces of evil." For Falwell, it was the duty of all genuine Christians to take sides against Satan in this theological struggle.
At first, evangelicals hoped that one of their own--Jimmy Carter--was the right choice to lead the charge. But Carter quickly proved to be a disappointment. Few today remember that Falwell and other organizers of the Moral Majority were definitively persuaded to abandon Carter and embrace Ronald Reagan in 1980 because of a seemingly insignificant misjudgment on the part of the Carter administration. Under pressure from his fellow evangelicals to stem the tide of immorality in the nation, the president formed the White House Conference on the Family in 1979, hoping it would mollify his religious critics.
But, as with so many initiatives of the Carter administration, the plan backfired. In order to placate feminists and gay rights activists who feared that the executive branch would be holding up a single form of family life (the "traditional family") as legitimate and therefore denigrating "alternative lifestyles," the president quickly moved to pluralize the title of the conference (from "Family" to "Families")--an action that infuriated Falwell and his allies. It was only a matter of months before evangelicals withdrew their support from Carter and began actively campaigning against him. Reagan, they now believed, would be much more effective at combating the growing secularism and depravity of American life. The Moral Majority and its successor groups--Ralph Reed's Christian Coalition, James Dobson's Focus on the Family--have been fierce Republican Party loyalists ever since....
Posted on: Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 19:33
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (5-16-07)
Graduates of the class of 2007, close your eyes.
No kidding. That's my advice in a nutshell.
Okay, take a last look around if you want, you who entered college in September 2003, when it still wasn't apparent to most Americans that our President had crash-landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, to give his famed May Day speech declaring "major combat operations in Iraq" at an end.
Look at your world just a little longer. As on that sunny September day when you arrived here almost four years ago, it's another lovely day as you prepare to depart and, at a glance, the world -- the American world anyway -- doesn't seem that much the worse for wear. Okay, the price of a barrel of oil essentially doubled in those four years, as did the price of a gallon of gas at the pump; the Democrats retook Congress; Iraq descended into the charnel house of history, into what was already being termed back then, in a bow to the Vietnam War, the "q-word" (for quagmire); newspapers began losing young readers to the Internet as if into a black hole; and the Bush administration, touted in 2003 as the "most disciplined" in anyone's memory, has fallen into belligerent disarray; but, hey, the stock market is at a high-water mark, the Boston Red Sox are leading the American League East by 8 games, lawyers are suing, doctors are medicating, and brokers are brokering away more or less as usual.
And here you are in your serried ranks, your parents nearby, your school's president and various deans, as well as distinguished faculty, arrayed before you on this stage in impressive gowns and tasseled caps. Today is a much-awaited moment for you, the culmination of years of work, just as graduation days like this have been for those who preceded you.
The campus, this balmy afternoon, seems hardly changed from four years ago. The same gentle carpet of grass, green with spring, dotted on its distant edges with beds of tulips, surrounded the graduating class of '03 -- and probably the class of '66, the year I sat through one of these ceremonies. The dorms you slept in are behind us; the dining hall you ate so many unmemorable meals in is just over that hill, which I have no doubt you climbed grudgingly on many wind-chilled winter mornings. At least some of the classrooms you did your learning in, housed in solemn gray stone (as monuments to timeless knowledge should be), flank us. The Greek-style columns of your library with its million-plus volumes can just be glimpsed through the distant trees.
Yes, look around. All is as it should be. Everything we can see and everything we know is here -- all of it normal, all of it fit for a graduation speech. Fit for you.
In the years just after I graduated from college, the much praised (and maligned) 1960s, the young were said to believe in a single aphorism: "Never trust anyone over thirty." I must admit I never heard such a thing myself, but then, as now, the media has a way of knowing what we think better than we do. I read it, ergo it's so.
Now, I want to update the phrase for your moment which, believe me, is far worse than anything I ever imagined possible in the Sixties. On such a normally celebratory day, I wouldn't say that if I didn't urgently believe it -- and if I didn't think that, in your heart of hearts, you believed it too.
So here goes. Some graduation advice -- three pieces of it, actually -- that probably run against most of what you've been taught at this distinguished institution in these last four years:
Don't trust what you see around you.
That's right. No matter what anyone tells you, don't trust the world that's most obviously in front of you. Don't trust your own eyes. Not on a day like this, not in a country like this. Reality is elsewhere.
That's why I say, close your eyes. Go ahead. Listen to me for a while in the dark and understand that I'm not trying to blind you. I'm only suggesting that you'll be able see the world more clearly with your eyes shut tight and so graduate with a more reasonable sense of what your future job on this planet really is.
That's no easy thing to assess, if you're on this pristine campus, or in any mall in America, or, for that matter, in most parts of the city on the outskirts of which this campus stands rather than in Baghdad, or Kabul, or low-lying Bangladesh, or the melting Arctic, or some exposed Pacific atoll.
This sunny May day -- the one you are not looking at any more -- is deceptive indeed. It masks a far darker world that your generation is about to inherit on a planet two-thirds of whose inhabitants, as a group of retired admirals and generals interested in climate change recently noted, live near a coastline (that might in coming decades flood). Put another way, according to the NGO Christian Aid, one out of every seven people on the planet -- perhaps a billion in all -- might, over the next half century (essentially your post-college work lifetimes) be forced from their homes and into the kinds of desperate migrations that would make the present American debate over illegal immigration seem like a global joke.
Over the next 100 years -- the heart of your life and that of your children -- the Earth could lose its glaciers (major sources of water in places like South Asia); the Greenland ice sheet could radically melt down; and up to half this planet's wealth of species could go extinct. You could also experience the onrush -- evidently already underway -- of ever more extreme weather patterns (massive hurricanes, typhoons, monsoons, 100-year droughts, and the like), the spread of lethal diseases to new locales, and a host of other unnerving phenomena.
In other words -- and even those of you who claim to doubt the reality of global warming sense that this is so -- fifty years from now, you are likely to be living on another, poorer kind of planet. It will also be a far lonelier one. People, who have the urge to frighten, often say that we are "destroying the planet," but that is probably not accurate. The planet will undoubtedly spin on. Given a few million, or a few tens of millions, or even a few hundreds of millions of years -- the sort of time that, without our consciousness, wouldn't matter a tinker's dam -- Earth is likely to develop a future filled with life, just without us (and many of our creaturely neighbors).
The planet's future may not be in doubt, but surely ours is. New Scientist magazine has offered an estimate of 10 million years for the planet to "repair" the present "dent" made in biodiversity. I like to use the example of the pronghorn antelope, "the prairie ghost" of our West, to explain this. It's a speedy creature, capable of running at up to 60 miles per hour, at least 30 mph faster than any predator in its environment. That extra mileage might seem hard to explain unless you understand that, before the last great mammalian megafaunal die-out on this continent, some 13,000 to 16,000 years ago, there were evidently creatures (perhaps lions or dire wolves) that could power along at something close to those speeds. So, for all those thousands of years, far longer than human history from Ur to the latest disasters in Iraq, the pronghorn has had a ghostly companion. So much time in human terms and it still hasn't "registered" the loss; so much time and that niche in our environment remains empty.
Back in the ancient 1950s, a half-century-plus in the other direction, only one thing could end our world, the world I grew up in -- nuclear weapons or The Bomb (which, when that was all there was, often sported capital letters) via the Cold War superpower confrontation. The thought of a nuclear war was paralyzing and nightmare-inducing enough. Believe me, when I heard President John F. Kennedy's famous speech on October 22, 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis (aka "the most dangerous moment in human history"), I feared my world was toast -- and I wasn't alone. I always believed that the Sixties held such a powerful sense of liberation, in part, because world-annihilating possibilities were, for a few brief years, simply left behind.
Over half a century later, nuclear weapons have multiplied and proliferated (even without the other superpower in attendance), and yet they now have to queue up for attention in a jostling line of potentially world-ending perils, real and fictional; while all of you live in the peculiar sunshine of a locked-down, locked-up, Patriot-Act, homeland-security, gated-community country (of a sort no one in the 1950s could have imagined). I stand here looking out at you, your eyes closed, and I doubt I can really imagine your world, the one I'm trying to describe, or the almost unnoticed, largely unacknowledged exterminatory grid that has settled paralyzingly over consciousness in this country, that has left you able perhaps to imagine a job, a mate, even a family -- the most immediate of futures, but not a human future beyond that.
An image comes to mind. You know how bits of semi-knowledge from who knows where stick in your brain? Here's one from mine that's useful for this speech, whatever its historical accuracy. Around 1000 AD, there was a millenarian movement of peasants who, believing they saw the end days coming, built their own coffins, and, at the predicted moment, climbed into them to await their foreordained fate. To tell you the truth, I don't know what happened next. Assumedly, sooner or later they climbed out again.
But here's the point I want to make: As long as you're looking at our world through your usual lenses, I suspect you're already in our version of those coffins, even if they pass for normal daily life. Only in the dark can you begin to imagine the possible Pompeii-scapes to come, the potential for the extreme unraveling of normalcy. And only after you imagine that, can you do what those peasants undoubtedly did when they realized that the last days had not come -- not yet anyway: climb out.
If all of you were to clamber out of the coffins we've built for you, there would still be trouble ahead, but the end of times would be just that much less likely to arrive.
"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." As you English majors already know, Dante claimed this inscription was over the entrance to Hell. Today, as you form your processional, walking like every class before you through the arch that fronts this campus, I think you should imagine that inscription over your heads, because that's the futureless world you're entering with your eyes open. My definition of hell is, in fact, futurelessness, a world in which no one can imagine their grandchildren or great-grandchildren -- and so, no one can work to build a country, a planet for them.
Now, for a second piece of advice -- probably not best given at a world-renown center of learning -- but here goes.
Believe the Hollywood previews. Believe your video games. Believe "24." Believe The Day After Tomorrow.
It's true that, despite what the screen showed in the global-warming film, The Day After Tomorrow, the Northern Hemisphere is not going to turn into an ice sheet in approximately 30 seconds; wolves, freed from the local zoo, are unlikely to roam the streets of New York City any time soon or movie stars burn books for warmth in the fireplace of the frigid New York Public Library; spy Arnold Schwarzenegger or his equivalent will not, despite True Lies, kiss Jamie Lee Curtis while an atomic bomb, handled by Arab terrorists, goes off behind them in the Florida Keys; you won't save us or the planet the way you do in first-person shooter video games; and, no, torturing à la "24" is neither good, nor even effective as an information extractor. Meanwhile, all these blimps, trains, buses, cable cars, and who knows what else hijacked by terrorists and heading toward everything we hold dear will not all arrive as the stadium blows up, the airport goes down, the White House is zapped, or the city, country, planet disappears.
Nonetheless, since my childhood, Hollywood, not religion, has been the greatest deliverer of end-time scenarios. This has been true at least since the atomic war-film-that-couldn't-be-made -- the one that would have ended not in American victory but in a planet-shaking set of explosions -- mutated into the horror and science fiction genres. Those films moved under the mushroom cloud in various futuristic settings where all sorts of monstrous, irradiated beings and alien creatures possessing strange rays did to our cities and towns what we had done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while crowds of onscreen Americans, screaming and fleeing, were crushed or mangled, burned or consumed.
And then, of course, we all left the movie theaters or drive-ins a little shaken, a little thrilled, and life began again. However weird or warped or fantastic these films may have been, however happy the endings when the giant ants went down for the count in the sewers of Los Angeles, or the aliens were themselves zapped, or the terrorists foiled, or the monsters destroyed, these were, in essence, Hollywood's previews of our world to come.
The movie-makers knew, but only because we knew. They wanted our eyes (and our popcorn money) and so they made a beeline for the stories, the fears, that resonated most deeply in us, the ones that could be returned to profitability over and over again. Perhaps, from the beginning, what we humans had was an ability to view possible ends. Perhaps what made us human wasn't that opposable thumb, but the fact that we arrived in the world capable of imagining its termination.
Explain it as you will, Hollywood has been sending us a single riveting message over the last half-century-plus as the mushroom clouds rose, the aliens descended, the post-apocalyptic zombies feasted, the swarthy terrorists arrived, the pandemics spread, and Los Angeles or New York (the nation's pre-9/11 Sodom and Gomorrah) became a dystopian prison, or an ice palace, or a place to be zapped, or stomped by monsters, or…
Well, you of all people know the story. You've seen it again and again, your eyes open in another kind of darkness -- or you've experienced it in your own living room, while you desperately manipulated hand-held controls to save us from the mutants, zombies, terrorists, bad guys who wanted to end it all. You've watched the previews, just as al-Qaeda did, just as people all over this planet have.
And then, as most of us have for over fifty years, you left the multiplex pretending that what you just saw was simply fun, or plain-old entertainment, or plain crud, or eye-candy, the sort of thing that only puritan wackos (or academics) could wax ridiculously serious over. Whatever it was, it wasn't life, not this life anyway.
But you were wrong, I think. To get things straight, you now have to ignore much that you've been taught and you've got to attend to the essential wisdom of the most watched, but least respected, teachers on the planet. Only they can give you the real, inside dope on what's coming our way -- if, that is, you're going to lead a life that matters, if you're going to do something.
So here's a final piece of advice, possibly not the best to offer in the heart of a great university:
Don't think too much.
I look out over this audience, remembering that, when I was 21, there seemed so much that needed to be done. How could it be that, over 40 years later, there seems to be so much more -- starting with somehow ending not (as in my college days) one, but two mad frontier wars, two scenes of slaughter and carnage, Iraq and Afghanistan, in a world where frontiers no longer exist? These are wars guaranteed to kill tens of thousands more and, in the long run, to endanger us all -- and there's only you to end them. There's only you, really, to change everything. It's a terrible burden that my generation of parents should never, never have loaded on your shoulders, but understand this clearly: It's not a coffin, not by a long shot.
We failed you. I believe that and I don't even know exactly how.
If you aren't already settled in, awaiting the end times we have bequeathed you in our short-sightedness, but you think too carefully for too long about what needs to be done, all will seem hopeless. As with so many tasks that desperately need to be undertaken, those who undertake them must be, in a sense, foolhardy just because the burden looks so heavy, the path so long and twisting, the end so out of sight. It seems so much easier to lie in those made-in-America coffins and wait.
But that, of course, is the royal route to everything none of us could possibly want for our world. No one of you can save a planet of people and, if the future already seems stolen from you and the previews are so apocalyptic, then the possibility of building movements of any sort must seem dim indeed. But don't settle back quite yet and don't ponder too long. Acting is usually better.
The moment you begin to act, I suspect you will discover that there is much you might still be able to call on for support, including many in my generation who, if you're willing to trust some over-thirties (but not too much), might have a little energy and perspective still to offer. Then, there's an American can-do (even quick-fix) tradition that has been lost in recent years, in Katrina-level idiocy and incompetence. How we turned from a can-do into a can't-do (or, as I like to think, a Republican't) nation is worthy of a history or two, if people are still writing them somewhere down the line. But the Iraq War, our oil dependency, even the potentially massive effects of global warming might all respond to a new surge of can-doism, to a nation still rich enough to put its money, its best brains, and its efforts where its mealy mouth and consumer culture (and a President whose idea of sacrifice in "time of war" is a trip to Disney World) now is.
To my mind, here's your first job: With your eyes closed, try to see our world honestly for what it is and then perform a magical act: Conjure up a new set of previews -- fit for a future for which it's worth doing a great deal. To act in concert and meaningfully, you need to able to imagine yourself, fifty years from now, standing at a podium like this, speaking to a group of graduating seniors, or perhaps simply sitting with all those parents proudly watching your own child in cap and gown in -- let's hope -- a very different world with fewer coffins in sight.
Now, with those eyes still closed, take a good look at our world, the one you already know is there, but don't think too much. It's time to pass through the portals of this school that has held you these last four years, out the gate, into the streets beyond, into the world beyond, and get yourself an education. It's time to look up and read the inscription -- by now, you can surely do so with your eyes closed -- and then reformulate it. How about, for example: Abandon paralysis all ye who exit here.
I can't tell you how to act or what to do. I wouldn't even pretend to know. For that, in the dark, you, all of you, have to look into our world and then into yourselves. I suspect that, when enough of you close your eyes and begin to believe your own previews, you'll know. At least perhaps, you'll know where you want to start and, knowing, you'll act; or perhaps, not even knowing, you'll act anyway; and, in acting, hope -- because, in bad times, it's always the act that engenders hope -- and, then, in hoping you'll know.
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 14:35
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (5-13-07)
What value has a human life?
We usually think of this in terms of sentiment -- of memories, grief, love, longing, of everything, in short, that is too deep and valuable to put a price upon. Then again, is anything in our world truly priceless?
As anyone who has ever taken out a life insurance policy knows, we humans are quite capable of putting a price on life -- and death. In her book Pricing the Priceless Child, Viviana Zelizer reminds us that, starting in the 1870s in the U.S., in that era before child labor laws, the business of insuring working-class children, who were then quite valuable to poor families, achieved enormous success. For a few pennies a week, ten dollars in all, you could, for instance, insure your one year-old against the future loss to the family of his or her earning power.
The courts weighed in, assessing the literal value of an earning child to a family. In those days, poor urban children died regularly in staggering numbers under horse's hooves, the wheels of street cars, and trains. In an 1893 editorial, the New York Times referred to this as" child slaughter," and juries reacted accordingly. When Ettie Pressman, just seven years old, died under a team of horses in 1893, while crossing New York's Ludlow Street with her nine year-old sister, a court granted her father $1,000 to compensate him for"his daughter's services and earnings." ("Yes," her father testified, with"what I earn and what the children earn used together we have enough. They earn three dollars each week.")
This came to mind recently, thanks to a New York Times report on another kind of" child slaughter" -- in this case by U.S. Marines, who, in early March, went on a killing rampage near Jalalabad in Afghanistan. Sorry, in Pentagon parlance, this is referred to as"using excessive force." A platoon of elite Marine Special Operations troops in a convoy of Humvees were ambushed by a suicide bomber in a mini-van and one of them was wounded. Initially, it was reported that as"many as 10 people were killed and 34 wounded as the convoy made a frenzied escape, and injured Afghans said the Americans fired on civilian cars and pedestrians as they sped away." The Americans quickly blamed some of these casualties on"militant gunfire." ("Lt. Col. David Accetta, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said gunmen may have fired on U.S. forces at multiple points during the escape.")
Later, it was admitted that the Marines had wielded that "excessive force" remarkably excessively and long after the ambush had ended, laying down a deadly field of fire at six spots, at least, along a ten-mile stretch of road. Their targets, according to a draft report of the U.S. military investigation of the incident (which the Washington Post got its hands on) were Afghans, on foot and in vehicles who were"exclusively civilian in nature" and had engaged in"no kind of provocative or threatening behavior."
In the process, the Marines were reported to have murdered"12 people -- including a 4-year-old girl, a 1-year-old boy and three elderly villagers" -- and wounded 34. According to a report by Carlotta Gall of the New York Times, a"16-year-old newly married girl was cut down while she was carrying a bundle of grass to her family's farmhouse.... A 75-year-old man walking to his shop was hit by so many bullets that his son did not recognize the body when he came to the scene." (U.S. troops at the time took the camera of an Afghan Associated Press photographer who happened to come upon the scene and"deleted" photographs from it, including ones"of a four-wheel drive vehicle where three Afghans had been shot to death inside.")
Last Tuesday, after much protest in Afghanistan, according to David S. Cloud of the New York Times, Col. John Nicholson, a brigade commander, met with the families of the (now) 19 Afghans who had been killed and the 50 who had been wounded by the Marines. He offered this official apology:"I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people." And then he paid approximately $2,000 per death to family members. The military calls these" condolence payments" and makes similar ones, for deaths judged wrongful, in Iraq.
Recently, through a Freedom of Information Act request, the ACLU pried loose some of the requests for compensation payments submitted by Iraqis and Afghans (and the military's decisions on them, including denials of payment). They make grim reading. Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher offered this description:"What price (when we do pay) do we place on the life of a 9-year-old boy, shot by one of our soldiers who mistook his book bag for a bomb satchel? Would you believe $500? And when we shoot an Iraqi journalist on a bridge we shell out $2,500 to his widow -- but why not the measly $5,000 she had requested?"
Back in 2005, Iraqi payments already seemed to average about $2,500 for a wrongful death. That, for instance, is what the families of two dozen innocent Iraqis slaughtered in another Marines-run-amok moment at Haditha, also after an attack on a convoy of Humvees that wounded a Marine, received. ("They ranged from little babies to adult males and females," said Ryan Briones, a Marine witness to the event."I'll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood.")
This practice is not new to George Bush's wars. During the Vietnam War, as part of the American pacification program, U.S. officials made what were called"solatium payments" for wrongful deaths caused by American forces. Back then, the U.S. valued Vietnamese adults at about $35 (U.S.), while children's lives were worth about $15.
We don't know who exactly decided on the value in U.S. dollars of the life of a 16 year-old Afghan girl, slaughtered while carrying a bundle of grass to her family farmhouse, or on the basis of what formula for pricing life the decision was made. We know a good deal more about how the U.S. government evaluated the worth of the lives of slaughtered American innocents. For that, however, you have to think back to the aftermath of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. The family or spouse of a loved one murdered on that day was also given a monetary value by the U.S. government -- on average $1.8 million, thanks to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, created by an act of Congress, signed into law by President Bush 13 days after the attacks, and put into operation thanks to 33 months of careful, pro bono evaluation of the worth of an innocent American life by Special Master of the fund Kenneth Feinberg. (Small numbers of illegal immigrants who worked in the World Trade Center were also given these payments, as were larger numbers of foreigners who worked there.) Even here, however, the monetary value of a human life varied greatly, being computed, just as Ettie Pressman's once was, at the mandate of Congress, on the basis of the victim's estimated lost lifetime earnings.
Despite the relatively small amounts paid out in Iraq, total official payments for wrongful deaths, as well as for injury and collateral property damage, caused by American troops, had reached $20 million by the end of 2005. The figure now stands minimally at $32 million, according to Editor & Publisher's Mitchell -- and that figure is considered low because similar payments are made unofficially"at a unit commander's discretion." (For purposes of comparison, the total September 11th payout figure was in the range of $7 billion.)
We don't know the actual average amount paid out in Iraq today, but if you were to take an obviously high figure like $5,000 and divide it into $32 million, the low total figure we have for such" consolation payments," you would have some 6,400"incidents" (not all deaths, although some payments are made for multiple deaths). It's a striking figure, especially when you consider that these are just for cases in which an Iraqi actually applied to the American occupation forces and was accepted for compensation. It gives you some crude indication of just how high the death toll has really been in Iraq. That $32 million for officially recorded" consolation payments," by the way, would add up to just under 18 average payments for deaths (or injuries) at the World Trade Center.
So there we have it. In the modern version of" child slaughter," the U.S. government has indeed offered the world an evaluation of what price slaughter should exact in the deaths of innocents everywhere:
The value of an innocent civilian slaughtered by al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001 to his or her family: $1.8 million.
The value of an innocent civilian slaughtered at Haditha, Iraq, by U.S. Marines: $2,500.
The value of an innocent civilian slaughtered by U.S. Marines near Jalalabad, Afghanistan: $2,000.
Never say that the U.S. government is incapable of putting a price on the deaths of innocents.
[Note:If you want to check out some of the consolation-payment documents the ACLU pried loose, you might start with the Greg Mitchell article, "Sorry We Shot Your Kid, But Here's $500." (Scroll down to find the examples he included.) For more, check out "ACLU Releases Files on Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq," and then go to"Claims Filed Under the Foreign Claims Act by Civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq" to search the ACLU data base of cases. The Vietnam War solatium-payment figures were provided by Tomdispatch's Nick Turse, an expert on U.S. war crimes and civilian deaths during the Vietnam War.]
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - 19:43
SOURCE: Salon (5-16-07)
One never wants to speak ill of the dead, but in the case of Jerry Falwell, how can one not? Falwell will always be remembered for his "700 Club" comment in the wake of Sept. 11: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" Even though Falwell later apologized, the damage had been done: A sacred moment had been used for profane purpose.
And that, really, is Falwell's legacy. To the religious life of the United States he made no significant contribution. But to the political life of the country, he made one: He founded the Moral Majority. In so doing, Falwell managed to take something holy -- one does not have to be a Christian to admire the life and teachings of Jesus Christ -- and turned it into something partisan and divisive. Falwell, the quintessential conservative Christian, was always more conservative than Christian. To the extent that history will remember him, it will be as a politician, not as a preacher.
Even Falwell's political contribution, despite the success of the Republicans during the Reagan years, left a mixed legacy behind. But the Moral Majority disbanded in 1989, prompting the inevitable thought that Falwell's ideas were neither moral nor in the majority. The movement of conservative Protestants into the base of the Republican Party was far too important a task to be entrusted to a man as oblivious to public relations as Falwell. Once the Ralph Reeds and Karl Roves took over the task of blending religion and politics, there was no room for Falwell. Longing for Washington, he had to settle for Lynchburg, Va.
But then there was cable television, the perfect medium for someone as shallow as this man. Falwell appeared so many times on cable news that one tended to forget how little influence he actually wielded. Had it not been for cable television, Falwell would have been forgotten long ago (and I would not be writing about his legacy). He was perfect for the world created by Fox: extremist, polarizing, Manichaean. (The Manichees, a Persian sect that for a time attracted the great Saint Augustine, adhered to a black-and-white reality in which evil was always in an endless struggle with the good.) Five minutes of hate followed by a commercial break: It is not a format fit for all, but for Falwell, it fit like a glove....
Posted on: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - 15:02
SOURCE: LAT (5-13-07)
LAST WEEK'S murder indictment of a former Alabama state trooper for the 1965 shooting of a young black voting-rights demonstrator is one more Deep South prosecution of a long-forgotten white defendant who ended up on the wrong side of the civil rights revolution.
It's one of many. In recent years, prosecutors have won convictions in connection with, among others, the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., and the killings of three civil rights workers near Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964. In many of these cases, credible eyewitness testimony — from survivors, co-conspirators and even close relatives — has proved crucial in winning solid convictions in connection with decades-old race crimes.
But this indictment may be different. At first glance, the charges filed against 73-year-old James Bonard Fowler seem straightforward. Fowler was one of about 50 Alabama troopers dispatched to the small Perry County town of Marion on Feb. 18, 1965, to break up a nonviolent demonstration that was part of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s nascent voting-rights campaign, centered in nearby Selma. One of King's aides had been jailed in Marion earlier that day, and the after-dark protest march in the town square was blocked by the lawmen, who then set upon the 400 marchers with nightsticks. Onlooking journalists were attacked by local whites, and as some of the marchers fled the square, troopers pursued them.
Jimmie Lee Jackson, 26, ran into nearby Mack's Cafe along with his mother, Viola. Shortly after, four troopers entered. Written statements given later by three troopers say that bottles were thrown at them from the cafe and that more bottles met them when they burst in. Fowler's declaration and that of another still-living former trooper, Robert C. Andrews, describe a tussle over a bottle between a black woman — probably the late Viola Jackson — and a third trooper, who then was assaulted by two black men.
Fowler grabbed one of those men, Jimmie Lee Jackson, whom he says struck him with a bottle several times while simultaneously attempting to remove his gun from its holster. Both men lost their balance, Fowler wrote, and "on the next blow which struck my hand the gun fired."
But that's where the story starts to get slightly murkier. Andrews' statement is different from Fowler's account. He describes seeing Fowler shove Jackson aside and says that when Jackson "again advanced toward Corporal Fowler, he drew his revolver and fired." When Fowler himself recalled the incident in his first-ever public interview in 2005 with the Anniston Star, he told Editor John Fleming that during the tussle "my hand was on the trigger then and I pulled the trigger." He added that "I don't remember how many times I pulled the trigger, but I think I just pulled it once, but I might have pulled it three times." ...
Although it's true that there are elements of the story that certainly don't look good for Fowler — such as the fact that he killed another black man a year later — it's not so clear that the case itself has been terribly well thought out or that the evidence amounts to all that much.
The murder indictment Jackson obtained on Wednesday came from a grand jury that heard a sum total of only two hours of testimony, none of which came from anyone who actually saw the shooting, according to the Associated Press and other reports. ...
Posted on: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - 14:40
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (5-15-07)
The re-emergence of Islam as a European force and the spark this has given to efforts to re-Christianize the continent were made manifest last year in the wake of Pope Benedict’s controversial speech at Regensburg.
Not only did his Muslim opponents take Benedict’s words more seriously than most Catholics seem to have done; their protests also brought these words to the attention of millions of Christians whom the church could not otherwise have reached. In this sense, Islam is the midwife of Christendom, even more necessary to its self-definition now than in the days of the Crusades.
The same, however, cannot be said of the Muslim world, which only had to take Christian Europe seriously from the 18th century with the beginning of imperialism. For those familiar with the deep sense of anxiety as well as the crisis of confidence that Europe’s dominance once produced among Muslims and other subject peoples, it is interesting to note how Islam today calls forth similar feelings of insecurity and barely-suppressed hysteria among Europeans. Perhaps they have come to realize that there is no getting away from Islam, with which they will have to come to some accommodation.
We are told that the pope does not look with favour upon inter-faith dialogue, the religious version of multiculturalism. In doing so he joins religious and ethnic minorities in Europe, who have always viewed multiculturalism and ecumenism with some degree of suspicion. Inter-faith dialogue, after all, has always been a Christian enterprise that has sought to define other religious traditions in its own terms, even if with the most charitable of motives.
The duplex term “Judeo-Christian” provides a good instance of this, with a truncated Judaism deprived of its autonomy and attached to Christianity in the role of its progenitor. The term “Abrahamic religions” is the triplex extension of “Judeo-Christian,” this time including Islam to form a monotheist’s club. And while Muslims have always recognized Jews and Christians as misguided believers who are nevertheless deserving of paradise, the “Abrahamic” ecumenism their liberal representatives espouse has more than a whiff of proselytism about it.
In any comparative or ecumenical framework it is invariably a Christian standard that is used to measure up Muslims who must invariably fall short: thus the absurdity of accusing a religion without a church of refusing to separate church and state. Such an accusation was in fact leveled against Judaism much earlier, with the ancient kingdom of the Jews being seen by Christian writers as the very model of theocracy. The final conversion of the Jews in the term “Judeo-Christianity,” however, has freed theocracy up for Muslim occupation.
But however frightening its manifestations, Islam today displays an indubitable dynamism that cannot be confined within the stale and recycled categories of such European criticism. For the “Jewish Question” which exercised so many minds in 19th-century Europe has now become a “Muslim Question,” with almost identical terms used to describe the “problem” posed by Jewish and Muslim minorities in Europe. We should not forget that the “assimilation” and “secularization” that so many European Jews underwent to resolve the question they posed for Christendom did nothing to save them in the end.
Yet Muslims cannot be added to the “Judeo-Christian” condominium without wrecking it, since in many respects Muslims are closer to both Christians and Jews than each is to the other. Unlike Jews, they believe in Jesus, and unlike Christians, they are defined by a law and not by a church. Add dietary laws and other practices or beliefs to the mix and a clearer picture emerges of Islam as the nearest relative of both Judaism and Christianity. Yet this is also a false picture, because unlike its “Abrahamic” peers, Islam is not confined to the cloister of monotheism.
If for a thousand years Christendom has had Muslims and Jews as its closest religious neighbours, the same does not hold for Islam, whose peaceful as well as bloody borders with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism are much more extensive than those it shares with the other monotheisms. I would venture to suggest that Muslim relations with Hindus, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians have also been more creative and influential than those with Christians and Jews, the only place of which this is not true being the Mediterranean basin.
In other words, Christendom is inconceivable without Islam, but the reverse cannot be said to be the case despite Islam’s long acquaintance with Christianity....
Posted on: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - 14:27
SOURCE: NY Sun (5-15-07)
My visit to Istanbul this week comes in the midst of the greatest challenge to the Turkish secular republic since its creation in 1923.
Founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire, the republic came into existence at about the high-water mark of Western confidence, when it appeared that European ways would become the global template. Atatürk imposed a dizzying array of changes, including European laws, the Latin alphabet, the Gregorian calendar, personal last names, hats instead of fezzes, monogamy, Sunday as the day of rest, a ban on dervishes, the legal right to drink alcohol, and Turkish as a liturgical language.
Many reforms took root; going back to the Arabic script or discarding last names is inconceivable. That said, the country has generally reverted to Islamic ways. Increased religious instruction in the schools and more state-funded mosques are complemented by more women taking on head-scarves.
Several factors account for this development: the predictable reaction against Atatürk's excesses; Turkey's greater democratization, which gave the masses a chance to express themselves; the higher demographic rate of Anatolians, generally cooler to Atatürk's changes; and the Islamist surge that began in the mid-1970s.
This surge translated into a substantial Islamic representation in the Grand National Assembly, beginning as a single seat in the 1960s and then – aided by Turkish electoral peculiarities – reaching a nearly two-thirds majority today. Islamic parties have twice controlled the prime ministry, in 1996-97 and since 2002. The first time, Necmettin Erbakan's headstrong personality and overt Islamist program prompted the military, guardian of Atatürk's traditions, to oust him from power within a year.
After Erbakan's collapse, a former lieutenant, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, founded Justice and Development (or AKP), now the governing party. Learning from the 1996-97 fiasco, Erdoğan and his team took a much more cautious approach to Islamization. Also, they displayed competence at governing, handling well the economy, the European Union, Cyprus, and other matters.
But last month Erdoğan reached too far in picking Abdullah Gül, his close associate, to run for the republic's presidency. In a fast-paced sequence of events, Gül failed to get the necessary votes, the Constitutional Court voided the election, millions of secularists took to the streets, the military hinted of a coup, and Erdoğan dissolved parliament. Both it and a new president will soon be voted on.
Questions abound: Can the AKP again win a majority of seats? Failing that, can it form a ruling coalition? Will it succeed in installing one of its own as president?
More fundamentally, what are the AKP leadership's intentions? Did it, having witnessed Erbakan's fate, retain a secret Islamist program and simply learn to disguise its Islamist goals? Or did it actually give up on those goals and accept secularism?
These questions of intent can only be answered speculatively. Judging whether the AKP has a hidden agenda, I concluded after a trip to Turkey in mid-2005, resembles a"sophisticated intellectual puzzle," with persuasive evidence in both directions. That remains the case, I find on this visit two years later. There's just more data to process and interpret.
Each Turk must judge the AKP for himself, as must key foreign governments. If the polls show Turkish voters still quite undecided, foreign leaders have opted in Erdoğan's favor. The Council of Europe condemned military intervention and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has gone further, praising the AKP for"pulling Turkey west toward Europe" and specifically endorsed its efforts to make Turkey's laws conform to Europe's in the areas of individual and religious freedom.
But her statement ignores AKP efforts to apply the Islamic law by criminalizing adultery and creating alcohol-free zones, not to speak of its privileging Islamic courts over secular courts, its reliance on dirty money, and its bias against religious minorities as well as the persecution of political opponents. Further, European Union membership offers the AKP a huge side-benefit: by reducing the political role of Turkey's arch-secular military leadership, paradoxically, it eases the way to apply Islamic laws. Would the AKP's caution outlast its neutering the officer corps? Finally, Secretary Rice ignores AKP-induced tensions in U.S.-Turkish relations.
But her superficial analysis has one inadvertent benefit: given Turkey's fervid anti-Americanism these days, American support for the AKP might actually cause it to lose votes. Such cynical humor aside, Washington should stop bolstering the AKP and instead side with its natural allies, the secularists.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - 14:19
SOURCE: Altercation (blog) (5-14-07)
I've written a few books about the limitations of the MSM and expect to write a few more before my number's up, but I rarely criticize the netroots in large measure because I think most of the problems manifested in their work are trivial compared to the corrective balance they offer and because the MSM narrative remains so much more powerful and so profoundly flawed that it seems simultaneously small-minded and tendentious to pick on minor mistakes by unfamous people with next-to-no influence while Bigfoot pundit poohbahs were helping Bush and company to lie us into ruinous wars and the like. (Boy, that was a long sentence.)
Even as the netroots have grown in power and influence, I still believe all of the above, which was the primary point I tried to make in response to Jon Chait here last week. It'll be a long time before Atrios is as influential as Joe Klein and an even longer time -- think infinity -- before Klein is as honest and accurate about the world as Atrios. Still, even apart from the fact that most reporting necessarily occurs in newspapers and newsweeklies, the netroots are not always right and the MSM is not always wrong. And the netroots needs to get better about recognizing these instances and correcting them, methinks. A few months ago I wrote about a case where netroots bloggers were up in arms about a Washington Post story that had allegedly been changed in order to remove the charge that Bush had lied about removing Rumsfeld right after the election. In fact, a single phone call to the author of the story demonstrated that no story had been changed; two separate stories had been confused. And yet the netroots-enabled myth proved impossible to disarm. (I don't recall any of the bloggers who expressed their outrage printing corrections in the aftermath, though I may not have seen them.)
Recently, the netroots have been up in arms over an alleged comment by Tom Edsall that David Broder represents the"voice of the people." Here again, we see a weakness of the netroots at work, which is that many bloggers lack much experience upon which to base their judgments and tend to jump on anything and everything that confirms their beliefs. Alas, anyone who knows Tom at all well knows that it is nearly impossible to determine by either his voice or his mien when he is joking. Part of his charm is the ability to make exactly this kind of joke in a perfectly deadpan manner. And I would hope that anyone who is familiar with his work would know better than to believe that he could say something so patently silly without joking. I don't doubt that the young Radar reporter who set forth the ongoing storm was honestly confused. And it is no less clear to me that it has become such a big deal on the net because it is consistent with the toxic combination of arrogance and ignorance that characterizes so much MSM punditry and, to a degree, helped cause this war. (I see, for instance, that Jim Lehrer, who is supposed to be the gold standard for high-minded accuracy, still has no idea how much opposition there was to the Iraq war at the time of the vote -- or else is really, really bad at math -- and does not think it proper for journalists to question the veracity of the president's statements. That's here and here. Let's not even mention Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.)
But believe me, I play poker with this guy. It is impossible to tell when he's bluffing and impossible to tell when he's kidding. This time he was kidding. The fact that Edsall has jumped from the Post by way of TNR and National Journal to the Huffington Post is actually an enormous endorsement of the blogosphere as the source of serious and sophisticated newsgathering and analysis -- one that the David Broders of the world will find it increasingly impossible to kiss off. All of this mishigas over a missed joke is both misplaced and just plain silly.
But let's be clear. It's a wrong-headed misunderstanding of the kind that happens almost every day between people of good will. Compared to, say, the self-conscious crimes against both truth and democracy commonly committed by, say, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Joe Klein, most of the casts of the Sunday shows, and yes, David Broder, it is minor-league stuff indeed. And while MSM reporters and pundits are supposed to have a higher standard of verification to what they print, I find all this means in practice, frequently, is a CYA attitude toward sourcing. In other words, so long as someone, anywhere, says anything, that makes it"true" enough to be reported, no matter how frequently that source has proven to be an unreliable liar or fantasist. At least in the case of the netroots, people are generally trying to figure out what's true, not that that always helps. (Academia's standards of truth, by the way, are far higher than that of either the average reporter or blogger; unfortunately, there are significant barriers regarding both relevance and 'communication skills.' ...
Posted on: Monday, May 14, 2007 - 15:02
SOURCE: Salon (5-14-07)
The small morality play unfolding at the World Bank tells us something significant about how the United States became bogged down in the Iraq quagmire when Wolfowitz was highly influential at the Department of Defense. The simple fact is that Wolfowitz has throughout his entire career demonstrated a penchant for cronyism and for smearing and marginalizing perceived rivals as tactics for getting his way. He has been arrogant and highhanded in dismissing the views of wiser and more informed experts, exhibiting a narcissism that is also apparent in his personal life. Indeed, these tactics are typical of what might be called the "neoconservative style."
Soon after becoming head of the World Bank, Wolfowitz lapsed into his typical favoritism, even while he was, ironically, decrying the technique as practiced by governments of the global South. Instead of having an open search for some key positions and allowing for promotions from within, Wolfowitz simply installed Republicans from the Bush administration in high positions with enormous salaries. He brought Kevin Kellems from Dick Cheney's office (where he had been communications director) and gave him a tax-free salary said to have been as high as $250,000 a year. As Wolfowitz's new senior advisor, Kellems was leap-frogged over hundreds of officials with serious credentials in development work, something about which he knew little. When representing Cheney, Kellems went to great lengths to defend the vice president's implausible conspiracy theory linking Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden....
The management techniques that got Wolfowitz in trouble at the World Bank mirrored those he used at the Pentagon to get up the Iraq war. Without cronyism, tag-teaming, and running circles around opponents of the war such as Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA Director George Tenet, the pro-war cabal could never have persuaded Bush to launch the conflict or persuaded the American public to support it. State Department officials have complained bitterly to me about meetings called by Wolfowitz and others on Iraq in 2002, to which some relevant officials were pointedly not invited, or where the agenda was prearranged and rigidly stage-managed so as to ensure that only neoconservative points of view were heard. Other officials have spoken of being spied on by the neocons at the Department of Defense, to the point where they were reprimanded for cartoons or posters that they had hung on their office doors.
When Donald Rumsfeld appointed Wolfowitz his deputy in January 2001, the latter plumped to have his longtime associate Feith installed as assistant secretary of defense for policy and planning. Feith was an odd choice to be the No. 3 man at the Pentagon, given that he opposed much official U.S. government policy. He was, among other things, a diehard opponent of the Oslo peace accords between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Feith then appointed his former boss, Richard Perle, also close to the Israeli right and a man who had advocated an Iraq war for Israel's benefit, to head the Defense Policy Board, a civilian oversight body for the Pentagon....
The tight network of neoconservatives, linked by their background in the 1960s and 1970s as Democratic Party hawks, by their devotion to right-wing Israeli politics, and by their previous alliances and networking during the Reagan administration, proved able to "stove-pipe" analysis and so-called intelligence to the office of Vice President Cheney and thence to George W. Bush. Once the stove-piped intelligence had helped to bring about the desired war with Iraq, any dissenters from that preordained policy had to be punished. Domestic critics were accused of treason; historical allies were marginalized. When he could not strong-arm French President Jacques Chirac into supporting his illegal war on Iraq, Wolfowitz told the U.S. Senate, "I think France is going to pay some consequences, not just with us but with other countries who view it that way." It was not enough that Chirac lost the battle to stop what he saw as a ruinous Middle East war that would likely blow back on France. Paris had to "pay."
Wolfowitz's record of favoritism, ideological blinders, massive blunders and petty vindictiveness has inflicted profound harm on two of the world's great bureaucracies, the U.S. Department of Defense and now the World Bank. He has left both with thousands of demoralized employees and imposed on both irrational policies that pandered to the far right of the Republican Party. He has, in addition, played a central role in destabilizing the Middle East and in leaving one of its major countries in ruins.
Many of his Himalayan-size errors were enabled by his careful placing of close friends and allies in key and lucrative positions. In the end, his career suffered remarkably little from his substantive policy mistakes. But once he moved beyond the forgiving world of high Republican Party politics, his dependence on cronyism finally caught up with him. That he ran into such trouble at the World Bank for behaving in ways that apparently were business as usual for him at the Department of Defense only underlines how corrupt the Bush administration really is.
Posted on: Monday, May 14, 2007 - 13:25
SOURCE: Guardian (5-14-07)
Tony Blair's opposition to an immediate ceasefire in the Lebanon war last summer precipitated his downfall. Now that he has announced the date of his departure from Downing Street, his entire Middle East record needs to be placed under an uncompromising lens.
Blair came to office with no experience of, and virtually no interest in, foreign affairs, and ended by taking this country to war five times. Blair boasts that his foreign policy was guided by the doctrine of liberal interventionism. But the war in Iraq is the antithesis of liberal intervention. It is an illegal, immoral and unnecessary war, a war undertaken on a false prospectus and without sanction from the UN.
Blair's entire record in the Middle East is one of catastrophic failure. He used to portray Britain as a bridge between the two sides of the Atlantic. By siding with America against Europe on Iraq, however, he helped to destroy the bridge. Preserving the special relationship with America was the be all and end all of Blair's foreign policy. He presumably supported the Bush administration over Iraq in the hope of exercising influence on its policy. Yet there is no evidence that he exercised influence on any significant policy issue. His support for the neoconservative agenda on Iraq was uncritical and unconditional.
Blair failed to understand that America's really special relationship is with Israel, not Britain. Every time that George Bush had to choose between Blair and Ariel Sharon, he chose the latter. Blair's special relationship with Bush was a one-way street: Blair made all the concessions and got nothing tangible in return....
True, Blair was the driving force behind the "road map" that envisaged the emergence of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel by the end of 2005. But Sharon wrecked the road map. In return for the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon exacted a written American agreement to Israel's retention of the major settlement blocs on the West Bank. Blair publicly endorsed the nefarious Sharon-Bush pact. This was the most egregious British betrayal of the Palestinians since the Balfour declaration of 1917....
Posted on: Monday, May 14, 2007 - 13:11